Setting Things Right

 

kingdomcitizens.org

 

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Matthew 9:35

Jesus confused people.  I think it’s safe to say that.  Everywhere He walked, He left behind Him people scratching their heads and wondering about this man that was the carpenter’s son.

He came preaching a message that was quite different from what people anticipated, even people who were well versed in the writings of the Old Testament prophets.  He healed the sick even on Sabbath and He delivered  people from the torment of Satan which served to demonstrate his message.  His primary message was the kingdom of God being here and now  and the things that he did were evidences of what the kingdom of God looked like.

He didn’t come to overthrow the Roman Empire or abolish taxes.   He came to right what had been wronged in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had been given a kingdom to exercise authority upon and they chose instead to believe the lies of the serpent and rebel against the god who created them. Before we throw stones at them, we should ask ourselves if we have believed the lies of the devil. Have I believed that God is holding out on me, that His best is not enough for me, that I would rather do things my way then His?Have I believed that I am worthless, that I can never do anything good enough,  that I am not worthy of love? Have I accepted the doctor’s diagnosis to the point of believing this condition is not curable, that I will never be well?

If so, then I hope we can look at what Jesus said and demonstrated about the kingdom he was setting aright.  He healed the sick, he delivered people from satanic attacks and he preached a message of repentance and forgiveness.  Why? Because simply overthrowing the Roman Empire might temporarily set captives free, but only Jesus could permanently set captives free.

Why would setting captives free matter so much to Jesus?  Because it matters so much to our Father in heaven.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father.  Jesus came in love and because of love and all that He did demonstrated that love to a hurting and broken world.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

 

Father, thank You for sending Jesus to show us Your heart.  What love You have demonstrated in making a way for us to be set free.  When the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, remind us of Your love for us.  Whisper Your truth in our hearts so that we may be set free to love You in return.  Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen. 

 

Pic credit:  kingdomcitizens.org

 

 

 

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Salvation Coin

 

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Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’?

Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .”

At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.”

And the man did it.

The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.

Matthew 9:5 – 13  MSG

This is Jesus speaking. The crowds had witnessed Him healing countless people of physical afflictions and delivering so many people of the demons that tormented them.

But this was new and they couldn’t get their minds around it.

Jesus the healer.  Yes.

Jesus the Son of Man who has authority to forgive sins?  No.

I have been in churches almost all my 62 years and I am convinced that many churches have reversed that.  I have heard churches offer the salvation message and seldom does that invitation include physical healing for our bodies.  Often times, even communion is offered with no reference to the body beaten for our healing represented by the bread at the communion table.  This is not a criticism, just an observation. I didn’t think too much of that until recently when God gave me this image.

Pretend that I have laid a silver dollar in your outstretched hand.

Would it make any difference if that coin were placed heads up or tails up?

Would it spend any differently?

Of course, we know the answer is no.

But, imagine for a moment God placing a coin in your hand.

A coin He referred to as a Salvation Coin.

On one side is engraved the word “Saved”.

 On the other side, “Healed” is written.

Would it matter which side of that coin landed face up?

Would it spend any differently?

Again, the answer is no.

It wouldn’t matter.

The word sozo translated in our New Testament means “to save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, do well, and be made whole”  according to Strong’s Concordance.

Jesus showed us the Kingdom of God while He walked on this earth. That kingdom includes the salvation of our souls but it also provides for the healing of our bodies.

Different sides of the same coin.

I have heard it said many times, if you have the faith to believe your sins are forgiven, you have the faith to be healed.

Thank you Father, that your salvation is all inclusive.  Thank you for the love that sent Jesus to the cross on my behalf that I may be healed and saved and preserved and made whole.  In the times when I  don’t feel these provisions, help me to remember that the price has been paid, my salvation is a done deal. I receive by faith all that Jesus’ sacrifice purchased for me.  Praise Your holy name.  Amen. 

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Affect or Infect?

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Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help

and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.

But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.

 

Jonah 1:5

 When I read this the other day, my first reaction was, of course he was sleeping. Doesn’t it always seem like the person that creates the havoc can be oblivious to the impending wreckage? Sleeping away while others are scratching their heads and cleaning up the mess? Jonah was running from God, these people on the boat didn’t know Jonah or Jonah’s God, the storm hadn’t been predicted by the newscaster, the ETA for the ship had been announced and the people were settling in for what should have been  a safe little boat trip to Tarshish.  But then there is a twist in the tale; Jonah happened and the storm happened because of Jonah and the people were now freaking out because  the storm happened because of Jonah running from God and all this time, Jonah sleeps through it.

It is so easy to think that it is all about me. I think that lots of times and surely Jonah is thinking that here. I don’t want to do things God’s way, I don’t want to hear what He has to say, it is all about me and so I will just run far, far away. I don’t get in a boat and try to get out of dodge, no, I don’t have to do that, I can just be busy, too busy, too focused on me and what I want to stop and consider God’s plan for the moment. Or worse, I can consider God’s plan for the moment and decide that my plan trumps His. After all, it is all about me, isn’t it? Or is it?

The problem with that thinking is that we don’t live our lives in a vacuum. Our lives touch and intersect with others, planned or unplanned. Others that may know nothing about our issue with God or even care. But our lives have the power to affect others or to infect others. Jonah’s clearly infected others this day, almost to the point of death and he was so wrapped up in his drama that how he touched their lives no longer mattered.  Sad commentary for a prophet who had dedicated his life to speaking God’s word to people’s hearts.

Whether we are a prophet or a teacher or a mom or a friend, daughter, employee, sister…. our life touches others either for good or for not so good.  Ignoring that doesn’t change it.  Sleeping through the wreckage is only an option for so long. Sooner or later, the mess catches up with us.

Jonah owned up to his responsibility for the storm and you probably know the rest of the story. He is thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish and then deposited safely onto dry ground.  God calms the storm and the people on the boat were carried to their port safely. Jonah was given a second chance and this time, he carried out God’s instructions.

My takeaway from this is just this: there is no storm, regardless of cause, that God cannot quiet. Even if the storm is of my own making, it doesn’t change God’s love for me or His willingness to rescue me. Or you.

That’s good news, isn’t it?

 

pic credit: christart.com

Anger Issues

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God said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

Jonah 4:4

Jonah could have made a list of the things he was angry about.  He was a prophet and being asked to do the unthinkable – take God’s grace to the Israelites worst enemy. He was angry that the Ninevites might repent and God would spare them the judgment they had coming. They were ugly, vicious enemies of the Israelites. They were cruel and apparently boasted of their cruelty on their monuments, some of these monuments exists today in museums and here is a partial list of things they boasted about:

“I cut off their heads and formed them into pillars”

“I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins”

“Many within the border of my own land I flayed, and spread their skins upon the walls”

“I cut off the limbs of the officers, the royal officers who had rebelled”

“3,000 captives I burned with fire”

“Their corpses I formed into pillars”

“From son I cut off their hands and their fingers, and from other I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out their eyes”

“I made one pillar of the living, and another of heads, I bound their heads to posts round about the city” *

Many of these atrocities would have been done against the people Jonah lived among.  Oh yes, Jonah had reasons to be angry. But when told to go to Ninevah and warn them to repent or God would destroy them, Jonah said no. The last thing Jonah wanted was for God to forgive these enemies and relent on His plans to destroy them.

I have been there. I can relate to Jonah; been so angry with someone for so long that his salvation no longer mattered to me. Maybe even in my darkest moments of anger I might have wished God’s judgment on him. Oh, in my defense, I didn’t get there overnight; no it took years, as it no doubt did with Jonah.  I can make a list of wrongs done to me that would make anyone angry. I could justify my anger, but that didn’t make it right, at least not in God’s eyes.  Like Jonah, I don’t believe I saw the depth of my anger until God exposed to me my unwillingness to pass on to this person the love, forgiveness, mercy and  compassion that God had so freely given me.  Unlike Jonah, I did repent and while I would like to say it changed the person I was so angry with, it didn’t. It changed me.

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I continually have the choice – wallow in my anger, keep the list of wrongs done to me forever in my remembrance, withhold grace to someone in need, or I can purpose to let the anger go. I’m not saying it is easy, it’s not, but it is a choice – my anger or God’s righteousness. Which would you choose?

 

 

* this from James Montgomery Boice

pic credit 1: slbc2u.org

pic credit 2: amazon.com

 

 

Forgiven

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I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.

I John 2:21

Today a group of friends were playing basketball as they do every morning. And, as sometimes happens, words were spoken that could have divided not only the team, but friendships, as well.  I ended the game and allowed tempers to cool and then began the work of peace-making. Most of the words were spoken to or about one boy, a boy they have all enjoyed, a boy who was reduced to tears over their behavior.  I reminded them that the one thing I value most when they play a group game is respect. Respect for themselves, for others, for me and for the equipment. That didn’t soften any hearts. The glares continued and the arms remained crossed and the wounded boy was still alone.

I reminded them that the filter we run something through is:  would I like it if someone did that to me?  And if the answer is no, then don’t do it. That didn’t soften any hearts either.

Then I reminded them one at a time, that they were friends, good friends, and like it or not, sometimes friends don’t always act right towards us. But we forgive. Well, that didn’t soften any hearts either.

Then I asked a simple question: have you ever treated a friend unkindly? Have you ever said or done something to a friend you later regretted? I could see the hearts softening, see the glares subsiding, see the arms dropping down beside them. One by one, they started looking at the boy they had hurt.

My last question: what do you think you should do now?  Without hesitation, they went to the offended boy and offered sincere apologies and reassured him that they wanted his friendship. Forgiveness offered. Then the boy smiled and joined his friends. Forgiveness received.

Forgiveness, heart-felt, sincere forgiveness is such an amazing gift. One we can give or receive. One we can reject or withhold. One that was freely given to us when we didn’t deserve it at all. I wear a bracelet that has the word FORGIVEN on it. When I put it on in the morning and take it off in the evening, it serves to remind me that as I have been forgiven, I should forgive.  That’s a reminder I need.

I saw forgiveness work its magic this morning in these boy’s lives. And it was magic. It brought healing and restoration. And it can do that work in your life as well. But only if it is received and given. Freely we receive, freely give. Easier said than done, but what a healing power it brings.

From the beginning, from the very first moment a sin entered to divide You from Your children and Your children from each other, Father, You understood the power of forgiveness, You knew how much we would need forgiveness and You also knew what it would cost You. But You gave anyway. You gave us Jesus to pay what we couldn’t, to settle the debt against us so we could freely receive the forgiveness You offer. More than just saying thank You, could I show my gratitude by freely passing on what You so freely gave me? Forgiveness. I need Your help to do that; I can’t do it on my own. Show me where I am withholding forgiveness and soften my heart that I may freely offer it , in Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: greatergood.Berkley.edu

Snow Day

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Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

Psalm 51:7

I am homebound today for the third day in a row. Snow has closed schools and many business here in the Pacific Northwest.  The snow has covered everything, blanketing the good, the bad and the ugly in white. Clean and vibrant white. It is beautiful. I lived in Montana for 25 winters and took snow like this for granted or at times, wished it away.  I remember a scene, though, that stands out in my mind.

Our neighbor had several acres of land and he was fond of vehicles. Broken, rusted, old, new vehicles (trucks, cars, farm equipment) and just pieces of vehicles. Actually, I don’t know that he was fond of them, only that he collected them. His yard and pasture were a veritable junkyard. We didn’t have neighborhood associations then (probably still don’t in that part of Montana) so his treasures could accumulate to his heart’s desire.  Ugly is an understatement and I passed it every time I went to town, took kids to school or came home – there it was in plain sight –  the neighborhood junkyard. Until it snowed.

Snow transformed the junkyard into a glistening, sparkling exquisite collection of sculptures. I would be in awe of the transformation as I drove by. I was surrounded by beautiful snow-covered nature scenes – mountains, trees, and creeks, but this scene seemed the most remarkable simply because of the transformation. Mountains are always beautiful as are trees and creeks, but a junkyard, well, not so much. Until the snow made it a work of art.

I imagine my heart something like this junkyard before I accepted God’s freely offered forgiveness for my sins.  A collection of junk that could only be described as ugly. A collection I would rather no one saw, including me. After accepting His forgiveness, I see my heart more like the snow-covered sculpture I marveled at in Montana. What a transformation!  How awesome to think that my sins have been forgiven, I have been cleansed and now my heart is whiter than snow. Not because I am sinless, but because my sins have been wiped clean. I have a clean and vibrant white slate for a heart and much like the junkyard that was transformed into a thing of beauty, God transformed my heart into a work of art He could gaze upon. He doesn’t have to turn away from seeing my heart because He freely cleansed it for me. He washed it whiter than snow!

What an amazing gift forgiveness is, so totally undeserved. I am so grateful that You saw my ugly, junkyard condition and chose to free me from it. Not just by covering it with snow, but by cleansing me and wiping away my sin from before Your eyes. I need that washing daily. Thank You for forgiving me, for loving me in spite of my sins and wanting to gaze upon me with love and acceptance. Thank You for the blanket of snow You keep me covered in.  Amen.

pic credit: wovenwomenblogspot.com

Who Owes Who?

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For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6: 14-15

My husband surprised me with a new van.  Not brand new, but new to us and 11 years newer than the van I was driving. One day, a father was dropping off his children at work, saw me get out of the van and commented about it.  I told him how my husband had surprised me with it and he said how nice that was of him. To which I added (and I’m not proud of this) – well, he owed me.  The man looked shocked. Let me explain:

For several weeks, we were vehicle challenged. We went back and forth from having two that worked and one that worked and one day, neither one worked. My husband was frantically trying to keep us rolling, working on one and then the other. Most of the time he handled it very well, but then there were times, when, let’s just say, I wanted to run away from home.

Once he determined to give up totally on one, he began searching for another vehicle we could afford. He was back and forth to the car dealership and test driving cars and all during this time, I was under the impression he was getting the vehicle to replace his truck which is the one that died. I say, under the impression, because at this point, we were no longer talking and my opinion was not solicited. The tension in our home was escalating and the cold war between us raged on.  When he finally showed up with this van and said it was for me, I should have been elated, I’m sure, but I was still angry at not being asked my opinion about financing a vehicle. I did, however, drive it and thank him.  But I felt justified in saying he owed me based on what he had put us through because of his stress level over all of this.

So, back to my story, the father says, “well doesn’t everybody owe somebody?”

Of course, the father was right and I felt ashamed of my attitude.  Everybody owes somebody and I owe many somebodies. How gross of me to see it any other way. I have been forgiven of so much by my husband and by God and for me to withhold forgiveness to anyone is well,  just plain old gross. I repented and chose to begin the practice of forgiving others immediately and letting go of anything I may feel they owe me, because I know that what I owe has been forgiven by God.  I say “begin the practice” because I am a long way from accomplishing this feat but I am purposing to do this one day at a time, or one minute at a time, if need be.

Lord, how awesome it is to know that my sins are forgiven; that You are holding nothing against me. As my slate is wiped clean, help me to wipe clean the slates of those that I believe have harmed me. Help me to forgive freely and graciously, just as You have forgiven me. Thank You for my new van and a husband who would work so hard to keep us with transportation. Forgive me for holding his sins against him. I choose forgiveness, help me to offer it freely. I ask in Your gracious name, Amen.

Payment Accepted

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So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.”

Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.

The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.

Hebrews 10:19-22

Message Bible

Need healing? Need restoration? Need peace? Need something you can’t even put into words?

Feel like you can’t even approach God? You’ve been too distant – feel too unworthy – it’s been far too long since you even considered Him as a viable source for anything? Whatever the barrier that keeps you from God, He hasn’t placed it there. The only barrier was our sin, yours, mine, individual sins and collective sins, all of them, the sum total, the past ones, the present ones, the ones you haven’t even thought of yet. Those caused a barrier; but that barrier has come down. They came down when Jesus said, “it is finished”. The sacrifice made to  atone for our sins was made. God was pleased to call our debts paid in full and the barrier that separated us is no longer.

If we believe that, if we accept that, we can walk right up to God – without hesitation. We can take our needs, our concerns, our fears, our joys, our hopes (the ones that are alive and even those that have died) and we can confidently know that we are, as this verse says, presentable – inside and out. We don’t have to clean ourselves up first, we don’t have to dress up or act proper, we just come, as we are, and know that it was God’s desire to have the barrier of our sin removed so that we could come. He paid an incredible price for it. The only thing to be done now is accept that fact and walk right up to God.

The payment has been made; my debt is wiped away. What an amazing gift! I come to You, confident that I am presentable, inside and out, and ask for wisdom. I feel somewhat divided today. Does what I do honor You? Does it please You? I want, I need to know that what I do with my life is Your will and not mine. Would You show me, lead me, help me settle in my heart just what You would have of me? I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Really Jesus?! Children?!

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The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Mark 10:14-15

Jesus was constantly surprising people by His word and His actions, even His disciples who had been with Him for some time. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, He dined with tax collectors, He touched lepers, He healed all, He fed thousands with a handful of food, He walked on water, He taught with such authority that people scratched their heads in amazement, He claimed to be the Son of God. And here, He has the audacity to tell His disciples that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Who but Jesus would elevate children to such a place?

Jews at that time would have been taught that the kingdom of God is something you earn your way into and how could a child do that? By their standards, most adults couldn’t do it.   The disciples attempted to shoo the children away,  thinking Jesus apparently had more important things to do. Once again, Jesus surprised the crowds, the Pharisees and the disciples by showing them what He considered worthy of His attention and His kingdom – children.

This is a beautiful story of Jesus welcoming all of us who can’t earn our way in to be able to freely enter the Kingdom of God. The kingdom prepared and planned by God, planned and prepared for us. A kingdom where Jesus is Lord over all. I don’t know what that kingdom will look like, but I suspect that if Jesus is Lord it might look a lot like all of these things He did on earth that surprised people. Loving the least of people, healing the all and the many, dining with the ones society might call unworthy, refusing to condemn those we would gladly point a finger at, opening His arms and His heart to children. Welcoming people like me and people like you and laying His hand on our head to bless us. Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine the healing that flows from His hand when He lays it on my head. Can you?

What a beautiful story this is Jesus of Your love for us all, for me. To be welcomed into Your arms, knowing full well I can do nothing to deserve such a love or embrace and yet…  Words fail me now, I am so touched by the thought of Your kingdom and Your hand of blessing on my head. Thank You. Amen.

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All The Black Sheep

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Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?     

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,     

a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him,     

nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over,    

 a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.    

 We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—     

our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,     

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,     

that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.     

Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.     

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,     

on him, on him.

 He was beaten, he was tortured,     

but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered     

and like a sheep being sheared,    

 he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—    

 and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,     

beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

They buried him with the wicked,     

threw him in a grave with a rich man,

Even though he’d never hurt a soul     

or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,     

to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin     

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.     

And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,    

 he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,    

 will make many “righteous ones,”    

 as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—     

the best of everything, the highest honors—

Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,     

because he embraced the company of the lowest.

He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,    

 he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Isaiah 53: 2-12 Message Bible

I was the “black sheep” growing up. Oh, no one really said that, at least not out loud, but I knew. I simply couldn’t measure up to expectations. I didn’t mean to fail, to make bad grades, to get in trouble, but as my mom was fond of saying, “no, but you didn’t mean not to either”. I suppose she had a point. I tried to be good, to mean to do right, but…

The good news is, the great news is, the remarkable news is – I have a defender, a champion, a redeemer and He chose to take up my cause and the cause of all the black sheep. Wow! How amazing is that? And because of that, God’s plan will deeply prosper in my life. Who would have thought God’s saving power was meant for the black sheep of the family?  For all of us who couldn’t measure up.  Only God.

Jesus, again I say, what a wonder You are. Had I seen You back then in person, would I look at You and turn away? Would I give You a second look? Oh, how it grieves me that I might have. Even now, I know there are times when I fail to see You and Your life given for me as completely as I should. Help me to see You, to see what You did for me, to embrace all that You have purchased for me, and to share that with others who may also feel like a black sheep, unable to measure up, unable to make the grade, in need of a champion. Thank You for taking up our cause and taking away our sins. In Your name, I pray, Amen.

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