All posts by Brian Amerson

I believe the Bible but

I Believe the Bible_But

I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  I believe God inspired the writing of the Scriptures and guided those who canonized the Bible. Cannonized means deciding which writings were God inspired and which weren’t.

I believe, but.  Why do I put that word in?  I am almost 65 years old and have been in church from the cradle to now.  I have read the entire Bible, have listened to hundreds of hours ( or thousands) of sermons and teaching, and have been to seminary to learn more.  Yet I still am learning.

Through the years my understanding has deepened as I have become more spiritually mature.  Every day, it seems God reveals richer spiritual truths to me using verses I may have read 100 times before.  I have more understanding about scripture than I did 40 years ago. 

The word “but” is a conjunction in the English language that is used to combine two thoughts or sentences in which the second one is different or seems surprising. 

I believe but I recognize sometimes my “interpretation” may be flawed.  I know there are things I have written 30-40 years ago that really need editing in light of my new understanding.

I have learned to listen to other’s opinions.  This does not mean I read or study heresy, rather I listen to someone’s opinion now rather than arguing (if possible).  Often, I do read statements from cults and others so I can find out where their error comes from.  This is not hard for me to do.  What is hard is applying the same study on groups and teachers of apostate “Christian” groups.  Many of them are very eloquent in speech and have a smooth presentation that sound so good until you realize it is twisting Scripture.

The Scriptures tell us to be as the Watchmen on the walls, guarding against doctrinal error and those that will “lead us astray”.  Sometimes you have to know who the enemy are.  Other times you just need to stay close to the friendly campfire.  As a general rule, Church members need to guard against feeding at strange campfires.  There are too many wolves out there for stray sheep to be safe.

But as for me.  I believe the Bible but realize everything I believe still needs to be verified by careful study of God’s Word.  I need to be careful that my faith is not in my understanding or interpretation, but solely in what the written Scriptures is saying.  And of course, be careful about proof texting.  Don’t remove a sentence out of context and build an entire doctrine from a scripture that in context of the paragraph, doesn’t mean what the sentence can be twisted to mean as a stand-alone thought.



When I wrote “Passing by on the other Side”, I was thinking of some of the reasons we do not help others. I mentioned the cultural mentality that flavors our beliefs. I believe that is a large part of the problem. America, our country was built by individuals who pulled themselves up and did whatever was necessary. They built an empire with blood and sweat. In the early years there was no social safety net other than family and Church. I can still hear my Grandmother saying, “God helps them who help themselves.” Which she thought was a direct quote from Scriptures.

We are a rich nation by world standards, and we are proud of what we have. To follow Jesus, we too must face the issue of the rich young ruler of asking where our love and loyalty are-our money and possessions, or Jesus?

How many times have you heard someone say that we need to be good stewards with what God has given us? What exactly does that mean? Is that a Biblical concept or a twisting of the Scriptures? Do we say that as an excuse to not help others, to keep what is mine?

Other times we may pass by because we don’t want to get involved with our time. The Samaritan invested time to help, and invested time to return to the innkeeper to pay any remaining bill. We live such busy lives. To get involved helping will crimp our style. We might have to give up some leisure activity to use the time helping.

Lastly there is the issue of prejudice and judging. Often times we pass by because we believe the needy person made wrong choices that helped cause their problems. We tend to be judgmental and withhold help because it was their own fault, and we all know there are consequences for sin. Or we refuse to help financially because they spend money on habits that we classify as “sin against the temple of God” (our body). Perhaps we refuse to give time because they don’t meet our standards in all they do for leisure, or perhaps they are not meeting our standards searching for a job, or …

Oh… I just heard another excuse… “They are family”. It appears to most people, the principle being taught by Jesus doesn’t apply to family! How many times do we see or hear families that are torn apart by money issues. There is a branch of our tree that is infested with nuts that seem to need help and in our opinion are lazy and no good. Our particular branch is hard working and self sufficient. Are we going to be good Stewards with what God blessed us with and what we have worked hard for? Or are we going to throw our hard earned resources away on those undeserving?

