Thursday, March 19, 2009

"If only I could touch Him...."

The Woman with the Issue...that is what I named her. Prompted by a lesson in a book we are using in Sunday School, I began to take another look at this woman. I've heard the story many times and framed out the picture in my mind of how it all should look. But...once I delved into the Scripture a little more, I realized the picture in my mind was nothing close to the real scene that played out long ago, near the Sea of Galilee.

First, for this do-votion, I would like you to read Mark 5:21-34. Once you have read through that passage, please take the time to look up and read the following Scriptures:

Mark 2:1,2

Mark 3:7,9

Mark 3:20

Mark 4:1

Mark 5:21,24

What common situation did Jesus face as he taught or performed miracles?

Obviously, Jesus drew crowds of people. The words He spoke and the lives He changed brought people to Him like roaches coming out of the woodwork. You may laugh at that analogy but, I have seen roaches coming out of the woodwork in a small apartment I lived in. Throngs and throngs of them. It really is nothing I want to experience again but the word picture for me is perfect. From far and wide, people came to see and hear this Man.

Perhaps Mark 6:30-44 could give us an idea of just how large the crowds were that surrounded Jesus. This particular crowd just happened to be a whopping 5,000 plus. Maybe, this is one of the larger crowds. After all, Mark 8:1-13 tells us that Jesus then fed a bit smaller crowd of 4,000. Do you get the picture? Crowds followed Jesus, not small groups. This is an important concept when picturing the Woman with the Issue. After all, do you really think she somehow managed to just reach through the "crowd," while standing on the side of the road, watching Jesus walk by and touch the hem of His garment? I hardly think so.

So you ask, what do I think really happened? Let me tell you. But first, let's take a look at Luke 8:40. Luke gives a small detail in his account that may help clear up a few preconceived notions.

Fill in the end of this verse: "Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed Him, __________ ______________ _____________ _________ ________________________ ______________.

Here's what I think. I believe the Woman with the Issue was one of the many in the crowd, waiting for Jesus to return from the other side of the lake. Mark 5:26 says that "she had suffered under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus...." She had heard about Jesus. She knew this was her one and only chance for healing. When the crowds gathered, waiting for Jesus' return, I believe she was right there among them, feet planted in the sand, plan going through her mind. I can't help but wonder, did Jairus' demonstrative pleading interupt her plan? Was she waiting to get close enough to touch Jesus and then all of a sudden the crowd was turning and following Him to Jairus' house? If so, she wasn't going to let Him get away. Desperate, and knowing this was her last chance, she jumps in with the crowd, moves as close as she can get to Him and thinks, "If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed!"

Isn't it funny how certain stories carry certain mind pictures with them? This is one of them for me. Somewhere, somehow, I had always pictured this lonely woman, standing along the side of the road, reaching her tiny little arm as far as it would go to just barely skim the "hem" of his garment. You too? That is what I love about Scripture. It is like a treasure hunt. Yeah...I know I am surmising a bit too, but once I posted this picture on my mind, the whole scene became even clearer.

I will continue my thoughts on 'The Woman with the Issue' in part 2. Can't wait to share the rest of the treasure hunt with you, as it only gets better.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Slogans to Live By

“Add a little salt to your character.”

Scripture to read: Matthew 5:13

How can a well-known restaurant chain come up with such an applicable slogan to live by for the Christian? Scripture could not be clearer to you and me that, we are, drum roll please, the salt of the earth. Clearly the writer of this slogan knows that salt does do something. What he or she probably doesn’t know is that the only salt that will change any characteristic flaws in anyone is Jesus. So why does Jesus say we, followers of Christ, are the salt of the earth? And how can we, as believers, add a little salt to our character?

First, let’s start with this simple visual - a salt shaker. Nothing tastes better than to shake a little salt on our food and enjoy the enhanced flavor but if the salt shaker is empty, the flavor of the food is never changed. So it is for us. If we are the salt of the earth, we must be full enough to shake out something that will change the flavor of this world. Jesus said that if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It ends up being good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled on by men (Mt. 5:13). I think we may all be guilty at times, maybe a lot of times, of relying on our own moral goodness or character to be the salt to this world. It has recently been something heavy on my mind that some people are really just “good” by nature. All of us have natural abilities that can make a difference in the lives of others. That is why Chilis restaurant can say “add a little salt to your character.” To them, it all stems from the natural. For us, as Christ followers, we need to operate in the spirit led abilities that combine with our natural abilities to affect this world we live in. Our spiritual salt shakers are going to be empty if we do not fill them up with the Word of God. No question, the only chance we have of ever being truly effective in this world to anyone is through the Word of God living in us and through us. You can shake some natural “salt” on this world, but it will never change the flavor. Only the ever salty Word of God will make the difference. So remember, adding a little salt to our character will require more than relying on our natural talents and abilities. Fill yourself up with the Word of God, then shake, shake, shake.

