Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Superpower and the Superhero

This time last year, my pinkie finger had three Frankenstein pins sticking out of it as external fixation for a shattered bone (proximal phalanx for our medical readers). I had dropped a jar of peanut butter on it Christmas Day and had surgery three days later. I was truly astonished that a bone that small could hurt that much, and I was a big baby. It does not hurt my feelings one bit to admit it. You can ask anyone at my office, and they will confirm that I was a baby. I was pitiful and whiny and not at all a big girl. All my attention was directed at that very small wound and I cried a river of tears.

You may not realize it, but it is hard to put your hair in a French twist with one hand. Why, you can't even wash your hair with just one hand! Buttoning and zipping pants - forget it. Manicures? One handed. Feeding livestock? Nope. Tossing hay bales? Nope. Type? One finger pecking was all I could manage. My life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, I was dressing in yoga pants and wearing an elastic headband to hold my hair back. I gave up manicures. Bill the Magnificent came to work and started doing my farm chores. I ate protein bars and cereal for supper because it was so hard to cook with the cast. 

This time last year, I was astonished at how fast my life had changed and I didn't like it one bit. As the months wore on, and the X-rays looked much the same, I began to worry that I might not get my life back. It was a frightening, sobering thought. 

Now, twelve months later, my finger is still crooked but it's about as well as it's going to get. It's functional and the strength is returning. I can hold a baby aspirin in my hand. That may not seem like much, but it takes a pretty good grip to hold it. All those things I couldn't do are back on the agenda again. 

I have one thing that's new since last year. I can tell the weather with my finger. Ryan says it's a minor superpower. I'm thrilled to have a superpower, although I wish I had a more desirable one. A superpower... Does that make me a superhero? I wish. According to my son Ryan (who is 21 and therefore very knowledgable about these things), people with superpowers are either supervillains, superheroes, or superneutrals. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure which would be worse - supervillian or superneutral. Ok, you are right. Supervillain is worse, but I don't want either of those. 

I guess I'll have to settle for superhero. Hmmm. That means I will have to do something heroic, and that will be a real challenge! I guess that's my new year's goal. Superpower in 2013. Superhero in 2014. Sounds good, doesn't it but it's not realistic. 

The dictionary describes a hero as someone who has done great and courageous deeds. The good news is we already have a real superhero, and His name is Jesus. If dying on the cross and rising again wasn't great and courageous, I don't know what would be. How wonderful! Jesus has done the hard work, and I don't have to be a superhero after all! I'm leaving that job to Jesus. He's the greatest superhero of all!

Faces in the Crowd

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. (Luke 5:17 NASB)

We are just beginning the story of the paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus. To set the stage, Jesus was preparing to teach, and a crowd was assembled. News had spread throughout the land about Jesus and there was speculation that He might be the Messiah. There was talk of His miracles and His healing power. 

We will see that some people had come for healing, and some to hear the man they hoped was the Messiah.  Pharisees and teachers of the law had also traveled (on foot) from Jerusalem, Judea, and every village in Galilee in order to hear Him that day. They were not like the murderous crowd in Nazareth, but they were not disciples, either. Most likely, they had come together at an agreed upon time to "check Him out". 

There were several kinds of people in the crowd that day. There were skeptics, critics, disciples, and seekers. There were also likely those who just wanted to be entertained by some miracles.  Some would leave unchanged, but there were a few who would embrace the truth of Christ and be transformed. We approach Jesus in much the same way today.   Some of us are antagonistic towards faith, and some will follow Christ with blind faith in the unseen. Others are earnestly seeking truth and will embrace it with every fiber of their being when truth becomes clear to them. That's the one I want to be.  What about you? Where are you in the crowd around Jesus? 

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will clearly see Christ and His truth, find the answers to all our questions in Him, and follow Him unreservedly and enthusiastically.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Digging, Ditches, and Water

I finally bought a greenhouse. Well, it's going to be a greenhouse. Thanks to Charles Wood who told me where to look, I have a very affordable kit that is pretty close to my dream greenhouse. I think. I won't know for sure, of course, until it is assembled. 

I picked it up today and, naturally, had visions of moving into it this afternoon. Ryan opened the boxes and spied some white paper. "Oh good! Instructions!" He said. I was busy walking off my site and pulling up some weeds that were in my way. "Mom, you might want to look at this first step here," he said. "Why?" I asked. "Well," he said, "It starts with a hole and moves to filling the hole with gravel. It looks like kind of a lot of gravel."  He was exactly right. We needed a 10 ft x 12 ft x 5 inch hole that was smooth and level in the bottom, with a significant amount of pea gravel, before the first piece could be assembled. I grabbed two shovels and we got started. 

After 30 minutes or so, I was beginning to whine, and to see that I could very well still be digging the hole when Spring arrived. I had an almost-respectable hole started when Ryan said, "Where is the door on this thing?" I indicated the end closest to my house. "How are you going to get your water hose in there from the hydrant?" he asked. "Oh, Ryan, I'm just going to run it under the back wall."  I had everything planned. "Umm. I hate to tell you this, but that's not going to work. The back wall is going to be down in the ground.  We can run the water hose around to the front and through the greenhouse I guess." Immediately, I saw the problem. I had positioned the greenhouse as close to the water source as possible, but without any way to get the water inside. 

I wanted to cry. Well, actually I did, but just a little. That canyon we had just dug was in the wrong place! There was nothing to do but move twelve feet back and start over. After a few shovelfuls of dirt, I realized I was not going to make it. I would have to have help. I called my hay man, who pretty much knows everything about farm stuff, and he told me what piece of equipment I needed and who owned it. Help is coming at 7am tomorrow! 

Here's where my problem began. For beautiful plants in the greenhouse, access to water is critical. I understood that, and wanted to be close to the hydrant. My first site was very close to the water. The problem was that I wanted the water source to be unobtrusive. My solution was to hide it in the back where no one would see it. Unfortunately, the only way to access the water was to give it a priority position. 

It sounds a lot like the Christian life, doesn't it? Access to Living Water is not optional, but we certainly have a tendency to keep our faith "out of sight" if possible, don't we? Can you see Jesus willingly accepting the "back of the greenhouse" position? Me either. Living water, the Spirit flowing through us, is so vital that we need to be sure we position ourselves for easy access and availability to His Spirit, so that He can flow unimpeded through our lives. As we approach this new year, let's commit to getting our Christian life in order. The most important things need to be in first place, especially the Living Water of the Spirit.  Forget about being unobtrusive. Where's the fun (or fruit) in that? Place Him in the priority position, where His effect on your life will be obvious to everyone you encounter. Allow Him to work through you as He desires. He might just surprise you with a more productive life. You won't believe how good the fruit will look when the Spirit flows! 

