He Shouted All the More

35As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41″What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:35-43)

This blind man must have heard testimony about Jesus at some time because, when he was told it was Jesus of Nazareth, his response was to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38). Even though he was told it was Jesus of Nazareth, he did not call Him by that name. He cried out to Jesus as the Son of David, a title for the Messiah (Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ; it means God’s Anointed One). He began to cry outfor mercy:

39Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:39).

The blind man could not be kept quiet by those around Christ! There will always be those who do not want us to get excited about Jesus and His Word, they would seek to quieten us down from calling upon Him. Some on the outskirts of the crowd could not hear the master teach over the beggar’s shouting. They rebuked him and told him to be quiet, possibly because they thought he wanted money from Jesus. Decide now not to listen to those voices. This blind man could not be quieted down. A different Greek word is used the second time. In verse 39 it is translated: “he shoutedall the more” (v. 39). The Greek word translated as “shouted all the more,” is krazō, which means to scream or shriek.[1]In his desperation he began to loudly scream out to the Lord. The tense of the Greek also brings out the fact that he kept onshouting and screaming. He would not shut up.

The picture we get is of a man going crazy with emotion. There is desperation behind the blind man’s voice. It is very likely that he had heard of Christ and His power beforehand but had never got the opportunity to call upon Him. In hearing testimony from others about Christ, he had concluded that this was the prophesied Messiah, the Son of David. He had decided that he would not miss any opportunity if Messiah showed up. The Spirit had already been working in his heart to produce faith for when the opportunity came. If there was ever a picture of one who sought for Christ with all his heart this was it. The blind man had this one opportunity and he was not going to let Jesus go by without doing all in his power to get his need met. He began to call out to the Lord with his whole heart and voice, just as the Spirit has told us in the Book of Psalms: “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). This calling out to the Lord when in trouble is not something that we should allow to lightly pass us by, because there is great spiritual truth set out plainly before us. This is not just regular prayer, but a deep crying out in distress and anguish of soul. 16As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. 17Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice (Psalm 55:16-17).

Leonard Ravenhill, the Bible teacher, has said that God doesn’t answer prayer, He answers desperate prayer! I’m not sure I completely agree with that statement, but there is a truth that is worth extracting from the quote. Desperate prayer touches the compassionate heart of God. Again, and again, we read of encouragement to cry out to God just as the blind beggar did. For instance, in all the troubles that King David went through at the hands of King Saul, the Lord taught him to call and cry out to Him: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6).We see example after example in the Gospels of desperate people getting their need met by Jesus. How about you? Jesus is passing by—are you going to remain quiet, or are you willing to call out to Him with all your heart and soul. Keith Thomas

[1]e.Sword.com

Gethsemane: The Place of the Olive Press

We are continuing our meditations on the drama that took place the night before Christ was crucified. It was late in the evening when the disciples left the Upper Room where they had eaten the Passover supper together. Tradition tells us that the room was situated to the west of the Old City of Jerusalem. They walked eastwards together to the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, crossing the Kidron valley that separated the Mount of Olives from Herod’s temple. Luke tells us that this was Christ’s usual place to stay the night, sleeping under the stars (Luke 22:39). Even though He knew that Judas was about to bring the temple guards there to arrest Him, He still went to the place Judas knew of. The arrest was no surprise to Jesus; He knew how much time He had to pray and had no thought of escape or avoiding what was coming. Matthew and Mark both tell us that the place was called Gethsemane, whereas John calls it an olive grove. Luke just says the place was the Mount of Olives. Passover always coincided with the full moon, which afforded the disciples the opportunity to look in on the scene that took place. The Mount of Olives was so called because of the many olive trees growing there. Gethsemane literally means the place of the olive press. Olive oil was used for lighting, and perhaps was the very source of the huge candelabra’s that lit up the temple and the surrounding area of Jerusalem at night. The oil was extracted by crushing the olives in the press, maybe the very press there in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).

What was happening there on the Mount of Olives? That’s the big question we want to answer with our study today. In this passage, we see Jesus confronting His own death. In the Garden, we get a picture of what was going through His mind as He talks to His Father in prayer. We see the state of His heart and the thoughts He had in the hours before crucifixion. It seems significant that He who called Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12), would go through a crushing and pressing experience there in Gethsemane, the place of the olive press. The Lord also said that we as Christians are also lights of the world (Matthew 5:14). If we desire to shine brightly for God, we also will be taken by the Spirit into the darkness of a Gethsemane experience, where we will have to make spiritual choices to relinquish our wills to Christ. Many of us have come to Christ by going through a broken and pressing experience that has caused us to wonder about what would happen to us when we die, or wonder about the meaning of our lives. The Lord allows a Gethsemane in our lives. In Gethsemane we are tempted to give in to our flesh to do whatever would please us or give us some relief. Life teaches us that the easy way is not always the right way. We can answer to our fears and our appetites, or we can seek a higher way. During these times, we face crossroads in our lives. We can take the easy road or we can take the “Christ road.” The Christ road will bring us pain at times, but it is the way of fruitfulness. The road to maturity is the way of the Cross. The Lord allows growth spurts to come to our lives by giving us situations designed by God to prompt faith-filled choices. These choices seem counter-intuitive when viewed in the light of self-preservation. In our Gethsemane experiences, we can trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the way to go. He will reveal the choices that honor God and keep us true. He will give us the strength and ability to choose the right way, if that is what we desire. Although it may be hard, He offers us His strength and peace when we face our own temptations. He will always leave us to make the choice. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

What is a Vision?

“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Abram was given a vision of what the future would look like. When God calls a man or a woman, often He will give them a vision. Any leader worth his salt has been given a vision in his mind’s eye of what the future will look like. After getting a vision one must prayerfully plan how he or she is to bring the vision into reality. I am reminded of the things God used to envision me for my future. It is not the same method for every person. Stay open to God and be alert to His promptings.

God used various things in my life. Shortly after my fishing career ended, I worked for a while as a window cleaner, and as a painter and decorator. During this time, I was also involved in starting small groups and leading a small group in our home, along with my wife, Sandy. At one point, I worked in a print shop for a Christian printing organization called Cornerstone Print and Design. This small printing company served missionary agencies as well as other churches and Christian organizations in England by printing all kinds of literature that would help them to reach the world for Christ. I remember they had a sign on the wall that said: “A drop of ink will make a million think!” At that time, I really didn’t see myself as a Bible teacher, I was more of an evangelist that would share the message of Christ whenever I had the opportunity. But the sign on the wall grabbed my attention. God used my time at that printing agency for me to get a vision for spreading His Word to others, even in other countries. I could see the need for Christian literature that would help people understand the gospel of God’s love. It was good to be a part of printing tracts for Christians to use in other countries. These tracts explained the Gospel in their own language. God began to show me His vision to reach the world, and that is what I am still seeking to do today.

What is vision? I have heard it described as “foresight with insight based on hindsight.”  We ought to look into the future and begin to see with the eyes of faith what God wants us to do. Vision also focuses on one’s present circumstances and asks the question: “how do I get to there from here?” Also, vision takes into account the learning that one has accumulated from the past. Vision is a clear mental image of a preferable future that is given to a man or woman of God, to enable him or her to work toward that particular goal that he or she has seen. When a person has obtained a clear vision of what God wants to do, then the man or woman of God goes to the Lord in prayer for practical steps to reach that goal or vision. Without practical steps toward the preferable future, there is difficulty in stretching beyond the present reality. Abram is shown a picture in his mind’s eye of the future that he is waiting for and holding onto in faith.

What methods does He use today? How can you tell if a vision is from God?

God will often use His Word, or a message through a dream, through song, encouragement from another, a mentor, or someone who inspires us to do what they are doing. It can also be a need which we want to meet, or a strong desire to do something. It can be as simple as a natural God-given talent mixed with a strong desire. If a vision is from God, it will always be in line with scripture. Test your vision to see if it matches up with the Word of God. Ask Him to give you the first step in seeing your vision come to pass. Be ready to take a step of faith. Often, there is an excitement that comes when we see what God has for us to do… 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). What vision sustains you while you wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled? If you do not have one, ask Him for a vision for your life. Keith Thomas

 

The Man Justified Before God

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14)

This parable is on the subject of prayer and concerns itself more with the inner attitude or heart of prayer. In this parable, the contrast is between a self-righteous Pharisee and a penitent tax collector; no two people could be further apart than these two. Jesus shocks his audience by saying that the penitent tax collector went away justified rather than the Pharisee.

Both men were praying in the temple precincts. From the way the passage reads, I can picture the Pharisee standing up close to the front of the Temple Courts. His posture was that of standing up straight and looking up to heaven, congratulating himself out loud. I’m sure that others nearby could hear how he so righteously lived his life. It is mentioned that the penitent tax-collector stood at a distance, perhaps at the back of the Temple courts near the entrance, because he felt so unworthy. He could not even look up to heaven, which was the normal posture of prayer. (Our tradition today when called to prayer is to look downward, mainly due to the words of this parable.) It is interesting to note that often when Jesus is mentioned praying, it records that He “looked up to heaven.” In the Pharisee’s case, his posture of looking up to heaven is seen as his own self-righteousness and self-importance, which the parable later points out.  In the Pharisee’s prayer, the Greek words record him saying 5 times “I—I—I—I—I.” We find him praying “about himself” (verse 11), the literal rendering of the Greek is that he’s praying to himself. This man certainly was not maximizing his time of prayer, his prayer never got off the ground! His self-righteous attitude never brought him into a true relationship with God, he has no appreciation for grace, and in fact he disdains it. He’s far too righteous to need the grace of God! His life is all about keeping various laws to earn his right standing before God. He fully expects that his eternity is secured with a great mansion, but fails to look deep within himself to see his own character flaws. His boast was that he fasted twice a week. William Barclay tells us:

“The Jewish law prescribed only one absolutely obligatory fast- that on the day of Atonement. But those who wished to gain special merit fasted also on Mondays and Thursdays. It is noteworthy that these were the market days when Jerusalem was full of country people. Those who fasted whitened their faces and appeared in disheveled clothes, and those days gave their piety the biggest possible audience.”[1]

Like a good Pharisee, he tithed even on his spices, the mint, dill and cumin (Matthew 23:23), but yet he had no regard for the tax collector, in fact he despised him as he looked back at the man who could not even hold up his head. The man who has standing before God is one who has genuine humility and sees his need for mercy and grace from God:

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

Keith Thomas

[1] The Daily Study Bible, Gospel of Luke, William Barclay, Page 223.

The God Who Answers Prayer Before Being Asked

Isaiah the prophet more than five hundred years before Christ, spoke about a time when God would answer prayer before His people ask.

…they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:23-24).

This is a story written by a doctor who worked in Africa:

“One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator). We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). 
’And it is our last hot water bottle!’ she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles, they do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.’

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. ‘Please, God’ she prayed, ‘Send us a hot water bottle today. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.’ While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, ‘And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?’ As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say ‘Amen?’ I just did not believe that God could do this. 
Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland.

I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, ‘If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!’ Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, ‘Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so that she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?’ ‘Of course,’ I replied! That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it ‘that afternoon.’ ‘Before they call, I will answer’ (Isaiah 65:24).

What a wonderful answer to a very specific prayer. The joy that a child of God feels when a specific answer to prayer is received goes far beyond just the answer itself. It is also a reminder to us that God keeps His promises, that He is mindful of us, and that we are able to call on our Father in this new day of prayer. Maybe today is a good day for you to begin praying in Jesus’ name for whatever your need is.

Keith Thomas