Faith


Luke 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is blessed by our acts of faith

Military personnel understand authority.  I saw this fact played out time and time again while living in Colorado Springs, surrounded by Army and Air Force personnel who attended our church.  They understood the chain of command and accepted it with unwavering loyalty, every pastor’s dream. The only problem with the military personnel in our church was that just when we knew we couldn’t live without them, Uncle Sam moved them on to another base somewhere in the world. Their understanding of authority could not be denied as was true with the officer in Luke 7.

@ Luke 7
The Gentile officer’s valued servant was ill.  He had heard about the authority over sickness that a Jewish man named Jesus possessed, and military people understand authority.  “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed…When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel.”(6-9)  Amazing Jesus!  Well, it’s true, He certainly is amazing.  But I mean amazing, in the sense to amaze Jesus.  Every time I read the story of the Roman officer I question, “Has my faith ever amazed Jesus?”

“Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.  I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers, I only need to say ‘Go,’ and they go or ‘Come,’ and they come.”(7-8)  From the accounts he had heard, he understood the authority that Jesus possessed over sickness and death, and he actually believed it! Chapters 7 and 8 tell of many miracles of Jesus that were off the chart in magnitude, like raising the dead and delivering a demoniac of many demons to name a couple.  Having read all the miracles of Jesus throughout the Gospels, do I have the faith of the Roman officer?

Of course, being Italian and all, it thrills me that the one with the most faith in all of Israel was a Roman. I wonder, however, if the thing that thrilled Jesus the most was that the man understood that healing from Him did not require a special potion, a particular location or standing on his left foot and counting to 100.  “Just say the word,” was all it took.  Just say the word.

In these chapters, we learn that Jesus ministered to the undesirables of His day when He responded to a gentile officer, forgave an immoral woman, delivered a demoniac and healed an unclean woman. Apparently, His miracles did not fall under the scrutiny of racial or moral profiling – everyone and everything are under His authority!  We have heard of His miraculous works, but do we amaze Him with our faith and believe that He will heal our bodies and set people free and provide the jobs, food and shelter that we need.  The method Jesus uses to respond to our requests is in His hands, but the miracle often begins when our faith catches His attention.  Oh, how I want to amaze Him! 

Moving Forward:  I surrender my needs to His authority today. With a believing heart, I cry, “Just say the word, Jesus, just say the word!”  I pray He is amazed. 

Tomorrow @ Galatians 4-6

Exodus 5-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His perspective, nothing is impossible

When painting a picture, an artist goes to great length to exact the proper perspective in a landscape or portrait. An old trick that many painters use is to hold up the thumb at arm’s length to measure the apparent height of a tree in the foreground in relation to objects in the background, etc. The apparent height of the tree may look like it is the length of the thumb; but of course, we know the actual height is much taller. It’s all about perspective, the measured or objective assessment of an object or situation.

If the perspective in a painting is off, the entire picture will look skewed and off balance. This fact holds true in all of life as well – if our perspective in a situation is wrong, our response and behavior will be off balance and skewed. Moses learned a lesson on perspective in our reading today.

After finally acquiescing to God’s call on his life to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses buckled at the first sign of resistance from Pharaoh, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”(5:22-23) God had to put things into perspective for Moses.

Once again, God revealed to Moses precisely with whom he was dealing, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them.”(6:2-4) The patriarchs knew Him as the Almighty, but now He also would be known as Yahweh, Jehovah, the One who would keep His covenant with Israel, the One who would perform great miracles in order to do so.

Moses! Raise your thumb and see the Egyptian landscape through faith in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises. When I think of the challenge before Moses, I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. As David looked out on the landscape before him and saw the giant, perhaps his boldness came from a raised thumb as he thought, “God will help me take him! Why that giant is no bigger than my thumb!” Faith changes our perspective.

Moses went before Pharaoh with this promise from God, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.”(7:1) Through God’s perspective, apparently, Moses seemed like God to Pharaoh who was considered a god himself. Even though Moses still met with much resistance from Pharaoh, he was allowed regular access to him because of his status.

How do we look at the challenges we face? When our trust is in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises, we will measure our problems with a different perspective. We will hold up our faith, that thumb if you will, and see our apparent trial as God sees it. And in order to keep His promises, He will do great miracles. Thumbs up!

Moving Forward: Today my thumb is up. I’ll not look at my challenges in the natural, without faith. I’ll view them as God apparently sees them, and nothing is impossible for Him! He kills giants, parts water and raises the dead!

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 21-25

Mark 5-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He responds to our faith with help for our needs

Do or die, now or never, win or lose, all or nothing! This is the language and motivation of those who plan to succeed at any cost, those who put their heads down and charge, and we all know individuals who live at this level of determination. We realized our daughter was bent this way from birth and enjoyed watching her succeed in whatever she tried, but we can only imagine her frustration in growing up in a home with phlegmatic parents, brother and dog. It was at the age of 11 or 12 when she realized her predicament and declared with exasperation, “If it weren’t for me, nothing would ever happen around this place.” And she was probably right.