Secondly, Jesus understood perfectly the benefits of salt and uses it in the Word as a visual to live by. So, if we better understand the benefits of salt, we will better understand the reason we are needed to be the salt of the earth. Here is some of what I learned from an article titled, “The Many Benefits of Salt.”

“Salt has two major roles in flavoring foods; it adds saltiness and enhances flavor.”
Wow! Two benefits here: 1) salt makes things salty. I know that is so profound you can hardly stand it but here is the best part about being salty. Our saltiness adds salts to others, which in turn can then be added to others to be salty. It can be a chain reaction. I love that. When we salt each other, the salt doesn’t lose its saltiness, instead, it can clearly be used to salt again. And 2) Word filled salt shakers enhance the flavor of this world. Plain and simple, this world is much more flavorful when we as Christians are shaking.

“Scientific studies have proved that humans and other mammals exhibit a natural craving for salt.”
This world not only needs what we have to offer, the crave it. We are all like a vacuum, void and empty without Christ, and many will fill that emptiness with anything that feels good. Challenge yourself to offer those around you something, or may I say the Only One thing that will truly fill that emptiness they crave.

“Because salt affects the way we perceive other tastes, it often can be added to food products to balance the flavor.”
As the salt of this earth, you can bring balance into a very unbalanced world. Never shrink back. I think we are all afraid to speak truth and shake salt but this world is desperate for balance and we have what they need.

“Salt acts as a control agent for fermented foods such as bread and cheese.”
I’ve made bread often in my life but until now did not know that salt played such an important part. The salt actually slows the gas production from the yeast which then in turn promotes a cell structure that creates an acceptable texture. In cheese, the salt regulates the amount of acid produced by the culture, giving cheese the desired flavor. Fellow believer, we, as the salt of this earth, bring the right texture and flavor to those who may otherwise experience negative effects of fermentation. If you find yourself around fermented people, shake some salt on them. See what a difference it can make. Just like in making bread, the smallest amount can have a really positive result.

“Salt also acts as a functional additive. Generally, through a complex chemical reaction, salt modifies a food, providing some desirable finished product characteristics.”
Can anyone say amen to that? Christ does more than modify though…He changes us and makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Although the finished product is not completed until we are with Him in glory, there is no doubt that our character, in Christ, is much more desirable. People need to know this. So many people do not like themselves, struggling daily with their insecurities. Offer them Christ. Find ways to salt their lives. This is what we are called to.

I find myself in positions every day to be the salt of the earth. I need to be more aware of how full my salt shaker is, for one, and then make a concerted effort to shake it out a bit. It is so easy to go through every day never paying attention to the needs of this flavorless world. Now that I know how many ways salt can make a difference, I’m going to do my best to enhance this world through Christ.

What do you want to do to flavor this world? Take a few moments and review the list above. Then make a list. Present your list to God and ask Him to give you the courage to shake the world.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Turn those thoughts around!

One of the greatest difficulties in my life would be the battle of anxiety. Whether something simple or complex, my mind can wheel round and round, on any given thought, like a playground merry go round. I have recited the Scripture in Phillipians 4:6 many times in hopes of finding relief and for a while it works, but inevitably, I find myself right back to the same worries.

About a month ago, though, I was reading through chapter 4 of Phillipians, and had a moment with God. How could it be that I had read this passage of Scripture for the umpteenth time and never noticed this? It makes so much sense now. But before we go any further, please read Phillipians 4:4-9.

For the sake of fulfilling the whole purpose of this DO- votion blog, I would like you to take a moment, grab a piece of paper and from this passage, write out each "action" truth - those being the things you are suppose to do according to this Scripture. Below each action truth, write out the result. Group things together like you see them and how you feel they speak to you. I will share my list with you below.

1. Action Truth: Always rejoice in the Lord and let my gentleness be evident to everyone.

Result: The Lord will be near

2. Action Truth: Do not be anxious about anything but pray with thanksgiving to God.

Result: The peace of God will guard my heart and my mind in Christ.

3. Action Truth: Think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellant, or praiseworthy.

Result: The God of peace will be with me.

So many parts of this passage could be studied in the deepest of detail. But for this do-votion, I want to share with you what I believe God showed me to help with my anxiety. In a nutshell - I needed to turn my thoughts around.

Here is what I learned. Our anxious thoughts weigh us down. Turn to Proverb 12:25 and write this Scripture out on your paper. Now write the word "weigh" down and next to it put this definition, taken from the original language - "to fall prostrate." Our anxious thoughts can, for lack of a better illustration, flatten us. I have had days when the worries and anxieties of my life want to keep me in bed. Have you ever been there? We need to recognize that we have an enemy who knows this game and we must keep him losing and us winning. Here is the weapon.

