Raging Storm

Matthew 8: 18, 23 – 26

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side . . . and when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He himself was asleep. And they came to Him, and awoke Him saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.

Let me ask you a question today. Do you think when Jesus got into the boat, he knew there would be a storm? As we stop and ponder this situation, I bet a lot of us would expect that Jesus was aware a storm was coming. He was prophetic after all. I mean, how does he not know? If we presume he did know a storm was coming, then how rational does it sound to lay down and take a nap? I mean, knowing a big storm was coming, a storm capable of capsizing the boat, he went to sleep. We know it was a big storm because the waves were threatening to swamp the boat. Also, the disciples tell us they were “perishing.”

When he was aroused, he was nonchalant. The disciples must have been amazed, dumbfounded, and infuriated. “We’re dying here, and he is bothered that we awoke him? Really?” It gets worse for them, though. He was bemused to have been awaken for something as trivial as a life-threatening storm. He chastised them for having so little faith. The God’s Word version says it even more plainly, “Jesus said to them, “Why do you cowards have so little faith?”

What did he expect to happen? Did he expect to get to sleep all the way to the other shore even knowing that a tempest would assault the boat? Apparently, he did. Do you find this baffling?

It seems clear that he expected his disciples to take care of the storm. The humor in the situation is that he has just spoken on anxiety, but I don’t think his disciples would have considered a raging storm mere anxiety. Their lives were in peril. Jesus, though, sounded annoyed that they didn’t handle the storm themselves. “Why have you so little faith that you feel the need to awaken me?” None the less, he spoke to the wind and the sea and the sea became perfectly calm.

Verse 27 reads, “And the men marveled, saying, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Jesus’ response can be found in John 14: 12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.”

There is a lesson here. What is Jesus saying to us today?

Legionnaires

Matthew 26:53

Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Boy, there is a revelation in that scripture. A legion is 6000 and it refers, specifically, to troops, soldiers. Jesus said if he asked the Father, God would put at his disposal more than 72,000 angelic soldiers. Let that one sink in for a moment. Now, what is the power of prayer?

One of my friends and colleagues received a question regarding covid-19 and angels. The writer wanted to know what the angels are doing during this crisis. I can tell you what they are doing. They are fighting. You see, there are two revelations, at least, in that one sentence from Jesus. First, we see that Father has a lot of angels he is willing to put at our disposal. Second, they are warriors. Look at the references in your own Bible if you don’t believe me. A legion referred to the organization of Roman soldiers. So, angels are not fat little cherubs who float around in heaven playing harps. They are warring spirits trained in the art of warfare.

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s good enough for Jesus but I don’t have that kind of power.” Oh, contraire mon frère. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” (John 14: 12). You have all the authority of Jesus. You have his own authority because he gave it to you. Whatsmore, he did not inhabit the earth as the second person in the trinity. He came as a human being (1 Timothy 3: 16) and was the role model for us. He wouldn’t have made a very good role model if he walked the earth as a divine deity. He had to come and live as a person so he could show us the way. He said God would put more than twelve legions at his disposal so from that we can infer that God will put legions of angels at our disposal as well.

Remember, God has given the earth to us to run and manage (Psalm 115: 16). He has also given us the Holy Spirit and He has given us angels who minister to our needs. The angels are standing by right now, ready to receive their marching orders. Through prayer and speaking the words the Holy Spirit gives us (Matthew 10: 20) we authorize angelic intervention and action. You have the authority to ask the angels to work in the earth to eradicate the corona virus. Pray and arm them. Although there are angels waging war right now, there are still thousands of angels waiting to get into the fight. There are legions at our disposal. Ask the father and He will give you even more. Then send them out to fight for us.

Literal Truth

Psalm 44: 3

Our forefathers didn’t win these battles by their own strength or their own skill or strategy. But it was through the shining forth of your radiant presence and the display of your mighty power. You loved to give them victory, for you took great delight in them.

The writer of this psalm seems confident in his statement that their forefathers’ victories were not the result of their own strength, skill or battle strategy. The triumph was not the result of their own wisdom, experience or knowledge. Instead, the psalmist would have us believe that victory came through God’s presence and might. Can we believe this? And, if their victory really was the result of Father’s presence can we enjoy the same kind of outcomes?