Persistence is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties, and determination is firmness of purpose, will, or intention. Both of these are characteristics of people who know how to get the job done. Some people are just born with this drive, and others develop it out of great need, and the latter was more than likely the case in the story of the woman with the issue of blood in our reading today. With an attitude of all or nothing, something happened.

@ Mark 5
“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’ Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” (25-29) Do or die!

This dear woman had gone through the proper channels to get well, but all of them had failed her. Now it was time to put her head down and charge, and charge she did right through the crowd surrounding her target, right through the many obstacles she faced:

1) She was a woman. Approaching a religious teacher was not acceptable in her day.

2) She was unclean. Her bleeding issue labeled her impure in the eyes of others.

3) She was sick. Weak and sickly from her disease made her approach to Him a significant challenge.

4) Movement through the crowd was difficult. Everyone wanted to get close to this great Teacher.

Are we as determined to see our needs met by the Lord as this tenacious woman was? Do or die? All or nothing? Fight every demon in hell to win? Or do we allow what people think or our place in society to stop us? Do we push past the people who say there is no answer? Do we push through the pain of our situation to touch Jesus the Healer, the Shepherd, the Provider? Scripture charges us, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16) In other words, don’t stay back in the crowd and wonder if it would be acceptable, don’t be hindered by the press of the crowd or the challenge of our need. When we boldly go to the throne of our gracious God, we, too, will see our needs met.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” (34) Jesus wanted to know who had touched Him, not to chastise, but to tell her that it wasn’t His garment that made her well because many had touched Him that day. No, it was her faith in His healing virtue that got His attention. Persistent determination brought her faith to the attention of the Healer.

Moving Forward: When a father asked Jesus for deliverance for his son, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can,” Jesus replied, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’…Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:22-23) I believe!

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 11-12

Mark 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He sees and responds to our faith

Youth today often get a bad rap in the press.  Yes, they are facing some significant struggles because of the evils of our day, but not all have bowed to the god of this age.  Across the country on any given day, thousands of teenagers will gather to worship the true and living God.  They gather in churches, at school flagpoles and anywhere the name of Jesus is lifted up, gathered to pray for their country, their homes and their friends.

Many teenagers work all year long and save money to travel to foreign lands during their summer breaks, not as a tourist, but as missionaries delivering the Good News.  They give their strength and energy to aid in disaster relief around the world.  Nothing thrills me more than to see thousands of youth gathered together in rowdy praise and worship to the Lord – I think it makes Him smile. Mark was older when he wrote his gospel, but at one time he was a young follower of Jesus and some of the participants in our reading today were young and full of faith. 

@ Mark 2
Mark was not one of the twelve disciples, but it is evident that he was a disciple of Jesus, a young follower, who recorded more miracles of Jesus in his book than the other gospels contain.  Even today in this world of skepticism, nothing excites a group of young people more than a bona fide miracle like the one told by Mark in Chapter 2.  A paralyzed young man’s friends tore open the roof of the crowded home where Jesus was speaking in order to lower him down right in front of Jesus.  Awesome!

“Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’”(5)  Although He knew that the man was placed in front of him for physical healing, Jesus chose to bring healing first to his soul by forgiving him of his sins.  Sitting in the house that day was a group of religious leaders that probably was not there in a supporting role, but rather one of judgment and criticism of this new teacher in town.  In light of Jewish custom, it was their view that forgiveness of sins was necessary before a body could be healed, sin being the original cause of all sickness, pain and suffering.  In forgiving the sick man, Jesus had their attention. The religious leaders were correct in saying only God could forgive sins – they just did not accept that they were talking to God.

Now that Jesus had the attention of everyone present, He healed the man’s body as well, and the miraculous healing of his body added credibility to the miraculous healing of his soul.  The crowd was stunned with shock and awe! They praised God for this miracle, but most of them did not understand that it was Jesus they were praising as well.

“Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’” Apparently, Jesus knew the paralyzed man believed in Him, or his sins could not be forgiven, but the word says He saw their faith – those tenacious men who so believed in this miracle worker that they tore up the roof to get their friend to Him.

This causes me to question – will I tear up the roof, so to speak, on behalf of those who are in need of healing, whether physical, spiritual or emotional?  Will He see my faith and confidence in Him?  When I pray for others, do I really believe He will heal them? The bottom line according to Mark 2 is that He sees when I believe and He responds to that belief.  Jesus is never fooled.  It humbles me to know that my faith carries this potential. 

Moving Forward: Unlike the religious leaders, I know who I am talking to when I pray – the true and living God!  I will tear up the roof on behalf of those who need healing of any kind today because I know He sees my faith. 

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 7-8

Matthew 14-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to a courageous heart of faith

I’ve had some great friends in my life.  In fact, I had a friend that came and cleaned my kitchen floor for 14 years.  No matter what was dropped or spilled while cooking or eating, the mess was cleaned up by this faithful friend for all those years.  When my friend passed away several years ago, I grieved for quite some time; and even today, I miss that extra help in the kitchen.  Yes, Toby, my Miniature Schnauzer was a great friend and a good little floor cleaner.  He never missed a crumb!  I have to admit that sometimes I intentionally dropped a scrap or two just because I loved him.  It’s hard to believe, but Jesus had a discussion with a woman about this very thing! 

@ Matthew 15
“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.’” (21-22)  Right from the beginning of this story, I liked this woman.  First of all, she was a mother on a mission to save her daughter.  I understand the heart of a mother whose child is sick.  We will do just about anything to save our children.  She had a mother’s heart.  Secondly, I admire her courage.  It was courageous for a woman, a Gentile woman nonetheless, to approach a Jewish man she did not know to ask a favor.  She was brave.

The woman was a Canaanite whose ancestors had been the bane of Israel’s existence, but she had obviously heard about the miracles of Jesus, disregarded her heritage and came to Jesus.  When Jesus informed this dear woman that He was sent only to help the Jews, she was undaunted by His response, “But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”(25)  She was tenacious.

Strangely, Jesus again resisted her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (26)  Jesus was reiterating the mindset of a majority of the Jews of His day.  They knew themselves to be children of God, and all others, well….were not.  However, Jesus, in His only trip outside of Palestine, was about to prove that His message was for everyone, and this courageous, tenacious mother was assisting Him whether she knew it or not.

The woman replied to Jesus, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” (27)  What a clever response!  Evidently, she had a Toby or two in her life, canine friends who were only too happy to take whatever would come their way in order to satisfy their needs.  And this woman was not too proud to receive whatever the Lord would do for her, scraps and all.  She was humble.

“Dear woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘your faith is great. Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was instantly healed.” (28)  No doubt through the faith of this woman, news spread throughout this Gentile region about Jesus, the healer of Jew and Gentile alike.  She had great faith.

It’s easy to allow hindrances to keep us from receiving the miracles that God has for us.  Are we willing to walk down the aisle at church for prayer, admitting we have a need?  Are we brave?  Will we ask again and again from the Lord until we receive?  Are we tenacious?  Will we humble ourselves and receive whatever the Lord has for us, however He chooses to give it?  Are we humble?  Will we believe that God is able to do anything we ask?  Have we great faith?  Apparently, these are things that grab the heart of God and cause Him to grant our requests. 

Moving Forward:  I believe the Lord has set a banquet for me today; but even if He offered only a scrap, only a crumb, it would be just what I needed for my miracle. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 13-14

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews 11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nation> his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Matthew 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the healer!

Nothing stirs up faith in me like reading Matthew, Chapters 8 through 10. I think of them as the Miracle Chapters.  Matthew shared one example after another of the miraculous healing and delivering power of our Lord.  I’ve heard it said several times that if we don’t have faith to believe for healing or for a miracle, we won’t be healed, and that it’s all about our faith. I’m just not sure that Jesus would completely agree with that statement.

Matthew’s examples include the story of healing for a man with Great Faith – “A Roman officer came and pleaded with [Jesus], ‘Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed’…[Jesus} said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!’”(8:8-10) The Gentile Roman soldier was a man of Great Faith.

Matthew included illustrations of Faith that brought healing:  “A woman who had suffered for twelve years…touched the fringe of his robe…when he saw her he said, ‘Daughter, be encouraged!  Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” (9:20-22)  Then Matthew told the story of the two blind men who shouted to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on us!’…Jesus asked them, ‘Do you believe I can make you see?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they told him, ‘we do.’  Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Because of your faith, it will happen.’” (27-29)  Without a doubt, we know how Jesus felt about faith and healing.

But then, Jesus also performed a miracle for those with Little Faith: When in the storm-tossed sea, the disciples cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” (8:25-26)

Jesus saved and healed a man with Borrowed Faith:  “Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven’…And the man jumped up and went home!” (9:2,7)  One time I was in a desperate need of healing for body, soul and spirit, and I seemed to have no faith to believe for a miracle.  My husband and two others, all full of faith, touched God on my behalf, and I was made completely whole.  Borrowed faith.

Jesus even performed a miracle for a man with No Faith: “A demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed.”  Full of the devil, this man was set free by Jesus who performs His miracles for reasons we may not even understand – the crowds were amazed.

These illustrations are not intended to minimize our need for faith to believe for miracles, quite the opposite, but I believe we put God in a box when we say that someone is not healed because of their lack of faith. We just don’t know all the purposes God has for the trials we face, but we do know we must stay connected to the One who does.

I believe that Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord that Heals, that Jesus, the Great Physician, will perform miracles on our behalf.  As we learned from the Roman soldier, our faith blesses the Lord, and who doesn’t want to bless the Lord?  From the other healings mentioned in these chapters, we know that faith gets the Lord’s attention.  Who doesn’t want the Lord’s attention?  Our faith brings healing.  Who doesn’t want healing?  Bottom Line: Jesus is the healer. Whether we believe or not, Jesus is the healer.  It’s all about Him.

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that His miracles are not exclusive to my measure of faith, but I’m equally thankful that He responds to my faith with healing and blessing. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 9-10

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