For Christ's Sake!

“And every one that has forsaken houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My name’s sake shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for the first century Christians when we live in a 21st Century Western Society. They were put into situations where they lost everything for the sake of following Jesus. Paul notes that even a husband or wife may not be someone they keep in their lives if it means compromising their faith. Today we intermarry with unbelievers, we miss whether people are actually born again or if they just make the right sounds. It’s hard to spot because of how the World has learned to imitate the language of the Church. Actually, it’s more that the church (note – small “c”) talks a language so filled with the World as to be impossible to separate them, or jargon so hard to understand that it drives away everyone not raised in the church – and to complicate matters, not all churches use the same jargon.

Jesus was a simple man with a simple message. He spoke in a simple manner to the ordinary people and they followed Him in droves. After the resurrection and ascension the disciples were endowed with the Holy Spirit. That resulted in Power being released. 5000 added by Peter’s first sermon. But then the believers did something incredible:

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)

For the sake of the Gospel, Jesus’s sake, they willingly gave up their posessions so all the members could be fed, clothed, housed. All who were landowners, not some. Later, when 2 followers pretend to give up the full price when really holding back, they were struck down and died when confronted with the Truth.

The key to the early Church was in Acts 4:32. They were of one heart and one soul. Unified in a way that the denominations can’t match within themselves, never mind collectively. Unity is the central theme of the Gospel. Unity between God and Man, unity between believers. A new union where restoration of relationship is not only possible, but, from what we see in the early chapters of Acts, was spontaneous and crossed boundaries of class and status. Slaves and owners shared as brothers and sisters and the relationships were built as equals in Christ.

We need to get back to the basics of that Spirit led life. The World has fallen to Satan long ago, but restoration has been given. As far as we know, at no point in history have so many individuals lived on this small blue planet as do now. And we’re more divided than ever.

Denis Leary did a sketch a while ago where he suggested Christ didn’t return because of the number of people wearing crosses, likening it to wishing JFK’s widow well while wearing a pin replica of Lee-Harvey Owsald’s rifle. Whilst he may have been trying to shock and may even been trying to be blasphemous in his act, it made me think about what the Cross actually means, what it stands for in my Faith, and the mess we make of trying to show Christ to the World. That which should be uniting us drives us apart because of the ludicrous interpretations and meanings spun into the simple teachings of Jesus intended to draw us to Him.

We don’t give ourselves the chance to be united by Christ because of the smokescreen blown across our minds by the Enemy. His plan to divide and conquer has proven to be disturbingly effective for 2000 years. We have lost the simplicity of the message of Christ and with it we have lost the unity that gave the first century Christians their passion and power.

So for our sake, we need to do reclaim the simplicity of the message for Christ’s sake!

Impossible Possibilities

“Most assuredly, 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 My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14

The promise sounds too good to be true. He who believes in Jesus will do the same works, and even greater works than Jesus Himself did.

Anything.

Just ponder for a moment the magnitude of the promise here. Greater works than Jesus did.

Greater works.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 13 years old, and I must have read this passage hundreds of times and heard a great many people teach about it, but it quickened in me only about 5 or 6 years ago. Greater works than Christ Himself asked for in His name.

Now I’d love to see someone raised from the dead, open blind eyes and lame limbs grow strong. Heck, I’d turn cartwheels if I see a hangnail healed at this point. I’ve not seen it.

Yet.

My brain gets in the way. So I start small. Peter needed cash to pay for the Temple Tax so he went to Jesus. Jesus tells him the first fish he pulls out that day will have a coin in it of sufficient value to pay their taxes. So I jumped on this. Start small and grow. It’s like training to run a marathon. You don’t do your first practice session the day before. Your muscles need to strengthen and adapt to that kind of pressure. You need to see yourself run a mile, 5 miles, 10 miles and so on to reach the goal of a marathon distance.

Finances are hard, but healing is harder. So I start small. We hit a rough patch with our finances and I asked God to help us in Jesus name. A small amount, the equivalent of just a few hundred dollars. It came in. I asked for work to increase our income and God opened a door which in turn led me to meet an amazing person who has become my closest friend other than my wife. Talking to her and swapping testimonies I saw my faith grow from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand a month. Then the time came for me to leave the job last month. I still trust God to provide the finances as the need is still there.

It only hit me a few days ago that a few thousand a month for 2 years now is greater than 1 coin in the mouth of a fish.

What seemed impossible when I set out was a possibility now.

I’m dedicating myself to spending more time writing and doing what God sends me out to do now. In addition, my wife and I have a business that I may end up managing full-time at some point. My name is on the ownership papers, but I don’t really do much there. My passion is for my writing and teaching.

Greater works. The impossible possibility of seeing healing, financial freedom, the dead raised back to life. It all seems closer now.

I keep pondering and chewing over the passage from John’s Gospel. Anything in Jesus’ name.

Anything.

Why not? Water into wine, calming a storm with a word. These should be a part of our daily life as Christians. The works Jesus did seem impossible, but when we see ourselves as He sees us, the impossible becomes a possibility. Miracles follow the believer.

The miracles follow the believer.

Peter didn’t get out of the boat then call to Jesus. He called to Jesus, then he walked on the water. He put his faith in a single word from Jesus. He believed. And then the miracle flowed.

The impossible is only so because we believe it to be. Our focus is such that as we look out we see through either our old self or our born-again self, and the focus determines the reality.

Now I’m not spouting some new-age theory like some nut-job guru. It’s what Jesus said. First believe in Him – give our hearts and minds over to Him – then signs and wonders follow. But only to the extent we allow them to.

Read what Jesus did. See yourself there with Him. Imagine the response when he sends out the disciples to the towns and they come back having seen healings, demons cast out – and yes, I do believe that demons are real – all at the name of Jesus. See yourself standing with Jesus at Jairus’s home and watching the girl rise from the dead at a simple command. See yourself giving the command! Jesus said we will do the works He did, so visualise yourself doing what He did.
See yourself laying hands on the sick in your imagination to start with. Practice with the eyes of Faith, then move out with that faith and declare with Boldness like Peter and the others did that strength come into the lame, the outcast be restored and the brokenhearted be comforted.


But remember, it’s only possible when we remember it’s not impossible. When our focus is on the problem we will doubtless fail, but by the same token, when we focus on the solution, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us, we can’t help but see the impossible become possible.

God the Comedian

OK, so it’s a little irreverent to say God is a comedian, but look at the scripture from Genesis to, well not so much in Revelation, and you see God’s sense of humour coming through.

There’s so much I can only touch on a few scriptural examples, but let’s start in Genesis. God makes a Covenant agreement with a man named Abram who has no children and says his children will inherit the land of Canaan. Then He promises Abram a child born of the Covenant through his wife, Sarai. Abram meets God again at the age of 99 with no children and God tells him his name will now be Abraham – meaning Father of a multitude – but still no child. God tells Abraham that Sarai is now Sarah – and she’s 90. Then the punchline “Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?“” (Genesis 17:15-17) 

God’s sense of humour makes a mockery of our knowledge. Isaac is born, and named “Laughter”.

Then in Numbers 22 there’s Balaam. Balaam had a donkey who spoke. It’s ridiculous to think about. More than that, Balaam enters into a debate with the donkey! Imagine you go downstairs first thing on a winter morning to let your dog out and the dog looks up and says “In this weather? You’re kidding!” Now we’re not talking about a cartoon donkey voiced by Eddie Murphy or the family pet. This is a real donkey that this man has been riding for years. This man, Balaam, is a prophet himself, and God opens the donkey’s mouth to prophesy to the prophet!

If we look forward to 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we see Jabez. His mother named him, and the name means sorrow-maker. Jabez cries out to God and despite his name, God answers his request. All we know of the man is his name, his petition, and God’s sense of humour dancing over his faith!

The Gospels are full of the humour of God. Jesus Himself is a walking joke – until the power flows. From the worldly perspective, Jesus is the illegitimate child of a carpenter. Not a king, descended from David’s line, definitely, but so far removed from Israel’s throne that it’s almost impossible to count how many other heirs would need to die before he got that crown.

But Jesus’s humour was a message with meaning that the “learned” people couldn’t understand. They were so far removed from Godliness that when God Himself walked with them they couldn’t recognise Him.

His birth was announced by shepherds, and news reached Herod because three men stopped to ask for directions. Then there’s His miracles. Cana, just after He’s baptized by John and He’s at a wedding. The host runs out of wine, and Jesus’s mother asks Him to help. So He does – Each amphora used to hold water was probably between 4 and 5 feet tall, and probably held gallons of liquid. Imagine the twinkle in His eye as He tells them to fill the jars to the brim, then take the contents to the taster. I can see the “Wait for it” look in His eyes as the bemused servers take the contents across and the purest red wine of the highest quality pours into the cup and the startled taster declares it to be the best wine of the night.

Peter says he needs cash to pay the Temple Tax. Jesus tells him to go fish – literally – and there in the fish’s mouth is enough for both of their taxes!

The disciples are drowning on a sinking ship, Jesus casually strolls over to them on top of the sea and as if that’s not enough, Peter calls to Him and His response “Come!” and Peter walks on top of the waves as well.

God’s Truth makes mockery of Man’s facts. The crowning punchline of the Gospel is the Resurrection itself. The Pharisees crucified Him and walked away, Jesus got up again with the sun three days later. Peter had denied Him three times, and after the resurrection he goes back to the life he knows – fishing. He’s dragging the nets all night with nothing – just like 3 years before. Then Jesus stands there on the shore and calls out – like before – let down the nets again. And the nets are filled with a mammoth catch. They go to the shore and Jesus is already cooking fish for them. There must have been a twinkle in His eye as He sat with the disciples just like old times. They must have enjoyed the joke together as they went out into the World to tell everyone about Jesus.

The Truth of God makes men’s thinking sheer folly. His wisdom is so far removed from ours that we are totally baffled by His ways. The only logical thing to do sometimes when a miracle hits your life is laugh. If we try to understand it we’ll just end up with a headache, so just enjoy the ride. 

We’ll have Eternity to ponder the humour of God together!