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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 12: Healing the Sick

Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' (Luke 10:7-9 NASB)

We are studying the passage in Luke 10 that relates the sending of the seventy to preach and heal in the name of Jesus, and looking specifically at verse 9 today.  Jesus gave His sent ones two jobs. The first was to heal the sick and the second was to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. It's important to see this clearly, because it is shocking in today's society. 

When the sent ones entered a city (town/village/community) they were to heal the sick. Healing the sick would give them an opportunity to share the news of Jesus. Healing the sick was simply a tool for evangelism and not the objective of the trip. If the town received them, they were to heal "those in it who are sick". There is nothing in this passage that says the sick had to receive Christ first, nor that they had to receive Him at all. The community's hospitality would be sufficient for everyone there to have a chance for healing. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

This is the kind of passage we tend to rush past, for some reason assuming that it doesn't apply to us. Why would that be the case? Why would God use healing in this way for the twelve when they were sent and again for the seventy if He did not intend for us to use healing as a means of evangelism? I don't think He would. As a physician, I may regret this next sentence, but as a believer I have to embrace it. The seventy who were to heal all the sick in a town were not physicians. They did not have medication or a scalpel. All they had was a Savior and He was more than enough. He still is. 

Jesus made it clear that, when the Holy Spirit was sent after His return to heaven, his followers would be able to do what He did and more. What did Jesus do? Among other things, He healed the sick. If He healed the sick and we are to be able to do what He did, should we not also be able to heal the sick? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

Some years ago, a respected medical journal reported documented evidence of restored sight and hearing after prayers for healing were administered. Miraculous healing does happen, even today. 

Why, then, do we not see this in our churches every time the doors are opened? I've pondered this for years. When the seventy entered a town, people who were sick either came themselves seeking healing or were brought by family or friends. Why don't the sick among us start by requesting healing? James 5 is pretty clear on healing. 

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15 NASB)

Is that true or not? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

The word translated as "restore" is sozo and means "to restore to health, make whole". Everyone who asks for healing does eventually get healed, if not in this world, then in eternity. Perhaps, though, there is room in our faith for more of the miraculous. Perhaps what Jesus intended was that the miraculous would be used to open doors for the gospel, even in this country. I can't imagine that Jesus intended miraculous healings wherever the gospel is shared except in the United States. That makes no sense. I can't imagine that He intended only a small portion of the body of Christ or a few denominations to experience healing. That makes no sense, either. What, then, is the problem? What prevents us from being the beacon of light that draws those around us to the hope and healing that only Christ can give? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

Let's open a dialogue. Let's see if we can't move closer to what Jesus intended the church to be. During Advent, we celebrate the miraculous indwelling of flesh by God Himself. From that humble beginning, a way was made for the Spirit of God to fill each of us. Let's take a step closer to fulfilling all that gift was meant to bring. After all, why would we not? There is no greater adventure than following Christ. This Christmas, let's embrace the adventure! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nibbling on the Cross


A few days ago, I wrote about the nativity set and the babe in the manger's missing hand. Since I never know what I'm writing until after its done, I was very surprised about the hand and the poem. I thought I was writing about Mamie and the cross. 

You may or may not remember this, but Jesus' mother, Mary, had a lot to think about when He was born, so she saved it up and pondered it later. I imagine it took the rest of her life to do that pondering. Since I've always thought Advent is a magnificent time for pondering, that's what I was doing as I looked at the nativity set. Somehow, it seemed incomplete, because the reality of the situation is that Jesus wrapped Himself in flesh and laid in the manger for one reason and only one reason. The Cross. The manger didn't save us. The manger didn't set us free. The manger was just the starting point on His march to the cross. It was that spotless lamb of God sacrificed on the cross that paid the penalty for our sin. The cross and the empty tomb are what set us free and they were the reason for the manger. 

I might be wrong, but it seems like people prefer the baby in the manger to the Christ on the cross or the empty tomb. Maybe it's because babies are so cute and sweet and harmless. Babies change your life in nice ways (except for missing sleep for years). Babies are cuddly and make us want to coo. 

The resurrected Christ, however, is a whole different story. That is a God-man who was not messing around. He stormed the gates of hell, took charge, and defeated Satan. The resurrected Jesus is not just a warrior, He is the commander of the Angel Armies. No one is going to pinch His cheek and say how sweet and cute He is. The appropriate response to the resurrected Jesus is to get down on our faces and worship Him. In fact, in heaven, we will spend quite a bit of time kneeling before Him and singing "Holy! Holy! Holy!"

All that was going through my mind as I pondered the nativity set, and that's how I realized it needed a cross. I have plenty of standing crosses, but it seems that the cross and the manger were sort of intertwined in a way. Finally, I laid the cross down and set the manger on it. It looks very non traditional, but that seems like the way it should be. After all, the cross was, in a way, the foundation and the future of the manger. They are inextricably linked, and the cross casts a shadow on both Mary and Joseph, exactly as it probably did. 

This Christmas, let's do more than celebrate the baby Jesus in the manger. Let's celebrate the God-man, the Savior, that little baby grew up to be. Let's celebrate with thanksgiving that our Redeemer has come, He lives, and He is coming again! Hallelujah! Let's look past the manger to the cross and the empty tomb. Only then will we understand the life-altering importance of the blessed nativity. 
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(PS - Check back tomorrow night for Mamie and the nativity set. I didn't write it again but had already posted it as nibbling on the cross before I realized it. Sorry for the confusion)

Sending the Seventy, part 11:

Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' ... Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. (Luke 10:5, 7 NASB)

This verse is nearly impossible to understand in our culture of entitlement. For some absolutely crazy reason that makes no sense at all, we have been hoodwinked into believing that is it our "right" to be comfortable and content. It is not. There is nothing in Scripture about our "rights" to comfort at all. Even our beloved forefathers in this country, describing our "inalienable rights" did not list comfort or contentment. Their list is pretty short: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Liberty did not mean do whatever you want to do. Liberty meant "not a slave". "Pursuit of happiness" means that pursuit is the part we get to do. Actually achieving happiness is not guaranteed at all! That seems like an unusual way to start a devotional thought, I know, but we have to break free from our sense of entitlement to go where we need to go today. 

Jesus was speaking to men who were not accustomed to handouts. They were not accustomed to depending upon the charity of others. The apostle Paul would write a few years later, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy 5:8 KJV)" These "sent ones" understood that they were to provide for their families and themselves. 

With that in mind, look at what Jesus told them to do. They were to go to the villages to which He would be going later and preach and heal. They were not to take any money with them, nor any way to work for a living (no tools). "The laborer is worthy of his wages," He said. What they would be doing would be work, and they could expect at least a subsistence living in payment. Teaching, preaching, and healing may not be manual labor, but they are exhausting work, and all that Jesus expected. 

Can you even imagine what this must have meant to these men? They were accustomed to supporting themselves. For this journey, Jesus was saying, "This time, I will support you." He did not promise elaborate accommodations, but made it clear that they would have food and shelter. With that, they should be content. 

To be sure, there must have been the possibility of discontent, because Jesus repeated Himself. "Do not keep moving from house to house." They were to be still and stay where He placed them, even if they didn't particularly like it. His provision might not be what they had expected, but it was enough and they were to receive it happily. 

This has great application for our lives today. In our society of entitlement, it is difficult to overcome the mistaken idea that we deserve more or better. We need to embrace the truth of Philippians 4:11 and live accordingly: "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11 KJV) In whatever state God allows, like the apostle Paul, we are to be content until He moves us. 

At this time of year, there is a cultural impetus to want more, buy more, get more. We would do well to reconsider that flawed philosophy. This year, let's be content with what God provides. This year, let's be content. Instead of seeking more, let's seek less stuff and more Jesus. Be still. Be content. Thank God for whatever He has allowed. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Night with Friends: Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy Celebrates Her First Birthday

HOORAY! It's my birf'day! I'm one years old yesterday! But I'm still cel'bratin' because I jus' found out about ce'bratin' birf'days and it's so much fun, I'm doin' it again! 

My name is Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy and now I am one whole year old. That may not seem remarkable to you, but there was a time when I di'nt think I would see another month. Life was hard. That was back 'fore I even knew what months was, oops, were. It all started like this. 

Once upon a time (nine and a half months ago) my mama only had two dogs, Ole Lou (who is the greatest and lives outside because he is ginormous!) and my sister, Maggie the Wonder Dog. My mama thought that Maggie might be lonely while her mama was away at work, so she decided to give her a little surprise and get her a sister.  Tha's me! She told Maggie she was going to run errands, and boy hidey did she ever run some errands. She 'dopted me! Can you believe this? I started as an errand, and here I am today, a famous guest blogger. That just goes to show that you don't have to get a good start to turn out well. 

Anyway, my mama picked me because she thought I was so cute and sweet, and that was right! And she snuggled me up and carried me home. We walked in the door and she said, "Maggie, I have brought you a surprise!" Maggie thought our mama had brought her jerky, but she did not. She brought a 'dopted sister instead. Maggie was so mad I couldn't believe it! She was mean, mean, mean, mean, mean to me! It was ter'ble and my mama had to give us some good talkin' to's. Then, we had to talk to Jesus so much! Oh, dear Jesus must'a got really tired of us because Maggie was growlin' and I was cryin' and Mama was cryin' all the time! It was terrible!

'Fore I got 'dopted, I lived with all my brothers and sisters and we would play and tumble until we were so tired we landed in a jumbly pile and took a nap. There was no jumbly pile here and I wanted to go HOME, but my mama kept saying, "Little Mamie, this is your new home now, and it's going to be fine. Jesus will help us!" To tell the truth, it seemed like it took a while for Jesus to help us. He did not do it as fast as I wanted Him to! He did not! Mama said that was because He was teaching me and Maggie some things and we had to learn 'em 'fore we could act better. She said things would get better when we learned what Jesus wanted us to learn.

I had to learn not to jump on Maggie's head all the time, and I learned that I'm not 'posed to hop like a bunny all the time, but I can do it sometimes still. Also, I really like to kiss a lot, but my sister didn't like nonstop kisses. Now, I can kiss sometimes, but you aren't 'posed to kiss if the other person doesn't want kisses. I don't know why anyone wouldn't want kisses, but some people are just strange. Maggie had more to learn, and I am not going to tell her business, except to say she had to learn that little sisters are HERE TO STAY! And she had to learn not to bite her lil' sister, too.

The amazing thing is that Maggie and I have learned a lot. Jesus helped us. Maggie hated me when I came. She called me a guinea pig and a gremlin, and some other names that are not nice and my mama won't let me say them. It hurt my feelings really bad. My mama said I had to forgive, but I did not want to forgive. Then, Jesus said, "Forgive!" in His sweet little voice and I said, "Okay, I will!" so He helped me. Guess what! Jesus was helping Maggie, too, and I didn't even know it. 

Before I could even imagine it, Maggie started being my friend and loving her lil' sister and I started loving Maggie. You know what happened today? Maggie and I played so long we fell in a jumbly pile and took a nap, just like sisters are 'sposed to do! And guess what else! When we were playing, Maggie kissed me all over! Yep! My sister learned to like kissing! Jesus is the best. When he fixes a problem, sometimes it takes Him a while, but He gets it done right. You can be sure of that! 

I am 'posed to give that lesson thing. I can't 'member it. Oh yeah, the Apprentice Wonder Puppy Lesson of the Day. I have learned a lot this year. It's gonna be hard to just give one lesson, but I'm going give you the most important one I learned. It made all the others possible.

Jesus will help you if you ask, but you hafta do what He says.

That's it. He will not let you down. He reminds me of my mama though. What He says goes. You have to mind Him, and He is not kiddin' around 'bout that! It's like mindin' your mama. It's the right thing to do and you'll be glad you did.

So, if you are having some problems, just ask Jesus to help you and He will, but be sure to do what He tells you to, 'cause He's big on minding!

The End.
By Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy
(AKA The BIG GIRL!)
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P.S. - My mama wrote a new book this year. You should buy it! Here's how to do that:
The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at http://www.leannahollis.com/online-store/ Get your copy today.
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You can read more stories about Mamie and her adventures with her sister Maggie at http://www.leannahollis.blogspot.com.

Sending the Seventy, part 10: Staying and Swallowing


Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.'...
Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. (Luke 10:5, 7 NASB)

We are studying the passage in Luke 10 where Jesus sent the seventy disciples out as forerunner-evangelists. He assigned them villages and places where He would be going. They were to go ahead of Him and preach the gospel as well as heal the sick, carrying nothing with them except the clothes on their backs. (Literally, they were not even to carry an overnight bag with undies and toothbrush!) God Himself had made arrangements for their provision. 

They were to go with one very simple plan. When they arrived in a town, they were to offer a blessing of peace at a house. If there was a man of peace there, he would receive the blessing and they would be welcomed into the home. They were not to look at the house, think "maybe we can find a more comfortable house down the road", and try to move on. That is not how the provision would work. When hospitality was offered, they were to accept it. There was to be no moving around to a bigger or more lavish accommodation later. They were to stay right there, graciously accepting what was offered, sticking it out, no matter how comfortable or how rough the accommodations might be. 

They were to eat and drink what they were given. I've had the responsibility to be involved in the hosting of "celebrities" from the faith community on occasion and, frankly, they would do well to read this passage. On one occasion, the list of requirements for their comfort was so astounding that I strongly considered that  we should cancel the contract. For a one-time concert, I ended up moving the contents of my living room to the venue to provide the required comfort. The list of food they required was equally astounding, and much of it went to waste. By the time they gave the concert, their fine words were utterly meaningless to me because of the demands for comfort that preceded it. This should not be the way we travel in the name of Jesus. 

We live in a society of entitlement and that philosophy has taken something of a hold on all of us. Jesus was very clear. Don't even think about what you are entitled to have. Take what comes and be glad of it. Receive the blessings of God and offer thanks for whatever He sends, whether lavish or simple. Why? Why did this accepting what was offered matter? Their response to what was offered was the first indication of the truth of the gospel. The fine words of the blessing of peace were just words until their actions demonstrated the veracity of those words, and so it is for us. Does our response to our circumstances demonstrate the truth of what we say we believe or not? If we are to be the "sent ones" of Christ (and we are), then our response to the gifts of God and His provision must demonstrate our gratitude for and acceptance of those gifts. 

Years ago, a career missionary in Central America told me there was a secret to serving that I would need to remember:

"Where He leads me I will follow. 
 What He feeds me I will swallow."

That missionary doctor had learned the secret of the "sent ones" and it made all the difference in His ability to obey. It will for us, too, dear ones. Let's be sure our wants and expectations take a back seat to the Hand of God. Stay where He sends. Eat what He gives. Show the world the heart of Christ in all we do. 
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The link to last night's post on being the hands of Christ is here
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The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at http://www.leannahollis.com/online-store/ Get your copy today.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Christ Child's Missing Hand



More than a decade ago, I received this lovely nativity set from dear friends and it has been a central part of my Christmas display every year since. Poor baby Jesus somehow lost one of his hands along the way. The damaged Christ child figurine always reminds me of a story that is told of a statue of Christ damaged during a war time bombing raid. Reportedly the statue's hands were broken off and a sign was attached that read, "Christ has no hands but your hands." (It is a lovely, touching story, but I have not been able to confirm its accuracy.) 

What I have learned is that Annie Johnston Flint wrote a poem that spoke of Christ having no hands but ours.  She was a gifted poet (1866-1932) who wrote a poem entitled "The World's Bible". I've included it here because it is just wonderful and well worth remembering.

The World's Bible
by Annie Johnston Flint

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongues to tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinner's gospel, we are the scoffer's creed;
We are the Lord's last message, given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn"
How can we hope to help Him and hasten His return?

That wonderful poem says a sermon-full in just a few lines, doesn't it? Friends, if we are "the only Bible the careless world will read", and you can be sure we are, then we need to be careful of what message we give to that careless world. If a lost world looks to us to get the story about Jesus and the importance of Christ, we need to be sure we get our story straight. Especially during this Advent season, as we approach Christmas, we need to consider whether or not our celebration of the Birthday of The King is one that helps the world understand Who Jesus is and why He came. 

Tonight, let's ask ourselves, if we are the only Bible the careless world is reading this Christmas, what are they seeing about Jesus in us? Let's be sure they see the truth we meant them to see. 

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Sending the Seventy, part 9: The investment blessing

If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. (Luke 10:6 NASB)

"If you don't want that, I'll take it!" It's one of those comments you sometimes hear among family members at a meal (almost always one of the guys) when one person leaves a portion of food on their plate. We don't usually think of it in relation to blessings, but it is, in essence, what Jesus was suggesting. The sent ones were to offer a blessing of peace when they entered a house. If no one wanted to receive the blessing of Christ's peace, that was fine. The blessing of peace would return to the one who spoke it! That rejected blessing wasn't a wasted effort at all!

When we bless others, we are blessed in return, even when the one to whom we speak a blessing rejects the blessing. If they accept the blessing of peace, we have the joy of introducing someone to Jesus. If they reject the blessing, we have the joy of receiving that blessing back! The peace comes back to us, because we have been obedient in speaking the blessing. 

When Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies, He did not promise that every enemy would become a friend. What He knew was that, even if the enemy rejects every effort of the Holy Spirit to change his/her heart, the prayers are not wasted. God can bring that blessing right back to us because of our obedience. 

Well, then, should we offer beautiful words of peace in order to gain peace ourselves? Of course not. First, we must obey Christ simply in order to obey Him, and for no other reason. Second, we cannot give what we do not have. Who would want the peace we offer if they can see that we do not have that peace ourselves? No one. This offering of the blessing of peace begins with the peace of God in our own hearts. 

It is when we have the peace of God that the fun truly begins! We who know Christ have an exciting time ahead if we are willing to offer the blessing of peace to all we see. It is guaranteed that we will receive a blessing in return. 100% return on your investment is a pretty nice return, isn't it? In these uncertain times, it's good to know of something with such rich rewards. Fear not. Freely offer the blessing of Christ's peace to all who will hear, and wait with expectant hearts for what God does in return. 

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If you need help with a too-busy schedule, the link to last night's post is here: http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-jet-fuel-day.html
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The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at http://www.leannahollis.com/online-store/ Get your copy today.