The impact of your devotional life is so much more than the edge.

Today may be the same as every other day in that you will carry out certain spiritual disciplines. You will talk to God; you will worship Him and as you listen to a song you perhaps will sing and you will read the Bible and maybe you will meditate on a certain verse. You will do this on your own the majority of the time and some will carry out these disciplines with another or in a group.

Though you may feel even less significant than the very small context of your spiritual discipline you do it because of this strong desire to connect with God. It may not happen every single time in the same impactful way because after all this is a discipline. Yet there have been many times in your experience when you realise that this practice is so much more than a prayer, a song and a reading.

Sometimes the small things that we do carry the most powerful moments. They become more than the edge.

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” (Matthew 14 v 34-36)

According to the instruction to Moses (Numbers 15) the Israelite men were to wear tunics that would act as prayer shawls. At each corner of the tunic there were tassels tied into 613 knots to symbolise the 613 laws of Moses. Everyone could see them and the man would have to be careful to keep those laws. Every day the man knew he was carrying the Word of God in his life. They also spoke of the man’s authority. In the Old Testament story of David cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe we see the reason why David was so upset for the action was because he felt he had stolen Saul’s authority. This would humiliate Saul and David was annoyed with himself (2 Samuel 24). Finally the edges of the cloak were also seen as what was referred to by Malachi “… the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings.” (Malachi 4) The word ‘wings’ is a translated word for the edges of the wing. The man knew that symbolically the edge of his cloak was a picture of the power of God.

It is so much more than the edge of his cloak!

In your spiritual discipline today you reach out in faith to the Word, to His identity that Jesus is God. You are stating that you believe in Him.

In your spiritual discipline today you reach out in faith to His authority, that there is no one higher than Him. He is the King of Kings. All things are held together by Him.

In your spiritual discipline today you reach out in faith to His power. There is no need which is impossible for Him. He can do this.

The people at Gennesaret had understood the principle. It is not just the edge, it is so much more. Reach out again today to His identity, authority and power: this is the true impact of your spiritual daily discipline which is so much more than the edge.

Invitation into a leap of faith

We cannot contain Him to a time and a place and a nation. We cannot hold on to Him, He is beyond our grasp, we cannot understand all that there is to know about Him, He is beyond our capability to think.

We can invite Jesus into our existence, ‘our boat’ – but there is a far greater invitation. An invitation for us to live our lives in His pre-existence upon even the stormy waters of life.

“Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14 v 23-33)

Jesus calls to us “come”. But the territory between the boat and Jesus often looks impossible. The only way to walk in the impossible is to stop trusting your boat and start trusting your Saviour. There is a big difference. Trusting the boat is easy. You can touch it, it feels secure. There are always other people in the boat and if they’re okay then you will be also. It is tangible, you are safe in numbers.

So often we want to get out of that experience on the boat and expect that trusting Jesus will bring the same feelings – the feelings on the water are not the feelings on the boat.

Peter was not walking on a bridge or stepping stones, but water with the wind and waves against him. This was a very hard thing for Peter to do – it took a lot of strength for Peter to walk against those winds. How did he do it when there was nothing tangible under His feet?

At that moment Peter was a God chaser, a true follower of Jesus. His Spirit was in control of his flesh. His mind was crying out “this is not safe!!!”

You can take a leap of faith. It will not feel safe, it will not feel like the boat feels, you will feel that things have gotten worse. You may be tempted to think whether or not this was a good idea. But with your eyes on Jesus it is more than possible for you to do what you have never ever done before. It is possible for you to leave people behind in their comfort zones as you become all you can become for God.

Replenish

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14 v 22-23)

He didn’t get time to grieve properly the death of John the Baptist for his disciples arrived with their excited stories from their mission trip and the crowds arrived in need of a Shepherd. Sometimes you don’t get a minute to yourself!

So Jesus makes the disciples leave him. The word is that he compels them to leave. This was a significant moment for Jesus. The death of John, the forerunner, was the moment Jesus knew the baton was firmly in his hand and he would begin to move into the Gentile regions and then ultimately follow the road to Jerusalem and the cross. A turning point and he needed to be ready.

He has just performed a Moses miracle and more. According to John (6:15) the crowds who have had a free miraculous meal want to make him king and do it by force. They adore Jesus and are ready to applaud Jesus into a new chapter. Matthew writes that he dismissed the crowd. He says it twice in fact.

Here is the thought: perhaps today you need to make a distance between your responsibility and you. You need to compel the work to move on without you. You need to say NO. You carry on but I am not coming with you this time. Or maybe you need to dismiss the applause and the accolades and to come away from the political nonsense. Maybe you have to do both!

Time for you.

Compel the responsibility to let go of you and dismiss the tempting praise from the crowds.

Why? There’s a mountain to climb to get away from it all. To the place of pray.

To the place to grieve; or to think; to listen; to be refreshed; to be filled.

Sometimes God is not in the work nor in the applause but He is on a mountainside waiting to replenish you.

What you have is never too small.

In the briefest of description amongst all 4 gospels who share the same miracle we are encouraged to know that even if we are in some isolated and remote place; even if we have a logistical problem and the sums simply do not add up; it is possible that by the end of the day we will have more than what we started with: because of Jesus.

“Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14 v 15-21)

Does the need outweigh your capability or your provision?

Where are you looking? The gigantic need or what looks like garnish in your hand?

Stop looking at both and look to Jesus.

With your eyes on Him you realise that He is greater than the greatest need.

Jesus will take and use with whatever and whoever you have become.

He still calls to you today, ‘Bring what you have to me.’

Common sense

“”Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Nothing wrong with that. So long as you have all the facts.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’” (Matthew 14 v 13-15)

The crowd had followed. The team had been found and Jesus leaves the Twelve to welcome them and to bring healing to their broken lives. Matthew writes that Jesus had compassion on them. But then the disciples approach Jesus with what appears to be their own compassion for the crowds. A remote place. The time is getting late. There is no food. Send the crowds away. Common sense.

Are we trying to dismiss what Jesus is wanting to do?

Have we lost sight of who we are with?

Common sense is common. We need the sense of the extraordinary other in our lives. This is not so common.

Perhaps we need to stop taking charge, stop trying to be in control and leave some space for the other. For Jesus has other ideas!

Miracles don’t happen in the arena of common sense.

Regather, Regroup, Reset and Breathe.

Understanding the season that you are in and having self-awareness so that you are not blinded to the truth of the moment is the discernment that all of us need.

What do you do when you receive bad news?

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14 v 13)

Jesus has been told that his relative and forerunner, John the Baptist, has been cruelly killed. When the pace-setter and forerunner bows out of the race it is the moment for the ‘runner’ to take over and go for the line. It is a Regather, Regroup, Reset and Breathe moment.

With the pain of loss and the pain of adjustment in your heart then you know this is not a time for those feelings to overwhelm but it is a time to find somewhere to go and know which people are coming with you.

Matthew (v15) indicates the disciples had come with Jesus. Mark (6:30-32) and Luke (9:10) specifically say they did. Luke says they went to Bethsaida, the home place of 3 of the disciples, Philip, Andrew and Peter. But Matthew reveals that it was to the desolated part of Bethsaida that they went to. To the place with little population.

At the time of Jesus receiving this bad news his disciples were arriving back from their short-term mission’s trip filled with amazing stories.

Maybe you have come to the end of a chapter. Bad news fills your mind or you are excited with the good news that has happened. Maybe you have gone through a busy season where you have given much to people in terms of your time and energy. What should you do? Just keep going? Somehow you need to replace what you have done with who He is. His identity needs to overwhelm your activity. Your ability to keep going is dependent on your decision to keep pursuing Jesus.

They withdrew to be alone with Jesus.

Even though it was short-lived the principle is there. Time alone with Jesus after a season of activity in the Kingdom of God is what He wants.

But also it appears Jesus withdrew to be alone with them. Time alone with your ‘group’ whoever they are after a season comes to an end and a new one is about to start is the opportunity for a Regather, Regroup, Reset and Breathe moment.

When Jesus is at the end of your story then it isn’t over.

In a simple verse, packed with emotion, we find the greatest lesson. I hope this encourages you as it does me.

John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14 v 12)

When John had been killed his disciples went to tell Jesus.

Many have spent centuries focusing on this verse but haven’t seen its true importance.

The questions that have energised the archaeologists and historians since is this, where did they bury his body and where is his head?

From the 4th century John’s burial place was believed to be in Sebastia, a small Palestinian village (one of the oldest continually inhabited places in the West Bank). But in 2010 in the monastery of St John in Bulgaria, archaeologists found bones which they believe are John’s. John’s head has the traditional legends of many religious relics: It is in Damascus, Syria, on the site of what was a Church called John the Baptist but now is a Mosque; It is in the Church of San Sivestro in Capite, Rome; It is in the Cathedral of Amiens, France; It is in the Residenz Museum, in Munich, Germany; His right arm and right hand are to be found in Istanbul, Egypt and Monenegro.

