Saturday, September 3, 2016

Jesus Compliance

We are, in an odd way, a nation of compliance, although it's not always the kind of compliance I wish we had. The government mandates an action, and we have to comply, because of the authority behind the mandate. There's HIPPA compliance. OSHA compliance. AHCA (Affordable Health Care Act) compliance. Tax compliance. Traffic law compliance.

In the midst of all the man-made rules we're required to follow, there's a more importance kind of compliance with which we need to concern ourselves.

Jesus compliance. 

Luke tells us that Jesus taught with the kind of authority that demanded compliance, as well. His, however, was a greater authority than any government on earth has ever had.

"and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority." (Luke 4:32 NASB)

Exousia is the Greek word translated here as "authority". It indicates both the power to do something (might or strength) and the right to do it (jurisdiction). The implication is that Jesus is not only an expert in his area, but also someone who must be obeyed. 

I tend to think of authority as one of three things, either police/enforcement authority, governmental/legislative authority, or expert-in-the-field authority. In this instance, "authority" means all three. 

When Jesus spoke, He was not merely an expert on Scripture. He also spoke as one who has power over how we respond to what He says, as well as the authority to enforce that power.  

He wasn't just speaking AS one who has authority; He was the one who HAS authority. 

That kind of authority demands a response. It requires that we evaluate our lives, see where we fail to measure up, and make any changes necessary to bring our lives into compliance. 

Jesus compliance isn't easy, but it's not optional, either. 

Today, let's spend a few minutes looking at our lifestyles. How compliant are we with the teaching of Jesus? How faithful are we to obey the One who must be obeyed?

Let's recognize our failings in comparison to Christ, acknowledge His authority, and make whatever changes are needed to bring our lives into compliance with Him.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Why I Chose to Love a Terrorist
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#Jesus #Christian

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why I Chose to Love a Terrorist

It was never my intention to love a terrorist. Not even one. Certainly not multiple terrorists. Certainly not the kind of terrorist who kills people by hacking them to death or sawing off their heads.

Like most people, I read the news reports in horror as ISIS/PKK/Taliban/Al Qaeda, AQAP, and Al Shabaab (among others) killed dozens of people at a time. I tallied the death count every day, as if knowing the smaller numbers could somehow diminish the evil of the total monthly kills. I fumed. I grieved. I hesitate to admit it, but I hated.

None of it did any good at all.

I'm an activist at my core, so I adopted a terrorist of the week. Every week. I learned as much as I could about each one. Learned about their families. Their losses. Their sorrows. Their education. Their religion.

My friends thought I was a nut. I wondered about myself, too.  Regardless, I persevered.

Before I knew it, they became people to me, and not just Hitler-esque names with blood dripping from their hands. They were lost people acting out a form of religion fueled by anger, hate, and fear. They were people who needed Jesus in the worst way imaginable. 

I began to pray for them by name. 

Frankly, I wanted to pray for their annihilation. Instead, I prayed that God would either bring them to repentance and to Jesus or end their reign of terror. I didn't much care which.

As I prayed, a strange thing happened. I began to care whether or not they met Jesus. 

Two verses fueled my passion. 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 nasb

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 nasb

The longer I read those verses and prayed for those terrorists, the more I began to think, God so loved even terrorists... God is not willing for any terrorists to perish... and I shouldn't be either. 

Those verses did something profound in me. 

If God so loved... I should, too. 

Eventually, I did. I hated what they did, hated the death and destruction, the grief and the pain, but I cared about their eternity. And I still do.

Would I continue to love them if they were sawing off the head of someone dear to me? I freely admit that I would not. I'm not that much like Jesus, but He would still love. I know that, because He loved us and prayed for us while He was on the cross.

When one of the terrorists I had claimed for the kingdom of God was killed by a drone, I wept. I rejoiced that his reign of destruction was ended, of course, but I wept for his eternity without Christ. One after another, "my" terrorists' reigns of destruction have come to an end. If any of them have come to Jesus, I don't know about it. 

But I don't have to know, because caring about the terrorists' salvation, loving them as Christ loved them, changed something profound in me. I haven't met anyone who is "worse" or more deadly than the terrorists for whom I pray. I've never met anyone who needs Jesus more than they. 

Gradually, I began to see all people through the lens with which I view the terrorists. I began to care about all people meeting Jesus, no matter how unlike me they are. As a result, I'm more inclusive. Quicker to love. Slower to reject. Less likely to condemn. 

