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12

Healing the royal official's son by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1752.

A Royal Official

“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” my wife said when she realized Jesus was our only hope.

My son was sick—dying really—and the doctors gave us no hope. They couldn’t even give a name to his malady. He couldn’t keep his food down, and breathing caused such pain it made him shudder. For the last week, he’d had no more than a few cups of milk. He was dying. My little Marcus would leave this life as a twelve-year-old, and leave his mother and me broken.

It came on him suddenly, just three months ago. At first, we thought he had the flu. There were times we thought he would melt from the heat his body produced. Food was harder and harder for him to hold down. The doctors tried everything. I called in doctors from all the neighboring towns. Each one had the same advice. “Try to keep him comfortable.”

I’m a Roman, noble by birth. I’m part of Rome’s occupying force here in Galilee. I’m not military. There are many of Rome’s military forces spread over the region, but I’m here to create Roman culture. My counterparts and I come to these satellite conquests and live Roman lives. This way the people of our new territories can see what Roman life looks like. We live in relative luxury when compared to the rest of Capernaum. This luxury includes the servants we brought with us from Rome. I miss my homeland, though, and have wondered more than once if Roman doctors could heal my son.

My butler brought his family with him from Rome when we moved here four years back. They lived together in a suite of rooms in the servants quarters, off the main house. He is my most trusted confidant. I speak with him about things I would not even share with my wife.

Three days back, my butler mentioned that Jesus, the healer, was back in Galilee—in Cana. We had talked about taking my son to him a few weeks ago, but the reports had him in Jerusalem and around Judea. My son was too sick to travel that far. But Cana—Cana is only a few hours from here.

We first heard of this healer a few months back, when my butler took his wife to find him. It was one Saturday night after the Jew’s Sabbath was over, right here in Capernaum. He told me, the next day, there had been dozens of people waiting outside the home where Jesus spent his Sabbath. When He emerged He healed every one of them. Not one person went home without a touch from this healer, including my butler’s wife. She had been suffering from vision loss since he came into my service. In any practical sense, she was blind. But when he came back in that night, there was a ruckus in the servants quarters. I went to see what was going on and found a full-blown party going on. When he saw me, he didn’t even apologize for the noise or seem concerned. He ran over and gave me a hug. His eyes were wet with tears.

“She can see,” he said through his tears.

I looked at her across the room and our eyes met, and she was nodding. It was true. She was completely healed. She could see.

So when he told me Jesus was back in the area, I told him to get my horse and carriage ready. Then I ran to my son’s bedside. I found my wife holding him, tears running down her cheeks.

“What is it?” I asked.

“He’s gone,” she said.

“Dead?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, “but close. He’s not responding to anything anymore.”

“I want to take him to see the healer—up in Cana,” I said.

“He can’t travel. He’ll be dead before you get him in the carriage.” She said.

“But the healer is back in Cana. He can save him, I’m sure of it.” I urged.

“No. I won’t let you take him,” she insisted.

“Well, I’m going anyway,” I told her.

I threw on my cloak and rushed for the door.

“You’re leaving now?” she asked. “It will be nightfall by the time you reach Cana.”

“Look at him,” I said. “He’s at death’s door. I must see this man as soon as possible.”

“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” she finally agreed.

I ran out the door and found the horse and carriage ready for me in front of the house. I briefly explained I was going alone. We separated horse and carriage and saddled him. I was off for Cana.

My last look at my son panicked me. His body seemed limp, his color, gray. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I had to find this healer and all I knew of his whereabouts was Cana.

When I got to the town, I headed toward the magistrates building near the town center. But before I got there, I saw a crowd gathered in the square. In the center was a man who seemed to have everyone’s attention. As I approached I began to understand why. His words drew me like a bee to a blossom. The sound of His voice seemed to exude peace if that’s even possible. After two hours riding in panic, a calm from without began to press its way into my soul.

When the crowd saw the royal insignia on my horse, they made room for me. I dismounted and walked through the assembly to Jesus.

