Saturday, December 28, 2013

Visit with the thief

Today was the sweetest day. Ryan and I went to Starkville to visit with family there. We laughed, reminisced, and watched old family movies. It was amazing to see my grandmother smiling, my Aunt Mel laughing and waving, and Aunt Velma in a flower-laden hat.  After we returned home, I thought about how nice it was to see them again, and that one day we would all be together.

My mind tends to wander pretty far afield,  and I started thinking about who else would be in heaven when I get there. Ryan and I were eating supper when I blurted out, "Hey, the thief on the cross will be there!" Ryan just looked at me and said, "What? Where?" "The thief on the cross, Ryan. You remember him. He's gonna be in heaven when I get there." He just shook his head and kept eating. "I bet he's the most grateful person in heaven. He was seconds from hell and ended up spending eternity with Jesus. Wow!" 

When I get to heaven, he's one of the people I want to meet. His is a story of pure redemption. When all hope was lost, Jesus intervened. Just like He did for me.  Just like He did for you. 

Perhaps you've been in one of those "all hope is lost" situations, or maybe you are still there. The great thing about hopeless situations is that, when you give your situation to Him, Jesus can transform it in an instant. Before you know it, hopeless can become hope-filled and life can change in unimaginable ways. Don't believe me? Just ask the thief on the cross. 

One day, I'm going to see my Grandmother, and Aunt Mel, and Aunt Velma again. We will laugh and have a wonderful time. I'm going to be looking for the thief, too. I'd like to hear his story of redemption and spend time together giving thanks for all God has done. I hope to see you there, too. 

Hearing and Healing: What Do You want From Jesus

But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:15 NASB)

There was no way to direct and control the spread of fame. Everyone who encountered Jesus was talking about Him. Large crowds were assembling everywhere He went. Interestingly, the crowds had a two-fold goal.  They wanted to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 

The word used in this verse for "hear", akouō, means hearing with your ears, but is also used at times to indicate hearing with your heart, as well. Many people who came to Jesus wanted to hear and to understand His words. They wanted to consider all He said and determine what it meant for their lives. That is exactly what we need to do, as well. Hear, understand, consider, and apply His words to our lives. It's a tall order but one we must not fail to do. We all have a decision to make. What will we do about Jesus? Ignore Him? Reject Him? Accept and follow Him? We will all make a decision about Jesus, and it will affect our eternal destiny. One day, every knee will bow to Him. The decision you make about Jesus now will determine if that bending of the knee is joyous worship or angry submission. Which will yours be?

The crowds wanted healing as well as hearing. When we looked at Jesus's mission statement in Luke 4:16-19, we saw preaching, releasing captives, restoring sight, freeing downtrodden in His plan. Healing of physical hurts was not His primary mission. He came to heal wounded, broken hearts. Hearts like yours and mine. There is no hurt He cannot heal, but there is one requirement for healing without which no healing can occur. We have to give Him our hurt and woundedness to do with as He will. It's the "Thy Will Be Done" prayer again. At the point of brokenness and hurt, that place you wish was different but cannot change, give Christ full access. Allow Him to have the hurt, heal the hurt, use the hurt, however He desires. It's that "however" that is so terrifying yet will become so wonderful if we allow it. 

Hearing and healing - two wonderful reasons to come to Jesus. There are two questions that arise from these verses, and answers are not optional. 
Why do you come to Jesus?
What is your response to Him?
Pray for hearts that are open, vulnerable, and available to Jesus - for our loved ones and ourselves. 

What will you do with Jesus today?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Night with Friends

Dr. Edwin Leap is an emergency room physician as well as a columnist for The Greenville News in Greenville South Carolina. He is head over heels in love with his lovely wife Jan, a terrific dad, a gifted physician, and a man of deep faith. He has shared an article, written before the tragic shooting of two much loved and well-respected police officers in Tupelo, for our guest blog tonight. I think it will provide as much comfort and encouragement for you as it did for me.

Comments are enabled, so be sure to bless his with your sweet comments, just as you do me. He won't see them, though, unless you leave them in the comment section after the blog. 

Happy reading, dear ones! Happy Friday!

