The Blessings of an Illness

Hospital-bed1The Bible is full of miraculous healings. Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. It always boosts the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works wonders today.

Somehow the ‘understanding’ is if you seek a healing you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, They miss out on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up.

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

  • Epaphroditus was near death, (Phil 2:25-30)
  • Trophimus left ill at Miletus, (2 Tim. 4:20)
  • Timothy, given a remedy for stomach issues, (1 Ti. 5:23)
  • Paul had to suffer his “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Cor. 12:7)

For believers today who must suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable.

It seems to me that the real issue is not a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed. I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it.

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

ybic, Bryan

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

 

A Finder’s Fee of Joy

New Testament 3 Production Still Photography Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” (Luke 15:1)

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? ” (v. 4)

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.” (v. 8)

“For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (v. 24)

flourish10

The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the ‘lost son’ tell us that this is a time for recovery. This is a unique period for the Church. It is a season of special grace that allows us to seek and find things that are valuable to us. It is a time of finding out things about ourselves as well.

What is precious to you? With the woman, it was a lost coin (probably a part of her dowry) and she made a substantial effort to get it back. With the shepherd, what was valuable was a lost sheep, and he would take a calculated risk to find it, and rejoin the flock. And the father lost his son, and he had to wait for him to return to his senses.

These three parables were directed to the different issues that effected the “notorious sinners.” But they also spoke to the pharisees who were present. Both groups understood and there were plenty of implications for everyone.

It’s a funny thing, Jesus never minced words. No one could be neutral around him. That is still the case today. I think God is seeking His lost children. This is what He is up to, this is His passion. Understanding this salient fact should enlighten us,

  1. to His will,
  2. to know His passion and love, (His pleasure in finding what was lost)
  3. and the true purpose of His Church.

As the Parable of the Prodigal Son develops, we see the pharisees equated to the ‘grouchy’ older brother. He begrudges his newly returned brother, and he really can’t see what is happening all around him. The idea of grace eludes him. Perhaps that is far more common than we think. Whenever ‘religion’ exerts control over a person or group, duty is almost always elevated over joy.

The Church is only as relevant as when it’s seeking out the lost.

The Church is meant to extend to the lost ‘sons’ of Adam, and the ‘daughters’ of Eve. This is God’s passion, and we must find out what He wants us to do to share His heart. It’s almost as if He wants to give us a chance to taste His joy.

aabryplain

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen

Mr-Freeze-amazon
The all-glorious Mr. Freeze

 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

*

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Sunshine and Mercy

sunshine2

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

Exodus 34:6, NLT

“I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

2 Samuel 24:14

Sitting on the deck, it’s a cold morning, but the sun is bright. It’s a typical winter day here in Alaska, which means the sun is pushing back the winter for all it’s worth. Up here we have a ‘the love affair’ with the sun; it hides herself in the gloominess of winter— only to show herself off big time during our summers.

Soaking up the sun got me thinking about the mercy of God. I find I am of two minds. For the most part I love His mercy. It is probably the attribute I love most about Him. Mercy defined by my dictionary:

  • compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.”

Who could not like this in ones deity? Most of us would agree that we are thrilled that God is this compassionate— especially when we’re such rascals ourselves. We will ground ourselves in His mercy, even when our minds give up.

But this is the hard part. I must be as merciful as He is. Mercy comes with the caveat that I become a compassionate person, even to those who are undeserving.

“Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

Matthew 18:33

If you want mercy, you must be prepared to give it. Perhaps this is how God changes the world?

See what the Alaskan winter sunshine can do?

1brobry-sig4

 

“When a Christian shows mercy, he experiences liberation.”   ~Warren Wiersbe

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

Discernment and Your Ministry

zebras

“He begs God on behalf of a human
as a person begs for his friend.”

Job 16:21, NCV

I’ve been thinking about a class I had in Bible School.  The instructor made a comment that has stuck in my thinking for over 30 years now.  I have relied on it countless times in ministry since. It has helped me piece together certain issues of the heart.

When we “preach” to a person, we are actively accelerating the judgement of God in their life. When we pray for that same person, we delay this judgement and allow more room for the Holy Spirit to work.

 

Preaching

Now I know this is a generalization, and yet the basic premise of preaching and praying has a specific action.  When you preach, you are calling that person to make a decision.  They meet up with the truth and must decide for themselves.  This is a very sensitive moment.  If they consider your message at all– you must understand, one way or the other, that it will require a decision.  Either they act on it, or they’ll decide to reject it.

Within the Bible we often see judgement coming to someone, and very often it comes right after a “declaration of the truth” by a witness or a sermon.  Those who hear the word must choose to believe it, or spurn it.  Even a neutral position is a position. A decision must be made on all light that comes their way.

Prayer

Perhaps this may be easier to see.  The Word is full of men and women who interceded for others.  If preaching accelerates God’s judgement on a person (or group,) than prayer decelerates it.  In a sense, authentic intercession can give them more time.  It delays things, without approving them.

A classic case is Abraham.  He intercedes, and by doing so desires to save and deliver God’s own.  He “stands in the gap” for the unaware.  We see him “negotiating” with the Lord, trying to make a deal of sorts. He is bold and somewhat presumptuous. And actually, this is a regular occurrence with different circumstances.  Many in scripture do seem to get intensely involved in the lives of the people they represent.

“I will surely not stop praying for you, because that would be sinning against the Lord. I will teach you what is good and right.” 

1 Samuel 12:23

 Conclusion

Should we preach or pray?  We must consider, I think, the certain obligations of both.  I believe at the end of a person’s life, they have had both dynamics working.  Its like the tide– it ebbs and then advances, and perhaps that will help us to do the right thing at the right time.  We understand the necessity of preaching, and just as important the work of prayer.  We must do both, but grasp the issues behind each work.  Both are necessary for one to come to faith in Jesus.

Seeing the effects of our actions brings us into a deeper understanding of the life in the Spirit.  It motivates and will guide us.  We start to understand the Lord’s ways and become aware of what is happening in the world that is around us. This new discernment can only sharpen our work.

bry-signat

flourish9

 

The Blue Letter Version

molaw_b

The ‘red letter’ Bible emphasizes the words of Jesus by making them red. But sometimes we can learn just as much by which words he didn’t say.  I would like to submit to you the ‘Blue Letter Version’ of things Jesus never said.

He never said:

V. 1) You’re too far gone to be saved.

V. 2) I’m so disappointed in you.

V. 3) This wouldn’t be happening if you were a better Christian.

V. 4) It’s okay not to love certain people.

V. 5) Everyone should be just like you.

V. 6) Its all up to you.

V. 7) You don’t have to forgive someone who has hurt you.

V. 8) You missed my will for your life.

V. 9) I’ve given up on you.

V. 10) This is a cross you must bear alone. 

When we think through these we should realize that each ‘verse’ is wrong. Jesus never said any of these; I am certain he wouldn’t even think these things about us. We can only surmise that what he did declare is real, and that his love for us is boundless and limitless. People like you, and like me, are loved in spite of our sins. His love doesn’t fit the conventional wisdom.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

John 6:37

There are other verses to consider. These affirm his love to each of us.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

1 John 3:1

The Blue Letter Version exists only in my mind. Yet sometimes I catch myself thinking things from our list. But in a way, each of the above is logical. But each are also wrong.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 55:8

I encourage you to listen to the ‘drum roll’ of grace that is beating from the heart of Jesus. He loves you with a supernatural love that can not be silenced. Accept his love (or not) and he will love you the same. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Securely attach yourself to this love.

bry-signat

flourish31

Harmless Doves, [Opting Out of Cynicism]

cynicism_graffiti

cynical, (a definition)

sinikəl/adjective

1.  believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. Contemptuous; mocking.
        “her cynical attitude”
        “he gave a cynical laugh”

2. concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.

Dictionary.com

I want to speak from my heart. I woke up this morning intensely cynical about the world. I hate to think I’m becoming critical or judgmental, but whatever it is I must take it in prayer to Jesus. I feel like I’ve been bit by a snake– a venomous one at that.

When I think of our Lord’s example, it helps a great deal. He who knows every man’s heart and motives and that didn’t discourage him. He knew when he came what each of us had done, and was capable of doing.

There was this incident at the Temple:

2Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

John 2:23-25, NIV

People can’t be trusted. Our motives and our desires, although hidden from men, are clear to God. And yet He loves us deeply. And love, “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5.) In his humanity, Jesus was tempted in every way. Discouragement and despair over the sin of men was resisted.

We can become cynical and jaded over the wrongs of others– it’s easy to do. There can become a ‘coarsening’ and a hardness of heart. That is dangerous. It requires a touch from Jesus. It means its time we get on our knees.

dove_peace_black_white_line_art_christmas_xmas_peace_on_earth-1979pxWhen Jesus sent out his disciples he encouraged them, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) He knew the hostile human heart had its own agendas– people would be like wolves. But though they would see first-hand the deceitfulness of many, they were to be wise, and be completely harmless.

The Holy Spirit will keep us close as we seek his victory in this matter. We will be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Exchange your attitude with His. He will strengthen you. We can renounce the spirit of judgmentalism that is so pervasive. We will love the way he loves.

I know there is much more to say about this. But now the Spirit is prompting me to pray through this issue myself.

bry-signat

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (3)