It’s Christmastime Again

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. At least Atlanta traffic does.

I pray you take some time during the next few weeks to unplug and take a new look at this 2000-year-old Story. It’s the best!!

Here’s a devotion I wrote a few years ago that takes a closer look at an angel who played a big part in this story that never grows old.

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Gabriel and the Two How’s

Gabriel really racked up the air miles in the first chapter of Luke. He was sent to Earth twice to share special birth announcements. Well, they were actually conception announcements. Both were pretty unusual. And the recipients’ responses to the announcements seem very similar. But Gabriel’s reactions to their responses were very different. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

The first announcement is to Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest who was married to Elizabeth. According to Luke, they both followed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They were an upstanding Jewish couple. But that was the problem. They were just a couple. No kids. And they were OLD.

One day when Zechariah’s priest division was on duty, he was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense. That’s where things got interesting. An angel appeared to Zechariah and scared him half to death. The angel told him not to be afraid. But more importantly he told him that his prayer had been heard. That his wife Elizabeth was going to become pregnant and have a son!

The angel then goes into detail about what they’re to name him and how they’re to raise him and the role he would play in God’s plan.

Zechariah’s response to all this is a question. A ‘how’ question. He asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Something about Zechariah’s question doesn’t sit well with the angel. He replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” He goes on to explain that because Zechariah didn’t believe him, Zechariah wouldn’t be able to speak until everything Gabriel had told him came true.

When he left the temple, Zechariah couldn’t even explain to the other priests what had just happened.

Zechariah went home and sure enough, Elizabeth became pregnant.

Just like Gabriel said.

And Zechariah still couldn’t speak.

Just like Gabriel said.

Now for Gabriel’s conversation with Mary.

Six months after the Zechariah trip, God sends Gabriel back to Earth. This time to Nazareth, to carry a message to a girl named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph.

Gabriel appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

I think it’s interesting that Mary isn’t startled by Gabriel’s sudden appearance like Zechariah was. However, she was confused by how he greeted her. So he explained it to her. He told her his greeting was a good thing. He told her that God had chosen her for a special assignment. That she was going to become pregnant, have a son, and name him Jesus. And that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High and that his kingdom would never end.

And just like Zechariah, Mary responds to Gabriel with a ‘how’ question. “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

But Gabriel’s response to Mary is very different than his response to Zechariah. Gabriel actually explains to Mary ‘how’ things are going to happen. ‘How’ she is going to become pregnant even though she’s a virgin. He even goes on to tell her that Elizabeth, who is Mary’s relative, is pregnant.

And then Gabriel makes one of my favorite statements in the entire Bible. He says, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I have a feeling it became one of Mary’s favorites, too.

Okay. Those are the two stories. And the two ‘how’ questions. And Gabriel’s absolutely opposite responses.

Now I just have one question.

Why?

Why did Gabriel silence Zechariah for nine months for asking ‘how’? But six months later when Mary asks ‘how’, why did he explain everything to her?

Gabriel hasn’t appeared to me recently [or ever!] so I haven’t been able to ask him. But after looking closely at these two scenarios and the two questions, I came up with an answer to my ‘why’ that satisfies my curiosity. At least for now.

I took a closer look at Zechariah’s question. Zechariah wasn’t really asking how he and Elizabeth were going to have a son after all these years. Zechariah was asking for a sign. I think he was saying: an angel appearing to me and telling me that God has heard the prayer I’ve been praying for decades and that He is now going to answer it, isn’t quite enough for me. Telling me that my wife is going to have a boy and that we’re to name him John and explaining the role he will play in God’s plan, doesn’t exactly convince me that it’s really going to happen. I need something more.

Whoa. I think Zechariah had lost sight of something very important.

Faith.

And I think he had forgotten how important faith is to God.

Zechariah was very good at following the rules, but somewhere along the way, he had forgotten that what pleases God is faith—believing without seeing any evidence. And apparently asking for more evidence right after God sends an angel direct from His throne to share good news with you, isn’t a real smart move.

I don’t need to criticize Zechariah. I’m pretty sure I’ve been exactly where he was.

I think Zechariah’s . . . and Elizabeth’s . . . hearts had been broken several times over the years. Probably several times a year . . . for many years. Their dreams of having a family had been crushed. They had lived for decades with the shame of being childless. This upstanding Jewish couple, who followed every command and regulation God had given, lived in disgrace among their friends and relatives because they couldn’t get pregnant.

