Catalyzing Faith


Luke 7:9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 

Some versions read, “He was amazed” or “He was astonished” by the centurion’s faith. As much as we might like to think that Jesus was never surprised, it’s hard to interpret this any other way. To be astonished or amazed is certainly to be surprised.

And this wasn’t the only time. In Mark 6:6, “He marveled because of their unbelief.” Again, some versions read, “He was amazed…”

At times, our faith – or lack of it – is astonishing to Him.

I was in chemistry lab at Pittsburg State University one afternoon making banana oil.  The miracle of this little experiment was that no bananas were anywhere around.  As students, we were charged with creating it from (chemical) scratch. The entire room smelled like bananas! Strangely, though, my test tube was void of any smell and in fact wasn’t boiling like my lab partners’ though I had it centered right over a Bunsen burner.  Then I remembered – the boiling chip! It’s a little pebble that provides a surface on which the chemical reaction occurs. It catalyzes the reaction and I had forgotten to put it in. Yes, I did what you would think right to do. I added it. What I failed to understand is that the heat build up in the fluid reactants was so great that as soon as the boiling chip hit the fluid, the entire reaction took place in a split second. Banana oil exploded all over the place including my clothes and my neighbor’s books.  I smelled like bananas the rest of the day.

It didn’t look like it, but there was a tremendous amount of energy in that test tube waiting to explode. But it required a catalyst before anything would happen.

Catalyst: A substance that enables a reaction to proceed.

Your faith is a catalyst and Jesus is full of power. But that power walked into Nazareth and “was not able to do any miracles.” Why? The miraculous reaction had no catalyst. The people were without faith.

The woman with the issue of blood had the catalyst. The blind man had the catalyst.  The men who lowered the paralytic had the catalyst. To all of them, Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.”

In none of those situations would the reactions have occurred without the catalyst.

Here comes a tough question. How many of these miraculous reactions have we “missed” because we lacked the catalyst?  How many times have we corked the power with faithlessness?

In Luke 7, the centurion catalyzed the healing of his servant by faith. It was a faith that amazed Jesus.

The next time you pray, be amazing and couple your faith with His power.

Not My Job

not my job

Luke 6:9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

There was a naked man in the street.  He appeared in his late sixties and raving mad weaving around vehicles at the intersection of Rangeline Rd and Zora St. in Joplin.  It was a weekend night and the traffic was heavy on this main road. I distinctly remember the mental struggle to acknowledge the situation as real. He would approach vehicles and bang on them and at one point I watched him reach in the window of one car and grab a woman’s hair.  She screamed as she accelerated to escape his grip. There were two primary thoughts I can recall: 1) Someone is going to get seriously hurt and 2) no one is doing anything.

I pulled my van over and got out.

My wife wasn’t with me. I remember telling the kids to stay in their seats, but as I approached this lunatic I remember looking back and seeing their shocked faces glued to the van window, my youngest daughter screaming, “No Pa!  Don’t go!”

It must have been frightening for them to watch me engage this naked man in the middle of the intersection until the police arrived.

The pressing question here is “Whose responsibility was it?” There were many cars that passed right by that dangerous situation whose drivers answered that question, “Not mine.”

In my opinion, the picture above wins the “It’s not my job” award. To a great extent, we box our responsibilities and anything outside that box is to avoid. The driver of that paint truck may have had no specific responsibility to move a branch from the side of the road, but consider the havoc that might result from his action of doing nothing?

Doing nothing may seem benign but it’s destructive when something needs to be done.

Consider the options Jesus had on that Sabbath. Verse 7 says, “The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a charge against Him.”

His choice was simple; to heal or do nothing.

But listen closely to what Jesus says about doing something or doing nothing: “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Jesus determined that it was good and right to heal this man and therefore to do nothing was to “do what is evil” and to “destroy life.”

James 4:17 makes even more clear this truth: “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

It is true that you owe no man anything but love. Yet love may demand you do everything you can. It could  mean the difference between saving life or destroying it.

Leader’s Debt


Luke 5:16 Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

I was recently asked to speak at an event in another city.  I was the primary speaker and would be addressing a crowd of 75 not-for-profit leaders.  I also knew they would be giving me a small check at the event’s conclusion. People were coming and they were expecting.  I wanted to do a good job. Wouldn’t you?
Be careful.

It’s easy for leaders to slip into the deception of “leader’s debt;” One person’s expectation translated to another as something due. From marriage to parenting, from work life to ministry, it’s easy for us to absorb another’s expectations and then feel an unhealthy demand to perform.

Consider Jesus.  Peter had “left everything” to follow Him.  Matthew “left everything” to follow Him.  And the crowds who were sick came in faith believing He would heal them.

And in the middle of all the human expectation as a healer, a teacher, a leader, “He often withdrew to deserted places to pray.”

I wonder how many came to see Him and went away empty handed because He was praying in hiding. I wonder if ever those who “left everything” to follow Him began wondering if they should have kept something. When Jesus went away to pray, He surely seemed disconnected from their personal hopes and their expectations of Him to be there in their time of need.

Didn’t He owe them something?

Only love. Romans 13:8 liberates us from human performance driven by man’s expectation: “Owe no man any thing, but love.”

Even in the basic contract between an employer and employee in which there are clear expectations of performance, love is what is more due. It may seem odd to love your employer, but does God think it strange? And won’t love for your employer cause you to exceed human expectations of performance?

Performance obliges.  Love sacrifices.

Performance accomplishes. Love exceeds.

Performance exhausts. Love renews.

If you want to do more than perform, love. Jesus did. He was driven by God rather than man to do that which was most important – pray – rather than falling into the human expectation trap of “leader’s debt.”