Power & Prayer

Jesus and his students returned to the town of Capernaum (56). On the next Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. People who heard him were amazed at the way he taught. He didn’t just give them information about God’s truth, like the teachers of the law.  Instead, Jesus taught God’s truth itself, with power & authority.

Just then a man, obviously tormented by an evil spirit, came into the synagogue & screamed, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are. You are God’s holy messenger!”

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Jesus commanded the evil spirit, “Be quiet, and come out of that man.” The evil spirit shook the poor man very hard, gave a loud scream, and then came out of him!

The people who saw this were all amazed. They started saying to one another, “Is this some kind of new teaching? This man has authority to give orders to the evil spirits, and they obey him!” And so the news about what Jesus had done began spreading quickly through the entire region of Galilee.

After Jesus and his students left the synagogue, they went to Peter’s home. Peter’s mother- in- law was sick in bed with a fever. As soon as Jesus arrived, he was told about her; he went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up.

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The fever left her, and she was immediately able to resume her household duties!

That evening, many people were brought to Jesus — some who were sick & others who were suffering from evil spirits. Many other people just came to see what would happen. Jesus healed many of those who were sick with various diseases, and he expelled evil spirits from many people. These evil spirits knew who he was, but he would not permit them to say anything. (He did all this as the prophet Isaiah had said, “He himself took our sickness and carried away our diseases.”)

Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of town to a lonely place, where he prayed.

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Later, Peter and the others went out searching for Jesus. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus answered, “I must preach the good news about God’s kingdom in other towns, too, because that is what God has sent me to do.”

So they traveled all over the region of Galilee; Jesus preached in the synagogues and often expelled evil spirits from people who were suffering. The news about Jesus spread through the whole country of Syria. Many more people were brought to him for healing — people who were sick with all kinds of diseases & disorders, people with evil spirits, and people suffering from epilepsy & paralysis. Jesus healed them all!

As a result, large crowds began following him; people came from Galilee, from the region of the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, from all of Judea, and from the land on the other side of the Jordan River.

Healing God, please help me to love finding health & wholeness in You.

(56) Matthew 4:23-25 & 8:14-17, Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44

Friend Of The Bridegroom

Jesus and his students went out to rural Judea, where he baptized people (50). John the Baptizer was ministering in a nearby place with plenty of water, and people also came to him to be baptized. (This was before John had been put in prison.)

Some of John’s students told him, “Teacher, you remember the man who was with you over on the east side of the Jordan River?  Well, he has begun baptizing as part of his ministry, and now everyone is going to him!”

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John answered, “No one can truly minister in God’s name unless God allows it. Remember I told you that I am not Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.'”

“Perhaps you can understand my relationship with Jesus this way. Weddings are all about the bridegroom. The bride belongs to her bridegroom. The best man is there to help the bridegroom, and he’s glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.

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“In the same way, when I hear the voice of Jesus, my happiness is complete. Jesus must become more important and I must become less important.”

John the Baptizer continued teaching his students, echoing the words of Jesus himself: “The one who comes from above (Jesus) is greater than all.  The one who is from the earth (me) belongs to the earth and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all.

“Jesus tells us what he has seen & heard in heaven, yet people are unwilling to accept his teaching.  But those who do accept his teaching understand that it is God’s truth. As Jesus speaks God’s truth, God gives to Jesus the fullness of the Spirit of God.

“God the father loves Jesus and has given him authority over everything.

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“Everyone who believes in Jesus can have new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death.  People who don’t believe in Jesus disobey God.  They will be judged by God for their unbelief.”

Loving God, please help me to love being a friend of Jesus.

(50) John 3:22-36

Reformation & Renewal

During its 2,000 year history, there have been three major movements to reform the church & bring it into closer union with God.

In the 11th century, after years of disagreement, churches in Greece, Turkey & the rest of eastern Europe separated from churches in Italy, France & the rest of western Europe (the Schism).  The main issues which divided the churches concerned the authority of the Pope & the source of the Holy Spirit; the eastern churches rejected the authority of the Pope & insisted that the Holy Spirit came from the Father, while the western churches affirmed the authority of the Pope & insisted that the Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son. Each side thought they were being more faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

Orthodox churches have occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal over the centuries by continuing to separate into smaller denominations promoting distinctive doctrines, albeit to a much lesser extent than Protestants.

In the 16th century, churches in parts of northern Europe separated from churches in the rest of Europe (the Protestant Reformation).  The main issues which divided the churches concerned the authority of the Pope and importance of faith & works in the relations of believers to God.  The northern European churches rejected the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith was the one vital key to continuing relationship with God, while churches in the rest of Europe affirmed the authority of the Pope & insisted that faith without works was useless.  Each side thought they were being more faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

Protestant churches have occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal over the centuries by continuing to separate into smaller denominations promoting ever-more distinctive doctrines.

Also in the 16th century, the Catholic church instituted reforms (the Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation).   Some of the reforms had been emerging from within the church for a long time; others were in direct response to errors highlighted by the break-away Protestant churches.  The principal reforms involved: requirement of rigorous training for priests, reform of religious life in monasteries & convents, encouragement of deeper spirituality among church members, and Jesuit worldwide missions.

The Catholic Church has occasionally continued to pursue spiritual renewal through events like the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, in which a wide range of church policies were modified & adapted to the modern world.

God, please help me to love differences in Your church as You do.

Tears Of Repentance

Peter continued sharing God’s message on Pentecost (230).  “Listen, fellow citizens of Israel! Jesus of Nazareth was a man, but his divine authority was clearly shown to you by all the miracles & wonders which God did through him. And you know this, because it happened right here among you!

“It was always God’s plan that Jesus would be handed over to you, and that you would kill him by letting sinful men execute him on a cross.  But God has raised Jesus from death; it wasn’t possible for death to keep him prisoner!

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“This is entirely consistent with what King David said long ago: ‘I know that you will not abandon me in the world of the dead; I know that you will not allow your faithful servant to rot in the grave. You have shown me the paths that lead to life.  Your presence fills me with joy!'”

Peter continued: “My brothers, King David died & was buried & his grave is here with us to this very day. So David wasn’t talking about himself in this passage.  Instead, God had shown David that he would anoint one of his descendants as king of Israel forever.  David was actually speaking about the resurrection of Jesus when he said, ‘He was not abandoned in the world of the dead; his body did not rot in the grave.’

“The twelve of us have witnessed that Jesus has indeed been raised from death!   We have seen Jesus ascend to God his Father.  Now Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit of God among us, just as he promised.  This is what you are seeing & hearing today!

“By all this, all people of Israel must know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the promised Messiah!”  As the people considered all this, they were deeply troubled.  They began asking Peter and the other witnesses, “What shall we do, brothers?”

Peter said to them, “Each one of you must repent & turn away from your sins.

“Show that you’re turning your life over to Jesus Christ by being baptized.  Your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit!  God has promised this to you & your children and to all of his chosen people living in other places.”

Peter repeatedly urged them to turn to Jesus, saying, “Be saved from the punishment coming for all wicked people!”

 

(230) Acts 2:22-40

Servants of Jesus

John the Witness subsequently wrote down many things about the life & ministry of Jesus (226).  But there are many other things that Jesus did which were not written down.  John once said that if they were all written down, the whole world could not contain the books that would be filled.

Later, the eleven remaining witnesses went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Jesus there, they worshiped him.  However, some of them found it difficult to believe all that they were seeing.

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Nevertheless, Jesus gave this job to all of them: “God has given me all authority in heaven & on earth. I want you to go to all people, everywhere on this earth, and call them to be my witnesses, too.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have taught you.”

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Then, Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

From that day on, these closest friends of Jesus would faithfully do their jobs for Jesus, telling everyone they met about him.  God would frequently perform miracles through them in order to get people to pay attention to their message about Jesus.  And they would frequently meet together in the temple in Jerusalem to bless God.

 

(226) Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:20, Luke 24:53, John 21:25

Governor Of The Jews

Then Pilate addressed the crowd which had gathered to see what would happen to Jesus (209).

“According to your custom, I will set one prisoner free during the Passover. Do you want me to free the king of the Jews? Or do you want me to free this notorious bandit & murderer, Barabbas?”

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Prompted by the priests, the crowd began chanting, “We want Barabbas!  We want Barabbas!”

Pilate’s wife was looking on with concern.  She had had a troubling dream about Jesus, so she had begged her husband not to harm him.

Pilate again addressed the crowd, “Look, I find no reason to condemn Jesus.” Jesus was brought out, wearing a crown of thorns & the purple robe.

When the chief priests & the temple guards saw Jesus, they began chanting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  But Pilate insisted, “I find no reason to condemn him!” Some in the crowd answered back, “By our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”

Pilate took Jesus back into the palace & asked him, “Where do you come from?” But Jesus didn’t answer.  “You won’t speak?” said Pilate. “Remember, I have authority to set you free or to have you crucified.”

Jesus replied, “You have authority over me only because it was given to you by God.   Regardless of how you exercise that authority, the men who handed me over to you are guilty of greater sin.”

 

(209) Matthew 27:15-23, Mark 15:6-14, John 18:38b-40

King Of The Jews

Early in the morning Jesus was taken back to Pilate’s palace (208).  The Jewish authorities wouldn’t go inside the palace; they wanted to remain ritually clean, so they could eat the Passover meal.

So Pilate went outside to them and asked, “What do you accuse this man of?” The priests said, “We wouldn’t have brought him to you if he hadn’t committed a crime.” Knowing that the high priests were jealous of Jesus, Pilate said, “Why don’t you just take him & try him according to your own law?”

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To this the priests replied indignantly, “That won’t work, because your law doesn’t allow us to put anyone to death.  Only you have that authority!”

Pilate went back into the palace & called for Jesus. “How can you claim to be the king of the Jews?  Your own people & their chief priests have handed you over to me. What’s that all about?”

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Jesus said, “My kingdom doesn’t belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.”

This made no sense to Pilate, so he asked Jesus, “Can you really call yourself a king, then?”

Jesus answered, “I came into this world for one purpose, to speak the truth about God. Whoever loves truth listens to me.”

Again, this made no sense to Pilate, so he asked Jesus dismissively, “What is truth?”

 

(208) Matthew 27:1-2 & 11-14, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-4, John 18:28-38a