Praying Like Jesus

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16 NASB)

This verse is so important to Christian living that it demands a second look. A "mini-vacation" is nice, but a simple change in routine is not why Jesus slipped away. When the world pressed in and threatened to overwhelm Him, when He was facing a difficult challenge, before the toughest choice of His life (save mankind on the cross or not), He went to a quiet place alone and did the only thing that would help. 

He prayed. 

This was not a memorized, "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer, nor one from a prayer book, although both kinds of prayer have their place. This was a heartfelt conversation with the Most High God, who also just happened to be His Daddy. 

We don't know exactly what happened, but we know something of how Jesus prayed. He spoke words of praise and honor to His Father, much as we would greet someone with words like "I'm so glad to see you", or "Thanks for taking time with me today".  He also spoke of His needs, including His need for wisdom and direction, as well as His need for protection and His desire to stay the course without error. 

(You may think I'm making this up, but I'm not. We can know the way Jesus spoke with His Father by looking at the model prayer He gave us in Matthew 6.) 

Jesus's words were an important part of His prayer time, but if that was all there was, He would still have the same questions He had before He started praying. Conversations require two-way communication, and that's the essence of prayer. Jesus needed the quiet and the solitude to hear that still small voice clearly and to get the direction He needed.  He also needed time so that He could stay in place until the conversation was completed. 

When you pray, is it like a conversation between a much-loved child and an adoring Father or just a laundry list of needs and wants?  There is a place for expressing desires, but if the list is all that happens, it's not really a conversation with God, is it?   As we approach the New Year, let's commit to spending quality time in conversation with the Lover of Our Soul. 

Today, pray for daily quiet, alone time with our Lord and a commitment to use that time wisely. Pray that we and our loved ones will be quiet and still until we hear that Still Small Voice and willing to obey the direction He gives.  
p.s. - The rock, above, is said to be the place where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested and crucified.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Maggie resists the inevitable

Ryan and I had walked out to the pecan grove to decide where to put my greenhouse (the one I want but don't have yet). Bill the Magnificent was with us to discuss which fence to move and how to protect the greenhouse from curious cows. Once that was sorted out, Ryan and I went back to the house to start taking down the Christmas decorations, and Bill headed back to the barn.

When we returned to the house, Maggie the Wonder Dog was barking up a storm. She did not like being left behind! She came out to the porch where we had paused to talk with a neighbor who stopped by to visit a minute. Suddenly, her little eleven-pound body froze and her head popped up. I looked up to see what had caught her attention. Bill had let the horses out and they were running in circles like crazy. Maggie the Wonder Dog does not allow the horses in the pecan grove, and she was off like a shot to herd them into the barn, barking all the way.  

She raced around while we rearranged the storage house and moved the decoration boxes back in place. Hot, tired, and dirty, we headed back to the house, but Maggie wanted all the outside time she could get. She played until dark. She usually barks when she's ready to come in, I open the door, and in she comes. Quick and easy. 

This evening, I looked out and she was as dirty as could be. Muddy Miss Maggie needed a serious scrubbing. I made the mistake of telling her she would have to have a bath when she came in. Maggie the Wonder Dog does not prefer baths. She knows that four-letter word and tries to avoid it at all costs. Tonight, she had a terrible delimma. She was hungry, tired, and wanted to snuggle, but she didn't want a bath. Coming inside was the only way to have what she wanted, but it meant she would have to have a bath, too. Her solution was to bark, as if that might somehow change the inevitable.  She barked and barked and barked. I was just about wacko from all the barking. 

Finally, Ryan gave it a try. He had a few techniques that were new and very interesting, but equally ineffective. At last, I decided to try one more thing. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before! I stepped outside and Maggie immediately headed into the yard. "Mom, that is totally not helping! She's running away worse than ever!" Ryan groaned. What he and Maggie didn't realize was that I wasn't going after Maggie.  I was going to sit in our patio snuggle chair. About the time I sat down, Maggie jumped from the edge of the patio into my lap and snuggled into my arms. She was worn out from resisting so long, but she still had to have what she didn't want (the bath) to get what she did want (food, water, and snuggles). 

Tonight, Maggie reminded me an awful lot of myself. Before I came to Jesus, it was really clear I needed a spiritual bath (cleansing) but I didn't want to give up anything I was doing. Relationship with Jesus was attractive, but the price wasn't (repentance, cleansing, transformation), so I made a terrible uproar while I tried to resist. Eventually, I needed Jesus so much that I was willing to accept whatever change He wanted, but it took a while to get there.  What a silly waste of time all that delay and fuss was! 

If there are some things in your life that need to change, but you have been resisting, maybe it's time to reconsider. Why not jump into the open arms of Jesus and let Him do what needs to be done? You'll be pleasantly surprised by how good a clean heart feels, and relationship with Jesus? It's worth anything. 

A Matter of Priority

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16 NASB)

In the midst of the tightest schedule and the most action-packed three years of any human's life, Jesus took frequent breaks. They may not have been long, but they were focused, and they were a priority.  

Maybe you are like me. If I had to accomplish the redemption of the world and train disciples to carry on after I was gone in just three short years, there is no way I'd have taken a break. I'd have pressed on until I was so exhausted that I collapsed. The idea of frequent "mini vacations" seems odd to me, yet that is exactly what Jesus did. He withdrew to a peaceful, quiet, empty place where He could be alone to talk with His Dad.  He stopped often to be quiet and visit with His Father, because He knew that was where He gained strength and direction. His power came from God the Father and not from the frail flesh encasing Him. 

We would do well to remember the priorities of Christ. He kept time alone with His Heavenly Father in first place ahead of performing the God-given work He was sent to perform. He didn't neglect the work, but He didn't miss the quiet time, either. It's a wonderful formula for life and ministry, and one we would do well to emulate.  

How jam-packed is your schedule? When did you last take a short break in a quiet place just to spend time in prayer and Bible study? Perhaps it's time for a reordering of priorities. Let's make the most important thing our first priority and trust that, like Christ, we will gain strength and power from the time well spent. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will "make time for Christ". 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Visit with the thief

Today was the sweetest day. Ryan and I went to Starkville to visit with family there. We laughed, reminisced, and watched old family movies. It was amazing to see my grandmother smiling, my Aunt Mel laughing and waving, and Aunt Velma in a flower-laden hat.  After we returned home, I thought about how nice it was to see them again, and that one day we would all be together.

My mind tends to wander pretty far afield,  and I started thinking about who else would be in heaven when I get there. Ryan and I were eating supper when I blurted out, "Hey, the thief on the cross will be there!" Ryan just looked at me and said, "What? Where?" "The thief on the cross, Ryan. You remember him. He's gonna be in heaven when I get there." He just shook his head and kept eating. "I bet he's the most grateful person in heaven. He was seconds from hell and ended up spending eternity with Jesus. Wow!" 