As unlikely as it seemed at the beginning of this journey, trying to love the terrorists like Jesus loves has made me a tiny bit more like Him. It's a good thing, because I need every little bit of progress I can get. I'm still so far from what He meant me to be.

I thought I was using God's secret weapon, His love, on the terrorists. Instead, Jesus used His secret weapon on me. He, who loved me at my most unlovely, taught me to love those who are also unlovely. He showed me that they are lost, just like I once was.

I didn't intend to love terrorists. I never wanted to care. But I do now. 

So I still pray. I still beg God to speak to their hearts and bring about the same repentance He brought to me. (I still beg Him to bring about an end to their reign of destruction, too. I also still pray for their victims, the families of victims, and that the potential victims will be spared.)

Whether He will bring terrorists to Jesus or not, I don't know. I'm not in charge of results. My job is simply to pray. I'm still hoping, though, that, one day, a former terrorist-turned-lover-of-Jesus (maybe one like Saul-turned-Paul) will greet me at the gate of heaven with a smile and say, "I'm here because you prayed. Thank you, my sister."

When/if that happens (and I hope it does), I'm pretty sure I'll cry. Even if it is heaven. 

I know that people will read this and say I'm foolish. They'll say I'm being silly, and fanciful, and maybe even stupid. 

If they do, I hope they'll take time to see what Jesus said about loving your enemies and praying for the ones who despitefully use you. He's the one who hung on the cross and prayed, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing." He was completely serious when He prayed about forgiving, and He's serious about us doing it, too. 

I've learned an important principle along this journey. Hate only hurts me, but love can change the world. 

In a world filled with hate, love doesn't make sense, but, in heaven, it will. 

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:43-45 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Living Like We Say We Believe
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Living Like We Say We Believe

I've revisited the story of Jairus and his daughter recently and found another important truth. You may remember them. His daughter was desperately ill and he ran to Jesus. Jesus was seemingly distracted by multiple needs. By the time Jesus got around to Jairus' need, his daughter was already dead. 

But Jesus.

Jesus raised her from the dead.

Jairus, was a synagogue official. He was an important public figure who was well known in his community. When his daughter became ill, he fell at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to come to see her. He didn't care who saw him do that outrageous act. 

He and his family experienced the most wonderful intervention of God imaginable. His daughter, who had died, was raised to life again by Jesus. Those two incredible words, "Child, arise," changed his life forever. Going forth from that healing, he was, undoubtedly, a different man. 

You might expect that Jairus would become a key player in the kingdom of God. In our culture, he would have written a best-selling testimonial and a zippy speech, commanded thousands for speaking engagements, and traveled everywhere, telling people about his experience. 

None of that happened. 

That day, he likely had a great celebration with his wife and daughter. His heart probably nearly burst with joy. The next day, he was probably back at the synagogue, just like always, doing the tasks he always did. 

His life went on. 

The thing that was different was Jairus. He had experienced the most intimate time imaginable with the Triune God and he was changed forever. He had shared a "secret" with Jesus that was not to be shared with others. (Jesus instructed him to tell no one.) 

Can you imagine having the kind of news Jairus had, but being unable to tell anyone?

What Jairus was to do was not tell what happened but to show what happened by the life he lived from that day forward. 

Because of the work of Jesus in his life, he was to be different in every area. Home. Synagogue. Business. With family and friends. 

A crowd was there when he fell at Jesus' feet. Those people knew that his point of change happened right there. Imagine the talk. "That Jairus has been a different man since he fell down at the feet of Jesus."

Oh, that they would say the same for us! No one cares about our words if they are not borne out in our actions. 

We must not just talk about our faith, but live it in such a way that we give incontrovertible proof of the power of God in our lives. 

Today, let's live like we mean what we say we believe. 

Her parents were amazed; but He instructed them to tell no one what had happened. (Luke 8:56 NASB)
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Do We Want to Feel Better or Be Better

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#Christian #Jesus 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Do We Want to Feel Better or Be Better?

In case you've ever wondered, wailing is not my favorite. Lamentations, a book of wailing, is not my favorite, either. It's mighty glum reading. 

Lamentations was read annually by the Jews to remind them of the fall of Jerusalem and their captivity in Babylon. 

It begins with a heart-wrenching personification of Jerusalem. She sits, weeps, grieves, and is comfortless. 

Judah gets a turn, as well. In exile. No rest. Overwhelmed. Mourning. Bitter. Hungry. Even the roads in Zion mourned. It's not a pretty picture. (Lam.1:4)

Lamentations 1 calls repeatedly for God to take note of their situation. "See, O, Lord..." It goes on to say, "See if there is any pain like my pain..." No one, the writer believed, had ever had it worse, and it was all God's fault. (Not in so many words, but the intent is clear...)

Three times in the first chapter, the writer said he wept because "there is no one to comfort me."

There's genuine sorrow over their circumstances, but there does not appear to be sorrow over their sin. It brings to mind a line from Gone With the Wind... (The Leanna Paraphrase coming up.) They were not at all sorry they had sinned, but they were very, very sorry God had called them to account.

What the people wanted was not cleansing from sin, but comfort in the midst of their sin. They didn't want to change. They wanted to feel better about business as usual.

I'm afraid that sometimes describes me, as well. Eager for relief. Not so eager for change. What about you?

If we want comfort in the midst of our divine discipline, we need to do more than whine and wail. We need to repent and turn from our sin. In fact, it's the best way to prevent a stint of divine discipline. 

God's not in the business of making us feel better. His agenda is always for us to BE better. 

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6 esv

Today, let's ask ourselves one very important question. Do we want to feel better or be better? If we only want to feel better, we will never please God. If we want to be more like Christ, our Lord is happy to help us along that path, and He will. 

There's a choice to be made. Let's choose wisely.

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 niv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: What About Me?

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
#Christian #DailyDevotional

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What About Me?

I am often surprised.

As I read Scripture, I'm especially surprised by how people responded to John the Baptizer.

I don't know if this is right or not, but I've always envisioned John with hairy legs sticking out from a furry camel suit, long, dark hair flying in every direction, piercing eyes blazing with the fire of God. I'm pretty sure his appearance was super-intimidating, but it's his words that make me shudder, even now. 

I've been around a few camels. I even rode a camel once and thought it was fun. I didn't think the camel smelled good, though. I don't know about camel suits, but I doubt they were aesthetically pleasing. I'm not sure John was, either.

On the day that surprises me, John was dressed in his camel hair outfit with the big leather belt wrapped around him. Hair going in every direction. Eyes boring into people's souls. Words slashing through the air faster than a bevy of swords. (The Leanna Paraphrase coming up is from Luke 3:7-14)

"You brood of vipers..."

"The ax is laid at the root of the trees..." 

The multitudes were shocked. "What are we to do?"

"Give away your extra tunic." 

As if giving away your extra clothes was not bad enough, the tax collectors said, "What about us? What should we do?"

"Don't collect anything extra."

I don't know if John needed a security team for crowd control or if they had come to see for themselves, but there were soldiers in the crowd that day, too. Just to be sure you understand, these were not romantic, tenderhearted guys. 

Roman soldiers were the toughest of the tough, the first century version of our marines. They had great leeway in their interactions with the populace. They could falsely accuse someone, then demand a bribe, and be assured of getting it. They could double fines and skim the extra. 

It was so common as to be expected that the soldiers had free reign and limited consequences. If they wanted more money than they were paid, they could demand and receive it. And they did.

Maybe they thought that giving up a tunic or collecting less money were tasks for the average man. Maybe John's talk of the wrath of God had put them in a repentant frame of mind. Maybe the Holy Spirit was at work. 

Regardless, the soldiers were as bold as lions. These men wanted soldier-sized tasks to do for God. "What about us? What are we to do?" the soldiers asked. 

Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?..." (Luke 3:14 NASB)

Isn't that a great question? They weren't just hearers. It seems they wanted to be doers, too. 

There was no doubt that John would have instructions for them, and that his instructions would be tough, but they didn't want to be left out. If the Kingdom of God was at hand, they wanted to do what it took to be a part.

I wonder sometimes if I am as willing to be a part of the Kingdom of God. If I am as willing to ask, "Give me a task for you, Lord. Send me. Allow me. What about me?"

Today, let's ask God for a task to do for Him. "What about me? What do I need to do in order to please you, God?"

The Kingdom of God is closer than it's ever been. Time is short. If we're going to serve our Lord, it's time to do it, so start today.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Our Hearts Are Revealed
Here's the link to the trafficking post: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking
Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 
Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD


Monday, August 29, 2016

When Our Hearts are Revealed

There are passages in the Bible that shock me every time I read them. One of those is in Luke 4.

