Tag Archives: Healing

Better Words

Ready, Fire, Aim!  Way too often, that’s how my mouth works.  Before I know it, I’ve blurted out something stupid.  Or hurtful.  Just this morning a good friend told me about how I had thoughtlessly hurt his feelings.  I had thought what I’d said was funny.  He felt wounded.  How I wish I had paid more attention to the wisdom of this proverb:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  (Proverbs 12:18)

The dictionary says “rash” means acting without forethought or due caution.  That nails it – right between my eyes.  Imagine how differently I’d be feeling if my friend had said, “Your words seemed to heal my heart.”  Instead of trying to find funny words, I’m going to work on finding words that heal, build up or strengthen others.

It’s not that I want to lay my struggles on you.  But, maybe you know someone like me, who could use to pay closer attention to that proverb or to this similar thought from the New Testament:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  (Note: – The original word for “unwholesome” doesn’t mean cussing.  It means something that causes rotting to occur!)  (Ephesians 4:29 – my added note)

So here’s my goal: Ready, Aim, Speak!

Turned Loose

A guy I knew in high school was confined to a wheelchair.  Then just about this time one year, he showed up at school walking!  He used canes, but he was really walking.  And the look on his face is still etched on my mind.

Imagine the look on the face of the paralytic guy to whom Jesus said, “”Pick up your mat and go home.”  I’ll bet it broadcast alternate waves of amazement and pure joy.  But rereading the account in Matthew, I noticed that the physical healing was secondary.  Jesus’ first words to this man were:

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2b)

The religious experts who heard Him were shocked at His supposed blasphemy.  So, Jesus used the healing as proof of His authority to forgive sins.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?    Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” –  (Matthew 9:4-6)

It is easy to be astonished with the act of physical healing and lose sight of the fact it was given as proof of Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. My guess?  He would have healed the man out of kindness anyway.  But His first gift to the man was forgiveness. 

Jesus said it was easier for Him to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but in fact, it was not easy for Him to make that possible.  Only Jesus had that authority, and He alone, because He was sinless, was able to purchase forgiveness for others on the Cross. 

I think Jesus chose such moments with care, using those that were living pictures of His deeper truth.  Chances are pretty good that you, like me, have felt, paralyzed by sin from time to time, helplessly locked up and unworthy of release.  Jesus has the full authority to say, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; take up your mat and go home.” 

Trust Him on that…

Powerfully Gentle

“He could pick a scab off a baby’s bottom with that thing!”  The guy was talking about a skilled heavy equipment operator on the highway crew where I was working for the summer.  It really was impressive to watch how he controlled the massive power of that giant machine with precision and such a light touch.  In his hands, that great power was gentle.

That sounds like an oxymoron to say powerfully gentle.  We tend to think, powerfully destructive.  The most powerful thing humans have created was anything but gentle.  It was the Tsar Bomba, a nuclear bomb, tested by the Russians in 1961.  It’s power was 1500 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Anything but gentle.

How much power does God have?  The sun puts out 1800 million times more energy than the Tsar Bomba – every second!  How many other suns are there? Scientists say around 400 billion, billion others.  That’s not a typo.  400 billion, billion suns, millions of times more powerful than the Tsar Bomba.  And that’s just in the observable part of the universe…   The Creator of all that has power surpassing the sum of all of them.  And yet, God controls His power with amazing delicacy, gentleness and precision.

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

That’s a description of God’s unlimited power, unleashed with tenderness.  For sure, God has the power to lay waste to whole nations.  He could smash you flat with His fist.  But when we open our hearts to Him, His power is shown to us with gentleness.  If you let Him, God can pick the scabs off your heart with amazing precision and tenderness.

PS:  Check out this sermon from Charles Spurgeon, published in 1916: (Click Here)

 

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Nothing Will Be Impossible?

It was their big chance but not their best moment.  Jesus was up the mountain with Peter, James and John and, in His absence, a man brings his son to the other disciples for a healing.   You can imagine how they might have felt.  Perhaps they wanted to show they were just as important and effective as the three that went with Jesus.  They undoubtedly remembered that Jesus had previously given them authority to do this kind of thing (Matthew 10:1).  But when they tried to heal the boy, nothing happened.  When Jesus came back, He drove out a demon and healed him.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”” (Matthew 17:19-20)

Puzzling: Jesus said their faith was too “little” and then said if they had faith like a tiny mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.”  If their faith wasn’t big enough, why did Jesus use a tiny seed to show them what they needed?

It wasn’t the size of their faith that was the issue, but the object of it.  “Why can’t we drive it out,” they asked?  We.  They had faith that they could drive out the spirit, which meant their faith was too little on God.  This is an important distinction, because you frequently hear people say, “If you had more faith,” or, “if you simply had stronger faith” you would be healed.  Perhaps they mean well, but for them to imply it is your fault you are suffering (or worse) is cruel.  It is not about you, trying hard to work up more faith.  Because, as Jesus pointed out, if your faith is truly in God, in His power and sovereignty, even tiny faith, as small as a mustard seed would be enough.

A friend of mine seems to be able to fix any machine, no matter what is wrong with it.  If I had such a problem, I would trust him to fix it.  I might watch him do it, but probably wouldn’t say things like, “Don’t you think we ought to replace the Jimmy-ca-whatsis?”  I’d trust him to know what to do.  Trusting God is like that.  Our prayer of faith lays out the problem before Him and acknowledges His supremacy to deal with it.

Like this:

“Heavenly Father, this little boy has such terrible seizures and we don’t know if it is a medical problem or perhaps demonic possession.  But You do, Lord.  And we know You know what will be best.  We thank You, Lord, that You have invited us to bring this situation to You.  If there is any way in which You want us to serve in response to this, please show us and use us as You see fit.”  

Jesus said, “…if you have faith… nothing will be impossible for you.”  He also said,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I’m guessing you may have questions about this – I certainly do.  If you would like to send me some as a reply, I’ll try to address them.  Until then, keep chewing on this “fresh bread.”  It’s worth it…

Across the Divide

One reason Ebola is so hard to contain in West Africa is that many people in that region distrust western medicine. It is very tough to leap by faith across a cultural divide.  That’s also why westerners have a hard time trusting Chinese medicine.  Culture gets in the way of faith.

For that reason, it was startling when Jesus encountered a woman from a pagan culture, north of Israel.

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite (not Jewish) woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” (Matthew 15:21-26 – with my added comment)

Why did Jesus call this woman and her people “dogs?” Was He being racist?  To the contrary, I think He was chiding the disciples for their attitude.  A woman comes, crying out in desperation and they want Jesus to send her away, presumably, because she wasn’t Jewish!  Jesus was using irony, and He softened the insulting word, using an affectionate word for puppy or pet instead.

And Jesus didn’t send her away!  He spoke to her, recognizing that she had dared leave her culture to trust in Him. Her people worshiped the pagan god of healing, Eshmun, whose temple was only about 3 miles away. But Instead of going to Eshmun for help, she had come to Jesus!  Even as He was subtly rebuking His disciples, He also was checking to see if this woman really had faith in Him.

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:27-28, NIV)

Did you notice that this woman didn’t have all the “right” doctrine?  She’d never been to Sunday School.  She simply believed that Jesus could help her and she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.  And He did help her.

God’s rescue began with the Jewish people.  But it was always meant for all peoples.  Even for you.  Maybe you have wrapped yourself in a culture that makes it hard to trust Jesus to help you.  Maybe you don’t think you know enough about the Bible.  But if you need Jesus, and if you are ready, so is He.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

 

This is Personal

God would have made a great pitcher.  Just when you  expect something high and inside, He throws a sinker  Looking for heat?  He throws a curve ball.  God knows how to make the earth shake.  But when He sent Jesus to save the world, He sent Him with stealth.  It’s puzzling why Jesus, Who unleashed great power healing people, so often told them to keep it a secret.  But this was the plan all along.  Isaiah foretold it and Matthew watched the plan in action.  He wrote:

… Many followed him, and he healed all their sick,    warning them not to tell who he was.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.   He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. (Mt 12:185b-20)

If Jesus’ objective was to reach the whole world, why would He work so subtly and silently?  Why not rent out a stadium and have a sound and light show?  If His objective was “to bring justice to victory,” why not come with a show of military might? 

Perhaps one reason is because Jesus ultimately comes to each of us, one at a time.  Salvation is offered personally.  You cannot decide for me; I cannot decide for you.  A personal invitation is best done quietly, sincerely and without a lot of extraneous hoopla. 

Someday Jesus will come back with great fanfare.  He said everyone will be able to see Who He is.  But until then, His invitation is personal.

Rest Assured

The most intimate conversations with my wife tend to happen when we are out for a walk – away from the phone, the TV, the dishes, etc.  Something about the pace of walking together draws us closer.  Taking the time for that, periodically, breaks the gradual crescendo of stress and distraction of daily life and helps us re-connect.  God knew that principle and blessed us by commanding us to periodically observe a Sabbath rest.  Think of the Sabbath as God saying, “Hey, let’s go for a walk together…”

But then the religious authorities (an oxymoron?) layered the Sabbath with so many do’s and don’ts that their rules actually separated people from the heart of God.  The Sabbath became a burden instead of a rest and time of re-connection.  Naturally, Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath caused conflict, especially among those who tried to use religion as a way to control others.  Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  That, in a nutshell, is the idea of the Sabbath!   But an invitation like that was a threat to the makers and enforcers of strict religious rules.

 “Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” (Matthew 12:9-14)

I wonder if they called their meeting on the Sabbath?   No doubt.  Do you need rest? Do you wish you could be close to God?  Stay away from people like that.  Go to Jesus.  Find your Sabbath rest in Him.   He said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6b)

What Really Matters

Eric Wallace threw himself out of an airplane and parachuted into the middle of the Air Force Academy football stadium, just before the game.  But when he landed, he knelt down before his girlfriend, Melanie and asked her to be his wife.  The parachute part was sensational.  The proposal was more important.  The day will come when what really matters to Eric and Melanie is that they agreed to be husband and wife, “’til death do us part.”  On days like that, how he showed up to ask her won’t be so important.

Matthew focused in on what really mattered when he told about the paralyzed guy and Jesus. The way Mark and Luke tell the story, his friends smash a hole in the roof and lower him down on ropes, to get him to Jesus.  But Matthew leaves that part of the story out, skipping ahead to what really matters.  He wrote:

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)

Being lowered through the roof was the sensational part.  Being healed of paralysis must have been what the man was hoping for.  But Jesus jumped right to the part that really mattered: “Your sins are forgiven.”  I realize that some priests and clergy presume to pronounce sins forgiven, but in truth, only God has the authority to forgive sins.  That is why…

“At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” (Matthew 9:3)

The blasphemy they accused Jesus of was taking on the role of God.  In Luke’s account, they asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21)

“Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:4-8)

The startling part of this story was when they tore open the roof.  The sensational part was when the man stood up and walked home, healed.  That part wowed the crowd!  But the healing was only a sign, a sign to prove the part that really matters.  What really matters for you and me is that Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins.

When you go to Jesus, seeking forgiveness, it makes no difference what you had to do to get there.  If He heals your body when you come, that is a bonus, of only temporary significance.  But what really matters to you eternally, is that your sins have been completely and eternally forgiven.  When your mind wonders and doubts if it is really true, you can be sure it really is, because Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins.  That’s what really matters.

Lessons from a Leper

If you had been there, you would have ridden an emotional roller coaster.  The Sermon on the Mount was over.  The large crowds were so blown away by  the authority of Jesus’ teaching that, when He walked down off the mountain, they just had to follow Him.  They could sense it; they were in on something big.  Jesus was going to be really famous and popular. But then:

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:2-4)

It’s hard for us to appreciate how jolting it would have been for the people following Jesus, to suddenly discover a leper in their midst.  People with leprosy were so horribly disfigured that they were severely ostracized and shunned.  They were considered unclean, spiritually dangerous to be near.  And here comes a leper, right up to Jesus.  It was shocking and revolting.  But then Jesus touched him, making Himself  unclean by the rules of their day, and risking catching the disease.  Jesus went from being the grand winner of “Galilee’s Got Talent” to making Himself unfit to be near.  You can imagine how the crowd’s emotions were tossed back and forth.

Before anyone could recover from the shock of those two things, the leprous man was instantly healed!  Fear and revulsion would have suddenly turned into amazement and awe!  Let’s sound the trumpets!  Jesus can stand up now and loudly proclaim His Divinity.  He can bask in the glory of His great power.  The crowd would have gone wild…

But that’s not what He did.  Jesus told the man not to tell anyone.  Instead, He said, he should follow the customary procedure for someone who was healed – get checked out by a priest and bring an offering.  Why would Jesus tell this man to keep it a secret?  Why would He set it up for the priests to get the credit?   Confused?  So were all the people in the crowd.  Jesus didn’t say why and Matthew doesn’t tell us.  He just let them ride the roller coaster.

Maybe you have felt a little like the leper – too much like damaged goods to be able to get near Jesus.  Maybe you see all those Christians crowding around Jesus and think, “I’m not like those people; they wouldn’t want me to come in and ruin the celebration.”  Maybe you are wondering if Jesus would reach out and touch you, if He would heal you from whatever kind of moral, spiritual or physical “leprosy” that afflicts you.  If so, carefully consider three things about how he brought his request:

1.   First,  he kneeled before Jesus and called Him “Lord.”   Mathew used a word for prostrating oneself as an act of wholehearted worship.  The leper approached Jesus with humility and reverence, with a deep sense of how needy he was and how Holy Jesus was.

2.   Secondly, he acknowledged Jesus’ power and authority.  He said “… you can make me clean.”  This was a profound statement of faith.  “You can do it.”  Trusting Jesus means believing He is able.

3.   Finally, the leper accepted that Jesus would only heal him if He was willing.  He left the decision up to Jesus.

We would do well to remember these three attitudes whenever we bring a request to Jesus.  Remember his attitude of humble reverence before the “Lord,” His faith in Jesus’ great power, and how he submitted himself to what Jesus willed.   Jesus, Himself modeled these 3 attitudes in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

When you approach Jesus, don’t come with the crowd.  They can be easily confused.  Instead, come with the leper.  He knew what to do.