Risk

Friendships can involve risk.

One day while Jesus was teaching in someone’s home, word spread of His presence and a crowd formed. Soon the house became so filled that no one outside could see or hear Jesus (except for a paralyzed man with friends who tore through the roof to get in). The story of the man being let down through the rafters is often mentioned to illustrate “faith-in-action”:

“When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”” – Mark 2:5 NKJV

The friends were obviously determined to see the Lord, but they had no guarantee He would heal their friend. It’s easy to forget that people in scripture (like those mentioned in Mark chapter 2) didn’t know the outcome beforehand. For all they knew they were risking exposure to ridicule, failure, and misunderstanding, but “Jesus saw their faith”. He knew their motive was to help a friend, not to make a scene or become famous as party-crashers.

Is fear preventing you from doing or saying something regarding a friend? If the motive and timing are both right, take courage and prayerfully go forward. If either of them aren’t, then wait, continue to pray, and trust the Lord’s leading.

Renewal

Spiritual power depends on daily renewal. In Jesus’ ministry, there was a consistent pattern like the one recorded in Luke 5. Consider the leper’s question and what happens next:

““Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”” – Luke 5:12b-13 NKJV

Afterwards, the leper spread the story (against Jesus’ instructions) and the crowds grew even bigger. And as they did, an important note is included in the narrative:

“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” – Luke 5:16 NKJV

There are many things Jesus modeled for us and a very important discipline was His time to be refreshed in spirit. He always made the effort for renewal time with His Father. As a disciple, there must be time for spiritual renewal. It may look different from one believer to the next, but the components are essential for spiritual power and consistent living. There simply is no substitute for prayer and scripture reading, and the enemy will try to separate us from both. Endless distractions may come today, but a few moments set aside for refreshment will be worth it.

The Lord’s Day 1-29-17

Right now, in Heaven these words are being repeated:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”

– Revelation 4:8b NKJV

The throne room is totally focused on God and filled with fire, smoke, music, singing, and praise on a grand scale! As you prepare to engage in worship, remember to pause and reflect on the scene going on simultaneously in heaven. John said “…And they do not rest day or night saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”

Reality

Jesus ministered within reality.

For example, after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, the whole town brought sick and demon-possessed people to be healed (and it went late into the night). The next morning, while Jesus was in His early prayer-time, the disciples looked for Him, leading up to this:

“When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”” – Mark 1:37-38 NKJV

On several occasions, the disciples assumed that large crowds meant Jesus was going to stay-put for a while; but He rarely did. Jesus loved people with great compassion, but He always kept things in perspective. He knew the spiritual receptivity of those He ministered to and based His investment of time accordingly. Sometimes that meant staying a couple of days (like in Samaria), but other times it meant moving on when His presence simply became “free bread and healing”.

As a disciple, your time is precious and limited. Sometimes your sharing of the gospel is not welcomed or ignored; keep moving. There are also many who’ll “wear-you-out” for little or no spiritual gain, keep moving (fatigue isn’t a spiritual gift). But then there are those who respond and grow to maturity; and that’s where the eternal “return on investment” is found.

Confronted

Evil spirits love to intimidate. When Jesus encountered one in the Capernaum synagogue, the spirit lashed out saying:

“Leave us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who You are-the Holy One of God!” – Luke 4:34 NKJV

However, Jesus wasn’t intimidated or taken by surprise. He rebuked the spirit and said:

“Be quiet and come out of him!” – Luke 4:35 NKJV

Once Jesus gave the command to come out, there wasn’t a sarcastic rebuttal, or dramatic standoff, because the demon knew Jesus was in charge. However, Luke then tells us the demon threw the man to the ground, came out, but didn’t harm him. The spirit may have been enraged, but was no longer empowered.

As a disciple, there are days when evil makes its nasty presence known with personal accusations and threats, but it’s good to remember that Jesus is in-charge. He isn’t anxiously wringing His hands on the sidelines, worried by the heckling of evil spirits; His demeanor is confident and steadfast. They can be intimidating to us, but to Jesus they’re former servants awaiting final punishment. He’s the One who’ll have the last word, and He’s the One we serve!

Reception

The truth isn’t always welcome.

For example, in His hometown synagogue, Jesus read a passage from Isaiah regarding the coming Messiah. He said this to the audience:

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:21 NKJV

Luke tells us they marveled at His gracious words and couldn’t believe this was “Joseph’s son”. But as He continued to speak, the mood in the room changed. He mentioned that prophets aren’t accepted in their own country, and reminded them that Elijah was sent to minister to Gentiles during the severe famine. At those words, the marveling went away and anger replaced it. The feelings were so intense they tried to kill Him, but He slipped through the crowd and left. What started out as an amazed audience, turned into a murderous mob.

Sometimes the truth does that. It starts out confirming and validating what we feel or hope (gracious words from the hometown son), but then the mood changes (ready to throw Him off a cliff). Those times are crucial in the life of a disciple, because the temptation is to resist and just focus on the confirming and validating things. Paul told Timothy the scriptures are profitable for;

“…reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:17 NKJV

How do you receive the Word? Is it through a filter that sifts out the unwelcome parts, or is it with readiness? The truth can sometimes be tough, but also liberating, healing, saving, protecting, hope-giving and joy-making.

“Buy the truth and don’t sell it…” – Proverbs 23:23a NKJV

Wisdom 16.2

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirits.” – Proverbs 16:2 NKJV

Regardless of what popular culture considers acceptable, the Lord looks beyond actions to the motives of the heart. A self-written code of ethics usually accommodates our own habits, but God calls us to righteousness according to His word.

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