Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Sermon Without Words

I experienced the body of Christ in action recently, and I'm still stunned by the beauty of it. I tell you about it so you can get a glimpse of what Christ intended us to be.

I had injured my back picking up firewood and it hurt. A lot. Standing wasn't so bad, but sitting? Sitting was terrible. The longer I sat, the worse my leg hurt. If I sat very long, I dragged my leg, so I stood. I put my computer on the kitchen island and worked standing up. It's a very trendy work position and I felt marvelously productive.

In my defense, I also gave myself appropriate treatment. Tincture of time is usually the safest route in this kind of problem. Rest. Heat. Anti-inflammatories. I did all that. I also asked my sister and my Sunday School class, and one of my friends to pray. Then, I proceeded to suffer in silence. Well, it wasn't really silence. I whined to the Lord until even I was ashamed of my whining.

None of that is the good part. (Don't be distracted by my hurt back, please. It's not the point.)

It was the monthly meeting of our Emmaus small group. We met at my house, and I had scurried around all day getting ready. The food was cooked. The table was set. Even my blue glass Tiki torches were ablaze. (My love for Tiki torches is a topic for another day.) I was ready in plenty of time, so I sat down to read for an hour before people arrived. 

I sat to eat. 

I sat on the couch to visit.

Two hours into the evening, I had a recurrence of my back problem and the leg hurting and dragging. Walking might help, I thought, so I walked to the kitchen.

One of the men said, "Miss Leanna, you're dragging your leg." It went from there. No one would be satisfied until the tale was told. 

"Why didn't you call us?" My sweet friends were not happy with me. 

"Well, it was better, but it got worse after I unloaded 600 pounds of feed."

And you didn't think one of us would come do that for you?" 

They shook their heads in wonder at my foolishness.

Then, I saw the body of Christ in action. They gathered around me and prayed, then sent me to bed. They folded up the chairs and table and put them away. They loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen and gathered all the supplies we'd been using in a neat stack next to the cabinet where they're usually stored. 

I was already in bed when I got a text. "Everything's done and we've locked the doors. Hope you feel better."

The body of Christ wasn't through. They checked on me repeatedly to be sure I was resting and had the care and help I needed. They continued to pray. Despite their very busy lives, they cared for me.

I can't begin to express how loved I felt. I experienced people being the hands and feet of Christ and it was beautiful beyond compare.

If I didn't already know Jesus, I would want to after this experience, and it's left me pondering. If I, and the rest of the body of Christ, loved the world the way they loved me through my back problem, we could make a difference that words never will.

They preached me a sermon without words.

My friends didn't just talk about Jesus' love, they showed me by their actions. 

I can't tackle the whole world, though I'd like to try, but I can care for those around me, including those who don't know Jesus. I can make a difference in my community and, in so doing, in my world, and you can, too. 

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, 
to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, 
even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" 
Matthew 25:40 nasb

It's time the body of Christ preached a sermon the world can understand. 

Serving Christ by serving others. It's a sermon that needs no words, the kind of sermon that can change the world. 

Preach on, brothers and sisters. No words required.
My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me.
In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 1Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2How to Live LongerIs Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted SuicideThe Opportunity in Trialsand The Monarch Migration Badge

#bodyofChrist #loveGodloveothers #disciple #Christian #Christianaction

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Monarch Migration Badge

"Congrats on earning your Monarch Migration Badge" the email read. Fitbit was notifying me that I had walked a lifetime total of 2,500 miles, the same distance as the Monarch butterfly's migration.

2,500 miles is quite a distance. Could a butterfly survive a trip that long? No. As it turns out, they can't. 

Every year, when temperatures begin to cool, the Monarch butterfly begins its annual migration toward Mexico and Southern California. (Most Monarchs in the U.S. head toward Mexico.) 

The traveling butterflies begin their migration, but no individual Monarch makes it. The first Monarch begins the migration, lays eggs that hatch, mature, and continue the journey. It is the fourth generation Monarch that arrives at the overwintering site. 

The initial migrant Monarch begins a journey it will never complete. 

The destination is not the point of the journey. Survival of the species is the objective. In a way, the "point" of the Monarch's life is to complete their portion of this incredible relay for survival. If the butterfly does its part, and the next butterfly does its part, and the next, the goal will be accomplished. Survival will be insured.

It's all about the journey.  

In a way, the life of a disciple is much the same. We, too, are on a journey of obedience that must be completed. We know, and will reach, our destination, but if we fail to fulfill our role in the body of Christ, fail to reproduce our faith along the way, the cause of Christ will be seriously jeopardized.

Every one of us in the body of Christ must do our part for the purposes of our Lord to be accomplished. No single individual is more important that anyone else, but every person is vital to the proper function of the body of Christ.

Our journey is not a success when we bask in the spotlight. Our journey is a success when we work together to give Christ "center stage". 

"For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12 nasb)

Today, let's take a close look at our own lives. Are we, like the Monarch, living for the greater good, or only for ourselves? Are we making a difference that will be felt for generations to come?

We were created to be more than we know. We were intended to be a vital part in the Kingdom of God.

Let us not live as those who cling to this world. Instead, let us live as those who are on a journey toward an eternal destination, because that's exactly who we are.
**** My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me.

In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  The Potential for HeritageDoes God Know When I Will Die? Part 1Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2How to Live LongerIs Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted Suicide, and The Opportunity in Trials.

photo courtesy of

#MonarchMigrationBadge #MonarchMigration #journey #bodyofChrist #FitBit #FitBitbadge

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Opportunity in Trials

Joseph had one misadventure after another. Just when he'd climbed out of one precarious situation, another came his way. It began to look as if he'd never find a place of peace and security.  

You probably remember Joseph. He was the favorite son of his father, Israel. Joseph was always a dreamer of dreams. In his dreams, he had authority and power. Others bowed down to him. It was exciting stuff, and Joseph expected to have the future he dreamed about. 

When he was still a boy, he made the mistake of telling his brothers about his dreams. They didn't find them quite as exciting as Joseph did. I might be wrong about this, but I've always thought the brothers believed Joseph's dreams would come true, and it made them jealous and angry. 

Their father favored Joseph over his brothers and, it appeared, God did, too.

Their anger birthed a decision born of opportunity. You know the story. The brothers threw Joseph in a pit, then sold him to traveling traders (who, by the way, were selling the Balm of Gilead). In no time, Joseph was a slave in Potiphar's house. 

He was Potiphar's property. 

Being sold as a slave is a tragedy, but in the midst of tragedy, Joseph's character was revealed. 

That's what trials and tribulations do... They strip away our pretense and reveal what's inside. James 1:2 says we should "count it all joy" when we encounter trials. The root word for trials means "piercings". I believe the trials we encounter are designed to serve as "piercings" that reveal what's on the inside. 

The piercings of trials remove our facade and reveal the core of who we are.

The amazing part of this story is that what appeared to be an opportunity for the brothers to rid themselves of their trial (the irritating little brother) became an opportunity for Joseph to reveal his character. 

The brothers wasted their trial. Joseph seized his. 

He faced his trial with the same steadfast work ethic he'd demonstrated when tracking down his brothers for his father. 

Joseph responded to tragedy the way we all should. He was faithful to do the right thing, regardless of his circumstances. He didn't waste time being angry or bitter. He didn't whine or complain. 

Joseph did the job set before him with all his might, despite the circumstances, and we should, too.

There's no avoiding the trials of life, but they don't have to be wasted. Both Joseph and his brothers faced trials and revealed their true character, and we will, too.

When trials come, and they will, let's do what Joseph did. Let's use them to become the men and women God intended us to be.

**** My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me.

In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  The Blessing JarThe Potential for HeritageDoes God Know When I Will Die? Part 1Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2How to Live LongerIs Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?, and The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted Suicide.

#trials #opportunity #sufferingisneverwasted #characterrevealed #disciple #Christian
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Changing of Our Culture: Physician-Assisted Suicide

My blog posts are generally written for Christians, but today, I'm writing for the atheist and the agnostic, as well as the Christian. 

I generally write to teach and encourage. Today, I'm writing to inform and warn. Be prepared to be shocked.

Yesterday, I received an email in my inbox with an intriguing title. "Good News About Dying in America." It was a commentary article from Medscape, a respected medical company. They provide medical education and medical news. I read their emails and continuing medical education materials fairly often. This is not a radical, edgy organization. This is medical mainstream.

"Changing a culture is one of the most difficult of human tasks," the article by Dr. George Lundberg began. That's true, but to begin by admitting a plan to change our culture is underway was very concerning to me.

"The American cultural norm, for many decades, even centuries, has been to sustain life and to prevent death for as long as possible." This is also a true statement. Humans are born with the certainty that they will also die. Every single one of us. Letting go of those we love is hard. I understand that. I've been at the bedside of dying people numerous times. 

Somewhere along the way, people began to ask physicians to "do all you can do", and we've done it. Whether it was sensible or not. We've prolonged death with pointless treatment when palliative care would have been more appropriate and more reasonable. The threat of lawsuits, combined with the need to avoid "failure" and an unwillingness to "give up" are only part of the problem. 

No one races to embrace grief. It's hard and long-lasting.

We don't like it, and we never want it, but dying and grief are a normal part of life. The problem is compounded when the process of dying includes pain and suffering. 

We want suffering to end, and we want it to end immediately. Especially if the suffering is our own, or that of someone we love. I understand that desire, but killing ourselves or someone we love to end the suffering should not be an option.

We need to understand that death happens, come to grips with our beliefs about life after death, and make decisions accordingly. We are all going to die, even those we love the most. 

Sometimes a plethora of medical devices and treatments are appropriate because the expectation of recovery is reasonable. Sometimes, they aren't.  

Dr. Lundberg's article continued by reminding the readers of two articles published in respected medical journals, both written by physicians who had assisted in the death of a patient's life. In 1988, a physician related assisting the death of a young woman with terminal cancer by giving IV morphine. (There was an uproar in the medical community about this.) In 1991, a physician admitted giving a terminal patient a prescription for medication that would end her life. That decade also saw the shocking notoriety of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who assisted dozens of patients with their deaths.

"The right message writ large but by a deeply flawed messenger," Dr. Lundberg wrote, and I knew for sure where his commentary was headed. His agenda is physician-assisted suicide.
It's already legal in several states, including Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont. Laws legalizing physician-assisted suicide will soon go into effect in California, as well. "Many more states will follow as we approach a tipping point."

He has judged the culture correctly. 

"At long last, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved payment for voluntary end-of-life counseling as part of its 2016 Medicare physician payment schedule. When you pay physicians to do something, they will do it."

Physicians have always given end-of-life counseling. "Your mother is dying. There's nothing more we can do." That's the beginning of an end-of-life counseling session that should be followed by an explanation of the futility of ongoing aggressive medical care and the appropriateness of hospice and palliative care. A discussion about the ways to alleviate suffering with appropriate medication and comfort measures should be included. I've had those discussions with patients and their families many times.

Never has my end-of-life counseling session included the option of physician-assisted-suicide. Never have I offered to assist patients in killing themselves. I, like other physicians of my era, took the Hippocratic oath. I vowed to "first, do no harm". 

Assisting a patient in killing themselves is not doing no harm.

Now, Medicare will pay physicians to discuss options about end-of-life issues. It's not a big jump to expect that, as laws legalizing physician-assisted-suicide spread across the country, Medicare will begin to pay for ending life, not just counseling.

I have long thought cultural change is needed, but killing people to hasten their death is not the answer. Palliative care (with comfort measures and adequate pain control) can, and does, make the process of dying much less difficult. 

A few months ago, I spent eleven days (and some of those eleven nights) at the bedside of a dying neighbor.  She was moved to Sanctuary Hospice House, where she lived for three days. They kept her clean, and turned, and comfortable. She was given medication to stop her cough and help her pain. They actively alleviated her suffering and, when she stepped out of this life and into the next, it was so quiet, her husband almost missed it. 

When her time came, she died.

Not once did she ask for help to hasten her death. Not once did we consider it.

Death is a part of living and the process of dying is not without benefit. It gives us time to grieve, to say our goodbyes. It gives our family members time to accept the inevitable. 

Some suffering cannot be avoided, but it doesn't have to be wasted. We can learn and change, even in the midst of suffering, and palliative care can help us.

Killing ourselves and those we love is not the answer. No matter how lovely the words used to describe physician-assisted-suicide, it's not an act of mercy. It's not "doing no harm". It's not the answer some might want it to be. 

My friend and colleague, Dr. Bill Toffler, lives and practices in Oregon. He has written an excellent article on this issue and I encourage you to read it. Click on the link to Killing Isn't Caring.
In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links:  The Same JesusThe God Who Never FailsHalfway to CanaanThe Blessing JarThe Potential for HeritageDoes God Know When I Will Die? Part 1Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2How to Live Longer, and Is Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?
#physicianassistedsuicide #PAS #medicare #lifeisprecious #SanctuaryHospiceHouse

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?

This is the fourth in a four-part series written to answer the questions, "Does God know when I will die?" and "Can the number of days I have be changed?" (If you've missed one of the posts in this series, the links will be at the end of this article.)

Because God is both omnipresent and omniscient, He is everywhere and knows everything. He knows when we are born and when we die. His Word makes it clear that our choices can affect the number of days we are allotted, with sin cutting short our days and loving obedience bringing additional days.

Obedience to the commands of God is hard in the self-centered culture in which we live. 

Self-sacrifice is all too rare, and living simply is denigrated. We want more, not less.

Life in Christ, however, is not about us. It's about honoring and serving the Lord, Jesus Christ. 

The life of a disciple is often in direct opposition to the life of the world around us. It sets us apart. Makes us different. Sometimes, it makes us a target.

Our life in Christ will not, primarily, be spent on this earth. This is merely the anteroom to heaven, where we will live for all eternity. 

When we encounter difficulties, there's a tendency to panic, and imagine that the trouble will be unending. It's easy to forget that troubles in this world, are by definition, time-limited. 

Whatever difficulty we face here is temporary, a blink of the eye in comparison to our eternal life.

Is longer life worth the cost of obedience? Is following Christ worth any difficulty that might come as a result? Is it worth standing firm under persecution?

Following Christ may be unpopular, but it's worth it.

Being a disciple of Christ is not about following a list of rules. By definition, disciples have a relationship as a pupil with the teacher they follow. If we are disciples of Jesus, we have a personal relationship with Him, through which He teaches us to be more like Him. We speak with Him and we listen when He speaks with us. 

This is so important, that it bears repeating: If we follow Jesus, we have a relationship with Him. 

Our Master is trustworthy. We can count on Him. He never leaves us alone, never fails us. The sweetness of that relationship alone, regardless of extra days on earth, makes anything we face worth it for the joy of honoring Him. 

Do you know the sweetness of serving Christ? The reality of a relationship with the Most High God? If not, simply turn to Him in abandon and allow Him to cleanse your sin and transform your life. 

Following Jesus, in this world and the next. Nothing else is worth as much.
photo courtesy of

#disciple #Christian #worthit #obedience

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Live Longer

This mini-series began with two questions. Does God know when I will die? Can I make a difference in the length of my life?

The answer to both questions is yes. God knows how many days of life we have. He knows when we will die. He can, and does, add days to our allotment based on our choices. 

There are at least two ways described in Scripture that add length to our lives. 

In Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 30, God set a choice before His people. Obedience and life. Disobedience and death. (also see Proverbs 3:1-2, 9:10-11)

 "by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him, for this is your life and the length of your days..." 
                                            Deuteronomy 30:20 nasb

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
For length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you."
                                 Proverbs 3:1-2 nasb

"The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be shortened."
                             Proverbs 10:27 nasb

God's word is very clear. He honors righteousness with an increase in days. 

Just to be sure we understand, this does not mean God will give us a longer life if we go to church every Sunday, or do good deeds, or abstain from certain sins. Those actions may be a part of fearing/respecting/honoring God, but our actions must flow from our love for Him. 

His word is equally clear. The years of the wicked will be shortened. We can sin as much as we want to sin, but those choices come with a price. We can cause tremendous destruction with our choices, but God sees and will eventually bring our sinful choices to an end. 

Defiant sin can shorten our lifespan.

The second method for adding length to our lives is a subset of the first and comes from the Ten Commandments.

Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land 
which the Lord you God gives you.
                                     Exodus 20:12 nasb

This verse can be taken one of two ways. First, honoring your parents will result in living in the Promised Land for a longer period of time. (Same lifespan. More of it in the Promised Land) Second, honoring your parents will result in prolonged life when you are living in the Promised Land. (Longer life, no matter where you are.) Ephesians 6:3 seems to point toward the second interpretation. 

Honoring your parents will results in a longer lifespan.

The key to a long life is simple, and easier than you might think. 

If you want a longer life, do what God says. 

Love God. Love others. Demonstrate that love in the way we live.

We'll have one more post on this topic before we move on. Tomorrow's topic: Is longer life worth the cost of obedience? 


#lifeanddeath #longlife #whenwillIdie #doesGodknow #disciple #Christian #choice
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Does God Know When I Will Die? part 2

A friend called recently with a question about whether or not God knows when we will die and whether medical treatment can change when we die. The answer is not as simple as one might hope.

Yesterday, we considered the omniscience and omnipresence of God. 

He is everywhere at once. He knows everything.

Nothing surprises God. Nothing takes Him off-guard. Does God know when we will be born? Yes. Does God know when we will die? Yes. 

I can be certain about those two answers based on Psalm 139.

You wove me in my mother's womb...
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
the days that were ordained for me,
when as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139:13, 16 nasb

We are completely known, from beginning to end, by our Creator.

If all our days are known by God, can we change the time we have on this earth? Yes. We can change both the quality and the duration of the time we have on earth. 

When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, they had the choice to obey or not. That choice brought consequences, including (but limited to) expulsion from the garden, hard labor, and difficult childbirth. The quality of their life was changed by their choice, and likely the length of it, as well.

Medical studies have shown that certain lifestyle choices are associated with shortened length of life. If we make those lifestyle choices, we can expect to shorten our lives. Our lives are not shortened because of the medical study, our lives are shortened because of our choice. 

Some lifestyles are associated with diseases that can not only shorten our lives, but also drastically impact the quality of our lives as well. (smoking and lung cancer)

If we have diabetes, we can choose to follow a strict regimen of diet, exercise, and medication. We can choose to control our blood sugars and decrease the possibility of suffering and complications from diabetes, such as blindness, loss of sensation, loss of limb, and cardiovascular disease. Who wants to go blind? No one. All those complications will decrease the quality of our lives. 

Making good choices makes a difference.

High cholesterol levels are clearly associated with heart disease. If we take medication to lower our cholesterol, it may seem that a low cholesterol is the goal. It's only part of the goal. The goal of lipid-lowering medication is to avoid the consequences of a high cholesterol, which is, ultimately either heart damage from a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or debilitating chest pain from angina. Our choice to take (or not take) medication for high cholesterol can affect the quality of our life. 

Does that mean that medical care makes changes God doesn't know about? Of course not. He is omniscient. He knows everything. He knows the choices we will make and the effect those choices will have on our lives.

Both lifestyle choices and medical choices can change the quality of our lives, but can they change the length of our lives? Yes. We'll consider how to lengthen (or shorten) our days tomorrow. 

For now, let's take a close look at the lifestyle choices we make. Are they leading to complications that will improve or worsen the quality of our lives? Even more important, do our lifestyle choices draw people to Jesus or push them away?

Our choices do make a difference. 

Choose well.


#lifeanddeath #whenwillIdie #doesGodknow #disciple #Christian #choice