The Book of Jesus

Luke 24: 27

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

The backstory here is that it is the third day after the crucifixion. Mary and several of the other women went early in the morning to Jesus’ tomb. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. There appeared unto them angels who told them Jesus was risen. The women raced back to tell the apostles and others of Jesus’ followers that Jesus had arisen. Later, two of the men from this group went to Emmaus. In route, they encountered a man whom they did not recognize. He asked them about all they were discussing. They were amazed he didn’t know the news about Jesus. So, they told him the story about Jesus and the crucifixion and what the women discovered that same morning. They also told him of their disappointment because they had hoped and believed that Jesus would be the savior of Israel. Then the man revealed himself to them and it was he, Jesus. He responded, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (vs. 25 – 26). He was, himself, disappointed for the prophets had foretold these very circumstances yet the men did not understand. Therefore, Jesus explained all these things to them beginning with Moses and continuing through all the prophets.

The entire book of the Bible speaks of Jesus. It is all about him. Sometimes it may be a bit like an Easter egg hunt, but he is there. That is why publishers are still putting all those Old Testament books in our Christian Bible. It is the story of Jesus. The two men on the road to Emmaus revealed they did not know the stories or at least that they didn’t understand them. Jesus accused them of unbelief. Worse, he called them foolish for not recognizing the connection between him and all the prophecies.

We have the benefit of historical perspective, we know Jesus as Messiah. I think, though, that we don’t always see him in the richness of the culture into which he was born. It is hard for us to see him in the context of the time, location and his ancestry. Reading about Israel and Judah reveal some of Jesus because these were his people and their traditions were the traditions Jesus was born into and lived by. The Old Testament writers give us a glimpse into the lives of the Jews. It is exciting to know Jesus and then read a prophecy about him.  From our perspective we can see how it came true.

Of course, the New Testament is all about Jesus and the New Covenant he established for us. So how do we relate to it. It is much easier for us because we have been coached in the New Testament and because Jesus is unveiled in those books. Still, there is a haunting refrain which calls out to us from today’s passage that we must consider. The men Jesus encountered on the road were some of his own followers. They knew him personally. Even though they knew him and followed him while he was alive, Jesus perceived them as slow to believe. We think if we lived in Jesus’ time, we would be true believers, but we are in danger of being called slow of heart too. There is much to challenge us in the life of Jesus. I heard a minister preach that the feeding of the 5000 was not a miracle but that instead, it was the work of the women who were always prepared. There is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t actually believe the Bible, not even New Testament text.

I wrote on Wednesday that we must be diligent to challenge ourselves. We must confront these passages and decide if we are going to believe them or if we will reason away what they say. What does it take to be a believer? Can we go the next step and accept that what the Bible says is not only true but that it is applicable to our lives? Jesus said we could have whatever we believe so now we must press ourselves to believe big and even expect big. That is the calling of the gospel.

Prayer Cramp

Mark 9:24

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

I was praying today for someone when I felt the smallest twinge as the words came out of my mouth. What I prayed is promised in the scriptures so why that little twinge? I stopped right then and asked our Father about it. Although I completely believed in my mind what I was praying and could quote chapter and verse where God promised it, my heart was unconvinced. That is when this verse came to my mind. “Help me in my unbelief Jesus!”

We all have areas where we believe the Word with our minds but our hearts still suffer little twinges of doubt. No worries. First, be sensitive enough to what is going on in your heart that you sense those hiccups. Second, we have a helper. We do not have to help ourselves and in truth, I don’t believe we can. The Holy Spirit can certainly work within us, though, to minister those truths to us at a level that we can accept. He leads us into real belief, the kind that cannot be upset.

As I prayed, the Lord convinced me that what I was praying was not only achievable but that it was the least He wants to do. He showed me that the promise is within the parameters of what we can believe, but not to the level He would like to perform. All of a sudden my faith in His Word and in His desire to meet the needs of all of His children was magnified. Well, truth be told, His desire really was not to meet the needs of His kids. Provision just comes with the territory. His desire is to give us abundant life, more than enough. That fueled my prayer and I believe that what I prayed, the Father will do. It seems He was just waiting for me to conquer my doubt so that together we could really bless people.

Now, do you want to hear the best part? I pray for every person who reads this devotional, even those of you who pick it up on the internet that I have never heard of and don’t even know you are reading. Dad knows you are there and now I have renewed vigor in my prayer life. Watch out! Dad and I are praying for you!

Near and Dear

Psalm 145: 18

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.

At some point in time we have to decide to simply believe the words of the Bible. We have to move on from wanting everything to be proved to us and arrive at belief. We are said to be “believers” but just what is it that we believe? I want you today to choose to believe that God is with you. When your life is troubled or even very busy, you may not feel like God is close to you but we have learned not to go by feelings. We go by faith. This is where belief in God and his Word needs to be preeminent. Belief in the Word needs to rise up so that it can strengthen you. Know that he is near you as you call upon Him. Do not doubt that he is right there for you. He is working on your behalf even when you cannot see his work or feel his presence. Don’t doubt it for a second. You are precious to Him and nothing you do or say escapes His notice. The Lord is near you today. What have you to say to Him?

