Tag Archives: Power

The Good Stuff

Can you imagine the laughter back in the kitchen?  When Jesus turned water into wine the only people who were in on the secret were the servants.  They knew because they had taken the foot-washing pots and filled them up with water, as instructed.

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  (John 2:9-10)
How they must have laughed.  But it is worth noting that the only people who got to experience the power of Jesus were the ones who humbly worked with Him, doing what He said to do.  The others got to taste the wine, but they missed the good stuff.

Unbridled Power

​They had lived by that river for decades and thought they knew it.  But when the St. Vrain ripped through town, uprooting and destroying rouses, roads and utility plants, they realized they didn’t know the half of it, not really.  Because it happened in the dead of night, most could only hear it.  Sounded like the roar of an enormous frieight train, they said.  The sound of unbridled power.  Like the voice of Jesus. 

Nobody knew Jesus better than the Apostle John.  But he didn’t know the half of Jesus’ power.  And when Jesus gave him more of a glimpse, John collapsed in fear.  He recalled the experience like this:

The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.  (Revelation 1:14-15)
“The roar of many waters…”   That phrase grabs me, stops me, pulls me back to try to grasp what John was expressing.  Hmmm…  Perhaps this: If you think you know Jesus, remember that we cannot know the half of Who He really is, the half of His unbridled power.  


“We’re in a tight spot!”  The barn where they were hiding was on fire. Cops with machine guns were perforating the place and George Clooney, in his role in “O Brother Where Art Thou?”,  looked like he was having the time of his life, thrilled to be in a “tight spot.”   Appealing, that.  Like skiers who enjoy the black slopes, whooping with excitement, even when they wipe out.  They are doing better than those who agonize over every turn with grim anxiety.

I got thinking about the look in George Clooney’s eye when I read this simple verse from 1 Thessalonians:

Rejoice always…”  (1Thessalonians 5:16)

In our day, that reads like mental pablum, advice from a timid Sunday School teacher who can’t handle life.  But the guy that wrote that advice had been in more than a few tight spots.  He’d been beaten, starved, shipwrecked, imprisoned and pursued by mobs of vicious killers.  And, he was writing to people facing violent persecution.  Paul had a gleam in his eye on the black slopes.  He knew the power of enjoying the thrill of the hills and spills, no matter what.

But it’s not that he was a reckless adrenalin junkie.  Paul knew God had sent him into those tight spots because they were ripe with opportunity.  He knew God knew.  When tempted to complain and feel sorry for himself, he knew how much better it was to rejoice.

Next time you are in a tight spot, call to mind the look in George Clooney’s eye, and the powerful advice from Paul.  Rejoice.  Always.

Not God’s Security but Yours

I heard a comedian taking shots at the Ten Commandments recently.  He ridiculed them because the commandments don’t seem to begin with the most important issues.  In his opinion, “Don’t murder people” should have been the first one.  But the first one is “I am your God.”  And the second one is “Don’t go messing around with any other Gods.”   The third one says, “Don’t make up your own Gods and bow down to them (my paraphrase of Deuteronomy 5:6-10).  He said God must be insecure and have identity issues.  The crowd was in stitches and cheered wildly.  Hah, hah!  Look how stupid the Bible is…

But what if those first three commandments really were the most important?  What if it really was critical that we know Who created us and designed the world we live in?  And not go chasing after gods who really are figments of our own limited imaginations?  What if this was true?

“The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply…”.  Psalms 16:4a

When you buy a new computer, you get a little pamphlet with  a list of commandments.  The first one is “Read this first!” The second one is, “Plug your computer in to 120 volt, 60 Hz power.”  And, “Don’t ever plug your computer into a different source of power, or even into an unregulated generator.”  Number 1, make sure you are connected to a source of power.  Number 2?  Don’t use a different source of power because it will damage your computer.   The Ten Commandments start in the same way.  God, the only True God, is our source of life and power.  All others are false and will ultimately ruin us.  Once we have that straight, then we can go on to not murdering.  The chances are pretty good that God knew what He was doing when He handed Moses the Ten Commandments, more so than that stand up comedian…

Water Power

The water bubbles up continuously, constantly filling and refreshing the pool and then flows out through a hand-crafted, wooden trough, dropping onto a water wheel.  The wheel powers the steady turn of an antique flour mill at the Heritage Homestead in Waco, Recirculating Mill PondTexas.

Tail-Water Dumps into Pond

On a recent visit, I was struck by this nearly silent, steady source of power and reminded of Jesus’ words:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive (Jn 7:37b–39a).

When a person recognizes the Identity of Jesus, the Son of God, and responds in surrender and complete trust, an amazing transformation occurs as His Holy Spirit is given to live forever in his or her soul.  That Spirit becomes a Spring of “living water” flowing up from within.  He refreshes and cleanses, informs and guides us.  He restores our living connection with Almighty God.  But this Flow of living water also empowers us to do what we are intended to do.  He does so in a silent, steady way.  It may not seem like much at first – no screaming machinery or belching smoke – but we can learn to rely on this Source of power, day by day.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Super Powers

If you need to lift up a car, sometimes adrenalin is enough.  But every now and again it would be nice to be Superman.  Admit it.  Who doesn’t, when stuck in a  traffic jam, want to don the cape and go sort it out, tossing vehicles into the ditch to get things moving.  Who doesn’t wish they could destroy ISIS or maybe even the IRS?  Be nice to have super powers, wouldn’t it?

Followers of Jesus are supposed to have super power but God’s power, not Superman’s power  And that’s better.  God’s power might not sell comics, but it is mighty. 

Paul prays his friends, as a result of being filled with the Spirit of God, would be:

“…growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
  –  (Colossians 1:10b-11)

God’s power doesn’t come with a cape.  But notice how it comes to us, how much power it is and what it is for. 

God’s power comes as we grow in the knowledge of God. Knowledge, in this sense, conveys the idea of intimate relationship.  It’s not book learning, it’s the way a kid learns more about his dad by going fishing with him.  The better our relationship with God, the more we can expect  His power in our lives.

How much power?  God’s power is “according to His glorious might.”  God’s glorious might was displayed when He spoke galaxies into existence.  But don’t expect to do any celestial remodeling.  “According to” means power given by God, sufficient for His purpose. God’s power, at its Source is unlimited.  As it is given to us, it is sufficient.  When you charge your phone, you plug it into the electrical grid, which crackles and pops with millions of watts of power.  But you only receive the tiny trickle of that immense power sufficient to charge your phone. Any more, and it would destroy your phone, maybe burn down your house. God’s unlimited power, available to followers of Jesus, is given in sufficient measure to achieve His purposes.

And what is His purpose? What is God’s power for, as described in this prayer?  As we grow in our relationship with Him, God’s amazing power is given to us “so that you may have great endurance and patience…”  While Superman’s power clobbers bad guys, God’s power enables endurance and patience. 

It that sounds disappointing, and you would rather clobber than endure, consider which act of power has been has actually made things better in the long haul: the nuclear blast over Hiroshima or the endurance of Jesus on the Cross?

Powerfully Gentle

“He could pick a scab off a baby’s bottom with that thing!”  The guy was talking about a skilled heavy equipment operator on the highway crew where I was working for the summer.  It really was impressive to watch how he controlled the massive power of that giant machine with precision and such a light touch.  In his hands, that great power was gentle.

That sounds like an oxymoron to say powerfully gentle.  We tend to think, powerfully destructive.  The most powerful thing humans have created was anything but gentle.  It was the Tsar Bomba, a nuclear bomb, tested by the Russians in 1961.  It’s power was 1500 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Anything but gentle.

How much power does God have?  The sun puts out 1800 million times more energy than the Tsar Bomba – every second!  How many other suns are there? Scientists say around 400 billion, billion others.  That’s not a typo.  400 billion, billion suns, millions of times more powerful than the Tsar Bomba.  And that’s just in the observable part of the universe…   The Creator of all that has power surpassing the sum of all of them.  And yet, God controls His power with amazing delicacy, gentleness and precision.

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

That’s a description of God’s unlimited power, unleashed with tenderness.  For sure, God has the power to lay waste to whole nations.  He could smash you flat with His fist.  But when we open our hearts to Him, His power is shown to us with gentleness.  If you let Him, God can pick the scabs off your heart with amazing precision and tenderness.

PS:  Check out this sermon from Charles Spurgeon, published in 1916: (Click Here)


Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Lessons from a Leper

If you had been there, you would have ridden an emotional roller coaster.  The Sermon on the Mount was over.  The large crowds were so blown away by  the authority of Jesus’ teaching that, when He walked down off the mountain, they just had to follow Him.  They could sense it; they were in on something big.  Jesus was going to be really famous and popular. But then:

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:2-4)

It’s hard for us to appreciate how jolting it would have been for the people following Jesus, to suddenly discover a leper in their midst.  People with leprosy were so horribly disfigured that they were severely ostracized and shunned.  They were considered unclean, spiritually dangerous to be near.  And here comes a leper, right up to Jesus.  It was shocking and revolting.  But then Jesus touched him, making Himself  unclean by the rules of their day, and risking catching the disease.  Jesus went from being the grand winner of “Galilee’s Got Talent” to making Himself unfit to be near.  You can imagine how the crowd’s emotions were tossed back and forth.

Before anyone could recover from the shock of those two things, the leprous man was instantly healed!  Fear and revulsion would have suddenly turned into amazement and awe!  Let’s sound the trumpets!  Jesus can stand up now and loudly proclaim His Divinity.  He can bask in the glory of His great power.  The crowd would have gone wild…

But that’s not what He did.  Jesus told the man not to tell anyone.  Instead, He said, he should follow the customary procedure for someone who was healed – get checked out by a priest and bring an offering.  Why would Jesus tell this man to keep it a secret?  Why would He set it up for the priests to get the credit?   Confused?  So were all the people in the crowd.  Jesus didn’t say why and Matthew doesn’t tell us.  He just let them ride the roller coaster.

Maybe you have felt a little like the leper – too much like damaged goods to be able to get near Jesus.  Maybe you see all those Christians crowding around Jesus and think, “I’m not like those people; they wouldn’t want me to come in and ruin the celebration.”  Maybe you are wondering if Jesus would reach out and touch you, if He would heal you from whatever kind of moral, spiritual or physical “leprosy” that afflicts you.  If so, carefully consider three things about how he brought his request:

1.   First,  he kneeled before Jesus and called Him “Lord.”   Mathew used a word for prostrating oneself as an act of wholehearted worship.  The leper approached Jesus with humility and reverence, with a deep sense of how needy he was and how Holy Jesus was.

2.   Secondly, he acknowledged Jesus’ power and authority.  He said “… you can make me clean.”  This was a profound statement of faith.  “You can do it.”  Trusting Jesus means believing He is able.

3.   Finally, the leper accepted that Jesus would only heal him if He was willing.  He left the decision up to Jesus.

We would do well to remember these three attitudes whenever we bring a request to Jesus.  Remember his attitude of humble reverence before the “Lord,” His faith in Jesus’ great power, and how he submitted himself to what Jesus willed.   Jesus, Himself modeled these 3 attitudes in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

When you approach Jesus, don’t come with the crowd.  They can be easily confused.  Instead, come with the leper.  He knew what to do.

The Source of Power in Faith

There is a commonly held, new-age idea that belief – belief in anything – in and of itself, does powerful, good things for you.  Sounds nice, but it is nonsense.  A buddy of mine believed he was a magpie (Ahh, yes — remember the 70’s?).  His belief was confusing but it was not powerful.  But there is something powerful going on when God uses faith to interact and connect to humans  (See: “Loud and Clear”).  But how is that faith any different?  Where does the power come from?  Faith is a necessary ingredient, but it doesn’t do the work.  God does.

It’s sort of like this: If I want to start using Facebook, I can’t just do it because my computer is not automatically equipped for it. First, I have to ask the folks at Facebook to send me a download of software or an “App.”  I receive it, install it, and then my computer is enabled to make that connection. Something similar goes on when God connects to people by faith.  It is a powerful something, something that is rarely explained, even by Christians.

Before any connection to God is made by faith, a “download” is necessary.  But it isn’t software God gives you, it is something alive – Someone alive –  the Holy Spirit.  God comes and lives in you, by His Holy Spirit.  Really!   It starts when someone has an “Aha!” moment of understanding that Jesus is God, Who has come to us in understandable human form (See: “One Plus Two Equals One”).  When a person crosses that threshold of faith, their natural response is to want to draw closer to God, to communicate with Him.  God connects interactively with people who believe like that.   But it isn’t the act of believing that makes the connection happen.  It’s the “download” from God, the Gift from God that powers it up. Here’s how Jesus said it.

 “If you [really believe in Me] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (John 14:15b -17 – with my added clarification )

This is the key. This is how and why  faith connects us.  God gives us His Spirit and by that Spirit, He lives within us. Really!  It’s so fantastic, so unexpected, that Jesus practically stood on His head to explain it.  He said:

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  (John 14:19-20)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  (John 14:23)


This process of receiving  (downloading and installing!) the Holy Spirit is so crucial, that, after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Spirit before they tried to do anything.

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…   But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”  (Excerpts from Acts 1:4-8]

When God gives His Spirit, as a response to faith, and therefore lives in a human soul, that soul becomes alive in a powerfully new and full way.  God’s Spirit is “born” in him or her.  That is why Jesus told a religious teacher he must be “born from on above” (commonly translated as “born again” – John 3:1-3).  He said that physical birth is not enough for complete life, for truly connecting to God:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  (John 3:5-7)

It starts with faith.  Faith is how we reach out to God to receive His Spirit.  But God’s Spirit makes the connection and brings the new life.  Therein is the astonishing power in faith.