Look back at verse 8. Paul says to these Phillipian believers, "finally brothers, do this." What he is saying to them is that, you must turn your thoughts around and think on something other than those things which worry you. Not just think on anything different than your worries but think on these specific things. I like to call them the "whatever" list. Here is what I felt impacted me so much. Once we pray and petition God with anything that is causing us anxiety, we must train ourselves to replace thinking about things that cause us anxiety, with thinking on the "whatever" list. We must turn our thoughts around.

Now I want you to take a moment and, if you have one handy, grab an index card. Put a title on the top "Think on These Things." Then create your "whatever" list from verse 8. Tuck this in your Bible, or stick it to your bulletin board - just keep it handy. The next time you are weighed down with anxiety, present the problem to the Lord, thank Him for hearing you, and turn your thoughts around. Don't allow the enemy to play mind games with you. The Lord is near. He heard your prayer. Now, fill your mind with "whatever."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hide and Seek

Our daughter, Elise, was born into this world on September 22, 1986, weighing a healthy 8 lbs. 10 oz., holding a pom pom. Her years of cheering did not begin when she was a freshman in high school. They began in the beginning. I can hardly remember a time when she was not excited or happy about something (except for the time I “showed” her how to vacuum the proper way. Sorry, honey, I was a little over the top that day.) She has won the hearts of many with her unique ability to cheer you up when you are down and to cheer you on in life’s disappointments. Even at a very young age, her smile alone would bring cheers. So it was no surprise to me that the one “sport” she would do in high school was what she already did so naturally, become a cheerleader. I’m not really sure why I shared all of that with you except that I remembered something about those cheerleading days today and it struck me funny. Every time one of the cheerleaders was going to begin a new cheer, in order to get the attention of the other cheerleaders and the crowd, they would say, “Ready, Ok!” Those two words broke the spell of boredom and fired up the next chant.

Today, for the first ever do-votion posted on this blog, I want to say a hearty, “Ready, Ok!” I think this will be fun. I pray it will mean something to someone. But, if nothing else, it will give me an opportunity to practice doing something I love. Join me now as we look at one of my favorite Bible characters, Elijah.

Please read: I Kings 19:1-14

Children all around the world, in one version or another, know how to play the game of Hide and Seek. When you are young and the game is just for fun, all is well, but sometimes in life the game of “hide and seek” is not so enjoyable. Today as you have read in I Kings 19, Elijah was on the run, trying to hide from the not so pleasant seeker, Jezebel. She was out to get him, ready to kill, no mercy. Elijah had ruffled her feathers and she did not like it one bit. Even though Elijah had seen God perform some great miracles (to learn about those miracles, read I Kings 17 and 18), when faced with threats from Jezebel, he took to running. There is something to glean from the actions and behaviors of Elijah. One thing I love more than anything with God’s Word is the pertinence of a story written hundreds of years ago to the day and age we live in. Just like Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9)

As we look at this passage of Scripture today, we will see three concepts applicable to our lives as we watch Elijah’s game of hide and seek play out before us.

I. When our emotions are controlled by fear, we tend to run and hide.

Please re-read verse 3 and fill in the blanks.

“Elijah was __________ and ____________ for his life.”

I have never had to run and escape from someone who is trying to kill me, but I do know what it is like to run and hide from other kinds of fear. The strange thing about fear is that what makes one person afraid doesn’t necessarily affect another in the same way. That is the way it is with my husband and myself. I definitely process things differently than he does and as a result I deal with a lot more fear.

A few years ago, I was faced with a very difficult situation. I had dealt with this problem for a very long time and I was just plum sick of it and tired too. One particular day, the difficult situation turned into disaster. I was so afraid of the out coming circumstances, that I wanted to hide, literally. I locked all my doors, turned off the phones, and went to my basement. My emotions had clearly gotten the best of me.

I think Elijah felt a lot like this the day he took off running from Jezebel, only on a much grander scale. He was tired. His emotions were weakened from pure exhaustion and fear had a free for all in his life. I mean after all that Elijah had seen God do through him, how could he be afraid of anything? In fact, 1 Kings 18:46 states the power of God came upon Elijah so great that he was able to outrun Ahab, who was riding in a chariot. Do you not find this so comical? Elijah, in the power of God, outruns on foot a chariot only to turn and run in fear from Jezebel. What it tells me about fear is this: left to our own demise, without the power of God in our lives, running and hiding seems like the only option.

What do you do when you have a sense of dread or fear something in your life?


Most of you probably have never locked yourself in your house and hid in the basement but what about other ways we “hide?” What about ignoring the problem, pretending the issue doesn’t exist, or redirecting our thoughts so we don’t have to think about it for now?

Read chapter 19:4. What did Elijah say to the Lord?

“________ ____________ _________ ______________.”

As it was with Elijah, some of us have battled something so long that honestly we can declare as Elijah did, “I have had enough, Lord.” In a weakened state of mind, we may even say with Elijah, “Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.” That my friend, is not the place we want to be.

II. Listening to the wrong voice invokes fear.

Please read the following verse from 19:2 -

“So, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say….”

I realize I am going backward in the passage, but I wanted you to see how this all began. Isn’t this interesting? Elijah hears the message from Jezebel and fear takes over. Again and again in my life, if I am not careful, I will allow the voice of one, who does not have my best interests at heart, to wreak havoc in me. Truth be known, most of the time, my fear and probably your fear too, begins by listening to the lies of the “Jezebel” in our lives. We must never underestimate the danger in allowing our thought processes to be redirected by the wrong voice. Satan loves to blow things completely out of proportion causing us to react in ways we despise.

How do you react when your thoughts get away from you?


We become so vulnerable to fear and many other erratic emotions if we do not take our thoughts captive as I Corinthians 10:5 tells us to. Make them obedient to Christ, right from the get go. Today when I woke up I knew that I was already simmering with some unresolved issues and if left unchecked, by noon, they would be full blown. I want us to remember that in the thick of our emotions, we must declare God’s truth. It is our only survival. Speak those words of Truth out loud and denounce the lies. That's what I did in my basement. I fell to my knees, hidden from the rest of the world and spoke every truth I knew over my life from the Voice of Truth Himself.
Be keenly aware of who you are listening to when you are going through a difficult time. Take the time to plaster your mind with Scripture that speaks truth and speak it out loud over your life because when your soul is weary with sorrow, He will strengthen you according to His Word. (Psalm 119:28)

III. Fear gives us the sense of alone-ness and keeps us from moving on with God.

After being fed by the angel and given enough food for his 40 day journey, Elijah goes to Mt. Horeb. He again hides himself in a cave but this time his seeker isn't Jezebel, it is God Himself.

What question does God ask Elijah? (vs. 9)


Many ideas go through my mind when I think about why God asked Elijah this question. I just wonder, did the angel of the Lord give Elijah different directions to follow when he fed him for the journey? The reason I wonder this is because in verse 15, God is saying to Elijah, "go back the way you came and go to the Desert of Damascus." Out of curiousity, I looked on the map for the area of Damascus. Did you know that it is about as far North from the place Elijah slept under the broom tree as Mt. Horeb was South? In other words, Elijah would be traveling twice as far now to get to the location God wanted him to go. It reminds me a little of our friend Jonah. And frankly, maybe a little like myself.

Fear can really do a number on us and Elijah responded accordingly. He sought a place to hide that was not anywhere near people. It is so easy when, you are dealing with an issue that does not sit well with you and gives you a sense of uneasiness, to isolate yourself. I'm pretty sure Elijah had just had enough of being in tough spots and sought a place of refuge. Just like I did when I went to my basement. I just wanted to be alone because I was afraid to face the issue at hand. A couple of reminders for you when fear is taking hold....1) Let the truth be the voice you listen to, and 2)Don't try to handle everything alone. First and foremost, cry out to God and don't shut yourself in.

Finally, we will really miss something here if we do not see the compassion of God in this passage. God poses the question to Elijah, "What are you doing here?" and then allows Elijah to respond honestly. God tells Elijah to "go out and stand on the mountain in the presence fo the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then comes the wind that tears the mountains apart, then an earthquake, then fire but the Lord is not in any of these. Finally, Elijah hears a gentle whisper and then "pulls his cloak over his face and went out to the mouth of the cave." Wasn't Elijah suppose to be on top of the mountain already? It comes as no surprise then when God says to Elijah, again, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Obviously, inside the cave is not where God wanted Elijah to be. For whatever reason, Elijah was unable to go where God had said to go. Probably do to fear since he responds again to God's question by saying "I have been zealous for you, all the prophets are dead, I am all alone, and they want to kill me." (vs. 14, paraphrased)

The gentle whisper of God is so full of compassion. God understands and knows when we are afraid, discouraged, or needing to isolate ourselves as a way of protection. He knew Elijah was struggling and he was gentle with him, just as he is with you and me. Fear can do a lot but when we are certain of God's presence and sure of his love, following his direction to "go" is a lot easier. I think Elijah just needed a little one on one encouraging and God is always willing to meet us where we need him most.

Even when you hide, God will seek for you.