Desperate

A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.” (Mark 5:25-34)

Jesus doesn’t care about the proper paperwork. It’s not like trying to get the right forms or find the right lines at some government office. Jesus will let you come however you want. All that matters is that you come.

When the hemorrhaging woman heard about Jesus, she decided that he would be able to help her. What was the basis for her belief that touching the fabric of his robe would fix her problem? Had she heard of any similar healings? Were there stories in the Bible about such things? No, but she knew he had the power to heal.

However, according to ceremonial law, if he touched her or anything that belonged to her, she knew that he would be ceremonially unclean until sunset. And he might not want to become defiled like that. But if she merely touched the hem of his garment, then he could be spared such ceremonial defilement.

In fact, she believed that in the press of the crowd, he would never even have to know anything had happened. But when Jesus stopped and made a search for who had touched her, she feared the worst, even though she had been healed. But Jesus didn’t want to publically humiliate her. Instead, he wanted to publically let everyone know about her faith.

Jesus cherishes human faith.

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No Rest

As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. But He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.

When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.”

So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd was following and pressing against Him. (Mark 5:18-24)

Not everyone gets to sit on the front row. Jesus had many followers besides the twelve apostles. There were both men and women following him all over the countryside. Crowds gathered everywhere he went. There were the seventy that Jesus sent out to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom. After his resurrection, a hundred twenty gathered at the time of Pentecost. There was more than one person who could take the place of Judas, people who had been with Jesus from the time of John’s baptism until his resurrection.

But when Jesus healed a man filled with demons who called themselves “Legion,” Jesus refused to let him come with him, no matter how hard he pleaded. How come? Was Jesus’ boat overloaded? Not at all. Jesus had a job that only he could do. Jesus told him to return home and tell the people he knew all about what Jesus had done for him. Like the seventy, Jesus was sending this man off to proclaim the news of the kingdom.

Jesus has many jobs for his people. Some will go to foreign lands as missionaries. Some will become pastors in small churches. Some will be husbands, some will be wives, some will work in factories, some will be fire fighters, doctors, nurses, clerks, bankers, or soldiers. God has a role for you in this life that only you can do. And when people hear what Jesus has done for you, they will be amazed.

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The Ghost

Immediately after, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Jesus won’t necessarily try to fix all the wrong notions that are in our heads. He picks his battles. After a long day of preaching, after feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee for some rest and relaxation while he went off to pray for awhile. The wind was against them, and they made very slow progress in their trip to the far side of the lake. Late at night, tired and exhausted, they thought they saw a ghost.

Thanks to the influence of Greek culture, by Jesus’ time belief in ghosts was widespread among the Jewish people. But Jesus did not launch into a theological or philosophical treatise against the notion of ghosts. He merely reassured them that he wasn’t one. Jesus’ concern at that moment was not their false belief in ghosts, which was merely a symptom of something far more damaging: their fear that they were all alone against the world.

Today, we may believe many silly things. But just as he did with his disciples, Jesus doesn’t berate us for those silly beliefs. Instead, he simply tells us not to be afraid. Why? “Take courage. I am here.”

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Amazing Faith

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”

And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (Matthew 8:5-13)

We trust what we can hold, what we can see, what we can taste. Food on our plate today is worth more to us than the promise of food on tomorrow’s plate. That’s why idolatry is so common: people like to see who they are praying to. But one day, a person raised in idolatry and only lately come to God, approached Jesus about his sick servant.

Why was this Centurion’s faith, according to Jesus, greater than the faith of anyone else he had ever found? Because he believed without seeing. He believed, even though his whole idolatrous culture was based on sight. The Roman Centurion was able to step beyond the confines of his upbringing and the norms of his society. He marched beyond his cultural horizon.

The Jewish people had the law and the prophets. They had long experience with God’s power, like a rich man with a lot of money in the bank. The Centurion had nothing, like a pauper begging in the street. It was the context of the Centurion’s belief—the sort of man he was and where he’d come from—that made his faith so striking. How big your faith is depends on who you are.

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The Devil’s Home

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:

“I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:12-17)

God’s word is a sword that cuts both ways. When Jesus had John wrote to the Christians in Pergamum, it seemed as if Satan had taken up residence there, because of the persecution and the fact that the Roman governor regularly held court there. It was also the oldest and most prominent center for Emperor worship in the area. Worst of all, sin had crept into the church.

The Nicolaitans are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. They may have been Gnostics who taught that the material and spiritual realms were entirely separate. They believed they could indulge their flesh with no spiritual repercussions.

Hidden manna referred to the manna in the Ark of the Covenant. According to legend, after the Babylonians destroyed the prophet Jeremiah had hidden the manna in a cave on Mount Nebo, where it was to remain until the time of the Messiah, when God would once again feed his people with it.

What was the white stone? It might be an invitation to attend the Messianic banquet. The new name on it might then be the name of Christ, the name of God, or most likely, the name of the invited person, enabling him to take part in the Messianic banquet. God can bring judgment, but he can also bring healing. The choice is ours.

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Wealth

This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Smyrna:

I am the first and the last. I died, but now I am alive! Listen to what I say.

I know how much you suffer and how poor you are, but you are rich. I also know the cruel things being said about you by people who claim to be God’s people. But they are really not. They are a group that belongs to Satan.

Don’t worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw some of you into jail, and you will be tested and made to suffer for ten days. But if you are faithful until you die, I will reward you with a glorious life.

If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Whoever wins the victory will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)

God’s perspective is hard to come by and hard to keep in our heads. Smyrna is on the west coast of what is today the nation of Turkey. At the end of a major east-west road, it had a good harbor, along with a major temple dedicated to the worship of Rome and its Emperor. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the city was very loyal to the Roman Empire. The Christian community in Smyrna was in conflict with the Jewish people there, or at least its leaders. Apparently the Jewish religious leaders regularly accused the Christians of crimes. And they repeatedly brought all their legal disagreements before the city’s government.

In the letter that Jesus dictated to John, Jesus told these suffering Christians that these religious leaders who were persecuting them, though they claimed to belong to God, actually didn’t. Instead, the religious establishment aligned against them in Smyrna belonged to Satan.

Jesus comforted his people in Smyrna with the fact that though they would suffer, it would be only temporarily. The “ten days” means that they would suffer for a short time, just as Daniel and his three companions. They were tested for ten days by having to eat nothing but vegetables and having to drink nothing but water. But when the time of testing ended, they not only survived, but prospered. Likewise, God struck Egypt with ten plagues, but as a result, Israel gained its freedom.

Bad times are not permanent. Eternity with Jesus will make all our suffering, no matter how severe, seem like nothing.

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Take a Letter

I am John, a follower together with all of you. We suffer because Jesus is our king, but he gives us the strength to endure. I was sent to Patmos Island, because I had preached God’s message and had told about Jesus. On the Lord’s day the Spirit took control of me, and behind me I heard a loud voice that sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, “Write in a book what you see. Then send it to the seven churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”

When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. There with the lampstands was someone who seemed to be the Son of Man. He was wearing a robe that reached down to his feet, and a gold cloth was wrapped around his chest. His head and his hair were white as wool or snow, and his eyes looked like flames of fire. His feet were glowing like bronze being heated in a furnace, and his voice sounded like the roar of a waterfall. (Revelation 1:9-15)

When everything goes wrong in your life, wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus came and told you why? The apostle John had that rare and wonderful experience. Jesus had been John’s closest and best friend. But more than fifty years had passed since he’d last seen him. As an old man, John was exiled for his faith to the island of Patmos, not far from what is today the nation of Turkey. Of all the apostles, he alone survived. The rest had been murdered. Christians everywhere were dying. The Romans had destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple to the ground. Things did not appear to be going very well, not for him, not for any of God’s people.

Then, unexpectedly, Jesus met him in a vision. Not as he remembered him, but in all his glory as God. Jesus was finally back, and he told John to write down everything that he was about to say—and to share it with seven of the churches in what is today Turkey.

The book of Revelation, the result of John’s wonderful visions from Jesus, have ever after been a source of comfort to Christians suffering severe persecution for their faith. Jesus’ revelation was a comfort, not just to John, but to all believers everywhere.

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Skywatching 2016

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Planet 9

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Who Are You?

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”

When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. (Acts 22:1-9)

When you control a conversation, what’s the first thing you’re most likely to talk about? Sports? The weather? Paul’s first conversation with Jesus meant more to him than anything else in his life. Whenever he had the chance, he told people all about it.

Arrested in Jerusalem, Paul addressed the angry mob in their local language, Aramaic. It was the language that the people in Israel had been speaking ever since their return from their Babylonian exile. When Jesus first met Paul, he was a Pharisee. He had trained under the best known rabbi of the day, Gamaliel. Gamaliel had once told the other members of the Sanhedrin to be slow about condemning the Christians, since several false Messiah’s had arisen in the past. He believed this new Christian movement was likely to die out, too, if it were merely human in its origin. But if not, then to resist it would be to resist God.

Paul’s defense to the mob in Jerusalem was to simply tell them about Jesus. Jesus had told him to proclaim the gospel on that road to Damascus. He had resisted God his whole life until that moment. He’d decided to never resist him ever again.

When Paul controlled the conversation, he had but one thing to talk about: Jesus.

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