He stood before me in silence.

“My son is at the point of death,” I began. “He may be dead already, but I’m sure if you will come with me to Capernaum, you can make him well.”

Jesus turned from me to address the crowd.

Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.

Sir,” I almost barked, feeling the panic rising again. I gathered myself and started again, this time with a forced calm. “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.

The confidence in His tone—in His words—banished my fear and I believed Him. Three words turned my fear—panic—into peace. I turned and headed back toward my horse. I stopped. I realized I hadn't thanked Him. I turned to go back but He had His back facing me, holding another man in the crowd who knelt before Him.

As the evening hurried toward night, I found an inn at the side of the road. I slept well all night long, and that surprised me. I hadn’t slept that well since before my son fell ill.

I started awake, disoriented, forgetting where I was. For a split second, worry pressed upward from the depths. Then I saw my cloak and gear and remembered everything.

Only minutes after I left the inn, my butler and I met in the way.

“Master, master, your son lives!” he was calling as he ran to meet me.

We rejoiced for no short time, and then I asked, “When? When did things change?”

Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him,” came his answer.

“It was Jesus!” I said with confidence. "That’s when He spoke the words."

“Words?” he asked.

Your son lives,” I answered. “Those three words saved Marcus’ life. Three little words. Your son lives.”

We would be a few more hours on the road, but there was no gap in our talk of this fellow, Jesus. My servant told me of the things he had seen in Capernaum, and I told him my story again, and again, and once more.

Your son lives.” His words resound in my mind.

When we arrived at home, my son greeted me at the end of the walk. He started telling me what happened at home, while I tried to tell him what Jesus had done. In the end, I told my story to everyone in the household. I told my son, my wife, my other children. I called all the servants together and told them to bring their families. I then recounted the miracle for them as well. 

All who heard believed in this Healer from Nazareth.

~~~

To read the original story, see John 4:46-54.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2017

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more like it in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes you, as you read, from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon.

If this story encouraged you, would you do me a favor? Would you share it? It would be a great honor to me and would get the word out about the book.

Thanks so much for taking the time to spend here with me.

Walk with Jesus,

Ben

3

Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. - Acts 14:3 NASB

Hmmm. What do you know about that? They Paul and Barnabas were hanging out in Iconium for an extended stay. This is one of those fun ‘therefores’ of the Word.

Why do folks do extended meetings today?

Well, sometimes it’s because the people demand more. They stay late into the night and are willing to listen to long nights of preaching, and will worship late into the night. So the organization ramps it up. Extend the meetings for another week, another month, maybe a year if the Lord continues to bless.

But if we chase this therefore back a couple verses, we’ll find the reason holding Paul and Barnabas in Iconium.

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. - Acts 14:1-2 ESV

There was fruit, and then there was opposition.

What does our enemy do when the harvest starts coming in?

He turns up the heat. He plants suspicion—lies—fear.

And was do Paul and Barnabas do?

Preach the Word and let God Himself testify!

I love  the way this verse reads:

“Therefore

they spent a long time there

speaking boldly

with reliance upon the Lord,

who was testifying

to the word of

granting that signs and wonders

be done by their hands.”

What did God do? He allowed them to do signs and wonders.

Funny. Today when I hear about God allowing something, it usually something bad.

You know. God allowed me to crash into that telephone pole so I would learn this or that.

God allowed my mother to die of cancer so…

God allowed the attack on the World Trade Center because…

God allowed…

But look what God allowed—granted—(yes - I know it’s not exactly the same word, but you see what I’m getting at here?) them signs and wonders.

Why?

It was to confirm the word they were preaching in the face of harsh opposition.

God loves to show up and take our part when the heat is on.

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

When the heat was on, God (Jesus) showed up in that furnace and granted them their freedom. The only thing that burned was their bondage—oh and their captors.

One more observation.

The signs and wonders were done by their hands. In other words. God didn’t blast a lightning bolt from the sky and do some magic. They laid their hands on the sick, or cast out demons, or multiplied the food, of shook off the snakes. They preached, then ministered the Kingdom of God in the midst of the opposition and God showed up.

And He’ll do it again today. You stand and preach and He’ll testify to your words by allowing you to do signs and wonders.

Awesome.

I’m stirring up my courage and looking for opportunities today. How ‘bout you?

Thanks for stopping by,

See you again soon.

Ben

2

But they did not know that I healed them. Hosea 11:3 NASB

I was chasing down the cross reference from Matthews account of Jesus’ birth

"OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." - Matthew 2:15 NASB

and it led me to Hosea 11.

There I found a heartbreaking story of how the Father led His children, Israel, out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The language is touching and tender:

I called My son.
I took them in My arms.
I taught them to walk.
I healed them.
I led them with bonds of love.
I lifted their yoke.

That last bit reminds me of the Psalm.

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. - Psalm 107:20 NASB

And yet, the sad truth is:

But they did not know that I healed them. - Hosea 11:3 NASB

Do we miss what God has done in our lives?

He called me His son—us His sons and daughters.

He stretched out His arms toward me.

He taught me to walk.

He saved (sozo - saved, healed, delivered, freed) me to the uttermost.

He led me with bonds of love so deep and strong it cost his very life.

He took my yoke upon Himself.

And there are days I forget that He healed me. I forget He lifted my yoke. I forget how to walk as He taught me.

Lord, heal me again. Let us walk together. May my heart and mind ring with your truth day and night. May I walk in all that you have given me and never again despise your gifts.

5

cloudswithoutwaterJude uses the phrase “clouds without water” when speaking of those who come into the body of Christ unseen and disrupt the faith. (See Jude vs 12.)

Jude is one of those books you don’t hear much about these days. Most of Christendom has opted for the Christian radio model. You know, always positive, uplifting and family-friendly. This is not one of those books—well—it is if you get to the end. But it pushes hard on those trying to undermine the grace of God.

In any case, the phrase clouds without water got to me this week. I recently heard a speaker use the phrase as an illustration of a Christian who believes in the power of God to do miracles today but has no such signs following.

This stirred me up. 

Yes, I’ve seen many wonders at the hand of God.