We Really Aren't Alone: Making Sense of Suffering by Dr. Edwin Leap

Everyone has trials.  However, they often seem more painful at Christmas, don’t they?  
I know that as a physician, everything painful, everything hurtful and terrifying that 
happens to my patients has a sharper edge this time of year.  Perhaps it’s because we 
market the wonders of the holiday so beautifully. It always seems that when families 
struggle that they not only have to face their personal pain or loss; they have to endure 
the highly polished and almost toxic message that everyone else is having a grand time!  
The rest of the world, it seems, is shopping, playing in thick snow drifts, eating too much, spending oodles of money, mindlessly repositioning their ‘Elf on a Shelf,’ and sleeping 
beside roaring fires surrounded by healthy, happy loved ones.  It’s a lovely idea, as 
fiction goes.  But reality always wins out.
I think about this a lot.  Suffering is very real and however we may wish it away, it is 
extremely democratic.  For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, there 
were about 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses in 2012.  If you were one of them, you were 
hardly alone.  It was you, and a group of people equal to the entire population of Manhattan.
Or this:  there are, according to the American Red Cross, some 800 persons each day in the 
US who suffer a cardiac arrest!  If your loved one had sudden cardiac death, I’m sorry; 
so sorry.  And sorry for all of the other families each day who face that horrible, crushing 
and unexpected tragedy that changes families forever.
Not all pain is medical.  Since the financial crisis began, 4.4 million families have lost 
homes through foreclosure.  Losing one’s home is rather a kind of death; death of 
comfort, stability, investment or safety.
It would be easy to go on and on about the commonalities of suffering, but one thing 
remains true about all of it. When we suffer, it’s much easier to suffer when we aren’t 
alone.  And while we don’t really want others to suffer, there is a kind of comfort to 
being with someone else who is facing, or has faced, the same thing.  And it’s especially 
wonderful when they come to us with tales of how they coped, successfully, with disease, 
death, pain or loss.  It is a powerful encouragement to press on.
On a lighter side, we see the same thing at work in small children.  How many times have 
our children said ‘will you walk with me?’  Whether it’s across the hall or across the 
bedroom, to see a flower or meet a friend, our children want their hands in ours.  
There is strength, and comfort of many kinds, in numbers.  There is healing in the words, 
‘I’m here with you. Don’t worry.’
Is this, maybe, the message of Christmas?  Things were the same in Bethlehem as they 
are in the world today.  Families lost children and spouses, parents and siblings.  Homes 
were taken.  War took lives and led to slavery. Pain, without the benefit of modern therapies, 
went unrelieved. Diseases which we simply shrug off today led to lifelong disability and 
premature death. Doubtless those who saw the gravid belly of Mary shook their heads, 
wondering if she would die in childbirth like so many they had known.
But into Bethlehem of Judea came the one who could say to us, ‘I’m here, I’m with you.  
I’ll walk the path by your side and experience the troubles you face.  I’ll heal you now for 
a while, but forever in the end.  I’ll take away not only your illness but your fear of death; 
not only your sorrow but your guilt.’ The infant Jesus came to the place where suffering 
was everywhere, and as he grew the man Jesus reassured everyone ‘I’m here.  And when 
I leave, I’ll make a way for you and a place for you, with me, always.’
It is no different now.  With every tragedy we feel alone; certain that nobody else 
understands.  With every fear and doubt, every failure, every mistake, we so easily 
consider ourselves unloveable.  But at Christmas, Jesus comes.  From the manger in 
a crowded town to the cross on a crowded hill to the empty tomb in the lonely garden, 
he tells us, ‘You are not alone! I’m here now. It’s alright.  I understand and I love you.’
Yes, Christmas can seem lonely when troubles surround and isolate us.  But the Christ 
child refutes it all.  He is here and we are not alone.  Merry Christmas!

You can read more articles by Dr. Leap at his website  Be sure to 
check it out!

Martyrion Obedience

And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." (Luke 5:14 NASB)

Jesus had miraculously and immediately healed this man who was filled with leprosy. What you would expect is that Jesus would want the good publicity, and send him to tell everyone. Instead, Jesus said not to tell anyone, and He sent him to the priest. 

There was an entire ritual associated with a leper who was healed. The seven day ritual of cleansing helped the cleansed person transition back into the community. According to Leviticus 14, the priest was to go outside the camp with the leper, examine him, and, if he appeared to be healed, begin the ritual of cleansing that would restore him to fellowship in the community. 

When Jesus sent him to the priest, he said it was "as a testimony to them". Who is the "them" to whom He is referring? The priests. Jesus wanted the healed leper to testify to the priests. The word He chose for testify is "martyrion". It's a Greek word that comes from the root word "martys", indicating a legal witness as well as one who is willing to bear witness to the truth of the testimony by their very lives. 

Jesus was sending this man to the very people least likely to want to hear of Jesus's miracle and asking him to testify of Jesus's healing power regardless of the cost. He would be going to the ones who had the power to exclude him or bring him home cleansed, and to tell them what they did not want to hear. It took considerably more faith and courage to tell the priest than to tell his friends and family. 

Obedience was not optional if he wanted to be restored. There's a mouthful of truth right there, isn't it? It bears repeating. 

Obedience is not optional if we want to be fully restored. 

With what bit of obedience do you struggle? What is Jesus asking of you that seems insurmountably hard?  Pray today for hearts willing to obey no matter the cost and feet that hit the road running to get the job done. 

Worthy Words

Words. Where are they when you need them?  "I can't think of anything to blog about," I moaned. Ryan had a pretty simple solution. "Maybe you shouldn't blog about anything then." The whole idea of needing words I couldn't find  started me thinking about all the words I use during the day, and how some words are absolutely worth saying, and some are a total waste of time. 

It's the words worth saying that I want. Words that affirm, encourage, comfort, support, and inform are all words that are likely worth saying. Of course, I think all the words I use telling patients what to do and why are worth saying, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be more effective with a few less worlds.  Maybe what I need is one of those short phrases that can clatter around in your head for ages. Some years ago, I was standing outside a conference room with Brad Beck when he asked me,"Where is your margin?" (Margin = the space around the edges of your scheduled life where God has room to work) It was like a word straight from God. I didn't have any margin. Every minute of my life was jam packed. It was one of those phrases that stuck in my head until I made some much-needed changes. Not long ago, I was looking at my schedule, trying to squeeze one more thing into a too-full week, when Brad's words came back to me again. "Where is your margin?" Lost again. That's where it is. (Thanks, Brad. You are still in my head after more than a decade, and I appreciate the help!)

When it became apparent that I needed to be gluten-free, the thought of such a disruption in my life was unimaginable. One short phrase changed the task into something totally possible. My boss said, "if you will do it, I'll do it with you."  It was a hard transition and the learning curve was steep, but knowing I was not alone made a huge difference. 

Words spoken out loud are tremendously important, but words spoken with actions are also vital. When my mother died, my friends Rosemary and Mike Marecle showed up at my house with supper and shared the meal with me. Their actions told me that they shared my grief, that I am loved, and not alone. Of all the events surrounding my mother 's death, that dinner around my breakfast table stands out as a beacon of hope and the assurance that I would survive my loss and be fine again. 

Slow Down
Lighten up! 
 You are not alone. 
 I will help. 
You are loved. 

Wonderful words, spoken at just the right time, can make a difference for years to come. What about your words? Are they uplifting and encouraging? Do they help others be more like Christ?  Do they draw people to God or push them away?

This week, consider every word as a seed and plant them in fertile soil. Sow words that will grow a harvest that will change lives and impact the Kingdom of God forever.  Words. Use them well. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quick Healing

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NASB)

Jesus touched this leper with the healing touch of fire (*1) and spoke healing over him. Immediately he was healed of leprosy. It wasn't in a few weeks and it wasn't a process of years. It was right that very minute, while Jesus and the crowd were standing there watching. His leprosy just vanished, and Jesus took great delight in the miracle! (*2) Can't you just see Jesus? I imagine He must have had the biggest smile as he looked around at those astonished faces! He probably wanted to say, "You haven't seen anything yet! I can cleanse your inside just like I did this man's outside! Give me your heart and you will see!" 
The Greek word translated here as "immediately" is used only four times in the New Testament to describe the healing work of Jesus, despite the large number of healings He performed. It says to us that sometimes He works in a dramatic, flashy immediate way that everyone present can recognize, but sometimes He does not. In fact, this term is not used for most of the healings He performed. A healing that takes time is still a healing. 

