Quiet Confidence as We Wait

October 19, 2017 2 comments

quiet confidence

This passage jumped out at me in this morning’s Bible reading/prayer time. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you…

For thus says the LORD God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. And you said, “’No, for we will flee on horses’—therefore you shall flee! And, ‘We will ride on swift horses’—therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15-16)

If I return (repent) when needed, and if I rest in the LORD, trusting His promises and waiting for Him to act—in His timing … then I shall be saved. I shall be delivered.

If I rely on ‘horses,’ or if I rely on my own devices, plans, or schemes … then I shall be overtaken and defeated by those very devices, plans, or schemes.

The LORD knows that I love to depend upon His promises, and believe what I believe about Him. But the waiting and quietness part gets me a lot of the time. I’m not good at it, not good at waiting and not always cooperative with Divine timing.

I know others that are good at waiting and trusting in God’s timing. I need to learn from and follow their example. Of course, the Lord Jesus was the absolute best in these matters … I marvel at His patience and strong sense of timing. He always waited for the Father.

Only by His life in me can I do the same. It is no use trying to copy Him. It cannot be done, at least not with my own strength. I need Jesus to live like Jesus! This is what I must trust Him for.

I imagine that things may be the same for at least some of you. Yes?

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Suggestions on How to Read the Bible

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

bfb160919-read-me

I started my journey with God’s Word way back in August of 1973. While I’d had some sort of conversion experience over three years earlier, I didn’t really grow. In fact, one would be very hard pressed to identify me as a true believer during that season of my life.

But the Lord patiently and lovingly pursued me, a reluctant young man who really wanted to be a true Christian. But there was no power in me to pull it off, and I knew it—in that condition I finally surrendered to Jesus. The result: I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and things began changing in my life. Radically changing.

One evening my friend Stan and I were hanging out, and he said, “Hey, how about if we read the Bible?” “Sounds good to me,” I said. He suggested, “Let’s read Galatians!” I said “Fine. What’s a Galatian?” Obviously, I was virtually ignorant of the Bible … but that night I had a new start. It didn’t take long for me to develop the habit of daily Bible reading, a habit that really got me going in my growth as a Christian.

So I began reading the Bible all the way through, from cover to cover, year after year. It never gets old. Oh, I’ve been through plenty of dry times in my Bible reading, I think that’s somewhat normal. I had to learn to approach Bible reading in new ways, from different angles. Keep it fresh.

I remember one year in my pastorate in Monterey, CA. It had been my custom to encourage the fellowship to accept the challenge of reading through the entire Bible that year. A gentleman who was in the church (a very respected believer with a fruitful ministry) came up to me after that morning’s service and admitted that before that year, he’d never read through the entire Bible. But now he excitedly told me that he’d done it that very year, as a result of my challenge. I’ll never forget his words to me: “Bill, I cannot even begin to tell you the changes that God has worked in my life this past year, and I owe it all to the reading of God’s Word!” Those words were music to my ears, like Handel’s Messiah to my soul.

So here are some things I’ve learned about reading the Bible. Perhaps this may be helpful to some of you.

1.       I’ve learned that reading the Bible is a relational encounter with God.

Through the Bible, God speaks to us. Therefore, I read as a listener, as a learner, as God’s child. I desire connection with God as I read, and God desires the same connection (infinitely more I do).

2.       I’ve learned that the Bible reveals Jesus, and Jesus illuminates the Bible.

The message of Jesus is told throughout the Bible, Genesis – Revelation. And Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, shines His light on the Bible to my heart. I cannot truly get what God wants to give me through His Word without Jesus.

3.       I’ve discovered the blessing of reading the Bible out loud.

Reading the Bible out loud slows everything down for me. It helps me focus. When the words are in my head only, my mind can more easily wander. When they come out of my mouth, it’s easier to stay on track. I see the words (the eye gate), and I hear the words (the ear gate).

Not only that, but if I’m reading aloud, I’m closer to being in a conversational mode with the Lord. It’s easy to pause, and just talk to the Lord about what I’m reading. Confession happens, there can be a faith commitment to a promise He’s made, or I might pray for strength to obey something I’ve been commanded.

Frequently, I’ll address Jesus directly as I’m reading the gospels. Instead of reading “Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee,” I’ll read “Some time after this, You crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” It personalizes the narrative, and brings me into fellowship with Jesus.

4.       I’ve used a Bible reading plan to help me with discipline.

There are many great plans out there, but I’m the kind of guy that likes to order the same thing at a restaurant! So if it works for me, I typically stay with it.

Having said that, I prefer a plan that has me in the gospels every day, and that is designed for a 25 day per month reading schedule. I want to be in the gospels every day because it’s all about Jesus, and I want to know Him better. And the 25 day plans allow me some catch up days, as well as the ability to linger on a passage and not read as many chapters on that specific day.

The good folks at The Navigators (www.navigators.org) have great plans, which are the ones I’ve used. But like I said, there are many great plans out there, usually available for free by download.

I print out the plan I’ve chosen, and then fold it up and keep it in my Bible. Then when I’m done for the year, I either start all over with the same plan I used, or with a new one that looks like a winner.

bible-reading-plan

5.       I like to read the Bible from one translation every year.

I do this primarily for the purpose of Bible memorization and familiarity. I find that by reading in in the same version I study from I am committing more Bible to memory than I even realize. That’s how it works for me, anyway.

One other note on this suggestion: it’s usually a good idea to read the Bible with the same translation used in your church … especially if your church is a Bible teaching church that teaches through the books of the Bible. Again, this is very helpful for Bible memorization and familiarity.

So please let me encourage you to try it out! Accept the challenge, and read through the Bible this year! It’s not hard, really … if one averages 85 verses a day, he/she will have read through the entire Bible in one year.

Some will protest by saying they don’t read well enough. My response: I’ve met plenty of believers over the years that have actually greatly improved their reading skills by reading the Bible! Also, there are many audio Bibles available online or via smartphone apps. By reading along with the audio Bible, you’re reading God’s Word!

At the end of 2017 (or even during the year) please write me and let me know how it went. Your testimony will be powerful, and encouraging to others to read!

 

 

2016 in Pictorial Review

December 10, 2016 Leave a comment

2-Poimem Ministries-Logo Final

Here’s the link to what we’ve been up to this past year. It contains mostly pictures … let me know if you want to sign up to receive these updates. They go out every several months or so.

God bless you! And thanks for reading.

http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=402ca9421c467de147acbbb6e&id=90ea894837&e=[UNIQID]

 

 

 

 

Changes

August 21, 2016 1 comment
“Moab has been at ease from his youth;
He has settled on his dregs,
And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
Nor has he gone into captivity.
Therefore his taste remained in him,
And his scent has not changed.” (
Jeremiah 48:11)

 

NOTE: In the midst of transitioning North Valley Calvary Chapel in Yuba City, I wrote the following article as part of an all-church newsletter. The purpose was to help prepare them for their next pastor, who was about to be chosen.

 


 

One blogger I read on the subject of change makes the following comment: “When we imagine accomplishing something it actually activates the same brain circuits as if we actually performed the task. As you create your change plan, include ways to help your team envision the positive benefits the change can bring.” (Charles Stone, “Brain Friendly Change”)

Then the author goes on to illustrate: “Let’s say you’re moving your office to another location. Plan ways to help your team see how such a move will benefit them.Help them envision how a day in the new office would help them be more productive. Help them imagine what it would be like with new desks, comfortable chairs, a nice break room, and windows.”So let’s take that concept and convert it into our current situation at NVCC. Obviously, change will happen … many changes, over time, no doubt will happen. But what sort of changes will they be? What will be the outcome of such changes? What would it look like to have the kind of church we all want it to be?

The following is certain to be different. There will be a new pastor. There will be some new additions to leadership. There will be different emphases. Facilities may take on a new look. Outreach methodologies may change. The list could go on and on, the specifics will have to wait.

But for changes to be meaningful and kingdom-oriented, they must be Spirit-led, they must consistent with Biblical truth and principles (Spirit-led), and they must be embraced. Embracing change means to accept it, to own it, to enter into it. In other words, for changes in a church to work, they must be formed by Biblical leadership and received by the people in the fellowship.

It’s a challenge, this thing called change. Someone once stated, “No one likes change but a baby.” But if  churches don’t go through changes, they become stagnant.

In the words of General Eric Shinseki, U.S. Army Chief of Staff (2003): “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Changes … what do you think? Good, or bad?

Categories: Uncategorized

Personal Website Update!

April 30, 2016 1 comment

In the WordWell, I decided to update my personal website (http://billholdridge.com), after eight years with the old one.

I think it’s a great upgrade and turned out very well. At least, that’s my opinion. very good smiley

If you’d like, please take a look, and let me know what you think. Just leave a comment … I’ll appreciate it!

The purpose of the website is to provide materials that can strengthen and equip the body of Christ, by the way. Hope it does that!

Again, here’s the URL: http://billholdridge.com

Thanks!

Such Great Faith (the key to having great faith)

February 20, 2016 1 comment

faith

“Such Great Faith” (Luke 7:1-10)

Prayer: “We thank you, Lord, for Your Word and its eternal value. Every word of this Bible is breathed out by You and everything that is contained in it is exactly what You meant to say, exactly as it’s stated. So we pray that the ministry of the Holy Spirit might be real to our hearts and minds as we study this great incident from the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Compassion has been defined as “your pain in my heart.”

I love that definition! And in this chapter, Luke chapter 7, Jesus is confronted with much misery and He is compassionate in every case (reference from Pastor and Author Warren Wiersbe). There is the misery of the dying servant, the misery of a grieving widow who has lost her son; there were the difficulties of a perplexed prophet, and at the end of the chapter, the grief of a repentant sinner … imagine this, as she worshiped Jesus she had to face the scorn of the religious leaders. And Jesus helped all of them. He was (and is) a compassionate Savior.

Now the incident before us this morning occurred in the city of Capernaum. It’s important to remember that, and the fact that Jesus had been there before. In fact, Jesus had previously talked about the things He would do in this city of Capernaum, as He was being rejected by the people of Nazareth, which was His hometown, the place where He was raised.

He said to those people in Nazareth “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your own country.’” And then Jesus warned those people as He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:23-24)

What we’re going to focus this morning on is the first incident recorded in Luke 7. It’s a situation where Jesus marveled. There are only two times in the gospels are we told that Jesus marveled:

The first is recorded in Mark chapter 6, where He marveled at the unbelief of the people in His hometown of Nazareth. It was said that He could not do any mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Their unbelief hindered His ability to do anything much for them.

Two, Jesus marveled about a man who exercised such amazing faith that He would say, Jesus would say “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Luke 7:9). He was amazed by the faith of this centurion.

So our focus this morning will be upon the great faith of this man; why it was great, and what we can learn from it in relationship to our own lives.

  • The narrative reads like this from Luke 7:1-10:

Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. {2}  And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. {3}  So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. {4}  And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, {5}  “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” {6}  Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.  {7}  Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  {8}  For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” {9}  When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” {10}  And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

Here we are told that Jesus, after He had finished teaching the things He’d taught in chapter 6 (the “sermon on the plain”), now enters Capernaum. He’s coming back into the city … the name of the city is Kfar Nahum, “Nahum’s village.” It was a fishing village on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, a place where Jesus often found Himself.

And it tells us in verse two that this centurion who is introduced to us, had a servant who was dear to him. This servant was sick, ready to die. So when this centurion heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Jesus to come and heal his servant.

This certain centurion is mentioned here. He was a military servant of the powerful Roman Empire, and was there to keep the peace. They called this peace of Rome the Pax Romana (Latin for the peace of Rome). This period of peace lasted just a little longer than 200 years (approximately 206 years—27 BC to 180 AD, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica). The military strength of Rome was so formidable that they had been successful in conquering all of their enemies, the result being that there was peace and stability within the empire. During this time of peace they were able to build roads, able to further the Greek language as the lingua franca (the common language) of the people, and were able to govern each and every province. A relative peace existed under Roman rule.

This centurion was in Capernaum for that reason, to assist Rome in keeping the peace. Questions we have about this centurion: Had he ever experienced combat? Had he been part of other’s deaths? The scripture doesn’t tell us, nothing is said about that.

But what we do know is that he had a servant, which was very common in that day, to own slaves. Perhaps as many as 15% of the entire population of the Roman Empire was made up of slaves (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_Rome). But his servant was not merely an object to this centurion, the centurion cared about him. He was dear to him—valued by him, precious to him. This tells us that this centurion had a heart.

I had the privilege of pastoring for 27 years in Monterey … near the Defense Language Institute, near the Naval Postgraduate School, and near the former Fort Ord. Some of the greatest men I’ve ever met were in the military; Colonels, Generals, Captains, Commanders, Master Sergeants, and enlisted. I have great respect for them. This centurion was in their class. He was like them in many ways.

As a side note, a subject that has become interesting to me, is that in the original Greek text of this passage, Luke refers to this servant by the term doulos. You’ll recognize that term as it’s translated in the epistles by the word bondservant. But in v. 7, as the centurion refers to his servant, he refers to him as his pais (a Greek word a boy or a girl; a child or children, or a slave or servant; it’s used 24x in the New Testament).

For some reason, Jay Michaelson, in an article published by the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-michaelson/when-jesus-healed-a-same-sex-partner_b_1743947.html), states that pais does not mean “servant” here in this passage but rather it means homosexual lover. And so the argument is made by Michaelson that this servant was the centurion’s younger homosexual lover. It should be noted that his viewpoint comes without any supporting documentation from ancient Greek sources, and without regard to each and every time pais is used in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and in the New Testament (see http://thebiblicalworld.blogspot.com/2012/08/did-jesus-heal-centurions-same-sex.html).

But just for discussion’s sake: (and I completely disagree with Michaelson’s conclusions) what if pais did mean homosexual lover? Would Jesus have healed the servant? There is no reason to think He would not have, because His mission was to heal the sick and the brokenhearted. He came to seek and save that which was lost. He came, not to destroy men’s lives but to save them. We have to remember that many, many people were healed in the days of Jesus’ ministry. Not all of them received eternal life, but each and every one of them received something of the goodness of God. Some theologians call this goodness of God to pre-believers or unbelievers prevenient grace (aka “common grace”). It’s the grace of God which precedes and is part of the Lord drawing people to Himself, whether or not they eventually believe and make a commitment to Christ. The Lord healed many people who came to Him, because His mission was to seek out lost people and reach them. The healings were indications of God’s love, and evidence that Jesus is indeed the Messiah … giving the people a choice to believe.

I write all that to write this: that our calling as believers is not to decide people’s worthiness or unworthiness to receive benefit and blessing from Jesus. Our calling is to love them. Our calling is to minister the good news, to be loving and gracious disciples. We are free to do that, because of Jesus in our lives and because of the gospel.

Going on, this servant of the centurion was near death due to some sort of illness. Notice that the centurion “sent” elders of the Jews to Jesus. This could have been a command to these elders, so that what they would do would be out of sheer obedience … after all, he was a man of great authority in that region. But instead we get the distinct impression that there was more to the relationship between the Jews and this soldier. In fact, it appears that they wanted to plead with Jesus on behalf of the centurion and his servant.

It tells us in verse 4 that when they came to Jesus they begged Jesus. They begged Him earnestly, and they even said that the one for whom He should do this was deserving. “For he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”

It was sincere. They begged Him earnestly. They thought very highly of this centurion, because he did love their “nation” (their ethnos, their people, their nation). They meant the term ethos in the sense of people, not nation, because that would have been unlawful under Roman rule. To say it again, this centurion loved the Jewish people.

And, he’d also built them a synagogue. If one travels to Israel today, they can visit the ruins of the city of Capernaum. Among those ruins is a synagogue … dated at about the 4th century. That means that the present ruins are not of the same synagogue that had been built in Jesus’ day. However, archeologists have discovered that under the present ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum is the foundation of a 1st century synagogue … likely the very synagogue built by this centurion.

synagogue

Ruins of the ancient great Jewish synagogue at Capernaum or Kfar Nahum at the shore of Galilee lake northern Israel

 Notice that the Jewish elders told Jesus that the centurion was “worthy” — they said this because they operated under a system of works. In that system, in their minds, one deserved blessings, they earned them. A person’s deeds merited their blessings in their thinking. That was the way they thought … and their whole religious system was geared that way. 

This is contrary to the doctrine of the New Testament, by the way. This is what God’s word says about that approach.

Romans 4:4-5 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…

See if I work for my blessing, then when blessing comes it’s really not a blessing—it’s really a wage that is paid for my works. But God is no man’s debtor … He doesn’t pay wages to people for their good works.

The one who doesn’t work for right standing before God and for blessing, and doesn’t believe that they can earn it or deserve it, but simply believes on the message of the gospel that came to us through Jesus Christ, that person’s faith is accounted for righteousness, and God is able to give salvation as His gift. Because it is by grace that we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, notof works, lest anyone should boast.

So we see that the plea of the Jews stirred up the compassion within the heart of Jesus. The pain of the centurion and his servant went right into the heart of our Lord. Therefore, as it says in verse 6, Jesus went with them. It tells us that when He was not very far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him with his request: “Don’t bother Yourself to come. I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. And I didn’t even think myself worthy to come to You and to greet You face to face. But just say the word and my servant will be healed. So Jesus went with the elders and was near to the centurion’s house … the centurion sent some of his friends to Jesus, men who would represent his heart. And the centurion, through them, says that he is not worthy.

The centurion’s heart was to tell Jesus that he didn’t consider himself worthy. It’s vital that we notice the huge difference between the Jewish elders’ view of the man and his own view of himself. Their view of the centurion: he is worthy for Jesus to do this for him, because of the things he has done for us. But the man himself, the centurion, said “I am not worthy, that You should come under my roof, and I’m not worthy even to have come to You.” The centurion, Pastor David Guzik writes, was a remarkable man.

“The centurion was a remarkable man. The elders said he was worthy; he said he was not worthy. They praised him for building a house of worship; he felt unworthy that Jesus would come to his house. They said he was deserving; he felt himself undeserving. Strong faith and great humility are entirely compatible.” (Pastor David Guzik)

This was the one about whom Jesus said, “I’ve not seen faith like this, not even in Israel.”

Pastor Warren Wiersbe adds another comment. He said, Imagine a Roman officer telling a poor Jewish rabbi that he was unworthy to have Him enter his house! The Romans were not known for displaying humility, especially before their Jewish subjects.”

Yet this Roman centurion has this attitude of humility before this Jewish teacher, this itinerant preacher from the nondescript town of Nazareth.

The request was, just “say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Now something we’ve passed over so far at this point in the story—was that this centurion had “heard about Jesus.” The things that Jesus had previously said and done in Capernaum (and possibly elsewhere) were known by him (Luke 4:31-43 records these things): things like teaching with the kind of authority no other Jewish religious leader had ever displayed. Perhaps he’d even heard excerpts of Jesus’ messages from the mouths of others. He had heard that Jesus was commanding unclean spirits to come out of people and they immediately obeyed. He had no doubt heard about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and then later that same evening healing everyone who came to Him of any kind of disease. Demons had come out of many, and as they were driven out, they were crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Something like 1,500 people lived at Capernaum at the time, and since news travels very quickly in a small community, these things came into the ears of the centurion. And the things that Jesus had said and done had been heard by him … and all of that led this man to come to certain conclusions about the Lord Jesus.

His understanding of who Jesus was and is was based upon the things that he had heard that Jesus had been doing and saying. And so he drew conclusions about Jesus. If He can do this, then He must be like ______. If He has this kind of power and authority, then He must be this kind of an individual. And that is how he thought it through. So we see in verse 8, For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

And this is the statement that captured Jesus’ heart, and caused Him to be amazed. He marveled at this man’s faith. (23:15)

Notice that the centurion’s statement begins with the phrase “For I also am a man placed under authority…”

The word also is key here He recognized in Jesus something that was true of himself; he was under authority … he was a centurion (over 100 men), but he wasn’t a commander over other centurions. What he did was due to the fact that he was under authority. That’s where he received his own credentials and position, from the authority place over him, under which he operated.

The centurion recognized that Jesus Himself was under authority, that He received His authority from another.

Now if Jesus could do all the things this centurion had heard about Him doing, then how great must be the Authority above Him? You might say, “Now wait a minute here; I thought that Jesus is God; doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus is God? What’s going on here? How could Jesus be God and be under authority.

To answer the question, let us not forget that Jesus was made for a time a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7). It’s called the incarnation, He came in flesh, He was incarnated, He came to live with us, He humbled Himself to live His approximately 33 years as a human being, without ever ceasing to be God. At the same time not only has He always been God, in the incarnation He added a nature, He became one of us. Now He is God who is man, and man who is God. He is the God-man, to put it that way.

Jesus specifically said that the Father is the One who had sent Him. In John 5:36 He said “But I have a greater witness than John; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish; the very works that I do bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”

These works that I have done tell a story, Jesus was intimating … they give witness to the fact that I have been sent by the Father, and what I am doing I am doing at His command, and by His authority and power.

And the centurion recognized something of that. “I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me,” he said. This centurion was saying of Jesus “I recognize that You are a man under authority but I also recognize the authority You have. And the authority You have is like my authority … whenever I command anything of anyone within my jurisdiction they always obey. They have to. They do what I say. ‘Soldiers, come here or go there’; ‘Servants, do this or do that.’ At my command all I have to do is say it, and they will do it. That’s the authority I have. And Lord, You have that same kind of authority. I’ve heard about You; I’ve heard about what You do, about Your power … Your authority over unclean spirits. I’ve heard about the fact that You can heal any kind of illness that exists. I’ve heard about Your authoritative teaching, which is completely different from the religious leaders that are common in Israel today. You speak as those these words and truths came directly from You, that when God speaks, they are actually Your words. And so I know that You have authority, just like I have authority. And whatever You say, in the spiritual realm or in the physical realm, that is what MUST happen, because You said it. And that is why I’m saying to You, all you need do is speak the word and my servant will be healed, because that is the kind of authority You have. Within my authority as a centurion, my orders are always obeyed. With Your authority, Your orders are always obeyed as well. I’m only asking of You, Jesus, that You exercise the authority that You have in relationship to My servant.”

And this is what Jesus reacted to. In verse 9 it says that when He heard these things, He marveled at the centurion’s faith. He’d never seen such great faith, not even in Israel. And Jesus felt it necessary that everyone know about this kind of faith. He turned around to the crowd, and it was to them that He announced that this faith was amazing … superior to any faith He’d seen. It became a teaching lesson for everyone that was there and listening. This is what faith looks like; this is what great faith look like. This is how the Son of God ought to be trusted, ought to be believed. This kind of faith is worthy of Him.

Nowhere in Israel had Jesus seen such faith, and this faith is coming from a Gentile. Verse 10 tells us that when those who had been sent to Jesus returned to the house, they found the servant well who had been sick. 

Jesus did it; He simply spoke the word. We didn’t hear it, His exact words are not recorded for us here in the gospels; but presumably, He spoke the word. The same One who in Genesis 1:3 said “Light, be!” and light came into existence … that same One spoke healing into the body of this dying servant. He didn’t actually need to speak anything. His thought alone would have brought the same result. His will, on whatever level, became His command which had to be obeyed. And the healing of the servant proved that Jesus had the authority the centurion had said He had. 

So what was unique about the centurion’s faith? First of all, we see that he realized the kind of authority Jesus possesses over sickness and all things. That made his faith special, unique.

He had strong faith in Jesus because he had a good and proper concept of Him. When we have a proper concept of God in our minds, faith flows much more naturally. When we have an improper or inaccurate concept of God in our minds, faith is pretty much impossible. The real challenge for us, therefore, is that we gain a proper concept of God in our minds; a proper concept of Jesus and His authority. That’s the key.

It’s like the guy that’s standing on the edge of the cliff, and there’s a very deep chasm below him. On the other side of the chasm is another cliff. Strung across the chasm is a rickety old bridge. He knows he needs to get to the other side, but he looks at the bridge and sees that it has tattered ropes and broken planks. It doesn’t look stable or strong at all. He wonders whether or not he can make it across. So he psyches himself up, gives himself a pep talk, gets himself motivated and begins. He tries to keep his faith as strong as he can make it. But the bridge isn’t strong enough and he falls down into the chasm.

Contrast that man with another man who stands on the edge of that same cliff. He too must cross the divide, and is wondering whether he can make it. In front of him is a bridge designed and built by the same engineers and construction company which built the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. And he’s thinking, “Wow, that’s an awfully deep chasm, and I’m not sure about this. I’m really struggling; emotionally, I’m a mess … terrified, really. Logically, I can’t wrap my mind around it. Can this bridge truly support me?” In spite of his apprehension, he goes ahead, and makes it easily to the other side. Why was he able to make it across?

Because one can have strong faith in a weak bridge, but that will only put you into the chasm below. Or, you can have weak faith in a strong bridge and make it to the other side. In other words, it’s not the strength of the faith that is the important thing; it’s the strength of the bridge that matters!

The centurion had a concept of Jesus in his mind that made Jesus a very strong bridge. And his faith was great, not because he as a man was great, but simply because he’d allowed the truth of who Jesus actually is to enter into his mind and heart. He had strong faith in a strong bride. He had both.

Great faith comes from knowing a Great Savior. Knowing His attributes, thinking about who He is and what He is capable of.

I once had the privilege of teaching a Bible college course on the Attributes of God, describing His characteristics. The students loved the class, but it seemed like their favorite attribute of God was His infinitude … that is, God is infinite or without limit. The students learned how to connect God’s attribute of infinitude with every other thing that is true of Him. God is faithful, and is unlimited in His faithfulness. God is love, and is without limit in His lovingkindness toward us. God is merciful, and there are no limits to His great mercy. God is powerful, and is without limit in His power. There is nothing that is impossible for Him; with Him all things are possible. God is without limit in any characteristic that is true of Him. They also learned how God’s attributes work in complete harmony. Not only is He sovereign, He is also good. Not only is He just, He is also gracious.

This is where faith begins, this is how our faith is strengthened, by getting to know God accurately and well. One of our greatest spiritual errors is that we spend far too little time getting to know God, in just contemplating Him.

Warren Wiersbe adds this thought:

“If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of faith in God’s Word, how much greater our faith ought to be! We have an entire Bible to read and study, as well as nearly two thousand years of church history to encourage us, and yet we are guilty of ‘no faith’ (Mark 4:40) or ‘little faith’ (Matt. 14:31). Our prayer ought to be, ‘Lord, increase our faith!’” (Weirsbe)

How then can we increase our faith? How can our weak faith become strong faith like this centurion?

I have two suggestions.

Number one, know the Bible; and get to know the God of the Bible. Read the Bible, read every book of the Bible. And constantly ask yourself the question, what does this teach me about God? What do I learn about Him by knowing this Bible story or reading about this Bible truth?

When I read about the children of Israel in Egypt for 400 plus years, and how they went from being a people of 70 souls to a nation of 2 million or more, what does that tell me about God and who He is? When I read the messages of the prophets, messages through Isaiah or Jeremiah or the others; what do their messages tell me about who God is? When I read the gospels and understand the profound gospel truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19), what does that tell me about the nature of God as being merciful and gracious? 

You see, we trust only those that we know. And we only trust implicitly those whom we know accurately. The wisdom is this: know God well, you’ll trust Him more. Remember that the Bible is God’s revelation to us, that we might know Him and His will. It’s impossible to know Him well without the Bible.

For example, we can acknowledge God as the Creator of the Universe. This is the most foundational, bottom line truth we can believe. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And Hebrews tells us that it is by faith that we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

The second suggestion is, ask God to do things. It’s so simple, isn’t it? The centurion, upon learning of his servant’s illness, could have remained quiet about it. Had he remained quiet, there would have been nothing asked of Jesus. After if there had been no request of Jesus, perhaps his servant would have eventually died. But he asked. He asked Jesus to do something, and Jesus did something.

In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus was very plain. He said “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Please ask! Jesus is begging us … ask, ask, ask. As James puts it, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). It’s so simple: ask a lot.

If you have someone you’re working with, and you find out they are sick, or someone in their family is sick, ask God for a healing. Ask them, “Can I pray for you?” Not many will refuse prayer! They may not even believe in God, but pray for them. Maybe pray for them right then if the situation calls for it and it’s fitting to do so; or maybe later. Then tell them, “I prayed for you.”  And watch what God will do. He’ll do stuff when we ask!

But we have not because we ask not; that’s one of our big problems, we just don’t ask enough.

How can we increase our faith? Get to know the Bible and the God of the Bible, and then ask Him to do things. Not just for our own personal lives, but for all kinds of situations everywhere around us. It’s amazing what God can do!

Pastor Chuck Smith used to say something like this: “the difficulty of any task is measured by the capacity of the one doing the work.” So we’re looking at an illness, and we’re thinking, this is way beyond doctors, this is way beyond the medical professionals, this is way beyond anything I know or understand. But who am I talking to when I ask? I’m asking the One who created the universe, the One who breathed into our nostrils the breath of life so that we became living beings … He is the One I’m asking. And the difficulty of any task is measured by the capacity of the one doing the work. I’m asking the Creator to do something that for Him, is not difficult at all.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

Does God ever get tired, because He’s exercised so much of His power that day? No! God never gets tired or is ever weary. He never runs out of power, because He is limitless in His power. Therefore, He can be asked.

So here it is, Jesus was amazed at this centurion, He marveled at his faith. God, give us faith like that!

Amen.

 

Jesus Loves the Lost Ones

February 8, 2016 2 comments

Recent teaching on the chapter containing the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Take a look, give a listen … there’s a whole lot more to the message of this chapter than one may think.

The point of Luke 15

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