Christianity 201

August 3, 2019

Turning Problems to Blessings | Miracles

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Sometimes I will spend as much as 15 minutes combing the internet before I land on something and I know, this is the writer I am supposed to share today. I want to introduce you to Janet Perez Eckles:

Although physically blind, Janet Perez Eckles has been teaching thousands to see the best of life. “Because I lost my sight at 31 and endured the murder of my youngest son, along with the acquittal of the man responsible,” Janet says, “my life should’ve been a mess. But God gave me a message to showcase His power: His power at work to conquer fear and turn the deepest pain to a life rich with triumph and success.”

Today we have two short devotionals for you. Click the individual titles to read on her pages.

God’s way to perform miracles

What keeps you from believing in miracles?

A mother answered these questions with boldness and unique faith. The results stirred attention and a film was made of this miraculous event.

The scenario took place in a St. Louis hospital. The story is about John Smith who fell in icy water and remained there for 15 minutes. The news read, “When rescuers brought him to SSM St. Joseph Hospital West, the teen wasn’t breathing. Paramedics and doctors did everything in their power to bring John back, not willing to give up. They performed CPR and other life-saving measures on him for 43 minutes—without regaining a pulse.”

Medically, the boy was dead.

They called his mother to the room to give her the bad news.

What did she do? She prayed. She declared out loud God’s power and the Holy Spirit upon her son and believed she would receive it.

What happened next is that blood began to flow in that dead boy’s veins.

The doctors shocked and stunned couldn’t give explanations. They only had one conclusion: it was a “genuine miracle.”

The chilling details.

Here are the chilling details: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/04/inspiration-nation-mom-prays-son-back-to-life/22883985/

I’d like to meet that mother and tell her, “I want faith like yours. To be that bold, and overflow with trust.”

Her trust didn’t drive her to beg, but declare God’s healing power. Her faith didn’t lead her to lament the circumstance, but prompted her to praise the Lord for what He knows how to do. And she didn’t sink into sorrow, instead she believed God’s promise, claimed and received it.

While she claimed it in faith, the mountain was removed.

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Let’s Pray

Father, teach me to look to you for that unwavering faith that proclaims what You can do and what You will do. In Jesus’s name.

What miracle are you expecting?


How our problems turn into blessings

The Terminix rep sat at my kitchen table. “I have good news and not so good news,” he said.

Gulp. I braced myself. I called him because I had some bites that could be from those pesky insects. And since I travel often, they could have hitched a ride in my suitcase.

“Good news,” he said, “you don’t have bed bugs. But not so good news is we inspected and you have no protection against termites.”

Yikes! Forget the bed bugs, termites that could eat up my house is a bigger problem and a greater threat. I signed up for their plan faster than you can say bugs.

Isn’t that like life? We drown in tears because of an ugly situation, painful and unexpected. But God is in the background using that very situation to work something beautiful. He’s using it as a path to bring about greater changes and before you know it, that problem was a blessing in disguise.

Five Ways

Here are five ways God might be crafting that transformation:

  1. When relationships fall apart, God may not restore and heal. Instead, He might be in the process of a make-over of our heart. He might be cleaning stuff that tainted our life. He might be pointing ways to increase our wisdom and preparing us for something lasting and real.
  2. When our children grow up and grow distant, following the wrong path, rather than bringing them back when we expect, our freedom might be what God has prepared instead. The freedom from worry by surrendering each child to Him and placing them in His capable hands.
  3. When financial problems don’t end, God might not wipe out our debt, but might invite us to bring to Him the first fruits of our labor and to see how much He can provide.
  4. When life’s losses devastate us, God might not bring back what we lost, but increase our dependence on Him to receive His comfort and peace.
  5. When the doctor gives us bad news, God’s healing might not happen yet. Instead, He might be working in us a deeper trust, a genuine confidence in Him and boldness to believe He has the answers when doctors don’t.

God has answers that are eternal.

Difficult circumstances demand solutions that are temporary, but God has the answers that are eternal. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Each problem is a blessing when we look for the lesson. When we hear His message. When we appreciate the change. And when we believe that, in Christ there is no problem without a purpose. No sorrow without His comfort, no setback without a solution and no tragedy without His triumph.

Let’s Pray

Father, thank You for your patience with me. Thank You for showing me to look beyond the circumstance and see Your mighty hand at work to bring greater things. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Which of your problems can be turned to a blessing for you?


Janet wrote a book filled with words of encouragement, uplifting thoughts and illustrations of real-life triumph to empower you. Its title: Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life. You can get it HERE.

April 5, 2019

Hidden But Not in Hiding

This is our sixth time taking you to the writing of Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the header below to read at source. Click here to read her story.

Hidden

Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

Leaving church trying to wrangle our crew, a woman approached me who I had not met before. She introduced herself to me and proceeded to tell me that I radiated “light”. I honestly do not remember exactly her words because any form of compliment makes me extremely uncomfortable. I shifted the attention to her daughter who was a blouse similar to mine. Smiling and waving awkwardly on my part, I got in the car to leave. This is exactly what I want people to see in me even though the whole situation made me uncomfortable. I need to hear that the Light of His Love is shining through. There are seasons when our light doesn’t seem to be as bright as it should. Or even worse, when it feels like no matter what you do the projection is not quite right. You feel hidden from the world and lost in your calling. To feel inadequate, insignificant and ineffective in our mission is discouraging. Am I the only one today who feels hidden sometimes?

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 

The Light of His Love has changed my life. It has infiltrated me and constantly transforming the old woman into a new creation. It is not easy to live a life of exposure. Constantly peeking into His Word and pursuing God in prayer is a place that my inadequacy and insignificance seem magnified.  How can a God of such goodness give me amazing grace? He loves me. He wants me. He is for me. Jesus died for me. He rose again for me. He made me victorious giving me unprecedented favor. Still there are times when I do not feel like a bright and shining light but a candle barely maintaining a flame.

The story of David is one of hidden potential. David was the youngest in his family so the chances of him receiving the father’s blessing were not in his favor. Too many in line before him. He was relegated to a field to tend sheep. He spent countless hours worshipping God in his hiding place as evidenced in his writing. He also encountered some challenges namely a lion and a bear threatening the flock. He obliged them with death. In a simple task, taking his brothers some lunch and checking on their wellbeing, his hidden potential was revealed. David was a warrior. He was a champion. He was a future king. Who are you today? What potential is hidden inside of you? Are you ignoring it?

Luke 8:46-48 (NLT) But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed.

 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

What if you are not hidden but in hiding? Oh, this is pretty good too. The woman who had the issue of blood. Years of isolation, pain and suffering decided to seek out Jesus. She did not call from the side of the road like blind Bartimaeus. She did not make a scene. She got on her hands and knees crawling through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment. When Jesus felt power leave Him, He asked, “Who touched me?” The woman fell silent and tried to stay hidden. When the woman realized she could not stay hidden, she forever became a light for all to see. Are you hidden by God on purpose until it is time for your release? Or are you staying hidden on purpose imprisoned by doubt and fear? I wonder also if this woman was a Jew and knew that her belief in Christ and healing would make her subject to her religion and possible persecution. Why risk it? What is keeping you hidden today? Is it the Lord? Or is it you?

Mark 4:22 (NLT) For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.

In my younger days, this scripture was often leveled as a threat. God knows everything. You cannot hide from God. Everything is “naked and exposed” before His Eyes is a huge detriment when you know what the hidden sin is in your life. But that is not the context of this verse at all for the believer. It is a promise. A precious promise. Yes, God sees the sin in our life. He offered the perfect solution for it. What God is after is the potential placed inside of us before our birth in the midst of creation. (Psalm 139:16) He longs to reveal the mysteries and secrets hidden from the adversary yet still on reserve just for you. You may feel hidden. Isolated. Alone. But what if you are really being transformed and protected by the Hand of Your Loving Father instead? What if He is working out the details of your perfect release into the calling and purpose that leads to full satisfaction and complete contentment in His Son – Jesus Christ? He is keeping you in His Care so that when you are ready and the time is right – you will walk into the promise unhindered. This is excellent news and a precious promise for every believer.

Daniel 2:20-23 (NLT) He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

King Nebuchadnezzar was a hot head for sure. He had disturbing dreams and demanded his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers tell him what he had dreamed and why. The dream deeply troubled the king. When these “wise” men could not oblige the king, he ordered for the execution of all “wise” men. Well, this became a problem for the Hebrew men because though not involved there was guilt by association. So Daniel told the men to to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon.The Lord responded telling Daniel the interpretation of the king’s dream. Daniel’s response is noted above in Daniel 2:20-23. God is all wisdom and power in our life as believers. His Son, Jesus Christ, gives us access to righteousness to restore our relationship as Children of God giving us access to His Kingdom and all that is within it. We can ask God to reveal deep and mysterious things to us and He will. He will provide light for our darkness with a simple request of childlike faith. God desires to bring you out of hiding and showcase the glorious light within us.

Isaiah 51:15-16 (NLT) For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar. My name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand. I stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. I am the one who says to Israel, ‘You are my people!’”

No matter if you are hidden in Him or in hiding yourself, the Lord knows exactly where you are and is working relentlessly to expose the Light in you and reveal your purpose to you. He never grows weak or weary. His Grace is always sufficient in releasing His Power in our every weakness. When the time is just right, God will set your light on the hill just as His Word promised to do. In the meantime, you must trust the Lord. Trust in His Word. Trust His Will. Trust His Timing. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is keeping you safe and secure for destiny today. Ask the Lord to share His Secrets and Mysteries to you. Stop and listen for His Voice. Write down what He says, it will be a place to rest your head when the enemy tries to keep you up with lies. The darkness is not a scary place for the light. Light drives out darkness every time. You are a Child of God full of His Love which always produces light. If you see light in someone else, tell them. Sometimes it is the spark that keeps them moving in the right direction! The woman who came and spoke to me today had no way to know that her words touched a weary heart. My mission in life is to share God’s Love and the “Light” inside of me that is for them, too. I often have shared that if I could just open my heart and let people see what Jesus has done inside that they would want Him, too. She was a light to me today and a reminder that just because I cannot always see the light, I can always be the Light!

John 8:12 (NLT) – Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

January 28, 2019

God in Your Life Losses

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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We’re returning today — for the 14th time — to the site, Counseling One Another by author and pastor Paul Tautges. This has been a great source of excellent articles for us and I hope you’ve taken an opportunity to visit the page and read more. Please click the link below to read this one at source.

God Speaks Life Into Your Loss

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. (Psalm 119:150)

Scripture heals. It ministers grace to your deepest hurts, since it is the voice of the one who created and redeemed you.

In the beginning, the voice of God brought the universe into existence—brought life out of nothing. “God said” and it was so (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). Now the voice of God revives your soul. The writer of Psalm 119 experienced this inner rejuvenation. In the midst of his “affliction,” the warmest comfort came from the words of God which give “life.” Earlier in the psalm, he affirmed the same:

“Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:24-25)

Loss brings sadness. In turn, sadness sometimes stalls and cracks open the door to depression. Sometimes suddenly. Most often it’s gradual, even unnoticed. Either way, you need help from God. In the middle of your thick fog you need the piercing light of divine truth to break through and speak words of grace and comfort to your hurting soul. So, you can pray something like this:

“Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:77)

Or this:

“Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.” (Psalm 119:143)

When the trials of life drain every ounce of spiritual, physical, and emotional energy from you, God’s Word will be your strength. It ministers to your deepest agonies, and helps you gain eternal perspective.

You can receive strength by appreciating the testimony of others, like Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” is a healing balm (Romans 8:18). Or, again, David: “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” is a testimony of persevering grace (Psalm 119:92).

Scripture heals because God has spoken. But Scripture still speaks. It is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). In Scripture, the living Word of God—Jesus, the Man of Sorrows—speaks. As you meditate on the Bible, the Spirit speaks life-giving words into that part of you that feels like it died along with your loss.

How about opening your Bible, and inviting the Lord to speak healing truth?

July 15, 2018

Unashamed of the Blood

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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It’s been six months, and we’re back at the website Before the Cross. The writer today is . Click the title below to read at source.

Nothing But the Blood of Jesus

Outside of blood drives, I’m sure it’s not common to hear gratitude and blood thrown together in the same sentence. We sing a worship song in church on occasion with the lyric “We thank You for the blood.” This refers to the good news that Jesus Christ, being the very Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified on a cross for all the sins of man past, present and future and was raised again to life so that anyone believing in Him would live an eternity with Him. We are thanking Jesus for His blood spilt on our behalf. Every time we sing it, I wonder what a person unfamiliar with the gospel must think as they give church a try. Here are some of my guesses:

  • That’s gross.
  • Did I come to the wrong place?
  • Why are these people singing about blood?
  • Of all things, why are they thankful for blood?

If those are the questions, I hope they don’t leave without getting them answered and I certainly hope they come back.

Let’s face it. The lyrics aren’t exactly “seeker” friendly and some churches might treat this song like any blood-related incident, to keep the lyrics sanitary and removed from the scene, out of mind and out of sight for believer and non-believer alike. Blood evokes a strong mental image and unless you’ve been desensitized by horror movies, it usually isn’t an image someone likes to think about. There are certainly other worship songs we could sing that would bring about more peaceful, calming and relaxing images of God’s saving grace without mentioning blood.

And that’s the very reason why I think we need to sing about it. Without the blood shed by Jesus Christ, there is no cross. If there is no cross, there is no resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection, we are doomed.

The Blood Is Necessary

Since the first sin of man in the Garden of Eden, blood was required. Animals were sacrificed for their skins to cover up the nakedness of Adam and Eve. The sacrifice of animals for atonement of sin was still present in the time of Jesus.

And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”Exodus 24:8

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”Hebrews 9:22

The Blood Protects

The Israelites are instructed to place animal blood over the door of their dwellings to avoid God’s plague on Egypt.

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”Exodus 12:13

Jesus, before His crucifixion refers to his shed blood as that which would forgive sins.

“for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”Matthew 26:28

The Blood Cleanses 

Redemption, fellowship and cleansing are benefits we as Christians who believe in Jesus Christ get to enjoy as a result of His shed blood.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”Ephesians 1:7-9

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

We often see what we prize most in light of what we pay for it. In the case of our salvation, it is we who were purchased with blood that ran through the body of our savior, the same body broken on our behalf to allow God and His creation to have a restored relationship. If you are a Christian, you are in this restored relationship.

We can sing it out unashamed. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for the blood!


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November 18, 2017

The Woman Who Jumped the ‘I Need a Miracle’ Line

Once again we’re back with Carol Hatcher whose blog is titled Sheep to the Right.

When Someone Gets in Front of Your Miracle

He was desperate.

Yet in that despair came a glimmer of hope. He’d heard stories of the one they called Teacher. He’d never seen any of the miracles, but there was talk of him healing the sick and even raising the dead.

So with a modicum of faith, Jairus went in search of Jesus to help his daughter. When Jairus found him, the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanied synagogue leaders such as himself, crumbled as he fell at Jesus’ feet. In despair he cried, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (Mark 5:23 NIV)

So Jesus went.

The Bible states it simply. Christ didn’t ask questions. He didn’t give instructions for the disciples to pass out tracts while he ran on his miracle errand. He just went.

Jairus must have been thrilled. I imagine him trying to move briskly in the direction of his home suppressing the urge to break into a sprint. But there were all those people. I would have run, shoving men and women as I went. Shove now, apologize later. There was a life at stake after all.

Then this woman showed up – hoping for a miracle of her own. The embarrassment over her “unclean” condition was perhaps what motivated her to touch Jesus in secret. She probably thought, I’ll keep my head covered and just touch his clothes. He is so powerful, even the fibers woven to adorn his body will be enough. No doubt, she intended on slipping out of the crowd as soon as she was healed, but Jesus was aware of her presence.

He knew that power had gone out from his body. (v. 30)

Who touched me?” Christ asked, wanting to look upon the face of the woman with such faith.

Let’s freeze that moment and talk a minute about those around Jesus and what they were thinking. We know the disciples were thinking their Lord was loco (crazy). The Bible doesn’t tell us their tone, but one can only imagine.

After Jesus’ question, their response was, “You see people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31) I can almost see the sarcasm dripping from the words.

What I want to know is what is Jairus doing? This man is desperate for his daughter to be healed and is afraid she is going to die. If it were me, I might have been silent on the outside, but I’d be screaming on the inside, “Let’s go! Okay, okay. She’s healed already – besides the fact she totally jumped in the ‘I need a miracle’ line. Let’s go!”

Back to the situation at hand.

In terror, the woman came forward and collapsed at Jesus feet. The same feet Jairus gazed upon mere minutes before. Her story came spilling forth, and instead of criticizing her, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

But before Jesus can even finish speaking these words, some men from Jairus’ house approached Jairus with the nightmare he had been trying to avoid. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Can you imagine the agony? He succeeded in getting Jesus to come only to have his daughter die before they could arrive. Once again, the Bible is silent on Jairus’ response, but we can infer from Jesus’ next words that Jairus was upset.

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (v. 36)

Can I share with you the words that struck me? “Ignoring what they said…”

How many times have you heard the worst? Perhaps the doctors have given no hope. Maybe your family laughed when you shared your dream. You thought you heard the voice of God, but now you are not so sure.

Take Jesus’ advice – ignore what they said. Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

Sometimes in order to achieve the impossible, we have to disregard the obstacles. When God is in it, all things are possible.

You see, Jesus went on to Jairus’ house, telling the people there the girl was asleep. And guess what the people did? They didn’t fall down and worship. They didn’t even run in her room and place a mirror under her nose. Instead, “they laughed at him.” (v. 40)

But Jesus went into her room and brought the child back to life. She got up and had a fruit snack. (Just a guess. Dried figs would qualify as a fruit snack, right?)

So today I ask what impossible task are you facing? Perhaps you need to ignore the discouraging words and the laughs.

Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

March 18, 2017

Negative Thoughts May Block Healing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.
 ~Song of Songs 2:15

In our quest to feature writers from different branches of Christianity, today we are paying a return visit to the blog Power Up! which is part of the Charisma Magazine website. This particular blog is updated weekly and features different Charismatic writers. To read this at source, explore other articles on the blog, and then migrate to one of ten other blogs on the site, click the title below; for more info on the writer, click her name below the title or the links at the bottom of today’s article.

Liberating Your Mind From ‘Destructive, Little Foxes’ That Block Your Healing

by Kathie Walters

“Why is it that when I get physically hurt, I can receive healing right away, but emotional hurts hang on for months?” my friend Jill asked me. I answered with a question: “What do you do when you need a physical healing?”

Jill thought for a while. “When my father was visiting me,” she replied, I made the mistake of mounting one of the horses while we were in the barn. The horse reared up, and I fell off. Then the horse fell on me, and the horn of the western saddle dug into my stomach.”

“What did you do, I asked?” I asked. “I immediately began to praise and thank the Lord for my healing,” Jill said. “I could feel pain, but I didn’t allow any negative thoughts to enter my mind. I kept praising Jesus and looking to Him, and within a few minutes all the pain left, and I was totally OK.”

Jill told me that she had experienced similar healings in the past, so her faith was built up in the area of physical healing. I asked her about the problem she was having with receiving inward, emotional healing.

Before she could respond, the Holy Spirit began to show me what the problem was. “You receive the inner healing when you pray, don’t you?” I asked. “But then negative thoughts come and you start to dwell on them, right?” Jill thought for a few minutes and agreed that this was what happened whenever she was hurt emotionally.

Jill’s difficulty is a widespread one in the body of Christ today. Many of us have had physical or emotional healings or even visions and words from the Lord that we received and believed at the time. Then after a while negative thoughts began to come and fight against the healing or vision. As we entertained the thoughts, they got a stronger hold, and then we became double-minded.

The apostle James tells us that a person who is double-minded is “unstable in ALL his ways” (James 1:8, emphasis added). He also says that we are to “Ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (v. 6) and is unlikely to “receive anything from the Lord” (v.7).

No wonder the devil wants us to entertain negative thoughts that war against our faith! No wonder we are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)!

Thoughts can be very positive and build our faith, or they can become the means of aborting our vision. The devil doesn’t want us to prove God and fulfill our destiny, so he continually throws thoughts into our minds like arrows. If we are not on guard against them, the arrows will enter and bring unbelief, doubt, fear and even depression and defeat. Remember, God is not a yes and no God! The Bible says that “ALL the promises of God in [Christ Jesus] are YES, and in Him, AMEN, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20, emphasis added).

Our first battle is in the mind. This is why Paul instructs us to “Gird up the loins of [our] mind[s]” (1 Pet.1:13). To “gird,” according to Webster’s dictionary, means “to encircle, bind, to surround, to prepare oneself for a trial ahead, to provide, equip or invest with power.”

Paul is saying there is a preparation we need to make concerning our minds. In the book of Ephesians he tells is what it is: putting on the pieces of armor, particularly the helmet of salvation, that are given to us to equip us for battle. What is the helmet for? It covers the mind.

Sometimes we get so busy wielding the sword that we forget to put on our helmets and “gird up the loins of our minds.” Then Satan has a field day. Remember, his ministry is the same today as it was in the beginning—to plant doubt in the in mind of God’s people by asking, “Has God indeed said?” (Gen. 3:1).

When God gives you a word or a vision, or gives you direction for your life and calling, you receive it and are excited. But then Satan, that sly, old fox, sends all his little foxes out to capture your thoughts, generally before you’ve had the opportunity to lay hold of your vision. Just as in the natural foxes come to steal the farmers’ chickens, in the spiritual realm Satan’s cohorts come to steal God’s word out of your heart and mind by causing you to doubt. Many of God’s children have almost given up their “word” or the vision that God imparted because of these destructive little foxes that come in the guise of negative thoughts.

The negative thoughts are particularly destructive when they play on past disappointment. If if the enemy can get us to dwell on all the times when we didn’t receive what we hoped or believed for, he will lead us into certain defeat. Don’t allow past disappointments to affect your present faith! Instead, look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of [your] faith” (Heb. 12:2).

God wants us to walk in faith to receive the things we need to do His work. We must be filled with the Spirit and with faith in order to bring healing and deliverance and dwell in the wisdom of God, not just for our own lives but for others’ also. So put on your helmet of salvation, and when you see those foxes advancing, send them packing by taking every thought captive and trusting Jesus to increase your faith.

Prayer Power:

As you pray this week, remember God’s Word and believe what He has promised on your behalf (2 Cor.1:20). Claim the Scriptures for the salvation of your loved ones, the furtherance of the gospel, and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. Continue to pray for worldwide revival, and especially for our own nation. Remember our government and spiritual leaders and ask the Lord to give them wisdom, grace and protection (1 Tim. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 1:20; 2 Cor. 10:5).

October 24, 2016

Freedom from What is Hurting You

Articles here are often a mixture of in-depth Bible study and personal devotions. Sometimes I think we don’t do enough of the latter. Today, we’re again returning to Proverbs 31 Ministries. This time it’s a different writer, Leah DiPascal. Click the title below to read this on their site.

When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13 (NIV)

She heard His voice but couldn’t see Him clearly. The surrounding crowds had blocked her view.

Bent over at the waist and unable to stand up straight, she strained to get a good glimpse of Him. Then, unexpectedly, He’d called her forward.

I imagine her heart was racing as she slowly shuffled her way to the front of the synagogue.

Why would Jesus single her out of the crowd? Was He going to make a spectacle of her brokenness? Or expose her deepest pain and darkest secrets?

As the crowds around her murmured, each step toward Jesus felt as if she were lugging the weight of the world behind her.

For 18 years, her body had been crippled. Eighteen long, exhausting years.

She certainly had plenty of reasons not to go to the synagogue that Sabbath morning. Why subject herself to the possible harsh stares and hurtful comments? Yet she was there, listening intently to the teachings of Jesus.

She didn’t say a word. She didn’t try to get His attention. She simply stood in His presence, soaking in the life-giving statements that gave her hope in the midst of her hopeless situation.

But Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her. Jesus loved and wanted to heal her. And in one swift statement, those 18 long, exhausting years came to a screeching halt.

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b).

With the gentle touch of His hands, warmth flowed through her body, and she suddenly realized she was standing upright. She no longer strained to get a glimpse of Jesus … she now saw Him face to face.

With a burst of joy, bondage gave way to freedom and she exhaled in worshipful praise and adoration to her Lord. Her healer. Her bondage breaker.

Scripture doesn’t tell us her name, but I think we all can relate to this woman in one way or another. Maybe you see a small part of her story that rings true in your own life, connecting you though years separate. Could it be:

  • An ailment that physically restricts your body and makes you feel weak?
  • A spiritual battle keeping you in bondage to the enemy?
  • An unwanted flaw that draws painful attention and hurtful comments from others?
  • A heavy heart filled with shattered dreams and stinging emotions?
  • A burden you carry, causing you to shuffle through life feeling alone, unwanted or disposable?

Whatever has made your life seem long and exhausting, Jesus can repair it by His powerful presence, His comforting words and His healing touch.

He loves you. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show compassion so you can stand upright again.

Assured. Secure. Enveloped in His comforting embrace.

You are never lost in the crowd because you have captivated Jesus’ heart. His gaze is always fixed on you.

He sees your pain. He’s aware of your affliction. He knows your struggles.

Like the woman in the synagogue, come as you are — with all that makes you feel less than. Draw near to Jesus, soak in His life-giving Word and wait expectantly to hear Him speak freedom over your situation:

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b). Jesus did it for her … and He can do it for you too!

Lord, I come to You today and lay all my burdens at Your feet. Take the emotional and mental weight I’ve been carrying so that I can stand upright again. Draw near to me. Heal me. Free me. I want to live assured, secure and continuously aware of Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 30:18, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (NIV)

Psalm 145:14, “The LORD supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over.” (NET)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
I would’ve loved to see Jesus miraculously heal that precious woman in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. It’s beautiful how her very first response was to praise God. How do you express gratitude for all God has done in your life? What are some things you can praise Him for today?

December 5, 2015

Could This Be Another Reason The Samaritan Returned to Give Thanks?

Jewish Temple vs Samaritan Temple location

Today we return to the blog, Into the Foolishness of God by Shara Case. Click the title to read at source, and take a few minutes to look around other recent articles there as well. I was really struck by an insight on a most familiar story as I looked at this. I hope you see also why I chose this reading for our consideration.

Healed but not Whole

“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and wit a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (saved you) Luke 17:12-19

Ten outcasts, healed and made well. They cried out for help and Jesus was quick to heal them. His compassion and mercy extended to each one in the same way. They were healed “as they went” to the temple. It must have been astounding – the word “cleansed” implies that they were made clean, emptied of any trace of disease inside. As they walked away, they were healed. Nine of these men were Jews, and in order to reenter society, the law said they must go see a priest to verify that they were in good health. They became first-hand witnesses, as did the priests, to the power and truth of who Jesus really was. Imagine the conflict this posed for the Jews and the priests alike – people who lived according to Old Testament law, who rejected everything Jesus did and who He was. Their ‘laws’ were falling apart right before their eyes, but Jesus sent them anyway. He sent them off to be a testimony to His power.

But one of these men couldn’t go to the temple. One of these men was a Samaritan, and the only thing that bound them all together was their disease, for “Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another” (John 4:9). He was an outcast among outcasts. While the nine headed for their temple to fulfill the law requirements, this foreigner turned back. The text implies that he was walking away, and when he realized he had been healed, he turned back “with a loud voice” and glorified God.

How could he not?! What an amazing miracle to witness! While the Jews were focused on what they had to do at the temple, this Samaritan turned his focus to the living temple. I’m sure the other nine were grateful and thankful and amazed, but they were heading in the wrong direction. In their eyes, God dwelt in the temple. They were Jews, God’s chosen people. They would connect with Him at the temple, in ceremonial fashion, and move on.

But this Samaritan… he was wrecked. The magnitude of what just occurred had him face down in the dirt at Jesus’ feet. His gratefulness could be seen and felt. Imagine the story he would tell his family and friends whom he hadn’t seen in probably some time. Imagine him returning to his life, a new and healed man.

He had no temple to go to, but in the end he had the one true Temple, Jesus Himself. The Jews were heading to a lifeless building and they had no interest in anything else. They received their healing, but they weren’t made whole the way the Samaritan man was. When Jesus tells him “your faith has made you well” He wasn’t talking about a physical healing, he was using the word for saved. This outcast received a second miracle. He knew he was face-to-face with the living God. He was healed in body and in spirit.

God’s goodness is extended to us all, He has compassion on all He has made (Psalm 145:9). He calls us to Himself through things like this, and if we just turn and walk away, we miss the true miracle. We are content to take what He gives and keep on going. To be made truly whole though, we need to stop and turn around and see Him for who He is, not just what He does for us. The Jews had no desire to press in any deeper after they received what they wanted.

When nine people walk away, be the one who remains with Him. He resides with us now, no longer confined to a temple. Be the one who turns around and receives the better, lasting gift. He is eager to heal and meet our needs, we should be just as eager to stay with Him after He does.

November 9, 2015

What Do You Do With an Ex-Blind Man?

Think about being born blind; having no visual reference for anything other than your imagination; and then suddenly you can see!

Think about being born blind; having no visual reference for anything other than your imagination; and then suddenly you can see!

We had some shorter readings on the weekend, but today we jump back in with full force! We’re paying a return visit to Rick Morgan, who blogs in the UK at Digging The Word. Click the title below to read at source.

The Light Of The World In Action

The Light of the World has left us here to be the light of the world while he is gone.

John 9:5-11  “While I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”   6  Then He spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes.  7  He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”).

So the man went and washed and came back seeing!  8  His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”  9  Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

10  They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”  11  He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”


God sent light into our world because we desperately needed it, we had the sun for physical sight on this planet but we were still in the dark spiritually. Just like this blind man, we had sunshine all around us but we couldn’t see it, we need Jesus help to give us spiritual light.

This man had no hope of seeing the light, nobody ever healed a man that was born blind, and he didn’t have any reason to believe that his situation was going to change. He lived everyday knowing that he would never see, he would always be a beggar, and he would always be stuck depending on others.

This man never knew the light of the sun so he couldn’t know that the light of the world was on the way. He may have been physically blind but there must have been some amount of spiritual light that gave him the faith to follow Jesus instructions. He didn’t have to obey and go to the pool, what if his faith in Jesus wasn’t any better than the Pharisees?

John 9:15-16  The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for He is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

Now what do you do with Jesus? The religious leaders are really in a bad way. There are too many witnesses to the fact that this man has been blind all of his life but now he can see. The fact that he is healed seems to be undeniable, at first they try and say he isn’t the same man but that opinion was quickly shot down and now they need a new story.

What can we do with Jesus? He isn’t the Messiah, the Messiah wouldn’t break the Sabbath, he wouldn’t tell us Pharisees how bad we are, but how can we deny his power? Maybe we can say that his power is from Satan. As God’s number one creation, man will go to great lengths and create outrageous stories to deny God’s glory. We will explain away what is so easy to accept when you aren’t spiritually blind.

John 9:30-33  “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where He comes from?  We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but He is ready to hear those who worship Him and do His will.  Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.  If this man were not from God, He couldn’t have done it.”

Now what do you do with an ex-blind man? Someone that is pointing out the obvious about Jesus. Someone who just received physical sight has more spiritual sight than the religious leaders. They were sure that he was born in sin, a total sinner, how could he think that he is going to teach them anything (John 9:2, 34)

The simple logical reasoning of this guy couldn’t be denied, he broke it down and made it plain, there wasn’t any other explanation for the facts. No pressure from the Pharisees would make him change his mind, not after what he has just experienced, so they verbally attack him and expelled him from the synagogue.

John 9:38  “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

Jesus never left people wondering, he found the man and helped him understand, if they had mustard seed sized faith then he was going to water it and help it increase. There are a lot of different responses to Jesus but this man gets it right and responds in worship, he even does it right there in front of the Pharisees, he doesn’t care what anybody thinks or what the consequences will be. Out of all of the people that were a part of this story there was only one that was worshiping.

Giver Of Light

2 Corinthians 4:4,6  Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

The “giver of darkness” has been defeated by the “giver of light.” God said “Let there be light” and shortly after that Satan brought us back to the dark but that dark has been defeated by the Light of the World.

To those that believe in Jesus it is difficult to imagine standing right there in front of him and not having a clue about who he is. We look back and think how could they be so blind? The giver of light is right there in front of you. We need to remember that if they are blind then it doesn’t matter how much light there is, there isn’t any way to comprehend it, everything about the gospel will be foolishness to them. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

John 10:24-27  The people surrounded Him and asked, “How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”  25  Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe Me. The proof is the work I do in My Father’s name.  26  But you don’t believe Me because you are not My sheep.  27  My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.

I was amazed when I did a search on Google for “giver of light.” A lot of the search results had nothing to do with Jesus or the gospel, Satan knows that we want to live in the light so he has developed a lot of counterfeit sources of light.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

The Light of the World has left us here on this dark planet with a job to do, since Jesus our Savior has opened our blind eyes for God’s glory, we should work to point others to Him. Now it is our turn to be the giver of light, sure we are small candles compared to the true light of the world but as a community of believers we can shine very bright as we live for him and love like he did.

I need to remember that this world is blind, they live and behave like they do because they can see nothing better. I need to be the light and pray to Jesus that their eyes will be opened so that they will see the glory of God through my life. (Matthew 5:16)

Help me to be a light house for you in this dark world. Amen.

 

December 16, 2014

The Gospel Speaks to Suffering

Gospel Centered CounselingThis is the second of two Zondervan book excerpts we’re doing here. This one is from Robert W. Kellemen’s new book, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives

Applying the Gospel to Suffering
by Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives
 

The Gospel of Christ’s grace deals thoroughly both with the sins we have committed and with the evils we have suffered. Somewhere along the way, some of us may have gained the mistaken notion that to address suffering means minimizing sin and capitulating to a secular psychology perspective on victimization. While I understand that concern, biblically it is unwarranted.

In fact, biblical counseling that deals only with the sins we have committed is half-biblical counseling. This means that it is also “half-gospel-centered” counseling. Unlike the Bible, we sometimes tend to make Christ’s victory over sin predominantly individual and personal, rather than also corporate and cosmic. Christ died to dethrone sin and defeat every vestige of sin. Christ died to obliterate every effect of sin — individual, personal, corporate, and cosmic — including death and suffering, tears and sorrows, mourning, crying, and pain.

That’s why twice in Revelation, John sees the culmination of the Gospel narrative as the end of suffering and sorrow:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

Question 52 in the New City Catechism asks, “What hope does everlasting life hold for us?” John in Revelation answers, “All our greatest sorrows will be swallowed up!” Christ died to defeat every enemy, every evil, including the Devil, who holds the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and the last enemy — suffering and death (1 Corinthians 15:25; Isaiah 53:4).

Certainly the Gospel is about payment for and forgiveness of personal sin. Equally certain is the Gospel’s eternal overthrow of the curse of sin — including suffering. That overthrow has already begun! Christ invites us to share with one another his healing hope in the midst of suffering today.

It is only through the hope of the Gospel that we can truly face suffering and find hope in suffering.

Kevin Vanhoozer, in pondering the drama of redemption, explains that tragedies deal with catastrophes. The Gospel, while never denying the catastrophe of sin, deals with what he calls eucatastrophe — Christ has accomplished something extraordinarily amazing out of something horribly evil.

This insight helps us to develop a biblical sufferology — a Gospel-centered theology of suffering.

We’ll see that the Gospel way to address suffering follows the twin paths of brutal honesty — it’s normal to hurt; and radical reliance — it is possible to hope.

The Pathway to Hope Straddles the Precipice of Despair

Olaudah Equiano, a Christian and an enslaved African American, began his life story with these words, “I acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life.” His words might sound trite until we realize that they introduce the narrative of his harrowing kidnapping and enslavement.

Equiano was born a free man in 1745 in the kingdom of Benin on the coast of Africa. The youngest of seven children, his loving parents gave him the name Olaudah, signifying favored one. Indeed, he lived a favored life in his idyllic upbringing in a simple and quiet village, where his father served as the “chief man” who decided disputes, and where his mother adored him.

At age ten, it all came crashing down:

One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us into the nearest woods: and continued to carry us as far as they could, till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent the night.

His kidnappers then unbound Equiano and his sister. Overpowered by fatigue and grief, they had just one source of relief. “The only comfort we had was in being in one another’s arms all that night, and bathing each other with our tears.”

Equiano and his sister were soon deprived of even this comfort of weeping together:

The next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced; for my sister and I were then separated, while we lay clasped in each other’s arms; it was in vain that we besought them not to part us: she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be described. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days did not eat anything but what they forced into my mouth.

It was during these evil circumstances, and many more to come, that Equiano acknowledged his heavenly Father’s good heart and Christ’s merciful providence in every occurrence of his life.

In his autobiography he makes the sweeping affirmation that even in the face of human evil, God is friendly and benevolent, able and willing to turn into good ends whatever may occur.

Equiano believed that God squeezes from evil itself a literal blessing:

I early accustomed myself to look at the hand of God in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; and in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of importance. After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God!”

Olaudah Equiano moved beyond the suffering. He faced his suffering candidly, reminding us that it’s normal to hurt. He suffered face-to-face with God, recognizing that it’s possible to hope. His story reminds us of Paul’s story in 2 Corinthians 1:8–9:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Like Equiano and Paul, we’ve all endured hurt that has driven us to the precipice of despair. Unfortunately, we’ve likely been sent subtle messages:

“Christians don’t hurt.” “Spiritual Christians don’t talk about their struggles.”

Paul, inspired by God, tells us that’s a lie.

In fact, he shows us that when we deny our hurt, we deny our need for God.

And he demonstrates that the pathway to hope often straddles the precipice of despair.

Moving beyond the suffering first requires moving into the suffering.


Excerpted from Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives by Robert W. Kellemen, copyright Zondervan 2014

November 25, 2014

The Ten Lepers

Sarnia pastor Kevin Rogers’ material at The Orphan Age has been featured here since Christianity 201’s inception. Today, we’re ‘borrowing’ from three different blog posts on the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers.  To read the original posts, click here, here and here.

Luke 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is a long-lasting infection caused by bacteria. The disease was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease. Now, however, the disease is very rare and easily treated. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease. [i]

Today the world is dealing with the crisis of the Ebola disease. This is likely the largest outbreak in history for this particular disease. If an epidemic affects a whole country or spreads over the world, it is called a pandemic. Ebola is not yet a pandemic, but the potential does exist.

While it is necessary to take wise precautions in areas affected and those who deal with patients, we need to understand a historical perspective on diseases.

  • 541-542 AD – 100,000,000 died from Plague of Justinian
  • 1346-1350 AD – 50,000,000 died from Black Plague
  • 1969 to present – 39,000,000 died from AIDS/HIV
  • 1918-1920 – 20,000,000 died from Influenza
  • 1894-1903 – 10,000,000 Modern Plague
  • 1957-1958 – 2,000,000 Asian Flu
  • 1968-1969 – 1,000,000 Hong Kong Flu
  • 2009 – 284,000 Swine Flu
  • 2002-2003 – 774 SARS[ii]

While this is just a small list of killer diseases in history, we can see that human history has been unable to eradicate sicknesses that kill. Every generation has had its theories and science to try and prevent the spread. In many cases, we are able to protect and prevent. But, new ones appear in time.

The history of civilization is also a history of disease. Every generation lives with the fear of death from unseen biological enemies. We are able to eliminate some diseases, but we are not able to eliminate the fear of death.

There have always been diseases and conditions that become the defining feature of a person’s existence. No longer a man or woman, you have become something else—a leper.

What other ways have we taken symptoms and characteristics and used them to define people as something less than what we are?

Jesus often travels along borders of human division. If you want to see where Jesus is at work, look for human borders that separate people from one another. The separation between Samaria and Galilee was marked by a huge gulf in understanding and respect.

The ten men on the outskirts of town were all given the same name—Leper. Any other defining characteristic was lost or losing ground. It may be that 9 of them were Jewish and 1 was Samaritan. The religious distinctions were buried by the disease identity. Their names, family connections and occupations were quickly becoming memories.

In suffering, they become each others companions. Former distinctions were less important to them now that they were truly alone. There are some labels that supersede everything else that you are or were. Is it any wonder that they cry to Jesus for mercy? Who else was there to listen to them? The gatekeepers of society ensured that they were kept away in the name of public safety.

In the absence of a healthy community connection, the exiles formed community among the sick. Sometimes the sick take care of the sick, better than the healthy do. Other times, they lack the strength and resource to make any difference for their companions and misery is met with misery.


 

[i] http://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/
[ii] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141025-ebola-epidemic-perspective-history-pandemic/

 

October 5, 2014

Mountains You’re Facing

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A year ago we introduced you to Chris Hendrix at the blog Devotions By Chris. We returned for a visit and found the piece included below, but we’ve also borrowed another resource from his blog, a list of ten healing scriptures, and as we consider the mountains people face, perhaps that’s the obstacle that you or someone close to you is facing. I also liked this particular devotional because it reminds me how much of my understanding of key scripture verses is shaped by the King James rendering I learned in my younger days, and how I now just speed by these verses because I think I know them.  To read the two posts below at source, which you’re encouraged to do, just click the titles below.

Mountains To Molehills

One of the songs we used to sing at church came from Zechariah 4:6-7. It went, “Not by might. Not by power, but by my spirit sayeth The Lord. This mountain shall be removed by my spirit sayeth The Lord.” I remember wondering what the deeper meaning of that scripture song was. As a child, I didn’t have the capacity to understand it, but I sang it with all of my heart. I had no idea those scripture songs would come back to life in my mind years later.

As I read those verses recently, I started reading them in different translations. An angel was showing Zechariah things in the spirit realm. One of the things he saw was a lamp stand made of gold with a bowl for oil and seven lights with spouts down to the bowl of oil. There were two olive trees on either side of the lamp stand where the bowl was getting its oil from. Zechariah asked the angel what it meant.

In the Message version, the angel replied, “You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit. So, big mountain, who do you think you are? You’re nothing but a molehill.” In my own life, I’ve been known to force things to make them happen. I tell myself, “If things aren’t happening, make them happen.” I pride myself on my determination to get things done. If there’s a brick wall I can’t get over, I do what I can to knock it down. I don’t let it stand in my way. I’m learning that I can’t force things that God wants to do in His timing.

In the Amplified translation, the angel replied, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit of whom the oil is a symbol, says The Lord of Hosts. For who are you, O great mountain of human obstacles? You shall become a plain. A mere molehill.” Here I see that we have to stay plugged in to God’s Spirit. The oil feeds the lamp and keeps it burning. The bowl was connected to the olive trees so it wouldn’t run out. Our connection to God gives us the strength to get past the obstacles in our lives created by ourselves or others. It’s not by anything we do, but only through Him that we will succeed.

In the Good News Bible translation, the angel replied, “You will succeed, not by military might or by your own strength, but by my Spirit. Obstacles as great as mountains will disappear before you.” I like this one because when we face mountains in our lives, we wonder if we will ever get past them. Here, God reminds us that we will be successful and it won’t be dependent on anything we do. It’s through Him that we will be successful. When we realize that, the mountains in our lives will no longer look like mountains because of our perspective. A mountain is tiny in God’s eyes.

Whatever mountain stands in your way today, know that you will be successful in getting past it, but it won’t be because of your own strength. It won’t be because you forced your way through it. You will succeed because you are tapped into God’s Spirit and recognize His strength in your life. When you give up your strength and tactics to accept His, you will see those obstacles in your way disappear and become mere molehills. Trust in God today and get into His Word so you have oil in your lamp to see what He is about to do for you.


10 Scriptures On Healing

1. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. (Psalms 103:3 NLT)

2. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. (Psalm 107:20 ESV)

3. O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone! (Jeremiah 17:14 NLT)

4. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. (Luke 6:19 NLT)

5. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal. (Job 5:18 NLT)

6. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.” (Mark 5:34 MSG)

7. He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. (Psalms 147:3 GNB)

8. If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 AMP)

9. Through the middle of the broadway of the city; also, on either side of the river was the tree of life with its twelve varieties of fruit, yielding each month its fresh crop; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing and the restoration of the nations. [Gen. 2:9.] (Revelation 22:2 AMP)

10. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. (Isaiah 53:5 AMP)

February 24, 2014

The Hope of Healing for the Broken

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Today’s C201 takes a different course. It’s a snapshot of some personal correspondence that I wrestled with five years ago. While it’s one thing to write and format something here each day, it’s a whole other matter to engage one-on-one with someone, and frankly if that’s what you do online, I think it’s a more noble calling than having a high traffic blog. I’ll let the rest explain itself:

Depending on where you stand on the cessationist or dispensational continuum, you may or may not believe that supernatural healing is still available. Personally, I believe that God is predisposed to healing, but may withhold it if there are greater lessons he has for us. I don’t believe that stops us from asking. In fact, I believe God is constantly saying, “Ask me.”

When it comes to inner healing, we often place it into a separate category. There are people reading this who are asking God for a physical healing that perhaps has been at the top of their prayer list for some time. But there may also be some people reading this who are asking God for victory over some sinful habit or lifestyle and in a way very similar to those seeking physical healing are wondering why this prayer request remains unanswered. To them the question is, “I keep praying and asking God to take away these sinful desires, but day after day they are still there.”

I am not completely lacking in understanding on this — my certificate of sainthood is not yet in the mail — but as I navigate through the blogosphere each week, I try to offer encouragement where I can. (Update: I now have about 500 or more bookmarked in my computer and read many of them each fortnight.)

Part of that encouragement is to follow up and see where people are at a week or two later; I don’t think you should just drop your little kernels of truth and then take off.

So I was a little disappointed to discover that one blogger who seemed to be wrestling with the question of inner healing had taken his blog offline.

Trying to keep things concise, this is what I had written to him:

Some sins can be habitual or even addictive behaviors, but for the most part I think our sin is the result of our choice.

As long as we are in the world, we will have temptation. Paul wrestled with the idea of wanting to do right and finding himself back doing wrong until finally he cries out, “Who will save me from this body of death?” (see Romans 7: 15-25)

I like your concept of exploring this with a parallel look at the subject of healing. We often speak of this as “inner healing,” or “healing of the mind.” Of course, we can’t expect God to rid of us all evil desires in the way he might rid of us disease, or the effects of injury.

Instead, the Bible gives us another concept to consider: Holiness. While the righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us at salvation; and while we are encouraged to pray “lead us not into temptation;” holiness is going to require a greater effort on our part.

So if, as I started, sin is a result of choice; holiness is going involve making different choices. For God’s part, then what needs to happen is a work of “cleansing.”

Then, the questions would be:
(1) Is miraculous, supernatural cleansing still available? and,
(2) Why do some Christians experience a dramatic before-versus-after cleansing, entering into more holy living; while others continue to grapple with sin?

I think the answer to (1) is yes; God can intervene and take away desires, or send circumstances so that those desires diminish. The answer to (2) is more complex, though some elderly, “holy” people will admit they still struggle with wrong thoughts and desires.

If I had it to write over again, I would have added this: Part of what transacted on the cross was that we were freed from sin having power over us. I no longer have to serve sin. Christ has freed us from the power of sin. Yet still, I may choose to sin.

And one thing I’m learning is that the more I know of Christ and of Biblical teaching, the more that choice to sin is an informed choice. In other words, I am increasingly more responsible for my choices than a blogger in his teens or twenties who may be wrestling with parallel issues.

So how would you answer the two above questions? Which is the bigger request, to ask God to heal someone’s thought life, desires or impulses; or ask God to heal someone of disease? 

Update: Feb. 2014 — While watching an episode of the children’s video series What’s in the Bible, I was reminded that God frees us from the stain of sin, the power of sin and the effects of the presence of sin in the world. Each of these is however, a different focus.

November 5, 2012

Peace… Be Still

If I’m really honest — and I’m going to be today —  I would have to admit that I approached last Monday night’s storm with a great deal of apprehension. Part of it was due to the media buildup and part of it was due to general anxieties being brought on by a variety of circumstances.

As it turned out, the media’s anticipation of the storm was not hype, and people in New York City who failed to heed the warnings to evacuate ended up needing rescue.  If September 11th, 2001 represented the day that war came to America, then October 29th, 2012 was the day catastrophe came to New York City.

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber have had storm-themed devotions at Daily Encouragement all last week, though it’s interesting that the Friday before (26th) they chose this verse:

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

The day after (30th) they chose this passage,

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:37,38).

The passage continues,

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

We sleep at night with a fan on in the room (for the white noise background), but even with that the winds were howling. I’m sure that we’ve had worse winds in several Canadian winters, but this time around I entertained the possibility of the top half of the house blowing away.

So I laid there and in my heart prayed “Peace, be still.” My lips didn’t move and my vocal cords didn’t engage, but inside, the prayer was a scream. I wasn’t expecting the storm to stop so much as I was praying for a stillness of the winds of anxiety and the rains of adversity.

I was praying for a stillness, a calm to inhabit my heart and mind.

And while that was going on, I thought of a song that’s based on the same passage in Mark, Master the Tempest is Raging. There are a few versions of it online, but nothing that matches the passion and intensity that I remember when, in my teen years, I heard it performed by the 120-voice choir at my home church in Toronto.

These are the lyrics, though I had no memory of the 2nd or 3rd verses until I looked them up today:

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

I think it is significant that in 1874, the writer, Mary A. Baker, chose to take the direction in the second verse that most likely applies to us today, and most certainly applies to me. The winds of fear and the rains of troubles and trials really never stop, but “no water can swallow the ship.”

As I did Monday night, and several times in the days since, reach out your hand toward your circumstances and whisper, ‘Peace … be still.’

~Paul Wilkinson


A more contemporary song that came to me this week was posted here previously, check out Psalm 91 by SonicFlood.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic; but all we tend to hear about is New York City. Here’s an examination of the inequities of media reporting.

August 13, 2012

Funeral Worship: Worship When Singing is Impossible

It’s been awhile since we had a worship song here, and the post for tomorrow featuring a Paul Baloche song was written before this one.  But while looking at Paul’s website, I found this article. Since many C201 readers are in ministry themselves, or offer ministry at times of need, I thought this might connect with some of you.

Worship in times of sorrow
by Paul Baloche

 Some of the hardest yet most inspiring times of worship occur during funerals. The raw emotions of sadness and loss are mixed with a sense of hope and eternal perspective.

The book of Ecclesiastes says,

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (7:2 NIV).

In our fast-paced culture, funerals give us the rare occasion to reflect on the brevity of life and how each of our days are numbered. There is a sense of “coming to terms” with reality that our life on this earth will end. As Christians we find assurance in the promise of God’s Word that Jesus Christ did indeed die for the remission of our sins and rose again with the invitation to live forever through Him and with Him.

Songs of worship can be the most encouraging aspect of a funeral service or a time of intense grief. Part of my role as a worship pastor is to show up and “pastor” those who are grieving. Several times last year I was called upon to lead worship during memorial or graveside services. Silence can be powerful. Stillness consoling. Yet when a simple chorus or hymn begins with a guitar or human voice, you can feel something change in the air. Timely words sung at the right moment can bring a wave of comfort and release His faithful presence.

“Blessed be Your name when the road’s marked with suffering, when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.” “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.” “I can only imagine …..I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain.” These are just a few of the songs that have served the moment and brought hope to those who have lost loved ones.

Sometimes we aren’t sure how to bring comfort in situations where someone is fighting an illness or recovering in some way. Often my wife and I have gone to someone’s bedside in the hospital or at their home and simply sang over them. With sensitivity to the moment, we pray for them and ask if they mind if we sing quietly and worship in their room. Some of my most profound moments with God have been during these times as tears flow and faith is released in prayer and song.

Scripture is filled with passages that exemplify praise in the midst of pain, promises of joy as we walk through profound sorrow.

“Why are you so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God,” (Ps 42:5-6a).

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me … my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps 23).

Shortly before a crazed gunman murdered her, Virginia Tech student Lauren McCain wrote in her diary, “Show me Your purpose for me at Tech, and on this earth. But, if You choose not to, I will still praise you and walk where You lead, not because I am selfless, or holy, or determined to sacrifice myself for what is right but because You are the delight of my heart; and I cannot live without You.”

Lord, give us all that same heart as we seek to console others in their time of mourning. For one day we will wish for someone to sing over us and help us to worship in the midst of our sorrow.

This article appeared in Worship Leader Magazine.

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