In our fast-food, want-it-now society, we have grown so accustomed to immediate gratification that we expect instant Jesus-action, too. We do not serve a fast-food God, however. We serve a God of order, who completes what He starts, and does all things well. What He has begun in our loved ones will continue to completion. Do not lose heart! He is still on the throne. He still heals sin-sick souls, and He still takes delight in doing it. 

Today, pray that God will not stop working in our loved ones (or in us) until all the healing is complete and delightful to Him. 


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Redemption

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NASB)

It started right there, in front of a loaded fruit tree. The road to the manger in Bethlehem began at the foot of what turned out to be the first Christmas tree. The enemy of our soul, in the form of a serpent, entered the idyllic garden of love designed by God Himself as home to His new humans. He befriended Eve, deceived her, enticed her, destroyed her, and left her. That's how sin works, and when her hand reached out and took the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the sin of mankind began. A penalty for that breach of contract between God and man was owed. 4,000 years or so later, God Himself would come to straighten out the mess of sin mankind had created and pay our penalty Himself.  He came in the form of a tiny baby, and today we celebrate His birth. His was the gift that paid the debt we owed but could never repay, and it is the most important gift of all those that will be exchanged today. It is the gift we didn't request, aren't always sure we wanted, and may not be quite sure what to do about. It is, however, the perfect gift, the perfect fit. 

As you enjoy opening gifts, eating feasts with loved ones, and celebrating the joy of this day, remember that it is more than a celebration of a baby in a manger. This is a day to celebrate our redemption. 

May the lights on your tree point you to that tree in the garden where it all began, and remind you that we are redeemed because of what God did in response to it.  

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

The journey to Bethlehem is nearly complete for another year. Tonight we celebrate the obedience of a young Jewish girl, the bold faith of her bridegroom, and the son of God entrusted to the most unlikely of couples. May your hearts be drawn to Him as never before and may you lives reflect the change He brings.
Merry Christmas!

Delighting Jesus

Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone. (Luke 5:13 MSG)

The Greek word thelō is translated here as "I want to". It is a marvelous little word and can mean "I want to", "I intend to" and "I take delight in doing it". How about that? When we ask Jesus to heal us, He not only wants to heal us, He takes great delight in healing us!

Let's make Jesus delighted today by offering Him our hurts, our scars, our broken hearts, our unfulfilled dreams and allowing Him to heal them! Today, pray that He will bring healing to our situation and our loved ones in such a way that He will find great delight in what He accomplishes. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tragedy in Tupelo

Just a few days ago, a policeman was killed in a neighboring town while making a routine traffic stop. Today, Tupelo had a bank robbery and two police officers were shot point blank. One of those officers has died. This man who had sworn to protect his community gave his life doing that very thing, and a second officer is in critical condition.  It breaks my heart, for we have a policeman of our own in Blue Springs.

I spoke with him briefly last night. He was patrolling and I stopped to chat. We discussed a situation with a newcomer to our town. There is obviously a problem and a need. He was quick to say that he planned to try to clarify exactly what the need is today and see what we can do to meet it. We take care of each other in Blue Springs, and Officer Anderson helps us do it. As we discussed his schedule, he told me his plans for working over the holidays. He is sacrificing prime family time to patrol and assure the safety of our citizens and their homes. Criminals beware. Our policeman is on the job. What horrifies me is the thought that criminals might not care. They might come "heavily armed" into our town and have no regard for this good man. 

What I want to say is, "Don't you dare.  Don't you dare put our fine officer at risk."  Realistically, it's not a demand I can back up. I want to say, "Hurt him and you will have to contend with me," but I would be no good against a heavily armed thug. There is a feeling of helplessness that I don't like, yet I am not helpless. What comes to mind is "My help comes from The Lord."  We are not helpless and the battle against evil, at least for my part, must be fought on our knees. That's where I've been on this tragic December evening... praying for the safety of our police force of one, as well as for those in the northeast Mississippi area. 

