Can you see?

Miracles happen, sometimes in an instant, but sometimes over decades. Sometimes we recognize the miracle, but too often we allow the enemy to provide an explanation that puts the miracle into terms of our every day world view. When we stop seeing the miracle through God’s divine sovereignty, we lose it. The miracle happened, but we only see how it occurred in the natural realm.

Jesus rebuked Peter for speaking against the divine plan for salvation that required Jesus to go to the cross, be killed for our sins, and then rise from the dead in ultimate victory. See Mark 8:31-33. Jesus knew that Satan was the source of Peter’s inability to see the Father’s plan, and He immediately rebuked Peter for going along with Satan’s lie, lowering the sovereign plan of God into the realm man’s limitations. If we are willing to listen, Jesus will rebuke us too when we speak out against His miracle-work on earth, calling it merely an everyday occurrence stripped bare of God’s power and authority.

I have a friend who had a serious, acute medical issue. She asked me for prayer, and I gladly prayed for Jesus to heal her completely. The tests results were negative; none of the problems she feared showed up. She was relieved that the doctors had found a simple problem with an easy solution. I was happy that she would not have to face the worst, but I failed completely to rebuke her for not seeing the miracle God had given her. I have confessed my sin, and God faithfully forgave me. But my friend lost sight of the miracle God gave her.

I pray now for the courage to always speak up when I see a miracle in my life and in other’s. Satan comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus comes to give us life, but not just life on earth bound by our own explanations for how all this works. He comes to give us an abundance of miracles that cannot be explained away with our logic or intellect. See John 10:10.

May I and everyone to whom He has connected me accept the divine truth of miracles every time we receive them.

Amen and amen.

“Only Believe”

In the 5th chapter of Mark, we learn about three people with different problems. Each one had a personal encounter with Jesus. Each one’s life was forever transformed by that encounter.

Whether we struggle with demonic strongholds so fierce that no earthly power can bind them to keep us from self-destruction, whether disease has ruined our lives and livelihood, whether the one we love most has died despite our most urgent, specific prayers, Jesus’ answer is the same: “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Mark 5:36.

The demonized man of the Gadarenes (verses 1-20) was shunned by society. All who had tried to help him had failed, as the demons who ruled him broke off all the restraints anyone used to keep him from harm. His screams for help did him no good because he had taken up residence among the dead. His whole life was reduced to “cutting himself with stones.” (verse 5) He had no life except his addiction to the destruction of his life.

But Jesus came to him, from across the sea. The demons that had infiltrated and taken over his life immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God and wanted nothing to do with Him, but the man, through his suffering, worshipped Jesus. And Jesus commanded every one of the demons to leave this tormented man. Because Jesus had such great compassion, the man regained his life and his “right mind.” (verse 15) Once Jesus had delivered the man from the demons’ stronghold over him, he was able to go back to his home town to proclaim all that Jesus had done for him. Because Jesus had set him free, all who saw and heard him now marveled instead of turning away in horror.

After Jesus delivered that man from the demons, He went back across the sea, where crowds of people followed and surrounded Him. A woman with a disease that had ruined her life and made her an outcast, a woman who had spent all of her money on doctors trying to find a cure, only to have the disease made even worse, came out into the crowd, where she was not permitted to be. She fought through the people who called her unclean, unfit to be near them because she knew, if only she could touch Jesus’ clothes, she would be made well. Jesus recognized her faith and pronounced to all that her faith had made her well. He told her, “Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” Her unrelenting faith secured not only a moment of relief but peace and healing that lasted for her life.

Before Jesus encountered that woman, a leader of the church sought out Jesus through that same crowd for healing for his dying daughter. This man had to break through not only the crowd but also the politics of the church to reach Jesus on behalf of his loved one. While Jesus was ministering to the woman, the church official learned that his daughter had died. All seemed lost, and his friends told him to give up, but Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid, only believe.” (verse 36) Then Jesus went to the little girl, took her hand, and told her to arise. She did, and Jesus told the astonished family to get her something to eat. Jesus wanted the girl to get back to her regular life right then and there.

Whether we are killing ourselves because Satan and his demons have taken over our lives, whether disease has ruined our lives and robbed us of our livelihood, whether all seems lost because our prayers for the one we love most have not yet been answered, the solution remains simple: only believe.

Amen and amen.

 

Don’t Be Petrified

When we were kids, many of our moms told us, “If you make that face long enough, it’ll get stuck that way.” I certainly heard that warning many times as I stuck out my tongue at my sisters.  And we all know how bad habits form a rut that makes it harder and harder over time to pull out of.