Believer Receiver

Mark 11: 24

Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.

If you want to receive, then you must believe. I was imagining a football wide receiver running down the field anticipating a reception. You know, those guys want to catch the football, they want the quarterback to throw it to them. They are eager and they believe that if the ball is thrown to them, they will receive. I imagine, though, that if they ran down the field not expecting the ball, not believing the quarterback will pass to them, that it would be quite difficult, if not impossible, to receive. There is a direct connection between believing and receiving. Jesus certainly makes that point in today’s passage.

There are three words in this verse that stand out to me. They are pray, believe and receive. That is basically the formula. There is, however, another word which is perhaps the most important in the verse. That word is “have”. Jesus said that as we pray we should believe that we HAVE received. In other words, we should believe that we have already received that for which we petition him. If we want our petitions granted then we must believe that we have received. 

This is a very radical way of thinking. It certainly is not the way we were taught as we grew up. We were taught, at least most of us, that seeing is believing. What you see is true. It is reality. Unfortunately, that logic does not hold in the Kingdom of heaven. If you wait to see it in order to believe it, you will be waiting a long time.

A pastor friend of mine was accosted this weekend by a “believer” (complete misnomer) who was perplexed about a prayer of his. He had prayed for someone to be healed and that person was still exhibiting symptoms. He questioned why his prayer had not been answered. There are two faith answers to his question. First, who says it hasn’t been answered. If you prayed, believing then Jesus said your petition will be granted. Secondly, I want to ask, “Where is your believing?” Is he praying believing or praying hoping? He looked at the evidence from the world and concluded that his prayer had not been answered. Well, he is going to have a hard time because clearly he is not in belief. That is big time doubt. Jesus didn’t say to look to the evidence of the world for ratification. As a matter of fact, that is the absolute worst thing you can do. Where, do you suppose, that information comes from? Well, from the world at best, so it is carnal not of faith and certainly not of the Kingdom. Worst case scenario, it is the evidence that the devil is presenting. Why do want to believe that? No, you can’t believe what your eyes see, you must believe what the Word says. You have to let that Word from God issue from your heart and overwhelm your believer. Then if the worldly evidence does not agree you get to choose who to believe. If you stick with Jesus then he will grant your petition. If you choose to side with the world’s view of circumstances then that is the result you have selected.

The one thing that seems to trip up people the most is the duration of belief. We stand in prayer and during that time we confess our belief. We screw up our faith and commit our hopes and prayers to Jesus. Then here comes the problem – after we pray, we run out to the world to “see” if our prayer has come true. So, we are letting the evidence of the world validate the Word of God. Instead, your belief needs to survive beyond the duration of the prayer. If you believed, then keep on believing. So when you see that friend still sick your response is, “No, I have believed he is healed so I receive that healing and will not be talked out of it.”

Christians are often called believers. I think we need to make that a true declaration of how we interact with the world and with the Kingdom of God. Believing really is not some big “faith” thing, it is a obstinance thing, a decision really. Just refuse to be dissuaded. You have all the faith you need. Now, do you have all the resolve you need? Believe and keep on believing. Pray, expect and receive. It is time for you to look back up field for the ball coming towards you. Open your eyes, open your heart and receive.

Doubt Arises

Matthew 11: 3

“Are you the expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”

In Matthew 3, verse 11, are recorded the words of John the Baptist when he prophesied about the coming of Jesus. John said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Then when Jesus did come, he (Jesus) went down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. John at first refused Jesus saying to him to him, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” Matthew 3: 14. John knew who was coming before Jesus began his ministry. He knew the Holy One was on his way. Then when Jesus did appear to him, he recognized Jesus and who he was; as the one who was to come. He knew this was the one about whom so many prophecies had been made and he wanted Jesus to baptize him instead of the other way around.

It is one thing to believe and have faith and then it is another to keep believing and keep having faith. It can be hard to keep on believing when the pressure of the world starts bearing in on you. Would anyone think that John the Baptist, the one about whom Jesus said, “[T]here has not arisen anyone greater,” (Matthew 11: 11) could fall into doubt? And yet that is exactly what happened. Today’s text is what John the Baptist later asked Jesus via John’s disciples.

You see, John the Baptist had faith in Jesus until he found himself in jail. Now all of a sudden, things were not going to well. John began to look at the conditions around himself instead of at the Word of God which was in his heart. John was trying to use his eyes to convince his faith. Instead he should have been using his faith to convince his mind. He expected Jesus to build a kingdom on this earth. When he did not see this kingdom unfolding the way he expected it to, he began to lose his faith; to have doubts. 

Many times God will not do things the way we expect him to. That does not mean that he is not building his kingdom or that he is not fulfilling his promises. You cannot look around you for verification and then choose to believe God. It happens just the other way around. Do not use your eyes. Use your heart. That is where you plant the Word of God and you believe from your heart no matter what your eyes tell you. Then, when you have believed with your heart, you will see God’s victory coming into your life. Do not let doubt arise. Keep it down and your faith up.