Whatever

Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
(Matthew 21:18-22 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)

I believe that Jesus was talking to the disciples about a dynamic, and not just something that was promised to them alone. I believe that if we allow the Holy Spirit to bear in us the fruit of fullness of faith (Galatians 5:22-23), that such fullness can speak to a fig tree or a mountain or anything else and order it around.

I have been wrong about other things, so it is quite possible that I am wrong about this. I would rather, though, on the day I stand to be judged by Jesus, have Him ask me why I asked for so many miracles than to have Him ask me why I didn’t ask for more. The judgement I currently experience from humans who think I’m foolish has no strength compared to that Day.

Knowing or Knowing About

When Jesus influenced the woman at the Samaritan well, she went to town and influenced her neighbors. Her influence was only information, though. In order to convert people to the Family of God and to the Kingdom of God, we need to be involved in what the Samaritans experienced after they heard the woman’s testimony:

Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:39-42 Holman Christian Standard Bible ® ©)

How do we take people past the level of informing them to the place of helping them to have encounters with Him? What Paul called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) is a manifestation of the Person of Jesus that reveal His character through our interactions with people. What he called gifts of the Spirit (Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12) are manifestations of the Person of Jesus that reveal His work through our interactions with people.

Chatty Demons

Why did the unclean spirit in the fortune teller Luke mentioned in Acts 16:16-24 keep making so much noise that seemed to endorse the work being done by Paul and Silas?

It is interesting to me also that when the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by satan that one of satan’s talks with Jesus (Luke 4:9-11) included quoting Psalm 91:11-12 . The next verse of Psalm 91 says “you will trample the serpent.” The devil came close to the truth so that his deception would look true by association.

Many enemies will try to get close to us so that they have access to us. Then, their deceptions or witchcraft or the humans they influence or control can be used with greater effects or power against us. An unclean spirit speaking good or evil about us in another country doesn’t change much in our area. A deceiving spirit that speaks truth until trust is gained by listeners can then lead them astray.

The demonized girl saw them on their way to prayer one day and started following them and shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She did it for many days. Then one day, Paul got tired of it and cast the demon out of her.

Paul’s God used the power encounter to display His strength over the Oracle of Delphi – the “python spirit” that was giving the girl the power to tell something of people’s futures. It was a regional Power, like the ones Paul mentioned in Ephesians 6:12. Yahweh overpowered it and freed its slave, and embarrassed the local human government authorities in the process.

The Scent of Brokenness

Knowing Jesus in the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:7-11) was a goal that Paul had in his heart at one point in his life.

A lime has a much greater impact on the aroma in a room if you scrape its skin or cut it open. Being bruised by serving Jesus causes us to have the power to change the atmosphere around us if we wear it with humility and love. If all it causes in us is bitterness, that produces a less Christ-like aroma…

I find it hard most of the time to speak in public about the love and sufferings of Jesus on our behalf without being brought to tears. Speaking about the way He has lifted us into positions of honor in His household from being His enemies breaks my heart on days.

I asked Him once when He was going to heal me of that brokenness. I believe that His response was to ask me if I wanted to stop being useful to Him.

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?
(2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)

Outside the Camp

The laws that Yahweh gave Israel through Moses included many activities that had to happen outside of their camp. Anyone who became unclean had to spend time outside the camp. Activities that were unclean had to be conducted outside the camp, from disposing of trash and excrement to stoning someone to death.

Being dismissed even temporarily to life outside of the fellowship was something that held a stigma – it indicated a rejection or condemnation. When Jesus was tortured to death on a cross, it happened outside of the gate of the city. As He indicated to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20, He still experiences being cast outside the acceptable – displaced from His appropriate position of being worshiped and of being honored as our King.

Many of the most devoted believers I know are currently not participating in any of the meetings that happen all around them on Sunday mornings. They all have their own reasons, but they include being done with shallowness, purposelessness, and lack of genuineness that is almost everywhere among congregations.

Being outside because of bitterness is the cause for some people. These are not the people I have anything to say about here.

If you are separated from meetings, be careful not to be separated from relationships with believers. Don’t fear being outside the camp, and don’t be shy about connecting with others – inside or outside. The programs may have no value, but the people all do. When you find someone with whom you can pray and rejoice and worship and work, you are connected to the body in more real ways than some of the most loyal meeting attenders.

Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by foods, since those involved in them have not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle do not have a right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy of holies by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For here we do not have an enduring city; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
(Hebrews 13:7-16 Holman Christian Standard Bible ® ©)

 

Being Tired

Being tired is required for a car.

If you are frequently tired, it may indicate that you are bored or mismatched with your ministry. A pastor who has been hired as the only minister in a congregation is likely to be tired for many reasons. Having to present 1 to 4 inspirational talks and/or Bible expositions each week would be enough, being a pastor instead of a teacher. Putting an evangelist in a pulpit will wear people out, too.

Most ministries are not accomplished by becoming an employee of a congregation. Everyone who is a believer has an important service – their work; their ministry. There aren’t enough positions in all the congregations to put everyone to work. Most of the work is out in the real world.

Even there, it is easy to be mismatched. Most people who are tired are not in that condition because they dig ditches or build steel structures. Most tiredness comes from not following the leadership of the Spirit into the right “yoke” to move the right “burden.” He wants to work in us to want the kind of work He has designed us to do well, and to be able to do it with excellence.

Listen to the burdens He puts on your heart. Ask Him how to get in the position to be and to do what will give Life to both you and the people you serve. Do you need to prepare by acquiring a skill? Do you need to be in a different job? In a different city? Maybe even a different country?

He wants to give you the answers and to position you to succeed in accomplishing your purposes in the earth. Ask for help. Rest can’t cure boredom or wrong work related weariness. We walk in rest and in peace when we walk in our callings.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.
(Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 2:13, Holman Christian Standard Bible ® ©)

Storing Oil

Suppose that in some way in your life, you are like the virgins Jesus mentioned in Matthew 25:1-13. Maybe in the future, if not now…

What is the oil that you are storing? What are you preparing for? Some people are storing food for the apocalypse. Some people are storing money for retirement. Some are just collecting punches on their loyalty cards to get a free cup of coffee.

What is Jesus thinking of in your life that would qualify as “wisdom” that is prepared for His appearing? Clearly, it is important in the story He told of the virgins.  Some of the clues include the fact that all went to sleep. When awakened, the wise had prepared for providing light on short notice. It all has something to do with Jesus being our King.

The final advice was to be alert and watchful. Expect to be surprised in some way about the timing, but if you don’t have ideas about how to be prepared for your future, ask the Spirit! He wants you to succeed at the mission Jesus died to assign to you. Expect to be well informed about how to be the you He ordained you to be.

Empty Words

Fear of rejection or condemnation causes many believers to keep a pocket full of cliche’s available for pacifying biters in their fellowships. If you don’t have the right answers handy, you may be accused of not being spiritual, or maybe even not saved yet. They can also feel protective when you have no idea what the right answer is, but a cliche’ seems to notate a doctrine that implies that you do know the truth. It might keep you out of an argument with a lawyer type – modern Pharisee, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, religious person, etc.

Pride is another motivator to stocking up on cliche’s. It is easy for immature believers to think that having the “right” thing to say in every situation will convince others that they are knowledgeable and wise. Wisdom and understanding gained from scanned headlines is rarely valuable.

Our words should have power. The name of Jesus has the power to heal the sick (Acts 3:16). As Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:20), he shared the Kingdom of God with them by showing them power, not just giving them information.

It is a good practice to reduce new ideas to a boiled-down version, like a short proverb. That should always have the power of truth, though; when it becomes a mere cliche’, it has lost its power, and therefore its value.

“How are you?” is not a good substitute for “Hello.” If you ask a question, make sure it’s one that you want the answer to. If you make a statement, make it real. Bring Life and Truth and Love to your conversations. Bring Jesus, raised from the dead, and seated in power.

Where do You Stare?

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

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

No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.”
(Matthew 6:19-24 Holman Christian Standard Bible ® ©)

Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will hover. The things that you treasure may not yet be in your possession, though. That would mean that I could follow your eyes and I would be led to the treasure in your life. Your treasure always catches your eye in an advertisement or in the possession of another person and absorbs your attention. Your heart instructs your eyes to gather at least the vision of your desires.

If your treasure is not of real value – eternal value – give it away somehow and thereby convert it to the currency of Heaven, so that when you arrive there, you will be rich in real treasure.

 

Inviting or Invading

The two extremes of trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the earth that the Church has proven don’t work are hiding behind stained glass and inviting people to meetings, and attempting to rule the earth from our pulpits. This ranges from rantings against “Washington” by Texas preachers on TV, which no one in “Washington” is listening to, to the “Holy Roman Empire,” which was as guilty of persecuting believers as Stalin and the Islamic State.

In Acts 27-28, Luke described part of the trip from Jerusalem to Rome Paul made after the Jews tried to kill him in the temple area. Paul saw prophetically that the centurion who was in charge of transporting him and some other prisoners to Rome should wait through the winter, because they would face very destructive storms if they went to sea. The centurion did not believe Paul, because the owner and the pilot of the ship they had been traveling in disagreed with him. They set sail.

When the ship was destroyed as predicted, the passengers, sailors and soldiers were washed ashore on Malta. There, because they invaded the land of Malta, they were given access to the culture of Malta, and impacted it greatly:

Safely ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The local people showed us extraordinary kindness, for they lit a fire and took us all in, since rain was falling and it was cold. As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. When the local people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man is probably a murderer, and though he has escaped the sea, Justice does not allow him to live!” However, he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They expected that he would swell up or suddenly drop dead. But after they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

Now in the area around that place was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that Publius’ father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. So they heaped many honors on us, and when we sailed, they gave us what we needed.
(Acts 28:1-10 Holman Christian Standard Bible ® ©)

Muslims, homosexuals and socialists have discovered how to shape cultures by invading the structures that have the power to influence them. Believers are learning to invade the darkness and dispel it with Light. In the place where you have a voice that is public, use it to declare righteousness and Life.