Alms or Healing?

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Acts 3:1-10

It is all he ever knew, being carried by others and unable to walk, so it is understandable his daily practice of survival was to beg for alms. But did he ever think he could have more? His whole experience was limited by his infirmity, but one day, God broke in and changed everything. Peter and John shook him awake from his settled lethargy and said ‘we offer you something you haven’t even imagined, and it is available in the name of Jesus!’ I wonder at what Jesus might want to do in and for me today.

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Where do I settle into superficial routines, even in spending time with God, and fail to expect fresh insight, strength and hope? Have loving arms and gospel-propelled feet atrophied due to lack of exercise? What attitudes have become rigid and unforgiving, what paralysis of heart sours my expression and taints my demeanor toward others? Are my words complaining “woe is me” instead of proclaiming “Great is God”? What inspiration of the Spirit fizzles because I do not act on it? Have I slid into sitting and asking for just enough to get by, with no vision for what could be, no pursuit of God in all His power and wisdom, no specific prayer to be healed of selfishness, to be made holy and fully energized by my mighty Savior?

“Jesus! the name that charms our fears, That bids our sorrows cease;                                     ’Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’Tis life, and health, and peace.                                              Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, Your loosen’d tongues employ;                                     Ye blind, behold your Savior come, And leap, ye lame, for joy.” ~Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Lord on high and Jehovah Rapha the Healer, may I wholly desire all You have to give. Quicken what is lifeless in me, make strong my limbs of faith, love, and joy, that with all my energy I might walk, leap, live, and serve to praise Your name.

What Was, What Is

“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,  so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” Ezra 3:10-13

Exiles had returned to Jerusalem under the proclamation of pagan King Cyrus, and went about rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed by the invading Babylonian army decades before. When the foundation was in place, loud praises rang out…along with weeping. Many remembered what was, and perhaps were wistful in recalling the former glory of the temple, the times of great and godly kings leading God’s people in prosperity and holy practices. They wept over what was, maybe longing to go back, to return, to relive the good old days. But God was starting something new. His love did endure forever, and as it had carried and blessed them in the past, it would in the present.

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Where am I trying to hang on to what was, with tears that cloud the glory of the new work of God? How much time and energy do I spend mourning children’s ‘innocence,’ a newlywed ‘tingle,’ work that was simple and a supervisor who shared my values, the way things were in the good old days? Do I fritter away the present by dwelling on the past? “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” What am I missing in what God is doing presently? Where am I resisting change that God has in wisdom ordered? What prejudices or habits do I need to set aside, what thinking needs a ‘reset,’ in order for me to recognize and embrace His marvelous new foundation for today? “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Haggai 2:9; Isaiah 43:19)

God Who makes all things new, renew my vision for Your ‘today.’ Help me to discern the good from what was, and learn from it, and to be fully present as You unfold what is now, delighting in Your peace and refreshment, marveling in Your enduring love and joy that know no bounds. (Revelation 21:5)

 

Wisdom for the Times

“As he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus… Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt… But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 1:20-25; 2:13-14,19-23

“And he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

Joseph is a remarkable and enviable example of discernment and obedience to God’s voice and leading. He lived before the ministry of our Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit, but his ear was attuned to God, and when He spoke, Joseph responded immediately. His submission to his Sovereign, rather than leaning on his own understanding, kept him in the paths that fulfilled the holy prophesies and protected the life of our Savior. He also was aware of current events; he understood the times, and had a proper fear of the authorities in place and all their power wielded. He acted with wisdom. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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Am I circumspect when God asks of me something uncomfortable, new, different, or do I willingly obey, trusting He is working out His larger plans for and through me? What makes me hesitate to trust my Lord, knowing His path is good? Are self-will, my own preferences, fear of failure, loneliness, discomfort, or the unknown precluding me from saying “yes” to all God calls me to do?

Lord, grant me the ears to hear Your voice, the mind to understand the times, and the will to obey You no matter what. Make me wise for such a time as this.

“Give Us This Day…”

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’  And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”‘ And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?'” Luke 11:1-12

“Feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9

I could sit in this passage on the Lord’s Prayer for hours, but several lessons come to me today. I love how, when the disciples entreat Jesus to teach them and He does, He models how He will answer when they pray–directly and according to their specific request. He immediately focuses them upward  to behold their good heavenly Father and to proclaim His holiness and sovereignty. Prayer is not so much a ‘trade’ we perfect or accomplish as a practice of acknowledging that God is God and we are not. We cannot look to mighty God and ask for His will to be done without humbling ourselves and surrendering to Him. It is in this posture we see Him and our needs rightly.

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He then instructs them to request enough bread for the day, just as He fed the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years–an exercise that requires daily dependence, daily discipline, daily communion, daily feeding. He knows the human frame, He knows how we establish healthy habits, He knows all our needs, and He supplies sufficiently as we look to Him for sustenance. He trains us as His children to persist in specific prayer so we trust Him implicitly, love and thank Him as the giver of all gifts, and are satisfied in Him alone. (Exodus 16:35; Deuteronomy 8:3) 

My Father, Who is in heaven, turn my chin upward and bend my knees in joyful worship and grateful dependence day by day. Bring Your kingdom and fulfill Your will in and through me as I feed on Your ‘enough.’ And may my life proclaim that Yours is the kingdom and power and glory forever, amen.

The Draw of Blessed Ones

“Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain… Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country,  and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness… There shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord… Love truth and peace. Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:3,7-8,12-13,16,19-23

Zechariah paints a beautiful picture of God’s restoration of His people in Zion, filling it with the rich colors of promises for gathering from far places, peace, fruitfulness, loving relationships all fulfilled. As He showers blessing on them, they shall be a blessing to others. Once His people are reestablished in His city, those from other cities will be drawn, attracted to the liveliness of God’s presence in their midst.

Can my life be characterized as a faithful city, a holy mountain? What does my salvation, my identification with God, produce? Has God in my midst brought forth fruit of faithfulness, righteousness, peace, the fresh dew of truth spoken and gracious attitudes toward others? Whom does my life attract to the great Redeemer?

Loving Savior, You have blessed me to be a blessing to others. May my life be an accurate and captivating portrait of You. Catch me up in the flow of all You are that my life bear rich fruit and, like a magnet, draw others to You.

The Change That Seeing Makes

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb… She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ and worshiped him. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me; but go to my brothers.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ On the evening of that day, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord… Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” John 20:11,14,16-20,24-28; Matthew 28:9

The crucifixion was a startling crisis for Jesus’ disciples; though He had foretold His coming death (and that He would be raised on the third day) many times, they did not understand. His death left them in a state of sorrow, fear, and disbelief; but His resurrection changed everything. One by one, they saw Him again, and His risen presence brought comfort and joy, peace and gladness, and confident belief. Beholding Him changed them!

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When I am overcome with a harsh reality I do not understand, with sorrow at a premature death, broken relationships, destructive addictions or behavior, I can look to Jesus. When I am anxious about the unknown, the impending disaster, the hypothetical what-if, I can look to Jesus. When I doubt any good can result, any resolution can occur, any happy ending can be written, I can look to Jesus. Seeing His scars, borne by Him risen and victorious, is all I need to be at rest and glad; He is victor, and He reigns.

Risen Lord, turn my face to see You above and instead of all that concerns me here below. Make me ready always and quick to tell others I have seen You, that they may see You too, and be glad.

“Sometimers”

“I the Lord do not change.” “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” “You are the same, and your years will have no end.”  “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8;1:12; Psalm 90:2

“They say we’re some-timers: sometimes we remember, sometimes we don’t.” I had a silly incident recently where I went to do something that I quickly discovered I’d already done, and neither the colleague I went to for help, nor I, remembered we’d already checked this off the list. We laughed, and she said, “We’re all some-timers.” How grateful I am my God is an “All-timer”!! He is never confused, late, forgetful, negligent, disorganized, or leaves things undone.

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My “sometiming” can be brought about by distraction and not being present, can occur when I try to do and be too much at once. I have long appreciated martyred missionary Jim Elliot’s wisdom: “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Being harried and scattered can indicate a frenzied heart, a noisy soul, a self-directed schedule. When I take time to wait on God’s instructions, and am deliberate to be in the moment with my Lord and Guide, I am more prone to stay in His flow with sharp mind and senses.

“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in endless praise.                                            Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.                                                        Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne.                                                     Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.”  ~Frances Havergal (1874)

Lord Jesus, I desire to live to the hilt with You, all the time! Bring your order and present attentiveness into every facet of my days. Make me more and more like You: steady, consistent, efficient in thought, clear in communication, unwavering in love, compassion, purposefulness. May my moments and days always be spent for Your kingdom purposes and glory.