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

Fishing For People

Later, as Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee(55), he again saw the two brothers, Peter & Andrew, catching fish with a net. Jesus said to them, “Come with me, and I will teach you to fish for people.”

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So they left their nets and went with Jesus! Going a little farther along the shore, Jesus saw two other brothers, James & John, the sons of Zebedee, also preparing for a day of fishing; Jesus called them, too.  Like Peter & Andrew, James & John left their boat and went with Jesus!

Then one day Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret while many people crowded around him to listen to the word of God.  So Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked him to push off a little from the shore. Then Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd.

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Afterward, Jesus said to Peter, “Take the boat out to the deep water, and let down your nets to fish.” “Master,” Peter answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But I’ll try it your way.”

They cast their nets into the deep water & caught such a huge number of fish that the nets were about to break! So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. Soon both boats were so full of fish that they were about to sink!

When Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Master, you should not be here with me; I am a sinful man!” He and his crew were all amazed at the huge number of fish they had caught — as were Peter’s partners, James & John, the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be fishing for people.”

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Then the men pulled the boats up onto the beach, again left everything, and went with Jesus.

Saving God, please help me to love being used by You to fish for people.

(55) Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11

First Students

The following day John was standing there again with two of his students, Andrew & Philip, later in the afternoon (46). When John saw Jesus walking by, he told them: “There is the Lamb of God again!”

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John’s students responded by starting to follow Jesus.  So Jesus turned and asked them, “What are you looking for?” They asked him, “Where do you live, Teacher?” “Come and see,” Jesus answered. So Andrew & Philip went and spent the rest of that day with Jesus.

Afterwards,  Andrew found his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Christ!”

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And he took Simon to Jesus. When Jesus met him, he said, “Your name is Simon, but I’m going to call you Peter,” (which meant “rock” in their language).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee; he found Philip and said to him, “Come along with me.”  Then Philip found Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) and told him, “We have found the one who was written about by Moses and the prophets! He is Jesus, from Nazareth.” “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” answered Philip.

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When Jesus met Nathanael he said, “You are a true Israelite; there is nothing false in you.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree, before Philip called you.”

“Teacher,” exclaimed Nathanael, “you are the son of God! You are the true king of Israel!”

Jesus replied, “Do you believe this just because I told you that I saw you when you were under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this. You will even see heaven open & God’s angels passing to & from me!”

Giving  God, please help me to love receiving You as Jesus.

(46) John 1:35-51

Meditations Of Suffering

Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God.  Jesus suffered for us.  May God grant us grace to suffer for him as we suffer for others.

  • Jesus experienced intense agony while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he began to bear the punishment due for all the sins of all people throughout all time.
  • Jesus was beaten mercilessly by Roman authorities; he was mocked mercilessly by Jewish soldiers, by Roman soldiers & by spectators at the events surrounding his execution. Yet he never objected or resisted.  Instead, Jesus willingly took the punishment due for all the sins of all people throughout all time.
  • Jesus was made to carry his cross, the instrument of his execution. May God grant us grace to carry our crosses, daily putting to death the independent self-life that insists on living apart from God.
  • Jesus gave up his life on the cross as a perfect sacrifice, sufficient to satisfy God’s holy anger at all our sins.

  • The amazing passion of Jesus to rescue us from ourselves is also seen in the ways in which he reached out to people, even as he suffered for us:
    • Malchus had his severed ear restored.
    • Peter was brought face-to-face with his selfish nature.
    • Simon of Cyrene got to carry the execution cross with Jesus.
    • Weeping women were encouraged to examine their hearts.
    • A repentant thief was promised life in heaven.
    • Provision was made for Mary, the mother of Jesus.
    • John, the Witness, was given a ministry of mercy.
    • A Roman commander recognized the divinity of Jesus.
    • A perfect way was made for you & me to be reconciled to God.

God, please help me to love suffering with You.

Inspired Scriptures

The inspired scriptures are a library of many books written by many authors at many times from many places – all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  They were compiled by church leaders during the first few centuries after Jesus returned to heaven.  They remain a profound means through which God speaks to us today.

The first main part of the inspired scriptures tells of the Jewish people & their relationships with God.  Included are the stories of Moses & David, the two Jewish leaders with whom God had the most intimate & profound spiritual relationships.  Also included are the great prophets –such as Isaiah & Daniel – who were used by God to call his wandering people back into relationship with him.  Many passages in these Jewish scriptures point to a messiah – whom God promised would rescue his wandering people, and whom we know as Jesus.

The second main part of the inspired scriptures tell of the life & ministry of Jesus, and the establishment & growth of his church.  Included are four accounts of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, plus an historical narrative, describing how the Holy Spirit grew the early church.  These Christian scriptures also contain letters from early church leaders – such as Paul, James & Peter – which encourage & instruct the first church communities in their witness for Jesus.

Most Christian Bibles include a handful of additional books & additions to books in the inspired Jewish scriptures, referred to as the Apocrypha.  Some Christian (mainly Protestant) Bibles exclude these scriptures.

Not included in any versions of the inspired scriptures are several other early letters which claim to tell of Jesus, but which were not written by the closest followers of Jesus & which were not in common use by the early church.

God, please help me to love hearing You speak into my life.

John The Witness

Various traditions suggest that all but one of the thirteen principal witnesses were eventually executed for serving Jesus, by taking the good news about him to the ends of the earth, as Jesus had commanded them.

Their obedience to this command is indicated by the supposed places of their physical deaths:

  • Israel (James)
  • Italy (Peter & Paul)
  • Turkey (Philip)
  • Greece (Andrew)
  • Armenia (Bartholomew or Nathanael)
  • Ethiopia (Matthew)
  • India (Thomas)
  • Egypt (James, son of Alphaeus)
  • Iran (Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus or Judas, and Simon the Patriot)
  • Georgia (Matthias)

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Only John is believed to have died from natural causes, in Greece.  During the last 10 years of his very long life, perhaps 60 or 70 years after Jesus had returned to heaven, John wrote his personal account of the life & ministry of Jesus, three letters to Christian friends, and the visionary revelation of the end of the world which he received from Jesus.

John’s testimony of the good news of Jesus (339) is quite different from the other three gospel testimonies.

  • John’s gospel has a deeply spiritual tone, expressly aimed at inspiring faith in the divine power of Jesus.
  • John places more emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

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  • And he places more emphasis on the idea that we are called to show our love for God by loving each other.

God, please help me to love You by loving specific people.

(339) John’s testimony about Jesus is incorporated in previous posts on this site.

Jude’s Letter To Christian Friends

The executions of Peter & Paul in Rome were part of a pattern of persecution of Christians that continued for some time throughout the Roman Empire.

In Israel, certain Jews rebelled against the cruel & heavy-handed rule of their Roman overlords.  But ultimately, their rebellion was crushed & the city of Jerusalem was obliterated by Roman armies.  This took place about 35 years after Jesus had returned to heaven, in partial fulfillment of things he had taught his witnesses about the end times.

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During this period of tumult, Jude wrote a letter to scattered Christian friends (338).  The inspired scriptures suggest that Jude was a close relative of Jesus, like James.  And like James & many other people, Jude didn’t realize that Jesus was the son of God until after he had been raised from death.  But then, Jude believed & became a strong witness for Jesus.

Jude’s short letter, like Peter’s last letter, contains strong warnings against false teachers, and lists some of their tactics for upsetting God’s work among believers.

 

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Jude emphasizes that the power to overcome the lies of false teachers is found only in Jesus.  He encourages believers to persevere in faith & prayer, insisting this is the key to serving other believers who are being led astray by false teachers.

  • To those beginning to doubt God’s truth, we are to show mercy as we  encourage their faith.
  • To those who have actually begun to embrace false teachings, we are to intervene more forcefully — contending for the faith & demolishing  the lies of false teachers.

Jude admonished his friends to respect the power of evil, even while hating the power of evil.

But he concluded by emphasizing the power of Jesus to bring faithful believers through all the evils of this world & ultimately home to heaven.

God, please help me to love contending for the faith.

(338) The letter is known simply as Jude.