When I get to heaven, he's one of the people I want to meet. His is a story of pure redemption. When all hope was lost, Jesus intervened. Just like He did for me.  Just like He did for you. 

Perhaps you've been in one of those "all hope is lost" situations, or maybe you are still there. The great thing about hopeless situations is that, when you give your situation to Him, Jesus can transform it in an instant. Before you know it, hopeless can become hope-filled and life can change in unimaginable ways. Don't believe me? Just ask the thief on the cross. 

One day, I'm going to see my Grandmother, and Aunt Mel, and Aunt Velma again. We will laugh and have a wonderful time. I'm going to be looking for the thief, too. I'd like to hear his story of redemption and spend time together giving thanks for all God has done. I hope to see you there, too. 

Hearing and Healing: What Do You want From Jesus

But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:15 NASB)

There was no way to direct and control the spread of fame. Everyone who encountered Jesus was talking about Him. Large crowds were assembling everywhere He went. Interestingly, the crowds had a two-fold goal.  They wanted to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 

The word used in this verse for "hear", akouō, means hearing with your ears, but is also used at times to indicate hearing with your heart, as well. Many people who came to Jesus wanted to hear and to understand His words. They wanted to consider all He said and determine what it meant for their lives. That is exactly what we need to do, as well. Hear, understand, consider, and apply His words to our lives. It's a tall order but one we must not fail to do. We all have a decision to make. What will we do about Jesus? Ignore Him? Reject Him? Accept and follow Him? We will all make a decision about Jesus, and it will affect our eternal destiny. One day, every knee will bow to Him. The decision you make about Jesus now will determine if that bending of the knee is joyous worship or angry submission. Which will yours be?

The crowds wanted healing as well as hearing. When we looked at Jesus's mission statement in Luke 4:16-19, we saw preaching, releasing captives, restoring sight, freeing downtrodden in His plan. Healing of physical hurts was not His primary mission. He came to heal wounded, broken hearts. Hearts like yours and mine. There is no hurt He cannot heal, but there is one requirement for healing without which no healing can occur. We have to give Him our hurt and woundedness to do with as He will. It's the "Thy Will Be Done" prayer again. At the point of brokenness and hurt, that place you wish was different but cannot change, give Christ full access. Allow Him to have the hurt, heal the hurt, use the hurt, however He desires. It's that "however" that is so terrifying yet will become so wonderful if we allow it. 

Hearing and healing - two wonderful reasons to come to Jesus. There are two questions that arise from these verses, and answers are not optional. 
Why do you come to Jesus?
What is your response to Him?
Pray for hearts that are open, vulnerable, and available to Jesus - for our loved ones and ourselves. 

What will you do with Jesus today?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Night with Friends

Dr. Edwin Leap is an emergency room physician as well as a columnist for The Greenville News in Greenville South Carolina. He is head over heels in love with his lovely wife Jan, a terrific dad, a gifted physician, and a man of deep faith. He has shared an article, written before the tragic shooting of two much loved and well-respected police officers in Tupelo, for our guest blog tonight. I think it will provide as much comfort and encouragement for you as it did for me.

Comments are enabled, so be sure to bless his with your sweet comments, just as you do me. He won't see them, though, unless you leave them in the comment section after the blog. 

Happy reading, dear ones! Happy Friday!

We Really Aren't Alone: Making Sense of Suffering by Dr. Edwin Leap

Everyone has trials.  However, they often seem more painful at Christmas, don’t they?  
I know that as a physician, everything painful, everything hurtful and terrifying that 
happens to my patients has a sharper edge this time of year.  Perhaps it’s because we 
market the wonders of the holiday so beautifully. It always seems that when families 
struggle that they not only have to face their personal pain or loss; they have to endure 
the highly polished and almost toxic message that everyone else is having a grand time!  
The rest of the world, it seems, is shopping, playing in thick snow drifts, eating too much, spending oodles of money, mindlessly repositioning their ‘Elf on a Shelf,’ and sleeping 
beside roaring fires surrounded by healthy, happy loved ones.  It’s a lovely idea, as 
fiction goes.  But reality always wins out.
I think about this a lot.  Suffering is very real and however we may wish it away, it is 
extremely democratic.  For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, there 
were about 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses in 2012.  If you were one of them, you were 
hardly alone.  It was you, and a group of people equal to the entire population of Manhattan.
Or this:  there are, according to the American Red Cross, some 800 persons each day in the 
US who suffer a cardiac arrest!  If your loved one had sudden cardiac death, I’m sorry; 
so sorry.  And sorry for all of the other families each day who face that horrible, crushing 
and unexpected tragedy that changes families forever.
Not all pain is medical.  Since the financial crisis began, 4.4 million families have lost 
homes through foreclosure.  Losing one’s home is rather a kind of death; death of 
comfort, stability, investment or safety.
It would be easy to go on and on about the commonalities of suffering, but one thing 
remains true about all of it. When we suffer, it’s much easier to suffer when we aren’t 
alone.  And while we don’t really want others to suffer, there is a kind of comfort to 
being with someone else who is facing, or has faced, the same thing.  And it’s especially 
wonderful when they come to us with tales of how they coped, successfully, with disease, 
death, pain or loss.  It is a powerful encouragement to press on.
On a lighter side, we see the same thing at work in small children.  How many times have 
our children said ‘will you walk with me?’  Whether it’s across the hall or across the 
bedroom, to see a flower or meet a friend, our children want their hands in ours.  
There is strength, and comfort of many kinds, in numbers.  There is healing in the words, 
‘I’m here with you. Don’t worry.’
Is this, maybe, the message of Christmas?  Things were the same in Bethlehem as they 
are in the world today.  Families lost children and spouses, parents and siblings.  Homes 
were taken.  War took lives and led to slavery. Pain, without the benefit of modern therapies, 
went unrelieved. Diseases which we simply shrug off today led to lifelong disability and 
premature death. Doubtless those who saw the gravid belly of Mary shook their heads, 
wondering if she would die in childbirth like so many they had known.
But into Bethlehem of Judea came the one who could say to us, ‘I’m here, I’m with you.  
I’ll walk the path by your side and experience the troubles you face.  I’ll heal you now for 
a while, but forever in the end.  I’ll take away not only your illness but your fear of death; 
not only your sorrow but your guilt.’ The infant Jesus came to the place where suffering 
was everywhere, and as he grew the man Jesus reassured everyone ‘I’m here.  And when 
I leave, I’ll make a way for you and a place for you, with me, always.’
It is no different now.  With every tragedy we feel alone; certain that nobody else 
understands.  With every fear and doubt, every failure, every mistake, we so easily 
consider ourselves unloveable.  But at Christmas, Jesus comes.  From the manger in 
a crowded town to the cross on a crowded hill to the empty tomb in the lonely garden, 
he tells us, ‘You are not alone! I’m here now. It’s alright.  I understand and I love you.’
Yes, Christmas can seem lonely when troubles surround and isolate us.  But the Christ 
child refutes it all.  He is here and we are not alone.  Merry Christmas!

You can read more articles by Dr. Leap at his website www.edwinleap.com.  Be sure to 
check it out!

Martyrion Obedience

And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." (Luke 5:14 NASB)

Jesus had miraculously and immediately healed this man who was filled with leprosy. What you would expect is that Jesus would want the good publicity, and send him to tell everyone. Instead, Jesus said not to tell anyone, and He sent him to the priest. 

There was an entire ritual associated with a leper who was healed. The seven day ritual of cleansing helped the cleansed person transition back into the community. According to Leviticus 14, the priest was to go outside the camp with the leper, examine him, and, if he appeared to be healed, begin the ritual of cleansing that would restore him to fellowship in the community. 

When Jesus sent him to the priest, he said it was "as a testimony to them". Who is the "them" to whom He is referring? The priests. Jesus wanted the healed leper to testify to the priests. The word He chose for testify is "martyrion". It's a Greek word that comes from the root word "martys", indicating a legal witness as well as one who is willing to bear witness to the truth of the testimony by their very lives. 

Jesus was sending this man to the very people least likely to want to hear of Jesus's miracle and asking him to testify of Jesus's healing power regardless of the cost. He would be going to the ones who had the power to exclude him or bring him home cleansed, and to tell them what they did not want to hear. It took considerably more faith and courage to tell the priest than to tell his friends and family. 

Obedience was not optional if he wanted to be restored. There's a mouthful of truth right there, isn't it? It bears repeating. 

Obedience is not optional if we want to be fully restored. 

With what bit of obedience do you struggle? What is Jesus asking of you that seems insurmountably hard?  Pray today for hearts willing to obey no matter the cost and feet that hit the road running to get the job done. 

Worthy Words

Words. Where are they when you need them?  "I can't think of anything to blog about," I moaned. Ryan had a pretty simple solution. "Maybe you shouldn't blog about anything then." The whole idea of needing words I couldn't find  started me thinking about all the words I use during the day, and how some words are absolutely worth saying, and some are a total waste of time. 

It's the words worth saying that I want. Words that affirm, encourage, comfort, support, and inform are all words that are likely worth saying. Of course, I think all the words I use telling patients what to do and why are worth saying, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be more effective with a few less worlds.  Maybe what I need is one of those short phrases that can clatter around in your head for ages. Some years ago, I was standing outside a conference room with Brad Beck when he asked me,"Where is your margin?" (Margin = the space around the edges of your scheduled life where God has room to work) It was like a word straight from God. I didn't have any margin. Every minute of my life was jam packed. It was one of those phrases that stuck in my head until I made some much-needed changes. Not long ago, I was looking at my schedule, trying to squeeze one more thing into a too-full week, when Brad's words came back to me again. "Where is your margin?" Lost again. That's where it is. (Thanks, Brad. You are still in my head after more than a decade, and I appreciate the help!)

When it became apparent that I needed to be gluten-free, the thought of such a disruption in my life was unimaginable. One short phrase changed the task into something totally possible. My boss said, "if you will do it, I'll do it with you."  It was a hard transition and the learning curve was steep, but knowing I was not alone made a huge difference. 

Words spoken out loud are tremendously important, but words spoken with actions are also vital. When my mother died, my friends Rosemary and Mike Marecle showed up at my house with supper and shared the meal with me. Their actions told me that they shared my grief, that I am loved, and not alone. Of all the events surrounding my mother 's death, that dinner around my breakfast table stands out as a beacon of hope and the assurance that I would survive my loss and be fine again. 

Slow Down
Lighten up! 
 You are not alone. 
 I will help. 
You are loved. 

Wonderful words, spoken at just the right time, can make a difference for years to come. What about your words? Are they uplifting and encouraging? Do they help others be more like Christ?  Do they draw people to God or push them away?

This week, consider every word as a seed and plant them in fertile soil. Sow words that will grow a harvest that will change lives and impact the Kingdom of God forever.  Words. Use them well. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quick Healing

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NASB)

Jesus touched this leper with the healing touch of fire (*1) and spoke healing over him. Immediately he was healed of leprosy. It wasn't in a few weeks and it wasn't a process of years. It was right that very minute, while Jesus and the crowd were standing there watching. His leprosy just vanished, and Jesus took great delight in the miracle! (*2) Can't you just see Jesus? I imagine He must have had the biggest smile as he looked around at those astonished faces! He probably wanted to say, "You haven't seen anything yet! I can cleanse your inside just like I did this man's outside! Give me your heart and you will see!" 
The Greek word translated here as "immediately" is used only four times in the New Testament to describe the healing work of Jesus, despite the large number of healings He performed. It says to us that sometimes He works in a dramatic, flashy immediate way that everyone present can recognize, but sometimes He does not. In fact, this term is not used for most of the healings He performed. A healing that takes time is still a healing. 

In our fast-food, want-it-now society, we have grown so accustomed to immediate gratification that we expect instant Jesus-action, too. We do not serve a fast-food God, however. We serve a God of order, who completes what He starts, and does all things well. What He has begun in our loved ones will continue to completion. Do not lose heart! He is still on the throne. He still heals sin-sick souls, and He still takes delight in doing it. 

Today, pray that God will not stop working in our loved ones (or in us) until all the healing is complete and delightful to Him. 

(*1) http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-touch-of-fire.html
(*2) http://leannahollis.blogspot.com/2013/12/delighting-jesus.html

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Redemption

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NASB)

It started right there, in front of a loaded fruit tree. The road to the manger in Bethlehem began at the foot of what turned out to be the first Christmas tree. The enemy of our soul, in the form of a serpent, entered the idyllic garden of love designed by God Himself as home to His new humans. He befriended Eve, deceived her, enticed her, destroyed her, and left her. That's how sin works, and when her hand reached out and took the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the sin of mankind began. A penalty for that breach of contract between God and man was owed. 4,000 years or so later, God Himself would come to straighten out the mess of sin mankind had created and pay our penalty Himself.  He came in the form of a tiny baby, and today we celebrate His birth. His was the gift that paid the debt we owed but could never repay, and it is the most important gift of all those that will be exchanged today. It is the gift we didn't request, aren't always sure we wanted, and may not be quite sure what to do about. It is, however, the perfect gift, the perfect fit. 

As you enjoy opening gifts, eating feasts with loved ones, and celebrating the joy of this day, remember that it is more than a celebration of a baby in a manger. This is a day to celebrate our redemption. 

May the lights on your tree point you to that tree in the garden where it all began, and remind you that we are redeemed because of what God did in response to it.  

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

The journey to Bethlehem is nearly complete for another year. Tonight we celebrate the obedience of a young Jewish girl, the bold faith of her bridegroom, and the son of God entrusted to the most unlikely of couples. May your hearts be drawn to Him as never before and may you lives reflect the change He brings.
Merry Christmas!

Delighting Jesus

Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone. (Luke 5:13 MSG)

The Greek word thelō is translated here as "I want to". It is a marvelous little word and can mean "I want to", "I intend to" and "I take delight in doing it". How about that? When we ask Jesus to heal us, He not only wants to heal us, He takes great delight in healing us!

Let's make Jesus delighted today by offering Him our hurts, our scars, our broken hearts, our unfulfilled dreams and allowing Him to heal them! Today, pray that He will bring healing to our situation and our loved ones in such a way that He will find great delight in what He accomplishes. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tragedy in Tupelo

Just a few days ago, a policeman was killed in a neighboring town while making a routine traffic stop. Today, Tupelo had a bank robbery and two police officers were shot point blank. One of those officers has died. This man who had sworn to protect his community gave his life doing that very thing, and a second officer is in critical condition.  It breaks my heart, for we have a policeman of our own in Blue Springs.

I spoke with him briefly last night. He was patrolling and I stopped to chat. We discussed a situation with a newcomer to our town. There is obviously a problem and a need. He was quick to say that he planned to try to clarify exactly what the need is today and see what we can do to meet it. We take care of each other in Blue Springs, and Officer Anderson helps us do it. As we discussed his schedule, he told me his plans for working over the holidays. He is sacrificing prime family time to patrol and assure the safety of our citizens and their homes. Criminals beware. Our policeman is on the job. What horrifies me is the thought that criminals might not care. They might come "heavily armed" into our town and have no regard for this good man. 

What I want to say is, "Don't you dare.  Don't you dare put our fine officer at risk."  Realistically, it's not a demand I can back up. I want to say, "Hurt him and you will have to contend with me," but I would be no good against a heavily armed thug. There is a feeling of helplessness that I don't like, yet I am not helpless. What comes to mind is "My help comes from The Lord."  We are not helpless and the battle against evil, at least for my part, must be fought on our knees. That's where I've been on this tragic December evening... praying for the safety of our police force of one, as well as for those in the northeast Mississippi area. 

It is time for the people of God to tackle this entire issue of evil running rampant in the streets. Take a stand and hit your knees. Fear not. God is still on the throne. 

The Touch of Fire

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NASB)

This simple verse is hiding the most amazing treasure!
It says Jesus reached out and touched him, and my immediate impression of that action is Jesus lightly placing His hand on the man's shoulder. It sounds like a "laying on of hands" that we might do when praying for someone. The Greek here tells a different story. The word used in this verse is haptō, and it is used to mean "to fasten to" or "to fasten fire to a thing or set it on fire." 

You might say it this way:  The fire of the Holy Spirit was flowing through Jesus (of course, being both God and man), and it is a healing, cleansing fire. Jesus grabbed hold of this man as tight as He could (maybe by both shoulders) and that Holy Fire flowed from Jesus into the leper, bringing cleansing and the healing for which he was so desperate. When that fire started, the man must have been so surprised! Imagine his delight when that fire burned the leprosy right out of his body! Now THAT is a mighty touch!

I could use a touch like that, couldn't you?  Let's pray for that healing touch of godly fire for ourselves and our loved ones today. Pray that the fire of God's love will flow through us all and bring cleansing, healing, and wholeness. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Perils of Parousia

My son Ryan was scheduled to fly home from college today. I expected that he would arrive in Tupelo around 1:30 pm. Unfortunately, he missed his flight and has been rescheduled for a later flight. The new flight has been delayed, and now is delayed again. As I was thinking about the waiting, it reminded me of the Advent period, which seems a lot like a "waiting" of its own. 

This may seem a little complicated, but the term advent is an Anglicized form of the Latin word adventus, which means "coming".  Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia. Parousia is a word that means "presence" or "presence after absence".  It is used in the Gospels to denote Christ's return (see Matt. 24:3). This word is actually used, for the most part, to indicate the second coming of Jesus, not his natal arrival. Technically, advent (the time of Christ's coming after an absence) is better related to Easter and lent than to Christmas. 

Since I'm having some very joyful parousia of my own today as I wait for my son and his tardy flight, the whole idea of "anticipating the coming" is on my mind. 

This December Advent of ours actually celebrates that first coming of the Presence of God. Emmanuel, God with us. How wonderful to anticipate with the knowledge that we celebrate what is historical fact and spiritual victory! Even more exciting is that every day we live as believers is a kind of Advent, a parousia, as we anticipate the "coming after an absence" of our risen Lord. 

During these last few days of our December Advent, keep in mind the more wonderful Daily Advent, our Daily Parousia, as we anticipate not only the natal arrival of Christ but also his majestic second coming!  

Hear the good news! Christ has come. Christ is risen. Christ is coming again! 

Position Prayer

While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." (Luke 5:12 NASB)

We haven't mined all the gold from this verse yet!  There are two Greek words used here that demand a closer look. The two words translated "Fell on his face" are piptō and prosōpon. 

Piptō is used to indicate moving from an upright to a prostrate position, but it is also used to indicate a descent from authority or prosperity as well as the position of respect and worship before a deity or authority. Prosōpon is used to indicate the face as well as one's outward appearance. There is an assumption that this man was poor, and having the worst case of leprosy, he may well have been, but not necessarily. These two words are correctly translated as "fell on his face", but we can easily miss the richness of the word picture and symbolism. This leper was symbolically laying down any position of authority or financial security he possessed in submission to the higher authority of Jesus. His position symbolically demonstrated his acknowledgement of Jesus's power and authority. 

By falling on his face before Jesus, he was placing outward appearance at the feet of Jesus. Because of the nature of his disease (leprosy is a very disfiguring disease), he was symbolically placing his appearance as a result of his disease (the consequences) in Jesus's hands to do with as He would. 

Now all that is the prelude for the next very important point. Don't miss this! His physical position and his words matched. When this leper spoke to Jesus and asked Him for healing, he was simply voicing what he had already demonstrated by his choice of position before God's Son. His actions spoke volumes before his words were ever voiced. We would do well to emulate him, for we will soon see that Jesus granted this man's request. 

Today, as you approach the throne of God on behalf of our loved ones, assume a position before God that reflects the sincerity and humility in your heart. Like the leper, let your position be the first part of your prayer. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sick of Christmas

Somehow, I'm way behind on all my usual Christmas activities. This may surprise you, but the mantel isn't decorated, I haven't located the stockings yet, and there are boxes of ornaments that haven't been opened, much less put on the tree. When the day started, not one present was wrapped. They were piled up on the guest bedroom bed, on the floor beside the bed, and still in bags at the foot of the bed.

It took hours, but all the gifts were finally wrapped and under the tree. You would think I'd be delighted, but in the midst of all that wrapping, there were tons of other household chores to do. When I finally finished with everything, I was exhausted and collapsed into my chair for a few minutes of rest. "Lord," I said, "I'm already sick of Christmas!  You need to change my attitude!" (I know you've felt that way before, too!). That Still Small Voice did not have a thing to say. Silent agreement, I guess. 

At supper time, I lit the Advent candles and opened my Advent devotional book, as usual.  I was reading day 34, and the topic was the shepherds on the way back from Bethlehem. They were so excited about finding Jesus that they could not contain their joy! They were telling everyone.  This is what I read:

" Perhaps you, too, once felt that great joy over finding your Savior. Are you still bubbling over with the joy of meeting your Savior? If not, ask God to restore the joy of your salvation so that you can share with the enthusiasm of the shepherds."  

Those words were written months ago, but tonight they were as fresh as the day I first wrote them. I laughed out loud at how God had worked. Months before, he had given me exactly what I needed for today, then orchestrated my reading so that I would see those very words. Isn't that amazing?  That's not all. He had used those words to instantly change my attitude and answer the prayer from earlier in the day!

Sick of Christmas? How could I be sick of the most wonderful Gift ever given?  Sick of Christmas? Hardly. I'm just getting started! 

Filled up

While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." (Luke 5:12 NASB)

The word translated as "covered" here, plērēs, might be better translated as "filled" or "completely permeated". For this man, leprosy was not just an infectious disease affecting his skin and peripheral nerves. His illness had, at least figuratively, "filled him up".  The consequences were more than he could stand, the public shame was too terrible to endure. He had had all he could take. 

His illness wasn't his fault, nor was anyone else to blame. It was, simply put, a terrible tragedy and only a miracle of God could change it. Somewhere between one shouted "unclean" and the next, he looked up, saw Jesus, and recognized that the miracle he so desperately needed was just within reach. He didn't stop to ask if it was a good idea. He didn't get cleaned up. He just ran to Jesus and fell at His feet. 

It is tragic that a difficult situation can become so overwhelming to us that it completely consumes us, filling all our waking moments and stealing not only our hopes and dreams but also our joy in the present. Are you "filled up" by circumstances beyond your control? Does your concern over wayward loved ones threaten to overwhelm you?  If so, take a lesson from the leper. Run to the feet of Jesus and let Him bring healing to your fear and anxiety. Turn the situation over to Him and leave it with Him. He is able to heal, to deliver, to set the captives free. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Guest Blogger

Our guest blogger tonight is Gene Merkl, a friend from childhood who lives with his wife Lee Ann in Starkville MS. he is a landscape architect by profession, gifted poet and musician, and full time lover of Jesus. He is my dear friend, encourager, and partner in prayer.

You will be so blessed and amazed by his "Tales from the Prayer Zone".  Please welcome him and share some love with him. The comments are enabled. Give him a bunch of feedback please! 

Tales from the Prayer Zone by Gene Merkl

I have learned that there are no coincidences in life; and even though it seems we never know precisely how God will use us, we must be vigilant to listen for His call and obedient to the direction we are given. The following is a true story and was shared with me September 4, 2013 in my office. Please share with others as you feel led. Since that Wednesday I have shared personally with more than 70 people in various settings. The Power of the Truth it belies just keeps on giving. 

My cell phone rang at 6:00 AM Wednesday morning, a truck driver from Tuscumbia, Al giving me notice that he would be making delivery of an order about 9:00 AM at my place of business. Sure enough, he showed up right on time but it seemed odd to me that he was driving an 18 wheel flatbed truck to deliver just 4 pallets of material (20 would be a full load).

He though it was odd, too and told me that he was originally supposed to drive a load toBirmingham that morning and at the last minute they changed his load and route.

It came to mind that he might be delivering more than met my eyes; my spiritual radar was right on, but I wasn’t prepared for what I would hear.

He came in to pick up a check (COD these days) and since he was from the Muscle Shoals area and looked like someone who would enjoy the club scene (like me in other words) I asked him if he knew a drummer named Eddy Russell who played in the area. He said nope, I don’t do the club scene any more. I said I don’t much either, not since I’ve found Jesus. He said I know what you mean, I used to be a drug dealer. I told him that I too had my fair share of time in substance abuse land. He said, no, I mean I was a serious drug dealer.

Really, I said? Tell me about it. He said, are you sure you want to hear this? I said, you bet, especially if it’s about Jesus.

This is the story Wesley Hood shared with me as I sat spellbound in my office:

Three years ago I was probably the biggest crystal meth dealer in the tri-cities area. I was running between 2 and 3 pounds of meth per week all over the place. Its funny, but I didn’t start out to be a dealer; I just liked the drug so much that I started buying it in large quantities and selling it at low prices just so I’d have plenty for myself. In just a few years, I had essentially cornered the market in that area. I suppose I was naïve but in that process I had trampled pretty hard on the turf of some existing dealers and I guess they weren’t too happy about it. Anyway, some of these guys invited me to a club in the area to “talk business”. We were set to meet in the wee hours of the morning and so I headed that way.

At about that time, my wife, who I had been estranged from for about 8 months awoke (about 2:00 AM) with a start. Being a faithful praying woman, she called her brother (a preacher) and others and told them we really need to pray for Wesley, he is in serious trouble.

When I got to the club, after some discussion about territories, my “friends” handed me a syringe with something special in it they wanted me to try. I went out to my car to run it up. I set up the tourniquet, took the hit and released this into my body. Immediately, I felt as if I had been hit in the chest with a sledge hammer. I knew that I was a dead man and my life flashed before my eyes, but strangely, most of it was memories of family, church and Sunday school I had known before my drug addiction. I heard a sound that can only be described as 10,000 men screaming in agony and my thoughts turned to what “I” could do to save my soul. I remembered the Cross that was hanging from my mirror and as I felt it in my hand, the screaming stopped and I passed out.

I awoke to find a bearded man sitting next to me on the seat, slapping my face and trying to revive me. He asked if I was alright; I said I think so and then I said who are you and what are you doing here? He said, I’m the guy that rigged up that fix for you. It was oxycontin and meth and was supposed to have taken you out.

You see, I’m a “hit” man, or at least I was. 5 minutes ago, I was about a hundred yards up the hill with a rifle and night vision scope and I had your head in my crosshairs. If the drugs didn’t take you out, then my plan was to shoot you, but the strangest thing happened. I have been doing this for years and nothing like this ever happened. As I watched you fall back in the seat I heard the most God-awful sound; it was like 10,000 men screaming in agony. As I got ready to take the shot, you reached for the cross on your mirror; when you grabbed it the screaming stopped. My whole life flashed before my eyes; I remembered a time when I knew God’s love and I heard a voice say I want you to help the man in that car. I want to give you another chance.

So the hit man gave me a ride home and there at the front door was my wife, waiting to welcome me home with open arms. I have since answered a call to the ministry and thank God every day for the opportunities he gives me to share what He has done in my life.

What I heard from Wesley’s witness was that we don’t have to have a needle in our arm, an overdose in our hearts or a rifle in our hands to hear that screaming. Sometimes it’s in the daily struggle of work, finding a job, a battle with disease or addiction, a car that won’t start, an argument with one’s spouse, making ends meet, ridiculous schedules, even getting the kids ready for school. The greatest Power the world has ever known is always at our disposal. When you hear the screaming, pause and let God remind you of the good things he has done for you and show you the things He’d like to change. Then reach for the Cross and the wonderful peace that always goes with that kind of unconditional Love.

Jesus is still in the miracle business; have you asked Him to help you today?

The Leper's Prayer

While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." (Luke 5:12 NASB)

Leprosy. It is one of the most dreaded diseases, even today. In Jesus' times, infection control efforts were critical to avoid spreading the disease. Strict rules were in place to protect the public health. A leper with active infection was required to wear torn clothes, uncover his hair, cover his moustache, and shout "Unclean! Unclean!" as he walked through the streets. He was required to live alone, outside the town. (Read more in Lev. 13 and 14)

On this particular day, there was a man who was "covered with leprosy". He had the very worst case of leprosy possible. He was walking through the streets, shouting "Unclean! Unclean!" and dressed in tattered clothes. He saw Jesus, and hope sprang up in him. We don't know how he knew that Jesus could help him. What we do know is that he approached Jesus. There was no need to shout "Unclean!" before Jesus. Jesus already knew.

This lonely, isolated man fell  on his face before Jesus and asked to be made clean. He wasn't asking for a removal of physical dirt. "Clean" was the term used to indicate that the leprosy was no longer contagious. He wanted to be healed. Once clean, he would no longer be an outcast. He could return to his family and what was left of his life before leprosy. 

He was asking Jesus for healing and restoration. Even without leprosy, it's a much needed request. Healing of that which is unclean in God's eyes and restoration of relationship with God and with those from whom we are estranged are much needed, and only available by the power of God. 

Today, pray the leper's prayer.  Pray for healing and restoration for ourselves and our loved ones. May God cleanse all that is unlovely in our lives and hearts, mend relationships, and restore our walk (and that of our loved ones) with Him.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Christmas Tree

Please don't get me wrong here. I really like the look of a Christmas tree. I like the lights, the tinsel garland, and the decorations. I discovered these things called "picks" this year, and I like them a lot, too! They are like ornaments on steroids with a skewer instead of a hook. You stab the skewer into the tree and it's basically stuck in place. Because it's so big, it takes up a lot of space, so you don't need as many picks as you do ornaments. I have some highly unattractive picks, which are stuck on the back side of the tree. My pretty ones made it to the front, of course.

As I write tonight, I'm sitting in my big green chair in front of the tree, admiring the lights, garland, and ornaments. And the picks. I'm wondering, though, why we call it a Christmas tree. I could make up a lovely little analogy about the tree and relate it to the wood in the cross, but even for me that's a stretch. 

I've decided to face it. This tree has nothing at all to do with Christmas, nor with Jesus. It just happens that I put it up in December, which is the same month we celebrate Jesus's birthday.  Perhaps we could call it a December tree, or an ornament tree. There are lots of ornaments, so that might work. I have all the ornaments Ryan made, including the gold paper star with the glued-on macaroni, proudly displayed right in front. They are more precious to me than a bag of jewels, and I love displaying them for a month on this December ornament tree. In fact, they might have more to do with Christmas than any other part of the tree.

When Ryan was born, someone called me to say, "Now you really know what love is."  Indeed, I did. Loving my family and my husband in no way prepared me for the ferocity of my love for this tiny squirming bundle of joy.  As my love for him grew, so did my understanding of the depth of God's love for His children. God loves me like I love Ryan? It seems impossible, yet, if the Bible is to be believed, it is true. Now THAT is the essence of this holiday season. God loved us and sent His Son. 

This "December ornament tree" really doesn't have much to do with Christmas. Those paper ornaments, however, made by the hands of an innocent child, point me to the love of my Heavenly Father. Now that might be the most Christ-like part of this whole "Christmas tree turned December ornament tree" ritual!  A little child shall lead them. That's what the prophet said, and tonight, in the glow of the tree lights, it's exactly what he's done. 

From Master to Lord

Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." (Luke 5:5 NASB)

It's amazing how fast a heart can change. When Jesus told Simon to head out to the deep water, he was "epistatēs", or Master, to Simon. This is a Greek word for supervisor or overseer, and indicates recognition of some form of authority. One fishing net-full later, Jesus had become "kyrios" or the authority to whom Simon belonged. It is a word used to indicate a sovereign ruler as well as to indicate God Himself. 

Simon initially saw Jesus as a sort of professor. When Jesus entered his life with power, Simon was not only astounded, his eyes were opened to the reality of the Christ. In that instance, he was willing to pledge himself to Jesus as a possession of the King. 

To fully understand the significance of this, remember that Simon was a successful businessman. He was not in desperate straits looking for a rescue. He was certainly not looking for a new level of authority. He was accustomed to being the authority, and on his boat, his word was law. That is, until Jesus boarded the boat. When Jesus stepped on board, everything began to change, and when Simon obeyed in one little area, the action really began. 

That's what Jesus wants to do in all our lives. He wants to be more than a wise teacher. he wants to be the authority that directs, guides, leads. When we begin to obey, the action begins and the fun really starts! 

Today, pray for those first small steps of obedience that lead the way to a heart submitted and transformed by our Lord. Let your obedience be the example that shows the way. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Healing Party

It was incredibly busy at work. The schedule was jam-packed, but somehow I managed to get all the patients seen and spend a little time with every person. 

I had finally made it to the last patient of the day. By that point I was pretty tired, so I was hoping for a wound that was doing well and that did not need a procedure. 

When I walked in, he was smiling and said, "I think it's gonna look really good when you get through cutting." 

Yep. It was going to need a procedure. 

I sat down and got started. One of my favorite things in this world is to gently cut away the dead tissue and find healthy tissue beneath. Even better (but rare) is to find intact skin under all the dead tissue. I worked slowly as I cleared away the debris of the wound. A thick callus had also developed, and needed to go. 

As I cleared the callus, I realized that there was some good skin. The nurse saw my smile and leaned over for a look, but I quickly covered the wound. "Nope. No peeking until I'm done."  Another few minutes, and all the dead tissue and thick callus were removed. In their place was fragile but healthy skin. Intact skin. 

I could hardly believe it! We had been working on this wound for years. Most of that time, we'd been trying to convince the patient about the importance of decreasing the pressure on his foot and getting proper nutrition, especially protein. A few months ago, he finally understood, began following recommendations, and had enjoyed a steady improvement ever since. 

