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Sunday, September 26, 2021

From Rags to Riches


II Samuel 9:3-65 And the king (David) said, “Is there no longer anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show the goodness and graciousness of God?” Ziba replied to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan, one whose feet are crippled.” Now when Mephibosheth was five years old, his father Jonathan was killed in battle. Fearing that the Philistines would seek to take the young boy's life, his nurse fled with him to Gibeah, but in her haste she dropped him and both of his feet were crippled. (2 Samuel 4:4.) His nurse or caregiver had been charged to protect him when he was much too young to help himself. But she dropped him and as a result, he was crippled for the rest of his life. He found refuge in a place called Lo-debar, which means a place of languishing. A place of just existing, barely hanging on. Stuck in nowhere. A place of weakness, without vigor or vitality. Nothing ever happened, just marking time.

My question to you is this: Did someone cripple you? Did someone drop you? Did someone make you fall? Was it your Dad or Mom? Maybe a wife or husband. A friend? Your boss? Someone at church? You may not have been five years old like Mephibosheth but you were powerless to help yourself in the situation. Have you been cheated of your destiny? Are you stuck in No-wheresville, relegated to a dull existence?

If you're fortunate enough to never have been dropped by someone you thought would protect you, you still took a fall. All of mankind fell with Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. We lost our inheritance, our right to reign on this earth.

Over the years, people had taken advantage of the crippled man's weakness and stolen his property. Has someone stolen from you? Christ Jesus came to restore what the enemy had taken from us in Adam's fall. He defeated Satan and reinstated man's authority to rule. All the land and possessions that belonged to Saul were restored to Mephibosheth. Suddenly the crippled man's enemies were very afraid because now he was under the protection of King David.

Mephibosheth is a type of the redeemed sinner, called into the kings presence and exalted on the merits of someone else. Though he had been victimized and robbed through the years, he was still of royal descent. Merciful King David rescued and restored him to the palace. Often the world doesn't recognize our value but we have a savior who calls us to return to our rightful place in Him. Like Mephibosheth, we can't stand on our own but in Him we live and move and have our being.

I say to you that your seat is reserved at the King's table. He's inviting you to come home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

      The focus of this week's Corona virus effect took me a bit by surprise. I was in a position to overhear two very suave, macho young men conversing about the effects of impending infection and possible deaths from this virus. Their conversation opened with them joking about the women they had known, as they referred laughingly to their "type." It was obvious that they had connected with these women on a very superficial, temporary level, of which they seemed rather proud. 

 I was fairly shocked to hear the younger of the two men speak of the way their lives were changing with the possibility of disaster looming. He shared that he had been bothered by the memory of a rift between him and a family member. As he rehearsed the painful episode that happened several years ago, he realized that the issue between them had not been as bad as he had then supposed. "With the sobering thought that we may never see each other again, I'm feeling like I need to call him and make amends as soon as possible. What if one of us became infected and died, without making a reconciliation?" 

 He then admitted there had been many times this person had come to his mind. He had thought often of how he missed their times together, but he didn't want to be the first one to admit that he felt this way. Furthermore, he didn't feel he should be the one to make the first move to restore the relationship.  Now, possibly standing on the precipice of eternity, he realized just how frivolous their disagreement had been. He also confessed that he now felt foolish for continuing to hold a grudge.He confessed that they were so much alike. Both of them had been too stubborn to pick up the phone and make the first move.

 Just before they parted, this man confided that he was ready to make that long overdue call. He admitted that everything looked different standing in this new reality; facing the fact of  finality was definitely sobering. He even felt that it was time to grow up a bit and re-evaluate his priorities. Was the way he was living right now the way he wanted to die? After all, he could not avoid the grim, daily reminder that life is very fragile and fleeting. 

I had to leave before their exchange ended but I hoped the young man would follow through. I felt encouraged that he was grasping the concept expressed by King David, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalms 90:12. 

Perhaps we should live every day as if it could be our very last day. Then when that last day comes, we would have no regrets.We would not find that we have left the most important things undone.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The thing nobody talks about


My dad had a friend who was killed by a catfish. The fish was dead on the floor. How could he kill a man? This man had no feeling in his feet and never knew when he stepped on the fish, never knew when its fin pierced his foot and neither did he feel the raging infection that ran into his leg and finally poisoned his whole body. Have you ever thought to be thankful for pain? How long might you hold your hand to the fire if you could not feel the burn?

There is a rare disease called CIP, chronic insensitivity to pain. Stefan Betz, a 21 year old who has CIP said people assume that feeling no pain is this incredible thing that makes you almost superhuman but for people with CIP, its the exact opposite; he would love to know what pain means and what it feels like to be in pain. Without it, your life is full of challenges. Many of the males who have it die in their twenties from doing ridiculously dangerous things because they are not restrained by pain.(From The Curse of the People who Never Feel Pain, BBC Future by David Cox, 27th April 2017)

 According to recent statistics, the United States is number one in its use of  mind and body numbing medications. Our greatest fear seems to be the fear of feeling pain, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. More often than not, the cause of the pain is not being addressed. 

C.S. Lewis said pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasure...but shouts to us in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Historian Philip Jenkins says that in third world countries, suffering turns people toward God. “Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted, while it atrophies among the rich and secure.” Could this aversion to pain be the reason Americans are losing hope? According to Romans 5:4 "Suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope."

In Acts chapter 20, 22-24 Paul said “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. Save that the Holy Ghost warns me that prison and hardship are facing me. BUT NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” In other words, I'm not running away for fear of the pain.

Dr. Scott Peck, psychiatrist,who wrote The Road Less Traveled, says that "life is difficult. Only when we accept that can we develop the tools to cope and move beyond it. We will have problems. The first step to solving our problems is to admit they exist. Confronting problems causes short term pain but results in personal growth. Do we respond by running away from pain and attempting to ignore or numb our problems? The problems won't fix themselves."

So what do we do with pain?  Pain can be a signal to tell us something is wrong; something needs our attention. Look for the lesson in the pain. What caused it? Do I need to change a behavior? Do I need to deal with my past? Do I need to apologize to someone and mend a relationship? 

No matter what caused the pain, remember Psalm 34:18  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

 Isaiah 61:3 "to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him".

We must learn to delay gratification; to suffer now for a better future. "Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him" .Hebrews 12:2 He was looking to the future, to our redemption.

Accept responsibility for our problems. Don't blame others, don't play the victim card. Dedicate ourselves to the truth. We may be tempted to tell lies to avoid pain in the present while underestimating the future problems they will cause. You can lie to yourself and choose comfort over growth or you can choose to lie to others. Withholding the truth is the same as lying. To avoid sin, we must overcome laziness and perform uncomfortable self-reflection in order to grow spiritually.

Studies show that being able to delay gratification is one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. Are you avoiding pain or living with purpose? A life spent avoiding pain does not result in goals getting accomplished. A study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s involved placing children in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. They were told they could eat the marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and receive 2 marshmallows. These children were followed for 40 years and it was found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow scored higher on standardized tests, had better health and were more successful in reaching their goals.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which lasts but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The Passion Translation says we view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond any comparison.

Jesus showed his scars to Thomas to prove that he was who he said he was. Romans 8:28 assures us that He is working all of our trials, all of our pain together for our good. Don't let fear of pain drive you into self-destructive patterns. Examine the pain, pick it up and look at it. Hear its message. Often the correct response will resolve pain.  Don't be like my dad's friend and let a dead fish kill you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Grafted Into Royalty


     In the year 478 B.C. in the land of Persia (present-day Iran) a beautiful 15 year old girl was kidnapped and taken from her home. No stranger to tragedy, Hadassah had lost both parents at an early age and was providentially taken into the home of a kindly older cousin. If it brought her any comfort, she was not the only girl to be unceremoniously snatched away that night. Several hundred other damsels from the provinces of this kingdom were also captured and spirited away to Shushan, the site of the king's palace.

    Perhaps even these isolated young ladies had heard that the king and queen had a royal tiff that left the king looking for love elsewhere. Quite possibly they suspected the reason for their sudden abduction. Remarkably, Hadassah did some capturing of her own as soon as she found herself in the house of the women. She won the admiration of the keeper of the house, who gave her seven maids to assist in her preparation for the king's beauty contest. He also reserved the finest apartment in the house for her and her maids. Certainly she was beyond beautiful; she was also courageous and graceful. Instead of bewailing her fate or cursing her captors, she comforted her competitors. Although the situation was not of her choosing, she maintained an air of serenity. She conducted herself as a queen before her feet ever touched the palace floor.

    From whence came this resiliency? I believe she grasped the concepts contained in the 139th Psalm. 

1 Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.
You perceive every movement of my heart and soul,
and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.
3–4 You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!
You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,
and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past
With your hand of love upon my life,
you impart a blessing to me.
This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!
Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.
Where could I go from your Spirit?
10 Wherever I go, your hand will guide me;
your strength will empower me.
11 It’s impossible to disappear from you
or to ask the darkness to hide me,
for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.
13 You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
14 I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
15 You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
17–18 Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
O God, your desires toward me are more
than the grains of sand on every shore!
When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

(From The Passion Translation)

    Did you notice verse 5? "You've gone into my future to prepare the way." How utterly reassuring! We have that same promise. Young Hadassah knew who and whose she was. She also trusted that the king was not in charge of her destiny; that was held by much more capable and loving hands. Understand that it may have been a dazzling thought to become queen, but the entry fee for this competition was extremely high. There were several hundred contestants, and the 99% who weren't chosen were then resigned to spend the rest of their lives in the king's harem. Undoubtedly, reality threatened Hadassah's composure at times. The purification process of twelve months allowed plenty of time for these worrisome thoughts.

    Why did the process take twelve months? Due to the fact that pregnancy tests hadn't been invented yet, the king wanted to be sure that any heir produced with his queen would be his own. This reminds us that our King allows no flesh to glory in His presence. Everything that brings glory to Him in our lives is the work of His spirit. We must learn to give preference to the nudging of the Holy Spirit instead of responding to fleshly impulses. John 15:4 in the Amplified Version says "Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me." King James says quite simply in verse 5, "without Me, you can do nothing."

   Sid Roth, a Messianic Jew, has stated that he sees the book of Esther as THE end-time book for the present day church. There are many fitting comparisons in this book to relate to our lives as we prepare for the return of our King. The keeper of the women's house schooled Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, on how to prepare herself to go before the king. During these twelve months, the young ladies soaked in various oils, spices and ointments. Myrrh, the most notable of these, removed odors and left the skin clean, soft and pure. It stimulated the immune system and promoted release from fear and stress. Myrrh also killed parasites. Don't we want to get rid of those things that pull the very life and energy from us, draining us of physical, emotional and spiritual strength? This remarkable oil of myrrh represents the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

     John 14:26 says the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. We're also aware that He does not speak of Himself, but relays messages from our Father. We would do well to heed His instructions. I have a feeling that Hadassah was an attentive student. You probably know the happy ending of this story; our young heroine was indeed chosen to become Queen Esther. Five years later, God used her to save the nation of the Jews. The main theme of this book is that God is always working behind the scenes. This thought is encapsulated in the statement her cousin, Mordecai, made to her at the moment of crisis. When she hesitated, he reminded her that perhaps she had come to the kingdom for such a time as this. 

   What can we take away from this beautiful, breathtaking story? For one, I am very thankful that we can all be chosen to reign with our King.  Esther's life serves as a reminder that nothing is wasted in God's economy and He has indeed been preparing us for the situation we are facing today. Noteworthy also is the principle that our actions affect others, quite possibly people that we will never meet in this life. In these demanding times, the most difficult concept is that of "soaking" in the Holy Spirit, turning aside to slow down and listen to His whisper. Don't we need this oil to make us immune to the weight and worry of the world and to purify us from the contaminants we face daily? 






Tuesday, September 29, 2020

You Just Made My Day!

    You remember having one of those horrible days when nothing went the way it was supposed to? The coffee spilled on your last clean shirt and then the car wouldn't start. Or you got that awful phone call just as you were leaving for work but there was no time to process it. You had to quickly assume that plastic face and pretend you were on top of the world. You had a job to do and there's no way around it. The usual pep talk you recite didn't work this time. That's how my workday started.  In fact, the entire week had been like that.  
    Feeling physically and emotionally drained, I knew I had 20 residents to take care of and they all needed their morning medicine in the next few hours. I think I plowed along on auto-pilot for the first hour. Then it was time to enter Ms. Nester's room. Even on a good day, this was unpleasant. Her strong body and shrill voice belied the late-stage dementia her mind was suffering from. In general, it mattered how calmly you approached a resident and how soothing your voice was. Not so with Ms. Nester. When anyone crossed her line of sight, she began to scream loudly and gesture wildly. Usually she spat, bit, scratched or slapped at anyone within arm's reach. Inevitably, before you left her room she cried. Not softly, but in a sputtering, woeful screech that hurt your ears and heart to hear. Maybe once in a blue moon she would cooperate with a caregiver. She did not carry on conversations, but rather seemed to exist in her own world where everything was disjointed. I don't think I had ever heard her form a complete sentence.
    Knowing her as I did, if you told me what I'm about to tell you, I would not believe it. Forgive me for being brutally frank, but that's the truth. Holding my breath, I knocked on her door. I was greeted with the sweet sound of silence. Tentatively, I pushed the door open. 
    Sometimes miracles come because we've prayed for them. Sometimes they are much-anticipated and long-awaited. And sometimes, they catch us completely by surprise. Ms. Nester was smiling--no, she was laughing as she reached for me with both arms. Then she patted her heart and literally sang, "I heard somebody and I kept looking and there I saw YOU! Oh you look so good. I'm so happy to see you, come over here!" I was tempted to look behind me. Was she talking to someone else? No, her eyes were definitely focused on me! Dare I get within arms' reach? This was my best opportunity to administer her medication, if the mood lasted long enough. To my amazement, she happily accepted my offering, then reached out to gently hold my hand. Her exuberant salutation continued. "Oh, you look so good. Thank you, Lord. I'm so glad to see you, come sit down." 
    Was she looking at me but seeing someone else? I was not about to burst her bubble. "Oh, I just feel so happy! Praise the Lord; He is so good to me." Her face  lit up with the most beautiful smile. Sitting by her bedside, wondering if I should pinch myself, I assured her that I was so happy to see her, too. Then as she quieted, I patted her hand gently until she slowly let go of mine.  She gazed at me happily as I closed the door. Never had I seen her so calm and rational. Never before and never since was she glowing and ecstatic. Not once had she calmly let me leave the room, as she did that day. 
    Somehow I felt as if tender arms had hugged me. Tears filled my eyes, and I asked, "God, what just happened?" He replied softly, "I did that. That's my love for you that you've seen here today. I used her to show my love for you." A passage from the book of Zephaniah rang in my mind. "For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice greatly over you by singing a happy song" (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT).