The Amazement Of Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The word amazement shows up numerous times throughout the Gospels. As you might expect, it’s almost always associated with something Jesus said or did. He would heal someone, calm a storm, silence His detractors, or teach persuasively, and the people stood amazed! 

But there are two instances where Jesus Himself is amazed.

The first time is when a Roman centurion sends a message to Jesus by way of a servant. This centurion asks Jesus to speak a word of healing over another one of his servants. He says that just a word from Jesus will be sufficient, and he doesn’t need Jesus to personally come to his house. 

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. “Turning to those who were following Him, He said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!’” (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9). 

Because of this centurion’s faith, his servant was immediately healed! 

The second time Jesus was amazed was when He was visiting His hometown. There He discovered people with whom He had grown up that refused to believe that He was who He claimed to be. As a result, Jesus “was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6). 

So either Jesus is amazed at our faith in Him, or He is amazed at our unbelief in Him. When I have faith in Jesus—when I believe He is who He says He is, and that He is willing to do what He says He will do—He is amazed at my faith and can do miracles on my behalf. But when I doubt, when I allow my unbelief to seize my heart, I exclude myself from the miracles He wants to do.

Jesus will be amazed at you. Will He be amazed at your faith in Him? Or will He be amazed at your unbelief in His power that is waiting to be released on your behalf? I pray that Jesus will always be amazed at our faith in Him.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Prince Of Peace

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week we saw the dark times in which Micah lived as he prophesied the advent of the Messiah. Israel was both surrounded by enemies as well as lots of practices within their borders that were heartbreaking to God. Many times, our lives can feel the same way: enemies of God all around us and our own turmoil and doubts inside our hearts and minds.      

In this dark, hopeless time, the Messiah came as our Great Shepherd. Take a look at what this Shepherd brings us:

He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the Earth. And He will be their peace. (Micah 5:4-5)

We see this idea of Jesus our Great Shepherd bringing peace to our hearts in the New Testament as well: 

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

This peace is also implied in Psalm 23:1 when David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” That phrase “I shall not be in want” really captures the definition of peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. An easy-to-remember definition of shalom is “nothing lost, nothing missing.” Our Great Shepherd makes sure nothing is lost or missing that would cause us anxiety or doubt, so we can have total peace—we can have shalom!

Jesus said the devil’s agenda was for everything to be lost or missing—“the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”—but our Great Shepherd’s agenda is for there to be nothing lost or missing—“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). 

Isaiah, who was prophesying at the same time as Micah, sounded a similar note:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. … And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) 

When this Great Shepherd was born in Bethlehem, the shepherds in the field were the first to hear the good news. Notice what the angels announced: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). 

Who has God’s favor? Those with faith in Him: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So those with faith in God have God’s favor. 

Faith in what? In all that Jesus purchased for us by His blood shed on the Cross: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). 

Check this out: The root word of shalom is a word that means, “It is finished.” These are the exact same words our Price of Peace announced from the Cross! Jesus finished the work that brings us peace from the turmoil and anxiety of sin! 

Faith comes from believing that God has made the promise of peace, that God has fulfilled the promise of peace through Jesus, and that God is bringing us to His eternal peace. So now our lives of peace in a world of turmoil can serve as a testimony to others. 

Jesus called His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) but we cannot do this while we are experiencing anxiety or doubts. To be peacemakers we must be full of peace because of our relationship with the Prince of Peace, who has ensured that nothing is lost and nothing is missing! 

If you feel anxious, remember that Bethlehem is your proof that the Prince of Peace has come to remove doubts, anxiety, fear, and inner turmoil. Let every pang of anxiety be immediately a call to run to the Prince of Peace. He has paid an incalculable price to purchase your peace, so don’t leave this gift unopened and unused. A dark, anxious world is looking for peace. Know the author of shalom so that you can introduce others to this Prince of Peace. 

If you’ve missed any of the message in this series, please check them out by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Amazed At Jesus (Or Not)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The word “amazed” shows up numerous times throughout the Gospels, almost always associated with something Jesus said or did. He would heal someone, calm a storm, silence His detractors, or teach persuasively. And the people marveled! 

But there are two instances where Jesus Himself is amazed, where the Bible says He marveled at what someone said.

The first is when a centurion asked Jesus for help, but said he didn’t need Jesus to be personally present. He told Jesus that just a word from Him would be more than enough to heal a sick servant. Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith, and as a result, the servant was healed (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9)! 

The second time that Jesus was amazed was when He was visiting His hometown and the people with whom He grew up didn’t believe He was who He claimed to be. As a result, Jesus was amazed and the Bible says He was unable to do many miracles there (Mark 6:6). How sad! 

It’s still true today. Either Jesus will be amazed at our faith or He will be amazed at our unbelief. When we have faith in Him—when we stand amazed and in awe and in expectation of His power—He is amazed and can perform miracles. But when we push Jesus away and say, “We can take care of this ourselves,” Jesus is also amazed. But this type of amazement results in Jesus being unable to unleash His miraculous power on our behalf. 

Let’s learn this amazing lesson, and always stand amazed at who Jesus is and what Jesus can do. When we are amazed, and our faith grows stronger, Jesus will be amazed at our faith and will move on our behalf in amazing ways! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Faith Over Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I am always interested when I see contrasts in the Bible. Things like:

  • Live this way, not that way
  • These people are blessed, these people have trouble 
  • If you do this, you won’t have this 

So an interesting contrast caught my eye in the story where Jesus calms the storm (Matthew 8:23–27). Jesus is sleeping peacefully in the middle of a storm that is described as “furious [where] the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples were anything but peaceful—they thought they were going to drown—so they yelled for Jesus to wake up. 

Before Jesus calmed the storm, He says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” 

That’s the phrase that caught my attention. Notice the contrast between “little faith” and “so afraid.” In other words, small faith means big fear! 

Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “little faith” as “dread (by implication) faithless.” So it appears there is an inverse proportion between faith and fear. 

The word that Jesus used for “afraid” is only used here and in the same story in Mark 4:40, and in Revelation 21:8 which lists people who will be excluded from entrance into heaven.

The phrase “so afraid” (or “O ye of little faith” in the King James Version) is just one word in Greek: olgiopistos. The root word pistos is faith, but I find the prefix oligos very descriptive. It means: 

  • small in quantity 
  • short in time 
  • slight in intensity 

In other words, it is faith that is immature, or hasn’t been used much, or hasn’t been applied to a particular circumstance. This word olgiopistos is used five times in the New Testament, and only used by Jesus. 

In addition to this story, it is used in Matthew 6:30 and Luke 12:28 when Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that God will provide for us—things like food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus uses this word for Peter when he began to sink in the water after walking a few steps toward Jesus. And Jesus uses it in Matthew 16:8 when He warns His disciples about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees that can creep into their hearts and spoil their faith. (Check out all of these verses here.)

In mathematical circles, this relationship between faith and fear is one that would be called inversely proportional. When our faith is high, our fear is low; when our fear is high, our faith is low. I also think it is very eye-opening that the mathematical symbol for inverse proportionality (∝) is the same symbol called ichthus that the early church used to represent Jesus.

Faith and fear cannot coexist in the same heart. Sometimes our faith is small in quantity because we haven’t fed our faith with God’s promises. Sometimes our faith is short in time because we want things done on our time schedule. And sometimes our faith is slight in intensity because we are unsure if God can “come through” in this particular situation. 

Whatever the case, when we feel any fear, we need to ask for faith. We need to return to God’s Word and be assured that His promises are applicable regardless of the situation we are in. As our faith grows, our fear has to diminish! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Go Deep—The Gifts Of Wisdom, Knowledge, And Faith

According to 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Holy Spirit operates in nine different gifts to both evangelize the sinner and edify the saints. The apostle Paul says that these gifts are available to all Christians who will allow the Holy Spirit to operate through them.

You may download the participant’s notes for this lesson here → Go Deep – operational gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith

If you have missed any of the lessons in this series, you can find the complete list by clicking here. You may also be interested in our Go Deep series on the motivational gifts listed in Romans 12, which you can check out here: Go Deep—An Introduction To The Motivational Gifts

If you would like to join us in person for this class, here is where you can find us.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Three Keys To Effective Prayer

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Three Keys To Effective Prayer 

     Why is this extraordinary power of prayer given to those who abide in Christ? May what I have to say encourage you to make the glorious attempt to win this pearl of great price! Why is it, that by abiding in Christ and having His words abide in us, we get to this liberty and prevalence in prayer? … 

     I answer, first, because of the fullness of Christ. … I see clearly enough why the branch gets all it wants while it abides in the stem, since all it wants is already in the stem and is placed there for the sake of the branch. What does the branch want more than the stem can give it? If it did want more, it could not get it. For it has no other means of living but by sucking its life out of the stem. O my precious Lord, if I want anything that is not in You, I desire always to be without it. I desire to be denied a wish that wanders outside of You. But if the supply of my desire is already in You for me, why should I go elsewhere? You are my all, where else should I look? … 

     The next reason for this is the richness of the Word of God. … The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to Him and saying to Him, ‘Do as You have said.’ … If the Word of God abides in you, you are the man who can pray because you meet the great God with His own words…. 

     A man will succeed in prayer when his faith is strong. And this is the case with those who abide in Jesus. It is faith that prevails in prayer. The real eloquence of prayer is a believing desire. ‘All things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:23). A man abiding in Christ, with Christ’s words abiding in him, is eminently a believer and consequently eminently successful in prayer.

 From The Secret Of Power In Prayer

God Himself has told us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Not “I might answer you,” but “I will answer you.” 

God also tells us how to receive what we ask in prayer:

  1. Abide in Jesus. Desire nothing else but to know His heart more intimately. 
  2. Know God’s Word. The Bible isn’t just a Book to be read through, but it’s a Book to be prayed through. 
  3. Stretch your faith. A desperate father said to Jesus, “If You can, please help us.” Jesus admonished that father—and all of us too—to believe that Jesus is able to accomplish what we ask of Him. And then comes this great exclamation from that same desperate father: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The God that wants us to have faith in Him for answered prayers is the same God Who imparts that faith to us. How? By abiding in Jesus and taking God at His Word. 

Don’t give up, my friend. Keep praying. There is no other way to learn to pray more effectively than to keep on abiding in Jesus, keep on claiming the biblical promises, and keep on stretching your faith to present your prayer request to Him again.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Tactics Of Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army… (Isaiah 36:2).

The enemies of God’s people always use the same tactics.

(1) Sending an intimidating force that seems overwhelming and invincible. 

King Sennacherib didn’t send a small detachment of soldiers, but he sent “a large army” to try to intimidate the people of Judah. 

(2) Asking doubt-inducing questions. 

The field commander asked questions like…

  • On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 
  • On whom are you depending? 
  • Do you think Jehovah can save you from this? 

(3) Fomenting distrust in God’s wisdom and ability. 

Once the seeds of doubt had been sown, the field commander attempted to water those seeds by making accusations like…

  • Do not let Hezekiah deceive you: God can’t help you with this one! 
  • The gods of other nations didn’t help them, so what makes you think your God will help you? 

(4) Offering a compromise. 

Then came the offer to give in…

  • Come now, make a bargain with my master and I’ll give you more riches than you can imagine! 
  • Make peace with me while you have the chance, and I promise you will have a trouble-free life! 

All of these tactics attempted to play on the fears of people who felt surrounded and overwhelmed. 

But I love to remember that the acrostic of the word F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real. The field commander in King Hezekiah’s time, and satan today, use the tactics of fear to try to get us to compromise. 

King Hezekiah gave us a great example to follow. When he received the field commander’s letter with all of the threats listed, he “spread it out before the Lord” (Isaiah 37:14)! Isaiah reminded the people not to be afraid of the threats of the enemy, because those threats were actually blasphemy against God. And then God tells Hezekiah quite simply, “I will take care of this!” 

And God did indeed take care of it. 

Without the armies of Judah ever having to lift a sword or a spear or shield, God broke the power of the enemy and sent them away in shame! 

When the enemy seems to be surrounding you today, he will use these same tactics. He will try to overwhelm you, get you to doubt what God has said, try to induce you to distrust God, and then offer you a compromise. All the devil has on his side is false evidence that he attempts to make look real.

So do what King Hezekiah did: Spread out those threats before God. Go to His Word and read again what He has already promised you. Then stand firm in faith. God will take care of your adversary! 

Our God always gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word.

Let me repeat it one more time: Don’t give into fear, but stand firm in your faith in God! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Standing Firm

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Standing Firm 

     Superficial brilliance is always afraid of fire, but gold is not. The paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true diamond fears no test. People who have a kind of confectionery godliness will wish to be preserved from temptations, for they cannot endure them. But the Christian counts it all joy when he falls into different trials, knowing that ‘tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5). My dear friends, if your faith is only a sunshiny faith, get rid of it! … 

     So our gracious God, beloved, glorifies Himself by permitting His people to be subjected to trials and by enabling them to endure the strain. We would never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched. We would never enjoy the juice of the grape if it were never trod in the winepress. We would never discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten. And we would never know the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The excellence of the Christian is brought out by the fire of trouble. The wisdom of the great Workman and the glory of His skill and power are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. … 

     Depend upon it, beloved, those who suffer as I have described are the children of God, for they show it. They show it by the way in which they bear their trials. In the worst times there is always a clear distinction that marks them as separate from other men. If they cannot shout, ‘Victory!’ they bear patiently. If they cannot sing to God with their mouth, yet their hearts bless Him. There is a degree of light even in their worst darkness…. If they get into the mire, they do not perish there. They cry for help when their woes surround them, and in the very nick of time, when everything appears to be lost, their heavenly Father hastens to their aid.

From The Believer Sinking In The Mire

I shared a series of messages called Thankful In The Night. Another psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). 

Notice that this psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. 

Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. IN those nights, we can learn to say, as Spurgeon did, “I believe in my Lord because He is a God who cannot lie. He is faithful and true to His every word and, therefore, let the whole creation go to rack and ruin, my faith will not waver or give up its confidence.” 

Amen! Let us stand firm in that confidence.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Faith To Stand

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

“…If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9). 

These words were spoken to King Ahaz and his people when they heard that enemies had allied themselves to attack. Their immediate response was, “And his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (v. 2). These are the people to whom God says, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” 

In Hebrew this phrase is really just the same Hebrew word repeated twice: aman aman. It amounts to this: if you don’t stand, you won’t stand. 

Stand on what? Your faith. 

Faith in what? Isaiah tells us, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says” (v. 7). Jehovah Adonai is the final word. He calls the two conspiring enemies “smoldering stubs of firewood,” and He states definitively of their plans, “It will not take place, it will not happen” (vv. 4, 7). Fittingly, several English translations of this verse say, “Their plans will not stand.” 

When God speaks his final and decisive word, my faith-filled response should be exactly what He commanded the Israelites: “Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart” (v. 4). 

I must deliberately and repeatedly silence the saber rattling of the enemy by standing in faith on God’s decisive word. My faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). 

This is why I am a huge proponent of not only reading God’s word, but turning His decisive word into prayer. Reminding myself—and repeatedly re-reminding myself—of what Jehovah Adonai has said is the only way to stand firm in faith. If I don’t stand firm in faith on His word, I will not be able to stand at all. 

I recently shared some faith-filled decisive promises from God’s word in another post. If I can help you find a word of God on which you can stand in faith, please reach out to me. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Faith Sees Better Than Sight Does

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Faith Sees Better Than Sight Does  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     There is walking by faith, and there is walking by sight. The most of men, all men indeed, naturally walk by sight. They have a proverb that says, ‘Seeing is believing,’ and they are wise men, for they trust people as far as they can see them, and no further. … Self-reliance is the name of the principle, and according to the world, the best and grandest thing that a man can do is have faith in himself. … 

     I think the world must be pretty well ashamed of itself if it still considers this poor earth to be all that a soul has to live for. I feel as if I could not talk upon the matter. Solomon tried everything there was in this world—riches, power, pleasure—every sort of delicacy and delight he had, beyond the point of satisfaction. And what was his verdict upon at all? ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2). … 

     If there is not another world to live for, I must say that this life is a most unutterably empty kind of thing! It is not worthy of a man! But oh, to believe what God tells me: that there is a God; that God became flesh to bear me up to Himself! To believe that I am God’s son, that I have an immortality within myself that will outlast the stars, that I will one day see His face and sing His praise forever with cherubim and seraphim! Why, there is something here! …

     If you walk only by sight and believe only what you see, what do you believe? You believe that while you are living here, it is a good thing to make the best you can of it. And then you will die and be buried, and that will be the end of you! What a poor, miserable, ignorant belief this is! … But when you believe in what God reveals and come to walk by faith, how your information expands! Now riddles are all solved, and the inexplicable is understood! … 

     The principle of faith does best in the dark. He who walks by faith can walk in the sunlight as well as you can, for he walks with God. He has enlightened eyes, but he can walk in the dark as you cannot, for his light is still shining upon him. He trusts in the unseen and in the invisible, and his soul rejoices when present things are passing away.

From Faith Versus Sight

One of the temptations of the devil has been to try to get us focused on the seen—the temporal. He did this successfully with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tried to get Jesus to focus on the temporal in his wilderness temptations, but Jesus steadfastly kept His eyes on the unseen. 

The devil’s strategy hasn’t changed. He will try to get you to say, “Woe is me! Look at all of the bad things happening around me!” 

But we walk by faith, not by sight. “Faith is the assurance—the confirmation, the title deed—of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses” (Hebrews 11:1 AMP).   

Don’t give in to the temptation to believe only what you see. There is so much more waiting for you. It’s all yours by faith in Jesus Christ!

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

%d bloggers like this: