When Jesus sent out the apostles and disciples to follow his example (Luke 9 and 10 as we discussed in our last post), he gave them the power and authority to do what he did. Luke 9:1 says, "he gave them power and authority." In Luke 10:1, it says, "the Lord appointed seventy-two others." Those who were with Jesus were appointed with the power and authority of Jesus. In Luke's gospel, we don't have the same ending as in Matthew 28. Instead Jesus opened their minds to understand what was written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-45) and he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power.
Since he would no longer be present with them in the flesh, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be with them. They receive that empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Peter, the presumably uneducated fisherman, begins to preach from the Prophet Joel and from Psalms. And so the next chapter, the chapter of the church, the believers, our chapter begins.
Believers receive this power from on high, the Holy Spirit, in baptism. Sacramental churches also have Chrismation or Confirmation. Some add the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". Whatever we want to call it, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to enable us to live the normal Christian life.
For Reflection: Have I been baptized? Am I clothed with power from on high? If not, today is the day. If I have been baptized, do I act like it?
Let us pray. Jesus, I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Help me to live up to it today and every day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
"I brought you into this world and I can take you out," we sometimes hear as a threat from a father to a wayward son. I think there is an application for that thought in the spiritual world.
As we continue to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, I have still been reflecting on the fact that the Christian enemy is not flesh and blood but the powers and spirits of darkness in this realm and in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And our weapon against these spiritual forces is the word (the sword of the Spirit, the word of God).
God created everything in this world and in the spiritual realm by his word. His words, "let there be . . . ", took effect and accomplished what they were sent to do, including the creation of the angels. So the spiritual powers of darkness (fallen angels) were created by God - not for evil, of course, but for good. After creation, God continued to speak words to his people, but they didn't listen all that well. So he sent The Word, his Son. The Son spoke his words, but the people didn't listen all that well, until the Son shed his blood and said, "It is finished."
Those who did listen wrote down the word of God which we have with us today. And this written word, which came from the flesh-and-blood Word, to the people created by the spoken word, we learn so that we can overcome the spiritual forces in the world and in the heavenly places by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The lamb's work is done (it is finished!) and our work is to speak the word of our testimony.
The word of our testimony is the Word of God (Jesus), the word of God (Scripture) and the words that tell what God has done for us personally. What was created by a word of God we have been empowered to overcome (or take out) by a word from us. In our war on the spirits and powers of darkness, our weapon is the word. The evil spirits don't have the Word on their side, we do. Let us speak to the evil spirits, the powers of darkness, and overcome them with the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
Let us declare. Spirits of war, hatred, murder, genocide, you were defeated by the blood of the Lamb. That same blood was shed for me so that I might be washed clean and set free from my sins. Furthermore, Jesus is my Lord. He has given me abundant life. He has justified me and made me righteous in his sight. By God's Word and by my word you are cast down. You have no more power in this world. You are defeated. The captives are set free.
Extreme Response or WWJD
Following God is seldom easy. We can look to the record of the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus' closest disciples in the New Testament. Only John seems to have died of old age. Following God's directives, doing what Jesus told them to do, got them killed. It is the same today in many places in the world.
Sometimes those who follow Jesus do, or want to do, the wrong thing. When Peter cut off the ear of the servant of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man's ear. Even in a time of high stress, Jesus showed compassion and offered healing.
Another time Jesus had to rebuke James and John. When they had been refused hospitality in a Samaritan village (another case of no room in the inn?), they asked Jesus, "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54) Calling down fire from heaven seems like an extreme response to a small rejection, and certainly Jesus tells them they are out of order.
But what else does that question indicate to us? That they believed they had the power to call down fire from heaven.
For reflection: Jesus never called down fire from heaven, as far as we know. What made James and John think this was possible and appropriate? Is there a time when this might be appropriate?
Let us pray. Lord of Justice, Lord of Mercy. You who want all people to be saved and none to be lost, help us to curb our baser instincts and listen to your guiding wisdom. Help us to know how to use the power that you give us to increase your Kingdom on earth.
St. Patrick had a reputation for raising people from the dead. (This being St. Patrick's Day let's add him to the mix of our reflections on Matthew 5:14-16). He was known for his miracles. One of these was raising to life two children of the King of Dublin. The King and his subjects consequently became Christians.
Patrick did not hide his light. No, he let his light shine for all to see and he wasn't afraid to step up and put God to the test about raising people from the dead. He was an ordinary person who ended up doing great things for God.
For Reflection: Personally I don't know any Christians who have a reputation for raising people from the dead. Why not? Are people not still dying? Who are the people called to raise the dead? Where are they?
Let us pray. Father, help us to let the light you have given us shine before all people that they may see the good deeds you enable us to do. Let us hold up our light, the light of Christ, like a beacon. Let us be the lighthouse. May we be the ones to raise the dead, heal the sick and bring many more people to know and love you. Give us some of the courage, faith and tenacity that Patrick had.
Getting Big Air
Snowboarding, free skiing and other events have been added to the Olympic games in recent years. These are sports that only developed recently. People invented these sports. They invented the equipment; they invented the moves. Someone did it first and then spread the word.
Usually these innovators are young people who are willing to try anything. They don't have a fear of failure (or many times a fear of death). When they get to a certain age, they retire from the sport to get married, raise families and pursue other dreams. They settle down; live normal lives.
I'm not sure as Christians that we should settle down and live normal lives. We should be the ones trying new things in the Spirit, finding new ways to achieve healing, working miracles to feed the hungry and house the homeless, even raising the dead. We should be the ones soaring above the earth in the Spirit, being transported supernaturally to other places, getting "big air". These are radical things in the Spirit today which for Christians should be the new normal.
For reflection: What is the new normal to which God is calling me? Where have I settled for less than God wants? What new moves does God want me to develop?
Let us pray. Jesus, in you all things are possible. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. I don't want to settle for less than you have planned for me and will enable me to do. I want to keep pressing on toward that to which you have called me. With you I have no fear.(based on Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:10, 13-14 and 1 John 4:18).
In the Kingdom of God on earth, we are all citizens of the same Kingdom. We all believe in and work for the same King. We all have the same purpose. We live for him.
Until the fulfillment of that comes, Christians serve as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. As with other ambassadors, wherever we are in residence, is the land of the Kingdom. When someone enters our home, they are entering the Kingdom. Wherever we go, we represent the King. In a real sense, the King and the Kingdom go with us. When we walk in a room, the King walks in the room because we are his designated representative. As St. Paul says, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors have the full faith of the King behind them.
For reflection: Do I carry the presence of the King and the Kingdom with me?
Let us pray. King of all creation, I bow before you. I acknowledge your kingship. You only want the best for your creation. With the saints and angels in heaven, I praise you. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Faith vs. Storms
Another aspect of the Kingdom of God on earth, brought up by the typhoon, is that there will be no more destructive storms. We can deduce this because we have the example of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). After Jesus simply speaks to the storm, "Quiet! Be still!", the wind dies and the waters are calm. Then he chastises the disciples for not having enough faith. They had not recognized that his miracle-working power extended to storms even though they had already seen him heal many people and cast out demons. As Jesus healed people, he taught them that "the Kingdom of God is near" so they should "repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). This was a new kingdom, not like any other kingdom they had ever seen. Did they have the faith to believe it and to tell others about it and demonstrate how it was different?
For reflection: Do I believe that the Kingdom of God on earth is near? That it is different? Do I have the faith to calm storms? If I banded together with other people, would I have the faith to stop typhoons?
Let us pray. Jesus, I've never even prayed to stop a storm before. I've always just prayed for the people to endure and recover. Help me have the faith to believe and to act when there is a threat.
Will We Believe
"Please come at once!" the messengers urged Peter. The beloved Tabitha had died (Acts 9:36-43).
Why send for Peter when someone has died? What did they expect him to do? Did they want him to be there to mourn with the community, or lead a memorial service? Or did they hope he would raise her from the dead?
Peter expelled the crying mourners from the room. He knelt, prayed, and then commanded Tabitha to get up. As with Aeneas (Acts 9:32-36) we see Peter use the command, "Get up." We don't know what Peter prayed while kneeling. Perhaps he was seeking the Lord's direction on whether to raise the woman back to life or let her go. And hearing that direction, he simply commands her. The faith to command, as we mentioned last week, comes from knowing the Lord's will.
The purpose of healing Aeneas and raising Tabitha was two-fold: it was for the benefit of the person and it was for the benefit of the many people who heard about it and believed. Many more people came to believe in Jesus because of Aeneas and Tabitha.
For reflection: People are still being healed and raised from the dead today. They may live next door to us or they may live half-way round the world and we find their stories on YouTube. The question, though, is still the same as it was in the time of Jesus - will we believe?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I pray with the father in Mark 9:24 - "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
I was working on Capitol Hill when 9-11 happened. I could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. Rumors were rampant that morning about what was going on, and, of course, we had no concept of people doing something like that deliberately.
What does this have to do with our recent theme of praying for and forgiving our enemies? Even enemies such as these need to be forgiven. We are commanded by Jesus to forgive all and to leave the vengeance to God. Whether it is men who fly planes into buildings or fire bullets into schools, or who hold three women captive for years. Whether it is presidents and generals who lead us into war, or drug traffickers and human traffickers, pedophiles or identity thieves, we must decide to forgive them. Having forgiven them, we must love them and pray for them. As I said earlier this week, it is one of the hardest things for a Christian to do.
For reflection: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:14-21, also see Leviticus 19:17-18, Deuteronomy 32:35, Proverbs 20:22).
Let us pray. Once again, Lord Jesus, I come to you for help. There are so many people who have not hurt me directly but I have judged them anyway because they have hurt people I know, or they have hurt my country, or they have become notorious for the things they have done. I want to forgive them. I do forgive them. I forgive them as you have forgiven me - fully, completely and without reserve. They are not mine to judge. You alone know their hearts and minds and why they did what they did. I place all of these people (name their names if possible) in your hands, Lord. They belong to you, not me.
The Effects of Prayer
The prayer of Ananias for his enemy Saul was very effective. Within a few days Saul had completely changed his mind and the focus of his life. He went from a persecutor of the followers of Jesus to proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:19-22). That was one powerful prayer that Ananias prayed. It not only changed Saul, but also changed the history of Christianity through Saul's conversion.
Our prayers for our enemies can be just as life-changing. It reminds me of the passage in the letter of James which reminds us to pray in all situations (James 5:13-20), assuring us that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
For reflection: There may be enemies in several areas of my life - family, work, church, nation. For whom is God asking me to pray today?
Let us pray. Dear Jesus, please bring to mind all for whom I need to pray. . . . I forgive them for what they have done. I set them free of my judgment. I ask you to bless and heal them in whatever way they need and to draw them closer to you.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.