Do You Know What Amazes Jesus?

Watching the NFL (National Football League) the last couple of weeks, I have been amazed observing Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans play.  He is 6’3’, weighs 247 lbs. and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds…an amazing athlete who plays against world class athletes weekly.  Yet, he has made these competitors look like kids having the brute strength to run over them, the speed to sprint around them and the athleticism to throw a jump pass  touchdown by them.  Many would say during the play-offs, he has played like the GOAT…the Greatest of All-Time.

Derrick Henry has amazed me, but do you know who amazed Jesus?  Take a look at Matthew 8:10 and you will see. 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”  Jesus was amazed at the “great faith” of a Roman Centurion of all people.  A Centurion was a military officer that had 100 men reporting to him.  In the times of Christ, these men were feared.  Some of them were hated and few were respected.  What “amazed” Jesus was not his military clout but his faith.  Let’s take a look at this officer’s story.

In Mark 8, it recorded that Jesus had entered Capernaum (a fishing village on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee), a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.”

Analyzing this story, you discover that the Centurion displayed uncharacteristic behavior from the norm of a Roman officer.  He…

  1. Had a caring heart.  Of all people, he was concerned about his servant and took time from his busy schedule to locate and ask Jesus for help.  “‘Lord, ’he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’”  He saw the pain of his servant and was willing to sacrificially seek out help…he took his valuable time to wait on and  encounter Jesus.
  2. Lived out life with humility even as a man of authority
    1. This is first pictured when the centurion addressed Jesus as “Lord.”   Customarily, Roman officers were arrogant and disdained Jews showing them little respect.  Yet, this officer called Jesus, “Lord.”
    1. Then, he stated, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”  What genuine, Godly humility this soldier of stature had.
  3. Showed great faith…this is what amazed Jesus“Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  As an officer, he understood authority.  There were military officers above him and soldiers below him.  The Centurion knew how to submit to and carry out the orders from the officers above him and how to issue orders to men below him with full expectation that they will be followed.  The Centurion was able to translate this to the Spiritual world recognizing that Jesus had ultimate authority.  He knew Christ was at the top of the authority chain in the spiritual realm.  Everyone knew that they had to bow down, submit to and obey orders issued “in the name of Jesus “.  Thus, he said, “Lord, just give the command and it will be done.”  This amazed Jesus!!  The Centurion saw clearly into the spiritual realm and how it worked recognizing the one with ultimate authority was Jesus.  So, if Jesus issued the order, his servant would be healed.

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed, it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.’

Do you see what the Centurion saw?  Jesus is the Authority.  Believe and trust Him and you will be amazed at what He does.  Matthew 28 “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” 

The Comfort of Christ

Paul was deeply concerned about the church in Corinth. The church was being infiltrated by those who opposed Paul and tried to get the Corinthians to think of him badly, that he was wrong, and possibly corrupt.  Paul was traveling through Macedonia, which is where he planted churches in Philippi and Thessalonica. But his heart was on Corinth. But when the fears became too real, God sent Titus from Corinth,with the announcement that the church was doing well, and were following the preaching of Paul, and not those who opposed him. Here is how Paul describes his feelings at the time: “In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way; conflicts on the outside, fears inside. But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival, but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longings, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” 2 Corinthians 7:5-7  Have you ever felt fear that your life as a believer in Christ was all in vain? Have you had fears that no one would take you seriously? Even though I think we all have those times, I would ask that you think of the answers to prayer that God provided you, the comfort that you needed for such a time as what you were going through.  If you are going through those kinds of times right now, please don’t despair, for God will send an encourager to let you know that your life, your testimony, your actions, are not in vain. Nothing will return void that you place out there for the cause of Christ. You have an anointing from the Lord that although might bring some fears, will also bring blessings and comfort. At the very beginning of this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1:3-4  We all have gone through or will go through times of fear, times of uncertainty, when even our faith might be shaken, if that were possible. But during those times, look up, look around you, for our Lord will bring a comfort to you through someone or something. From Pastor Andy

The Championship – The Finish Line

I recently read that after winning the National Championship in football a coach later remarked that: “Building takes passion and energy.  Maintenance is awful.  It’s nothing but fatigue.  Once you reach the top, maintaining that beast is awful.”  A commentator described this coach as: “a man running for a finish line that doesn’t exist.”

Sometimes I feel that our church experience has to be this way.  Or even our faith has to always be as exciting as when we first believed.  It is not.

Our walk with Jesus is not one “championship” after another.  Like Eugene Peterson has captured in the title of his book, it is a “long obedience in the same direction”.  He writes that: “One aspect of the world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once.”  And: “There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Peterson identifies our lives not as tourists, but rather as disciples and pilgrims.  We are disciples of our master Jesus, and pilgrims through this world heading towards “our Father’s house.”

It is helpful to remember Thomas asking Jesus in John 14: 5-7, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  And Jesus answers: “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Let’s remain connected to the vine, Jesus (Jn 15:5).  Let’s focus on Jesus and get to know him keeping the long-range view in mind.  Yes we are running for a finish line, and the good new for us it exists!  And we have Jesus as our coach, and guide, who cheers us on and encourages us for the journey.  We also have each other, teammates on this journey toward being more like Christ.

 

 

You Are Not Meant to Be Alone

One of the best days of my spiritual journey is the day that I walked into Re:Gen, a Bible based recovery ministry.  The very first thing that I heard was a testimony in “big group”, “My name is Todd.  I have a new life in Christ and am recovering from….”  I discovered that all testimonies in Re:Gen starts with a statement of faith, humility and transparency.  Each begins with “I have a new life in Christ…”  Very quickly the listener begins to understand for one to recover, they must walk in a newness of life in Christ.  He/she is admitting that “Christ living in me” is what changes and empowers me to flesh out a new life of recovery.  Then, there is a statement of what you are recovering from…i.e. the fear of being out of control, porn, addiction to drugs, overeating, fear of failure, fear of rejection, people, fear of a man (from women), sexual lust, sexual addiction, fear of crowds, money, power, etc.  The atmosphere is authentic, transparent and alive. 

In recovery, each of person is placed in a “closed group.”  The experience of “closed group” is church lived out right in front of you…you climb in the ring fighting for and with each other.  No one is sitting on the sidelines watching.  Everyone becomes a participant.

Verses from the Bible that I had heard for years came alive right in front of my eyes…

  • James 5 16 confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
  • Galatians 6 1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
  • Your “brothers” help restore you gently without condemnation “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
    • Yet, at the end of the day, each individual must determine “to test our own actions….to carry our own load” choosing to clean up hurtful, bitter relationships to the best of their abilities and stop believing lies that have imprisoned them.  He/she learns to walk a new life of recovery in the power of Christ.  It becomes their own testimony.

Whether you are in a recovery group or not, you need to find community in your local setting.  The Christian life is meant to be lived transparently and authentically in an “one another” environment.  Learn to walk arm-locked-in-arm with others.  I recognize that this may be frightening for you.  It was for me too.  Send a comment to me if you desire and I will try my best to help you get connected.  You are not meant to be alone.

Experience the Loving Embrace of the Prodigal Son’s Father

I am supporting a dear brother who has been in psychological and physical pain a number of years as a result of the consequences of sin (recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, sex/porn/lust and control) and various trials.  His family of origin could not have been more brutal.  His father was ruthless and his older brother who was a highly regarded high school football lineman frequently physically beat him up without his mother once defending him.  Often, they ridiculed him with emasculating comments.  All that remains of his family today are two middle school kids.  And, his ex-wife is fighting in court to keep him from being around them.  The volume of hurtful past experiences in his life should have been for twenty people.  As you can imagine, His self-talk is horrible and dark to the point of him personally determining whether life is worth living. 

Two years ago, he walked away from a closed group in a large, local Bible based recovery ministry.  If you have personally been in recovery you know a closed group is made up of folks who have become in some ways closer than siblings.  They “walk” together as a community of support and candor to push each other along the trail to forgiveness, healing and wholeness.  However, before he completed full recovery, he left these guys and went straight back into a life of sin and addiction with a vengeance.  They had invested so much time, energy, prayer and heart in his recovery, yet, he had separated from them.  This past Monday evening this dear brother had no idea what to expect when he walked back in the door of the same church two years later.  Will anyone remember him?  Will they be stand-offish?  Will they be perfunctory cordial?  What is going to happen when he goes through the doors again?

It did not take long for him to find out.  One guy from his old closed group immediately saw and moved towards him across this large gathering hall throwing his arms around his neck.  “Dude, we have missed you.  The guys are going to go crazy having you back!”  (crazy love?!) Just as this dear brother foretold, one by one each of his former “brothers” unabashedly loved him.  It was an unbelievable experience for me to behold and simply rejoiced as these guys “ran” towards him and demonstrated their love sincerely, graciously, rejoicefully, boyishly, enthusiastically with very little restraint.  They lavished my friend with the love of our heavenly Father.    

The only way that I am able to explain this experience to others is to point them to the story of how the Father of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 lavished him with underserved, graceful, merciful love.  Let’s look at the Luke 15 passage… after squandering all of his inheritance on wild living, he was totally destitute, bankrupt and decided to go back home.  How will he be received?  Will he be received?  To his surprise “20 while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.”

The very moment the father saw him, he ran to the prodigal son and lavished him with his love.  Do you realize that he would do the same for you?  Go back home and feel the warm embrace of the Father’s love.  Revelations 3:20 exclaims, 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.”  And, if a prodigal walks into the door of your home, church or meeting room, I pray that you will receive them as our Father has received us.

I’m a duck

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.” John 14: 1-4

This week is the first week I have been teaching on my own to a group of individuals who are significantly more experienced that I am in our industry. As an instructor, representing my agency, I need to project a confident and knowledgeable presentation. On the outside I know that this is what the students are seeing! But … on the inside … another story! I am a duck!!! You probably know the analogy of the duck where on top of the water it seems to glide effortlessly across with little effort! But underneath the water line, that duck’s legs are paddling and churning as hard as it can!

My wife and I have been praying and I know she is lifting me up to the Lord when we are not together which is a great comfort! I was reading a devotional by Pastor Andy Anderson where he was telling the story of a pilot who successfully ejected from his aircraft and then later in life (post POW) met the man who packed his parachute. Pastor Andy concluded with this:

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”  11:1  Is your life an example of the PROOF  that you trust our Lord? If you do, you will not experience fear. You will not try to always be in control, for you know that He who is in us, is the One packing our parachute. He is the One controlling the instruments that guide our lives. He is faithful, even when we don’t think of Him. But today, and at the start of this New Year, let’s take a moment and think about Him who has never failed us yet.  Let’s honor Him who has never left us, and every time we land on our feet, it is because He has been the One who packed the parachute.  Trust, then live out that trust, by being comforted in every way, and in every day.

Thank you Father for packing my ‘chute every day! Even when I allow (or sometimes cause) my mind and body to FREAK OUT … You are the calm, the steady rock! All glory to You!

How to Engage

Have you gotten into (or followed) arguments on social media where you and the other person exchange opinions lobbing verbal grenades at one another?   Have you or the other person ever been convinced of the other persons point of view?  Typically, these end in stalemates and only accomplish divisiveness.

In 2 Timothy 2: 24, 25a Paul writes:

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth

 There’s a lot of 21st Century wisdom in this first Century scripture.  I think God anticipated Facebook…

The Greek word interpreted here for “quarrel” is literally: “a war of words”.  A servant of Christ is not to get into a war of words.  Instead a servant of Christ is to be “kind to everyone”.  So getting into a war of words could be equated to being disobedient.

The alternative is to first be “gentle” (typically not an internet volley tactic), and “able” to teach, and “not resentful”.  This does not say we teach the person right then and there.  Rather we are “able” to.  Typically, one volunteers to be taught.  So this says one is able to teach the other when there’s a willingness and opportunity.  And the attitude is to not be “resentful”.

Then notice that the Christ follower is to operate “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth”.   So, it is God who convinces the person.  Not the one involved in the teaching.

This does not say that we don’t engage in dialogue or stand for the truth.  It just says how.  AMEN