Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Reason Behind Sickness

A Reason Behind Sickness
Feb 23, 2015
Mark 2:17  "On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

I've never fully understood the statement Jesus made about only the sick needing a doctor.  It seems rather obvious and Jesus rarely stated the obvious.  Of course sick people need a doctor.  Jesus spoke in parables like the one about the woman who lost a coin in her home.  He spoke in idioms like the one about a camel fitting through the eye of a needle.  Seldom did He remark about the unremarkable.  His statement about only the sick needing a doctor, if you compare it to all of His recorded statements, seems out of character....unless there is actually more to it.  While I'm not in the habit of adding to Scripture, if more is there, I'd like to uncover it.  I speculate we never fully dive deeper into this one specific statement because it does seem so obvious.

In reading the one verse and the verses surrounding it, you find Jesus was almost at the height of His ministry.  Thousands of people were flocking near Him just to hear Him speak or hopefully heal an incurable disease.  Four men had just lowered a paralytic through the roof and Jesus forgave the man's sins before healing the paralysis.  The pharisees were witnesses to all this.  After forgiving someone's sins and healing an incurable disease, He then went to have dinner with a tax collector (considered the chief of sinners).  A man who had God-like qualities of forgiving sins and healing miracles was then seen hanging out with the scummiest of scums.  It didn't make sense.  This is the moment when Jesus made the obvious statement of only the sick needing a doctor.  He was really saying if there was no sickness (no incurable diseases) and if there were no sin (no pardon required), then there would be no need for Jesus.  In other words, sickness and sin are the only reason we need Jesus.  It is the context of our current situation, that we cannot change, from where we reach out in need of a savior.

This is also why He said it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to make it to Heaven.  The rich man can buy anything He wants, what use is a savior to Him?  He has all He needs with no perceived need of a savior.  Consider this: if there are no large bodies of water, then there is no need to learn how to swim.  If there is constant sunshine and heat, why would someone need a snow shovel or even know of a snow shovel's intended use?  I am not thankful for pain in this life but it makes me painfully aware of my need for Jesus.  Sickness (physical or spiritual), though it is deplorable, creates in us the need for Him. 

If the Lord placed you in a utopian environment, then you would never come to realize Jesus.  This original utopia was the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve never had a use for a savior.  As soon as they left the Garden, the need for a savior was imminent.  In your sickness, the need of your situation, you become aware of your need for Him.  If you could heal yourself, your salvation would come from yourself.  If you could fix your problems, your need for Jesus would cease.  Last I checked, each and everyone of us needed a savior.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 143:2, Is 45:21, Matthew 9:1-13, Romans 3:9-11, 1 John 1:8

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Changing Habits

Changing Habits
Feb 16, 2015
James 3:2  "'Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.'"

If you've ever tried to change a bad habit, you've probably experienced frustration.  You want to change but it is feels so difficult, like walking through mud.  Maybe the habit has been with you for many years and it seems impossible to quit.  Maybe you've tried to adjust the habit multiple times, yet to no avail.  Changing habits is a difficult thing to do and it certainly takes a large degree of will power.  It also takes a large degree of patience with yourself and extra grace from the Heavenly Father.  We get frustrated if we aren't able to change the habit instantly, or when we fall back into it.  It takes time and sometimes help.  If you want to be successful in changing habits, seek advice from those who have the good habit you desire; maybe ask them how they were able to institute it with such success.  I, personally, have found a little advice in the book of James.

James, though he only discusses the consequences of an uncontrolled tongue, actually gives a clue into breaking bad habits.  He says that the person who is able to control his or her tongue is able to control every area in life.  He suggests that the tongue, or mastery of the tongue, is the gateway to success over other bad habits you wish to change.  If a man is truly able to control his tongue, then he is able to influence the other areas of his life, the areas he wishes to change.  This is good news and this is bad news.  Mastery of the tongue, apparently, is the hardest and most difficult thing to do, the last item to check off the list for complete success in life.  Before you decide to quit while you're ahead, actually be encouraged, knowing it is something that will help you with your other bad habits.