It seems that our version of the story of the Good Samaritan assumes that the person lying on the road is not a bum! In some ways we have placed an importance upon them that makes them somehow deserving to be helped. This gives us an out when we feel someone is not deserving. Once again we have lost something in the cultural translation because a Samaritan was considered lower than a dog by the devout Jews. There was no question in the Disciples’ minds about whether the man lying on the road was deserving or not.

Judging the hurting person has been recorded since the Bible times. It was one of Jesus teachings (that we need to avoid judgmental condemnation). The book of Job is a story of wrongful judgment.

The main point is that most of us know the story of the Good Samaritan but also most of us don’t think it applies to us. I mean, anyway, when was the last time you found someone bleeding and almost dead on the side of the road?

What is your excuse to stay blinded to the hurting people around you? What would Jesus ask you to do in response?



“In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” ” (Luke 10:30-37, NIV)

When Jesus told this parable over two thousand years ago, he was addressing the question of a “lawyer” who was trying to take the easy way out by insinuating he did not know who his neighbor was. Jesus pointed out that whosoever was in need that he came across was indeed his neighbor, and that we should do whatever is in our power to aid that person.

Unfortunately nowadays, a lot of folks prefer to just “pass by” when someone needs help, leaving them to whatever plight that afflicts them.

I hear people who are hurting (they are members of a larger church in the city) and they are not even strangers as the man in the story of the Good Samaritan. Each week as they go to Church they rub shoulders with other Christians who are totally unaware of the pressing need of the hurting person. At least I would like to think they are unaware. If that is the reason, perhaps we need to open our eyes and care for our brothers and sisters!

How does a professing Christian “pass by on the other side” especially with fellow church members?

I think there is a darker reason why many of us pass by on the other side.

One possible reason is Cultural Christianity. I read a devotion written by an American lady in Hong Cong who was telling of her experience in a Bible Study when Cultural interpretations flavored the understanding of the Bible.

A quote from her devotion;   “In the discussion time, I said that different cultures emphasize the verses that best match their cultural values. As an example, I mentioned that, with regard to money, the Filipino Christians I worked with take seriously Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:42 to give to him who asks, because their culture places a high value on generosity. We Americans, however, are more likely to quote Paul that those who won’t work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). I finished by saying that both verses need to be considered.

“The speaker was quick to inform me that Paul’s verse was the more important of the two and that anyone who took the other verse seriously was wrong. I doubt she realized how well she proved my point. Later, when we were nibbling snacks and chatting, a couple of the other Bible study women told me they agreed with me. Different cultures do emphasize the verses that best support their cultural values and tend to ignore the rest.”

Is that what God wants us to do with his Word? Is the Bible nothing more than a smorgasbord of verses where we pick what suits our cultural tastes and leave the others?

After reading that devotion, I started examining my beliefs in this matter.

It seems that the “Western” mentality does lean heavily towards the Thessalonians verse with a very unhealthy dose of judgementalism. I have heard many around me excuse themselves from helping a person because they smoked, or _(insert sin)_, or ? The rational being if they weren’t sinning….

Then there is the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity preachers whose philosophy has crept into our thinking, that says if you are not being Blessed, you need to get right with God. This gives the Traveler on the “Samaritan Road” the perfect excuse to pass on the other side.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, but we can’t see the People around us who are wounded and hurting on the side of the road. Or we choose not to notice them!

Let’s find the Life Application

  1. Make a list of people whom you know that, for whatever reason, need help.
  2. Really get to know the people in Church. It seems to be the same in a Church of 15, 50, or 150. We really don’t know many (if any) very well. We spend very few minutes visiting with others in Church. After all, we have to go home and … We are totally unaware of those who are crying for help.
    1. You have to spend time talking. You have to ask questions.
    2. You have to listen with spiritual ears.
    3. You have to linger before and after services to have time. The Preacher frowns on chit-chat during the sermon!
  1. Decide if the Spiritual Applications apply to you. The story in Luke does not tell us the reasons that the Priest and Levite passed by. Do you think the reasons make a difference? What are your reasons for passing by? Why did Jesus tell this story? Why did God include it in the Bible?
  2. Talk to trusted Spiritual leadership and find help for the hurting. Do it yourself if possible, but otherwise, bring help to the side of the road.

In conclusion, (from the author of the devotion I referred to above),

I’ve learned that, if I’m to please God, I’d better stop worrying about claiming my rights and start fulfilling my responsibilities.

Christian Lifestyle – Rules

Are there specific guidelines that constitute a Christian lifestyle? From theologian to theologian, any “lifestyle” list would differ. Drinking, movies, music, dancing, politics, fashion, education . . . to what degree do we shape our choices so we maintain a Christian lifestyle? “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do…” (Romans 12:2). For one year A.J. Jacobs attempted to obey more than 700 rules and prohibitions found in the Bible. At the end of one year he confessed, “I started the year as an agnostic, and now I am a reverent agnostic.” A Christian lifestyle should never become a list of rules. We must take our attention off mandates and focus on the Man.

To paraphrase, “What did Jesus do?”

  • Communicated continually with God (Matthew 11:25-26; Mark 6:46; 14:32)
  • Acknowledged the significance of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26)
  • Obeyed the will of His Heavenly Father (Luke 22:42; John 6:38-39)
  • Resisted temptation by steadfastness to the Word of God (Luke 4:1-13)
  • Reached out to those considered hopeless and sinners (Mark 2:15-16; Luke 19:5-9)
  • Served others, humbling Himself before His Heavenly Father (John 13:3-5, 12-15)
  • Persevered in faith and love (John 4:34, John 9:4; John 17:23)

Christian Lifestyle – Inside Out
What are the outward and inward evidence of a Christian lifestyle? You can present an outward appearance of holiness daily and still serve as a poor Christian witness (Matthew 23:27-28). To live as a Christian requires having the character of Christ. A transformation must occur, as a result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Galatians 5:24-25).

When we truly practice a Christian lifestyle, the inward evidence becomes obvious. God’s glory and power pours out upon all those around us. Our faith in the midst of turmoil flows from a heart given to a loving Father. Every breath carries words of compassion and affirmation to a hurting world. Those who live the Christian lifestyle live a confident life on the inside and outside.

“This High Priest [Jesus Christ] of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Sin In Our Camp…

Sin In Our Camp…

Judas departure brings about Christ’s glorification (31-32)

  1. To be glorified in this context means to make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendor; a. to impart glory to something, render it excellent:
  2. It is only after the departure of Judas that the glorification happens.
  3. Perhaps we are not receiving the blessings we are due because we have negative influences around us we are not willing to remove.
  4. Christ’s glorification – brought glorification to the Father.
  5. When we are receiving God’s blessings – these blessing shall cause Christ to be praised, and will cause the Father to be praised. God will in turn glorify Himself and His Son through your blessing.
  6. Bottom line we need to prepare our life’s situation for blessing by removing – our rebellion – our doubt – and the negative factors that prevent our blessing.

Makes me think of the “Sin of Achan”

The first verse in the passage (Joshua 7:1) sums up the whole story. The rest of the passage contains the details of the situation. It is interesting that all of Israel is held accountable for one man’s sin. In modern society we often value individuality to the point that we do not feel responsible, in any way, for our fellow man. God looks at His people individually but also as a group. This becomes very clear in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following in reference to the Church.

  • To remain connected to God through Jesus Christ (John 15:4–8). A life that’s cut off from God withers and dies — physically as well as spiritually. God desires to reproduce His Son’s life through our fruitfulness.
  • To remain faithful through persecution and to resist false doctrine (2 Timothy 3:12–17). The apostle Paul expected situations to become worse as worldly pressures increased. Our testimony and knowledge of the Scriptures arm us against any deceivers or deceptive ideals.
  • To present the Good News to a lost world (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:12) Like an athlete or soldier, we present our best efforts to further the faith. Our transformed lives compel us to share the Gospel’s impact not just for our “today,” but for our eternity.

