Tag Archives: Healing

Matthew’s Gospel – A Cinquain

Matthew
Jesus’ account
Loving, healing, teaching
ultimately giving His life
Ransom

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Bridging the Distance

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went to see Dwight Yoakam in concert. It was a great concert — but then Dwight always puts on a great concert. True to my nature, I’ve listened to a lot of Dwight both before and after the concert. He sang one of my favorite songs called “If There Was a Way” and I realized that I did not have that album on my iPod. I quickly remedied that a day or so after the concert and have been listening a lot to that album.

There is another song on that album that has me thinking. It’s called “The Distance Between You and Me.” It’s a sad song about a couple that has grown apart. The chorus says:

I lie awake and hear you breathing
Only inches from me in this bed
Not much space but it’s all that we needed
To live alone now that our love is dead

This song is particularly sad because it describes so many couples in our society today. They start out their marriages happy and blissful, but somewhere along the way a distance grows between them, sometimes so big it’s immeasurable. The distance leaves them alone even as they occupy the same house, the same bed. Many wonder what leads to such aloneness.

But it’s really no mystery. Quoting Psalm 4:4, the apostle Paul advised, “‘In your anger do not sin’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV). Sadly, so many people do not heed this advice. Pride, anger, and lack of forgiveness cause the distance. One spouse says or does something that hurts the other, maybe intentionally but maybe not. And the other spouse refuses to forgive, holds a grudge. Then another incident leads to another grudge, and on and on it goes. Each grudge separates them and eventually enough anger and unforgiveness destroys the love and intimacy they once enjoyed.

Another problem that causes a distance between husband and wife is when one or the other uses sex as a weapon, when because of anger one refuses the other’s advances. Paul also warned against this situation when he gave his “Instruction on Marriage” in 1 Corinthians:

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NLT).

Thankfully, there is a way to bridge the distance and loneliness, and heal the hearts of estranged love. Honesty, love, and forgiveness will heal all wounds. Live together with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV).

The best option is to live by God’s design for a healthy marriage as revealed in His Word and thereby prevent Satan from getting a foothold in your lives and creating that distance that destroys love and intimacy. But where Satan has already gained a foothold and a distance has grown, that distance can be bridged by love and forgiveness. Love that appears dead can be given new life by God’s grace.

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That the Blind Might See

My church is putting together an Advent devotional for this coming Advent season. I was asked to write two of the devotions for the booklet. I am really looking forward to seeing what the other contributors wrote. I always like reading through a devotional for Advent and I think it will be extra special this year because I know all of the people who are writing them.

I finished one of my two assigned devotions yesterday. It is based on Isaiah 35:3-7 and Luke 7:18-30. I was limited to 250 words for the devotion section and the assignment called for also including a thought to ponder or Challenge, and a prayer. It was really hard for me to only write 250 words. I had to go back and cut some, but the final devotion was 249 words. I decided I wanted to share what I wrote here, but add back in some of the thoughts I didn’t have room for.

Devotion

Isaiah gave us many prophecies of the first Advent of our Lord Jesus. Many of those prophecies serve also as a promise of Jesus coming into the life of each believer as well as of His Second Coming. Isaiah admonishes us to not be afraid because we know the Lord will bring forth His promised blessings of sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and youthful agility to the lame.

John the Baptist continued the prophetic message of Isaiah, but unlike Isaiah he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus. Not only did he hear his disciples’ recounting of the great healing work of Jesus, John saw it with his own eyes. What John witnessed was that the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame walked, the sick were made well, and the Good News was real.

Today Jesus continues to fulfill the prophecies about Him as He give spiritual sight to those who believe in Him and are baptized in His name. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom and hope to those who trust in Jesus as their promised savior.

But like the Pharisees and experts in the law, many people today reject God’s purpose in their lives because they have not believed in the saving grace of Jesus. They try to do what is right in their own eyes and by their own power. They try to live by the letter of the law, but they do not see the truth of God’s love and the wonder of His mercy. These people are spiritually blind.

We must not forget that we were once spiritually blind, too. Our place is not to judge, but to remember that Jesus came to give sight to such as these. He came to save the whole world if only they will believe. He came to remind us of our purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator. He came that we would have no need to fear.

Thought to ponder/challenge

Just as John the Baptist was a messenger paving the way for the first Advent of Jesus, we are called to share the Good News of how Jesus gives sight to the spiritually blind and purpose to everyone. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV). How will you share the Good News today?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, bring to final fulfillment Your promise to bring spiritual sight to all who are still blinded by this world and who reject Your purpose for their lives. Give us wisdom to be as John the Baptist, preparing Your way into the hearts and lives of those around us.

