Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Man Who Astonished Jesus!

I'm sure Jesus experienced all kinds of people while He was on earth. People who surprised Him. People who disappointed Him. People who even made Him angry. But there's a particular man who astonished Him -  in a good way! 

You see, Jesus, while He was on earth, was specifically looking for something. He was searching intensely. He was always on the lookout it. Everywhere He went, and every moment He was awake, He was searching and searching, trying to pick it up on His radar screen. And unfortunately, most of the time, it wasn't there. Time after time, He was disappointed. Yet, He kept on anxiously looking. 

Before I tell you what it is that Jesus was so earnestly desiring to find, let me introduce to you the man who had it. Jesus was well into His ministry when He met a Gentile man, an unlikely one to have what Jesus was looking for. That's because you would think that Jesus would find it among the Jews, His people, the chosen people. But no, it was a Gentile man, a non-Jew.

This Gentile man was a military commander in the Roman army. This, however, was not what impressed Jesus. And it wasn't that he was a man of authority. That didn't impress Him either. What astonished Jesus was what this Gentile man possessed....great faith! That's right, Jesus was astonished by the degree of faith he had. That's because Jesus had not found anyone in Israel, not anyone among what was supposedly God's people, who had such great faith as this man! This Gentile commander, called a centurion, absolutely believed that Jesus had the power of God, and that Jesus was able to do all things. Here's how the story goes:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, 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.” 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. (Matthew 8:5-10)

There are at least 4 things that must have certainly impressed Jesus about the centurion.

1. He was a Gentile but still believed in Jesus, regardless.
Of all people, it was a Gentile who turned out to have great faith! Impressive. Jesus was a Jew, and came into the world as the long awaited Jewish Messiah, but as a whole, was rejected by His own people. So for a Gentile to have such great faith was amazing. He may not have understood that Jesus was God in the flesh, but he knew that Jesus was an authentic man of God, regardless if he was a Jew or a Gentile.
2. He was humble. 
The centurion could have been one prideful person considering the position he held. Yet, he displayed humility. He obviously regarded the authority and sovereignty of Jesus as much greater than his. He told Jesus that he did not deserve to have Him come to his house. This statement reveals that he was underserving of the miracle he was asking for. He was totally relying on the Lord's grace, and was at the mercy of Jesus.
3. He was a compassionate man
The centurion was so sincerely concerned about his servant, that he didn't just send a messenger to Jesus, but he personally went to plead with Jesus himself. It shows his love and compassion for those around him, including his servant. And he was relying on the love and compassion of Jesus for healing.
4. He was absolutely confident that Jesus could do it.
The centurion knew all about authority, and all about giving commands. He believed Jesus, without a doubt, had the power to heal. Not only that, the centurion was so sure Jesus had the power to heal, he believed all Jesus had to do was say the word, from a distance, and his servant would be healed immediately without even Jesus being at the house where the servant was. And that's exactly what happened! "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." (Matthew 8:13)

The centurion, in the eyes of Jesus, had great faith. Jesus, while on earth, was always looking for great faith. Unfortunately, He was disappointed time and again. Remember when Jesus calmed the sea, and the disciples were scared that they were going to die? "He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." (Matthew 8:26) Or the time Jesus walked on water, and Peter began to go to Him but took his eyes off Jesus? "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'" (Matthew 14:31)

There are many more examples of doubt and lack of faith, however, that doesn't mean there were not any examples of people who did have faith. There were many. As a matter of fact, Jesus even performed several healing miracles as a response to a person's faith. There's one other example of 'great faith' besides the centurion, and it's by a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, a Gentile! (The 2 examples of 'great faith' were by Gentiles, not Jews!)

Jesus was always looking for faith when He was on earth. But it doesn't stop there. Jesus asked a question that should rock you:  "....when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (The words of Jesus in Luke 18:8b) Jesus is still looking, even today, and until He comes back, for people who have faith.

I suppose the real question is whether or not He sees faith in you and I. Even if we start with faith a small as a mustard seed, it can grow if we water it. He is always searching, looking for those who have faith, hoping to find it. Will He?

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Ways God Still Shows Up

Have you taken time lately to reflect back on how God has worked in your life? Maybe you should, because when you look back, you can see more clearly His intervention. And as you reflect on it, maybe you should take a moment to praise and worship Him for it.

God is alive and well. He is an interactive God - a real-time God. His involvement in our lives can be explained under the umbrella term: “Providence”. Providence can be defined as divine intervention, made possible by the authority and sovereignty of God. In other words, God is in control.

I know for me, many things have happened, and continue to happen, that go far beyond coincidence. And I always give God the benefit of the doubt when it comes to who is responsible for the things that fall in my favor.

Hopefully, you also recognize and experience the hand of God moving in your life. When God decides to intervene, here are five ways that He does it. 

1. Timing
Through His providence, God can arrange certain things to happen at just the right time. This might be done in microseconds, or it might be done in years. And sometimes God’s timing is nowhere near how we would have arranged things to happen. In other words, our timing is not always the same as God’s timing. One thing is for sure, God is a God of timing, and His timing is perfect. We need to trust in that. Consider this verse:  "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law." (Galatians 4:4)

2. People
Sometimes God's use of timing involves people. Through providence, He can line up people with people, and line up people with opportunities.  For example, sometimes He lines you up with another person, perhaps for the purpose of encouraging or witnessing or serving. The problem is that sometimes we miss the opportunity, don’t recognize it, and therefore don’t take advantage of it. I’m sure it’s not hard for you to look back at situations in your life when you ran into someone just at the right moment. Or sadly, in retrospect, when you've seemed to have missed an opportunity that God may have lined up. In that case, I can just imagine God saying, "I'm trying to help you out, can't you see? Oh well, maybe next time. I'll try again soon."

3. Angels
Ever have any close calls? It could be that an angel was involved in helping you out! Angels certainly can be one of the means by which God intervenes in our lives. Yes, angels are for real, it’s just that we can’t see them. Or can we? I love this interesting verse: "Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (Hebrews 13:2). Not sure if this still happens today, like it did in Bible times, but it does make you wonder. One thing is for sure, God has used angels ever since man was created, and continues to use them even today. "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)

4. Physical Nature
I believe that if God is creator, and if He calmed the raging sea, and did all sorts of miracles (altering the laws of physics, science, and nature), then He can still do miraculous things in this world today. Sometimes during a storm, I pray that God will change the course of the wind, or calm it. I believe He is able to do that, as well as being able to alter the physical realm in any way He chooses. He is able to do all things if He desires. Think of this example...if a car had loose wheel lug nuts, do you think that God can hold the loose tire on the car, not letting it fall off, but allowing it to be noticed before it's too late? I say yes. Can He heal physical sickness and disease if He wants to? I say yes. He is able.

5. The Holy Spirit 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, and if you do too, then you must believe the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. It’s another way how God is with us, and how His intervention works. I like to think that the Holy Spirit affects our conscience, as well as our intuition. The Holy Spirit can guide us. And if we try to be perceptive to it, the Holy Spirit can give us nudges to do something, or say something. Or perhaps, not to do something or not to say something. 

To summarize, God still moves in our lives. He does it in many ways -  through timing, through people, through angels, through altering the physical laws of nature, and through influence by the Holy Spirit.  

Sometimes He intervenes as a response to our prayer. Sometimes He initiates the intervention Himself simply to work things in our favor. Sometimes He intervenes for purposes that we can't understand or see - things that are in accordance with His will or plan. Regardless, all I can say is thank You Lord for your providence, and that You are in control!! I live by it, and I rely on it!  And I hope you do too!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

3 Popular Sayings Not Found In The Bible

I'm sure you've heard some famous sayings now and then, and you've probably said to yourself, "I wonder where that came from?" Well, below are three statements that sound convincing. However, look out! Even though they may sound like they came from the Bible, they did not! And furthermore, even though there is a bit of logic in these statements, maybe some half-truths, in reality, just the opposites of what they say are true! Below are three such sayings:

1. "God helps those who help themselves."
Ever hear this one? It sounds good, but is this really a principle that's true? Not really. Many times I've heard people use it as if it's some sort of profound Bible verse, as if they are quoting the Bible. However, it's not found anywhere in the Bible. It's not found in the book of Proverbs. It's not part of the Sermon on the Mount. It's not a verse that's found anywhere in scripture.

Yes, I know, we're not supposed to be lazy. And we are to be obedient. But that's not what this statement is trying to profess. If God helps those who help themselves, then it would mean that God's help is conditional. It implies that if we help ourselves first, then God will, in turn, help us. It's saying that we can earn God's blessings and grace by our own diligence. This is a "works" philosophy" verses a "grace" philosophy. That's opposite of the simple definition of grace...unmerited favor.

Does God really reward those who help themselves regardless of their motives, their heart, and the condition of their relationship with Him? I don't think so! The reality is, sometimes people are helpless. Does God turn His back on such people? No. Just the opposite. God is a God who helps those who can't help themselves!

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." (Romans 5:6)

2. Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.
When I was in junior high school, I heard this from parents and teachers alike. It was their way to teach us not to be intimidated by bullies. I distinctly remember our school bus driver reciting this sentence often, probably with good intentions. It was good advice, telling us to stay out of physical fights. Regardless of how much it may sound like a Bible proverb, it's not found in scripture. Is it true that names will never hurt me? No, it's not true. Names hurt! Words hurt! And the hurt lasts a long, long time - longer than most physical injuries.

The Bible teaches that we should watch our tongue. Sticks and stones can injure, but saying something hurtful to someone causes a much more serious and lasting hurt. So watch your tongue!

"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18)

3. Everything happens for a reason
Many things definitely happen for a reason, possibly a reason we may not be aware of or understand. I strongly believe that. God works in our lives for sure. But does absolutely "everything" happen for a reason, as the above statement implies? Does it really? Think about it. If everything, I mean everything happened for a reason, that would mean that everything, every event in our lives, is arranged by God for some reason. That would also mean that every bad and evil event is caused by God. (I don't think so!) If that's true, what happened to free will? I believe God either allows things to happen or He intervenes. Sometimes, however, things happen by coincidence or chance. For example, natural disasters happen. And sometimes things happen as a consequence of our own decisions or actions. Whatever the case, God either lets it play out, or acts on it. I suppose that's where the mystery lies - when or why God chooses to act. God can certainly cause things to happen, but that doesn't mean that everything which happens is a result of His will.

I guess the question is "all things" happen for a reason - implying that everything, good and bad, is intentionally done by God? (I say not necessarily), or just some things (I say yes)? Can some things happen by coincidence or chance? (I say yes) or as a result of our own decisions, stupidity, etc? (I say yes). More importantly, I'm coming from the angle, does "God" cause all things, including all bad things, to happen? ( I say not all bad things, maybe some for various reasons). And in the big picture... alright, if you really want to stretch it and get really technical..... I guess all things "do" happen for 4 reasons!.......God causes it, Satan causes it, we cause it, or nobody causes it.

No matter what happens in our lives, God is with us, and we do not go through it alone. And if we are in Christ, He works things, even bad things, eventually for our good.

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)