Why Are Churches in the Developing World So Vibrant?

Churches in the developing world remain some of the most dynamic and fastest growing in Christendom. This should cause Western Christians to celebrate. But it should also prompt us to ask the obvious question: What are churches in the developing world doing that Western churches aren’t?

Membership in mainline denominations continues declining in the United States year after year. Yet these same denominations are growing in places like Africa and Asia. That’s the case for the United Methodist Church (UMC), the Anglican Communion, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, among others. For decades now, the majority of Christians have lived in the Global South.

It becomes evident why this is when interacting with Christians from the developing world. These Christians overflow with passion and commitment for their faith. Their charisma expresses itself in at least five ways that I’ve observed: (1) theological orthodoxy; (2) devotion to prayer; (3) openness to the supernatural; (4) ambition to spread the gospel despite opposition; and (5) willingness to follow God’s call to ministry.

First, let me clarify. I’m not saying these Christians have perfect theology. Like Christians anywhere, they have biases and errors, too. For example, local religious traditions and heretical Western doctrines like the “prosperity gospel” maintain varying degrees of influence in the developing world. Christians in many underdeveloped countries also lack access to the quantity and quality of theological resources that we enjoy in the first world, particularly in America.

But here’s the key. Christians in the developing world get a lot of important things right. They are taking firm stands on issues like marriage, sexuality, and abortion while Western Christians are busy equivocating on these basic tenants.

Look no further than recent events in Canterbury for proof. Anglican primates (top bishops) from Africa played a pivotal role in sanctioning the Episcopal Church over their open acceptance of homosexuality. Many African bishops were members of the theologically conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Without their support, the Anglican Communion would have continued permitting the Episcopal Church to promote their liberal agenda on sexuality.

Not only have African bishops stood firm in the Anglican Communion, but also in the UMC. For decades, the UMC has faithfully affirmed Biblical doctrines on marriage and sexuality. That trend has continued in recent years “especially thanks to outspokenly conservative African delegates,” Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) President Mark Tooley commented in 2009. Hopefully the steadfastness of African delegates will be enough to prevent theological backsliding at the upcoming UMC General Conference this May.

So how can Western Christians learn from their brothers and sisters in the Global South? We know from experience in America what happens when denominations diverge from Scripture on basic issues of morality. They fall into decline.

By conforming to the world, theologically vapid churches become indistinguishable from secular society. They lose their cultural relevance. Who wants to be part of an institution that doesn’t stand for anything distinctive?

I recently came across a quote in which Martin Luther King Jr. summed it up brilliantly. He wrote in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

Unbelievers can go anywhere to hear the world’s values preached. Hollywood, musicians, the media, and secular commentators proclaim their pluralistic moral code in much more accessible, entertaining, and compelling ways. The Church can never compete – not without a distinctive message.

Of course, we can season our truth with tradition.  But this is no substitute for substance.

Why Don’t We See Miracles Like the Apostles Did?

Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).

Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?

To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

Purpose of Miracles in Scripture

Miracles in Scripture are acts of God that proclaim his sovereign power over creation as well as his commitment to the good of his people. Miracles are often significant because they serve a larger purpose in God’s redemptive plan, testifying to the authenticity of God’s messengers who bring his revelation to humanity. This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the scriptural narratives: “When miracles occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and so serve to advance the gospel.” Miracles authenticate God’s message and his messengers.

In the Old Testament, Moses did miracles to demonstrate his authority as God’s spokesman (Exod. 4:1–9). Similarly, the prophets were given words to speak from God, and in order to verify their authority God granted them the ability to perform miracles (1 Kings 17:17–24, 18:36–39, 2 Kings 1:10).