The tongue is described as a tiny spark in comparison to a forest fire or a small rudder on a large ship.  You don't have to manage the forest fire or the large ship, you must simply manage the little tongue.  Easier said than done, yes, but it is easier to move the rudder on a ship than the entire ship.  It is easier to quench the tiny spark than the blazing forest fire.  James, before he discusses the tongue as the gateway over other areas of life, recognizes that we all stumble in various ways, especially the tongue.  He is granting room for error if your efforts are to improve.  He is aware that the tongue cannot be mastered overnight.  You may think some bad habits can be conquered simply by quitting cold turkey, but the tongue is not one of those quick-kick habits.  The tongue, or mastery over the tongue, is a perfect place to start if you're trying to change other bad habits.

I invented a game with my children.  The game is to see who can go the longest without talking.  One child made it a max of five minutes.  I think the winner made it an hour and a half.  It's not really a game; I was just hoping for some peace and quiet, which they figured out pretty quickly, but it taught me and my children a valuable lesson.  It taught them they were able to hold their tongue for at least a short period of time, maybe even if it's just thirty minutes.  It's a start.  If you can manage your tongue for thirty minutes, maybe next time you can manage it for an hour.  If you can manage your tongue for an hour, maybe you'll be able to stretch yourself into half a day.  Maybe soon you can go a whole day and not falter with your tongue even one time.  The point is you are trying, practicing, trying, practicing, and trying.  You may never have full mastery over your tongue for every single day of your life, but if you can keep a short leash on it successfully, you'll have empowered yourself with the ability to overcome other bad habits in your life.

Think of the habit you'd like to change and then start by managing your mouth.  It may seem counter intuitive, but if mastery over the tongue is the gateway to success over bad habits, by practicing the management of your words, you will have the skills and knowledge to manage your other bad habits.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Romans 12:2, 1 John 1:9, 1 Cor 10:13, James 3:1-12, 1 Peter 5:7

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Didn't Sign Up

I Didn't Sign Up
Feb 9, 2015
John 21:18  "'Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.'"

I found myself discouraged by my situation this past week and having a conversation with the Lord about it.  The conversation went like this.  "Lord, I didn't sign up for this when I agreed to be a Christian.  He let me speak the foolish sentence, to which he replied, "Yes, you did."  That was pretty much the whole conversation.  He spoke to me in a some what sarcastic tone, as if to tell me I should know better than to suggest such a silly thought.  (If the Lord never speaks to you with sarcasm in His voice, you're probably a better listener than me.)  He wasn't trying to insult me, but reminding me of what I already know in my heart to be true, reminding me of all I have learned in life and through Scripture.  He was telling me that my life, once I handed it over to Him so long ago, was and is not my own.  He was reminding me of who was truly in control over my situations, especially the situation I thought should be different.

Scripture is rife with stories and scenarios where the protagonist undergoes a heavy burden, only to find the Lord was still involved, possibly even causing the situation for an intended benefit.  If you don't think the Lord causes difficult situations in life, then you don't know the Lord.  He causes OR allows anything and everything that happens to you and it is always for a good reason.  The Lord isn't into pointless suffering; it is for your personal benefit or His.  Either way, you can rest assured there WILL be a point, possibly only revealed to you in Heaven.  Your job, is to accept what happens to you in life with the understanding you will allow it to shape you for good or use it for His glory.  I will admit, as with my conversation with the Lord this past week, we will seldom, if ever, understand the situation DURING the situation.

What happens to you in your life is never beyond His reach or His ability to redeem.  Haman tried to frame Mordecai, but Mordecai was lifted to honor.  King Saul tried to kill David, but David was given the throne.  Satan tried to destroy Job, but Job was blessed.  The Lord allowed a man to be born blind, but the Lord restored his sight so the world could see the Lord's authority.  Jesus was tortured and murdered, but Jesus ended up with the keys to eternal life.  The apostle John was put on prisoner island, but it was there the Lord wrote the book of Revelation.  I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where the Lord simply abandoned an individual to their situation.  There is resolution or an end result to each story, suggesting the Lord is a God who works through to completion.  Even if the story ended in an untimely death, the death brought more people to the Lord, a cause certainly worth dying for in the big picture of things.

If you find yourself on a course in life, one in which you didn't pick or necessarily deserve, then you can rejoice in knowing there is a Higher Authority at work for an intended benefit.  If you feel the situation, the one you didn't sign up for, could only be reversed by a miraculous move of the Lord, then sit back and be patient for Him to work.  If you could get yourself out of the situation on your own efforts, then it wouldn't benefit you OR the Lord.  The situations I find beneficial for myself or the Lord, are like the ones I read about in the Bible, the ones where only the Lord could resolve in a delightful manner.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Sam 19, Es 6:6-12, Is 44:6, Is 48:17, John 9:9-12, John 21:15-23, James 1:2-4

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Small Yet Big

Small Yet Big
Feb 2, 1015
1 Kings 19:12  "After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

It has been said the voice of the Lord is a still, small voice.  Actually, there is only one place in the Bible where the voice of the Lord is describe as such.  One translation likens His voice to a gentle whisper.  There are, however, ten other instances in the Bible where His voice is considered as loud as thunder.  So which is it?  Is His voice a gentle whisper or is His voice a slap of thunder?  I would suggest the voice of the Lord is both at the exact same time.  Let me explain.

When Elijah was listening for the voice of the Lord, he was listening for what he thought it would sound like; he wanted the slap of thunder.  The Lord taught him to listen more closely, to something so small and minute as a whisper.  In this manner, Elijah could decipher the voice of the Lord in any situation, because he had learned to be in tune with it, being able to recognize it anywhere.  If Elijah only knew a slap of thunder, then Elijah wouldn't have to pay attention very hard.  It wouldn't matter if he was listening for the voice of the Lord since a slap of thunder would and could be heard by anyone.  It would be easier if the Lord only spoke through a slap of thunder because you couldn't ignore it.  But it doesn't work that way, nor is it best.

You don't want the slap of thunder from the Lord's voice.  He shouldn't have to raise His voice at all.  If He has to use His thunderous voice, then you'd better reconsider your relationship with Him or your recent behavior.  In human relationships, one who is yelling is either angry or not someone with whom you'd want to be communicating intimate thoughts.  The same is the true with the Lord.  He'd much prefer to use a soft gentle voice and know you're actually listening to Him.  If you've heard the small gentle whisper of a voice then you're more likely to hear Him at all times.  He is always present and He is almost ALWAYS speaking.  You've heard His whisper voice before and ignored it.  It is the calm voice that tells you what you should be doing in each and every situation, but you rationalize it away because you're going to do what you want.  Those are times when you've ignored the Lord and did what you shouldn't have done.  It happens to the best of them, to me, too.  We know the right thing to do, the high road we should take, but we take the easy route appeasing the flesh.  We've just ignored the whisper voice.

If you ignore the whisper voice enough, He is left to no other choice than the slap of thunder, lest you prefer He ignores you, abandoning you to Hell.  Sure, you want Him to leave you alone at times, but never the moment before entering Hell.  Then you'll be so desperate you'll take any voice from Him.  Elijah learned the gentle whisper and He never had to hear the thunder voice again.  But the trick with Elijah, he consistently listened for the gentle whisper, always aware of it and responding appropriately when He heard it.  When was the last time you heard the whisper voice and didn't listen?

If you continue reading the Bible when it describes the Lord's voice as a gentle whisper, take note of Elijah's actions.  Scripture says Elijah pulled his coat over his face and met with the Lord.  The act of pulling his coat over his face was an act of submission to the Lord, healthy respect and fear.  When the Lord spoke with Elijah in the whisper voice, Elijah submitted to it appropriately.  He responded and He acted in a manner as if hearing from the Lord who can speak like thunder.  Elijah didn't consider the Lord weak and mild when He spoke with a whisper.  Elijah considered Him strong and powerful, able to invoke just authority if Elijah didn't respond to the whisper, hence Elijah's respect.  Consider Elijah's actions and do likewise.  Listen to the small yet big voice.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Sam 22:14, 1 Kings 19:9-13, Job 40:9