Turns out our moms were on to something. When Jesus came into a synagogue to preach, the religious leaders “watched Him closely,” hoping that He would break one of their man-made rules “so thay they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:2. Jesus knew that they were plotting against Him, wanting to accuse Him of breaking their rules for healing someone on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man despite the Pharisees’ condemnation, but He was “grieved by the hardnes of their hearts.” Mark 3:5.

The word for hardness in Greek, as used in this passage, is “porosis,” which refers to blindness caused by hardening or callousness. It is also a medical term that describes the process of a fractured bone’s extremity being petrified.

When we continually choose not to see the love of God, when we choose only to see how Jesus breaks the rules we’ve erected to give us a sense of control over our world, we fracture our relationship with our creator, just like breaking a bone in our arm. If we leave that bone broken, it will eventually set in that crooked, broken position. The end of the bone, broken off from its source of life, will harden, become useless, petrified. It will get stuck that way just like Mom warned.

But the great news is (and there’s always great news to be found in God’s kingdom), with one cry of a hardened heart, Jesus can turn our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26. So Moms need not worry when their kids make faces at each other. They’re not really gonna get stuck that way. But anyone who sets his face against God and continues to scowl at Him, refusing to accept His love, will too soon get stuck that way.

If your face is stuck in a permanent scowl, just look up! Turn your eyes to look for God. If you choose to begin the journey back to Him, He will return to you. Zechariah 1:3. You might even find yourself smiling.

Amen and amen.

 

Team Work

When we pray for someone we love, let’s always go the distance. Let’s build a stretcher to carry them on and fight through the crowds. Let’s climb to the top of the house carefully carrying them to Jesus. Let’s dig through every layer of the rooftop till we see Jesus and can safely get them into Jesus’ presence. See Mark 1-12.

Those we love who cannot help themselves, who are paralyzed by fear or addiction or lust or greed or pain or just the unbearable weight of living in this fallen world, must have someone to carry them to Jesus, the only One who can truly save them.

More often than not, it takes more than one friend to carry someone else to Jesus. If the one we love can’t get there alone, most of us will not be strong enough to carry them through the crowds and onto the rooftop alone. And if we were strong enough, we would surely drop them along the way.

But if we commit ourselves to seeking out others to love our loved one with us, we can get them through the crisis, through their aversion to help, through the lies of the enemy, through the minefields of this world, and carry them into Jesus’ presence.

And then! Jesus will not just heal their disease, strengthen their bones or restore their physical health. He will heal them to the uttermost–He will go to the root cause of the problem and shine His love light on it so they can see down deep where the problem started. With the tenderest love and compassion, Jesus will show them all sins that lead them to fall into the pit from which they couldn’t climb out, where the disease or paralysis or blindness seeped into their body like acid. Seeing the place where they fell or leaped into that pit will hurt their hearts just enough to cause them to cry out to Jesus, asking His forgiveness for having turned their backs on Him before the fall.

And then! Just because they came to Him and honestly asked for His help, Jesus tells them what they most long to hear: “Your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5. Hearing that gives them the ability and willingness to arise, take up the bed of pain and sorrow they had been confined to, and walk home. As they go, everyone they meet will see them and be amazed, knowing who they had been before-paralyzed and unable to walk on their own.

What a privilege to be part of that team! What joy to hear others say, “We never saw anything like this! Mark 2:12.

Amen and amen.

It’s Just Not Fair!

I know that much of life is not fair. I get that it’s how we play the hand we’re dealt and not what cards we get that really matters. But I celebrate when “good” people win and shake my head knowingly when “bad” people get what I think they deserve. I want a fair price for what I buy and for others to treat me at least as well as I treat them.

Equality and fairness as we understand those concepts, however, do not bind the kingdom of heaven. God expects us to obey Him. He is our sovereign creator and we must stand in reverent fear and awe before Him. Then, if we choose to obey in the slightest way, He opens up the storehouses of heaven to pour overflowing blessings into our lives.

His expectation is that we will be perfect as He is perfect. Matthew 5:48. But we’re just humans, how can we ever be perfect?! How is that fair? It is not fair according to the standards of this world. But when we weigh the benefits of simple obedience against the rewards, we can’t help but see that our return is ridiculously unfair–in our favor!

For the simple choice to believe in Jesus as our Savior, we get everlasting life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

God even invites us to test this principal. He asks us in Malachi to bring all our tithes into the storehouse to see if He will not open for us the windows of heaven and pour out on us such blessings that there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10. So the equation here is give a tenth of what we have (which God supplied us with in the first place) and in exchange we get overflowing, uncontainable blessings poured into our lives.  Talk about unfair!