"See what you think," I said. He pulled his foot up, got a good look, and let out a whoop! "I told you it would look good when you got through cutting!!" He was laughing and smiling. 

A spontaneous healing party erupted. 

He was whooping, I was clapping, and my nurse was laughing at us both. We took pictures of the wound, pictures of patient and physician together, congratulated each other, and laughed some more! We shared the photos with every staff person in our clinic. He was as thrilled as could be. 

I may have written this before, but it's worth repeating:

What I don't understand about the body of Christ is why we don't get that excited about spiritual healing.  

When I give something to Jesus and manage to leave it with Him, I'm pretty happy. 

Celebrating is such fun to me that I celebrate something almost every day anyway, but I also celebrate what Christ does for me and in me with my friends. 

I hardly ever see a spontaneous "I gave up bitterness" celebration, though. 

If there has ever been an "I gave up unforgiveness" party, I was not invited. 

Is our failure to celebrate spiritual healing because we aren't allowing healing, we don't want to admit we needed healing, or that we don't think a healed heart is a miracle worth celebrating? 

I'd really like to know.  

Here's my challenge to you. 

Let Jesus heal something. 


Let Him have a hurt, some bitterness or unforgiveness, jealousy, greed. Let Him have anything really, as long as it's something you need to be rid of and can't do yourself. When He does it, rejoice and find someone who will rejoice with you! Have a celebration. 

I think you'll find such joy in the healing and the expressions of gratitude that you will want to give Jesus something else, just because it's fun!  

(photo courtesy of freeimages.com)
If you've been touched or encouraged by this post, please share it. Your likes and shares, offered as a kind of digital mission work, greatly increase our reach.

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The High Maintenance Missionary and the Frontal Assault 

Deep water faith

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4 NASB)

(This is another passage that I have just seen in a new way. It might be my favorite of all!)

When Jesus sent Simon Peter back to the deep water, it was to do a certain task AND to have a certain result. His task was two-fold. He was to move into deep water and let down the fishing nets. The certain result was to receive the catch. Shallow water is easy, isn't it? There is very little risk there, but very few fish. It's a low risk investment, but also low yield. Deep water is different. It brings risk, not the least of which is capsizing and drowning. Deep water is risky, but oh what a yield is possible there! It's where the fish live. 

What we need to understand is that, when Jesus calls us to "deep water faith", he has the endpoint in sight. He sent Simon to the deep water knowing the fish he would gather in his nets there. In that same way, when He calls us to "deep water faith", He knows the endpoint, the reason for which He is sending us. At any point in his journey into the deep, Simon could have turned back. Even as the nets were being dropped, he could have remembered all the empty casts from the night before, pulled back on the nets, and turned for home. No one would have blamed him. It's likely that no one would have questioned him. After all, he was a professional fisherman and Jesus was not. It took pure faith in Jesus to stay in the boat and on the water. Had he turned back early, however, he would have missed the catch. 

In our own walk of faith, it is easy to remember all our failures, decide that what Jesus asks of us is pointless, and simply move back to "shallow water faith". We could give up our hoping and trusting, but to what benefit? There is no significant gain in the shallows. The blessings and the yield are in the deep water. Perhaps you have had times of uncertainty, doubt, fear. Maybe you feel as if your loved one is "too far gone" and that God can't or won't change them. Take heart. Simon only needed that one more cast to gain the catch of a lifetime, and it was the cast for which Jesus sent him to the water in the first place. Don't give up now. Trust that our heavenly Father knows the endpoint. He knows what He can do, and what He will do. Keep trusting. Keep praying. Keep waiting. 

Pray today for faith to persevere in the deep. Pray too for the cast that yields a harvest too wonderful to believe. Pray that our loved ones will quickly welcome the Savior into their lives and join us in "deep water faith". 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Backwards Advent - part three

I've had so much trouble with that pesky Love Candle this week that I was determined to get it right today. Tonight, for the first time this advent season, I lit all my candles correctly. No love candle this time!  

This business of waiting on love until next week has been quite a problem to me. All week, I've tried to wait to celebrate love week. I really have, but it is impossible. Christmas is the problem. It's all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. If you are going to talk about Christmas, it's pretty hard not to talk about Jesus. How can you talk about Jesus and leave love out? You can't. Needless to say, I'm not sure how well I've done with Joy this week, but I've been working on Love. 

Here's how it has gone. Over the weekend, an odd thing happened. I was out shopping later than I intended. I was really hungry and decide to run through a drive-through for grilled chicken strips and waffle fries. Ordinarily I'm the most anti-fast-food person ever, so this was pretty much out of character for me. I gave my order, and started to the window. As I was pulling up, I sensed that little voice in my heart say, "Pay for their order". I looked behind me and there was a sports car with kids inside. "Those kids in the sports car?" I asked. Yep. Those kids. I was surprised, and didn't quite know how to handle it. I wasn't unwilling. I just didn't know what to do. I payed for my order, and as the girl was handing me the change, the little voice in my heart again said, "Pay for their order."  I leaned out of my car window, armed with two twenties, and yelled "hey" to the girl who was about to close the sliding window. She opened it back up and leaned forward again. "I'm supposed to pay for the car behind me too. How much do I owe you?" I asked. "What'd you say?" she asked. I repeated myself. It was just over six dollars and I was so disappointed. I wanted Jesus to ask me for a big thing, and all he wanted was a six dollar act of obedience. 

A day or so later, a friend of mine called to talk about a problem with one of her children. I wanted to be able to give her the perfect solution, but all I had to offer was to repeat the devotional I had just sent her and remind her that I am praying every day. It was smaller than I wanted to give, and I was regretted not being able to do more. 

Then, the most amazing thing happened. That very morning, I had asked God to show me something very specific. In her next sentence, she repeated back to me what I had just said to God, along with my answer! From hundreds of miles away, with a single sentence, she had met my most pressing need! To her, it was just one sentence in a conversation filled with sentences. It was a little act to her. To me, it was the biggest thing that happened all day. It seemed as if Almighty God had opened my friend's mouth and spoken directly to me through it. I'm still amazed at how incredibly specific His answer was. 

Little things done with the love of Christ can have a tremendous impact. I will never know the outcome of the six dollar obedience, but my friend's obedience was worth much more than six dollars to me. There was no way for her to know the impact she would have on my life that day, but it was immense. It's easy to think those "little things" like a timely word, a hug, encouragement for those who are struggling are not important, but they are of much greater value than we will ever know. 

Tomorrow, look for little acts of obedience that you can do in the name of Jesus. Recognition is not necessary or even particularly desirable. Make an effort to represent Christ to the world with the great love that only He can give. You may be surprised at how He uses you to reach a world that is perishing.