Pray for healing

He was paralyzed. Many who saw him felt sorry for him. Life becomes a lot more complicated when you are so crippled that it tremendously affects every moment of your day. He was slower than everyone else, he couldn’t possibly compete with others, he was always dependent upon others. But his friends had the answer…

We know that the friends in Mark 2 brought the paralyzed man to Jesus through the roof because he was paralyzed. We can tell they KNEW Jesus could heal him. Jesus had healed many before, and these friends’ faith was so great that they knew he would do it again for their friend. But no one was expecting the other lesson that Jesus was going to teach.

Jesus sees the friends’ faith and heals their friend physically, but not before healing him spiritually. Jesus seems to be saying to everyone watching, “you have faith I can heal physically, but have faith I can heal spiritually too!”. The son of God, who can take away the sins of the world. Healing the physically and spiritually paralyzed.

We often pray for those who are sick and need healing… physically. How much would our prayers change if we prayed in the same way for those needing spiritual healing? Do you pray more for physical healing for yourself and others more than you do for spiritual healing? If so, doesn’t that show where our priorities lie? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with spiritual healing than physical?

Jesus is the true healer, and although his miracles are incredible, His plan is for eternity is even greater! Pray for yourself and others for spiritual healing MORE than you pray for physical healing.

Cover Up

A young toddler fell on the cement and badly skinned her knees. Once the tears subsided and the pain went away, they girl went back to playing. Soon she noticed the nasty red scrapes on her knees. Her reaction was to continually pull her dress down over her knees. She wanted to cover up the ugly, but what she doesn’t know is that to get rid of it quickly she needs to focus on treating it, not just try to hide it away.

We do the same with our sin. We try to cover it up, put a bandaid on it. And we try to do this all the time. We don’t want to talk about what the real difficulties are that are going on in our lives. We think if we just fill our time, the sin will go away by itself. Confronting sin isn’t something only you struggle with, look around the church, we all want to just cover it up until it goes away. There is almost any other topic we would rather discuss with one another than our own personal struggles.

Jesus can tell your sin to leave, and it will be gone. Jesus is the healer. Jesus cast out demons numerous times in the Gospels and even people at his time were uncomfortable with sin, just as we are today. In fact, when the Pharisees called him out in Matthew 12, Jesus’ response was this: “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.” v.29

When it comes to sin, we must confront Satan face to face about it. We can’t just ignore it or cover it up. We must be honest, open, and willing to step into that uncomfortable place.

“ Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” James 5:16

This is what happens in true, authentic, Gospel centered church community. May we become uncomfortable in order to tie up the evil one.

The Church Melting Pot

The Church Melting Pot

You can create your own church. You can surround yourself with people who you most get along and agree with that live around you. You can even create a group on social media with your closest Christ-following friends and become church through a technology driven avenue. You can be the leader of this church, or just one of the members and create someone else as the leader. You can create your own church.

A lot of people are doing this is today’s world, and the temptation is obvious. We all desire to worship with those we most agree with or those we enjoy the most or have the most in common with. We must fight that temptation thought; scripture doesn’t paint an image of the church where we have selected all the members.

The church is created of people surrounded by others, and those who are lonely.

The church is created of people who come from all different cultures, environments, and families yet somehow find ways to unite.

The church is created of people who have many different personalities and talents.

We could create the church to look as we want it to be, but that doesn’t mean it is how God wants it to be. We have to commune with people who we don’t always get along with so we can recognize the benefit of all our differences.

“And he [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” -Ephesians 4:11-13

Fight the urge to create your own selected church community, and instead find beauty in the incredible differences in the church Christ has created within the church in your community.

Spirit of God

“…No one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:11

This past weekend I was at a staff training at Nebraska Youth Camp for this summer’s counselors and other staff. One of my presentations was on preparing devotionals for the campers. This summer, the camp focus is specifically on God. God is a tough topic to teach on because He is so great. God is huge! He has done so much, and is incomprehensible. As 1 Corinthians says, no one can comprehend the thoughts of God! How do we teach about Him!

Although that is an exhausting subject to think about, look at what else is pointed out:

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:11

Our thoughts will not be comprehended by others unless we are willing to tell others about our thoughts. We hold that power to share, or not to. In the same way, God can choose to share or not share, and He has chosen to share with His Spirit.

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may receive the things freely given us by God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12

The Spirit given to us from God interprets His thoughts. We have access to understanding God by His Spirit, but only what God chooses to give to us through His Spirit.

The incomprehensible, huge, vast God understands that we cannot understand Him completely, so He give that knowledge to the Spirit. That Spirit guides our lives when we allow it to. The more the Spirit guides us, and not the world, the more we will understand God.

Educational Method Created by Jesus

Are we expected to be able to live up to the expectations of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) or did Jesus say those things for another reason?

This was the question presented at a preacher’s lunch I attended. The question threw me off guard, because it was one I had never considered, but it also challenged me to truly dive into the sermon on the mount with the goal of answering this question.

In the teaching world, an educator is taught to build up their students using positive reinforcement. Putting stickers on a paper, reinforcing with a “Good Job”, putting the total correct instead of the total wrong, grading easier at first with the expectation to increase the difficulty, reward charts, gold stars, good behavior awards, the list of positive reinforcers is exhausting! There are so many ideas out there because it works! Positive reinforcements create a trust between the student and the teacher causing the student to be willing to learn harder concepts from the teacher because they are more willing to listen to the teacher.

Jesus used this method in the Sermon on the Mount! Matthew 5:3-16 contains 11 positive reinforcement statements that we call the Beatitudes and the salt and light metaphors. Before Jesus begins instructing with His commandments, he first builds trust within His audience. Imagine being on the mountain listening to Jesus speak the words of Matthew 5-7, looking around, making eye contact with you. Read through Matthew 5:3-16, and you will notice that one of the positive reinforcements He makes probably relates to you. Jesus related to all the members of His audience.

This is substantially important because He can now hold his disciples up to a higher level of expectation. Jesus has touched the heart of his listeners, shown them they are important to the kingdom of God, and now can challenge them to live that way. These aren’t just words, they are caring instruction provided by a close mentor.

Think of the person you most love on this earth. You probably value their opinion greatly, and would do more for them than most others. We can live out the difficult commands of the Sermon on the Mount IF we love and trust Jesus enough to do anything for Him.

Before trying to achieve the commands of the Sermon on the Mount, first check and see if Jesus is a trusting friend that you deeply love within your heart. If you can have that kind of a relationship with Him, following His commands will be much easier. You have an important place in the kingdom of heaven. Who are you in Matthew 5:3-16?

Wept

Right before Jesus appears before Pilate to be questioned, we see a tragic scene with Peter. Peter most likely gets caught up in the fear of being persecuted as Jesus is being persecuted and denies that he is one of Jesus’ followers three times. The first three gospel writers end the scene with Peter saying:

And he went out and wept bitterly -Matthew 26:75, Mark 14: 72, Luke 22:62

This seems an appropriate reaction for Peter. When we make mistakes and notice we fail in being a follower of Christ, hopefully we are struck with disappointment as well.

It’s kind of like when we get baptized. When we put Christ on in our lives through baptism, we see life as a clean slate. And our hearts have no intention of sinning again.

But then we do… and the guilt can weigh us down.

If we fast forward from Peter’s denial to the end of the book of John, after Jesus has risen, we see an interesting interaction between Jesus and Peter. In John 21, Peter is asked by Jesus three times if he loves Jesus. His response each time is a resounding YES! Three times, Peter denied Christ, and said no, then three times he accepts Christ and says yes! Jesus’ response each time Peter says he loves Him:

Feed my lambs – John 21:15

Tend my sheep – John 21:16

Follow me – John 21:19

It seems that Jesus has forgiven Peter during this final interaction. This is a big deal, because I would assume Peter held on to his guilt about denying Christ for a very long time. Yet Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, and forgave Peter even before the denial took place.

Jesus doesn’t want us to hold on to grief and failure. He wants us to be forgiven so we can find the joy He provides. He instructs Peter, the failure, to reach out through actions (feed my lambs), encourage people closer to Christ (tend my sheep), and follow Him (be His disciple).

We can live knowing we have and will continue to sin, and be miserable, or we can find His forgiveness which leads to joy. Without Jesus’ forgiveness, we won’t be able to be His true disciple. He forgave Peter, He forgives you too.

Tweaks

Our garage was out of hand! So much STUFF was pilling up that it was getting difficult to pull the cars in! It was to the point that once the cars were carefully navigated into their places, we had to strategically duck and squeeze around side mirrors and doors to get out of the garage. Enough was enough! It was time to build shelves to get all the stuff off the ground and out of the way so there was space for the vehicles. The shelves added the benefit of space, but also made all the nick-nacks we needed to access more easily accessible. There was more than one benefit to the shelves. The garage just needed one slight adjustment to make many positive changes.

Repetition is easy. In our spiritual lives it takes less time and is more comfortable for us to keep things the same. Whether it be our daily bible reading, the way we pray, or the ministry projects we are involved in, keeping the same process and schedule makes faith easy. It allows us to do more when we act in repetition. But repetition could cause us to appear to have a strong faith, but really be complacent in our spiritual walk, to the point of going through the motions. Repetition could cause a lot to get done, but nothing fruitful to be happening at all.

The house you live in is a great example of this. Without continual slight modifications the house will slowly fall apart. In the same way, our faith walk staying the exact same will slowly fall apart. What slight changes need to be made in our ministries as a church to be fruitful? What about in your individual ministry? And in your personal spiritual walk? We need to always be seeking slight changes that can be made with this goal in mind:

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… Matthew 6:33