MOVING AHEAD… AND THE WOMAN WHO STOLE FROM JESUS

(January 20, 2018) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a 2018 encouragement…

Well we’re right into 2018! It’s so obvious from the way that so many people – including church leaders – are acting and talking about moving forward this year, that 2017 with its disappointments as well as highs has been forgotten about. There’s an enthusiasm about this new year, a decidedly good spirit in many people, a fresh happiness, and a feeling that we are moving ahead this year with a determination that good things are going to happen.

Incidentally… we’re picking this up among unsaved people, not just Christians! But we Christians particularly should be even more determined to move forward in 2018… after all we have the Holy Spirit of God – the all-powerful CEO of the church of Jesus Christ within to assist us!

Safe in Jesus in a dark world
Admittedly the world is still a dangerous place… the media’s bad news continues to tell of troubles in our own nation as well as in other countries. Increased crime, unstable governments, crazy governmental decisions, rumours of war, horrific mudslides, sicknesses… the list goes on.

Of course good news comes through too we admit… but we long to hear the real good news, the gospel of Christ, being heralded in the media! We’re seeing thousands attend the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne and encouraging their stars… how wonderful it would be to see thousands longing to attend churches and acknowledge Jesus Christ!

It’s good to discover Christians who are determined to honour Jesus in 2018, are seeking God’s will for their life and desire to move forward no matter what goes down or comes against them or their churches.

Felt to encourage some church folk the other Sunday after the service: ‘The truth is that we live in a fallen world and it seems that everything is against us as Christians – but we’re bound to Jesus, his Spirit is in us, we have everything going for us, so many promises in scripture… therefore as we trust God we’re okay, we’re conquerors!

Moving forward
Moving forward seems to be the key word in the business world and sports headliners – and it’s also a good theme for churches and Christians in 2018!

In this connection it’s only natural that we need to have a sense of purpose… but not necessarily some iffy step-by-step program, some ‘guaranteed’ 10 Ways to Achieve my Kingdom Purpose!

Catchy phrases are still coming through on websites such as New Year, New Plans, New Habits. Want to start strong in 2018? Need a fresh approach as you launch new ministries? You need a plan, paired with the right tool, to get your ideas off the ground. The one simple thing you need to do to make life a success… and so on.

And such all sound fine, helpful… but each of us should know personally in our hearts what God himself desires of us in 2018, and be prepared to fully trust him to enable us to fulfil that commission. It’s not a new year resolution we need but a revelation!

A very sensible, insightful young man shared with us recently why he had left his church and also a particular denomination. He was tired of hype-like charismatic clichés about how-to self-achievements spoken in a rapid bang, bang, bang point by point pattern… but delivered little. He had concluded he was hearing from people, not from God… not the heart of God. He wanted reality!

Hearing and trusting
Let’s not miss it here… God definitely does speak to his children! But it’s often to our hearts!  We can sense this in our inner being if our minds are uncluttered by distractions – including illnesses, upsets, work difficulties, marriage troubles, bad news on the media, what negative people say, and such.

But are we concentrating? Or does this cartoon image depict us?

If we have an unblocked open ear to God’s gentle, even at times mysterious directing either through personal prayer time and Bible reading, an anointed sermon, song or a genuine prophetic message, we can reason out what the Lord is directing us to do this year.

Even if it’s only a glimmer within that we have of what the Lord requires of us, a dream or vision in our hearts, it will develop as we –

  • Commit to him
  • Fully trust him, even in those dark moments when he doesn’t reveal everything
  • Are in an close, intimate relationship with the Spirit
  • Remain open to his leading whatever it may be or wherever it leads
  • Are willing to move on, move forward… even into the unknown!

God doesn’t always show us the future in a 1, 2, 3 pattern! He simply expects us to hear from him and to trust him and to move ahead step by step, day by day! Trusting him means relying on him, even when we can’t fully see what’s going down! As Proverbs 20:24 NLT declares: ‘The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?

Following Jesus is one wild adventure at times. But it’s not like Indiana Jones’ response regarding what lies ahead: ‘I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.’

God has already marked out his plan for us as Jeremiah 29:11Message declares: ‘I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.’

When Jesus called his first disciples (Matthew 4:19) he only said, ‘Follow me…!’  He didn’t explain anything further… but he expected them to trust him, to follow him wherever he’d lead. And they did so without question. And what a wild adventure he took them on! What an example for us.

Following Jesus
Look up ‘Follow’ in the gospels and you’ll discover that the different Greek words used infer ‘an accompanying close behind, a close attachment.’

It’s been said that the trouble with many Christians is that we lag behind, that Jesus is already way down the road, encouraging us to catch up! Sadly, although mentioned in jest, this is so often true.

Truth is that in following Jesus we need to ensure we stay close to him… there’s safety there; security, protection, healing when needed, miracles too, and comfort and encouragement. And we can draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to flow afresh into us to enable us to fulfil whatever Jesus wishes us to do for him.

Moving in close
But… we need to be bold and in following Jesus move in close and into believing we can trust him and, moving forward in faith leave all distractions behind! 

Moving out in faith reminds us of when we ministered in the open air at an aboriginal village in central Australia several years ago and shared on getting close to Jesus in order to receive something special from him as we follow him. Our immediate challenge shocked the large crowd that hot summer’s night: ‘Would you steal from Jesus?’

Eyes popped open and heads shook from side to side indicating that none of them would dare do such a thing! After all this was a unique village, a Christian village! Then we added, ‘Well, let’s tell you about the woman who stole from Jesus.’

Now we really had their attention! Our message that night was about the anonymous lady mentioned in three of the gospels, that troubled woman discomforted for 12 years by a blood flux problem, a nasty haemorrhaging condition (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48).

And what a poor lady she was – referred to by the original New Testament Greek term as the haemorrhoissa (‘bleeding woman’). Because of her continual bleeding stigma, she would have been repeatedly regarded in Jewish law as a niddah (menstruating woman) and thus ceremonially unclean, unable to enter the temple and worship there with others. This lady lived in a ‘continual state of uncleanness’ resulting in social and religious loneliness.

What a ‘new year’ she had!
But this day in her troubled life is the beginning of her personal new year! She moves forward in faith and trust in Jesus; a demon plagued man has just had a miracle and is free to witness about Jesus. Now she is going to receive her own miracle!

And this incident precedes the miracle of Jairus’ daughter being raised from death. Perhaps she had heard Jairus’ humbling example, his openness to Jesus because of his heart concern for his little girl. Perhaps she saw him, a synagogue leader, fall at Jesus’s feet (Luke 8:41), express his faith and humbly plead, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live’ (Mark 5:23).

Get the picture… Jesus, despised by the religious leaders of his day, doesn’t hesitate or debate religion but moves forward in response to the humbled father’s request  and a large crowd follows him, pressing in around him (Mark 5:24). And this lady makes her own move forward… one of demonstrated faith, of absolute trust, a move of closing in so tightly to Jesus!

And in faith she takes a chance falling at his feet to touch the hem of his robe – she could have been crushed by the thronging crowd! But she so believes in Jesus that she closes in as artist Simon Dewey’s magnificent painting (left) depicts…!

Mark 5:27-29 (Message) also paints the incident beautifully: ‘…She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

No wonder Jesus stopped instantly and as verse 30 NIV records, ‘At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”’ Luke 8:45-46 says, ‘Who touched me?’… ‘Someone touched me.’

‘Touch’… haptomai… ‘to attach oneself to.’ There it is again… we can think of moving forward as attaching oneself so closely to Jesus that the supernatural can occur, can flow at any moment!

But note too that this lady, in simply moving ahead in faith, was forgetting about her past, hang-ups, discouragements, religious disparagement, her stigma.  So must we if we are to move forward this year into every promise intimated in that great Jeremiah 29:11 scripture that we Christians are so fond of quoting and giving to others but neglecting ourselves! So many principles in this story!

Just a few other thoughts…
Why do we call her the woman who stole from Jesus?

Because she didn’t open verbally ask! Her faith was so strong that she simply believed in her heart and mind and she took from Jesus! No wonder we read in Luke 8:48, ‘Jesus insisted, “Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me. “’ Power… that dunamis… that word linked with the Holy Spirit… force, miraculous power.

Are we daring to ‘take’ from Jesus in this way? Not only for ourselves but for others. Jairus would have been encouraged and that cliché ‘Blessed to be a blessing’ comes to mind.

In 2018 Christians and churches should be firmly believing in our minds, our hearts, our very being for dunamis to be operating in and from us to bless each other and the unsaved as well. Let’s be humble and expect it. And because we have the Jesus’ Holy Spirit within we won’t be stealing from him, we’ll simply want to act for him and we’ll let his Spirit and power flow through us! In other words with Holy Spirit we’ll see opportunities to bless people… and we’ll move forward to do so!

(This very afternoon we had one such out-of-the-blue opportunity… in a waterfront café! Boldly we prayed for a miracle for an unsaved man with a physical need. Without embarrassing him in front of anyone, we took the opportunity to  believe for the Holy Spirit to flow through us and touch him as we prayed boldly in Jesus’ name. He left us happy and smiling. Something had happened).

One last point… do we have something to ignore, to leave behind? This unnamed woman had – and dumped it! Her disparagement, obvious feeling of being unimportant, her obvious feeling unworthy to speak to Jesus as Jairus had. She just went for it! And soon she would hear Jesus commend her with his gracious words of Luke 8:48 (Mge): ‘Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!’

Want a great 2018?
Be daring… take a risk and get real close to Jesus and trust him as you’ve never done before!

We ourselves are moving further forward this year, even though we’re experiencing some strange dark tunnels. Our hope and trust is strong in Jesus and many times something comes up where there isn’t time to pray or speak a request… and, guess what? Because we’re walking close to him, trusting him no matter what goes down… illnesses, ministry uncertainties, certain challenges… he brings us through as conquerors, overcomers! Our miracle working Lord is protecting us and using us in his service despite circumstances and we’re enjoying this ‘wild Jesus adventure life’ to the full.

Oh we haven’t made it… but Philippians 3:13 Mge sums up our hearts here to encourage readers (Great that we’ve had so many new subscribers – ‘followers’ – both last month and this one). Think of this verse as in the plural from us both: ‘Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.’ 

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(Scripture and other emphases ours). Links: Carol Round’s https://connectingwithyou.net/2018/01/20/letting-go-of-selfie / Stuart Reynolds’ https://connectingwithyou.net/2018/01/22/doors-loitering-with-intent / Tim Edwards’ https://connectingwithyou.net/2018/01/25/shaped-by-unity-in-2018

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