Jesus withers the Fig Tree on the road from Bethany

The Miracles of Jesus

March 30, 2021

Jesus withers the Fig Tree on the road from Bethany

Matthew 21:18-22

“I was brought up in an environment where a lot of swearing occurred. My family swore quite a bit. When I was a teen, I worked for my Dad during the summer. He owned a plastering and drywall company. At work, I seemed always to be surrounded by people who cursed. In later years, when I worked in the retail food industry, we also used extremely flowery language. Charles Colton said, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” I don’t believe that he meant swearing like a sailor in a bar on a Saturday night was something we should imitate.”


“The swearing was more often than not, not spoken in anger, but as I often say, “We swore like people use the word ‘the.'” Unfortunately, I can also remember many times when I swore in front of people. They would back away and shun me because of my foul language. There were times when curse words did get spoken in anger, and I often paid the price, including getting hit on several occasions because of a verbal outburst on my part.”

(Copied from my book, “Adventures in Youth Ministry.”

Chapter nine, “Language, please watch it”)

Today’s devotion immediately follows Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. On the surface, you might think His cursing of the fig tree was out of anger. Or from frustration from what had occurred in the temple. It’s not.

“In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. [

And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, 

“Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree but even if you say to this mountain. ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith.”

Some fig trees do produce figs before their leaves grow out. Other fig trees figs grow at the base of the leaves. Either way, the fig tree Jesus encountered was full of leaves but was not producing fruit.

He used the tree as an example of the temple and people not producing fruit. Jesus and His disciples had just left the temple, and it (God’s house) was not performing the way it should. People were cheating others when exchanging money. Even the temple Priests had the last say about whether or not your animal sacrifice was good enough. Many times, they turned animals away that were “blemish,” free and suitable for sacrifice. This forced people to purchase animal sacrifices at the temple, which the temple priests got a cut of. The temple was not being used as a house to worship God. It had become a place of sin and profit in many ways.

Jesus also expects us, as Christians, to bear fruit. We are not only to grow in the faith and God’s Word, but we are expected to spread the Gospel to others. Jesus also has told us to bear fruit by serving others as He did. (Remember the washing of the disciple’s feet?)

Finally, Jesus tells the disciples and us how powerful prayer is.

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith.”

Without faith, prayer is an empty gesture. We pray to God the Father and His Son Jesus because we believe. We believe God created the world. We believe God sent His only Son to save us from sin. And we believe that God’s Holy Spirit was sent a Pentecost and enters us through the waters of baptism to be our guide and counselor throughout our life.

When we pray in faith to Jesus, we’re telling Him, “I believe,” in (everything I just said in the paragraph above). We believe that He, Jesus, can and will answer our prayers. Perhaps our prayers won’t be answered the way we expect or the way we want. And, they may not be answered in the timeline you and I hope for. But rest assured through repentance, faith, and prayer, they will be answered.

Dear Lord. Please forgive us for the times we curse and get angry in an unrighteous way. For this, we are genuinely sorry. We would also like to thank you for prayers answered and the many blessings we receive each day. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Jesus restores the sight of Bartimaeus in Jericho

The Miracles of Jesus

March 29, 2021

Jesus restores the sight of Bartimaeus in Jericho

Mark 10:46-52

In 1995 a Christian music group by the name of “The KRY” came out with the song “Blind Man” (show me the way.)

Below is the first verse and chorus:

“The blind man stood by the road, and he cried
he cried, oh, oh, oh

Show me the way
The way to go home.”

In just a few lines, they communicated the essence of today’s devotion.

“And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” 

And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 

And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”

This miracle doesn’t seem much different than any of the others Jesus had performed. But there are one or two points you could easily miss.

Bartimaeus was the first person to be healed by Jesus to address Him as, ‘Son of David”. This title was understood by those who knew their old testament prophesy as the title given to the Messiah, the savior of the world.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 is one of the places in the Old Testament you find a reference to the Messiah coming from the line of David.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:5-6

When Jesus healed Bartimaeus:

“Go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

He knew that Bartimaeus understood that He (Jesus) was the promised Messiah. Bartimaeus’ faith in Jesus and who He was, allowed him to be healed.