"and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way." (Luke 4:29, 30 NASB)

Jesus stood up and taught in the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town. 

People were impressed from the start, and commented on what a great job He was doing. 

He continued by saying that a prophet is not welcome in His own town and no miracles could happen there. When they realized Jesus was talking about their town, the praise turned to rage in an instant, and the men of Nazareth rose up to kill Him.

The men chased Jesus out of the city and to the edge of a hill, where they planned to shove Him down the cliff. Despite all the pushing and shoving, Jesus managed to quietly move through their midst and walk away. 

He was right from the beginning. No miracles would happen in Nazareth.

My surprise is not because their praised turned to rage so quickly, but that they were "in church" when it happened. 

The people in the synagogue looked like they belonged there. 

They had done everything that outwardly indicated they were godly. They were in the synagogue at the appropriate time, and they participated in prayer and studying the Scripture just as if they "meant it". 

Their hearts, however, were not fixed on God at all. They were full of pride, greed, anger, and murder. Their god-fixation was not even skin-deep.

I wonder what our hearts would reveal if Jesus confronted us in church today they way He confronted the men of Nazareth? Are our hearts focused on Christ or our own desires? Do we listen to the Scripture and teaching, or sit quietly while we compose to-do lists in our heads?

Today, let's pray that we would see our hearts the way Jesus sees them and it would trigger a desire to change. 

Let's pray that our hearts would be so ready for Jesus that He would not only be welcome, but that we would be receptive to whatever miracle He wants to perform.

Here's how you can pray for me:  I'm starting a new mission prayer project today. I'll write about it once it unfolds, but it's fairly involved and will take multiple people working together to accomplish it. IF it goes well, it will provide much greater prayer support for missionaries. 
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Power of Telling: Healing Body and Soul
Here's the link to the trafficking post: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Power of Telling: Healing Body and Soul

The woman had been sick for years. She'd tried cure after cure, only to find that all they offered was a lighter pocketbook. Her family and everyone who loved her had given up hope. 

Healing would not come by mere human hands. That was obvious from the fortune that had been spent trying to be healed. 

She might be down to her last hope, but she wasn't ready to give up. Not quite yet.

Jesus had raised the dead, given sight to the blind, and wholeness to the lame. Jesus was not just a man. He was filled with the power of God. He was God made flesh. 

Jesus could heal her; she was sure of it. 

It was her intent to escape notice. This woman who had spent the last twelve years unclean because of her hemorrhaging must have planned her move so carefully. She would slip into the crowd, move up behind Jesus, touch His fringe, receive healing, and slip away. 

No one would ever know. Even if she accidentally touched them in the crowd, even if she made them unclean by her touch, they wouldn't have to know, would they? She had suffered enough, and she wanted to try. 

When she touched the fringe, a wave of blazing heat moved through her. She knew something had happened. She knew she was healed. No doubt about it. She wanted to shout for joy, but she had been unclean so long that she knew better. She would slip away as quickly as possible. 

Then, Jesus spoke. 

"Who touched Me?" He asked. Her heart began to sink. What would happen now? She knew she was healed. Would He take it away? Would those she brushed against turn on her because she had touched them? 

She shook like an autumnal leaf as she fell at the feet of Jesus. "Me. It was me," she confessed. 

When she looked up, those eyes full of compassion and love met hers. She lifted her head and began to speak. 

A hush fell over the crowd as she told her story for all to hear. She spoke of her illness, all the failed attempts at healing, her hope that Jesus could make her whole, and the miracle of healing she had experienced. She told it all, and everyone heard her. 

Her body was healed when she touched that fringe, but in that instant of telling, her spirit was healed as well.  At the feet of Jesus there was no condemnation. All she found there was an outpouring of grace, mercy, and love. She had told a crowd about her healing. After that, she could tell anyone. Everyone. 

When hope and help were gone, all that remained was Jesus. 

It turned out that He was all she needed. 

Are you in a weary place, desperate for circumstances to change? Does your life look great on the outside but feel terrible on the inside? Have you found material success without spiritual peace?

Take your need to Jesus and let Him do what only He can do, in whatever way He sees fit. With a heart filled with gratitude, tell your story of grace to all who will listen. 

But Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me." When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace." (Luke 8:46-48 NASB)

Photo above is of sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. I imagine her healing was like the dawn of a new day.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heartbreak of Human Trafficking

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List 

Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD