Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Bless You” – The nature of spiritual power

When reading the gospels, I am often struck by the very real nature of the spiritual power that Jesus possessed and passed on to his followers.  In Luke 9, he sent out the 12 apostles to cast out demons and to heal the sick … and in Luke 10, he sent 70 or more out on a similar mission.  In both cases, his followers came back pronouncing success.  What does that power look and feel like?  One of the most visceral passages in scripture describing the nature of this spiritual power occurs in Mark 5.

Jesus is walking through a crowd, and a woman who has suffered for years (emotionally and mentally as well as physically, I would imagine) from constant hemorrhaging reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, believing that the single touch could cure her when nothing else could.  She was right; her faith in Jesus did cure her ailment.  But I raise the point because of Jesus’ reaction:

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” — Mark 5:30 [emphasis mine]

For whatever reason, I never thought of that power as something that could be stored, or felt, or spent.  And somehow, that makes Jesus’ spiritual power seem more real and tangible to me.  And the reason I’m writing about it today is because of another gospel passage from Luke (my current reading, in case you hadn’t guessed).

In Luke 10, Jesus is preparing to send out a large group of disciples to precede him into Judean towns, preparing the way for him to come and deliver the Good News.  He gives them several instructions about what they’re to do, how they’re to behave and what they’re likely to face.  But his instruction for seeking lodging was particularly interesting:

“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’  If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you.” — Luke 10:5-6 [emphasis mine]

The way that Jesus words this command, it sounds as if the blessing pronounced by the disciples has the same characteristics as the spiritual healing power Jesus himself manifests in the passage from Mark.  In other words, the blessing of a disciple of Christ is not just a nice, pleasant salutation.  It is a word of power.  God tells us throughout scripture that the prayers of his people are powerful (see James 5:16).  But it is a awesome thing to think that I have the ability to pass God’s blessing to others.

In truth, I have been unable to find any biblical commentaries that support the way I’m reading this message; the closest is from 17th-century pastor and author Matthew Henry [side note: his commentary and many others are built directly into the Blue Letter Bible – an invaluable resource for studying and understanding the bible].

However, this is something that I intend to ponder and pray about – because I do believe that our blessings can have real meaning.  And as I pray, and interact with people through the course of my days, I plan to be very intentional about asking for God’s blessings on them and various aspects of their lives.  Jesus tells us that if we have faith, we can move mountains … And by my faith in sharing God’s real blessing with others, those blessings have great power.

[Author’s Note: I feel that there is unusually high risk of this post being misinterpreted, but I am planning to share it anyway because it’s on my heart to do so.  I want to be very clear that I am in no way intending to glorify myself as a result of having some kind of magical ability.  In fact, Jesus cautioned his disciples in the same way as they returned from their mission: “All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” Luke 10:18-20 – The Message]

Praying image courtesy of Christians Concerned for the Community of Gainesville, Florida

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Life in the Weeds

As professionals, we often talk – negatively or derogatorily – about “being in the weeds.”  What we mean when we say that is that we’re so far into the details that we can’t really see the big picture … that we’re letting our work control us, rather than controlling our work.  And that we may be making bad decisions because we’ve lost our sense of direction.  I was struck this morning by Jesus description of the weeds as articulated in Luke 8:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop … This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.  The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.  And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun. But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest. — Luke 8:5-8, 11-15

Jesus has just placed everyone who’s ever heard God’s word – which certainly describes nearly everyone in this country – into four categories.  They’re all worth exploring, because we see examples of all of them every day.  But it was the weeds that struck me – because they’re what I see most often in my own life.  Although I love Jesus and spend time in the word (almost) every day, it’s incredibly easy for me to get bogged down in work, family, putting my own happiness first and – well – just life.  None of those pursuits are bad; in fact, they can all be considered Godly pursuits.  But when they choke out the single-minded purpose of serving God and others, they can be deadly.  My prayer today is to stay out of the weeds – the kind that deter me from honoring God with everything I do.

Wheat and Weeds image courtesy of New Covenant Baptist Church’s Daily Discipleship Blog

A friend in need

I’ve always had a hard time approaching people in need … particularly those who are grieving.  I want them to know that I care about them, but don’t want to force them to put on a brave face.  And I know that no words that I could say could really help.  I know that to many, God’s wisdom sounds like folly … but what I really want to say is this:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11-28-30

My life began to change when I realized that full reliance on God was required – and that my tendency to rely on myself or anything of this world was futile, doomed to failure, and would lead to my ultimate ruin.  That’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re grieving … but maybe Jesus’ words above are enough to start with.