Capernaum

He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority. In the synagogue there was a man with an unclean demonic spirit who cried out with a loud voice, “Leave us alone! What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet and come out of him!”

And throwing him down before them, the demon came out of him without hurting him at all. They were all struck with amazement and kept saying to one another, “What is this message? For He commands the unclean spirits with authority and power, and they come out!” And news about Him began to go out to every place in the vicinity. (Luke 4:31–37)

Mark tells the same story about the demon possessed man in the synagogue. After the demon recognized Jesus, Jesus told the demon to “be quiet” and to “come out of him,” which the demon then did without another word, without complaint, without asking where to go.

The people were amazed by Jesus’ power. And yet, all Jesus did to the demon was tell it to go. Why did the demon obey? Because of who Jesus was. The power that Jesus has to expel demons, to heal the sick, to preach and teach, and to die for our sins came from his Father, who was and is God. We take Jesus for granted, too often. We sometimes fail to fully comprehend the significance of our relationship with God. Demons will not listen to us, but they will listen to Jesus. Therefore, in confronting evil, the key is to recognize that the conflict is not between ourselves and the evil that stands before us, but rather the conflict is between evil and Jesus. When we give the problem over to him, he can overcome it. We do not have the strength to overcome our evil desires. But Jesus does.

In our lives, Jesus power may mean that our problem goes away and never troubles us again. But it may simply mean that Jesus gives us the strength to endure it. Whichever Jesus grants us, our victory is no less complete. We can be happy with Jesus in our lives when we give him the mastery over us.

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Worry

Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other. There will be great earthquakes, and in many places people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky.

Before all this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your meeting places and put in jail. Because of me you will be placed on trial before kings and governors. But this will be your chance to tell about your faith.

Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or to say that you are wrong. You will be betrayed by your own parents, brothers, family, and friends. Some of you will even be killed. Because of me, you will be hated by everyone. But don’t worry! You will be saved by being faithful to me.
(Luke 21:10–19)

On more than one occasion Jesus encouraged people not to worry, whether it was about finances, clothing, food, or even persecution. The answer to worry that Jesus gave in all instances was the same. We don’t need to worry because God is with us. We know that he will give us the strength to endure whatever hard times might come. As the Psalmist wrote so long ago, even though we walk through the deepest darkness, God is always with us (Psalm 23). We are never alone. God is not unmindful of what we’re experiencing. He knows what we want, but better yet, he knows what we need. “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2 NKJV). Worrying has never made anything better.

We shouldn’t give into worry. It is a liar. It is not our friend. It cannot help us, it cannot fix our pain. It is a wet blanket on a cold day, a broken wheel on our wagons. It cannot carry us, it cannot feed us, it cannot sustain us. It will only take and give us nothing back. Worry will not stop the sunrise. It will not ease the nightfall. And when enough tomorrows come we’ll be able to see better. And worry will seem less necessary. God will give us what we need, whether it is the perfect answer before our accusers, or the food to sustain us in our hunger.

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Meteors

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SOS

“Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!

“No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” (Matthew 6:16–24)

Some people suffer from SOS: shiny object syndrome. They are easily distracted by whatever attractive thing happens to catch their eye. It is a common human failing, of course, an example of our general inability to properly distinguish between what’s best for us, and what will entertain us at this instant. We want to get rich quick. But the quick too often turns out to be nothing more than a shiny bit of glass.

Jesus asked those listening to him during his Sermon on the Mount to consider what motivated their behavior. Why do they do what they do? Are they doing good for God or are they doing good only for themselves? Were they motivated by the desire for the quick payoff? Were they good because of what the neighbors would think? Were they good because of what benefit they could derive from it? If so, Jesus argued that they really weren’t being good at all. Instead, they were simply working for their own selfish ends. They were working for a payment.

Serving God means being concerned with someone besides ourselves. In fact, our own benefit shouldn’t enter into the equation at all. True righteousness means focusing on others and forgetting entirely about what we might get out of it. We cannot be truly righteous if we’re concerned with what we’re going to get out of it too.

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Philae

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Forgiveness

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” (Matthew 6:9–15)

Why is God’s forgiveness dependent upon us forgiving others? The better question is to wonder why we would believe we should be forgiven when we are unwilling to forgive others. When we pray to God, we can only have from him what we believe he is willing to give. If we don’t forgive others, we obviously don’t really believe in forgiveness. If we have an unforgiving heart, we’re not going to truly believe that God can forgive us.

Forgiveness is an attitude. It is a choice that we make. We free ourselves from a prison of bitterness and anger if we forgive. When God forgives us, he’s not telling us that what we did didn’t matter, or that the suffering doesn’t matter, or that he’s okay with our actions. Forgiveness means he will not allow what we did to interfere with his relationship with us. He is telling us that we and his relationship with us is more important than the sin that would try to come between us. Forgiveness grows from love, from a concern for us that exceeds all else.

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Rosetta Landing

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The Will of God

He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”

Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple complex blessing God. (Luke 24:44–53)

Just before Jesus returned to his Father in Heaven, he carefully reviewed what the scriptures had to say about him. He took them from the beginning in Genesis and traced himself all the way through until the end. Then he left them with final instructions about what they should be doing while he was gone.

He explained to his disciples that they wouldn’t on their own. Instead, they’d be “empowered from on high” when the Holy Spirit arrived during Pentecost, a festival also called the “Feast of Weeks” or Shavuot. In Exodus 23:16 it was called “the Feast of Harvest” during which the community was to show gratitude to God for the “first fruits,” that is, the early harvest. The holiday followed Passover by fifty days.

Jesus did not ask his disciples to take up arms against the Romans. He did not tell them to go into politics. Instead, he told them to proclaim the Good News that Jesus had died and risen and that forgiveness was available to all. It was not a complicated or difficult task.

Both young and old are concerned with discovering the will of God for their lives. But much of God’s will for our lives is obvious. For all of us, one of our primary purposes in life, whatever else we might do, is to bear witness to the people we know and meet of what Jesus has done for us and for our lives.

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Don’t Forget

I have already told you what the Lord Jesus did on the night he was betrayed. And it came from the Lord himself.

He took some bread in his hands. Then after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me.”

After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, “This is my blood, and with it God makes his new agreement with you. Drink this and remember me.”

The Lord meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you tell about his death until he comes.

But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. (1 Corinthians 11:23–31)

“Remember me,” said Jesus as he broke the bread and shared the cup during that final Passover meal. Paul told the church in the Greek city of Corinth that Jesus wanted his people to remember him. The whole reason for the ceremony of communion was to remember Jesus: who he was and what he had done. Paul commented that whenever we shared in a communion meal we were telling about his death until he comes back again.

“Remember me,” said Jesus. Is there a danger that we might forget him, that he had to tell us to remember? Indeed. It is human nature to become distracted with our lives, with our daily concerns, with all the things we do that keep us so busy. We have to work, we have to sleep, we have to rest, we have to take care of our families, spend time with them, spend time with our friends. There is so much we have to do and it is inescapable and entirely necessary.

So Jesus told us that there was one more thing we had to do, one more responsibility in the midst of all our other responsibilities: we needed to remember him, to never forget what he did for us. Jesus died for us and lives for us, so that in him we might have our lives and have them more abundantly.

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Patmos

In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:16–20)

Jesus said that his followers had eternal life and that they would never perish. Then he added, “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:29-30) At the beginning of the book of Revelation, John described his encounter with a glorified Jesus. In his hand were seven stars that represented the “angels,” that is the pastors of the seven churches in Asia Minor that Jesus’ letters were sent to.

John was in exile on a tiny island in the Mediterranean, suffering there for proclaiming the Good News. Christians throughout the Roman Empire were suffering just as John was, and often far worse. Many were dying for Jesus every day. Jesus words were comforting words, therefore, for John and for the people that John wrote the book of Revelation to. The Roman Empire might have believed itself to be in charge. It might even have looked like they were right. But the one who really was in charge, who really did have the power of life and death was not the Roman government who sent Christians to die in the arena. Instead, the real power belonged to Jesus, the one who had been killed by that Roman government, but who was now alive forever. Jesus had proven with his resurrection that he could undo whatever the Romans might try.

God is the one who is really in charge of our lives and our deaths. It is in his hands that we can relax, comforted in the knowledge that he will rescue us from those who imagine they can control or destroy us.

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