Whilst the hunt goes on the significance of the lesson remains: talk to Jesus.

When it goes wrong, talk to Jesus.

When your dreams have ended, talk to Jesus.

When you have closed the chapter, talk to Jesus.

When you have buried your friend, talk to Jesus.

If you can still talk to Jesus it means it isn’t over.

In that first century when the gospels were being heard and read and they see how the movement of John had been struck down what were they actually learning? When the Christians were being blamed for the fire in Rome by Nero leading to their evil torture and terrible deaths, how did these kind of stories help them? In answering those questions let me take you to another gruesome beheading, well, 21 to be exact. February 15, 2015 a video shocked the world, taken from a rocky beach on the Mediterranean Sea, Western Libya of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded by ISIS. The pictures are forever etched in our mind. How did their families recover?

Studies of the full version of the ISIS video have shown how these Christian men not only glanced at each other with encouragement before they were pushed to the ground for their beheading but the families could hear their loved ones seconds before dying, saying “Ya Rabbi Yassou! (Oh my Lord Jesus!).

When Jesus is at the end of your sentence then it isn’t over.

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

Trophies

Be careful what you demand and what you strive for.

Make sure the trophy you seek is that of the righteousness of Christ.

Not all trophies are to be celebrated. Behind narcissistic, coercive and manipulative trophy cabinets lie beheaded people.

“His head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.” (Matthew 13 v 11)

She got what she asked for.

  • Not every trophy shines with personal achievement.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful the royal dish or platter when the trophy has hurt someone to gain it: Context never outweighs cruelty.

She didn’t want what she asked for.

  • If the goal of your life is to please someone else then every trophy you get will be theirs.
  • Be careful who has your ear for they may also control your desire for trophy heads.

She let go of what she asked for.

  • Just because it wasn’t your idea doesn’t mean your fingerprints are not all over that trophy.
  • If the story of your trophy was to silence your selfish story then that trophy may be silenced but it will still speak against you, even 2,000 years later.

Manipulation

In what is a horror story we see the power of manipulation:

Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so muchthat he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. (Matthew 14 v 5-11)

Herod had stolen Herodias from his half-brother, Philip, this affair was the major headline gossip. John the Baptist had spoken up and he was paying for it in prison.

Mark says in his gospel that it was Herodias that wanted to kill John, Matthew says Herod also had the idea. Putting them both together it would seem that Herod decided not to kill John because a) as Matthew says he was afraid of the people and b) he had started to enjoy conversations with John. However, Herodias had plans.

Be alert: the one who dances in front of you may be manipulating you. (Herod and the daughter)

  • When the focus is on you (it was his birthday) your ego is not far away.
  • Generosity that flows from personal satisfaction is a payment which may give you pain.

Be alert: the one who coaches you may be manipulating you. (Herodias and her daughter)

  • The bitterness of the past generation will find a way to continue to grow.
  • When you take on someone else’s spitefulness then you become complicit with it.

Be alert: you are capable of manipulating yourself. (Herod)

  • What you boast and the accolades you receive can trap you to be what you never wanted to be.
  • If what distresses you doesn’t stop you then it isn’t deep enough.

Don’t let anyone silence you.

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  (Matthew 14 v 3-4)

Antipas was his name and Herod (King) was the title. His father, Herod the Great, had 8 wives. Antipas was the Herod of Jesus’ lifetime, living in Jerusalem.

Antipas’ heart was in Rome, with his niece, who had been left fatherless by her grandfather (Herod the Great) who ordered the strangulation of her father, Aristobulus and her uncle Alexander. The Great then had her married to another uncle, not Antipas, but Philip.

Antipas visited Rome in AD26 and fell in love with his niece Herodias. They agreed he would divorce his wife, Phaesalis and she would divorce Philip.

So hand in hand they come back to the holy land; Divorced Uncle Antipas and his divorced niece Herodias, very much in love accompanied by his great niece Salome. A picture of family happiness!

The Jews however thought this whole story an abomination and they had the Scripture to support them in Leviticus 20:21 – “‘“If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless.”

Right in the middle of this royal scandal is the gospel messenger, John the Baptist.

There are many today who have been arrested, bound and placed in prison because of their belief in the Bible.

If you stand up and call out what isn’t right then there will be a price to pay. Remember the voice in the wilderness? Here he is now, the voice in the prison of the palace. His circumstances changed but His voice remains calling for lives to change, even the King’s. Don’t let anyone take your voice.