This is a little hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean, at a philosophical level, no. It is easy to accept philosophically. We can rationalize that it is God’s strength within us which leads to victory. It is the gift of wisdom which He gave us that results in triumph. The psalmist seems to differentiate from this analytical conclusion though. Is it possible that when he wrote this psalm he was being literal? The psalms are songs. Might he have written these lines in celebration of a literal truth?

I believe the answers to these questions can challenge us at a very deep, almost primal level. If we believe the psalmist meant for us to take these words at face value rather than as a poetic nuance of real events, then it presents for us a dilemma of faith and trust. If it really was the presence of God which carried the day, then we need to understand and appreciate this kind of faith walk. Most of us don’t have enemies shooting at us, or armies bearing down on us but we have challenges pertinent and relevant to our day and time. However, let us not forget that while most of us are safe, we do have sisters and brothers who actually are in danger for their lives and some of them, like the ancient Israelites, specifically in danger because of their faith. Selah – pause here and consider and maybe even offer a prayer of safety for them.

One might conjecture that we are better equipped to walk in the power of God’s grace, mercy and power on this side of the cross than our faith forefathers. We have the testimony of Christ and his example of a life lived in the manifested wisdom of God. We also are on this side of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is the power of God. We are better positioned to live in his power than the generations which went before. Jesus ushered in a new way of living with God. Have we, though, actually learned what this means and found how this life is lived? Are we still stumbling in Old Testament theology unversed in the revelation of Christ?

I fear this is the case. It seems to me that we live a hermetically sealed life where our reach is stunted. Nothing seeps into our box and we do not extend ourselves in exuberant faith, risk or trust. We live safe lives but not passionate lives. We live within limited boundaries so that we do not have to extend ourselves. We are not forced to trust God because we take life in this limited capacity. We don’t listen to the voice of God within us because he may ask us to do something that is risky. We don’t believe the Bible and don’t take it at face value because we may have to face some uncomfortable truths. Best if we rationalize away these uncomfortable passages, relegating them into the province of fantasy.

We should be living above the miracles of the Old Testament. We should be experiencing works beyond what Christ did. That’s what he said anyway (John 14: 12). We should be a people unlike the world has ever seen. The mighty hand of God ought to be evident in our lives and infecting all we come in contact with. I want this life. I want to know what the life Jesus anticipated for us looks like. I want to be a Christ disciple and actually walk as he did and live according to his faith in me. The life Jesus died to give us must be grander than the life most of us Christians live today. What is necessary for us to live our destiny? Our God is so much bigger than our lives. His plan for us is full of His faith.

Our Father, be our mighty warrior; be our strength and wisdom today as we turn to you. Teach us to walk in faith and trust. Lead us in your ways and create us to be a people who bring you glory.

No Worms Please

John 5: 19

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

Jesus said he was nothing without God so consider me, as David said, a worm (Psalm 22: 6). Who are we if Jesus could do nothing without the Father’s assistance? Before Jesus’ ministry began, Father sent him to be baptized by John the Baptist. When John baptized Jesus in water, God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. The text from Matthew says that the Spirit of God descended from heaven and rested upon Jesus (Matthew 3: 16). Everything Jesus did from then on was done in the power of the Spirit of God. So again, I ask, who are we that we can do anything apart from God’s Spirit?

Jesus would have known the scripture from yesterday, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts,” (Zechariah 4: 6). He knew that his ministry was dependent on working with the Holy Spirit. In fact, did you know that even the Father relies on the Spirit’s power? Look at the account of creation from Genesis. The Spirit was hovering over the void. Then when God spoke, the Spirit made it so. He is the power part of God. So, if God operates by the Spirit and Jesus operates by the Spirit, it would seem imperative that we learn how to work with him too.

Of course, this isn’t natural for us but truly, we aren’t supposed to live in the natural anyway. We are part of the super-natural family of God. The natural realm was what we had before Jesus. Now, we are above natural having been adopted into God’s family.

Does this sound a bit far-fetched? I think so, but that is an indication of how far we have slipped. It certainly was not far-fetched or unusual for Peter, John, or Paul. This wouldn’t have even sounded implausible to Doubting Thomas. Remember, he was one of the people who fed the five thousand. They would think our existence is strange. Few miracles, healings or manifestations of the Spirit. And do you know that these people continued to walk in the miracles after Jesus exited? Why? It wasn’t Jesus performing the miracles. It was his Father’s power through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Because of the Holy Spirit, you can lay hands on the sick and they will recover (James 5: 14 – 15). There is no reason you cannot change water to wine, walk on the water and feed the hungry. In fact, Jesus said that you should be doing greater works than he. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” (John 14: 12). That scripture has bothered me for some time because I am not doing greater either. I think the first step is for us to wrap our minds around the fact that we are supposed to be supernatural people living in the supernatural world even as we traverse this physical earth. That is what Jesus did and we Christians are all the time talking about walking in his footsteps. Well, this is what it means. We are to partner with the Holy Spirit as he did and believe for the manifestation of God’s miracles everywhere we go. We are too complacent though. It is comfortable to settle for the natural. We don’t want to be weird and frankly, it takes some faith to live in the supernatural. It takes faith to be like Jesus, no doubt. Still, that is what distinguishes us from those who are not under his lordship. We aren’t called to be natural. In a way I guess I am asking you to be unnatural. We are called to be peculiar, unique. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2: 9).

Be anointed by the Holy Spirit as was Jesus and walk out into the world as he did. Sure, it’s a challenge but we have the highest and most holy calling. Let’s honor it.

Fill ‘er Up!

Ephesians 5: 18

Be filled with the Spirit.

If you thought yesterday’s scriptures and the miraculous acts of ordinary people was something, just wait until the New Testament revelation of the Holy Spirit unfolds for you. We saw from the Old Testament scriptures how the Spirit would settle “upon” individuals. When the Spirit came upon people, they were emboldened and empowered. People who were moments before afraid became great leaders, prophets and miracle workers under the power that came upon them with the Holy Spirit.

The story of the New Testament is quite different though. In the New Testament, a different word appears in the context of the Holy Spirit working with and through people. Whereas the Old Testament regales us with stories of the Holy Spirit being “on” people, the New Testament transitions us to the Holy Spirit “infilling” us. He is now in us rather than upon us. There are only three Old Testament scriptures about someone being filled with the Spirit while there are twelve New Testament scriptures about being filled. Likewise, there are very few New Testament scriptures about the Spirit being upon a person. One notable exception is Jesus.

In Matthew 3: 16 is the account of Jesus’ baptism. When he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended and alit upon him. Shortly thereafter, Jesus was led, by the Spirit, into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. Luke’s description of this event says Jesus was “filled” with the Spirit (Luke 4: 1). So, which is it? Did the Spirit alight upon him, as in the Old Testament or did he fill Jesus? I believe the answer is that Jesus, again, is the exception to the rule. Jesus was an Old Testament Jew, but he ushered in the New Testament. In this sense, he was the bridge between how the Holy Spirit interacted with people in the Old Testament and how we are supposed to interact with him now.

At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him. That language is clear and consistent. A short time later Jesus is described as being filled with the Spirit. In the intervening time Jesus bridged the gap between the Old and the New. He was the conduit through which the Old and New Testaments were reconciled. In him, the Father found the unity of paradigms which orchestrated the fulfillment of His promise to Israel, namely, the pouring out of the Spirit.

We have the greatest of all situations in Christ. He told his disciples that it was to their advantage that he depart because in his leaving he would send us another helper who would be with us and in us forever, the Holy Spirit (John 16: 7, John 14: 16). In this new dispensation the Spirit does not rest upon us for a time and then leave. He is with us and in us all of the time. He is as close as your next breath. In fact, you and he can be so intertwined that he is part of your DNA and that is where we want to go.

The Holy Spirit is who made Jesus the miracle worker he was. It was the Holy Spirit which made Jesus so attractive that he could simply say, “Follow me” and people would leave their occupations and follow him. The Holy Spirit was the power of articulation that gave Jesus perfect teachings and wisdom in his speech. How do I know? “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner (John 5: 19). Now, the one who empowered Jesus to do all that he did, is available to us. We can be as intimately intertwined with the Holy Spirit as Jesus was which means that we can be led as Jesus was led and we can do everything he did (John 14: 12).

(See Also: Exodus 31: 3, Exodus 35: 31, Micah 4: 8, Matthew 4: 1, Luke 1: 15, Luke 1: 41, Acts 2: 4, Acts 4: 8, Acts 4: 31, Acts 6: 3, Acts 6: 5, Acts 7: 55, Acts 11: 24)

Incapable

John 5: 19

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

Is there any better news in the whole of the New Testament. Jesus, by his own admission, could do nothing of himself. Consider all the miracles of Jesus while on the earth. There were some pretty big ones chronicled in those pages. Yet, Jesus tells us he was incapable of any of it in himself. Isn’t that great?

You see, when Jesus came to earth, he emptied himself of his deity and became human. He was born a little baby just like you. He needed nursing and caring for like all children. I don’t imagine people receiving their healing just because they held the infant. Nope, there is something much bigger to Jesus, his miracles and his victory. He had a father. If you read the rest of this verse you will find that Jesus credits his power and success to attending to his Father’s example, “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Whatever Jesus saw God do, he emulated and Eureka (!) he had great success when he did as the father.

Jesus was born under the Old Covenant. He lived and learned as an Old Testament Jew. He read the books and listened to the Rabbi’s. He saw his Father’s ways in those old books and Rabbinical teachings. Then when he was baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit of God came and rested upon him. Then he had the witness of the scriptures and the leading of the Spirit. Those two blessings led him in the way he was to go. He walked by the leading of the Spirit daily and the power of the Holy Spirit healed and delivered whosoever would believe.

That is why I consider this verse such good news. If Jesus could do nothing apart from his Father, then there is hope for you and me. Jesus had to rely on the same gifts which we must depend upon. We have been given the Holy Spirit without measure. We have all that he is within and with us at all times. Everything Jesus had, we have. The power that operated in his life such that miracles were common, rests upon us; lives within us. The obvious conclusion, then, is that everything Jesus did, we can do too. Jesus said it himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14: 12).

Jesus did not create miraculous results of himself. He understood how to follow the Father’s example and the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit is the power but Jesus learned to cooperate with the Spirit so that the Father’s will would be made manifest in the earth. Jesus was a human who learned how to partner with divinity for the benefit of humanity. There is nothing he did which you cannot do. I find that tremendous good news. I only have to be me. You only have to be you. You don’t have to be Jesus. Isn’t that a relief? We have to same capacity to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and allow him to manifest himself to the world. He can heal our families and save the damned. He is the light in a dark and decaying place. We are vessels of his greatest. Surely we can manage to be jars, jugs, bottles or bowls. We do not have to perform the miracles ourselves, just partner with the miracle maker. Maybe we can do that and if we can, then we can change the world.

Loaves and Fishes

Matthew 14: 15

And when it was evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, “The place is desolate, and the time is already past; so send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” And ordering the multitudes to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

There are any number of observations to be made from this text but you will have recognized it from when Jesus fed the five thousand. The first point to pull out of this passage is the recognition of who Jesus expected to feed the multitude. He told the disciples, “You feed them.” Then recognizing that their faith and understanding limited them he took on the task of feeding the five thousand, which, by the way, scholars tell us was more like twenty-thousand because the five only represented the number of men as it did not include women and children. Anyway, the point is that Jesus fully expected the disciples to feed the multitude. This goes right along with what Yahweh spoke to Moses. “You lift up your hand and do what is needful,” is the message the Father and Jesus communicate to us. You are seeing this, right? The workers of miracles are you and me.

However, we do see a difference between this story and Friday’s recounting of Moses and the Red Sea. When directed by God, Moses stepped up and performed. The disciples did not respond with the same trust and courage, so Jesus had to do it for them. Notice, though, Jesus’ actions. He did not hold the bread up to heaven and pray, “Oh heavenly Father, multiply this bread so that we may feed this great multitude.” In fact, he did not pray at all. Isn’t that just a bit mind blowing? He blessed the food and he multiplied it.

Now, if you ask Jesus right now if he multiplied the food and fed the twenty-thousand in his own strength and power he will answer with a resounding, “No.” He performed the miracle but he did it in the Father’s strength and power.

This is not an isolated instance. It was Jesus who changed the water to wine. He didn’t stop to pray. He didn’t ask God to produce wine from water. He just told the servants to fill the wash pots and then dip some out and take it to the head steward. Read through the gospels and you will see that He didn’t pray for healing; he healed. He rebuked the waves (Matthew 8: 26) and seemed perturbed that the disciples didn’t handle the problem themselves. To the leaper he said, “I am willing,” and he healed him (Matthew 8: 3). Again, He didn’t pray asking God to heal the leper.

Jesus didn’t stand around waiting for God to do something. He did it himself and we are supposed to do the works he did and even greater works according to him (John 14: 12). If we will meditate on Jesus’ life in this context, I believe we can experience a great breakthrough. The healing power of God is in your hands. The miracle working power of God is in your hands. What will you do with it?