I’ve prayed and seen the paralyzed walk, hearing restored, eyesight cleared, demons flee. But I’ve also seen days without number where I don’t even offer to pray for the sick. Weeks where I leave the demons comfortably ensconced in their quarry. Entire months where I don’t even ask the Father in Jesus name to intervene in the lives of those around me. Far too much of life where I don’t pray for rain.

Yesterday, I talked about a river of living water flowing from my innermost being into the world around me. Today—different metaphor—same prayer.

Lord, forgive me for floating through life without raining your love and mercy down on my surroundings. Father use me as a rain cloud of your mercy and grace today.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Rain on!

Ben


Hey - if you haven't checked out my book - Encounters With Jesus - take a look at this sample chapter. This book offers a fresh look at the life of Jesus through the eyes of the ones He touched. You'll love it.

You can order yours here.

4

River of Life

There is a river that flows out of the East Gate of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. You can find it in the 47th chapter of his prophecy.

Ezekiel's angelic tour guide instructs him to walk out into this river.

This river is the flow of the Spirit of God coming from His throne.

Ezekiel gives a progression from ankle-deep to knee-deep to waist-deep and finally, water that can’t be crossed—waters to swim in.

This river brings life as it meets the sea.

Healing for the nations.

The trees on its banks yield fruit every month.

As I’ve read this passage in the past, my desire has always been to be in the deep water—swimming in the Spirit’s flow. I’m not satisfied with an ankle-deep prayer life. I sick of a knee-deep relationship with God. I'm not even willing to settle for a waist-deep religion. I want to be in waters so deep I’m not in control, but moving with the flow of the Spirit.

This is still my heart, but as I read this description this morning an old spiritual song from the 80s came to mind. “I’ve God A River Of Life.” Do you remember it?

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me;
It makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
It opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.

It comes from some of the red letters in John’s gospel:

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" - John 7:38 NASB

Could it be that Ezekiel’s temple is not a future brick and mortar temple, or even a view of a heavenly temple, but he is describing the mystery of the New Covenant believer?

Let’s think about it for a minute.

Paul calls us a temple:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? - 1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,"I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. - 2 Corinthians 6:16 NASB

Not only are we the temple of the Living God, but we are seated in Christ:

and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, - Ephesians 2:6 NASB

So this river that flows from the throne of God, out of the east gate of the temple flows into us—through us—into the world we walk in today. As we get out into the deep water—these “waters to swim in” (KJV) this same river of life flows out of us into the dry places of this present age.

We walk into the conference room—board room—classroom—mailroom and this river of life floods the place. The room fills with the flow of the Spirit—leaves of healing floating around the room—fruit of the Spirit dropping everywhere.

Can you see it?

What happens next?

What happens when the Spirit invades the rooms you’re cleaning, the meals you’re preparing, the papers you’re writing, the coffee you’re serving?

What happens when the Spirit’s influence washes through the halls of your school, and every room of your home, every apartment in your building?

Lord Jesus, baptize me afresh in Your Holy Spirit so Your river of life can flow into my world today.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Shine where you’re screwed in.

Ben


Hey - if you haven't checked out my book - Encounters With Jesus - take a look at this sample chapter. This book offers a fresh look at the life of Jesus through the eyes of the ones He touched. You'll love it.

You can order yours here.

2

It’s another red-letter day! Let’s take a look at some red letter and see what we can glean.

Come with me to Mark 2:3-12.

Today Jesus actually gives His accusers proof. For much of Him ministry He did not offer any evidence to His skeptics. They pressed Him time and time again for confirmations and signs and He left them wanting. They questioned Him and He gave them more questions and less understanding.

But here in Mark 2 He gives them a reason to believe that He is Messiah, He is:

as Paul puts in Philippians—equal with God

and again Colossians—all the fullness of the Godhead

as the writer to the Hebrews states—the express image of God.

Here’s what’s going on. He’s in the house and there is a crowd as usual. This time there are a bunch of religious folk pressing in to question Him, to put Him to the test.

Luke drops a wonderful nugget into his telling of this story.

…And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. - Luke 5:17 NKJV

We can talk about that another day, but isn’t that wonderful. Even in this room full of skeptics, the power of the Lord was present there to heal them.

Back to the story, there is a paralyzed man with some really good friends. They carry him to Jesus on a stretcher but can’t get through the door. Because of the crowd, they can’t get the stretcher up to Jesus. So what do they do?

They carry their friend up onto the roof, (yikes) break through the roof, rig the stretcher with ropes and lower their friend down in front of Jesus.

