Day 59 – Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23

Silly Rituals. Serious Business.

Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” – Mark 7:6-7 NLT

The Pharisees took themselves way too seriously. But in reality, they were silly. They had become so wrapped up in their “age-old traditions” that they lost sight of just how ridiculous it all appeared. They had all kinds of cleansing ceremonies they went through before they could eat. Mark tells his primarily Gentile audience just how silly it all was. “The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions” (Mark 7:3 NLT). Notice he makes a point of saying that this was required by their ancient traditions, not God. He goes on to say that “Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of the many traditions they have clung to – such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers and kettles” (Mark 7:4 NLT). They had convinced themselves that all this madness somehow made them clean and acceptable before God. They lives in fear that they could have somehow become defiled by coming into contact with something unclean of unholy. But they gave no thought to what was going on in their own hearts. Jesus makes this distinction quite clear. When they confront Jesus and demand to know why His disciples don’t follow their traditions, Jesus pulls no punches. He quotes the prophet Isaiah who was quoting God Himself. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Mark 7:6-7 NLT). This was God speaking against the city of of Jerusalem and the people of Judah. Their religion had become routine. They were going through the motions. They thought that offering sacrifices was enough. But God was more concerned about their hearts than their offerings. And Jesus was more concerned about the hardened hearts of the Pharisees than He was their silly ceremonies for staying clean.

Their real problem was that they gave more credence to their own rules than God’s commands. They came up with all kinds of convenient work-arounds and loop holes that allowed them to ignore God’s commands and do what they wanted to do. And Jesus made it clear what they were doing. “And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition” (Mark 7:13 NLT). Their rules trumped God’s laws. Their silly rituals held more sway in their lives than the righteous demands of a holy God. And not only that, their rituals were worthless. They didn’t even accomplish what they hoped they would. Because the only impurity God is concerned about is that which is on the inside. God is obsessed with clean hearts, not clean hands. Jesus tells the crowd, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you” (Mark 7:20 NLT), not what comes from the outside. It is that which comes from a person’s heart that defiles him, and no amount of ceremonial hand washing is going to fix that problem.

These men had focused on the wrong thing. They were wasting their time obsessing over the externals, when inside they were corrupt, selfish, self-centered, egotistical, and in direct opposition to the will of God. They refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. They credited His power as having come from Satan. They called Him a drunk. They ridiculed Him and tried everything in their power to discredit Him and, ultimately, would go out of their way to see that He was put to death. Their example of ceremonial hand washing and ritualistic cleansing was sending a wrong message to the people, and Jesus cleared it up. He made it painfully obvious that these men were far from pure and anything but holy. And the list He gave was more than likely one that applied to these sanctimonious religious leaders. “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:21-23 NLT). Interestingly enough, there is no recorded response from the Pharisees. No rebuttal. No defense. No denial. The conversation simply ends. Which speaks volumes. Jesus knew their hearts better than they did. And while they were content to play their silly games and pretend that they were holy, Jesus was letting them know that God takes holiness seriously and saw the true condition of their hearts.

Father, You can see into our hearts and You know things about us that we don’t even know ourselves. Forgive us thinking that the silly religious rituals we go through somehow make us right with You. Keep us focused on our own hearts and never let us forget that only You can cleanse the heart. We simply need to confess our sin and allow You to forgive and cleanse. You are in the heart transformation business. Don’t let us settle for the anything less. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 58 – John 6:22-7:1

Eternal Life.

John 6:22-7:1

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.” – John 6:47 NLT

This passage is all about bread. But it obviously deals with two types of bread. One literal and the other metaphorical or symbolic. The people are looking for Jesus, and John makes it clear that their interest is in having Jesus provide them with yet another free meal. They show up at the place where He had “blessed the bread and the people had eaten” (John 6:23 NLT), but Jesus is not there. So they jump back in their boats and head to Capernaum, where they finally find Jesus. But Jesus sees right through their motives. “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:26-27 NLT).

Right away, Jesus reveals the stark contrast that is going to take place in this exchange between the people and Himself. Their interest in Jesus is purely physical and temporal. Yes, He is obviously a miracle worker of some kind and they actually want to learn how to do what He does. They say, “We want to perform God’s words, too. What should we do?” (John 6:28 NLT). Their minds are on food and how nice it would be to be able to multiply their meager stores the way that Jesus did that afternoon on the hillside. By now, they must have heard that Jesus had given power and authority to the twelve disciples to cast out demons and perform miracles, so they seem to be asking Him to do the same for them. But again, Jesus knows their hearts and clearly sees that their motivation is selfish and they are missing the point. He tells them, “This is the only word God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29 NLT).

Immediately, the crowd demands that Jesus perform a sign to help them believe. And they even give Him a suggestion: “Our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness!” (John 6:31 NLT). They are so obvious, it’s almost embarrassing. All they want is food. To them, Jesus is little more than a 1st-Century vending machine, conveniently dispensing free food. But Jesus takes the opportunity to clear up their misconceptions about Him and about what their real needs are. Their problem is not a lack of bread, but a lack of belief. They do not understand who He is and what He has come to offer them. So Jesus makes it painfully clear. At least a dozen times in this next little sermonette, Jesus mentions eternal life. He tells them that He has come to offer them eternal life, and that anyone who believes can have it. If all He gives them is bread, they will die, just like their ancestors did in the wilderness. But there is a different source of sustenance that He wants to give them – Himself. He refers to Himself as the Bread of Life. “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41 NLT). “Yes, I am the bread of life!” (John 6: 48 NLT). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51 NLT). “I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever” (John 6:58 NLT.