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The Power of Words – A Poem

As a general rule, I love words. I love arranging them to express a thought or idea. But strung together in the wrong way, words can hurt another person far worse than any physical harm.

Words are powerful. Let’s use their power for good, and not for evil.

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones
will only break bones
but words cut hard and deep
crushing heart and soul
when cruelly we speak
leaving scars no one can see

Sticks and stones
can make buildings and homes
but words sink soft and deep
lifting heart and soul
when lovingly we speak
healing scars only God can see

Take care with your words
use encouraging ones
let the cruel ones remain unspoken
shower kindness and love
offer mercy from above
in a world already too broken

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10 (NIV).

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Trusting in the Midst of Chaos

I heard a new-to-me Sanctus Real song at the Casting Crowns concert on Friday night that really touched me. It is from their 2008 CD titled We Need Each Other. The name of the song is “Whatever You’re Doing (Something Heavenly)” and I found the official Sanctus Real video on YouTube:

I bought their 3-CD Anthology at the concert, and it includes this CD. I have listened to this song over and over, pondering what it means for me.

I’ve experienced a lot of healing in my life thanks to my dear Jesus. But I’ve come to realize lately that there is more to be done. I have felt lately that God is doing something inside of me; He is trying to tell me it is time for complete healing.

Whatever He is doing it does feel a bit like chaos inside of me, quite a bit actually. Some days I don’t like it and I find it hard to surrender. But beneath and through it all there is a peace I can’t explain. I trust completely that He knows what He’s doing, even if I don’t understand. As thoughts and emotions swirl seemingly out of control sometimes, I do know that He is in control and that what He is doing is something heavenly.

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Love, Humility, and Faith – My Tuesday Three

For My Tuesday Three, I decided to share three of my favorite people from the Bible and why I like them. You may be surprised to find that Jesus is not on this short list, but that is just because He is too obvious. All of the Bible is about Jesus; He is the Word.

My favorite person in the Bible is the apostle John. In his Gospel, John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). This might seem kind of arrogant, but I don’t think it is arrogance that made John refer to himself this way. I think it was because John understood on a deep level how much Jesus loved him and how much Jesus loved everyone. He truly understood and accepted that love. This is what I love about John.

My second favorite person in the Bible is King David. In Acts, Luke referred to David as “a man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22). It was David’s humility and contrite heart that earned him this description. He was not perfect – he had committed murder and adultery – but he repented of his sin and sought God’s mercy. David was the author of many of my favorite Psalms of praise and confession. He truly understood the proper attitude we should all have towards God. This is what I love about King David.

My third favorite person in the Bible has no name. She is the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe because she had faith that this simple touch would heal her from her infirmity. (Matthew 9:20). When she touched Jesus’ cloak she was healed and He knew immediately what had happened. Even though she had been bleeding for 12 years and otherwise had lost all hope, this desperate woman did not confront Jesus and demand that He heal her. She understood that He was the source of all power and healing, and that a mere touch would be enough. This is what I love about this nameless woman. One other thing I love about the story of this woman is that she is not named, and so her need can easily represent the need for spiritual healing that we all have.

These three people represent love, humility, and faith – three characteristics that are important for my Christian walk.

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My Hands Are His Hands

I’m reading through Jeremiah as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. The other night I read Jeremiah 13. Probably the primary lesson of this chapter is the warning against pride, which in my opinion is the sin that is the root of most others sins. Pride leads us to believe we can live without God and that we know better than He does what behavior is best for us; pride puts each of us on our own throne and seeks to throw God out into the darkness (an impossible task, to be sure, but one pride will convince us we have succeeded at).

But that is not the aspect of this chapter that I really want to write about. Jeremiah 13 starts with God telling Jeremiah to do something that sounds quite strange. He is to wear a linen loincloth but not wash it; then bury the loincloth by the Euphrates River; then a long time later go and dig up the loincloth that he had buried. These are strange directions, but Jeremiah follows them in perfect obedience to God. It reminds me a bit of the Israelites following God’s direction for how to make the walls of Jericho fall, but with Jeremiah he doesn’t know the reason why God has directed him to act this way until after he has been completely obedient.

Ultimately, God uses the condition of the long-buried loincloth, now rotting and “good for nothing,” to illustrate the condition of the Israelites who have wandered far from God and rejected His ways to follow after false gods and worship idols. Their pride has made them good for nothing.

Sometimes God uses seemingly strange circumstances to illustrate a point to us, just as He used the rotting loincloth to illustrate a point to Jeremiah and the people of Israel. I recently had an experience where God used something odd to point out an important lesson to me about my own priorities. Interestingly, it was the afternoon before I read Jeremiah 13 that the lesson finally hit home.

This story starts about 6 weeks ago with fingernails. Generally, I have very nice fingernails; they have always been long and strong, and I never wear polish and have certainly never had fake nails. I frequently get compliments about how beautiful my hands and nails are, and have had quite a few people tell me I should have been a hand model.

About 6 weeks ago my nails were all looking particularly beautiful when I managed to get a small break in one of my thumbnails right at the base. Normally when that happens, I would trim the nail so that it stayed long but would be skinnier to cut out the break, and then trim the others so that they matched in length. At church that Sunday I complained to a friend that I had this break and was going to have to trim all my nails, and she said if they can glue on fake nails I should be able to get something that would glue this break and not have to cut my nails at all. So after church I went to the store and bought some clear nail strengthening polish with minerals, and went home and put on the polish. For the next 3 weeks I tried in vain to save that nail, with the break getting bigger and bigger. I finally cut it quite a bit shorter and shortened the others, but continued to use the polish. The very next day as we were headed out of town to visit family, I realized I had a similar break in another nail, and spent all weekend trying to save it only to catch it on something and rip off the nail super short.

When we got home that Sunday, I decided to take off the polish and trim all of my nails a little shorter. Much to my dismay, when I removed the polish I discovered that all of my nails were in terrible shape. They had cracks and were brittle and white even over the nailbeds. My nails have never, ever looked so bad. For the next 2 weeks, as my nails tried to grow out, they all kept breaking and peeling. I’ve been very frustrated.

Then the other night I complained to my husband about how frustrated I was just before heading off to a meeting at church. But as I drove to the meeting, God revealed to me my pride and vanity over my fingernails. He showed me that I had become more concerned with how my hands looked than what I did with them. The real beauty of hands is not in how they look but in what they do. The real beauty of hands comes in using them to serve and help others. With so much need in the world, my concern and frustration over the length and look of my nails was so petty and unimportant.

The hands of Christ healed and fed many, and then were nailed to a cross so that all might be healed. We are now the hands of Jesus on this earth. As Christians we are called to use His hands to heal and comfort, to feed the hungry, to minister to a lost and hurting world.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of this wonderful song by Casting Crowns from their debut CD, called “If we are the body.” It reminded me that our hands, my hands, need to be used to help heal those in need of His grace. The Christian church these days is known so much for what we are against. We use our mouths to condemn instead of our hands to heal. We need to be His hands healing, and we need to use His Word to teach the truth of His love and grace.

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An Intercessor’s Heart

Everyone experiences difficulties in life. It can be the loss of a job, an illness that never seems to end, a broken marriage and a broken heart, not being able to make ends meet, a physical or verbal attack by a friend or a stranger, the devastation of a natural disaster, and the list goes on. But the greatest tragedy is that all of these difficulties and trials have shattered hope.

When we go through some difficulty and then we finally reach the end of it, we can respond is different ways. One way is to be happy for ourselves and try to just put it all behind us, never thinking of the difficulty again. Another is to not be able to get over it, to remain bitter and resentful that we had to go through this trial at all, never giving thanks for the restoration we have experienced.

A third way we can respond is to rejoice that we have made it through with the help of God, but to never forget how it felt to be in the midst of that trial. This third response helps to develop an intercessor’s heart filled with empathy. This is the response I have chosen in response to the many trials I have faced in life. God has used this response to develop in me an intercessor’s heart with the desire to pray for others who are going through trials of their own.

I recently learned of the ongoing struggles of a fellow Christian on the Third Day Connect website, which involved several of these difficulties all at once. I don’t know this woman, but my heart went out to her and I wanted to help. But I have no way of helping her except to pray. And so pray I have, primarily that God will restore her hope, which seems to have been shattered into a billion little pieces by the weight of her troubles.

I doubt her story is all that unique. Many struggle because the weight of life has shattered their hope. I know I can’t restore their hope, but I know the One who can. The devil would like God’s people to drown in their trials, but God has promised to restore hope to those who believe.

I have a wooden sculpture of the word “Hope” that I got at the Relay for Life. I sat it on top of a picture in my bathroom and it fell to the floor and broke into many pieces. My son tried to glue it back together using Elmer’s glue, wood glue, and a hot glue gun, but pieces still keep falling off. It will never be the same. I actually bought a new one at Relay for Life this year to replace it, but I keep both on the windowsill in my bedroom as a reminder of hope shattered and hope restored.

The apostle Peter wrote about weathering trials and the promise that God will restore hope:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:6-10.

Peter’s reminder that other believers are “undergoing the same kind of sufferings” led me to another thought. What if, instead of waiting until after we have been restored from our trials to intercede for others in prayer, we also prayed for others undergoing the exact same trials we are undergoing right now?

  • What if, as you looked at a pile of bills you didn’t have the means to pay, you stopped to intercede for all those around the world who were also struggling to make ends meet?
  • What if, as you sat in the clinic chair undergoing weekly chemotherapy for cancer, you prayed for the many who had just received their diagnosis or who were facing surgery to remove a tumor?
  • What if, as you sat in your living room in shock that your spouse had left you or cheated on you, you cried out to God for all the broken hearts and failing marriages across the nation?
  • What if, as you surveyed the damage to your house from fire, tornado, or flood in disbelief that it could all be destroyed, you interceded with our Father for the many who lost all their worldly possessions?
  • What if, sitting in the front pew at your loved one’s memorial service, you shed a tear for those sitting around you and at memorial services throughout the world?

What if we used our pain and suffering to care for others in pain? How would that change us? How would that change them? Would it give God an opening to restore hope to a people that desperately need it? I believe it would. And I believe it would strengthen the intercessor’s heart in all of us. Will you choose to join me in this intercessory endeavor? I hope so.

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My Return from Exile

Last night when I got home from work I had a little free time while dinner cooked, so I decided to read my Bible. I picked up my Hebrew-Greek Study Bible and opened it to where I had put the bookmark — right in the middle of Psalms 119, which I had never finished reading a few weeks ago. So I decided to finish the Psalm and was reminded of the great healing God has done in me. I want to start with just a few verses from Psalms 119:

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
         But now I keep Your word. 
71It is good for me that I was afflicted,
         That I may learn Your statutes. 
92If Your law had not been my delight,
         Then I would have perished in my affliction. 
93I will never forget Your precepts,
         For by them You have revived me.

When I was a teenager, I was greatly hurt by several people in my life, but one in particular has always stood out as “the beginning and cause of my affliction.” As I grew older, went to college, and married, I carried around a terrible anger and resentment towards this person. I always felt he had ruined my life. As a result, I ended up afflicted by over 10 years of recurring bouts with major depression. I could not function and for years I blamed him. Even though I was being treated for depression, I had no hope. My doctor had told me I would always be on antidepressants, but they did not make me feel any better. In fact, I think they made me feel worse. I finally came to the point of being suicidal because I thought I was irreparably broken and would always be miserable.

Now at this point, I was married to a wonderful man (who I am thankful stuck with me through all of this) and had a young child who was sweet and funny right from the beginning. But I was not able to enjoy them because of my affliction. At the point of being suicidal, I actually thought they would be better off without me because what good was a broken and afflicted wife and mother?

This is when God intervened in the form of a friend who invited me to a wonderful Bible study. The group was studying Ezra and Nehemiah, which are both about the Israelites’ return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of my return from exile and God’s rebuilding of His temple in me.

Though I had believed in God and been baptized before this, I didn’t know His Word and I didn’t really know Him. But as I began to read His Word and internalize the truth it holds, the healing began. I came to understand that I had gone astray and that was the reason for my affliction. I was not depressed because of the person who had hurt me; I was depressed because of my reaction to that injury and my own sin of remaining angry and bitter for so many years. While I was attending this Bible study, God taught me that I needed to forgive and by simply forgiving the weight of my affliction was lifted from me.

As the psalmist wrote, before I was afflicted I went astray. My affliction was a good thing because it drew me to God’s Word, His precepts that call us to forgive as we have been forgiven. If I had not come to delight in His Word, I would have died in my affliction. But God’s Word, His great precepts, revived me and restored me.

Suffice it to say, my doctor was wrong. I have not been on or needed antidepressants for over 10 years. I now have hope and peace, and can enjoy the wonderful husband and son that God has given to me, not to mention all the other blessings in my life. And so I say with the psalmist in Psalms 119:

105Your word is a lamp to my feet
         And a light to my path. 
106I have sworn and I will confirm it,
         That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. 
107I am exceedingly afflicted;
         Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.

I am not perfect, and so even though I desire to always keep God’s ordinances I sometimes fail. When I do, I sometimes feel the old affliction try to return. It is then that I again turn to His Word that revives and redeems me.

Enjoy this great Jeremy Camp video of Revive Me, in which he has put parts of Psalms 119 to music:

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