Pistis 5

John 14:8-14

We’ve heard the expression before – “I’d give anything to have that new car.” Or, “I’ll do anything for you, because I love you.” We can toss the word “anything” around in our promises and our pledges, but in truth “anything” is usually beyond what we mean or beyond our abilities.

In John 14 Jesus is speaking frankly with his disciples, preparing them for when he will no longer be with them. He tells them that if they know Jesus then they know the Father. What does Philip want? What does Jesus mean by verse 9? According to verse 11, if they can’t believe his words what can they believe? What pledges are made in verses 12-14?

The last three verses of this section are the ones that light a fire in my heart and soul as a pastor. I would hope they could light a fire in every believer. In my mind, if we ignore what is pledged here we are just like the people in Nazareth from the reading in Mark (Mark 6:1-6). If we don’t approach these words from Jesus with the faithfulness that we are supposed to be living, then we are passing on the miracles that God offers.

Verse 12 tells us that we are supposed to be doing ministry. We are supposed to pick up where Jesus left off and carry forward in the good work of rescuing souls, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and caring for the deprived. And yet we overlook the fact Jesus said that we can do “even greater things than these.”

We have the opportunity to live out the true faithfulness we should be exhibiting. If we ask for anything from Jesus – anything! – as long as it is meant to bring glory to God, then Jesus will make certain we get what we need. How can we pass that up?

Yet, so many do. In fact, most people pass it up. And they pass it up, not because God can’t deliver, but simply because they cannot live the faithfulness we are supposed to be living.

If we can claim the faithfulness – pistis – of living out the fruit of the Spirit we can see world-changing miracles performed by God. We can lay claim to the “anything” Jesus offers.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is the “anything” you need from Jesus?

Pistis 4

Mark 6:1-6

An image we have of Jesus is likely to be that of a very charismatic teacher, someone everyone would listen to. But Jesus encountered those who would not believe. Even the great physician, the Christ who performed miracles, was confronted with a lack of faith.

Where did Jesus go? How did the crowd respond to his teaching? What is the result of the crowd’s attitude (verse 5)?

I’m sure we have all experienced the frustration of spending time with our families – siblings and parents – and being treated as if we were a child and not the adults we are. Jesus himself encountered a similar situation. Returning to his hometown of Nazareth Jesus brings his successful ministry into the synagogue. And all those who heard him were amazed.

But amazed at what? Amazed at what he was saying, or amazed that some kid from their little town had come back and was acting all grown up? They doubted him because they were familiar with him. They knew his mother, brothers and sisters. They had known his father, and they had known him too.

So, instead of benefiting from the presence of Jesus, these people missed out on all the miracles that could have been performed.

And why weren’t these miracles performed? Verse 6 says that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.”

The son of God who had healed a sick woman (Luke 8:43-48 and Mark 5:25-34) and raised a dead girl was unable to perform the miracles he was capable of doing. What stopped him was a lack of faith on the part of the people who heard him.

And I dare say that the same is true of many of our churches. Why isn’t this church bursting at the seams with people in attendance? Why isn’t that church changing lives in third-world countries? Why aren’t the un-churched and disenfranchised of our society being brought to Christ?

The answer is NOT that God is unable to perform miracles. The answer is NOT that God has abandoned us or that He is an uncaring or impotent deity.

The miracles of God are limited only by the faithfulness of His believers. If we can have a life that exhibits pistis – faithfulness – and we can obey God in faithfulness, then the power and miracles of the Lord will be unleashed into the world. And the exciting thing is – YOU can be a part of those miracles if you can achieve that faithfulness.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Which miracle do you need to put your faith in?

Pistis 3

Luke 7:36-50

When I was a teen-ager there was a husband and wife who lived up the street. Everyone called the wife “Crazy Annie,” because she acted a bit odd, out of step with what most people did. One day I had to go deliver something to her, and while I was there she invited me in, gave me a glass of iced tea and a cookie, and then she went out in her garden and cut some flowers for me to take back to my mother.

Everyone had always avoided Crazy Annie, but my encounter with her was very nice. I began to wonder who was crazy; Annie, who was so nice, or everyone else, who acted so superior to others.

Today’s passage is rather lengthy but contains a wonderful story. How does the woman behave? What does she do with Jesus’ feet? What parable does Jesus tell Simon, the Pharisee? What comparison is being made? What does Jesus say to the woman in verse 48? In verse 50?

The sinful woman at Jesus’ feet reminds me of Crazy Annie because both were outcasts in society. No one wanted to associate with the sinful woman. The implication is that she was a prostitute, the many months, perhaps years of shameful behavior earning her the money to purchase the alabaster jar of perfume. That perfume embodied her sin, and she poured it all out before Jesus so that she could be forgiven.

Although an outcast she came to Jesus and persisted in her faith, seeking forgiveness through the sacrifice of the perfume, her tears, wiping the feet of the Master. Which of the two were forgiven, Simon the Pharisee or the woman? Both were forgiven through the grace of Jesus, but the woman was constant in her faithfulness – her attitude of pistis.

She was humble, waiting behind him, weeping onto his feet, wiping his feet dry, kissing his feet. It was her faithfulness – her attitude of pistis – which allowed her to be forgiven. And one lesson in this story is that we are all sinful and in need of forgiveness. The question is, how will we approach God with our repentance? Will we simply entertain the presence of Jesus, as Simon did, or will be persistent in seeking the forgiveness we need so badly, as the woman did?

And how do we treat others around us? Are we too good to be among sinners, or do we recognize that we are all in need of mercy? Is our own attitude of pistis strong enough to accept everyone as a brother and sister in Christ with all of us on a journey of faith seeking salvation?

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is your faithfulness as strong as the sinful woman, or is it more like Simon the Pharisee?

Pistis 2

Luke 8:43-48

There is an old joke of a man who complains to his friend, “My brother thinks he’s a chicken.”

“Why don’t you take him to psychiatrist?” his friend asks.

“I would,” says the man. “But we need the eggs.”

Under the topic of chrestotes we had the story of Jesus going to raise the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. That story frames the one in today’s passage.

What was wrong with the woman? What did she do? What happened?

According to verse 46, how did Jesus know someone had touched him? What does Jesus tell the woman?

Suffering with bleeding for twelve years is no joke, but one of the first thoughts that I have is about the length of time this woman has had to deal with her condition. The same story presented in Mark details that her search for a cure made her worse (Mark 5:26). Such information is not given here, and it is difficult to imagine going so long in so much discomfort and worry without doing something about it.

It was not until this woman finally found the correct cure – the healing power of Jesus – that she was healed. And it took more than just the presence of Jesus, but her faith, a faith that compelled her to risk and dare and press forward, to heal her. It was her pistis that aided in her healing.

Talking with other pastors a frequent lament is about how churches struggle with low attendance, difficult budgets, lethargy in the congregation, and many other situations that block real ministry from happening. Is anyone happy with a struggling church? Is anyone pleased to see a congregation that frets over budgets and low attendance?

I don’t think most people are happy with these things. Why don’t they find a cure? Because they need the eggs. In other words, it is safer to put up with the problem than it is to dare to change.

The woman suffering from bleeding finally drew up the courage to touch the hem of the garment Jesus was wearing. Her faithfulness – her pistis – made her well.

As churches and as individuals we can sit still, unable to move forward in any real and meaningful ministry, unable to take on challenges that God’s kingdom presents because we would rather live with the problems we know than risk new challenges and new opportunities.

We need pistis – faithfulness. We need the type of faith that equips us with courage and constancy and persistence that we may move forward and enter into a new life of vibrant and healthy ministry.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where is your ministry? Where is your church? Do you need to press through the crowd to start a new ministry?

Pistis 1

Genesis 22:2-5

Many years ago I knew a pastor who kept the doors to the parsonage unlocked at all times. Yes! Even in the middle of the night, even when the family was gone from home all day, the doors were unlocked. It was an expression of faith. It was a living out of faithfulness.

The passage for today is only part of the whole story of Abraham and his son Isaac. What does God ask Abraham to do? What does Abraham do? What does Abraham tell his servants in verse 5?

As a parent this story has always made me weak in the knees. I love God very deeply, but the thought of sacrificing any of my children (even when I am angry with them) is just not something I can imagine. Nor can I imagine intentionally leaving my doors unlocked at all times.

Yet, faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is one of the aspects of living in step with the Holy Spirit that we are called to live out in our lives. We are called to be faithful in our relationship with God and in our dealings with other people. We are called to be persistent and constant in our faith; that is faithfulness.

The Greek word for faithfulness is pistis (pronounced PEE-steez). The pastor with the unlocked doors was able to show faithfulness by trusting God would watch over the house. Abraham displays pistis by following God’s commands even when, we can certainly assume, they were commands Abraham did not want to follow.

As an example of Abraham’s faithfulness, one pastor has pointed out the wording of verse 5. As Abraham departs with Isaac, ostensibly to sacrifice him, Abraham says, “we will come back to you.” “We.” He uses the word “we.” Abraham had the faithfulness that God would, somehow in some way, work out this predicament and spare Isaac.

That is faithfulness – moving forward with what you believe in and trusting completely that God will provide. That, in my opinion, is an indication of a very strong faith, when you can move through life with the peace and confidence that everything will be alright because God is in charge. This is the fruit we are called to exhibit – steady, confident faith that carries us through all things.

(If you would like to see the whole story of Abraham and Isaac, go to Genesis 22:1-18.)

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is your biggest fear? What can you do to start trusting God with that fear?