Do not be anxious: Faith over fear, Part 2: Matthew 6:25-34

Part 2: Seek the Kingdom

6:31-33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

To weaken the power of anxiety in your life you must take these three actions: LOOK, CONSIDER, SEEK. SEEKING is the most important of the three actions. But first get your “seeking” straight. Do not seek like a “Gentile” who does not know God. (Jesus spoke to a Jewish audience.) The Greek word for “seek” in verse 33 means “look for, watch for, desire, endeavor to obtain.” The Greek word for “seek” in verse 32 is not the same as 33; it means to “pursue with care and anxiety.” Gentiles pursue “all these things” but are never satisfied. Anxiety and stress come from seeking the wrong things first – food, drink, and clothing. I think people living in 2021 have more concerns than biblical people did. (I could be wrong!) We have more things to get anxious about because we own more things and must pay for more things.

The strongest antidote for anxiety is “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seek God’s kingdom first to counteract worry and its stress.

The SEEK command explains the “therefore” of verse 25. “Therefore” connects verses 25-34 with what comes before it. If God is your one and only Master and you are storing treasures in heaven, then you are seeking God’s kingdom first. Your heart will be in heaven. Make serving the kingdom of God your priority and the Father will provide your needs.

After I get my coffee ready, I kneel and say, “Today I will glorify and enjoy God. I will walk in faith and not fear.” The Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy God forever.” Making this declaration is an act of faith that counteracts fear. It is an expression of seeking God first. 

What is the kingdom of God? What is God’s righteousness?

3 Facts about the Kingdom of God (KoG):

First, the KoG has a King. Kings are sovereign over their realms. As a concept the KoG is the sovereignty of God over His creation. Psalm 47 declares God is king over all the earth. Jesus Christ will return on a white horse with a name on His robe and a tattoo on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16). The three Persons of the triune God will rule over a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13: But according to God’s promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.)

Second, the KoG has a visible expression in the church and its mission. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” but it is in the world. It is “in” but not “of.” Jesus meant the kingdom of God does not have the same values and goals as the world system under the authority of Satan the “god of this world.” The kingdom of God has its own righteous purpose. Jesus did not say “My kingdom is not on the earth.” The Church is the visible expression of the KoG in the world. The Church does the work of the kingdom, but it is not the kingdom. So, seeking the KoG is supporting the ministry and mission of the church. The church is the body where the commands of Jesus are received and obeyed: Love one another and go make disciples of all nations.

Third, the KoG is here now, and it is coming. We pray, “May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As we pray daily for the Father’s kingdom to come, we keep our focus on it. Whenever and wherever Father’s will is done on earth the kingdom is present. There will be a Millennial Kingdom under the Lord Jesus Christ. Old Testament prophet Zechariah foresaw the Millennial Kingdom with Jesus Christ reigning as king. There will be a final war against God in Israel. Jesus will return and win the war and stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:9: And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Read Revelation chapters 19:11-22:21.)

3 Facts about God’s righteousness:

First, righteousness is a “state of being” like innocence. Our law is founded on the principle “innocent until proven guilty.” If you are not guilty, then your state of being is innocence. If you are not innocent, then your state of being is guilt. Righteousness is the state of being in a RIGHT relationship with God. We can be declared “not guilty” in God’s heavenly courtroom and obtain a righteous state of being.

Second, righteousness is required to enter the KoG. There are only two ways to acquire the righteousness required to enter God’s kingdom. One way is impossible and the other is free. One way is by the Law, the other way is by grace. The Law of the Old Covenant was made impossible to keep preparing for the grace of the New Covenant. The moral Law of the Old Covenant (i.e., 10 Commandments) is necessary and good, but impossible to perfectly keep because we sin in motive and desire not just action. We cannot gain righteousness by keeping the moral Law, but righteousness is still required to enter the KoG. So, how do we get the required righteousness?

Third, righteousness is acquired by FAITH through the imputation of Jesus Christ’s righteousness. This is explained by Paul in Romans 3:21-26. Since righteousness – a RIGHT relationship with God – cannot be acquired by working for it, it must be received as a gracious gift. Jesus Christ lived a perfectly righteous life and died as a sinless sacrifice for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we repent of our sins and receive Christ, His righteousness is imputed or transferred to us by faith. We have the righteousness – the RIGHT relationship with God – required to enter and dwell in His kingdom forever.

[Here’s an imperfect analogy: If you were so deep in debt it was impossible to work enough to pay it off and someone offered to pay it off for you, then would you accept the offer? You would wonder if there are any “strings attached.” All you must do to receive the debt payment is humbly acknowledge your hopeless situation and live in gratitude to the person who paid off your debt. The “strings attached” are humble repentance and a grateful heart that leads to seeking God’s kingdom first.]

Continually seek God’s kingdom. Pray for the KoG to come every day. Support the ministry and mission of a church obedient to the word of God. Support it with your time and money. Get involved in local missions. Support international mission work to share the Gospel with unreached people groups. (I support 3 missions that specifically focus on unreached people groups because I believe Matthew 24:14.) Be a personal witness for Christ. Look for the kingdom around you, do the work of the kingdom, watch for it to come, and pursue it with all your heart. When your treasure is in heaven and you seek to serve God’s kingdom first there is no room for anxiety.

Little Faith

If I am anxious about sustaining my physical life in this world then I am a person of “little faith.” This means my spiritual life is weak and ineffective. I am not glorifying and enjoying God in my spiritual life. My faith is not growing stronger and maturing into “great faith.”

My next meditations on scripture will contrast little and great faith in the Gospels. Every Christian should desire to please Jesus Christ with great faith.

God’s Word for Today

The discovery of 2000 year old verses from the Old Testament prophets in a cave above the Dead Sea in Israel is God’s perfect timing. It is a message for today from God: Zechariah 8:16-17 & Nahum 1:5-6.

Zechariah 8:16-17: “These are the things you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate declares the LORD.”

Nahum 1:5-6: The mountains quake before him, the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before God’s indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

Both of these 2000 year old scrapes of scripture describe what is happening today. God demands truth and justice. God’s law is the standard of truth and justice. Read the 10 Commandments.

The heat of God’s anger and fiery wrath is visible in volcanic eruptions all over the earth. I am watching videos of volcanoes erupting in Iceland, St. Vincent, Italy, Indonesia, and other countries.

Are we listening to what God is saying? Injustice and volcanoes erupting all over the earth. These are signs from God. Come Lord Jesus!

Psalm 91 for COVID-19

Psalm 91: Dwelling in the Secret Place of the Most High
Do Not Fear COVID-19 – Reverse 19 and get 91

This is considered a Messianic Psalm and many interpreters believe it only applied to Jesus Christ during the 33 years he lived on earth. The Messiah lived under God’s protection and nothing and nobody could harm him until he finished his death and resurrection. Jesus of Nazareth dwelt in the secret place of the Most High and enjoyed the protection of the Almighty like no one else ever has or ever will. The reason for believing this is a Messianic Psalm is Satan used this Psalm to tempt Jesus to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12. Satan used this promise as an invitation to disobedient arrogance – for the Son to disobey the Father. Jesus understood the promise as a request for help when it was most needed to fulfill His service for God and not self-advantage. Angels helped Jesus after this temptation (4:11) and when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
I disagree with limiting the promises in this Psalm to Jesus during his earthly ministry. If you are in Jesus Christ by faith, then it applies to you also. It is protection for you as you serve God and fulfill His purpose for your life. Until it is God’s predetermined time for you to die, you are invincible

91 He who dwells in the shelter/secret place of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
4 names of God are used: Most High (Elyon – emphasizes God’s sovereignty and preeminence), Almighty (Shaddai – the name that sustained homeless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), LORD (Yahweh – revealed to Moses), and “my God” (Elohim – Genesis 1:1 Creator of heavens and earth).
The shelter or “secret place” referred to the inner sanctuary of the Jewish temple. Confirmed by Psalm 27:4-5: One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me.
The whole temple represented the ministry of Jesus Christ, especially the Holy of Holies with the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant (background picture). The Mercy Seat in the OT temple is now a Throne of Grace where Jesus Christ sits as our High Priest. Read Hebrews 4. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ then you are dwelling in the secret place/shelter of the Most High. The “shadow of the Almighty” is the place of protection.
Abiding in Christ is abiding in the “shadow of the Almighty.” We abide in Christ and His Spirit abides in us (John 14:17, 15:4-7). John 15:7: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Abide in Christ the secret place and ask for His protection.
The “secret place” in the New Testament is sitting with Christ in heavenly places. God raised Christ from death and seated Him at His right hand in the heavens far above all other rulers and powers and put all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-23).
By faith in Christ we are seated with Him in the heavenly places. Ephesians 2:4-6: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… So whatever is under Christ’s feet, under His authority, is also under our authority.
COVID-19 is under His feet and it’s under our feet in Christ.

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
The “snare of the fowler” is a trap set to capture a bird. The snare of the fowler refers to any trap set by Satan or his servants. God will deliver us from Satan’s surprise attacks. “Deadly” also means infectious and contagious.
The Hebrew word of pestilence (deber – noun) is derived from a root word (dabar -verb) that means “to speak a word or decree something.” The most interesting application of this etymological connection is speaking this Word of God and claiming its protection. Psalm 91 is the Word of God and a promise of protection and it will only be activated when you speak it over yourself and your household. Pray or recite/speak it over yourself and your household. The Jewish Talmud calls this psalm the “song of plagues,” for “one who recites it with faith in God will be helped by Him in time of danger.”
If you do not believe and say, “This is not really a promise of protection,” then it will not protect you. It’s not a promise and it will be useless to you. You will not benefit from God’s promise. You must believe it and speak it. Verse 2: I will SAY to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
24-7 Protection: 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. Arrow = pestilence. It flies in the air and it sticks on door handles. The pestilence stalks in the darkness means we do not know where it comes from or how it is transmitted – at least when this was written. Now we have the technology to see it, but it still moves mysteriously and seems to infect some people out of nowhere. The pestilence is a “destruction that wastes” or sickens and causes death. The main idea is around-the-clock protection. Night and day in v.6 and midnight and noonday in v.7. Psalm 91 is a promise that God will deliver His people from any deadly pestilence that becomes a pandemic.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your house.
There’s another application of the Hebrew word for pestilence (deber – noun) and its root word (dabar -verb) that means “to speak a word or decree something.” Here’s the point: A plague is decreed in heaven and not mere coincidence. In other words, if God speaks into existence a pestilence as punishment (v.8: for the recompense of the wicked) it is not to hurt His servants. It is to accomplish His purpose of judgment.
Jesus predicted pestilence as a sign of the end times (Luke 21:11; Matthew 24:8 the beginning of birth pains) and the pale horse (4th seal kills 1/4) in Revelation 6:8 is the fulfillment of it. / Note: Certain features of this COVID-19 make it seem like a punishment. The atheist CCP covered it up. The nations most affected are part of China’s “belt and road” plan: Italy and godless Europe, Islamic Iran, South Korea (a cult church brought it to S Korea). The USA is under God’s judgment for legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, but God is merciful and may use USA to find a cure. Since God directs plagues it may be a punishment for godless nations and also a TEST for all believers.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
True believers in Christ have angelic protection. Angels cause plagues according to God’s command: 1 Chronicles 21 “David’s census brings pestilence.” But they also protect servants of God from plagues.
How many angels are there? There are angels in the OT & the NT serving God’s servants. Hebrews 12:22-24: 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Is “social distancing” protection? When does social distancing become fear and not faith?
Verse 3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the deadly pestilence. The English nobleman Lord William Craven lived in 18th-century London when a terrible plague raged. As the deadly pestilence claimed more lives, his Lordship, to avoid the danger, resolved to go to his seat in the country. His coach and six were accordingly at the door, his baggage put up, and all things in readiness for the journey. As he was walking through his hall with his hat on, his cane under his arm, and putting on his gloves, in order to step into his carriage, he overheard his black servant, who served him as his coachman, saying to another servant. “I suppose, by my Lord’s leaving London to avoid the plague that his God lives in the country, and not in the city.” The servant said this in the simplicity of his heart, as really believing a plurality of gods. His comment, however, struck Lord Craven very sensibly, and made him pause. “My God,” thought he, “lives everywhere, and can preserve me in town as well as in the country. I will even stay where I am. The ignorance of that servant has just now preached to me a very useful sermon. Lord, pardon this unbelief, and that distrust of thy providence, which made me think of running from thy hand.” He immediately ordered his horses to be taken from the coach, and the baggage to be taken in. He continued in London, was remarkably useful among his sick neighbors, and never caught the infection. ~Whitecross’s Anecdotes
Example: Charles Spurgeon and the London shoemaker who posted Psalm 91 in his shop window as the Asian cholera plague ravaged the city in the 19th century.
Some say this is not an absolute promise for every believer in every circumstance. I say it is as a promise of protection from pestilence but not persecution. Believers are persecuted all over the world. For example: Bibles for Mideast missionaries were beaten, chained in a cattle stall for three days, and left to die without food and water. Jesus healed them. The whole village repented and believed in Christ when their cows died and the man who instigated their beatings was killed in a car crash.

14 “Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows My name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him My Salvation.”
Our only protection in this world is to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. How do we dwell and abide? The OT answer in this Psalm is twofold:
First, know His names. Four of God’s names are given in verse 1: Most High (Elyon – emphasizes God’s sovereignty and preeminence), Almighty (Shaddai – the name that sustained homeless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), LORD (Yahweh – revealed to Moses “I Am who I Am”), and “my God” (my Elohim – Genesis 1:1 Creator of heavens and earth). Know = Experience. Experience God’s names and trust Him.
Second, hold on tight in love. Love is a relationship. If you love someone then you will do whatever you can to protect them from harm. But your power to protect is limited. God’s power is not. That’s what this Psalm declares. This loving relationship is pictured as a mother bird protecting her babies. Take refuge under God’s wings (the wings of the angels on the Ark of the Covenant). Verse 4: He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Pinions are the outer feathers of a bird’s wings that repel rain and wind. Underneath are the soft feathers that provide warmth.
The NT answer to how to dwell and abide is a relationship with the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, who sits at His right hand. The Psalm concludes “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” The Hebrew word for “salvation” is the name Joshua (Yeshua) which is also the name Jesus. The Father will show you His salvation, His Yeshua, who is Jesus.

Will we trust God or give in to fear? SAY it together: “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Apologetics + Kingdom Authority

I have not posted any scriptural insights for a long time. So, I will try to post an insight once a week. I’ve been consumed with understanding my new duties at FCBC. Now a separate English worship service will start.

But here’s something I’ve been thinking and praying about… I think the Holy Spirit is giving me an idea to combine apologetics with the kingdom authority Jesus imparted to his disciples to heal diseases and drive out demons. I am afraid to step out in faith and try it. I have excuses. “What if…” “I’m not holy enough.” “I don’t walk in perfect obedience to the Father like Jesus.”

I can see teaching an apologetic lesson and then demonstrating the authority of the kingdom and Christ’s ascension by praying for sick people. I am ready to do this, but I need a gift of faith.

But then I read Luke 17:5-6. I think Jesus meant use the little faith you have and it will increase.

(See My January 8 post.)

Treasure in Heaven

I was recently challenged by a brother in Christ’s lifestyle and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-24: “Don’t collect (store up) for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect (store up) 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.”

There is no storing up treasure in heaven without sacrificing something on earth. To store up treasure in heaven we must sacrifice something on earth. The simplest thing we must sacrifice on a mission trip is comfort – our bed, our food, our favorite way to make coffee in the morning. The greatest and most difficult thing we must sacrifice is our physical life – becoming a martyr. The one thing we cannot choose to sacrifice is our physical life. This is the Lord’s will and not our choice. What is it you can choose to sacrifice to store up treasure in heaven?

What is treasure in heaven? I think it is anything we do for Christ that is the result of sacrificing something on earth. It is obeying a command of Christ that costs us something. It could be sacrificing our pride to humbly and boldly share Christ with someone. Treasure in heaven is sacrificing something – money and time – to obey Christ’s Great Commission. Treasures in heaven are the people saved because we sacrificed to go and make disciples of all nations. Treasures in heaven are the good works we do out of love for one another (1 John 3:16-18; James 2:14-17).

6:22-23 is about covetousness. Our eyes and our hearts are linked. We see and our hearts want. Our hearts will be where our treasure is. If our eyes are healthy, not coveting, then our whole body will be full of light. If we are coveting, then we will be full of darkness. 6:24 is about which master we will serve. If we are living to store up treasures on earth, then money is our master. If we are living to store up treasures in heaven, then God is our master.

Storing treasure in heaven is followed by “Do Not Be Anxious.” These teachings of Jesus are connected. No need to be anxious about treasure in heaven because it cannot be stolen, destroyed by rust, dry rot, or termites, break down and require money to repair, or need to be covered by costly insurance. 

Massive Promise: Romans 828

Most Christians know Romans 8:28. It is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. It provides us with comfort when life is confusing and anxious. It is the shelter we run into for safety when the storms of life surprise us.

In my Bible this promise is in the middle of a paragraph of chapter 8. Let’s consider its context. So what is written before and after this great promise?

Before R828: The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us according to the will of God. Our weakness is our ignorance. We do not know how to pray according to God’s will. When we are praying according to our desires motivated by our anxieties, the Spirit corrects our prayers and intercedes for us according to God’s will. All things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose because the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things, good and bad, work together for our good and God’s glory.

After R828: The “all things” that the Spirit’s intercession works together for our good are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. These are the BIG “all things” that work together for the ultimate good, which is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit knows and carries out God’s will in foreknowledge and predestination. The Spirit calls us to salvation and gives us justifying faith. The Spirit daily works to conform us into the image of Christ until the day we are glorified in heaven. The Spirit’s daily intercession to conform us into the image of Christ is sanctification. This is the missing link in the golden chain.

The “all things” includes daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly things that happen in our lives. It includes all pain and sorrow and tests and trials. It includes the past, present, and future. It includes the things we know and do not know, the expected and the unexpected. It includes gains and loses. It includes sickness and health. It includes all our prayers. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things work together for those who love God and are called to salvation in Christ. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate good – conformed to the image of Christ – in the all things of life.

In his book Future Grace, John Piper wrote about Romans 8:28: “If you live inside this massive promise your life is more solid and stable than Mt. Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside of Romans 8:28 all is confusion, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Outside this all encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol, numbing TV, and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and anti-ballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28. Once you walk through the door of love into the massive unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”

Doing what Jesus did: Mark 7:31-37

Can a Christian do what Jesus Christ did? Jesus healed a deaf and mute man with a command, “Be opened.” If I had the opportunity to heal a deaf and mute person then would I be able to do it with a command? Can I do it like Jesus did it? Jesus always healed by command.

My first thought: “No, because I’m not God. Jesus was able to do it because he is God.” What if Jesus did not do miracles by command because he was God? What if Jesus did miracles as the “Son of Man” who walked in perfect obedience to his Father? What if he did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, and not his divine nature. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Mark 1:9-11). If Jesus did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, then it is not unreasonable to expect a Christian who is empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in obedience to Christ to do what he did and heal by command.

My second thought: “If Jesus did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, then he did them from his sinless human nature. I will never have a sinless human nature, therefore I will not be able to do what Jesus did.” The disciples did not have sinless human natures, but Jesus gave them power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons even before Pentecost. They healed and removed demons by command after being empowered by the Holy Spirit. The ability to heal the sick and cast out demons by command does not depend on having a sinless human nature like Christ. It depends on the transfer of power and authority from Christ to obedient Christians for the purpose of acting as “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17), preaching repentance, advancing the kingdom of God (Mark 6:7-13), and obeying the Great Commission (Mark 16:9-20).

Jesus always healed by command. He never prayed for people to be healed or delivered from demons as I do, leaving it up to the merciful sovereignty of God. I’m running out of excuses to do what Jesus did as he did it. Now it’s a matter of belief or unbelief (hardness of heart). I am earning a Doctor of Ministry, but I do not want any inaccurate theology to blind me to a straightforward understanding and practice of Scripture, to bind my belief, and prevent me from doing what Jesus did as he did it. If Jesus commands me to do it, then I must believe and do it in obedience.

Jesus’ expectation: John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

More to come as I contemplate this, believe and practice Scripture, and learn from Christians who are doing what Jesus did as he did it in order to fulfill the Great Commission before Christ returns.

Walk On By: Mark 6:45-52

Two incidents in this story bother me.

First, Jesus walked on water. This is the hardest miracle for me to believe. I believe Jesus healed people (6:53-58). I believe he resuscitated people who were in the ‘sleep’ of death (5:35-43). I can even believe he multiplied bread and fish to feed 10,000 people (6:30-44). I believe he can calm storms (6:51). But walk on water!? Nobody does that. Nobody does that unless he controls the laws of nature. He can only control the laws of nature if he created the laws of nature and they obey his command. If Jesus swam out to them, then the story would not bother me. But why swim when he can walk on water?

Second, Mark wrote “He meant to pass by them.” Jesus saw them in the boat struggling against the headwinds. He walked out to them on the water and walked right past them. Why would he pass by them when he knows they are struggling against the wind? Maybe he wanted to beat them to the other side of the lake: “I’ll race you to the other side!” Jesus let the disciples see him walking past them. They thought he was a ghost because ghosts are lighter than water. They were terrified. I think Jesus wanted to see what the disciples would do. Maybe it was a test. How would they react? Would they keep struggling on their own against the wind or would they cry out to him for help? Mark wrote, “They thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they saw him and were terrified.” They cried out in terror. They did not cry out to Jesus. But Jesus did not walk on by and saved them anyway.

Maybe Jesus will pass by us when we are in trouble, unless we cry out to him for help. Jesus waits to see whether we will react in fear or faith. When we react in faith then he comes to our aid and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  

Stop Fearing: Mark 5:35-43

Jairus, motivated by love for his daughter, earnestly implored Jesus to heal her. She was “at the point of death.” While she was still alive, Jairus believed Jesus could make her well. While on the way to Jairus’ house some family members stopped him and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Rabbi now? It’s too late.” While Jairus’ daughter was still alive, he believed. He had hope while she was still alive, even at the point of death. When Jairus’ daughter died, his belief died with her. Death was he dividing line between his belief and unbelief, between the possible and the impossible.

Jairus’ faith was quickly crushed by fear. Jesus felt Jairus’ fear and said, “Stop fearing, keep believing.” (The tense of the Greek verb means to stop an action in progress.) Jesus knew it was the Father’s will to make her well and to glorify the Son in front of the father and mother, and Peter, James and John (v.37). Jesus said, “The child is not dead but sleeping” and then held her hand and commanded her to arise.

Why did Jesus say, “She’s not dead but sleeping.” He’s not using sleep as a euphemism for death. He’s referring to an intermediate state between life and complete death. (Lazarus was dead four days. That’s complete death.) “Jesus’ statement means that in spite of the girl’s real death, she has not been delivered over to the realm of death with all of its consequences.” (NICNT, The Gospel of Mark, William Lane, p.197.) The girl’s spirit remained in the room. Luke confirmed this when he wrote (Luke 8:55), “And her spirit returned, and she got up at once.” Jesus had the faith and authority to call her spirit back into her body (according to the Father’s will).

While serving as a chaplain at Baptist Hospital my supervisor told me a true story. A patient had a heart attack in a trauma room. The heart monitor flatlined, but the EMTs and nurses attempted to restart his heart for almost 30 minutes – a longer than normal attempt. A new nurse was present in the room and this was her first experience with death. She was afraid and stood in a corner of the trauma room. She prayed for the patient. After 30 minutes the flatline jumped to a pulse and the dead patient suddenly came back to life. A day later the same nurse entered the patient’s room to do something. The patient said to her, “I know you. You’re the nurse who saved my life.” She was confused. The patient said, “I saw you in the corner praying for me. The Lord answered your prayer. Thank you.” The patient’s spirit was out of his body and remained in the trauma room. He was conscious and observed what was happening. He wasn’t completely dead, only sleeping. His spirit returned and his heart started beating.

The lesson: Keep trusting in Jesus Christ even when the situation looks impossible. It may not be completely dead, just sleeping, and waiting for Jesus to command, “Arise!”