Blinded! To See or Not to See

Blinded

Have you ever been blinded? The flash of a welder’s arc caused damage to our son’s eyes when he was still in high school. He was hospitalized with his eyes bandaged over for several days as a result. Afterward, he carefully avoided any similar incidents.

I have sometimes thought about which one of the five senses, I value the most? If I had to part with one, which one would I choose? Perhaps parting with the sense of taste might not be a half-bad idea — especially the taste of chocolate! Though hard-pressed to decide, the ability to see would definitely be at the top of my priorities to keep.

Perhaps that reason undergirds my compassion toward the blind who came to Jesus. We see them, like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, crying out, by-passing protocol, refusing to be permanently imprisoned in darkness by silence.

However, the gnawing awareness of my own “blindness,” resulting from the equally imposing confinement within the dark recesses of my heart, makes up the greatest reason. I cannot deny my inability to see as God sees.

Palm Trees Water

“Lord, have mercy.” I too cry out, “I want to see!”

A Blind Man

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.”
Mark 8:22

Bethsaida, a fishing village north of the Sea of Galilee, became one of the most frequently mentioned places in the New Testament. Here, Jesus performed many miracles. Peter, Andrew and Philip, with faith, all left Bethsaida and everything in it, to follow Jesus. Now they, with Jesus, returned.

Whether they were friends or family of the blind man we’re not sure, but they came looking for Jesus to help where no other help was found. “They . . . begged Jesus to touch him” — “parakaleo“-ing Him, “calling for His aid, beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort.”

I appreciate Mark’s short, to the point, action-packed, essentials-only writing style. Every detail significant. Every word precise. Painting clear visuals for our imaginations.

Blinded

Jesus’ methods of healing changed with each encounter, because He did only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19-20). Here . . .

“He took the bind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hand on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ “
Mark 8:23

I wouldn’t recommend this healing scenario as a prayer model! Can you imagine the shocked expressions, air-gasping, and indiscreet murmuring of onlookers?

Sunlight through Trees

With the exception of the ten lepers who were healed as they went (Luke 17:11-19), Jesus healed diseases and infirmities instantly. This time, He sensed an invisible block to this man’s complete restoration. He asks, “Do you see anything,” moving the blind man from passive by-stander to active participant in his own healing.

“He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Mark 8:24

At one time, he saw people and trees. Before being blinded, he saw both. Now he recognized the difference.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Mark 8:25

See Clearly

Jesus touched my eyes when He touched my heart and claimed me for His own. I gave Him my resolute, “Yes!” to follow Him wherever He may lead, and yield to Him whatever He asks. He touched the eyes of my heart to see. Once was good but not enough!

Again, He moves me from by-stander to active participant in my healing as He asks, “Do you see?” How often I’ve come begging Him for clearer vision — for Him to touch me “once more!”

Honestly, most of the time, I see people who “look like trees walking around.” My heart is still blinded to truth, warping my perception of others.

Brilliant sky

Some I see as palm trees of rest and refreshing. Others I see as thorn bushes, cutting deeply, drawing unnecessary blood when I get close. Still others resemble junipers, sapping strength, resources and life with each encounter. Many appear fickle — green and growing one season, barren and dead the next. A precious few become shelters of prayer with their spreading canopy protecting me from the enemy’s onslaughts. Still others stand menacingly tall in high positions, with deadly accuracy striking like lightning in a prairie storm.

I need to be honest before God, myself and you as I write with genuine tears. I’m blinded to His perception of all those He loves and has given His life for. I’m unable to see clearly His reflection in their faces.

The root of this man’s blindness remains hidden — the cause undisclosed. The source for my own inability to see hides concealed in the recesses of both my past and present. Whether I’m blinded by cynicism or criticism, unforgiveness or judgement, self-protection or ignorance, Jesus offers the only “parakaleo.” He alone provides both help and comfort.

Although miracles validated Jesus’ ministry, His intension went far beyond easing temporary pain. The miracles He performed were supposed to stir repentance, build faith and bring glory to God. That primary purpose remains unchanged!

Once More

Once more, I need Jesus to miraculously touch my blinded eyes and soften my hardened heart. Paul, someone else formerly blinded to truth, exhorted his spiritual son, Timothy,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people . . . this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunrise Trees

Paul “urges” (parakalo,” the same word as “parakaleo” in Mark). He calls for Timothy’s aid — “beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort,” for everyone based on the cross.

“Touch my heart again and again, Lord. Spit upon my spiritual eyes that I would see people as you do — valued, significant, worthy of love, honor, and dignity. Like the blind man, may my eyes be open and my sight restored. May I clearly see each one as You do.”

Go Home

Mark ends the account with,

“Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’ ”
Mark 8:26

I’m not exactly sure why Jesus gave such specific instruction not to go into Bethsaida. Jesus, who led him by the hand out, warned him not to go back. Was something about this village the source of his blindness? Or was Jesus protecting him from falling under a soon-to-be-proclaimed curse?

Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago . . .” Luke 10:13

God graciously offers seasons of visitation and repentance to us — turn around moments, fresh starts and God encounters. When Jesus comes, He longs to do far more than physical miracles. He desires our hearts, wanting us to see with clear vision.

Road Home

Miracle moments often incite overconfidence or pride, causing us to think we can handle situations we’re ill prepared for. Jesus knows when it’s essential to establish a distance between us and the things, people or places that blind. So He takes us by the hand and leads us.

Those who responded to Him, headed straight home. No detours or distractions! Like Peter, Andrew and Philip, they followed Jesus, not blindly, but with fresh faith and sight.

Perhaps with His once-more touch upon my heart, I too will see and follow Him the same way.

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Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Joy to the World

Some of my fondest Christmas memories include the singing of “Joy to the World.” Its familiar chords link my past with the present, and then reaches forward to a future time.

How comforting when warm memories spring forth from some hidden well — cherished for a moment, then returned for safekeeping.

Today’s memories swirl around Austrian-German extended family and Christmas Eve services. Of course the beautiful German classic, “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) would take prime position, but inevitably, “Freude der Welt” (“Joy to the World”) would also take its place. Though I never learned to speak German, even decades later, whenever I hear either of these melodies, the familiar blend of German-English simultaneously flows through my heart.

After meditating on Psalm 98, Isaac Watts scribed “Joy to the World” as a poem, pointing not to the nativity, but rather to the triumphal Second Coming of Christ. His adaptation of the psalm, usually sung at Christmas, draws us to both bow in reverence of His humble birth while also considering His return to rule and reign as Sovereign King.

Christmas Carol

Shout for Joy

Perhaps, if there is one thing we could each use a little more of this Christmas, it would be joy. Or rather, a re-centring of joy. Honestly, I have overly depended on family gatherings, church community celebrations, school programs, sparkle tours, and a host of other activities to open my joy portal at Christmas. As wonderful as they are, most only vaguely reflect the real purpose of our celebration.

The battle for joy darkens many of my Christmas memories. Oh, I “joyfully” busied myself with shopping and baking, cleaning and decorating, hosting and serving, singing and celebrating. All my efforts somehow fell short of the anticipated pinnacle I hoped for. Deep inside, I knew I was missing an important something — or rather Someone.

The days following Christmas often brought an emotional crash!

Shout for joy to the LORD,
all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn
— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.”
Psalm 98:4-6

Pipe Organ

Shout for joy to the LORD,” the ancient psalmist admonishes. Not, “Wait until you feel joyful. Then shout!” He calls for the shout of joy before the fulfillment of promise. Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Choose Joy

Rather than an emotion, joy is a decision that leads to emotion. At any moment, even in the darkest and most hopeless of moments, it is possible to “shout for joy.” When shouts rise to Him, because of Him, for Him, and through Him, the “shout for joy” often brings breakthrough.

When I remember the significance of His first coming as a helpless babe lying in a manger, I’m reminded that everything good about my life results from His grace, reaching into my helplessness, bringing hope, purpose and dignity. Countless others experience the same!

Though we don’t yet see Jesus Christ as He is, someday we will. In anticipation of the coming of the King of all kings, we shout. We shout for joy!

Here is my personal paraphrase of Psalm 98:4,

“Make a joyful noise (split the ears and shout) to Yahweh, the LORD (The One Who makes that which has been made, Who brings into existence all that exists, the All-Powerful Creator, Redeemer, and Preserver) of all the earth, break forth with a ringing cry of celebration in song and music.”

Joy to the World

You may feel very little cause for such exuberance in your present circumstances, but in looking up and remembering Him, choosing joy becomes possible.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Justice Reigns

Whether it sounds joyful or not, begin making a noise. Give an ear-piercing shout to the One worthy — not because of what we now see, but what will eternally be. Celebrate His birth. Then celebrate His coming again.

“Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth,
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the people with equity.”
Psalm 98:7-9

King Jesus is coming to reign and rule with justice and righteousness. Get ready! Receive Him!

King Christmas

Christmas is an extremely difficult time for many people: some grieve the loss of or separation from loved ones, others struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), fear and anxiety plague even more. There are no pat answers or quick fixes. Our assurance rests in the truth. Some day — on that awe-some day — tears will be wiped away, answers will become clear.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.

Joy to the World

No wonder this powerful carol stirs something so inexplicable within us. Listen again to the words scribed so long ago:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Christmas Music

No more let sins and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

One More Memory

Many years ago, a young schoolteacher quietly made her way to the front of the sanctuary to accompany a small hodge-podge choir. They assembled for this one occasion — a small church program. At the nod of the director, her agile fingers descended upon the keys of the nondescript piano with intensity.

The chords resonated with force and accuracy, as the tiny candelabra all but lost its grip on the polished walnut surface. The entire piano seemed to come alive under her masterful touch as the audience voluntarily stood in united declaration, ‘”Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”

The Lord is Come!

Everyone present felt the significance of the moment, as they temporarily cast aside weighty cares. Some lingered in stunned silence, others stood in awe, many were filled with fresh anticipation. Christ is come; He is with us!

For a moment this little assembly caught the essence of the “why” behind the joy.

“Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.”
Psalm 98:1-3

Whether the psalmist looked behind or ahead, He saw the magnificence of the LORD. Joy to the world — the whole world!

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Notes: History of Hymns: “Joy to the World”
https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-joy-to-the-world

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency

Overcoming spiritual impotency starts by recognizing and accepting personal responsibility for both gains and losses. Impotent means “unable to take effective action—to be helpless or powerless.”

Before you get any wrong ideas, I’m talking in the broadest sense of living the Christian life at half-throttle, never reaching God’s full potential. Jesus set a high standard of ministry for His disciples,

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

How wonderful to be called and given full authority to do the impossible! With opportunity comes responsibility.

Our Commission

Just a few verses later, Jesus spells out their mission more clearly,

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:6-8

Colt

As Christ’s followers, we are all called to “go” and “proclaim” the Good News of the Gospel. Each of us will carry out that mandate a little differently, depending on our situation and spiritual gift mix. We are all called to share God’s love with a world in need, however.

As well intentioned as I may be, I have been unable to reach the high mark Jesus has established. Although there’s a faint smattering of a few of these victories, I fall far short. I’ve been honestly seeking God and asking why. The lives of others depend on my overcoming spiritual impotency.

Pinpointing the Cause

Rather than focusing on the symptoms, we must go deeper to the cause of our powerlessness. God makes it clear, He desire us to freely give away all that we have received.

One day, Jesus invited His inner circle, Peter, James and John, up the mountain for an out of this world encounter with Moses and Elijah. Though the supernatural occurrence left them confused and questioning, they witnessed unbelievable things. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples weren’t idly waiting below. They were ministering — or rather they were unsuccessfully trying to!

” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ ”
Matthew 17:17

Rodeo Horse

Ouch! How’s that for a scathing performance evaluation that no one desires to hear from their Superior? I feel the sting from this side of two thousand years!

It’s not just you and me working on overcoming spiritual impotency; the best of the best struggled too.

Matthew, who records the account, witnessed the suffering of this poor father and son. He felt the failure of his inability to set this young lad free from demonic possession and heal his troubled body and mind. Matthew knew that every Christ follower would face these same hurdles to effective ministry.

The First Problem

Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit become a visible testimony of our salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4). God delegated these things for us all, not just those in “ordained” ministry. So what keeps us from fulfilling our calling? What’s the problem?

Jesus spells it out in two words: “unbelieving and perverse.” We tend to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Both are critical if we are going to be effective at overcoming spiritual impotence.

Unbelieving” goes beyond a littleness of faith. It also contains the aspect of not being worthy of confidence or being untrustworthy. Perhaps we have all experienced, either in our own lives or in the lives of others, a powerful sense of divine potential or excellence of calling. Yet, practically, we fall far short.

Wild Horses

I have to be bold in my self-evaluation, if I desire to overcome this malady of spirit. Can Jesus depend on me? Am I trustworthy with the gifts, abilities and opportunities He offers? Do broken, hurting people come to me and leave just as broken and hurting, or does Jesus pour out from me with healing and deliverance? Do I make excuses for my failures?

I can fully believe in God and the inerrancy of His Word, yet without verbalizing it, justify why healing won’t work this time, deliverance isn’t for me to get involved in right now, and don’t even mention raising the dead. These things belong to super-gifted, anointed Christians! Right? Here lives unbelief at the core. Yes, we know Jesus is present to heal, deliver and restore to life, but we doubt His willingness to do it here — through us.

Jesus uses the opportunity to build up their faith.

” . . . Truly I tell you, 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 17:20

The Second Problem

The Bible tells us that God has already given to each of us a measure or quantity of faith. Beyond question, we possess at least a mustard seed sized amount (Romans 12:3).

Overcoming spiritual impotency depends on our willingness to deal with both problems Jesus addressed. He identified the second hindrance to vibrant ministry as being “perverse.”

Horse grazing

The dictionary says that “perverse” is

“showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

The Greek word, διεστραμμένη (diestrammenē), means to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, or oppose. Literally, it means to be “wrong-headed, arising from stubbornness.”

I’m perhaps way more “wrong-headed” than I realize. Every time my thoughts don’t align with His thoughts, I’m wrong-headed. In every situation where I vainly think my ways will get it done, instead of leaning into Him, I’m wrong-headed.

I can’t sluff off my stubbornness to Irish genetics. Since the fall of mankind, wrong-headed thinking has led those whom God loves to “show a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable and unacceptable (to God and others), often in spite of the consequences.” No one can justly claim immunity in this regard.

The Solution

God never pinpoints a problem without offering the solution. The disciples recognized they hit a legitimate ministry wall of failure and limitation. They sought Jesus’ help in overcoming spiritual impotency.

“He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:29

Powerful Horse

Prayer and fasting align both our hearts and minds to God’s. These two disciplines draw our spirit, soul and body in surrender to the sovereignty of God. Prayer doesn’t just change things — it changes us!

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”
Psalm 103:7

During Moses’ daily times in the Tent of Meeting talking with God, he came to know God — His character, His attributes, and His nature. He saw clearly the ways of God.

The people who stood back and watched God from a distance only experienced God’s deeds. They saw His miracles, ate daily of His provision, and sat under the fire by night and the cloud by day. Still, they did not “know” God! They continued to walk in deliberate and obstinate disobedience, even while knowing what was right.

Be Free

When Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was he referring just to a demon in a child? Could He also have been referring to our unbelief and perverse tendency?

It’s not just the demon possessed who suffer. We all do! Prayer and fasting is essential for us to overcome spiritual impotency. Only God can set us free from every “unbelieving and perverse” way. Prayer and fasting releases us from our boxes of little faith and wrong-headed thinking. Then what we have so freely received from Jesus will flow freely to others.

Horse portrait

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The first month of the year is an excellent time to designate for prayer and fasting, resetting priorities and giving God first place. I’m asking Him what He desires to set me free from. Undoubtedly, unbelief and wrong-headed thinking hold prominent position on His list.

Unbelief originates in the heart; perversion flows from the mind. With hearts faith-filled and fully devoted to God, let’s endeavor to live with minds “clear-headed” free from every perverse way. Then we will gain the power to live victorious, bringing freedom and hope to those around us.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
1 Peter 4:7

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Tenant or Landlord? Do You Know? Remember and Appreciate!

Beachfront Home

Do you rent your home or own it? Are you a tenant or landlord? Though there are benefits of both, the difference between the two becomes increasingly obvious.

Searching for great tenants is a skill developed over time. Try as we might, we don’t always acquire tenants that value our property as much as we hope. We’ve repaired fixtures, removed left-behind garbage and paid bills accumulated by others,

Fortunately, many people consider tenancy a privilege. They view it with respect, thoughtfully taking care of everything. These folks are the gems we usually come to view as friends.

Tenant or Landlord

Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of this important principle. He admonishes them to consider carefully their position as tenants, because a new Landlord had taken possession of their lives.

Family Dwelling

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you. You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary? You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Another version asks, “Do you not know?” Good question! Do I fully comprehend this truth? The word “know” includes “to perceive, be aware of, understand, remember and appreciate.”

Reading these verses again, I gained a new appreciation and understanding of their meaning.

Rights of Ownership

People often declare, “It’s my body! I’ll do what I want with it!”

Such statements verify that we’ve forgotten, failing to appreciate and recognize the complete ownership God has over us — not just the spiritual us, but ALL of us?

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you.
1 Corinthians 6:19

Country Cottage

Honestly, I’m no different from the Corinthians believers. I quickly forget that every part of who I am belongs to God. Too often, I stubbornly push for rights of ownership even after I have relinquished the deeds.

Attitude and actions reveal whether I live like a tenant or landlord in God’s house.

God has been challenging me over the last several months to value this body, His temple. Only by grace am I allowed to live in it. God desires that I value it as much as I want tenants to appreciate the home we lease to them.

Practical

For me, this boils down to daily struggles, like taking exercise breaks between writing spurts or ensuring I get adequate rest while juggling a busy schedule and shift work. When the temple of our bodies wear out or break down, God doesn’t provide a substitute. This is it, folks!

I don’t battle addictions or major issues, but God has led me to recognize my sweet cravings and to fast from sugars. I’ve gained increasing awareness of healthy eating choices. Though I might forget, He remembers I am spirit, soul, and body — one complete unit.

You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary?
1 Corinthians 6:19

High-Rise Apartment

When the truth of this verse becomes my living reality, what lifestyle changes will I make? Living with eternity in mind influences my perspective, recognizing that even the “little” things matter.

I hope to be here for the long haul. There is so much more I would like to accomplish for God. Every day of this life is a gift from Him — precious and valuable.

Time and Talents

God always invest wisely! He didn’t consider any of us “junk!” He paid the highest price, an unbelievably enormous price, to purchase us for Himself.

You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:20

We could never pay Him back for all He has done. Yet, when I experientially “know” and remember His ownership of every aspect of my life, I am able, if in a limited way, to “bring glory to” Him.

Our bodies are His! Treating His body with respect becomes a privilege. Remembering He is in charge helps us pursue His glory and praise with excellence.

Beach House

The things I consume, invest in, absorb or spend time on suddenly contain new purpose. When I know, really know, my Landlord, life holds increased potential and greater fulfillment.

Do I treat God like a tenant or Landlord within me? The answer to that question affects everything!

Set Apart for God

Earlier, Paul wrote,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

We may falsely believe we get away with mistreating these jars of clay behind the priming and pampering, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He calls our bodies “sacred” — set apart for Him alone. We are exclusively His.

There is comfort in being “exclusively His.” The landlord, not the tenant, pays the highest price for mortgage, taxes, upkeep, and improvements. The tenant enjoys the benefit of the landlord’s investment, living securely within.

Mountain Home

If my tenants destroy the building they lease, I have to send them a hefty bill to cover the costs. Why would I think God would do any less with what He values highly?

The choice is mine! Will I consider God a tenant or landlord, recognizing the blessing of relinquished ownership?

It is All His

Rather than being harsh, Paul invites us to discover the peace of resting and knowing that everything belongs to God. If I follow Paul’s example and willingly surrender the keys to God, the worry vanishes. Joy replaces struggle.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100 1-5

Take heart! We have a wonderful Landlord.

Tenant or Landlord

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Recipient of Good News: Time for a Good Report

Good News

Have you been the recipient of good news recently? Are you looking forward to, and hoping for, a good report? Perhaps, we all are!

Not all news has been positive, but, over the years, we’ve experienced many excellent reports: the births of healthy babies; a cancer free diagnosis; an impossible healing verified; grandchildren successfully completing a task or excelling in an endeavor; a promotion or new position granted; financial provision just in time. So much to be thankful for.

Exotic Bird

Yet, we’ve dealt with heart-breaking reports as well: brain cancer; spinal injury; creditors calling before paychecks come through; addictions; divorce; and more. Whether the report announces good news or difficult times, we press close to God, knowing He holds us and everything else in His hands.

Good News for a Nation

As I was reading the historical account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, I couldn’t help but wonder how they responded to such good news. “God is coming to rescue you!”

Were they in disbelief? Did they celebrate?

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
Exodus 2:23-25

Over four hundred years previous, their ancestors honored and worshipped God. Now, generations later, their descendents knew nothing of God. Though they forgot God, God remembered them; He knew them and longed to see them set free.

Bird in Cage

“The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them . . .’ “
Exodus: 3:7-8

Consider, for a moment, their bondage to cruel dictatorship and alienation from God. Though they cried in misery, they had drifted so far from God that they didn’t even know how to cry to Him.

Perfect Timing

Only those who experience it comprehend the weight of slavery, the cold-blooded murder of infants, and inhumane conduct of cruel taskmasters.

God heard! Through Moses, He came to rescue. That’s good news. With signs, wonder and miracles, He pulled one nation from another in a single day — not just any day, but the exact day of God’s choosing.

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt. . .”
Exodus 12:40-42

Though God lives outside of time, present in eternity past while present in eternity future, He has a perfect time for His people, both Israel and us. That’s good news!

Another Deliverance

God’s deliverance of His people from bondage marked the high point of the nation. What could possibly compare?

During another brutal season of captivity for Israel, Jeremiah declared an even greater deliverance.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up from David’s line a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”
Jeremiah 23:5-6

Hummingbird

Jeremiah is speaking of another deliverance for Israel that will make the exodus from Egypt pale in comparison — the greatest deliverance of all time.

He points all eyes, not just to the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon, but to King Jesus, who would save forever Jews and Gentiles from the bondage to sin and rebellion.

Good News

In the fullness of time, God looked again on the misery of humanity and came to rescue.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
Galatians 4:4-7

At “the right time”, “the fullness of time”, His perfect time, Jesus came, born of a virgin to live a sinless life. He died a cruel death on the cross and was resurrected to newness of life, doing it all to purchase for Himself a family of believers.

Parrots Flying

I often cry when I receive bad news. I sometimes even cry as the recipient of good news. This news, the greatest news ever, stirs my heart to the deepest level. God offers His good news to the worst of criminals, the loyalest of saints, the weakest among us, the richest and poorest, the old and the young, those of every nation, tribe and tongue.

Jesus Christ, The LORD Our Righteous Savior, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, came to rescue!

Get Excited

Whatever bad news you are facing, this good news exceeds it all! Whatever bad report has reached your ears, God came to rescue, through Jesus Christ.

Even imprisonment in a Philippian dungeon couldn’t keep Paul and Silas from praying, singing hymns, and praising God for such good news. An earthquake may have shook the jail, but it was the Spirit of God that shook a Roman jailer to his core.

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.’ “
Acts 16:29-30

No one needs to wait for an earthquake or a desperate situation. God offers the same good news to each of us. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” It sounds too simple; yet, that simple it is.

Birds Singing

The time is perfect! Today, believe the good news.

I know that there will be seasons of both good and difficult reports ahead for us all. Yet, the good news is we can walk through the good and the difficult with God as our strength and comfort.

Share the Good News

William Carey, who started a worldwide missionary movement in the nineteenth century, said,

“If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel . . . then it be the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among the nations.”

Gospel literally means “good news.” Let’s follow his example by first believing and then sharing such good news.

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No Marketing Scams: What Is Inside Counts

What is Inside Counts

Bombarded daily by sales pitches, catchy jingles, and slick packages, I need to remind myself that what is inside counts. Have you been enticed by crafty advertising, only to discover that the latest “must have” product represents a cheap replica of what you expected to receive? I have. In more ways than I’d like to admit.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve worked to create products that both look appealing and, hopefully, become beneficial to the recipient. The old adage to not judge a book by its cover goes far beyond novels. I wish it was only merchandise we cast instant judgment on. Unfortunately, we do it in a multitude of ways.

A Little History

Long ago, Samuel led and served Israel as priest, but after Israel demanded a king as leader, God led Samuel to anoint Saul as their first king.

“Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”
1 Samuel 9:2

At first appearances, Saul looked the part: handsome, hardworking, fearless, and humble. It didn’t take long before a hidden side of Saul became apparent and the whole thing turned sour! Saul overstepped his bounds, became proud, and rebelled against God. He eventually turned into a raging maniac who was demon possessed.

Inside a Piano

Did Samuel misjudge Saul’s potential? Did God make a mistake? Hardly!

I’ve ministered to many husbands and wives who have found themselves in a similar predicament. That future spouse who once seemed gentle became violent, once level-headed now unpredictable, once generous turned self-seeking, cruelty replaced kindness. Who or what they fell in love with dissipated into a faint memory.

Whether in personal relationships or business associations, most of us have discovered something other than what we bargained for.

What is Inside Counts

When it came time for Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to replace Saul as king, God warned him,

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Heart matters! Those excellent qualities Saul once possessed evaporated because he failed to guard his heart. Solomon gives perfect advice on how to do just that.

Inside a Camera

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity, keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
Proverbs 4:23-27

Guard Your Heart

What is inside counts the most, requiring vigilant and active protection. Solomon reminds us that everything flows from within us. He encourages us to pay attention, offering practical examples in the way we talk and think, what we look at and the places we go. Even so-called “strong” people fall into deception, thinking they are powerful enough to play on both teams: God’s and the devil’s.

The cost of such negligence proves greater than any expects.

Jesus reminded His listeners,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
Matthew 15:19

“Out of the heart” comes both evil and good. What is inside counts and matters most because everything flows from that deep well within.

Judging

“Don’t judge a book by its cover!” is still good advice, but we do. “Don’t believe everything you see!” But we do!

Whether for personal promotion or financial gain, humanity knows how to package for appearance, for the quick sale, or the easy fix. Often, too quickly, we form character judgments, whether out of a critical spirit or through rose-colored glasses.

Watch Works

Working in the legal system, I’m appalled at how rarely I identify a murderer or rapist. In ninety percent of the criminals, I see mercy, justice, faithfulness, and empathy. Their eyes show brokenness or hopelessness. Something within me resists the notion that people can, and often are, deceptively cruel or inerrantly evil. So I judge — most often incorrectly.

What is inside counts! No one sees the whole heart except for Jesus.

“Now while he (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”
John 2:23-25

Jesus Knows

Often it’s possible to fool a few people. Fooling everyone all the time, rarely, if ever, happens no matter how slick the appearance. No one ever fools Jesus! He knows what is in each one of us.

I have often heard people say, “Jesus knows my heart.” Often the comment is spoken to justify a failure or moral offence. Yes, Jesus does see our hearts. He sees all of our hearts — the good and the corrupt.

Proverbs reminds me,

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”
Proverbs 27:19

Heart Monitor

Our lives reveal what is really in our hearts. The thoughts no one hears, the wayward glances no one sees, the dishonest deal we hope others won’t uncover, the addiction we try to hide, angry words, or self-seeking behaviors also form the accurate reflection of our hearts.

New Heart

God promises good news. We can be “new-hearted” people. My prayer often echoes David’s,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

Ezekiel offers us even greater hope.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Ezekiel 36:25-26

Inside Bible

Tears of gratitude pool and flow as I remember God’s great grace. Yes, He challenges us to guard our hearts with diligence, because what is inside counts! He also knows and sees our inability to change apart from Him. So He comes. He comes with mercy. With love, He comes, removing the crusty hardness, transforming it to tender flesh.

Through this partnership of God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and us doing all we can, comes cleansing in the inmost part. A pure heart unattainable without Him.

“Yes, Lord,” I pray again, “give me a clean heart.”

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Overcoming Deception: What Makes Deception so Treacherous?

Overcoming Deception

The great difficulty we face in exposing and overcoming deception, both personally and corporately, makes deception so treacherous? One of the chief ploys of the enemy is to deceive believers. Not only are we all capable of being deceived; we have already being deceived in a multitude of ways.

Yesterday, three times the topic of deception arose in three different settings, with three separate groups of people. Since my conversations rarely bend in that direction, I knew I had better pay attention.

Should we say of our world like Jeremiah did of his,

” ‘Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declare the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:4-6

Mask

We find solid ground only in the truth of God’s Word. Truth becomes hard to find in a culture negligent of God, however. Without truth, overcoming deception becomes impossible.

Satan the Deceiver

We find satan as the original deceiver in the Garden of Eden, coming in the form of a snake, twisting God’s words and motivation. He first convinces Eve, then Adam, to outright disobedience to God’s command. He made it appear that he knew better than God and guaranteed them benefits presently hidden from them.

Deception always promises good, but delivers harm.

Adam and Eve knew God, Elohim, as their Creator, in covenant relationship with all He made — fully committed to them. But God had also introduced Himself as LORD God, Jehovah (Yahweh) Elohim — righteous and just. Loving commitment required Him to judge all wrong.

Trap

Yet when the serpent spoke, he refused to acknowledge God as LORD. “Did God really say?” He enticed Eve closer.

Eve grabbed his hook like a hungry fish, “God did say, . . .” she responded.

Only after the failure of both Adam and Eve did they remember God’s fullness. Frail efforts and ridiculous coverups at overcoming deception and hiding sin have been repeated throughout the ages — by me and others. Too late we remember He is both LORD and God!

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8-9

All Deceived

As “children” of Adam and Eve, we possess the same failures and disobedient nature to go beyond or around God to gain something we perceive He is withholding from us.

I’m convinced that every sin and addiction is rooted in our failure to fully acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, marriages, finances, futures, gifts, and ministries. We may have surrendered ninety percent, but there will be that one place, that one thing, we tend to grab with tight fists, denying God access.

Cage

Deception is a heart issue!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

God alone can bring the cure we so desperately need in overcoming deception. Yet, in our hiding, we avoid the healing balm found only in the finished work of the cross.

Warning

The very nature of deception grows out of ignorance of the hidden enticement. I need others who will ask me the tough questions, challenge my motivations, and test my faithfulness to God and His Word. The deceived consistently fail to recognize the deception others see so clearly. It requires someone outside looking into our lives.

James pinpoints a key area of deception.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
James 1:22

Only Jesus walked out obedience perfectly. The rest of us struggle to do the good we know we ought to do. Paul, concerned for the Corinthian believers, warned them that what happened to Eve happens to us all!

Serpent

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3

It’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s craftiness. The phrase “be led astray” means “to destroy, ruin, shrivel, wither, corrupt and spoil” any “sincerity, simplicity, purity and graciousness.”

For good reason, every writer in the New Testament warns how treacherous deception is.

Winning the Battle

Just as warnings abound in the Word of God, so does encouragement and winning tactics. Paul says to the Ephesian church,

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden with the serpent’s deception, Jesus secured back through the cross. By realigning ourselves to that reality, we regain the ability to live in the image of God in “true righteousness and holiness.” Paul instructs us to resist deceitful desires, twisted serpentine thinking and lies. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds,”

Deception is a battle first for the mind, then for our devotion! Thankfully, God has equipped us with the spiritual weapons necessary in overcoming deception.

Obedience

Jesus paid a heavy price for humanity’s disobedience. Every believer, through the cross, now possesses the capacity to make the devil pay for his deceptive tactics.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

What disobedience lost, obedience gained back. However, we cannot do it alone! We need Jesus Christ and other Christians in the body of Christ.

Spider web

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
Colossians 2:8-10

Just like satan used a snake as a cover for his true identity, he often disguises himself behind smooth talk of others we trust. Christ is our shield. In Him is all the fullness. Wherever we lack, He is sufficient.

Test It!

I will close with this solid advice from John, the Beloved:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1

I wonder how different the scenario would have been if Eve would have sought Adam’s advice or if Adam would have spoken up, when he heard satan lie.

Together

We walk on dangerous ground when we choose to walk alone. I have learned, though slowly, how invaluable walking in community with others is. Together we protect each other from deception by encouraging each other in the Word of God, supporting each other in prayer, and when necessary, challenging each other to walk faithful.

Though we are prone to fall, overcoming deception becomes possible through Jesus Christ. He has exposed the enemy’s tactics and given us everything we need to overcome. As we trust His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know we will stand firm, withstanding every temptation.

God of Miracles – Final Chapter of Unlocking Legacy

In a world gone off course, I’m thankful for the God of miracles. He remains on the throne — unchanging, powerful and good. Though great kingdoms rule the earth and dangers invade from every side, God sits upon the throne above earth’s domain.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me, like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with
someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:1-3

Today, lets all take a break from the stresses for some good news. News that God still hears the cries of His people and actively involves Himself in their lives.

The following is the final chapter of Unlocking Legacy: Taking your God-Given Territory Through Prayer. Unlocking Legacy is a compilation of personal testimonies from people of a variety of ages and nationalities. I pray you find this excerpt encouraging.

“Prayer does not equip us for the greater work;
prayer is the greater work.”
– Author Unknown


The prayer principles within this book are tangible and potent only because they are based on the inerrant Word of God. Everything about prayer originates from and rests securely upon the foundation of God—His divine character and faithfulness: God drawing us to Himself in a personal relationship; God turning His ear toward our faint cries and warring shouts; God empowering us to move with His power and through His authority.

The Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1 KJV). The evidence of God moving through His miraculous power in answer to prayer could not be expounded in a few simple writings. However, this closing chapter includes mini-testimonies of prayer rooted in faith, becoming substance.

Miracles of Healing and Provision

Joy-Lyn could write her own book on the miracles she has witnessed God do in answer to prayer, but here are just a few:

“I was in the chemistry laboratory completing an experiment when I received a word of knowledge for the girl sitting across from me in the lab. I felt she was having a problem with the right side of her neck or shoulder, perhaps from a sports injury or gymnastics.

Healing in the Chemistry Lab

“When we were finished our work, I asked her about it. She did have an injury, but it was from softball. She was experiencing tension and pain on the side of her neck, running down into her shoulder. We prayed right there in the chemistry lab at the university. God touched her. She almost started crying and said, ‘That made my day!’

***

“A couple of years ago, my mom and I went to a garage sale in a little church across the street from our house. I thought I had a word of knowledge for one lady about her knee. ‘No,’ she said, ‘but my shoulder is in a lot of pain.’

“I asked if I could pray for her. ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘but I’m going to keep shopping.’ After praying, I asked her to test it out. Before prayer, she could only raise her arm parallel to the floor, but now she could raise it a little higher, although it still hurt.

“I asked if I could pray again, ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘I’m shopping, but go for it.’ I prayed again and asked her to check it a second time. She lifted her arm all the way up and gasped, ‘Who . . . are . . . you?’ as she backed up.

“ ‘It’s Jesus! It is all Jesus!’ I said.

“She turned around and quickly left. I walked away laughing and thought, ‘We’re in a church. I don’t know what you expected.’ It goes to show that healing isn’t as normal as it should be.

***

“After my first year of university, I needed a job and applied to several places but didn’t receive any response. I started praying about it.

“I already knew that tithing was not an option but an important biblical principle. I had tithed before but wasn’t diligently keeping track of every source of income. Up until then, I hadn’t made tithing a priority in my spiritual walk.

“After I prayed for a job, the Lord quickly and clearly said, ‘You start tithing and I’ll give you a job.’

“That was on a Tuesday. Immediately, I took the time to figure out, as far back as I could remember, what I hadn’t tithed from and tithed on that income. By Friday, I was offered a job.

“I received a random phone call for an employment opportunity that I hadn’t even applied for stating, ‘We think you would be good for this position.’ That was probably the quickest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.

“As soon as I obeyed, God provided!

***

“At work, I was picking up a couple of kids from visiting their mother. When she helped put the kids into the car, I asked if she experienced headaches. After confirming it, we prayed together. Immediately, she felt a lot better. The Muslim girl I was working with that day got to hear the prayer and see this woman’s healing. Then I invited the woman to come to church with me.

“ ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘I’d like that.’

“ ‘Great! I’ll pick you up tonight.’

“That evening I went to the women’s shelter to pick her up and waited for twenty minutes but she never came to meet me. I was about to leave when another lady walked in with crutches. We started talking and I felt led to pray for her. She was in a lot of pain and had been on crutches for ten years because of a failed surgery. After I prayed, she tested it out. It was somewhat better but not completely, so we prayed again.

“She ended up walking pain-free without her crutches and then gave her heart to Jesus. Another lady, who had come into the lobby, heard the prayer, saw the miracle and began thanking God.”

It is really cool when God shows up at work! Even though Joy-Lyn wasn’t completely accurate with the words of knowledge, when she stepped out in faith, trusting God, He graciously healed those around her.

A Family Prays Together

BreAnn shared,

“I haven’t always felt comfortable praying for others but as I learned to trust the Holy Spirit, I became more willing to pray.

“I have seen several significant answers to prayer. My whole family  started praying for my uncle when the doctors believed he had a tumor in his neck. Surgery was performed, but they found it was actually a lymph node, not cancer, and it was resolved. Praise the Lord! That was my earliest loud answer to prayer.

“For several years, I was struggling with knee pain and had to go down the stairs one at a time. When a young girl prayed for me at a youth retreat, I felt something hot in my knee. That ongoing knee pain hasn’t returned. Now, I can walk down the stairs normally.

“Our child is one hundred percent a miracle and an answer to prayer. My husband and I were told we would never be able to have children on our own. We both felt no urgency to look into in vitro fertilization or adoption. God gave us a great deal of peace to continue praying and waiting on Him. We became pregnant by the hand of God within three months. Our child is nothing short of a miracle!

“I realize that not everyone’s prayers get answered like that even though they are far more faithful than we are. God hears every prayer. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God seeing and knowing (Mt 10:29). Sometimes our desires are fulfilled before our eyes, at other times ‘no’ or ‘wait’ is an answer.

We say with confidence that our prayers are answered because we know who we are praying to.

“We have a God who cares deeply for us. Sometimes the tangible answer we experience is God’s peace during imperfect circumstances. We may never understand how God chooses to answer our prayers.”

Leaning on Others

Emmanuel actively pursues spiritual gifts. The list of miracles he has witnessed in his young life spans far.

“I keep pressing in to see God move miraculously in the lives of others. I don’t create doctrines based on my lack of understanding, however.

“For years I prayed for people with one leg shorter than the other to be healed without seeing results. Nothing! Even though I was frustrated, I knew that God wasn’t the issue, but I was. Then I asked a friend who often sees healing in this area to pray for me. The very first person I prayed for after that was healed. Now at least ninety percent of those I pray for with that condition are healed.

“If the door hasn’t been opened to me, I knock again. Then, I keep on knocking (Mt 7:7-8). For me, to pray without ceasing means to not give up (1Thes 5:17).

“There was a fellow in serious condition in the hospital. I don’t think I have fought for someone’s life so much in prayer. I kept in touch with his mother and knew he was getting worse instead of better. The doctors gave him no hope of recovery. He was in a coma and given twenty-four to forty-eight hours to live. I, and many others, kept pushing through in prayer. Not only did he recover, but he gave his life to the Lord. He’s alive and well today.

“That is a recent example of praying for someone without immediate results. It doesn’t mean we pray 24-7, but we pray without giving up. Although we should all make intentional time for prayer, that should not be the only time we pray.

God is a Good Father.
He doesn’t inflict pain to teach us a lesson.
That would be abusive! God is so gracious and wonderful.


“Even though I have seen many others healed, I have rarely been healed of anything. My theology is that God always desires to heal. He takes ugly situations and transforms them into something beautiful.

“We need to be deeply grounded in the Word of God; otherwise, we will lower God to meet our pain. If we anchor ourselves in the Word, we won’t diminish God in any way. I’m okay with not understanding why God sometimes heals and doesn’t at other times. Even though I don’t understand, I keep pressing in to see and know Him more.”

God Provides

Caleb shared,

“Prayer is a two-way conversation involving both talking to God and listening for Him to speak. Even in insignificant things, I ask God for help.

“Not that long ago, I lost my wallet. After coming home from a restaurant, I couldn’t find it anywhere. After looking everywhere to no avail, I prayed, asking God to put it in a place where I could see it. A little while later, I noticed it on the living room couch, clearly visible.

A Missing Wallet

There is no supernatural lifestyle without prayer.

“When I was in Grade 12 my marks weren’t amazing. I wanted to find a job so I could buy a car. I didn’t plead or demand, but simply prayed only once, ‘Jesus, if You want me to have a car You’re going to have to give me one.’ I didn’t tell anyone that I prayed. Shortly after, a former pastor called and offered me a car. Was that a coincidence? I don’t think so. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives and conversations, we will see things happen.”

The Miracle of Sensing God’s Voice

Sometimes, just hearing God’s voice is the greatest miracle, as Karen discovered.

“A little while ago, God unusually demonstrated His love to me, thereby increasing my faith.

“My husband and I were driving to the city on a beautiful, sunny fall day. All was quiet and the view picturesque. With my husband behind the wheel, I silently enjoyed the ride, gazing blissfully out the window of the car at the splendid fall colors. Amongst the other trees, a smaller brightly colored red tree seemed to stand out, catching my attention and filling me with awe.

“ ‘Wow!’ I said to myself, ‘Do I ever like that tree! It’s gorgeous!’

“ ‘Thank you,’ I heard, ‘I like that one too. It’s one of my favorites.’ The voice came so quickly and unexpectedly, I was surprised. Did I hear right? Yet, I knew beyond a doubt that it was not my own thoughts.

“For days I marveled at what had happened. It made me feel oddly special—like a secret shared between two people who love each other. I wanted to share it with others, but I knew that it wouldn’t mean the same to them as it did to me.

“Since then I’ve wondered why He would speak to me about something so insignificant. How many times had I begged and longed for a word from God, without hearing anything? Now, out of the blue, when I wasn’t even praying, He spoke so clearly to me.”

Miracles Through the Prayers of Others

Jewell experienced healing of an arm injury.

“I had a bad accident and received a “dinner fork” fracture to my wrist. I was in a cast for a long time and had also gone through many painful procedures trying to get it to release. Nothing helped. Because it hadn’t healed properly, I had limited use of my hand.

“While working at a summer camp, all the counselors gathered around me to pray after their morning meeting. Most of them knew I had received a spinal injury and broken ribs from a serious accident. Because they loved me, they wept as they prayed over me. Everyone, except for one fellow, prayed for my spine and the pain I was enduring. He prayed for my wrist and arm.

“I had been seated on a chair encircled by all these young people. When they finished praying, there was a complete circle of tears shining on the floor around me. They asked if I felt any different. Though I was encouraged by their prayers and felt so blessed by their love, I didn’t feel any change physically.

“I continued the day, performing my duties as best I could. Later in the evening, since there was usually someone who needed a nurse’s attention after the games time, I was sitting by the medical cabinet waiting. While I was waiting, I went to flex my arm to stretch it.

First Aid Kit

“I was shocked! For the first time in a year, my wrist had full flexibility in both directions. I suddenly realized my wrist was completely healed. It hasn’t bothered me since.

In God’s perfect time, it only took a minute.

“That year, there were several other healings that occurred at camp including a girl who had experienced multiple concussions. It was an exciting time for the campers to witness God perform physical healings.”

Beyond All Expectations

Christie shared a miracle of provision.

“I had applied to enroll in a university program but was reluctant to take out any student loans. I said to God, ‘I’m not spending money on this program. If I’m going back to school it has to be paid for.’

“I was informed that I would need to retake an exam to qualify for the program. Because of my schedule, I didn’t have time to study. I asked several people to pray for me as I rewrote the exam and for the finances for the program.

“The way things worked out, the administrators didn’t care about my grade score on the exam. They also decided that they would cover the cost of the program, plus my rent and utilities. School is very expensive, so it was a big deal to have all my expenses covered. I saw the provision of the Lord as He gave me everything I needed.”

Obedience Before the Miracle

Visions, both her own and others, have impacted Yogeswari’s life resulting in miracles.

“When my husband lost his job, our daughter was six years old. We decided not to have any more children because, in India, there are no child benefits. Parents have to pay for everything including all medical and educational expenses from kindergarten through university. Without my husband working, we couldn’t afford another child.

“My pastor’s wife had a vision. ‘God is trying to give you something and you’re abandoning it. That’s why your husband has lost his job.’

“ ‘What? How could my husband’s losing his job be related to me not planning on having any more children?’

“She said, ‘Don’t ask questions. Tell God that you will let your son be conceived and that you will have this child. Then there won’t be any further problems with him finding a job. Please promise God that you will receive the child He wants to give to you.’

“That’s what I did. Our son is a promise. Not that we didn’t face problems, but my husband immediately found a very good job. When our first child was born, we had to pay for everything. With our son, my husband’s employer paid for everything including a cesarean section. God gave us a son and paid every expense.

“When I was pregnant, I prayed, ‘The son of David is going to come to me. I want Solomon’s wisdom for this child.’

“A while later, a pastor prophesied over our son, ‘You are a son of promise. You are having David’s promise in you.’ That pastor confirmed it, even though it was something only my husband and I knew. I know my son will be a person of praise and prayer, just like David was. Our son knows he is a child of promise.”

Many Prayers Later

God answered Kristina’s lifelong prayer in several ways.

“My maternal grandmother was Ukrainian Catholic. Maybe she knew the Lord, but I didn’t know for sure. As a little girl, I always tried to share the Lord with her. In her late eighties, when I was in Bible college, she was in a nursing home and started having heart problems.

“I was concerned. I tried to share the Lord so many times with her. She was either hard of hearing or had selective hearing. I’m not sure which! One day after visiting her in the nursing home, I walked back to our house and was almost home when the Lord said, ‘Go back and tell her about Me.’

“I was so mad, ‘I have told her so many times about You.’

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

A Miracle for Grandma

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

“She said, ‘Yes.’

“I was kind of dumbfounded and hardly knew what to do but led her through the sinner’s prayer and left.

“My grandmother had struggled with anxiety throughout her lifetime. Because of the heart problems she was having, I prayed, ‘Okay God, she has received You. Please don’t let her struggle with fear and depression right now. Please, can we see some tangible results of You in her life.’

“The first of three answers to my prayers was that she came to know Jesus.

“Second, my grandmother’s new-found passion was playing bingo. She loved playing bingo and would give the quarters she had won to the visiting grandchild of the moment. My Mom called me up one day when I was back in Bible school to tell me that my grandmother passed away. To me, an answer to prayer is that my grandmother, who wrestled with fear, died doing the thing she loved—playing bingo. Furthermore, she had just won her second game; they put the money in her hand; she smiled, hung her head and went home to be with the Lord. There was no pain or fear in this new Christian lady.

“The third answer was that the Catholic priest from grandmother’s town was too busy to do her prayers and we were able to have our little Baptist church pastor who knew and visited her in the nursing home, come to do the prayers. All of my mom’s siblings, nieces and nephews came. At my grandmother’s prayers, my family, who didn’t know the Lord, heard the Gospel being shared by our Baptist pastor.

“My grandmother appeared to be hard of hearing, but this pastor said at my grandmother’s little service, ‘I visited Mary many times and shared the Lord with her. Recently, I asked her, “Do you want to receive the Lord?” ’

“She said, ‘Kristina and I already dealt with that.’

“Somehow through my obligatory actions, ‘Okay God, I’ll go share  with my grandmother,’ she got it. Through whatever hearing matters were happening, she understood. God answered my very special lifelong prayer in several ways.”

The Simplest Prayer

Prayer wasn’t a daily practice when Keith prayed for his wife.

“My wife experienced hip pain constantly. It was uncertain the direct cause but no doubt a heavy physical workload was a contributing factor—handling hundred-pound grain bags, flipping and rolling out hay bales by hand, gardening and a multitude of other strenuous tasks.

“Her father had undergone both shoulder and hip replacement surgery. The enemy taunted her, that she would soon end up the same way. Each night she would crawl into bed struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep.

“We can’t remember whose idea it was, mine or hers, but someone decided it was time for prayer. I laid my hand on her hip not knowing how to even pray. Before I could say a word, I felt an intense heat flowing through my hand. She felt nothing but peacefully went to sleep.

“The next morning, she woke up completely healed. She never experienced any pain or discomfort in her hip again. God did it. He answered my silent prayer and it only took a minute.”

God’s Grace

The Love Bus is an inner-city ministry bringing food and necessities to prostitutes and gang members. I don’t join this dedicated group of volunteers often, but each time I do, I learn as much from the street people as from the workers.

“I arrived early to help prepare the sandwiches and fruit that we would be taking along with us. We had a brief time of prayer and received final instructions before heading out for the night. We were told not to let the neighborhood children, who would be the first to bombard the bus, take all the food before we reached the streets.

“Sure enough, while we were loading the bus, children started clambering up the steps looking for food to take home with them. It wasn’t long before I began to resent their demands. We gave each child a drink of hot chocolate and a supply of food before escorting them back off the bus.

“I honestly had to go and sit at the back of the bus for a few minutes just to repent of my nasty attitude. It was obvious these children didn’t have much to call their own; critical judgment had no place in God’s work.

“Soon the bus was rolling through the core area of our city, stopping to welcome anyone onto the bus for a warm cup of coffee, hot chocolate or something to eat. The Love Bus offers protection, safety, love and dignity to everyone.

Inner City Mission

“Several hours later, a man and woman entered. Age is hard to determine on the streets; it isn’t measured by years, but rather by experience. The trauma of inner-city life distorts and molds people leaving little room for normalcy. Before leaving the bus, they both received prayer, hugs as warm as the coffee, and love enough to carry them through the night. They stood outside chatting with the driver for a while.

“Soon the driver re-entered asking if we could change our route and head outside the normal area to give this couple a ride. We all agreed. Back on the bus, they came.

“I slipped over beside the woman, beginning a conversation. She had been in the hospital because she had shot up with a deadly cocktail of substances. Within hours, they quickly released her to fend for herself. Her legs were still grossly swollen from the effect of the self-inflicted potion.

“ ‘They feel like shattered fiberglass hockey sticks—each splinter tearing at me with terrible pain.’ she explained.

“At that moment, I forgot that she was a drug addict, heading to get another fix. My heart reached out before my hand touched her leg, as I asked, ‘May I pray for you?’

“Together we prayed for the swelling to dissipate and the pain to be removed from her body. I asked her to test her legs and see if there was any change. She stood on them for a moment before sitting back down, ‘Yes, they’re a little better.’

“I explained that God is so big and loving that He doesn’t want to make things just a little better but bring complete healing. She agreed to allow me to pray again, before testing her legs a second time. Now they were almost completely better and the swelling had gone down considerably. One more time we prayed.

“This time when she checked her legs, they were completely pain-free. For the first time that night, a giant smile spread across her face, deepening the wrinkles on her cheeks and exposing blackened teeth. Joy and unbelief mingled with gratitude, ‘God did it! He took my pain!’

God showed up on the most dangerous streets in the most dangerous city in our nation. How awesome is that!

“Soon we were at their desired destination. Again, I moved to the back of the bus for a time of solitude. Tears of gratitude oozed from my heart down my cheeks. Never before had I witnessed God’s love so tangibly as on the night He healed a little prostitute and drug addict. The greatness of His love and goodness stretched beyond my ugly attitudes and her destructive habits, exposing itself to a world gone mad.”

Miracles in Spite of Ourselves

Fortunately, God’s desire to intervene in people’s lives is far greater than our handicaps and hang-ups. Prayer’s effectiveness is never dependent on our ability, but rather on God’s availability to move. Helen shares her personal experience.

“We get to be co-laborers with Christ. How exciting is that? He shows me something and I get to pray with Him. We may think we should pray for someone, but real prayer is God moving on us to pray. I need to be hearing what Holy Spirit is saying so I can be more effective.

“Having said that, I remember being at a training on prayer but was sicker than a dog that night. I was paired up with a girl who had a bad foot. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about her foot. I just wanted to go home. I felt as dry as toast, prayed for her foot and she was healed.

“I thought, ‘God, You are good.’ I didn’t care less. She was ecstatic!

“Someone said to me later, ‘You must have felt elated?’

“I said, ‘No! I was shocked.’

“I really didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to be praying. The answers don’t depend on us. God is so anxious to answer prayer He will use anybody He can find. We are not always in the right mood. Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re connected to God at all. We don’t have to sense Him or feel Him. He is the One who does it!

“I would like more faith in prayer to ask bigger and not limit God. He is beyond what we could think or imagine.”

Miracles While Shopping

I’ve had my own dry as toast experiences.

“A couple of years ago, I had been to a discipleship class and was hurrying to pick up groceries before the store closed. I was overtired and anxious to start the hour trek home. Even though the class should have given me a more godly attitude, I think I forgot the Christian part of me behind when I left the building.

“The icy Arctic wind  swept across the parking lot, blasting its cold onslaught against anyone brave enough to be outside. As I reached the door of the grocery store, a woman and small child approached, asking for money. Because panhandlers often frequent this spot, I had grown suspicious of their stories and motives.

“Annoyed I invited them inside the doorway, selfishly wanting to escape the chill myself. She explained how they traveled across the country when her husband was offered a job here. However, by the time they arrived, the position had already been filled.

“The whole family—father, mother and five children—were now living in their van. They had no food or money to provide for the essentials. Her story neither impressed nor convinced me. I sized them both up—a desperate woman and her young daughter, perhaps five years old.

“Welcoming her to pick up a couple of baskets to fill with groceries, I told her that I didn’t have money, but would buy them enough food for a meal. We went through the fresh produce picking up groceries. She cautiously began filling her basket, asking for permission for each item she chose.

“Halfway through the produce aisle, she talked about having a bad headache. My attitude was so crappy, I thought, ‘If you are taking advantage of me, the least you can do is let me pray for you.’ Thankfully my words didn’t match my thoughts that night, so I expressed it more like, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ and I have seen Him heal many times. May I pray for you?’

Miracle in the Produce Aisle

“The woman was dressed in Middle Eastern garments, so I’m not sure what her religious beliefs were. She was so desperate, however, that she agreed to let me pray.

“Honestly, the prayer was probably no more than ten words, ‘Lord Jesus, heal this headache and take away all pain.’ I asked her how she felt.

“She rubbed the back of her neck and twisted her head from side to side. A huge smile erupted on her face as she exclaimed, ‘It’s better! The headache is completely gone!’

“You would think that having God do a miracle in the supermarket would jolt me out of my “ugly mode,” but alas, it didn’t. That is until I saw her little girl jump up and down like a pogo stick with excitement, chanting and singing, ‘Mama is better! Mama is better!’ Then I began to comprehend the stress and pain this woman had been experiencing.

“This little one skipped and danced through the store as she joyously helped fill the baskets with vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, bread, milk, cereal, and healthy snacks for later. With the baskets filled and my list complete, we headed for the checkout. After paying for all the groceries, I left the store first.

“From my car, I waited and watched for them to come out. Soon they appeared and walked across the parking lot toward a large white van. Before they reached their destination, the van door slid open as a clatter of youthful activity spilled out into the snow. Now several children bounced up and down with excitement reaching into the overflowing bags.

“Finally, as I saw the unhindered joy and gratitude of the entire family, my heart melted. I was
the least likely candidate,
     the worst example of servitude,
          the poorest display of God’s goodness,
               the stingiest prospect of generosity,
          the grumpiest host for His Presence
     and yet,
“God still used me to bring healing to a woman and provide for a family.
I can never claim the credit for anything God does through me.


“Even on my best days, when I think I have it all together, I fall far short of what God desires. Why He chooses to use the frailness of humanity to display His presence is beyond understanding, but He does. He just needs someone, anyone, who is willing to be used.”

Miracles at Work

I sat at the reception desk of a thriving manufacturing company. This Tuesday started like any normal morning. All the employees except for me were in a weekly safety meeting. No sooner had the meeting begun when two young salespeople entered, one male and one female.

Explaining to them that the manager would be busy for a while, I welcomed them to be seated until the meeting was over.

“It wasn’t difficult to overhear their conversation. The young man had been in an accident twelve years ago. Ever since that time, chronic pain and restricted mobility had hindered him from doing many of the things he once enjoyed. They chatted for some time about the injury and his prognosis.

“I had witnessed God heal back injuries and knew that He could do it again. Listening to the young man’s discouragement prompted me to speak. ‘God doesn’t heal every time I pray for people, but I have seen Him heal enough to know that He can and will. May I pray for you?’ I asked.

“The salesman appeared more than a little shocked by my forthrightness, but hesitantly agreed. I said the shortest prayer asking God to heal every part of his spine and remove all pain. Then I asked him to test it out. He looked at me like I was bordering insanity, but stood up and cautiously tried a few movements. The surprised look on his face proved there was a change. He now had more mobility and less pain than just a few minutes before.

“Spurred on by the evidence of God’s touch, I asked if I could pray again for him.

“With reluctance, He agreed. I briefly thanked God for what He had already done and offered another quick prayer. I was concerned workers would soon be rushing through the reception area and bring an end to what God was doing for this young man.

“When I asked him to test it again, he was obviously annoyed but rose to his feet muttering something to the effect that I was being pushy. If pushy was what it took to release a man from twelve years of pain, then pushy I would be. This time the pain was completely gone and he was able to bend down and touch his toes—something he wasn’t able to do previously. For a full minute, he twisted his torso back and forth, and from side to side. He reached and stretched. Even though he was now pain-free and able to move unhindered, he remained almost unphased by the whole encounter.

“However, the young woman with him was ecstatic. Her eyes grew bigger with each prayer initiative. She knew she was witnessing a miracle. She had been his partner for long enough to know the extent of his injury and the limiting effects it had had on him. His restricted movements and the draining nature of chronic pain had previously hindered his ability to function normally.

“Though the young man never gave God credit for touching his back that day, the young woman left with her faith elevated.”

One cannot separate the miraculous from the Word of God and maintain the integrity of the Bible. From the first words in Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, God is evidenced by His supernatural workings and power.

The Bible

Jesus, the express image of the Invisible God, (Heb 1:3) “was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him . . .” (Acts 2:22). Don’t miss the reality of this profound statement. As a man, not God, Jesus relied upon His Father to work through Him. But unlike us, He was a man fully yielded and obedient to God.

Jesus sent out His disciples, giving them authority and power to teach as He taught and do the works He had been doing. Astonishingly, He said they would do even greater works than His (Jn 14:12).

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well . . . Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Mark 16:15-20

Signs, wonders and miracles marked not just the lives of these apostles, but also many other faithful servants and followers of Christ. The writer of Hebrews affirms,

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Hebrews 2:3-4


“The miraculous element in Christianity and the fact that God can act in this world of ours is essential to the vitality of Christianity. Without this aspect, prayer becomes meaningless . . .” 1

God has not and will not change (Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17). In our day, in this generation, God is moving in an increasing measure through the same signs, wonders and miracles we read about within the pages of the Bible. He is calling ordinary women and men, boys and girls, young and old together, anointing them through the Holy Spirit to turn hearts to Himself. God has not suddenly become powerless and silent; signs and wonders continue to follow those who believe. The miraculous is the abundant fruit resulting from the seeds of prayer.