There are many, many other examples of the unfairness of God: to all who mourn, He gives a crown of beauty for the ashes of our sorrow if we only praise Him (Isaiah 61:3), if we bow our knees to Him, He gives us the riches of His glory and strengthens us with might through His spirit (Ephesians 3:14-16), by Jesus’ stripes, the scars He bore for us in unimaginable pain on the cross, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), and the list goes on and on.

I dare you to find out for yourself. Read the Bible. Find out if God’s plan of salvation isn’t beyond unfair in your favor. Or forget about it and go on with your life looking for fairness and equality there. He left that choice to you as He went to the cross to exchange His life for your salvation.

Amen and amen.

Don’t Hide From Success

Jesus tells us that we cannot keep what He has given us hidden. See Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27. In these parables, what was given was money. Two of the servants invested that money and made more for their master/employer. One of them hid the money out of fear. The ones who invested the money and earned more were rewarded with even greater authority. But the one who hid what he got, not earning any interest, had everything taken away from him. He was miserable and suffered as a result of his choice.

I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, and I am no theologian, but I believe with great certainty that every word of the Bible has an intimately personal meaning for each person reading it. This personal meaning and application is in addition to the historical context and application to the whole church body of believers. My disclaimer is that I am about to explain how this parable speaks personally to me today, as a 61 year old grandma living in Southern Illinois. My hope is that by reading how this applies to me, you will begin wondering how it applies to you, and most importantly, that it will inspire you to read your Bible to dig deep for the treasures it has waiting just for you.

Now, to the point of this post-what does this parable mean to me? I am like the one given only one talent, and for most of my life, I have hidden that talent. When Jesus used the word “talent” in this parable as told by Matthew, that word referred to a large sum of money. But Jesus knew that by the time this parable would be translated into English, the word talent would much more commonly refer to a person’s abilities, what we are naturally good at. I am not exceptionally good at many things, but writing has always been easy for me, I have always loved to write, and if I had to say that I have a talent, writing would be about the only thing I could confidently identify.

Although most of my career has included writing, I have also written journals throughout my life. Those are definitely hidden back in a closet because who wants to read the angst and hope and details of my life? But more recently, I have begun writing fiction. I have a novel that’s about 2/3 complete, two complete short stories, and a couple of children’s books that I am finishing and trying to get illustrated. I have written a lot besides this blog, but I haven’t made any real effort to get my writing published. Fear of rejection and dismay because I know absolutely nothing about the publishing process except that it is complicated with thousands of choices that I will have to make.

The alternative to trying to publish my writing, however, is either to stop writing, which would be a death knell for my spirit, or to keep hiding my “talent.” Neither is acceptable to me. So, I am praying for guidance from my loving Father through this maze of decisions, and I am committing every part of this dream of publishing to Him.

“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 (NLT) In Hebrew, the word for commit is galal. Galal means to roll something away or off, such as rolling a stone off the mouth of a well. As I commit to God this dream and all of the “talent” or gifting God has given me, I thereby have access to the deep wells of His insight, revelation, humor, authority, understanding and love that will insure success. I may not have financial success, or any other kind of success as measured by the world, but what I write will bring glory to God. That is all that matters in the end.

Amen and amen.

Today is THE Day!

When my sons were little, we lived way out in the country, so far that we were the boondocks. On the 30 minute drive to school, I always asked them, “What is today?” They had to answer, “Today is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be happy in it.”

Now, the truth is that many of those mornings, I was frazzled and impatient, and the boys were fighting with each other and certainly not cooperating with me. But somehow we got into the car with backpacks stuffed with books and (hopefully finished) homework and lunch bags and (hopefully signed) permission slips. I would pull out of our long driveway and head out on our gravel road toward town and school.

Too many times, I am sure I asked the question through gritted teeth in an angry tone of voice, causing my sons to respond with sarcasm and rolled eyes. This would be one of many reasons that, once my little boys grew up and moved out to lead their separate lives, I have often prayed for God to fill in the gaps from where my parenting flopped.

Still, I hope they got the message that I was trying to learn myself. Whatever the day brings, even when, actually especially when, the day starts out like the worst Monday morning ever, with nothing going right and everything going wrong, we need to acknowledge that God gave us THIS day to rejoice in. We don’t get another one, just today.

And in the words of my beloved friend Phyllis, have a day of your choosing.

Amen and amen.