Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Do you Want to be Well?

As we entered the area in Jerusalem close to the Sheep Gate, our tour guide said, this is what is called, “The Pool of Bethesda”, (Greek from Aramaic Beth hesda, meaning, "house of grace"). This was a spring-fed pool with five porches where invalids waited their turn to step in the water that was supposed to have had healing virtue when angels troubled the waters.

I was surprised, thinking, “This is nothing like I had imagined it to be!”

I mused, “I guess there are blind spots in more places than just driving in automobiles!” I just wasn’t making the connection between the old and the modern! The original design of the human mind is good, but not always accurate in terms of a change in culture! This is especially true if the Lord Jesus, Himself, has a special ministry for a man at that pool!

As I tried to imagine what it must have been like for this man who had been there for 38 years, (John 5), my mind went back to the hundreds of times I had played the piano, sung, and ministered in convalescent homes over the years. Gathered together in more modern facilities, the story was the same. Pitifully they would explain to me that they would soon be out, once their family had a place for them to stay; or once the medication they were taking would take effect, or the right doctor would come to see them. It seemed to me that in a sense they were all “waiting for the moving of the water”, the “angel that would go down and stir up the water for their cure, and someone to help them get there.

In this pitiful scene, Jesus comes by and asks him if he wants to get well.

My mind dutifully fills in the rest of the picture again, this time a little more accurate, as I imagine his reply, “Did you ask me if I wanted to get well? Why do you think I am waiting here? The water has amazing healing properties when the angel stirs up the water. I just can’t get people to help me get down there in time!”

Jesus statement now begins to really haunt him, “Do you want to get well?” Several thoughts loom up and clamor for attention, “No one helps me when the water is troubled.”

Much like the sensation of someone telling us that a taxi has arrived, the voice of Jesus rings clear, but full of acceptance, “Get up, pick up your bedroll and walk!” Amazingly he thinks, “Why, yes, I really do want to get well!” He picks up his bedroll and suddenly discovers that he can walk.

In the midst of all this, we need to remember that things are not that different today. What “is” different is the presence of the Lord Jesus as he stops by the pool and asks the man if wants to be well!

It is all too easy to say, “But Jesus cares about sick folk, he is always around places like this. He cares, and we need to care.” That is true, but why would Jesus do it with this man, and not in other cases?

I think there are some folks that are willing to suffer for grander causes, such as seeing their family develop Christian character by modeling what they gave their lives for in the first place. Sure it’s painful, but if it helps to inspire their children and grand children to keep thinking of the legacy they are leaving, they may say, “I’ll suffer and pray, as an illustration of what Jesus did for me on the cross, in implicit trust in the Father.”

Other folks really do want victory over themselves, and their tendency to displease the Lord, in spite of their pain. They want to joyfully accept their circumstances, and be ready for that celestial city.

We need to remember that the curse of death that all are under is permanent. The answer to it is really eternal life, and the ability to address our earthly sojourn in life with that hope.

As I looked at the massive pillars, and the ruins of what had been a beautiful health spa, I thought, “What had been a beautiful, but temporary resting place, had suddenly become a parking lot!”

Once again I hear the clarion call of Jesus’ words, “Do you want to be well?”

As the man leaves the area, he encounters some professionals who challenge his healing, “It is illegal for you to pick up your bed-roll!”

“What? Illegal to be made well?” You almost hear him mutter under his breath, “I am sick of things that do nothing to make a person any better!”

Jesus later meets the man and tells him not to sin any more, lest something worse happen to him.

The man had no authority problems – people who were “control freaks”, so to speak, who had authority problems themselves, had failed to acknowledge their own weaknesses in not telling the sick to call upon God.

It seemed that the reason the man got well, was because he had a God-ordained mission that was to demonstrate that God was bigger than any program.

Accountability and programs are helpful, but always have limitations. They are not the ultimate cure, only places to serve one another in love. Christ is still the Author of all life!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hope and Healing

This morning I could not get away from the story recorded in Mark 5:24, where Jesus, walking ahead of a throng of people, experienced the touch of a woman, who had had an issue of blood that had plagued her for twelve years. She had said within herself, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” (verse 29) Immediately the issue of blood dried up, and she was healed.

But Jesus wanted to know who had touched his clothes. The disciples ridiculed him because of the crowd that was around him. She, however, was so afraid that she trembled as she acknowledged what had happened. Jesus then told her that it was her faith that had made her well.

It is obvious that she had turned the right direction with her problem, as Proverbs 23:17 says, "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Victor Frankl said, “A single moment can retroactively flood an entire life with meaning.”

There is a tug-of-war in the human heart! Anyone who has been on a diet, or has decided to start a new exercise program, or tried to get out of debt, knows this! It is even more pronounced when one seems short of the “Love Provision” necessary to life.

As Esther Kerr Rusthoi wrote,

Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Sometimes the sky looks dark with not a ray of light,
We're tossed and driven on , no human help in sight;
But there is one in heav'n who knows our deepest care,
Let Jesus solve your problem - just go to Him in pray'r.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrows will erase,
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ.

Our verse in Proverbs 23:17 says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Envy is different than jealousy, in that it refers to a superior achievement, possession, position, or privilege that could be ours. If it is not possible to have it, human tendency is to wish that the other lacked it. Quite often envy lurks when someone says, “It is not fair . . .”

James speaks of envy in a different light, however. In fact many translators avoid the word “envy”, and use terms such as “Jealously Yearn”. God, through the Holy Spirit yearns enviously that we embody our true privilege as “cross-bought” people! What is that privilege? It is that our souls might be well.

The woman’s body was a portrait of the death struggle that waged in her soul!
Both the King James Version and the NET Bible retain the word, “envy”.

James 4:5 Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?

What is the hidden truth here? I think it relates to the hope expressed at the last of this proverb, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

The woman, like all Jews, probably understood that the fringe of Jesus’ garment, something like a prayer shawl, included four special tassels, related to the whole law. (They were named, “tzit tzit”; “fringes”; and were also known as arba kanfot, “four corners”, Numbers 15:38-40)

When she “broke protocol”, so to speak, and touched the “tsit-tsit” of Jesus’ garment, with faith in its intended meaning, she was healed in soul and body!

Intrinsically she knew that Jesus embodied the whole law, so she touched that particular fringe or tassel that expressed that, for her own special healing!

She went right to the root of the matter. The lawyers had broadened this aspect of religious life, without expressing its true, intended meaning. (Matthew 23:5); (Luke 11:52).

When our system no longer brings soul-healing to people like this, it is in danger of being done away with. That is where you and I come in. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in this battle.

Psalm 103:1-3 indicates that God’s goal is always soul healing. John’s prayer is that it would also include bodily healing. (3 John 1:2) Thus, the woman who touched Jesus’ garment represents the soul-healing potential of every Christian.

Our task as the people of God, is to embody the spirit of the woman. She had a “cross to bear”. It was simply that she might embrace the true meaning of the Cross of Christ as her own, and glory in that! All else would flow from that.

And, yes, often that will cost us as well.

Monday, September 6, 2010


The employee walked into the manager’s office, and set the boxes of photocopies on the floor. “There, they are done!” He then started to leave.

The manager stooped to examine a few of the copies, and said, “What’s this? I can’t even read them!”

Then, turning to the employee, he said, “That is totally unacceptable! Unless they make it right, I will never have them do a job for me again!”

“Uh, but they really were not that good to start with,” the employee remonstrated.

“Well, at least the photocopy shop should have refused to do them, or done them without charge. I am not going to let them by with this, they will either refund my money, or do this job completely over”, the manager replied.

Turning to the administrative assistant, he asked for the phone number, and called the manager at the photocopy shop, saying, “You didn’t even try to make them readable, I want my money back, or an honest attempt to make it right!”

The employee found himself thinking, “How do people who wreak havoc, always seem to come out smelling like a rose?” That is opposite to nature!

The employee was in the middle of it, and had not asked to be at all!

A thought came to his mind, “I did not choose to be in this dilemma all by myself. I am just the messenger. After all I am attempting to respond as Christ would have responded. Just maybe He will help!”

A little doubt crept in, but then another thought counteracted, “Don’t be ashamed of the Good News of Christ, trust Him!”

The employee took the order back, and found a place to wait at a nearby coffee shop. The coffee didn't taste good, and no one was friendly. But, as he waited, he was praying that somehow God would make this all turn out for good. A light turned on in his consciousness, “That’s it, the Good News of God's paying the total price for all sin will help this come out alright, somehow.”

It was then that a thought came to him, “Why not check to see how the job is going?” As he did, the young man doing the work, wanted to know what might be acceptable to the manager, knowing that the original was not that good in the first place. The thunderclouds of anger and the poisons of bitterness that had started to fester in his doubting heart, (and stomach), finally started to respond to the “medicine” of praise to God for answers that were beginning to come his way.

Soon, the employee began to think differently about the situation. Does not a mother who has nearly lost her life in the delivery of a child have some “say” in what that child does with their life in the end? Does not God have some “say” in the formation of the character of one who has just trusted God’s son’s death as an opportunity for life change? A person with a servant heart does not bury his talent in the ground, but does what he can with what he has.

Jesus told the story of a manager who had negotiated a wage with those who had come early in the day, and had simply told those hiring in at the last minute, that he would pay them what was right. When he decided to pay them all the same, he was accused of being unfair. His answer was simply, “Does not a manager have the right to be good when he chooses to pay for a given service? Both of you got what you negotiated for.” Those who had arrived early, were more interested in themselves, than they were in the manager. Those who came late, were willing to help regardless of the outcome. (Matthew 20:15)

The manager appeared cruel in sending the employee back, but in reality saved face for everyone, and allowed everyone to give decent service for an expected wage, by learning to give all of one’s expectations to God, and then asking for His Grace in time of need. (Psalm 62:5)