Despondency and neglect of faith followed those who “refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles (God) performed among them” (Neh 9:17). Continuously as I interviewed people of all ages, they joyfully remembered and shared God’s grace and goodness witnessed through answered prayer, often in ways they least expected. Remembering
     reignites the flames of our first love,
          realigns us with the faithfulness of God,
               redirects our focus to the Source of life,
                    rekindles the passion of His Presence,
               restores the deep reservoir of faith,
          re-energizes our desire to pray and to keep on praying. Remembering is critical to all vibrant faith.

We cannot and will not be silent about the good things God has done. He still sovereignly moves among us by His Spirit.

***

Notes

  1. Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick (Bloomington, Chosen Books, 2011), 88.

Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

I’m thankful for friends I’ve brushed shoulders with briefly and those I’ve walked beside a long time — the friendly and the not-so-friendly. Their diversity amazes me! Who but God could connect my life with theirs.

Have you heard it said, “It isn’t what you know but who you know that counts?” Both the what and the who are important, but I’m holding closer to the who, than to the what.

If I sat down and made a list of those who have positively impacted my life, the page would be long and the pen without ink. I’m sure you would discover the same. To be known sometimes feels risky and perhaps even dangerous.

Several years ago, our son skidded off the icy road onto a frozen river. Someone seeing his predicament stopped to observe and help if necessary. “You’re a Ward, aren’t you?” he asked with a grin. As our son put the vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pressed the accelerator to mount the river bank, he wished to be unknown rather than known.

I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments as well.

The Friendly Friend

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend spring from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 9:9

I hope your basket is full of friends you can turn to for “heartfelt advice” — those who stand with you no matter what you’re going through. Even if sometimes their words are directive or corrective.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 9:6

Close Friends

Many times loyal friends loved me enough to instruct, even if it was with painful words. Their truth simultaneously stung and healed. Their correction brought me back on course, showed a better way, and challenged me to dig-deep and not give up on myself, God’s calling, or others.

Unfriendly Friends

We’ve all experienced those who have wounded us.

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.”
Psalms 55:12-13

No wound goes as deep as the wounds of betrayal, whether intentional or unintentional, from those we’ve trusted. The psalmist David knew the pain, so did Joseph. Sold into slavery and imprisonment for fifteen years, he had ample time to think about how his own brothers sold him out.

Friends Help

Yet, he said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When those who should have been his protectors turned unfriendly, Joseph recognized the sovereignty of God. He leaned heavily into God’s plan and trusted His sufficiency. Through forgiveness, he counted even unfriendly friends as part of God’s infinitely wonderful purpose.

Job showed another example of genuine friendship, in spite of harsh treatment in his most vulnerable hour

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:10

Only after praying for those who wounded him did God release a double blessing.

Good Friends

Becoming a good friend doesn’t happen accidently. Friendship costs! The “art” of friendship developed slowly for me. As a child, I preferred the company of animals over people and solitude above crowds. Trust came gradually.

Friendship

I honestly wanted friends, but severely stumbled in my efforts to become a good friend. Friendship requires loving at all times (Prov 17:17), living sacrificially (John 15:13), dedication (Ruth 1:16,17), helping, forgiving (Col 3:13), patience and kindness (1 Cor 13:4).

The Best Friend

Several years ago, my very young granddaughter walked beside her mother down the street of a small city. A homeless man silently approached and passed them. With sadness in her voice, she softly said, “He doesn’t have a family.” Her little heart recognized the absence of loving support in the face of a stranger.

Even children sense that God has designed our lives to thrive in healthy interaction with others. For too many, such luxury remains absent.

Jesus made this remarkable statement,

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Jesus, God incarnate, chose to call us His “friend!” Not because we are worthy of such favor, but because of His love and grace. His incredible gift of friendship gives us the ability to befriend others with similar love and grace.

Best Friend

How amazing is that?

Whether you’re surrounded by many or few friends, don’t dismay. Jesus calls you friend! No other friendship compares to His; He will never leave you or do you harm; He sticks close, never abandoning or disappointing. You can fully trust Him.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

That “closer than a brother” Friend is none other than Jesus Christ.

Friends Protect

Jesus, a Friend to All

If you’ve never experienced the closeness of His friendship, my heart aches with understanding for you. Today, in the quietness of where you are, ask Him to come, not just to be your Friend, but your help, source and strength for all you need. Take this moment to turn toward Him, surrendering your life to Him completely. There’s no magic formula — just sincerity of heart.

To get to know Him more, download a Bible app for your phone or begin to read a standard hard copy, starting in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. By reading these portions of Bible, describing the life of Jesus on earth, you will discover more fully what an amazing Friend He is to all.

Blessings, my friends, I’m thankful you share your life with me.

Intimately Close! In Darkness God Does His Greatest Work

Intimately Close

When I don’t sense God’s Presence, He is intimately close; when I don’t see His face, I am known, found and seen by Him. He directs each of our lives with intricate precision.

In some areas, I can already see beauty and purpose coming from burnt-out ashes. Other places of my life still appear unproductive at best, and honestly desolate at other times. I see woven through the years God-given relationships and opportunities that no human could have orchestrated..

Daniel said,

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his . . .
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.”
Daniel 2:20-22

When fear attempts to convince me that things have become so dark and desperate, even God can’t see, I’m reminded that He does His greatest work in the deepest darkness. Light lives within Him and originates from Him.

Deep Darkness

The first words of the Bible give a strong clue to the consistent thread of God’s Presence.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1

Confusion and foreboding drenched the formless, empty darkness of pre-creation. Right there! Amid that darkness, God was. This darkness preceded and surpassed anything humans have experienced. Nothing we could ever know compares to it.

God Created

Here God performs His first work, speaking all of creation into existence and transforming complete chaos into divine order. Elohim, the first Hebrew word to define God, contains within its context “the God of covenant.” Before we existed, God already reveals Himself as One who is intimately close.

The Paradox

We always find within the magnitude of God a paradox. Light and darkness is one.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:5

And,

” . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light . . . “
1 Timothy 6:15-16

God possesses light, spoke light into existence, lives in light, and is light. And yet . . .

“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”
Psalm 97:1-2

When God brings about His divine works, He often chooses the cover of darkness. Here the psalmist proclaims God’s redemptive work under the cover of thick darkness. Here, in darkness, God comes intimately close.

Conceived in Darkness

At night

This morning, I read again how God chose a young woman, Mary, to bring forth His Son through a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. She humbly surrendered, though the details were scant and personal cost great.

Who saw that move of the Holy Spirit? No witnesses presided over the occasion of God whooshing through the dark night impregnating a virgin with divine life. Under the cloak of darkness, God became man. Under the cover of darkness, He was born. To humble shepherds, “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night,” angels came, brightening the starry sky with intense light while declaring the good news.

God came to dwell with man — intimately close.

The Darkest Dark

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) . . . With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Mark 15:33-38

Though it was high noon, suddenly God turned day to night. Once more, in darkness, He moved toward mankind, obliterating all separation between Him and His created ones.

Storm Night

Such intimate closeness is not to be gawked at by ignorant scoffers and mockers.

Conceived in darkness and born in the night, Jesus died alone on a cross in eerie untimely darkness. For me and you! For all! In darkness, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, delivering a mortal wound!

Before Morning Light

For three days He lay breathless surrounded by utter darkness, wrapped in grave clothes, hidden in a cold dank tomb. A handful of women came with spices to pay Him final honor.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
Luke 20:1

Before dawn

“While it was still dark,” He conquered the last and greatest foe. Jesus did it! He rose from the dead and through His resurrection granted the same life to all who would believe.

Intimately Close

I have no idea what you are facing today. It may very well seem to be the greatest darkness you have ever encountered. Circumstances beyond your control may have snatched all hope from your future.

Take courage. Just as in the past, God is intimately close today, right now, where you are. Nothing and no one can keep Him away.

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than your own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”
A.W. Tozer

Above the Darkness

Though I don’t have opportunity to fly often, it amazes me how above the clouds the sun shines every day and the stars light the sky at night. Storms may rage below, but above the clouds visibility seems endless.

May we all learn to view things from above, rather than below. May we develop a sense of God’s deep moving and grand work amid our darkest times. Later, we will see clearly how intimately close He has always been; now we trust.