Finally, the last statement of this passage tells us even more about what Bartimaeus was.

“And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”

Bartimaeus was a follower of Jesus. The passage says after he received his sight, He followed Jesus. And, He followed Him as a Christian. The last two words, the way, are an indication of Bartimaeus’ beliefs and faith.

“The Way” was what modern-day Christianity was called 2000 years ago. Jesus had healed Bartimaeus, and because of his faith, as the song says, He showed him the way home.

Dear Jesus. You have given me so many blessings, yet there are times in my life my faith is weak. Help me to be more like Bartimaeus. He had a robust and unwavering faith. Even in His blindness, he saw that you are the way, the truth, and the light. Amen.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

The Miracles of Jesus

March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:28-44

Parades are fun to watch. I generally watch Macy’s Thanksgiving parade every year. But, my favorite is the parade at Disney World the day after the Superbowl.

You know the story. After the Superbowl is over, Disney grabs the winning quarterback and says, “Hey _______ (Patrick Mahomes above), you just won the Superbowl. What are you going to do next?” Then the quarterback looks into the camera and says, “I’m going to Disney World.” The very next day, that quarterback is at Disney World on a float, going down Main Street U.S.A., being cheered by adoring fans.

_________________________________________________________________

Jesus was also cheered during a parade, on what we call Palm Sunday. But He rode on a donkey, towards Jerusalem ,for a very different reason.

“And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, 

“Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 

So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, 

“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now, they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Allow me to highlight a few points from this passage for you.

  • Jesus’ followers who were praising Him and welcoming Him as He rode his colt towards the Mount of Olives were fulfilling a prophecy from Zechariah 9:9.
    • “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
    • That Prophesy was right on the money.
  • The people didn’t understand that Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom.
    • As we know, He came to die on the cross for everyone’s sins. His sacrifice will open the gates of eternity for everyone.
  • Unfortunately, the people of Jerusalem and the Pharisees were not looking for the Jesus brought to them love, caring, and peace. They were looking for a warrior King on a White Steed to lead them to victory over Roman rule.
  • And so, Jesus cried for Jerusalem. He knew what would happen in the not too distant future to His beloved city.
  • Jesus’s words, “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you because you did not know the time of your visitation,” were a prophecy.
  • Jesus was describing the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The city would fall because the people did not recognize who He was and what He was about to do for them. Sacrifice His life so that we may live.

Parades can be fun, like the ones at Disney World. But this parade on that first Palm Sunday was anything but fun. It announced Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem one last time. He was there to fulfill the prophet’s prophesy of a savior and save the world from itself.

Dear Jesus. Sometimes it seems it’s easier to believe in You and what you did for us on the cross because we live on this side of history. Help us to never forget your sacrifice. Thank you for giving us the opportunity for eternal life through your death and resurrection. Amen.

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

The Miracles of Jesus

March 27, 2021

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

John 11:1-45

As Christians, when we think of someone being raised from the dead, we generally think of Jesus. Although I’ve posted, and you’ve read devotions about Jesus raising people from the dead, this one is a bit unique.

In the Gospel of Luke 7:11-17, Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead. In Mark 5:21—24; 35-43, Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. In both incidents, Jesus miraculously brought people back to life He did not know intimately. In the case of Lazarus, Jesus raises a friend back from the dead.

There is much to be learned from this passage. Today, I would like to point out just several of the crucial things that were going on in this reading. As the Bible story is quite long, I’ll break up the lesson with my remarks and questions. (In blue)

(This is a bit longer than most of my devotions, take your time, I pray you learn some new things about Jesus and His miracles.)

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So, the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, 

“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

  • If you recognize Mary and Martha’s names, it’s because you’ve read or heard about them before.
    • This is the same Mary and Martha from Luke: 38-42. Jesus had visited their house with His disciples. While Martha was busy getting food ready, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while He taught. This raised the ire of Martha, who complained to Jesus. But, Jesus told her that Mary had made the correct choice in listening and learning.
  • The Mary referenced in this story is also the same Mary that John will mention in the next chapter of his Gospel, 12:3. She is the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this, he said to the disciples, 

“Let us go to Judea again.” 

  • The Greek word used for Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, is what we call Agape love. This term for the word love means more than saying your friends with someone.
    • “Agape is the godly love that understands those loved, cares for them, and acts in their favor.” (People’s Bible Commentary, John, Gary P. Baumler, Pp. 160.)

“The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, 

“Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 

The disciples said to him, “Lord if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, 

“Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 

So, Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

  • You’ll notice the disciples warning Jesus not to go back to Judea because the religious leaders wanted to kill Him.
  • Jesus’ answer is a bit abstract, but He’s telling Him, disciples, that His life will not end until the appointed time and not a moment before that.
  • When Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has merely fallen asleep, they take what He said literally.
    • But He then clarifies Himself. Lazarus is dead, and He is going to him to awaken him.
  • This moment with the disciple Thomas is much different than the one we know him most for. Here he shows his faith and asked the rest of the disciples to follow too, even if it meant death.
    • We generally equate Thomas with the scene after Christ’s death. And he does not believe Jesus is alive because he was not with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off. Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, 

“Your brother will rise again.”

 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

  • Martha approaches Jesus and His followers as they are approaching Bethany. She truly believes that if Jesus had gotten there earlier, her brother Lazarus would still be alive.
  • Martha believes that there is a resurrection after death.
    • The remarkable proclamation that comes from Martha’s lips are her following words.
      •  “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, 

“Where have you laid him?” 

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

  • Now Martha’s sister Mary comes to Jesus and reiterates what her sister had said.
    • She, too, believed that if Jesus had been there sooner, He could have healed her brother Lazarus.
  • When Jesus saw how she and the other woman were weeping, He wept too.
    • But Jesus’ weeping was different.
      • He was not wailing and carrying on. In Greek, His weeping is different. It’s a tear or two coming from His eye running down His cheek.
      • Was Jesus crying for His friend Lazarus? Yes. Perhaps there was a tear for all of those who didn’t believe. And, because they didn’t have faith, they would suffer eternal death.
      • And perhaps there was a tear, for how what was about to happen mirrored His own death and resurrection.
    •  

Jesus Raises Lazarus

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” 

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time, there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

 So, they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, 

“Lazarus, come out.”

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

  • I find Martha’s reaction interesting when Jesus tells people to “Take away the stone.” 
  • Jesus has a reputation for performing miracles, including raising people from the dead.
    • Instead of thinking about everything Jesus had done in the past and thinking to herself, “He has something huge planned here.”
      • She is more concerned about the condition of Lazarus’ body and the smell of decay.
  • Like me, I’m sure you’ve watched plenty of crime shows. Often there’s a scene when to detectives enter a home or apartment. When they walk into the dwelling, the two detectives look at each other, and inevitably one of them says, “Do you smell that?’
    • What there referring to is the smell of decaying flesh from a dead body.
  • But Jesus was not concerned about this at all.
    • Perhaps He had miraculously caused the body not to decay in advance. Or, when He told people to remove the stone and said, “Lazarus, come out,” Lazarus’ body was restored, thus no smell.
  • Finally, He gives instructions to have the burial cloths taken off of Lazarus and let him go.
    • Lazarus had been released from death’s sting. He was alive.
    • But Lazarus’ reprieve from death was temporary. He was still human, and someday he would die again.
  • Jesus’s death was coming soon, but His death was temporary
    • He would rise again in three day
    • He would and does live eternally
    • And because of what He did, we, too, have the hope of eternal life.

Dear Jesus. Thank you for all you have taught us from your many miracles. We especially thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for us. You died, so we may live. Amen

Only one returned

The Miracles of Jesus

Jesus heals 10 men of Leprosy

“Only one returned.”

March 26, 2021

Luke 5:12-15; Luke 17:11-19

(Some of today’s devotion is copied from the Family Bible study I wrote in August of 2020. In this devotion/study, I draw similarities and differences to the two separate healings of leprosy in Luke’s Gospel.)

Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. 

“I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 

And instantly, the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, 

“Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

“But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

Jesus heals 10 men of Leprosy

“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, 

“Go show yourselves to the priests. 

And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, 

“Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

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Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is a chronic, curable infectious disease, mainly causing skin lesions and nerve damage.

Leprosy is caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin, eyes, nose, and peripheral nerves.

Symptoms include light-colored or red skin patches with reduced sensation, numbness, and weakness in hands and feet.

Leprosy can be cured with 6-12 months of multi-drug therapy. Early treatment avoids disability.

But wait, there’s more!

Very rare

Fewer than 20,000 US cases per year

Treatable by a medical professional

Spreads by airborne droplets, does that sound familiar? (COVID 19)

Requires a medical diagnosis

Lab tests or imaging often required

Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong

(CDC.org)

In Jesus’ time, people with leprosy were shunned and made to live in colonies outside of the main cities. At that time, it was incurable, and you would eventually die from the disease.

Because of their disease, lepers were considered unclean. Only after being declared clean by a priest could a leper re-enter society once again.

Okay. That’s your history lesson for the day. I think it’s essential that you know what the disease was that Jesus cured.

Whether it was the one or ten lepers, everyone, including the disciples, probably would have backed away from the leper(s). So, for Jesus to come close to them, let alone touch one, was unthinkable.

Let’s go back to the two stories. Let’s begin with the ten lepers and their healing first, and we’ll make some comparisons to the account of the one leper as we go along.

We know from the story in Luke 5 that Jesus had cleaned a man of leprosy earlier in His ministry. This one man who was healed was probably a Jew. In this second healing of leprosy, Jesus heals not one but ten men who ask for mercy (pity).

So, Jesus sends them to the priests, and while they are traveling, all ten were healed. In the healing of the leper in Chapter 5, he was healed immediately.

We find out in the reading that one of the lepers is a Samaritan, a foreigner. It is presumed that the other nine lepers are Jews.

(Why do you think only one of the ten returned to say thank you and praise Jesus and that one was a Samaritan?)

(A little Samaritan background)

Jews generally looked upon Samaritans as “ethnic and religious half-breeds.” (Serendipity Bible)

The Samaritans were half-Jew, half-Gentile. The race came about after the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. Certain people from the nation of Israel stayed behind. These people intermarried with the Assyrians producing the Samaritans. They had no dealings with Jews. (Don Steward, Blue letter Bible).

In Luke 9, Jesus and His disciples were not welcomed by a Samaritan Village. Yet, one chapter later, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. In John 4, Jesus talks to the Woman at the well. She is a Samaritan, and after speaking to Him, she comes to faith in Christ. in our reading of the ten lepers, the one who comes back to Jesus and gives thanks is a Samaritan.

(What’s the point Jesus is trying to make concerning Samaritans?)

Jesus wants us to understand that the message of the Gospel goes beyond racial barriers; it breaks them down. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone.

(Do you believe this to be true?)

Our job as Christians is to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28). It seems like it’s so easy for us to do that. The church sends missionaries worldwide to do just that and spread the news of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the tricky part for many!

It seems to be much more difficult for many people (yes, even Americans) to bring and share the love of Christ’s Gospel with our own neighbors. The neighbors and people we encounter every day, who speak a different language, have a different skin color, different values, or customs than us.

(Why do you think this is so hard for us to do?)

A lone Samaritan leper comes back to Jesus and says, thank you. The nine Jews don’t. All people need to know the love that Jesus offers, no matter who or where they come from. We can give this message to others, not just through God’s Word but also through our actions. We all need to be better at showing and sharing the Fruits of the Spirit.

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is,
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatian 5:22-23)

Let me leave you with my favorite passage from the book of Matthew that I alluded to earlier. These are Jesus’ words, not mine!

Read them, understand them, live them!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Dear Jesus. You are The Great Physician. You continue to heal those who come to you with ailments in their prayers. Help us to be more like the 10th leper. We sometimes need to be reminded of all the beautiful things you do for us each and every day. Finally, we acknowledge that you came to save everyone and that our job is to go out into the world and share the Good News of the Gospel with everyone. Amen

Jesus heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath

The Miracles of Jesus

March 25, 2021

Jesus heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath

Luke 14:1-6

The Gospels speak of many ailments. We’ve read of the healings by Jesus of blindness, deafness, leprosy, bleeding, demon possession. In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus heals a man of dropsy.

Today we no longer call the ailment the man had dropsy; now, it’s referred to as Edema. Edema is a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the body’s cavities or tissues. Usually, this illness is connected with congestive heart failure, as well as liver or kidney failure.

“One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, 

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, 

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 

And they could not reply to these things.”

One has to wonder why a person with dropsy was at the home of a Pharisee. The passage notes that Jesus was being carefully watched. Perhaps the Pharisee invited the ailing man to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath. This would then result in Jesus being trapped and accused of not following the Sabbatical rules.

In his case, before healing the man, Jesus asks the Pharisees and experts of the law a question:

When Jesus healed the woman, who had been crippled for 18 years, He did not ask. He simply healed her.

But, if we look back at the miracle of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand, He asked the synagogue members a question.

When Jesus did ask a question about what was lawful on the Sabbath, He was never asking permission. Jesus was putting the religious leaders on the spot. Nevertheless, in each case, He always healed the ailing person.

In today’s devotion, Jesus’ follow-up question speaks to the heart of the matter concerning the Sabbath.

Jesus was trying to tell the religious leaders that love comes first. The Pharisees and religious leaders were concerned about following the letter of the law. Jesus emphasized that people’s well-being is more important than following the Sabbatical law to the letter.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow the commandments or rules in general. The regulations and laws are put in place for a reason. But, at the same time, we must put the well-being of others first.

Jesus said:

Serve others as Jesus did, and always put your neighbor’s best interests first.

Dear Jesus. Sometimes it’s very confusing. But you cleared away the clouds of confusion in our life through your teachings and death on the cross. Our priorities as Christians are to Love God and love people. Help us to follow your lead as we pursue the best interests of others. Amen

Jesus heals a woman with a disabling spirit

The Miracles of Jesus

March 24, 2021

Jesus heals a woman with a disabling spirit

Luke 13:10-17

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

We’ve all heard many children’s nursery rhymes in our lives. I always found the nursery rhyme about the crooked man sad.

There are a variety of interpretations of this nursery rhyme. When I hear it, I  think of the many people I’ve seen throughout my life with a crooked body

I’ve known several people who have had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. One of them wore a large brace from their neck to their waist during all of their waking hours.

In all of my years of working in supermarkets, before going into ministry, I have seen many older folks all bent over and twisted. Somehow, they persevere and continue life, even though they walk and move in what must be an uncomfortable position.

In today’s devotion, Jesus encounters a woman who has been crippled and bent over for 18 years.

“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, 

“Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 

And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, 

“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 

As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

This miracle happens rather quickly. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Saturday). He sees the crippled woman, calls her over, touches her, and says, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 

The woman is instantly healed after being disabled for so many years.

The story’s real point is not the healing (although all miracles and healings Jesus did and does are significant). Instead, it is about what is permissible to do on the Sabbath.

The Levitical law and those put in place by the teachers of the law were stringent. Basically, you were not allowed to do anything on the Sabbath that was work-related.

This particular synagogue leader is not happy with Jesus, not just because he performed a miracle but also because he got upstaged by Him. The ruler then doesn’t even have the decency to speak directly to Jesus. Instead, he chastises the people gathered in the synagogue for allowing themselves to be healed on the Sabbath.

Jesus has no stomach for this ruler. What Jesus says next would be considered righteous anger.

The idea here is that it’s okay for the religious leaders to feed and water their animals on the Sabbath. Still, I can’t heal this woman who has been suffering for eighteen years?

The religious leaders broke the stringent points of the Sabbath as much as anyone. How can anyone say you shouldn’t minister to others on the Sabbath?

You’ll notice Jesus never says that the woman in this story is demon-possessed, but He does say that Satan caused the ailment. Can you imagine the joy the now healed woman and her family felt after all her years of suffering?

When I first moved to Florida back in the late ’70s, many businesses closed on Sundays. It was always challenging to find an open gas station. Publix supermarkets were closed as well as many other shops. Unfortunately, things have changed, and people have forgotten what the Sabbath is for.

The Sabbath (our Sunday) is a time of renewal. Sorry to say, many people must work on Sunday and cannot even attend worship services. So, why not observe the Sabbath on Monday, Tuesday, or any other day of the week. When we observe the Sabbath, we are resting, as God did after His six days of creation. Sabbath is a time of spiritual renewal, to get in touch with God on a personal level and with our family. Commit time each week to Sabbath.

Dear Jesus. You are the Lord of the Sabbath. You have taught us how important it is to get away, rest, and spend time in prayer. Help us designate time each week to Sabbath and each day to prayer and devotion. Amen

Jesus vs. Beelzebub

The Miracles of Jesus

March 23, 2021

Matthew 12:22-28

Jesus vs. Beelzebub

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the nomination from the republican party of Illinois. He ran against Stephen Douglas, the incumbent. The two had nine debates throughout Illinois during the fall of that year. Douglas won the election, but Lincoln gained popularity around the county. He became so popular that he ended up in the White House two years later.

Here’s a portion of one of Lincoln’s debate speeches from 1858. Parts of this speech are used by the Lincoln animatronic at the Hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World.

Lincoln delivered one of his most famous speeches, which came to be known as the “House Divided” Speech. In it, he addressed the burning issue of slavery.

Lincoln believed slavery to be immoral; he wanted to stop its expansion into new territories and hoped it would eventually end.

“We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed –
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.”

As we know, living on the other side of history that Lincoln’s speech was quite prophetic. In just three year’s a Civil War would begin in our country.

 His house-divided statement was borrowed from the Bible; specifically, they are the words of Jesus.

__________________________________________________________________

The miracle for today’s devotion is Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. The healing itself is only one verse long.


“Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him so that the man spoke and saw.”

What the crowd said as a result of the miracle was filled with praise.

“And all the people were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 

What the Pharisees thought was condemnation.

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees was and is common sense.

 “Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of being Satan or Beelzebub (which literally means Lord of the Flies.)

This accusation makes no sense, according to Jesus. If He were Satan, He wouldn’t be casting out Satan. We’ve just covered a small number of Jesus’ miracles. But on more than one occasion, we know that Jesus was healing numerous people of ailments as well as casting out demons.

Would Satan cast the legion of his demons into a herd of pigs? Of course not. Beelzebub is not going to destroy his own army.

So, if that isn’t happening, then what is? Jesus says,

But, if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Jesus is telling the people and the Pharisees that He is casting out demons by the Spirit of God. Jesus is replying in the affirmative to the people’s question.

“And all the people were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 

Yes, Pharisees, yes people, it is. This is Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of the living God.

Christ died to rid us of the sin that was imprinted on our hearts and soul. He freed us from Satan’s grasp through His death on the cross and resurrection three days later.

At times our world may seem divided against itself. But, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we will never be separated from Him.

Dear Lord. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to us. His sacrifice and your love have freed us from Satan’s grasp. We live because your Son died for us. Thank you for your unending Grace. Amen.

Jesus pays the temple tax

The Miracles of Jesus

March 22, 2021

Jesus pays the temple tax

Matthew 17:24-27

(The fishing story below is borrowed from my book, “Adventures in Youth Ministry.”

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I lived in Chicago. Once in a while, my Dad would take me fishing to Montrose Beach on Lake Michigan. I would use a fishing pole, and I’d cast with a worm on a hook.

But my Dad would troll fish. He’d take this small anchor, attached to a long rope, and swing it over his head and throw it out into the lake. Next, my Dad attached a metal pulley to the rope with a long line connected to it. The pulley system also had fish hooks on it. Dad would bait the hooks and slowly let the line down in the water. The entire contraption was attached to a metal pole of about six or seven feet tall that he would stick into the sand. At the top of the pole attached to the rope was a small bell. If a fish would “hit” one of the hooks, the bell would ring, and then slowly, he’d pull the pulley line in. But guess what? He rarely would catch any fish that way. Come to think about it, either did I.😊

The Gospels are full of fish stories. Some are about catching fish; others are about not catching fish. There’s even a story about Jesus telling his future disciples to follow Him, and He would make them fishers of men.

Today’s devotion is yet another fish story. This one is about paying the temple tax with coins found in the mouth of a fish.

“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, 

“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 

And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, 

“Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Jesus and His disciples are back in Capernaum. This was Jesus’ home base during His earthly ministry, and it was literally Peter’s hometown. So, it’s not unusual that the collectors would approach Peter. Perhaps Jesus and the disciples had been gone for a long time, so when the temple tax collector realized they were back in town, they approached Peter.

This two-drachma tax was collected each year from all Jews to help maintain the temple. Two-drachma was equal to one day’s wage.

When Peter told the tax collectors that Jesus did pay the tax, we can assume he had been with Him when He had paid the tax in the past.

So, Peter goes to the house where they are staying. As usual, all-knowing (Omniscient) Jesus already knows what Peter is going to say. When He asks Peter about whether or not Kings make their sons pay taxes, He refers to Himself.

The temple is God’s house. Jesus is the Son of God. So, Jesus was begging the question, ‘If I’m the Son of God, why should I be asked to pay the tax?’

But Jesus doesn’t want to make a big deal about the tax. If He did, it would draw unnecessary attention to Himself. Also, if Jesus fought paying the tax, it would put Him in a bad light. He would appear not to care about the temple. Plus, we already know that Jesus would be there soon enough, turning over the money-changers tables in righteous anger.

Finally, instead of pulling the coins out of His pocket, Jesus tells Peter to go fishing. He specifically tells him to use a hook, not a net. You see, Peter only needs to catch one fish, and in the mouth of that one fish will be one coin, a shekel. A shekel is the amount necessary to pay the temple tax for two people, Jesus and Peter.

It seems to be a rather strange passage, doesn’t it? The story is partly about a miracle, but we never see one do we. We as Christians must make the presumption that Peter followed through on Jesus’ instructions.

We need to have faith that Peter went to the shore and went fishing with a simple pole, line, and hook. Peter caught the fish and found the coin, and paid the tax.

Now one might say, don’t you think Peter thought this was crazy and might have hesitated to go fishing for a fish with a coin in its mouth? The answer to that question lies in another passage from Matthew.

 “So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink; he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

When Peter’s faith had weakened because of his fear of the waves and wind, he began to sink into the water. One would hope and pray that Peter had learned his lesson and would follow Jesus’ words exactly.

Jesus’ instructions to us are the same. There are times when He will lead us or tell us to do something that seems strange or impossible. It’s our responsibility as His followers to listen and follow. Jesus knows precisely what He’s doing and exactly what the end result will be.

Dear Jesus. Help us to always trust you. Even when we are called by You to do things that seem unreasonable or strange to us, help us to keep our faith strong and follow your commands. Amen.

Why do we fast?

The Miracles of Jesus

March 21, 2021

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Why do we fast?

Matthew 6:16-18; 4:1-2

While I was serving at a church in Fort Myers as Youth Minister, my students and I participated in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine.

As I recall, we participated in the event several times over five years. The 30 Hour Famine is a fund-raiser for needy children around the world. The event is packed with plenty of activities and Bible studies, which we did as part of a lock-in. To participate in the famine, there was one caveat, you don’t eat for 30 hours.

My youth always did a great job of fund-raising for the event. But, I did have a few moaners when it came to not being able to eat. I have to admit, once you got about 20 to 24 hours into the event, your body definitely got sluggish.

I would always end the event with a worship service. All of the student’s parents and congregation members were invited. Immediately after the service, we would ‘Break-Fast.’ I would set it up with the parents in advance to bring casseroles, desserts, etc., for our first meal in 30 hours.

Overall the 30 Hour Famine was a great event. The students grew in their relationship with each other, they learned what it was like to be truly hungry, and they raised funds for needy children worldwide.

During His sermon on the mount, Jesus talks explicitly about fasting in chapter 6:16-18

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus gives three examples of “acts of righteousness.”

  • The first is giving to the poor
    • This includes giving them money and help in other ways, such as clothing, medical attention, etc.
  • The second is prayer
    • In Matthew 6, Jesus gave us an outline of prayer. We call it the Lord’s Prayer.
    • He also told us to pray in private and not make a big show of it like the religious leaders of the day.
      • That being said, it’s okay to pray corporately in church or during a group Bible study
      • Jesus’ point is that we need to have alone time to commune with God, praying one-on-one to Him.
  • The third is fasting
    • Like in prayer and giving to the poor, Jesus is particular in saying not to make a show of it if you fast.
      • The religious leaders of Jesus’ day would fast 2 times a week. There’s nothing wrong with doing that.
      • But, they made a habit of walking through the streets while they fasted and let everyone know how much they were suffering. They wanted the people to be impressed.
      • Perhaps it did impress some people, but that kind of seeking of attention never impresses God.

So, I guess the question that is most asked is, why do we fast? During the Christian season of lent, many people (it’s not mandatory) fast from certain foods or activities. Lent is a remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the wilderness (Not including Saturdays and Sundays) immediately after being baptized.

As I mentioned earlier, when you fast, you can get tired, hungry, and sometimes even a bit cranky. But, that wasn’t the case for Jesus. He fasted and was strong enough to fend off the tempting of the devil several times.

There are some good reasons to fast on occasion; in his book “The Gospel of Matthew,” *William Barclay names five.

  • First: The value of self-discipline
    • We learn to control our feeling (hunger) and overcome our weakness
  • Second: The release from slavery to habit
    • Fasting is a great way to break a habit. You may eat too much candy. Give up eating for a while. Or, as the saying goes, do anything for 21 days, and you have created a habit.
  • Third: The preservation of the ability to do without things
    • We live in a world of needs and wants. Many of the things we feel are needs are simply wants. “I need those new shoes,” or “I need to drink coffee all day just to keep going.” The coffee example sounds like you’ve developed a bad habit that has evolved into what you think is a need.
  • Fourth: The positive value for health
    • Doctors often tell us we need to give up certain foods or activities to improve our health.
    • I wonder if fasting from not exercising is a “thing?”
  • Fifth: The enhancement of our appreciation of things
    • I’m not sure if giving up smoking is fasting, but I do know when I did 41 years ago, my appreciation for the taste of food increased.

In the New Testament, Jesus does not call upon us to fast. But if you do, make it your thing and not everyone else’s.

Dear Lord. There are times in our lives when it is good to fast. It can make us stronger and give us a better appreciation for the things we have. When we do fast, help us not brag or boast about it. Instead, allow us to quietly understand the benefits we are receiving through our fast. Amen.

*(The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1 by William Barclay (1958-05-03), Volume one, PP. 229-230)