John the Baptist is pacing the floor of his prison cell like a caged lion. He's fuming! His whole life has been spent preparing the way for Jesus of Nazareth, whom he announced to the world as God's Messiah.  And now reports are coming back to him, as he rots in Herod's prison, that Jesus "ain't doin diddley."


This is the Messiah?  Where's the power?  How can he be the Messiah, if all he does is hang around with losers?   John sends some of his disciples to Jesus to challenge him.


"If you're the Messiah, when are you going to start proving it?  When are you going to take off the gloves and show some power?


Jesus looks at these men and shakes his head.  "Go back and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.  The dead are raised up and the poor have the good news preached to them.  And blessed is he who takes no offence at me."


John the Baptist understood that it's all about power. Not just talk.  Power.  He was right.  Too much of our churchianity is talk, talk, talk --- talk empty of power.  What John did not understand --- and what most people today do not understand --- is that God's power, the power that created the universe and still sustains it, the power that holds every human life in its grip, the power that rules both sides of the grave --- does not operate the way our politicians, generals and bankers do.


Compared with the power that flowed from Jesus, this world's power is nothing but an empty rat-race, driven by greed, hatred, lust and vanity.  Kings, presidents, dictators and prime ministers come and go.  Rock stars come and go.  Nations rise and fall.  Even churches grow and grow and grow….and then begin to flatten out and disintegrate.  General Motors threw its weight around for years; now look at it!   This world's power is a turbulent sea.


God's power does not rise and fall and come and go.  It gets the job done, whether you see it or not, whether you believe it or not.  When God opens a door, no one can shut it.  When God closes a door, no one can open it.  And when God puts his power into you and starts opening doors through you, no one can shut those doors. 


John the Baptist should have understood this.  Because when John presented Jesus as the one who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit, he was talking about Jesus putting God's power into puny people like you and me. 


God's power.  When you open a door by God's power, no one can shut it.  When you call down God's power on a human life, not one can stop it.  When you speak a word or perform a deed under the anointing of God's power, things happen that will echo through all eternity.


This is what John forgot:   God's power never goes big-time.  That is why, when Jesus healed some one he told them to keep quiet about it.  Jesus never promoted himself.  When he fed the five thousand, and they wanted to grab him and make him a king, Jesus took off for the hills alone.  God's power never goes big-time.  And whenever we think or act big-time, we lose our connection with God's power --- which in a sense was what was happening to John's thinking.  John was thinking big-time. 


What Jesus was doing didn't look like much to poor John the Baptist, sitting in prison, because John was focused on big-time power.  John was looking for Jesus to deliver Israel from Roman oppression.


Jesus' agenda was way beyond that.  Jesus was setting fire to the earth with a message that would be its only hope and its final judgment.  And that fire is the only kind of power we have to offer as you read these words.


And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

                                                            Mark 6:7


Authority over the unclean spirits.  Power to heal.  That power is present with you, because he is with you as you read these words.  It's the power that opens our eyes to God's world.  It's the power that changes us….the power that wants to flow through us and bring new life to people out there.


What we need to figure out, with God's help, is how to receive this power and be sustained by it every day. 


Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

                                                            Matthew 18:18-20


He's talking about his kind of power, which he freely gives to those who draw near in faith, lay aside their attitudes and grudges and open their hearts.  But notice how Jesus goes about deciding who is going to get this power….


Does he say, "Here's a man with a brilliant mind and a silver tongue.  I can use him.  I think I'll zap him with my Spirit."?


"This Hollywood actress has a huge fan base.  If I get her, I'll get all her fans.  I think I'll zap her."


"Oh yes, and over here we have Bill Gates, the billionaire.  Look at what he could do for all the starving folks in Africa, if Bill got anointed with my power.  I might as well zap him too."


No.  That's not how it works.  This is how it works:


For thus says the high and lofty One

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

"I dwell in the high and holy place

and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit,

to revive the spirit of the humble,

and to revive the heart of the contrite."

                                                                       Isaiah 57:15


The Lord doesn't need our brains, our winsome personalities, our wealth, our good looks.  All he needs is a humble heart.


So here's this ugly little Saul of Tarsus with a raspy voice and weird looking eyes.  Yet everywhere he goes, people's lives are changed, their bodies are healed.  Saul doesn't look like much.  But he is a fountainhead of divine power.  How come?


And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

                                                            II Corinthians 12:7-10


God's power moves through men and women who are weak in themselves and have to rely on him. 


God's power moves through people who limp through this world with a wounded thigh, like Jacob, after he wrestled with the angel.


God's power moves through people who stumble along with a thorn in the flesh like Paul's, something that keeps them aware of their own frailty.


God's power moves through people like you and me, when we confess our need and cry out for his Spirit.


"Lord, may your strength be made perfect in our weakness!  May your Spirit come down into our needy souls even now, and be the heavenly treasure in the earthen vessels of these bodies!  And Lord, may the life of heaven flow out of us as freely as it now flows in!"


Here's what Jesus taught his disciples then, and is teaching us now: 


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


Today you and I are standing where the twelve disciples stood:


And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.


He gave them power.  He is giving us power --- to touch people's lives with healing and hope.  To give them a taste of how good God is, by the things we do and the words we speak. 


Think of yourself as one who has been sent by the Living God to give folks out there a taste of God's goodness.  Know that God's power is being made perfect in your weakness. 


Go out there thinking of yourself as a servant of the Lord, and let God work through you.


Hold on to this faith, and you will be amazed at what God's power will do through you today, and in the days ahead.