I wonder how many calluses were on their hearts. Is it even possible to keep a tender heart while living for decades in their situation?

When Zechariah doesn’t immediately jump on the baby bandwagon with Gabriel, it may have been out of self-protection. I don’t think Zechariah wanted to get his hopes up again . . . and run the risk of having them crushed again.

And I really don’t think Zechariah wanted to get Elizabeth’s hopes up again. I’m sure he had watched his wife’s heart break more times than he could count. So before he went home and told Elizabeth what Gabriel said, Zechariah wanted to be sure Gabriel knew what he was talking about. And as it turned out, he couldn’t tell Elizabeth anyway. Because Zechariah had been given the sign he requested.

Now to Mary’s question.

I think Gabriel answered Mary’s question because her question was a real ‘how’ question: How is this going to happen?

In fact, I wonder if Mary was asking an even bigger question.

A question I need to ask.

A question you may want to ask, too.

I wonder if Mary was saying:

  • I understand what’s going to happen—I’m going to get pregnant and have a very special baby.
  • Here is my current situation—I’m a virgin and not planning to get married immediately.
  • So, what is my role in this scenario? What, if anything, do I need to do differently in order for God’s plan to be accomplished in my life?

I wonder if that’s what Mary was really asking, because that seems to be the question Gabriel answered.

Gabriel told her how God was going to do something miraculous with her life.

But he didn’t tell her that she needed to do anything differently. Apparently she just needed to keep doing what she was doing. She didn’t need to go ahead and marry Joseph in order to get pregnant. She just needed to keep living her life, believing God, and remaining open to whatever adventure God brought her.

Mary’s role was to continue doing the possible part of the plan. God would take care of the impossible part.

And He did!

And He still does.

I think I need to spend some time with God and ask Him Mary’s question: What, if anything, do I need to do differently in order for Your plan to be accomplished in my life?

And then I need to listen.

And then I need to do my part—the possible part. And watch God do the rest.

For nothing is impossible with God!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2011

 

Master Question Asker

Do you know someone who asks great questions? I love spending time with people like that. I think it’s because I believe asking and answering questions are one of the best ways to get to know a person and to share who you are with them.

 

I also think good questions are a great way to determine what you really believe about something and how you can better apply your beliefs to your life. That’s why a lot of my blog posts end with application questions.

 

I think Jesus was/is the Master Question Asker. And the big question in today’s passage is one of my favorites.

 

Jesus has just told the paralyzed man on the mat that his sins are forgiven. And now the Scribes are thinking to themselves that this man is claiming to be God because He says He forgave the man’s sins.

 

And Jesus knows what they’re thinking. So He asks them a couple of questions.

 

I’m sure the first question caught them off guard, because it revealed that He knew what they were thinking and that He considered it evil.

 

The next question comes quickly on the heels of that one and is the big question.

 

Jesus asks the Scribes which is easier to say: (a) your sins are forgiven or (b) get up and walk.

 

Well, duh. It’s much easier to say your sins are forgiven because there’s no physical way to prove that it really happened.

 

But Jesus doesn’t give the Scribes time to answer. He immediately says, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

 

So, to show them that what He says just happened (the man’s sins were forgiven) really happened, He turns to the paralyzed man and tells him to pick up his mat and walk home.

 

And he does.

 

And the crowds are in awe and praise God—which is always one of Jesus’s goals.

 

This story shows that one of Jesus’s top priorities is our spiritual condition: the first thing He did was forgive the man’s sins.

 

But Jesus didn’t leave the man in the condition He found him: spiritually or physically. Jesus went on to heal the man’s physical condition that had him bound to his mat.

 

Jesus cares about our spiritual condition. He came to earth to redeem us through His death. That was necessary because of the sinful condition of our lives.

 

And Jesus also cares about our physical condition. Today’s passage is just one of many examples of that—in the scriptures and in our world today.

 

But Jesus also wants us to KNOW Him. He wants us to know who He is and the authority He has.

 

And He uses physical expressions of His authority here on earth to prove that He is who He says He is.

 

His ultimate goal of these physical expressions is to help us recognize that He is God, that He cares about our individual situations, that He is the only one who can forgive our sins, and that all our praise belongs to Him.

 

And a lot of times He uses good questions to help us get to that point.

 

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What has Jesus recently done in your life (big or small) that helps prove who He is, how much He cares about you, and how much power and authority He has?

 

What situation in your life or in the life of a loved one has you questioning whether Jesus cares about the situation or can/will do anything about it?

 

What can you do to get to know Him better?

 

 

Matthew 9:3-8 NIV

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

 

Friends

It’s Thanksgiving week and this year I plan to spend it in Denver with my daughter. I am so thankful for her and for the close friendship we have and for this opportunity to spend a week with her in her world . . . and also spend a little time with a couple of the friends I made when I lived there.

 

Friends. They’re so important. They’re such a blessing.

 

Or not.

 

It depends on who your friends are.

 

And more importantly, it depends on where your friends take you.

 

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 

And John Kuebler said, “You show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

 

The people we choose to spend time with have an effect on our life. And the more time we spend with them, the more effect they have on us.

 

And when we’re hurting and fearful and ‘paralyzed’ by life’s circumstances, it is extremely important to choose the right friends to come around us.

 

Some friends will join you in your pain and stay there. Some will even help you throw a pity party. Some will take you to the local bar to drown your sorrows. Or to the mall for some retail therapy.

 

But those aren’t the friends you need. You need friends like the ones in today’s verse.

 

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” – Matthew 9:2 (NIV)

 

The man in today’s verse is paralyzed by illness. He’s stuck on his mat. And the friends that surround him are a blessing because they don’t get down on the mat with him and join him in his paralysis. They don’t look at him and whisper to each other, “Guys, this is hopeless.” They don’t say to him, “I’m praying for you, my friend. Let me know what I can do.”

 

No, these friends pick him up and take him where he needs to go. They don’t give up on him. They don’t just help him cope with his current condition.

 

These friends see what he can be. They understand his potential. They believe for the best for him.

 

They have faith that Jesus is the answer to whatever his problem is.

 

And they do something about it.

 

They take him to Jesus.

 

If your friends can’t see your potential, they will accept your current circumstances as final.

 

If your friends aren’t convinced God has bigger plans for you than what’s in your life right now, they’ll just try to help you cope.

 

And if your friends don’t know Jesus, they will do for you what they do for themselves . . . deal with the pain however they can.

 

Let’s face it. There may be times in life when you’ll be ‘paralyzed’ – at least for a while – by what life throws at you.

 

But if you have friends who know Jesus and who see your potential and have faith that God has even bigger plans for you than your current circumstances, then they won’t let you remain ‘paralyzed’ on your mat. They will come and remind you who you are and what you are meant to be doing and of all the great plans God has for you.

 

And then they’ll take you to Jesus. In prayer. In faith. In power.

 

And THEIR FAITH IN GOD FOR YOU will change your life.

 

That’s why surrounding yourself with the right friends is critical if you want to experience God’s best for your life.

 

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Who are you allowing to surround you on your mat? What words are they speaking over you? Where are they taking you?

 

What kind of friend are you? Are you enabling someone to just cope with their circumstances? Or are you carrying them to Jesus . . . believing He has greater plans for them?

 

It’s Done!

 

Well, it took me long enough. But I’m finally a published author. Yay!

 

My book is titled Treasure Seeker Bible Study Workbook. This workbook shares the three-question study method I’ve been using for 15 years, walks you through an example of how to do it, and gives you multiple copies of the worksheet I designed and use for my personal study.

 

This method is simple, but very powerful. It’s the method I typically use for writing my blog posts.

 

MinistryMarketplace111415

The picture is of me with a framed copy of my cover. My graphic designer, and now friend, Sarah Delaney did a fantastic job on the cover. I love it!

And my friend Kimberly Martin, owner of Jera Publishing, did a great job formatting the interior.

The only entity that let me down was CreateSpace. They are running a week behind in their printing and weren’t able to get copies to me in time for a holiday market I was involved with last weekend. But I took orders and will deliver them in the next few days.

 

My workbook is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. Or if you live in the Kennesaw/Marietta area, I can deliver without any shipping charges.

 

And now . . . on to my next book . . . or three.

 

Total Freedom

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. – Matthew 8:34 – 9:1 NIV

Jesus was doing what Jesus always does when He delivered the two men who were possessed by demons. He was showing His compassion for people who were suffering, displaying His authority and power over everything in the physical and spiritual realms, and bringing everything back into alignment—like He always desires to do.

And when the whole town came out and pleaded with Him to leave their region, Jesus left.

He got back in a boat and went somewhere else.

It doesn’t say He healed anyone else. It doesn’t say He called out any more demons. It doesn’t even say that He said another word to the townspeople.

It just says He left.

Jesus knows who He is. And He knows how much every person on earth needs Him.

He knows the authority He carries and His ability to do whatever needs to be done so that every person on earth is free—from sin and death and demons.

And there is nothing that He wants more than for us to experience total freedom from anything and everything that hinders us from being all He created us to be. He proved that by going to the cross.

But He also knows that our “total freedom” includes our freedom to choose Him or reject Him. To accept what He’s offering us or refuse it. To follow His lead or to go our own way.

And the reason I think He gives us the freedom to reject Him is because love isn’t really love if it’s coerced or forced. Real love is freely given. We choose to love. Anything less is just a different shade of bondage.

So although He could “make” us love Him, “make” us accept Him, and “make” us do what He knows will be the very best for us, I believe He will let us live life our own way before He will take away our freedom.

What is Jesus offering you today?

Will you accept it or reject it?

Pigs and Priorities

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.  “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Matthew 8:28-34 (NIV)

Every time I read this story, I get so confused.

It’s not a difficult story to follow. In fact, it’s very simple.

Jesus and the disciples made it through the horrible storm we talked about last week and have landed at their destination across the lake.

Two demon-possessed men come to meet Him. The demons in these two men start questioning Jesus. Essentially they’re saying, “What are you doing here? It’s not time to send us to Hell yet. You’re early!”

I find it amazing that these demons recognize who Jesus is immediately. And they know what their future is. And they also know Jesus has authority over them and that He’s probably going to kick them out of their present home (the two men) because they don’t belong there and Jesus loves putting things back into alignment.

So the demons request that Jesus send them into a nearby herd of pigs.

And Jesus obliges.

The pigs go crazy—naturally—and commit suicide by jumping into the lake and drowning.

The guys responsible for taking care of the pigs run back to town and tell the townspeople what happened—to the pigs and to the demon-possessed men.

Now remember, the townspeople had not been able to travel through this particular part of town because the two demon-possessed men were so violent.

And now they aren’t.

Hallelujah! Praise God!

As a result of the report from the watchers of the pigs, the entire town heads out to the tombs.

So what did they see as they approached?

I imagine they saw Jesus and his companions. And I imagine they also saw the two men—men they had been afraid of earlier—now walking around in their right minds. The two men were probably still amazed at what Jesus had done for them. They were probably still thanking Jesus and possibly discussing going back home for the first time in a long time. Possibly dreaming what it will be like to lead normal lives again—get back to work, be respectable citizens, enjoy being husbands and fathers.

Can you imagine how it would feel to get your life back after that kind of experience? To not have people afraid of you anymore? To not be shunned? To not hate yourself and what you’ve become?

How liberated they must have felt!

And here come their fellow townspeople. Coming out to celebrate with them.

Or so they thought.

The last verse says, “Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

Wait! Whaaat?

There are a few other ways I would have expected that last sentence to end.

For instance, they pleaded with him to come stay in their town a few days and heal some other people.

Or to heal the other people right here, right now.

Or teach them like he had taught people across the lake.

But, no. Instead, they asked Jesus to leave their region.

They didn’t want Him anywhere near them. He was disrupting their status quo and ruining their economy.

I understand. Pigs died. I get it. And apparently that was somebody’s livelihood. Or it could have been the town’s main livelihood.

But seriously. What is a herd of pigs compared to two men getting their lives back?!? Two families getting their husbands and fathers back? A town getting two productive citizens back? How can you compare the value of a herd of pigs to the health and dignity restored to these two men?

I’m sorry but I’m confused.

But that’s not unusual these days.

A lot of things happening in our country right now confuse me.

It has become very apparent that there are several things that many people in this country consider a lot more important than human life. And sacred vows. And righteous living. And justice. And truth.

And it’s obvious there are things that some people value more than being honest. Or merciful. Or gracious. Or honoring. Or respectful. Or faithful.

In a lot of different regions of this country (education, government, media, business, entertainment, etc.), Jesus was asked to leave a long time ago.

And now we’re living in the aftermath.

So what are we going to do about it? It’s up to us.

“If MY PEOPLE, who are called by my name . . . .” II Chronicles 7:14

Memories

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

 

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.

 

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” – Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

I visited my parents for a few days last week. We had a real good time together. We did some eating and some shopping and a little more eating and a little more shopping and watched a couple of movies and ate a little bit more.

 

Do you notice a theme here? Yeah. Me, too. (She said, with a smile on her face!)

 

Anyway, one morning while we were sitting at the table eating breakfast, we started talking about the different residences they, as a couple, and later us, as a family, had lived in since their marriage.

 

We talked about the early apartments and the duplex and the garage apartment with a steep staircase and then a complete house to rent and after that a nicer house to rent. And finally a house to own. And then the house they’ve now lived in for over three decades.

 

We talked about when they only had a washer but no dryer and two small active girls. And what happened to a particular parakeet and a few tiny turtles that lived on our tiny screened porch. But we won’t talk about that here.

 

We remembered rare snowfalls and frozen little hands. And getting an electrical shock when you touched the mixer and another person at the same time – because some residential electrical systems weren’t grounded back then.

 

Later, when we had finished reminiscing, my dad said, “Thank you.” We said, “For what?”

 

And he said, “I remembered things today that I didn’t know I remembered. I’m so glad it’s all still there. It just took somebody jogging my memory.”

 

I have that same problem sometimes. Don’t you?

 

And that’s the same problem the disciples experienced in today’s passage.

 

Just think about what those guys had already witnessed in their brief journey with Jesus.

 

They’d seen him heal all kinds of diseases. We know he healed a paralyzed servant boy without even seeing him. And we know he healed a man with leprosy. And we know he healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever that had her bedridden.

 

And we know there were a lot more healings. He healed every disease and sickness that was brought to him. People in severe pain, the demon-possessed, those suffering with seizures, and the paralyzed.

 

He healed them ALL. No sweat.

 

And the disciples were eyewitnesses to all of this.

 

And yet they’re now in a situation where they believe they’re all going to die.

 

And some of these guys are professional fishermen. They’ve been in horrible storms before.

 

But there’s someone else with them on this voyage. It’s the same person they watched heal the paralyzed servant and the people in severe pain. And the lepers. And the demon-possessed.

 

I just don’t think those memories were at the forefront of the disciples’ minds at this particular point in their trip.

 

I have a feeling the only thing they were thinking about was trimming sails and bailing water and watching their lives flash before their eyes.

 

The KNEW they were dead in the water.

 

And then they look over and see Jesus. Sleeping. Like a baby.

 

Because Jesus apparently knew something they didn’t.

 

He KNEW that the same person who can heal a paralyzed body can just as easily calm a storm.

 

Of any kind.

 

So whatever storm you’re in today, start asking yourself questions about your past experiences. Jog your memory and remind yourself about where you’ve come from, what circumstances you’ve been through, and WHO got you through every storm in your life.

 

Because that same person is still with you today – in your current storm. And He still has the same power – the power that’s strong enough to raise the dead. And I doubt you need power any stronger than that.

 

So keep all those memories fresh. Keep rehearsing your testimonies. And the testimonies of other people – because God doesn’t love them any more than He loves you. What He did for them, He can do for you.

 

And that is what will keep your faith alive and well.

 

In any storm.

Check That Price Tag

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

 

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

 

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

 

Matthew 8:18-22

 

 

In these verses, Jesus sounds a little schizo to me. But I believe He’s making two very important points—points based on the premise that following Him can be costly.

 

At this time in His ministry, Jesus is very popular. He’s being followed by huge crowds wherever He goes. They listen to His messages and then they crowd around Him to be healed of all their diseases and delivered from all of their demons.

 

What’s not to love!

 

So the teacher of the law in this passage was witnessing Jesus’s extreme popularity.

 

What Jesus wanted the teacher of the law to know was that he was not seeing the whole picture.

 

A lot of people want to jump on a bandwagon when it’s being carried high by waves of popularity. And to be part of the inner circle of that kind of phenomenon could add a lot to your self-esteem—not to mention your resume.

 

But Jesus knew that when the crowds went home each night, He didn’t have a home to go to.

 

He wanted the teacher of the law to make his decision based on full disclosure of all the facts.

 

Then there’s the other disciple who wants to go back and bury his father before he follows Jesus.

At first glance this seems like a legitimate request. But he’s probably not talking about returning home for a few days to complete the funeral and burial process. This disciple is probably saying his father is elderly and he needs to go back home and take care of him until his death.

 

What I believe Jesus is talking about in this instance is the fact that there will be relationships we will have to adjust in order to follow Him as closely as He’s calling us to.

 

I do NOT believe Jesus is saying we need to dishonor any of our family members or divorce a spouse or shirk our duty to our young children or aging parents in order to be His disciple. That would totally go against what is taught throughout scripture.

 

But I do believe that our relationship with Jesus and our pursuit of His calling on our life supercedes ALL earthly relationships. And there will be times when our obedience of His directives and His priorities for our life will not be understood or appreciated by some of our closest friends or family.

 

That is another part of the cost of following Him.

 

So before we jump on the bandwagon during a popular ‘Jesus season’ or before we find an excuse to back off of our commitment to Him, let’s look again at the cost of following Jesus . . . and the rewards.

 

Because whatever earthly possessions or relationships we may forfeit by following Jesus—those are going to pale in comparison to everything we gain.

 

Just Jesus

Earlier in Matthew 8, after Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, He healed a leper and then a paralyzed servant.

Now He’s at Peter’s house and sees Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.

So Jesus did what He always does when He’s confronted with sickness. He heals.

And later that night, sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Him and He healed them all.

Two things stick out in this section for me.

First, Jesus is the same everywhere he goes. He’s not a different person with the crowd than He is with His friends. He doesn’t have a different agenda in private than He does in public. He’s just Jesus. Wherever He is and whoever He’s with. He sees everybody and He has compassion for anyone who’s hurting.

And second, He never met a sickness or disease or demon He couldn’t handle. Or didn’t want to handle. His priority was making things whole again, bringing things back into alignment with how they were intended to be.

That’s still His priority. Bringing things – and especially people – back into alignment with how they were intended to be.

What are God’s intentions for you and your life?

What’s going on in your life now that reveals how He’s working to bring you back into alignment with those intentions?

How well are you cooperating with His plan?

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14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”

Just Say the Word

The next story in Matthew 8 is about an incredible miracle. (I’m not sure there’s any other kind.) But there’s something about the passage that’s a little confusing to me.

 

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.”

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.”

 

Wait. What?!?

 

To me if would make more sense if Jesus had said, I haven’t found anyone in Israel with such a great understanding of authority.

 

The centurion never uses the word faith. But he talks a lot about authority.

 

The centurion lived under authority and led with authority.

 

When his superiors told him to do something, he did it. He was under their authority.

 

And when he told one of his soldiers or servants to do something, they did it. They were subject to him. He had authority over them.

 

He completely understood how authority works.

 

I wonder if understanding authority better makes having faith a little easier.

 

The centurion knew that Jesus had authority over all kinds of sickness and disease and demons. Apparently he had either watched Jesus in action or heard about him from people who had.

 

I don’t think the centurion had to conjure up enough faith to believe Jesus could heal his servant.

 

Or repeat scriptures over and over again trying to build his faith.

 

Or rehearse positive affirmations about the goodness of God to try to erase his doubt.

 

He didn’t have any doubt Jesus could heal his servant. Because he knew Jesus had authority over every problem he was facing.

 

And he also knew that, because of that authority, Jesus didn’t even have to be in the presence of his servant in order to heal him. All He had to do was “just say the word.”

 

How could he be so bold? Because he knew that if he told one of his soldiers to do something, he didn’t have to stand around and watch to make sure it was done. He knew his orders would be carried out because of the authority he carried.

 

So how does this relate to our faith?

 

It seems to me Jesus is saying that faith, in some ways, comes from knowing WHO HE IS, His position, and understanding the authority He has, based on that position, over the issues we’re dealing with in our lives.

 

But we already know all that, don’t we?

 

Then how does a Roman centurion who didn’t attend synagogue or read the ancient scriptures have more faith than a lot of us modern-day “Christians” with a church on every corner and multiple Bibles in our homes?

 

That’s a very good question. And it makes the rest of this story even more interesting.

 

11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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.