He is offering them eternal life! He is telling them the way in which they can live forever. These people believed in an after life. They spent their entire lives trying to please God by keeping the Law and obeying His commands so that they might inherit eternal life. Now Jesus was telling them that eternal life could be theirs, if only they would believe He was who He claimed to be. But they struggled with this concept. They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven?'” (John 6:42 NLT). They couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Him. They wanted Him to perform miracles for them. That they could believe in, because they had seen it with their own eyes. But when it came to believing in Him as the Son of God, that was another matter. As a result, many of them said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” (John 6:60 NLT).

Jesus knows they are struggling. So He says, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of God ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me” (John 6:61-63 NLT). Jesus is asking them, “Does what I just said cause you to stumble?” He realizes that what He has just taught them is difficult for them to hear and even harder to understand. The imagery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood is graphic and disconcerting. But He tells them that things are going to get even harder to understand in the days ahead. There is still the cross to come. And before Jesus can ascend back into heaven, He will have to be lifted up on the cross as a payment for the sins of all mankind. That is going to be hard for every one of His disciples to comprehend, especially when it happens. But even in death, the Spirit will give life to Jesus, restoring Him completely and allowing Him to conquer the hold that sin and death had had on mankind since the fall. Jesus’ death and resurrection would make possible eternal life. Paul reminds us, “The Spirit of Gd, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11 NLT). New life. Full life. Eternal life. That is what Jesus came to bring. “For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40 NLT). Ultimately, this is all about eternal life. What we experience here is nothing compared with what is to come. This is no longer our home. We are strangers and aliens here. We are sojourners, simply passing through on our way to somewhere else. We have His presence and complete access to His power while here, but we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus came to bring eternal life, not just a slightly improved version of our earthly lives. Jesus told the crowd that day exactly what we need to hear, “But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:27 NLT).

Father, it is so easy to get consumed with perishable things. They are all around us. It seems as if we can’t live without them. And we end up working so hard to obtain them. But they cannot bring us the one thing we all need: Eternal life. Thank You for sending Your Son to make eternal life available to all who will believe. Never let us lose sight of the unbelievable nature of the gift we have been given. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 57 – Matthew 14:34-46; Mark 53-56

A Touch.

Matthew 14:34-46; Mark 53-56

“Wherever he went – in villages, cities, or the countryside – they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” – Mark 6:56 NLT

They had made it shore, safe and sound. Their evening and early morning adventure on the lake had been a memorable one. The disciples had been caught in yet another storm. This time without Jesus in the boat with them. He had stayed behind to pray. But He had appeared to them in the middle of the storm, walking on the water. The sight of Jesus walking on top of the waves and surrounded by the blowing mist and darkness, had scared them more than the storm. But now they were all safe again near the town of Gennesaret. And as soon as they were able to climb out of the boat, the crowds spotted Jesus. It didn’t take long for the news to spread and the crowds to show up. And Mark tells us that wherever Jesus went – in the villages, cities, or countryside – the crowds would appear. Anyone who was sick or had a friend or relative who was sick, flocked to Jesus. He was like the Pied Piper of Palestine.

Interestingly enough, both Matthew and Mark record that people were begging Jesus to simply let the sick touch at hem of his robe, and that all who were able to do so, were healed. Where did they get this idea? Obviously news had reached them about the woman in Capernaum, who had touched Jesus’ robe and been healed (Mark 5:24-34). Jesus had told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over” (Mark 6:34 NLT). Now there were hundreds, if not thousands, of sick people who wanted the opportunity to touch Jesus’ robe and be healed. And Mark tells us, “all who touched him were healed” (Mark 6:56 NLT). Matthew makes the same claim. Not some, but all. What a scene this must have been. Into every town and village where Jesus walked, a crowd would surround Him, reaching out to touch Him. I can imagine the disciples trying to act as bodyguards, attempting to keep the crowds away. They probably feared for Jesus’ safety. But nothing was going to keep the sick from reaching Him. They were needy and desperate, and their need and desperation drove them to get to Jesus any way they possibly could. They were determined. And as each one touched Him, they were immediately healed from whatever disease from which they suffered. As Jesus walked along, He would have left countless healed and happy people shouting and dancing in His wake. All because they had touched His robe. What power. What incredible proof of who He claimed to be. Just hours before, the disciples had watched Jesus walk on water and had exclaimed, “You really are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33 NLT). Now they were watching as Jesus gave further undeniable proof of His claim to be not only their Messiah, but the Son of God.

Did all those people who touched His robe and received healing believe He was the Messiah? Did they acknowledge Him as the Son of God? We’re not told one way or the other. But they obviously believed He could heal them. So they came and they reached out and touched His robe. And they were healed. They received back their health. They were made physically whole. But there is no indication that they were spiritually transformed. Like so many of Jesus’ miracles, these were intended as lessons for the disciples – those men whom Jesus had chosen and who would take the message of Good News to the world once Jesus had died, resurrected and returned to heaven. Every time someone touched Jesus’ robe and received healing, it was meant to solidify in the minds of the disciples that He really was who He said He was. When He walked on the water, it was proof of His deity. When He fed the 5,000, it was proof of the limitless nature of His power as the Son of God. When He cast out demons, it was evidence of His sovereignty over all things, not only in the physical realm, but the spiritual. His power was so great, that those who simply touched the hem of His robe received complete healing. No words spoken. No conversations had. No details shared. A single touch and wholeness was restored.

But Jesus Himself had said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). He came to restore the spiritually sick to wholeness. He came to bring healing, but not of the physical kind. He came to heal the broken souls of men and restore them to a right relationship with His Father. He came to redeem mankind out of slavery to sin and offer Himself as the payment for the penalty they owed to God as rebellious sinners. Many, if not most, of the people who received physical healing from Jesus would go on to reject Him as their Lord and Savior. They would end up mocking Him as He hung on the cross. They had gotten from Him all that they really wanted from Him. They were well physically, and that was all that mattered to them. But Jesus came to give us so much more. He came to give us eternal life, not just a temporary fix to our physical lives. Those very same people would inevitably get sick again. They would all end up dying at some point. And while they had touched the hem of His robe and received healing, what they had really needed was Jesus to touch their hearts and give them new life. Perhaps many of these same people came to faith in Jesus after His resurrection. They may have been there that day at Pentecost when the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, “began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (Acts 2:4 NLT). They could have been in the crowd when Peter spoke, and said, “each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38 NLT). And “those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day – about 3,000 in all” (Acts 2:41 NLT). Surely, there were some who had received healing from Jesus who eventually received salvation from Jesus. But there were others who were probably content with what they had. Jesus came to provide so much more. The healing He offers is eternal, not temporary. The touch He offers is meant to heal the soul, not just the body. Anyone could reach out and touch His robe and receive physical healing. But only Jesus can touch a heart and provide salvation for the soul.

Father, thank You sending Your Son to touch me. When I wasn’t even able to see my own sin and admit my own need, He mercifully and graciously touched me and showed me my need and offered me His solution. I am eternally grateful. Thank You for healing me from the inside out. Thank You for the assurance, that while this body is prone to disease and decay, my soul is whole and my future is secure in You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Day 56 – John 6:15-21

The Storms of Life.

John 6:15-21

“Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough.” – John 6:18 NLT

John’s account of this event is short and sweet. He leaves out a lot of the details that Matthew and Mark provide. He simply tells us that the disciples, having waited for Jesus, went ahead and started to sail back across the Lake. According to Mark’s account, Jesus had insisted that the disciples go ahead and return to Bethsaida, on the other side of the lake. Jesus had intended to get away by Himself for some time in prayer. But it would appear that the disciples decided to wait for Jesus. When it became dark, they finally did what Jesus had told them to do. About halfway across the lake, a sudden storm blew in. They had been here before. But this time Jesus was not with them. While several of the disciples were seasoned fishermen, the majority of them were landlubbers. They were out of their element and way out of their comfort zone. They were at the mercy of the waves and the wind. There was little they could do about it but continue to row and try to make shore.

In the midst of all the chaos and confusion, there suddenly appeared a form moving across the surface of the water. With the blowing mist and the darkness, it was difficult to make out what it was. But it appeared to look like a man walking on the water. The very sight of it terrified them. Their fear of the storm was replaced by the fear of this apparition. Little did they know at the time that it was Jesus. According to Mark, Jesus had seen their predicament while standing on the shore. This in itself is a miracle, because they were three or four miles away and it was dark. But Jesus saw the clearly. And Mark says, “He saw that that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard, and struggling against the wind and the waves” (Mark 6:48 NLT). Jesus saw what was happening. So what did He do? “Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost” (Mark 6:48-49 NLT). This is an important point. Jesus intended to go past them or pass them by. But John says, “suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat” (John 6:19 NLT). It seems that Jesus had every intention of them seeing Him. He wanted them to see and sense His presence in the middle of the storm. He could have calmed the storm while standing on the shore. But instead, He literally walked out to them in the midst of the storm. He was in the storm with them. And He was in a seemingly worse spot than they were – He had no boat!

Jesus called out to the disciples over the wind and the crashing waves. He said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” (John 6:20 NLT). I think it’s interesting that He didn’t say, “Waves be still! Wind be calm!” He didn’t speak to the storm. No, He spoke to the disciples. And He assured them of His presence. He was right there with them. He was in the middle of their storm. If He could walk on the waters of their storm, certainly they could row over them to safety. But that wasn’t enough for the disciples. John tells us that “they were eager to let him in the boat” (John 6:21 NLT). They wanted Jesus in the boat with them. And I think they also wanted Him to calm the storm around them. But we have to remember that Jesus had seen their situation from a distance. He knew what was happening. And He didn’t seem shocked or overly concerned. They were three to four miles away and Jesus decided to walk that distance to them. We don’t know how long it took. But it does not appear that He was in any rush. He didn’t suddenly appear to them. He didn’t just show up in the boat. He walked to them. He saw their circumstances and then calmly revealed Himself in the midst of them.

There is nothing that happens in our lives that Jesus is not fully aware of. As God, He can see everything. And there is never a point in time that He is caught off guard or shocked by the circumstances and storms of our lives. Not only does He see, but He shows up. At just the right time. And He tells us, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” There is no storm great enough to keep Him away. He simply walks into our situation and shows Himself to us. Smack dab in the middle of the storm. There were going to be other storms for the disciples. Their lives were going to be filled with dark and difficult days. Jesus had already told them, “But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with ships in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers” (Matthew 10:17-18 NLT). The storms were coming. But Jesus would be with them. He was not going to abandon them. And we have that same assurance today. We are not promised a storm-free life, but we are promised the presence and power of Christ. He will never leave us or forsake us. And He will always show up in the difficult times. He will reveal Himself to us. And we will see Him if we look for Him.

Father, thank You for the constant abiding presence of Jesus in my life. Forgive me for the many times I allow the storms of my life to convince me that He is nowhere to be found. But nothing could be farther from the truth. He is there. He is always there. And that constant presence should provide me with overwhelming peace – even in the middle of the storms of life. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 55 – Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52

Here We Go Again.

Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52

“They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.” – Mark 6:51-52 NLT

After all the leftovers had been picked up after the feeding of the 5000 and the crowds had been sent home, Jesus told the disciples to head back across the Sea of Galilee to the town of Bethsaida. After spending some time alone in prayer, He would meet them there. This out to bring to mind another recent trip across this same lake. That time Jesus was with them and a storm blew in unexpectedly, catching them in the middle of the lake. The disciples thought they were going to drown, but Jesus was asleep in the boat. They woke Him up and He calmed the storm. They were blown away at what they had seen. And it was all about to happen again. But this time, they were alone. Jesus was not with them. They had seen a lot happen between these two events. They had witnessed the healings of the demoniac and the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus’ daughter being brought back to life, and they had been given power and authority to perform the very same kind of miracles themselves. And just a few hours before, they had witnessed Jesus feed thousands of people with just a few loaves and fishes.

Now they were in a boat in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. I’m sure they were thinking, “This can’t be happening again!” And even if their faith did kick in and they remembered how Jesus had saved them the first time, they had to worry about the fact that He wasn’t asleep in the boat this time. He was nowhere to be found. Evidently, this storm was not as bad as the first., but they were having to work hard to row against the wind and waves. Jesus sees them from the shore. Mark tells us that He began to walk on the water, but had every intention of walking right past them on His way to the opposite side. He wasn’t heading their way in order to save them. He must have known they were safe and would make it to the shore eventually.

It was dark, rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was blowing hard. The sudden appearance of what appeared to be a man walking on top of the water unnerved them. They were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus calmed their fears. He spoke to them. He even invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk out to meet Him on the water. Which Peter did, until he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the waves and wind. Then he sank. But Jesus rescued him and they both make it safely to the boat. Much has been made about Peter’s adventure of walking on the water. But it’s interesting that neither Mark or John record that part of the story. Their main emphasis is on Jesus, words. “Don’t be afraid. Take courage! I am here!” (Mark 6:50 NLT). And Mark makes note of a special point of interest. He tells that when Jesus climbed into the boat and the waves immediately stopped, that the disciples were totally amazed. Matthew records that “the disciples worshiped him” (Matthew 14:33 NLT) and said that He must really be the Son of God. But Mark simply says, “They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracles of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in” (Mark 6:51-52 NLT). Those two accounts seem to be in contradiction to one another. Did they worship or did they doubt?

The real point of this story seems to be their surprise. They were totally amazed at what they had seen. Mark makes mention of the miracle of the loaves. But this was just the most recent miracle they had witnessed. These men had seen Jesus heal the demoniac and the woman with the issue of blood. They had even personally done some of the same things when Jesus gave them power and authority to do so. They had watched as Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. And not too many days prior to this one, they had watched as Jesus calmed the storm on the very same lake with just a word from His mouth. And yet, they were shocked and surprised at seeing Jesus walk on water. I think they did worship Him. I think they did say, “You really are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33 NLT). But it was all after the fact. It was as a result of what He had just done. It seems that their hearts had not grasped the significance of all that had happened up until that point. They did not anticipate or eagerly expect Jesus to do the miraculous, but seemed to be surprised each time He did something out of the ordinary. Their worship was retroactive not anticipatory. It is interesting to note that Jairus came to Jesus expecting Him to heal his daughter. The woman with the issue of blood anticipated something miraculous happening if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. The crowds flocked to Jesus expecting Him to heal the sick. Yet the disciples were blown away each and every time Jesus did something unexpected or extraordinary.

And we can be guilty of the same thing. Too often we fail to anticipate or expect the miraculous from Jesus. We call Him our Lord and Savior. We acknowledge Him as the Son of God. But we don’t eagerly expect Him to do the unexpected in our lives. As a matter of fact, we are usually surprised when He does – pleasantly so. But a true understanding of who Jesus is anticipates the miraculous. Rather than being surprised by the power of Jesus, a person of faith expects and anticipates it. He looks for it. This was the problem with the disciples. They were still living with doubt and fear. When the storm came up, they didn’t expect a miracle, even though they had already seen Jesus do something before. When Jesus came to them walking on the water, they were shocked. They had failed to learn the lesson of the loaves. Jesus is not limited by anything. As the Son of God, He had power over demons, disease, and nature. He even had power over the molecular structure of bread and fish. Nothing was impossible for Him. So expect Him to do the impossible.

Father, Your Son should not surprise us. His power should not catch us off guard or shock us. We should eagerly anticipate it and expect it as a normal part of a life lived with the Son of God. May our worship be anticipatory, not retroactive. May we live looking forward to what Your Son will do, not just worshiping what He has done. Help us to live expectantly. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 54 – John 6:1-14

A Lesson In Limitlessness.

John 6:1-14

“Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’” – John 6:5 NLT

John gives us a unique insight into this familiar story. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that as the day grew late, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to send the crowds away. It was getting close to dinner time and they would have to find someplace to eat. John gives us the added insight that “it was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration” (Luke 6:4 NLT). Which means that there were more people in this vicinity as Jews were making the long trek to Jerusalem for Passover. So that explains why the disciples mentioned the crowds having to find somewhere to buy food rather than simply return to their own homes. Many of these people would have been pilgrims, just passing through on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Inns were few and far between. There would have been few places to eat or sleep. This only intensifies the need of the moment.

At some point, Jesus turns to Philip and asks, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (John 6:5 NLT). We’re not told why Jesus singled out Philip, but it was probably because he was from the town of Capernaum, which was about nine miles from where they were standing. He would have known all the towns and villages in the area. Interestingly enough, Philip’s response didn’t bring up the fact that there weren’t enough places around there to buy food. Instead, he pointed out that their real problem was a lack of resources. They didn’t have enough money to buy the food to feed that many people. So he simply responded, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (Luke 6:7 NLT). We don’t know why the other Gospel writers didn’t record this exchange. It may have been that Jesus did it in private and only John was there to overhear it. John had a unique relationship with Jesus and always seemed to be at His side. So he could have been there when Jesus had this conversation with Philip. But we’re told that Jesus was simply testing Philip, to see what he would say and do, given the circumstances. Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Remember, the disciples had just returned from their short-term mission trip where they had experienced first-hand the power and authority given to them by Jesus. They had cast out demons and healed all kinds of diseases. Now they found themselves facing a new kind of problem, a different kind of need. How would they respond? What would they do?

Philips response is totally normal and natural, but it reveals a limited perspective. He was judging their capacity to solve the problem based on human and physical limits. There were too many people and not enough money. Case closed. The need outweighed their resources. Even when they found a young boy with five barley loaves and two small fish, Andrew said, “What good is that with this huge crowd?” (Luke 6:9 NLT). They had limited resources. But Jesus was about to show them new way of looking at things. He was going to change their perspective by taking what little they had and doing much with it. The real lesson was going to be that nothing can limit God. Jesus had everyone sit down. We don’t know the exact number of people, but chances are, if there were 5,000 men alone, there were probably at least an additional 5,000 women and children present. So at minimum, there were 10,000 plus people in the crowd that day. Jesus took the fives loaves and the two fish, gave thanks to God, then began breaking them apart, giving them to the disciples to distribute among the people. “And they all ate as much as they wanted” (Luke 6:11 NLT). John tells us that Jesus did not stop until everyone was completely full and satisfied. This was not a case of careful rationing of what they had. It was a miraculous multiplying of what appeared to be not enough. Jesus used the limitless power of God to produce a limitless supply of food. Nobody went without. And nothing was wasted. Jesus had the disciples pick up what was not eaten and there were twelve baskets filled with the leftover scraps the people didn’t eat. No money was used to solve this problem. There was no pooling of resources in order to produce a solution. Surely the disciples could have come up with a plan to take up an offering and then use that money to go and buy food for the people. And if they had succeeded, they would have taken credit for having solved the problem on their own. But Jesus wasn’t really interested in how or what they could do. He was trying to get them to understand that God solves human problems by heavenly means. I have to believe that there was subtle message from Jesus to the disciples in all of this. He was breaking bread and handing it to the disciples, who then passed it out among the people. The day was coming when Jesus, the Bread of Life, would be broken on a Roman cross, and the disciples would be tasked with passing on the message of His death and resurrection to people in need all around the world. And the day right after this event happened, Jesus would say, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 NLT). The people responded by asking Jesus to give them some of this bread. To which He replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT). Jesus would go on to tell them, “Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh” (John 6:48-51 NLT).

The real message on the hillside that day wasn’t just about Jesus being able to miraculously feed thousands of people with next to nothing at His disposal. It was about something far greater and more important. The people who ate the food that day would have been hungry again in just a few hours. Their satisfaction would only have lasted a little while. They were amazed at Jesus had done and wanted to crown Him king right then and there. But they had yet to eat of the Bread of Life. They were still spiritually needy and condemned by their own sin. But not long from this moment, the disciples would be handing out a new form of sustenance and salvation that would have the potential to change the lives of these people forever. Jesus would give His life so that others may live. He would be broken so that others might be healed. He would suffer so that others would not have to. That’s the real message behind the miracle. We can’t save ourselves. Our resources are limited. But God has a plan to meet our need, and His name is Jesus.

Father, thank You Jesus. Thank You for providing a solution to my problem. My sin was great, but Your solution was greater. You provided a way to satisfy my spiritual hunger and give me life when I was faced with certain death. Never let me lose sight of the real message of this story. It isn’t about bread and fishes, but about the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ – the only answer to the spiritual hunger of the world. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 53 – Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17

You Feed Them.

Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17

“Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.’” – Mark  6:35-36 NLT

This is a very familiar story for most of us. But most of us don’t know its context. Over the years it has become an isolated event – a Sunday School story – floating on its own, somehow removed from the timeline of Jesus’ life and isolated from the immediate context of all that was going on both before and after. But in reading and studying the Scriptures, context is critical, especially when studying the life of Jesus. The context surrounding this event is that Jesus had just recently received news of the death of John the Baptist. As a result, He had spent some time alone in mourning while His disciples were away on their first official assignment. He had sent them out “two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits” (Mark 6:7 NLT). Luke tells us that Jesus had given them “power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases” (Luke 9:1 NLT). They had returned fired up and excited to tell Jesus  all the wonderful things they had done. Their faith should have been at an all-time high. Jesus attempts to get them away for a little R&R, but the next thing they all know, the crowds have found them once again. There were so many of them, Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus felt compassion for them “because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34 NLT).

But as the day got late, the disciples, still worn out from their short-term mission trip, came to Jesus and told Jesus, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat” (Mark 6:35-36 NLT). They were tired and hungry. They were also probably a little sick and tired of the constant presence and pressure of the crowds. This would have looked like a good time for Jesus to get rid of them. It was dinner time. But instead of sending the crowds away, He turned to the disciples and simply said, “You feed them.” Now this is where context becomes important. They had just returned from an assignment given to them by Jesus where they personally experienced the power and authority of God in their lives. They had been able to cast out demons – just like Jesus. They had been able to heal all kinds of diseases – just like Jesus. But when faced with this statement from the lips of Jesus, they didn’t know what to do. And I have to think that part of their problem was that, while they had experienced the power and authority of Jesus, they still did not have the mind of Jesus. They did not yet have the heart of Jesus. When Jesus looked at the crowds, He felt compassion. When the disciples looked at the crowds, they saw a problem. Jesus saw an opportunity. They saw an impossibility. Just look at their response. “‘With what?’ they asked. ‘We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!’” (Mark 6:37 NLT). Remember, they had been given power and authority. Their capabilities were limitless. It was their imaginations that posed the problem. In their minds, what Jesus was asking them to do was impossible and illogical. It made no sense. It was out of the question.

But Jesus simply responded, “How much bread to you have? Go find out.” (Mark 6:38 NLT). Reluctantly and without much confidence, they did as they were asked and returned with the bad news that they only have five loaves of bread and two fishes. Their doubts were confirmed. Not enough food for so many people. They had been right all along. Jesus was going to have to send the people away to find food somewhere else. But instead, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson. He would show them how He sees things. He would reveal to them His though process when confronted with what appear to be insurmountable odds. Jesus took what little they had and did something unbelievable. He used His God-given power and authority to meet a need. He fed the hungry, rather than send them away. He provided for their need, rather than demand that they fend for themselves. And what is important is that Jesus used the disciples as the means by which He distributed the food to the people. They became the conduits of blessing as they took the fish and the bread from the hands of Jesus and distributed it among the crowds. They would have had to have looked at all those faces. They would have seen their hunger and heard their words of thanks and amazement. And they would have noticed that every single person had more than enough to eat, including themselves. And surely it’s no coincidence that there were exactly 12 baskets of food left over when it was all said and done.

When I read this story, I can’t help but think about the words of Paul: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT). We must have the mind of Christ, the attitude of Christ. Paul goes on to describe Jesus’ humility and servant’s spirit. Jesus loved others to the point of death. In his famous “love chapter” Paul reminds us “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT). The disciples had experienced the power and authority that Jesus possessed. But they still lacked love. They did not yet share the heart of Jesus. To be able to cast out demons and heal all manner of diseases would be wasted if it could not be done with love. Jesus did all that He did out of love. He was motivated by love. He was empowered by love. He fed the 5,000 because of love. He died because of love. Before we long to experience the power of Christ, we must learn to love like Christ.

Father, thank You for the lives of the disciples. We are so much like them. Their transparency is refreshing, because it reminds me of how often I can lose sight of what makes Your heart beat fast. Continue to teach me to have the same attitude that Jesus has. May I grow more and more in my love for others. May humility and servanthood mark my life more and more. Help me to view the world and others through the eyes of Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 52 – Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9

Bad News and Good News.

Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9

“As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.” – Matthew 14:13 NLT

Over the centuries, the spread of the Good News has not been without its share of difficulties, setbacks and even tragic losses. From the very beginning there have been costs involved in following Christ and spreading His message of salvation through faith in Him alone. Once Christ rose again and returned to heaven, even the disciples suffered greatly as they took over the responsibility of disseminating the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. In fact, Jesus had just warned them of this reality right before He had sent them out on their first official missionary journey. “But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues” (Matthew 10:17 NLT). He had told them that they would be arrested and tried for being His followers. There would be those who would want to kill them. And many of the disciples would end up dying as martyrs at the hands of those who stood opposed to Jesus. The Gospel is costly. Living for Christ in the midst of a world that despised and hates us is dangerous. And it has been that way from the beginning.

John the Baptist was the first martyr for the cause when he was beheaded by Herod. John had had the audacity to stand up to this powerful leader and call him to account regarding his immoral relationship with Herodias. She was actually his brother’s wife and Herod had stolen her from him. John had warned him against marrying her because it was in violation of God’s law. John’s message was not received well, and it ended up costing him his life. This faithful servant of God was brutally murdered by a corrupt political figure whose life provided a vivid and stark contrast to that of John. It seems so unfair. It doesn’t make sense. Why should someone so gifted and obviously called by God, be snuffed out in the prime of his life. Yet Herod would continue to live a life of luxury and moral license. But this pattern has been painfully repeated over the centuries with the deaths of men like Steven recorded in the early chapters of the book of Acts. And there have been countless others who have suffered and died as a result of their faithfulness to the call of Christ – men like David Brainerd, William Tyndale, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jim Elliot. Even the apostle Paul would eventually die a martyrs death, having spent most of his ministry life imprisoned and persecuted for his faith. And it was a reality he willingly, if not eagerly, embraced. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (1 Timothy 4:6-7 NLT).

When Jesus received word that John the Baptist had been executed by Herod, He had to get away by Himself, so He went by boat to a remote area. We’re not told what He did there, but I have to believe that Jesus spent time in mourning over the death of His cousin and ministry partner, but also in prayer, asking His Father for wisdom, strength, and perseverance to finish the race strong, just as Paul had desired. It is interesting to note that Jesus would have been without the disciples at this point, having just sent them all out on mission. So He would have been entirely alone when the news of John’s death arrived. Jesus would not have taken the news lightly. I am sure His heart was saddened, but He also would have been fully at peace with His Father’s plan and the timing of it all. I am sure when the disciples returned and heard the news, they were probably just as upset, but also confused by the events surrounding John’s death. They would have had questions and concerns, and raised issues regarding the fairness of it all – just as we would do today. They would have had no idea that a similar fate was awaiting many of them in the not-too-distant future. This was just the opening salvo of a deadly and dangerous spiritual war that is still going on today. Around the world, there are those who are still dying for their faith in Christ. The enemy is still attempting to stop the cause of Christ by attacking the followers of Christ. As Jesus Himself told us, his objective is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10 NLT). He is vicious and relentless. He is obsessed with the thwarting of God’s purposes and the destruction of God’s people. But we have a Savior, and He has a plan. His redemptive work is not yet complete. His victory is assured, but the battle still wages on. We must remain steadfast and faithful. We must trust in His purposes and rest in His plan for us. It will not always make sense. It will not always appear fair. But God is faithful. He knows what He is doing. We can trust Him. And we can rest in this timeless truth given to us by John: “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4 NLT).

Father, keep our eyes focused on You. Don’t let us lose hope in the midst of the seeming victories of the enemy. When we see a brother suffer or fall, keep us trusting in Your perfect plan. You never take Your eyes off of us. Your never stop loving us. You are faithful, true, and completely trustworthy. There will be bad news as we continue to spread the Good News. There will be martyr. There will be sufferers. But the battle is won. The victory is assured. The end is already determined. Help me to rest in that reality. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 51 – Matthew 9:35-11:1; Mark 6:6-13; Luke 9:1-6

Not Your Typical Pep Talk.

Matthew 9:35-11:1; Mark 6:6-13; Luke 9:1-6

“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” – Matthew 10:38-39 NLT

We tend to read the Scriptures from a been-there-done-that perspective. In other words, we know how the story ends, so we allow our knowledge of the ultimate outcome to influence how we read certain passages. The one for today is a perfect case in point. Here is Jesus getting ready to send out the twelve disciples on their first official short-term mission trip. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all three record this event, but Matthew includes quite a bit more detail. It all comes across as kind of a dry run, an attempt to prepare the disciples for what is going to be coming later in their lives after Jesus has returned to heaven. He sends them out to do ministry on their own, but Luke tells us He “gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases” (Luke 9:1 NLT). This is significant, because the Holy Spirit had not been given yet. That would not happen until after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. So Jesus gave them temporary filling of power to make their ministry trip possible.

But back to our tendency to allow hindsight to influence our reading of Scripture. Imagine the fear the disciples must have felt as Jesus informed them that they were going to be doing ministry on their own for a while. Up until this point, they had been silent spectators, watching Jesus preach, teach, heal and cast out demons. They had seen the growing animosity of the religious leaders and knew that not everyone liked Jesus or agreed with His message. So there had to be some real apprehension in their hearts as Jesus sent them out two by two. And then Matthew adds the little pep talk that Jesus gave them right before they left. This is where we need to put aside our knowledge of how things are going to turn out and get into the minds of the disciples for a minute. How would they have received this little talk from Jesus? How would His words have come across to them? They didn’t know how the story would end. All of them were still expecting Jesus, as the Messiah, to set up His kingdom on earth just like they had always been taught. They are not even remotely thinking about Jesus having to die. Having to watch Him be crucified is not something they would even remotely consider. So when Jesus drops this bombshell on them, it had to have left them shaken.

It starts out fairly easy, with Jesus giving them marching instructions as to where and how they were to minister. He gave them specific details and told them they were to “go and announce the kingdom to them that the Kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8 NLT). Pretty heady stuff. Scary, but exciting too. Then Jesus gives them some news that had to have been sobering and a bit shocking. He tells them to beware! They are going to be arrested, flogged and stand trial for being one of His followers. What? Really? Are you kidding me? I can see the disciples looking around at each other as Jesus dropped this news on them. Their eyes are wide. Their mouths are slack-jawed. Their hearts are pounding in their chests. But Jesus is not done. He tells them that brothers will betray brothers and children will rebel against their parents, resulting in the death of their parents. All as a result of their relationship with Jesus. On top of that, every nation will hate the disciples because of their belief in Jesus. He talks of persecution. He mentions those who will want to kill their bodies. Then Jesus tells them that those who choose to deny Him on earth, He will deny before His Father in heaven. Finally, Jesus wraps it all up with the statement that we have all grown so familiar with that it doesn’t have much impact on us anymore. But it had to have hit the disciples like a bag of bricks that day. Jesus tells them, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 NLT). Remember, the cross is not on their radar screen at this point. They are thinking kingdom, not crucifixion. They are thinking glory, not Golgotha. They are dreaming of Jesus as a king with a crown, not dying like a criminal on a cruel Roman cross. So when they hear Jesus tell them that they are to take up their own cross and follow Him, it had to have sent ripples of confusion and fear through their hearts. When Jesus finished, it had to have been extremely difficult for them to take that first step on their new assignment. They had to have been expecting any and all of what Jesus had said to happen at any moment. They were probably thinking arrests and floggings awaited them around every corner. Sure, Jesus had told them to see all of this as an “opportunity” to tell the rulers and unbelievers about Him. He had told them they would receive just the right words to say at just the right time – straight from God Himself. He had told them not to fear because God valued them greatly. But their hearts had to be filled with fear as they walked away from Jesus that day and entered into the unknown.

But what do we know? We know that Jesus was telling them about future events. All that He said would eventually happen, but it would only be after He had died and been raised again. These events would take place after Jesus returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit had come to permanently indwell His followers. What the disciples would experience in the days immediately following this “pep talk” from Jesus would leave them excited, pumped and relieved that none of the negative things Jesus had warned them about had happened. They would cast out demons and heal the sick. They would display incredible power and become celebrities in their own rights. But Jesus is trying to tell them that the real test will come when He is gone. The real battle will begin when He leaves and the Holy Spirit comes. The real work will begin when He has returned to His place at the right hand of His Father in heaven. We know the rest of the story. They didn’t. But even though we know how the story ends, we still have a hard time reading this passage and understanding that much of it applies to us as well. He expects us to take up our cross daily as well. He demands us to stop clinging to our lives as we want them to be and give up our lives for Him. We are to acknowledge Him publicly here in earth. We are to tell “rulers and other unbelievers” about Him. We are to fear God only, and not men. We are to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say. We are to be shrewd and snakes and harmless as doves, knowing that we are like sheep among wolves, living in a hostile environment, where every nation hates us because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. When the disciples heard this news from Jesus, they went out. Fearful, but faithful. We have heard the same message. But what has our response been? Do we even think it applies to us. “So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God” (Mark 6:12 NLT). What will you do?

Father, I still struggle with taking up my cross daily and following You, and I know how the story ends. I want to cling to my life and live it on my own terms. I want to live in safety, easy, and comfort. I don’t want to be hated, disliked, persecuted, or despised for my faith. I tend to fear men more than I fear You. I doubt Your power even though I know I have it available to me 24/7 in the form of the Holy Spirit. I know what the disciples ended up doing. I am fully aware that they experienced all the things Jesus warned them about, and yet they remained faithful. I want to do the same. Give me the strength to go out and tell, in spite of my fears. Strengthen my faith Father. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 50 – Matthew 9:27-34, 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6

Too Close For Comfort.

Matthew 9:27-34, 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6

“Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers — James, Joseph,Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?’ And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” – Matthew 13:55-57 NLT

Jesus was on a roll. The crowds keeping coming and the miracles just kept happening. The woman with a 12-year old health problem was healed just by touching His robe. Jairus, the synagogue leader, had his recently deceased daughter brought back to life by a word and a touch from Jesus. Two blind men received their sight. A man possessed by a demon and, as a result, mute, was given back his freedom and the ability to speak. The crowds were amazed, saying, “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” (Matthew 9:32 NLT). But the Pharisees, increasingly desperate to discredit Jesus, attributed His power to Satan.

After all these events, Jesus returned to Nazareth, His hometown. It was quite a journey away from Capernaum, but news regarding all of Jesus exploits had preceded Him. Upon arrival, He made His way to the local synagogue where He taught. His neighbors were amazed at what they heard and wondered among themselves, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (Matthew 13:34 NLT). Their problem was that they had known Jesus since He was a little boy. They knew His family. He was intimately familiar to them. His reputation for performing miracles, His growing fame, and His “sudden” increase in intelligence and wisdom didn’t seem to gel with their memory of the common carpenter’s son they had grown used to. They had grown too close for comfort. “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers — James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” (Matthew 13:55-56 NLT). They thought they knew all there was to know about Jesus. But their intimacy had produced a certain spiritual incapacity. They couldn’t see past their own preconceptions. They had become as blind as the two men who had begged Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matthew 9:27 NLT). But unlike those two desperate men, the people of Nazareth couldn’t see their own need or recognize their own Savior. Their preconceived notions of who Jesus was kept them from seeing Jesus the Messiah. Rather than be drawn to Him, they were offended by Him. And their reaction to Him diminished their experience of Him. Matthew tells us Jesus did “few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58 NLT).

They were so close, yet so far. They thought they knew Jesus, but they really didn’t know Him at all. And the same could be said for so many who call themselves Christ-followers today. Raised on a steady diet of Bible stories and simplistic images of Jesus that seem to come straight out of a children’s picture Bible, far too many Christians today have an incomplete and one-dimensional view of Jesus. They know about Him. But they fail to recognize His power and see Him for who He really is. When Jesus does not comfortably fit into their preconceived notions of who He is and how He should act, they begin to doubt. And in doing so, they limit His power in their lives. And so He does only a few miracles there because of their unbelief. Familiarity really does breed contempt. Just when we think we have  Jesus figured out, we run the danger of missing out on His power in our lives. He cannot and will not be boxed in by our desire for familiarity and easy explicability. The people of Nazareth thought they knew Him, but they ended up too close for comfort. They would miss out on His power. They wouldn’t get to witness His miracles. Their blind would remain so. The sick among them would never feel His healing touch. Their ears would no longer hear His words of wisdom. All because they thought they knew Him.

Father, it is so easy to become so familiar with Jesus that we miss out on the power He offers. Don’t let the stories of His life become old and so familiar that we miss out on who He really is. Don’t allow us to put Him in a box and attempt to limit Him by our own ability to explain Him. May Jesus continue to be revolutionary in our lives. May we continue to be surprised by His power, blown away by His grace, transformed by His presence, and shocked by His love for us. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org