Blood in the Water

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It’s a well known fact. Biologists tell us that sharks can smell blood from 2-3 miles away. They follow their noses to the place where they sense it. They have an ‘attack mechanism’ to anything that is vulnerable. Blood acts as a trigger inside their brains. Occasionally dozens of sharks attack in a feeding frenzy that can be pretty horrific.

Almost 30 years in the Church has taught me that sharks aren’t the only ones that turn on the wounded. The Church was supposed to be a safe and a healing place. This is what the Holy Spirit wants. That isn’t always the case.

Someone fails, another falters. Sin is uncovered and everyone takes cover. Many people who could have been restored are instead trampled down. There are many who would rather kick than pray. There is almost always an escalation that creates even more blood in the water.

There are many who bleed. Those with a mental illness, or confined to a wheelchair, or with Downs Syndrome. The developmentally disabled, the drunk, the addict, the divorced, the adulterer, the homosexual, and the poor, the ex-con are just several kinds of people that regularly get hurt in our churches.

“God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 5:7, NLT

Mercy is what God extends to people who don’t deserve any. Failure to understand God’s deep penchant for mercy is the first step into religious confusion. Keep in mind that the Prodigal’s older brother refused to party with the forgiven son. How terribly sad.

In theory, we agree. We find tremendous inspiration when this verse is read. But the noble feelings do not always translate well into dedicated action. I have come to see that I must consciously press this into action. I must actively show mercy for the healing of others– and to protect my own heart.

The Kingdom of God is designed for losers; you could say it exists for the sick, the infirm, the sinner.

The Great Physician has come for the sick– and not so much for the healthy. He loves each of us, but cares in different ways.

If there is blood in the water, let’s turn it up a notch, and show special mercy for those who are struggling. Let us be kinder than we have to be. If we err— let us always err on the side of mercy and kindness.

Father, please help me be full of mercy as I touch those who are in pain. I ask that you would make me sensitive and alert to each one on this path. –Amen.

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What Good are the Miracles of Jesus?

His touch makes the difference
His touch makes the difference

But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 

–John 10:38

The healings Jesus performed boldly attest to his claim to be God.  When we read about them, as recorded in the Gospels, we cannot doubt their supernatural flavor.  A normal person cannot give sight to someone who has been blind from birth.  I cannot raise a dead person, it’s simply not in the realm of even remote possibility.

Jesus performed hundreds and hundreds of healings, many not recorded in the Scriptures except through a vague and veiled reference to them.  There were not just healings, but he also did miracles over natural laws.  Water turned into wine, walking on the Sea of Galilee, feeding 5000 people with a little boys simple lunch.

You would think that the presentation of each miracle would bring a person to faith.  But that is not the case.  We assimilate them, and then process them to the point where we can nullify them.  “Sure Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead,” we say— but we inoculate ourselves against the truth of it.  We deafen ourselves, and silence the miracle. We roll right over it. How many miracles have we seen on any given day?

I need, I must re-visit these supernatural events again and again.  They are a tonic to my jaded soul.  These miracles require that I pick them up by their handle and make them my own.  Jesus Christ is waiting for us to accept him as supernatural, because that is what he is.  Does your Jesus work miracles?

“Remember the wonders he has done,
       his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,”

–Psalm 105:5

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The Fellowship of This Misery

Everything is broken.

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Luke 5:12, NLT

 

Let’s jump right into this passage from Luke 5.  A very sick man desires to become well.  The Bible text reveals that his condition is agonizingly desperate.  His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’  He is completely infected; he is ‘unclean’ and without hope. There is no treatment for what he has, doctors can do nothing, so he comes to Jesus.

We must emphasize this, the leper has no illusions of wholeness.  He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced, or persuaded by anyone else.  It occurs to him, that Jesus the healer (of lepers, and the like) may provide healing, or at the least a morsel of comfort.  This leper approaches the presence of Jesus, with such humility it is almost painful to witness. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except Jesus.

There is a fellowship of misery–some of us are “card-carrying” members.  Our diseases differ, but they have affected us completely.  Our pain, and our darkness vary.  Some have physical pain, others have a mental illness.  When we meet, there should be a secret handshake or a password. We share a comradeship— we are all part of the same community.  We are a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.

How do we measure our pain and desperate darkness?  What do we use to measure it? For the most part, our lives have been destroyed. I think we can understand it by looking up at Jesus.  Lying in the dirt, we believe the unbelievable.  Our faith doesn’t activate his healing as much it guides it to our greatest need.  The presence of Jesus drives away the pain.  His love for us echoes into our emptiness. And he wants to do this!  He has come for us. He carries us through this.

I struggle with deep depression and despondency.  I have been on meds for a long time.  But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all this melancholy is driven out. He comes and injects a true hope into my spirit.  Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship?  I think not.  (My wife could tell you this.)  But isn’t about us becoming “angels”, it’s about us becoming intimate with Jesus.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”   

–Mike Yaconelli

The leper would be healed by the authority (and touch) of Jesus Christ. What is impossible with men, is possible with God.

“Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.” (v. 13)

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Does Sickness Bless You?

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The Sick Child, Edward Munch, 1885-1886

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.”

John 5:5

That was a long time to be sick. It is very hard to be an invalid year after year. This day’s reading may come to some who have been thus afflicted, and we may as well stop a minute to think about their case. Christian invalids have many comforts, if they will but take them to their hearts. God makes no mistakes in dealing with His children. He knows in what school they will learn the best lessons, and in what experiences they will grow best.

It is the same in spiritual life. We have no power in ourselves to do Christ’s will, but as we begin to obey the needed grace is given. Young people often say that they are afraid to enter upon a Christian life because they can not do what will be required. In their own strength they cannot. It would be as easy for them to climb to the stars as unaided to live a noble and lovely Christian life. Human strength in itself is inadequate to life’s sore needs. But the young Christian who sets out in obedience to Christ, depending upon Him to open the path of duty, will never fail of needed help at the moment of need.

Richard Baxter has a strange note on this passage :

“How great a mercy it was to live thirty-eight years under God’s wholesome discipline ! O my God, I thank Thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years ; how safe a life is this in comparison with full prosperity and pleasure!”

Sick-rooms should always be to us sacred places, as we remember that God has summoned us there for some special work upon our souls. We need to be very careful lest we miss the good He wants us to receive. It is only those who trust Christ and lie upon His bosom that are blessed by sickness. Too many invalids grow discontented, unhappy, sour, and fretful. Sickness ofttimes fails to do good to those who suffer. There are few experiences in which we so much need to be watchful over ourselves and prayerful toward God. Be sure to keep the sickness out of your heart, and keep Christ there with His love and peace.

JR Miller

 

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