Now Jesus sees all this and is clearly confused. (kidding) Obviously the man on the bed needs healing, and as we already noticed, the Lord is ready to go with the power to heal.

But instead of just breaking the tension and healing the man, Jesus scrolls through His options and chooses—provoke.

So many times when Jesus is healing the multitudes we see Him simply touch and bless, but this time He decides a lesson is in order.

It’s time to pull back the veil a little further and let the world see another level of His glory.

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." - Mark 2:5 NASB

Let’s review. The room is full of the religious muckity-mucks and Jesus decides to demonstrate His authority over sin.

Why?

It’s time for them to understand that Jesus was not just another pretender come to stir up discontent. Jesus is Messiah, Emanuel, the One promised to rescue and redeem His people. God with us.

It’s time for them to leave their nets, their accounts, their religious garb, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus.

"But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." - Mark 2:10-11 NASB

This man who bursts onto the scene and starts stirring up the rabble is no pretender. He is the  real deal. And the healing He carried proves it.

No false Messiah before Him, and there had been many, moved with compassion through the crowds and brought healing to the nation. Only Jesus.

And He’s the same today.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8 NASB

He’s still in the same business.

"THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." - Luke 4:18-19 NASB

It’s His family business, you know.

Don’t be confused by what the religious folks tell you. Don’t be distracted by all the shiny stuff the World dangles before you.

It’s time to drop your distractions, take up your cross and get after Him.

As Philip told his brother Nathanial in John 1, We’ve found the Messiah…come and see.

While you’re at it—if you’re in His family, it’s time you take up the family business too!

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8 NASB

Let’s go!

See you again soon.

Ben

9

Here are some red letters that really thrill me.

Join me in Mark 1 today and let’s think about what Jesus said in these three little words. But first ... a little context.

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." - Mark 1:40-41 NASB

Jesus ran into people every day during His ministry years. It is in fact why He came, to seek and to save the lost, to run into people and bring the kingdom of heaven into their lives. No two of the folks He encountered were alike. It was not as though everyone who came to Him for a miracle came with the same level of faith and expectation.

Some knew deep inside that if they could reach Him, they would find healing, like the woman with the issue of blood.

for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." - Matthew 9:21 NASB

Some were not even sure He had any power whatsoever.

"It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" - Mark 9:22 NASB

Some understood He was not limited to proximity, and could heal across the miles like the centurion.

But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. - Matthew 8:8 NASB

So what about this leper we meet in Mark 1? He had a concern I often hear voiced in Evangelical circles. It’s common thought today that Jesus can still heal and does still heal, but it is linked to some sort of whim or fancy or divine fiat. We come to the Lord in prayer asking for healing as though we hoping He’s in a good mood and might just condescend to do us a little favor and heal our loved one.

This phrase only comes up five times in the NASB and three of them are three accounts of this event. One is when Jesus is talking about John the baptist, explaining that he was Elijah who would come. The only other time we hear this phrase is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cries out to the Father:

saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." - Luke 22:42 NASB

Many have adopted this phrase as part of their prayer life.

Here’s the thing.

Jesus answered the question.

He answered this man in no uncertain terms.

He could have simply healed the leper to demonstrate His will without saying a word.

But Jesus—the Word of God—the very Will of God incarnate—the express image of God—Jesus—answered.

I am willing!

And if this doesn’t answer it for you with enough clarity, look at His ministry. He healed all who came to Him. Time after time we see Him heal them all.

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. - Matthew 4:24 NASB

But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, - Matthew 12:15 NASB

We are not calling out to God for something unclear, or something unprecedented.

Jesus, in the Garden, placed Himself into a circumstance we could never see. He was facing separation from the Father, He was facing the cup of God’s wrath stored up against all our sin and the prospected was horrifying.

This is not our case when the come to the Lord Jesus for our healing. He told us His name is Jehovah Rapha - the Lord our Healer.

I understand that when we are talking about our future James tells us to leave it in the Lord’s hands.

Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." - James 4:15 NASB

But James is not teaching us to pray. He’s talking about our attitude toward life.

Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever, said without hesitation:

"I am willing; be cleansed." - Matthew 8:3 NASB

Hallelujah! (That’s a place for shouting!)

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by today.

