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Two Blind Men Receive Sight July 21, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 20:29-34.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus has completed His ministry in Peraea and is heading to Jerusalem. Two blind beggars scream at Him – acknowledging Him as the Messiah and beseeching Him to have mercy on them. He feels their pain – and restores their sight. They respond to this miracle by praising God.

Thoughts: Here, two blind men acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

Such faith may well put us to shame. With all our books of evidence, lives of saints and libraries of divinity, how few know anything of simple, child-like confidence in Christ’s mercy and Christ’s power. Even among believers, the degree of faith is often strangely disproportionate to the privileges enjoyed. Many an unlearned man who can only read his New Testament with difficulty possesses the spirit of unhesitating trust in Christ’s advocacy, while deeply-read divines are harassed by questionings and doubts.

Ryle’s insights resonate with me, as I often struggle to display “simple, child-like confidence” in Christ. While I am grateful for the opportunities that God has granted me to delve into apologetics, I have found that wrestling with difficult questions can elicit doubts concerning God’s existence and/or faithfulness. God has given us the ability to think and reason, yet these faculties can be misused. Perhaps this points to the essence of our Christian faith; by stating that abductive reasoning leads us to God, one admits the existence of alternate explanations for our observations. Moreover, even “deeply-read divines” cannot rule out these alternate explanations until the next life. That being said, God still calls – and enables – us to thrive in this temporal state of tension.

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Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand May 19, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 15:29-39.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus leaves the southern mountains of Lebanon and travels to the Decapolis. He is greeted by a crowd upon His arrival, and He heals those who lack strength. They marvel at His actions, praising God while trembling in His presence.

He then informs His disciples that His heart goes out to this crowd of four thousand men – plus women and children. In particular, they will collapse on their way home if they are not fed.

The disciples fail to solve this problem – yet they know that He can solve it. Accordingly, He takes seven barley cakes and some pickled fish from them. After blessing His Father, the disciples distribute the food to the crowd – who ate as much as they wanted.

Thoughts: I have always been mildly curious about a potential connection between this passage and the passage recounting the feeding of the five thousand. Did Jesus actually feed two distinct crowds on two distinct occasions? I then read through John MacArthur’s sermon on this passage, which was invaluable in grasping its relationship to that other passage. In particular, MacArthur states that:

  • in this passage, Jesus feeds Gentiles
  • in that other passage, Jesus feeds Jews.

If that is the case, then this passage would illustrate a neat facet of Jesus’ ministry. In particular, while His primary calling was to the Jews, He still ministered to Gentiles when the timing was right. Perhaps this brief account serves as a preview of Paul’s extensive work among the Gentiles as recorded in Acts – and his epistles.

In verse 32, we see that Jesus has compassion for those whom He has just healed. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

It is a curious and striking fact, that of all the feelings experienced by our Lord when upon earth, there is none so often mentioned as “compassion.” His joy, his sorrow, his thankfulness, his anger, his wonder, his zeal, all are occasionally recorded. But none of these feelings are so frequently mentioned as “compassion.”

This is an important point that we, as believers, should consider. If Christ frequently showed compassion for others, how should we show compassion for others on a regular basis? How can we comprehend the needs of others – and then take concrete steps to meet those needs? Moreover, one can connect this point to my above-mentioned thoughts about Jesus’ primary and secondary callings; while we may be called to minister to a particular demographic, how can we show compassion to members of other demographics when the timing is right?

Jesus Heals a Paralytic February 11, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 9:1-8.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus travels to Capernaum, where He encounters a paralytic and four of his friends. These men trust that He can heal their friend; He responds by:

  • forgiving his sins
  • declaring that the ability to forgive sins is equivalent to the ability to heal
  • healing him.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus rebuked several scribes for their blasphemous thoughts. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

Nothing can be concealed from Christ. What do we think of in private, when no one sees us? What do we think of in church when we seem grave and serious? What are we thinking of at this moment while reading these words? Jesus knows…Surely we ought to be very humble when we consider these things: we ought to thank God daily that the blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin…

I must admit that when I desire to spend time with God, e.g. while meditating on my daily Bible reading, I am easily distracted. I believe that distracting thoughts in those instances are not genuine acts of worship, since I associate those thoughts with my sinful nature; thus, I regularly confess those thoughts to God. Ryle’s last point, then, is instructive: since I cannot rid myself of distracting thoughts in this life, I must constantly rest on Christ for my salvation. Moreover, even though my sinful nature attempts to exert its influence over me through distracting thoughts, I know that I will eventually defeat it – and those thoughts – with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

The Man with Leprosy January 27, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 8:1-4.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus departs from the mountain where He has just preached the Sermon on the Mount. A leper approaches Him and declares His faith in Jesus’ ability to heal him. Jesus responds by healing him; He then tells him to obey the command in Leviticus 14:1-4.

Thoughts: My small group recently discussed the Transfiguration of Jesus. Each of us struggled to connect with the events in that passage, especially since we were not present on that dramatic occasion. Now I also struggle to connect with the events in this passage; while I believe that Jesus did heal this leper, I think that belief is closer to mere intellectual assent than a conviction. To help us overcome this stumbling block, one of the other group members posed the following queries:

  • How can we open our eyes to God and His work in today’s world?
  • Do we believe that He continues to perform miracles in our lives?
  • What constitutes a miracle in God’s eyes?

Indeed, if we believe that God does not perform miracles today, then we essentially attempt to place limits on His power and authority. We need the discerning – and humbling – power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our biases in this regard.

Jesus Heals the Sick November 4, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 4:23-25.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus travels throughout Galilee, where he:

  • teaches in the Jewish synagogues
  • proclaims the Gospel message
  • heals those who are brought to Him for healing.

In the process, He accumulates many followers.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus healed everyone who was brought to Him for healing. This caused me to consider a tangential point: sometimes God places me in situations where I sense that He wants me to interact with someone whom my peer group would view as an outcast. As I am an introvert, these situations are discomforting, and I respond by attempting to extricate myself from that set of circumstances. Yet I also sense that God wants me to grow as a believer by stepping out of my comfort zone. Also, obedience in these situations – especially in the midst of discomfort – would enable me to see God at work in new ways. My prayer is that I would be able to respond with obedience in these situations and lift the spirits of those who are also made in the image of God.

The Prayer of Faith November 4, 2015

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Here are my thoughts on James 5:13-20.

Summary: James begins with the following instructions regarding prayer:

  • if any believer is in an afflicted state, they should pray
  • if any believer is of a good mind, they should sing psalms to refresh their spirits
  • if any believer is without strength, they should call the teaching elders of the church to lay hands on them and anoint them with oil to the honor of Christ.

He notes that the prayer that is made out of faith will restore a weak believer to health – by God’s power; moreover, if their disease has been contracted due to special sins, those sins will be forgiven. This should spur weak believers to confess these special sins to each other and pray that they may be relieved. Indeed, the prayers of those who have been justified by faith are earnest and yield results.

James then supports this point by citing the example of Elijah, who was subject to all kinds of human weakness. In particular, Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain in Israel; his prayer yielded the intended results. After that, Elijah prayed earnestly that it would rain in Israel; again, his prayer yielded the intended results.

James concludes by asserting that if a believer should commit errors both in faith and in manners, and another believer converts them, then the latter believer is an instrument of the former believer’s salvation from eternal death.

Thoughts: In this passage, James exhorts his readers to confess their sins to each other and pray for each other. Manton offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

It is foolish to hide our sins until they are incurable. When we have unburdened ourselves to a godly friend, conscience finds a great deal of ease. Certainly they are then more able to give us advice and can better apply the help of their counsel and prayers to our particular case and are thereby moved to more pity and commiseration…It is indeed a fault in Christians not to disclose themselves and be more open with their spiritual friends when they are not able to extricate themselves out of their doubts and troubles.

Now I have participated in several small group fellowships; in most of those meetings, it was difficult for the attendees to confess their sins to each other. In particular, when the attendees shared prayer requests, the requests usually fell into one of these categories:

  • work (e.g. meeting deadlines, dealing with unpleasant managers, job-hunting)
  • family (e.g. sick parents, siblings experiencing life changes, unsaved relatives)
  • friends (e.g. unsaved friends).

It seemed that the attendees had difficulty sharing prayer requests on personal topics (e.g. struggles with lustful thoughts and harboring bitter feelings towards other believers). Now James is not commanding believers to share any of their personal struggles when they attend their small group meetings – yet he is calling each believer to ensure that they have at least one person in their lives with whom they can share their personal struggles. Indeed, James seems to assert that if we keep our personal struggles to ourselves, then we will damage our spiritual health. Of course, this is an area where I need to grow as a believer…

Now that I have completed my stroll through the book of James, I have been inspired to (re)engage in some social concerns ministry. Indeed, my impression is that James calls his readers to shift their focus from fruitless pursuits such as making money, pandering to the wealthy, and engaging in disputes over the Gospel message with other believers. James wants his readers to focus on providing for the needs of widows, orphans, and the poor. Thus, I should use my gifts and abilities – along with my time – to bless those whom God has called me to bless. Before I embarked on this stroll, I had never associated this letter with social concerns; now I am inspired to demonstrate my faith with the appropriate deeds.