Whereas “the miracles of the Old Testament age authenticated Moses and the prophets as men of God,” The miracles of the New Testament age authenticated in turn Christ and his apostles. Nicodemus, for example, recognized that God was with Jesus because of the miracles he did (John 3:2). Luke records approximately 20 of Jesus’ miracles, and four—all healings—are unique to only Luke. Jesus’ miracles authenticate his authoritative role in the divine plan that brings salvation (Luke 7:22). In fact, the scope of Jesus’ healings shows the breadth of his authority. He heals the sick, casts out evil spirits, and cures a variety of specific conditions: a flow of blood, a withered hand, blindness, deafness, paralysis, epilepsy, leprosy, dropsy, and fever. He resuscitates the dead and exercises power over nature.

Miracles also point to God’s kingdom and the restoration of creation. John calls the miracles of Jesus “signs” (John 4:54, 6:15), and Jesus suggests that his miraculous works verify that the kingdom of God has come (Luke 11:14-23). Jesus performed healings, exorcisms, and “nature” miracles (such as turning water into wine and multiplying food) as a sign that God’s kingdom had come to earth.  One of the purposes of miracles was “to bear witness to the fact that the kingdom of God has come and has begun to expand its beneficial results into people’s lives.” This is the point of what Jesus says in Matthew 12:28: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Because of Jesus’ miraculous works, those who saw him knew that the God of Israel was once again acting in their midst.

Miracles lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’ miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce. . . . Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order.

Jesus’ miracles reveal his divine identity—an identity that calls for worship. This is the response of the disciples after Jesus walks on the water: “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33). When asked whether he was the “one who is to come” (Luke 7:19) Jesus, instead of answering with a word testifying that he is the Messiah, points to his miracles. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus is focused on his authority and the promise he brings. Jesus’ saving work inaugurates the kingdom of God, delivers sinners, secures forgiveness of sin, and provides the Spirit.

It seems to be a characteristic of the New Testament church that miracles occur. In the Old Testament, miracles seemed to occur primarily in connection with one prominent leader at a time, such as Moses or Elijah or Elisha. In the New Testament, there is a sudden and unprecedented increase in the miracles when Jesus begins his ministry (Luke 4:36–37, 40–41). However, contrary to the pattern of the Old Testament, the authority to work miracles and to cast out demons was not confined to Jesus himself, nor did miracles die out when Jesus returned to heaven. Even during his ministry, Jesus gave authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons not only to the Twelve, but also to seventy of his disciples (Luke 10:1, 9, 17–19; cf. Matt. 10:8; Luke 9:49–50).

The miracles of the early church, then, served an immediately relevant purpose in redemptive history: verifying the authenticity of God’s revelation and signaling the coming of the new eschatological age among God’s people.

Consider the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. One of the largest disputes in the early church concerned whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity had to keep the Old Testament law and be circumcised. It became such a matter of dispute that Paul, Peter, and Barnabas met with the leaders of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem to debate the issue. It’s noteworthy that, as Acts 15:12 says, “all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” Here the miraculous works of God served as evidence to the Jewish Christians that God was in fact working in a new and unique way among the Gentiles as well.

Miracles Today

So how should Christians think about miracles today? First, we must realize that the sheer volume and close proximity of the miracles in the Bible served significant purposes in God’s redemptive plan at the time. However, this point doesn’t mean that miracles have ceased today. Indeed, “There is nothing inappropriate in seeking miracles for the proper purposes for which they are given by God: to confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, to bring help to those in need, to remove hindrances to people’s ministries, and to bring glory to God.” Miracles still happen, and Christians should avoid the two extremes of seeing everything as a miracle and seeing nothing as a miracle.