Walk in the light.

Ben

1

Kingdom of HeavenJesus commissioned the boys to go and preach the kingdom of heaven.

And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8 NASB

There are more instructions that follow. But on this day, the message they were to carry is simple.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Simple message—powerful demonstration.

  • Heal the sick.
  • Raise the dead.
  • Cleanse the lepers.
  • Cast out demons.

The first two times we hear this message—The kingdom of heaven is at hand—we get the message of repentance. This time, repentance is not mentioned, but mighty works accompany these words.

Remember when Jesus told us of His mission?

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD. - Luke 4:18-19 NASB

Let’s break it down.

  • Preach the gospel to the poor.
  • Proclaim release to the captives.
  • Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind.
  • Set free all who are oppressed.
  • Proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

This kingdom of heaven comes with a proclamation of freedom—the end of captivity.

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to verify that Jesus was ‘the one,’ what proof did Jesus send back?

Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." - Matthew 11:4-6 NASB

What evidence did Jesus offer that the kingdom of heaven was at hand?

  • The blind see.
  • The lame walk.
  • Lepers are cleansed.
  • The deaf hear.
  • The dead are raised.
  • The poor have the gospel preached to them.

The kingdom of darkness is a kingdom of captivity. Many cling to their dark chains because they are forged in fear and selfishness and the locks are made of guilt and shame.

I can’t leave satan’s realm there’s too much to lose—too much to give up.

Sometimes we preach a gospel of religion and ask people to trade one captivity for another. Give up your life of guilt and shame, and take on a new life of self-righteousness. Oh, and by the way, the guilt and shame—bring that along too.

We see Jesus preaching freedom to the captives. Freedom from all their captors, whether they are bound in spiritual darkness, or physical blindness. Jesus comes breaking every chain and sends His followers to do the same.

Is it the same today? Does Jesus still break every chain? Or has the gospel changed? Has it lost some of its power? Does Jesus still send us out the way He sent the disciples, to preach, heal, and deliver?

Lord, today I hear your call to walk with your message of freedom. Allow me to walk into villages of captivity today, and give me the boldness to preach your beautiful gospel. I ask you to confirm the word with signs as you did for your disciples. Do here and now what You did there and then.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by today.

As you go—proclaim freedom!

Ben

4

But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? - Acts 3:12 NASB

There is a principal buried in the story of Peter and John healing the lame man, that speaks to much of Christian culture today. It’s one of the great misunderstandings in Christian thought.

as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk

Much of the Christian world today misunderstands this principle as applied to one discipline or another. As we speak, I’m trying to allow the Word to renew my mind and transform me in regard to a couple of these fallacies.

The confusion comes from Christians thinking that they can EARN the favor of the Lord by things they do. I’m not talking about obedience. Our obedience to the Lord in all things it the outward demonstration of our Love for Him.

Let me poke at three of these today.

Healing

Let’s start with healing. Peter and John make it very clear that the healing of this lame man at Jerusalem’s Gate Beautiful had nothing to do with their own power or piety. They do tell how He was healed:

And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. - Acts 3:16 NASB

Faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus brought this man gave perfect health.

Huge portions of the body of Christ attribute any healing miracles to the whims and sovereignty of a God who may or may not respond. Others put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of God’s man of faith and power.

This is not some demonstration of apostolic power. It’s not because these were special holy men. It’s not even because they said just the right words, or followed just the right formula. It was simply the result of faith in the Name of Jesus.

They did not EARN this ability. That’s the thing that is rumbling around in my spirit this morning. How much of our modern church thought revolves around us earning something from God.

Giving

We do it with our giving. The New Covenant church was generous, holding everything they had loosely, considering it not their own but the Lord’s, to do with as He saw fit. People like Barnabas  would sell property and use the proceeds to help those in need in the household of faith.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. - Acts 4:36-37 NASB

Today, we are taught that the tithe earns us the right to some financial blessing. (I have to confess, it’s really hard to even write these words for me, as I have taught this for decades.) Tithing is an Old Testament principal, and it is sound, and still impacts your interactions with money in a positive way. I’m not saying you should stop tithing. What I am saying is that you can’t earn God’s blessing by giving.

We give out of the abundance of our appreciation for what the Lord has done for us. We give in obedience, when He puts in on our hearts to give. God blesses giving and generosity. Giving generously is a healthy lifestyle for a christian.

But in the Old Covenant the tithe belonged to the Lord. It was His and the rest was yours.

In the New Covenant the tithe still belongs to the Lord, along with everything else. You belong to the Lord, along with all you are and all you have. No longer is any of it yours. So when you give some of it away, you're not giving your stuff away, you're giving the Lord’s stuff away. So who’s the generous one now? Who gets the credit when you give to the poor? Is it your power or piety that brings prosperity?

No—its faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus—that bring everything you need into your life.

Worship

Ok - this one really hurts my feelings. But even the idea that we some how earn the presence of the Lord in our worship services by the choice of songs we sing falls back into this works mentality of the Old Covenant.

Bro. Steve Bremner, missionary to Peru and blogger/podcaster had a conversation with Dr. Stephen Crosby about Dr. Crosby’s book, Praise, Worship and the Presence of God. The book debunks the idea that we can draw or drive off the presence of the Holy Spirit by the quantity or quality of our worship.

Again I hear Peter and John saying—do you think it is our power or piety that made this happen?

Oh, worship can set a mood; Worship can create an endorphin rush and generate feelings. But are feelings and sensations that come as a result of effective use of music the same thing as the manifest presence of God?

John 14 teaches us that God take us residence in those who love Him.

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." - John 14:23 NASB

Our praise and worship are a reaction to His presence in our lives. They’re an overflow of the fullness we have in Him.

I wonder if our lack of seeking Him in the secret place has added to our need for the feelings we get in corporate worship. Remember we’re talking relationship here.

Think about the intimacy shared between man and wife.

If I go with my wife to a public event, I don’t have to conjure a manifestation of her presence while we are in public. And frankly, though we enjoy one another’s company in public, our time together in private far overshadows the intimacy we can achieve in public.

As we abandon the secret place, we find ourselves longing to sense the presence of the Lover of our soul, and seek Him in the crowds. Not unlike the Song of Songs, when the maiden was alone in the locked chamber, she missed His touch, and went seeking Him in the streets.

I’ve gone longer than I intended, but I hope you hear my heart on this. All these things are good and part of the christian walk. The problem comes when we think we can earn God’s healing power, prosperity through tithing, or His presence through worship, is falling back to our pre-Christ ways. It’s a through back to religion where we earn our place with God.

God is a giver, and His gifts are free.

Have I stepped on your toes today?

Can you see areas in your walk with Christ where you are trying to earn His favor by your own power or piety?

benheadshot1Thanks for stopping by.

Shine!

Ben

Check out Steve's podcast here: Stevebremner.com

4

I’m reading through Luke in the Passion Translation (TPT). It’s a wonderful new translation of the Bible, not yet complete, so you can only get it in bits and pieces so far. I hope the translator, Dr. Brian Simmons, is able to complete the whole Bible.

As often happens when I read a familiar passage in an unfamiliar translation different things jump out.

Today as I read the story of the feeding of the 5,000, a line in Luke 9:11 struck me.

Here it is in TPT.

But the crowds soon found out about it and took off after him. When they caught up with Jesus, he graciously welcomed them all, taught them more about the kingdom of God and healed all who were sick. - Luke 9:11 TPT.

Later in the passage we learn there were “nearly five thousand men here, with women and children besides!” (Luke 9:14 - TPT)

What a day! It’s no wonder it was getting late. He welcomed them; He taught them; He healed them all—ALL.

Wonder how many folks went away with two miracles that day. The saw the Lord Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes, which meant they went away with full bellies, but they also went away, leaving their crutches on the hillside—some seeing for the first time—others hearing the sound of their children’s laughter as they headed back to their villages.

What a day.

What a day.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8 NASB

He’s still welcoming.

He’s still teaching.

He’s still healing.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

===

Encounters With JesusPS - I need some help. I would love to get my book - Encounters with Jesus - into the hands of more folks. One way that can happen is Amazon reviews. Many of you have made wonderful comments about it. I wonder if you would take the time to head over to Amazon and leave an honest review. I believe the book has the potential to change lives, but only in the hands of readers. If you have ever purchased anything from Amazon, you can review this book there. It would be a huge blessing to me.

Thanks in advance.

Oh - and if you haven't read it yet - get your copy today!

If you're on the fence, here are some reviews and such:

A Must Read! by Debby Maciorowski

Encounters with Jesus by Felecia Clarke

Encounters With Jesus by Kristyn Mogler

Encounters With Jesus | Book Review by Steve Bremner

An Interview with Benjamin Nelson by Felecia Clarke

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