It is time for the people of God to tackle this entire issue of evil running rampant in the streets. Take a stand and hit your knees. Fear not. God is still on the throne. 

The Touch of Fire

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NASB)

This simple verse is hiding the most amazing treasure!
It says Jesus reached out and touched him, and my immediate impression of that action is Jesus lightly placing His hand on the man's shoulder. It sounds like a "laying on of hands" that we might do when praying for someone. The Greek here tells a different story. The word used in this verse is haptō, and it is used to mean "to fasten to" or "to fasten fire to a thing or set it on fire." 

You might say it this way:  The fire of the Holy Spirit was flowing through Jesus (of course, being both God and man), and it is a healing, cleansing fire. Jesus grabbed hold of this man as tight as He could (maybe by both shoulders) and that Holy Fire flowed from Jesus into the leper, bringing cleansing and the healing for which he was so desperate. When that fire started, the man must have been so surprised! Imagine his delight when that fire burned the leprosy right out of his body! Now THAT is a mighty touch!

I could use a touch like that, couldn't you?  Let's pray for that healing touch of godly fire for ourselves and our loved ones today. Pray that the fire of God's love will flow through us all and bring cleansing, healing, and wholeness. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Perils of Parousia

My son Ryan was scheduled to fly home from college today. I expected that he would arrive in Tupelo around 1:30 pm. Unfortunately, he missed his flight and has been rescheduled for a later flight. The new flight has been delayed, and now is delayed again. As I was thinking about the waiting, it reminded me of the Advent period, which seems a lot like a "waiting" of its own. 

This may seem a little complicated, but the term advent is an Anglicized form of the Latin word adventus, which means "coming".  Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia. Parousia is a word that means "presence" or "presence after absence".  It is used in the Gospels to denote Christ's return (see Matt. 24:3). This word is actually used, for the most part, to indicate the second coming of Jesus, not his natal arrival. Technically, advent (the time of Christ's coming after an absence) is better related to Easter and lent than to Christmas. 

Since I'm having some very joyful parousia of my own today as I wait for my son and his tardy flight, the whole idea of "anticipating the coming" is on my mind. 

This December Advent of ours actually celebrates that first coming of the Presence of God. Emmanuel, God with us. How wonderful to anticipate with the knowledge that we celebrate what is historical fact and spiritual victory! Even more exciting is that every day we live as believers is a kind of Advent, a parousia, as we anticipate the "coming after an absence" of our risen Lord. 

During these last few days of our December Advent, keep in mind the more wonderful Daily Advent, our Daily Parousia, as we anticipate not only the natal arrival of Christ but also his majestic second coming!  

Hear the good news! Christ has come. Christ is risen. Christ is coming again! 

Position Prayer

While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." (Luke 5:12 NASB)

We haven't mined all the gold from this verse yet!  There are two Greek words used here that demand a closer look. The two words translated "Fell on his face" are piptō and prosōpon. 

Piptō is used to indicate moving from an upright to a prostrate position, but it is also used to indicate a descent from authority or prosperity as well as the position of respect and worship before a deity or authority. Prosōpon is used to indicate the face as well as one's outward appearance. There is an assumption that this man was poor, and having the worst case of leprosy, he may well have been, but not necessarily. These two words are correctly translated as "fell on his face", but we can easily miss the richness of the word picture and symbolism. This leper was symbolically laying down any position of authority or financial security he possessed in submission to the higher authority of Jesus. His position symbolically demonstrated his acknowledgement of Jesus's power and authority. 

By falling on his face before Jesus, he was placing outward appearance at the feet of Jesus. Because of the nature of his disease (leprosy is a very disfiguring disease), he was symbolically placing his appearance as a result of his disease (the consequences) in Jesus's hands to do with as He would. 

Now all that is the prelude for the next very important point. Don't miss this! His physical position and his words matched. When this leper spoke to Jesus and asked Him for healing, he was simply voicing what he had already demonstrated by his choice of position before God's Son. His actions spoke volumes before his words were ever voiced. We would do well to emulate him, for we will soon see that Jesus granted this man's request. 

Today, as you approach the throne of God on behalf of our loved ones, assume a position before God that reflects the sincerity and humility in your heart. Like the leper, let your position be the first part of your prayer.