Second, Christians need to expand their understanding of God’s action to include both his providential sustaining in daily affairs and also his miraculous works of redemption in the church. For example, in John 14:12, Jesus says, “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.” But it isn’t immediately clear what Jesus means when he says that those coming after him will do “greater works.” Some may think that these “greater works” refer to more miracles and other such events. However; Greater works . . . cannot simply mean more works—i.e. the church will do more things than Jesus did, since it embraces so many people over such a long period of time—since there are perfectly good Greek ways of saying “more,” and since in any case the meaning would then be unbearably trite. Nor can greater works mean “more spectacular” or “more supernatural” works: it is hard to imagine works that are more spectacular or supernatural than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the multiplication of bread and the turning of water into wine.

The “greater works” done by those coming after Jesus point primarily to the new eschatological order established by Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

The “signs” and “works” Jesus performed during his ministry could not fully accomplish their true end until after Jesus had risen from the dead and been exalted. Only at that point could they be seen for what they were. By contrast, the works believers are given to do through the power of the eschatological Spirit, after Jesus’ glorification, will be set in the framework of Jesus’ death and triumph, and will therefore more immediately and truly reveal the Son.

And while these works certainly included the signs and wonders done by the early church in the Spirit’s power, they weren’t limited to those miraculous deeds. Instead, they also included the “mystery” of Gentiles being included into the one new people of God. God’s miraculous works in the church include the forgiveness of sins and the inclusion of those who were formerly far off into God’s one new people. Healings, signs, and wonders are extraordinary, yes, but no more extraordinary than the redemption accomplished by Christ.

Even if we don’t frequently see extraordinary miraculous events, God is active. He is active in the regular (natural) processes we see every day. He is miraculously calling people to himself as his church grows and expands. He is active in miraculous ways among people we don’t know around the world.

Whether or not we’re privileged to witness obviously miraculous, supernatural events, Christians can be confident that God is actively at work in the world, bringing people to himself, bringing glory to Jesus, and building his church (Matt. 16:18).

What Renders the Hand of God Powerless?

Mark 6:1–6

In Mark 4:35–5:43 shows Jesus seemingly to have power over all things, as he successively controls the elements, demons, sickness, and even death. But when Jesus comes to his own home town in 6:1, we find him “unable to work any miracle there” (v.5) because “they would not accept him” (v.4). Jesus has power over all things except the will of the human being. There is a similar sadness in this account that we find in John 1:11: “He came to his own, and his own did not accept him.”

There is much debate about whether the author of John’s Gospel knew Mark’s Gospel. Yet we can see close parallels between John 1:11 and Mark 6:1–6. It is not just the rejection by “his own” that is common, but it is the Creator that is being rejected.

Mark does this with some clever word-play on the use of the word “hands.” The occurrence of this word in Mark 6:1–6 is not obvious in many translations. First, we are told that the people are amazed at the “powerful things” (or “acts of power”) “brought about by the work of his hands” (v.2).

The people seem to satisfy their questioning amazement by pointing out that Jesus is a tekton. We have traditionally translated tekton as “carpenter,” but recent studies of the use of word show that it can mean any skilled worker, that is, anyone who is skilled at working with their hands. In historical terms, he could be one who is skilled at working with wood, stone or metal.

With typical Markian irony, we thus have a scene where the people ask, “What are these powerful things that have been done by his hands?” and the answer that seems to satisfy them is: ‘Oh, he is just a person who is skilled with his hands!’ The Markian joke continues since, after noting that Jesus could not perform any miracles there (v.5) he paradoxically goes on to say “except that he healed a few people by laying his hands on them” (v.6).

The Old Testament frequently speaks of God’s creative work as being “the work of his hands” (cf. Ps 8:6; 28:5; Job 10:3,8; 34:19; Exod 15:17). The man that the people of Jesus’ home town will not accept happens to be the son of the Creator, the most skilled of all workers.

But Jesus’ critics also point to his family. They think they know who Jesus is because, in the Greco-Roman world (especially the society of Rome, where the Gospel was probably written), who someone is defined by his parentage. So they point out Jesus’ family. It is as if they are saying: “He is just an ordinary person. We know his status,” and they ignore the evidence of the miracles he has performed. Of course, for the Roman Christians for whom this Gospel was written, their experience is that Roman society says exactly the same thing: they know who these Christians are, and they do not have to investigate their claims about the power of God at work in their midst.

Everyone else has been amazed to this point in Mark’s Gospel, but now it is Jesus’ turn to be amazed (v.6). He is amazed that his critics ignore all the evidence. They pre-judge him; in their eyes, it is impossible for him to be anything other than what he appears to be. It would not matter what he does now, as their minds are closed to any other possibility.

Yet Mark’s concluding remark that ‘through his hands’ some were healed regardless tells us that God’s hands will never be completely tied by such rejection. His creative works will go on anyway, even if only in the few who are open to perceive correctly.

where is the power of God?

Power of God

I’ve studied what the Bible says about healing for years and years, and two things remain clear to me.  One is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Another is He said anyone with faith in Him would do the things He did (John 14:12). But the results we’re experiencing in much of the Western church today are far different from those attributed to Him in the Bible. A logical mind can only conclude that something has changed. Since it can’t be Him, that leaves only us.

I’ve concluded that many of us have formed our opinions about healing either from hear-say or personal observation rather than God’s Word, while the Bible tells us to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  To prove my point, count the number of times when you’ve personally witnessed someone being healed. Not heard about, but personally witnessed. If you’re like most people you won’t know of very many, maybe not any.

Maybe we don’t see people being healed because we no longer expect to.  Somewhere along the way there’s been a disconnect to the point where many believers are convinced that without giving us any warning God simply stopped healing people.  Some of those who promote this idea say it happened once the New Testament had been compiled. They base this on 1 Cor. 13:8-10 which says in part:

“…where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

The Greek word for perfection in this passage also means complete, so they interpret what Paul wrote to mean that once the New Testament was complete, the gifts of the Spirit ceased.  The problem I have with this interpretation is that it never appeared anywhere in the church record until about 1900 AD when it was used as a rebuttal against the appearance of spiritual gifts in the Pentecostal movement. Many protestant denominations (those where spiritual gifts are not in evidence) hold this view today. It should not surprise us that supernatural healing does not occur in those denominations.

Then there are believers who call themselves mid-Acts dispensationalists. They assert that healing and other spiritual gifts were signs to the Jews that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit, and as soon as Israel was officially set aside and the gospel went to the Gentiles these signs ceased. They say the epistle of James, which contains the most direct promise of healing through prayer anywhere in the New testament (James 5:14-16), was not intended for us today but was written only to Jewish believers in the early days of the church.  Some of these folks hedge their bets by assuring us that God can heal people and sometimes does, so we can still pray for healing. But we shouldn’t be surprised it doesn’t happen. Our healing may not come until the resurrection. At least they leave the door open for God to heal someone if He decides to.

However, my brother is active in missions in Kenya and other places. He reports to me that in many developing countries the power of God is much more evident than here in the United States. It is not that they are “less” than us, but rather they still operate with a child like faith….while we are cynical, burned out and quench the Holy Spirit.

I want that faith!

We Can Justify Anything

Abounding Grace

Matthew 12:36-37 (NKJV) “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Christians have become so very good at justifying their bad behavior, even their sinful behavior. In reality, we can justify just about anything in our lives to help relieve the pressure of the Holy Spirit bringing things to light for us to deal with them before Him in humility and self-sacrifice. It’s sad.

We’re told to not ‘grieve the Holy Spirit’ but every time we justify our bad behaviors (mostly our thoughts and words), we grieve Him greatly!

I realize this isn’t the most comfortable Topic but friend, listen: you have a chance to deal a death blow to pride that’s simply masquerading as a ‘good reason’ for the sinful tendencies that have become all too common in your life. Today is the best day to humble yourself in that area, coming clean before the Lord.

Yes, you can justify anything you desire, but the truth is God always deals with reality. Truly, what I think is justifiable isn’t really the core issue. The core issue is this: What does Jesus think? What has He said on the issue?

We need to be seeking Him continually and constantly!