I Am Willing

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.   (Mark 1:40-42 NLT)

Is that the way you imagine God responding to your pleas for help? Has that been your experience so far? Reaching out to God and hearing Him say to you,

“I am willing”

What about becoming a child of that same God and responding to the pleas that you surely hear all around you in this same way?

What if instead of saying…

…I’m not sure I have time

…I can’t solve that particular problem

…I shouldn’t get into your business like that

…I don’t really know you that well

What if instead of saying what comes to mind first, what makes sense, what is safest, we let God’s Spirit within us speak. What if we listened first to that still, small voice. What if the Spirit desired to say through you to someone else, “I am willing”?

Who knows where the time, resources or emotional courage will come from, but I’m going to follow the Spirit here – and have faith that whatever is needed, He will supply.

In this story of Jesus healing a leper (the type of social outcast who probably suffered more than any other) He not only declares His willingness to change the man’s life forever, he demonstrated to everyone looking how willing He really was. Jesus reached out and touched the leper. This was illegal and would make Jesus unclean as well. But Jesus was willing…to break the rules.

Jesus touches the man first. Who knows when this outcast had ever been touched before. Now, in front of everyone who normally looked away, Jesus reached out and touched him. What do you imagine he must have felt? What must the gathered crowd have thought? Jesus was willing…to demonstrate how deeply God loved His children. 

There were several works of healing that took place that day. The leper was made physically well. His place in society was restored (Jesus commanded him to follow the rules about being declared healed). As important as anything else, he was healed as a person – his worth was acknowledge by the Son of God in front of everyone. Jesus was willing…to reach out and heal the inner wounds that mattered as much. 

These days I keep going back to that command from Paul to the church in Galatia…

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:2)

Over the past several years, I’ve had so many people demonstrate “I am willing” as they’ve helped me carry burdens right and left. For me, all these loved one’s have demonstrated the law of Christ – they have loved God and loved me, not with words but with their actions. Not an idea, but a certainty.

That kind of love makes it easy to say over and over again, “I am willing.”

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In All Circumstances

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
– I Thessalonians 5:18

No matter what happens to you, God’s desire is for you to search for the truth, for everything and anything that deserves thanks. When we belong to Christ, we live a different kind of life. We live a redeemed life that can see beyond the horizon and into a future of hope and promise. This shapes our perspective. It enables us to see much more than immediate threats and lonely burdens. When we belong to Christ we know that we are never alone and that the here and now lasts but a moment.

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
― John Henry Jowett

It’s easy to say thanks for all the obvious blessings. Now, spend a season of time finding a way to give thanks for the trials, deserts and mean people that have come into your life. Don’t do what comes natural. Do what comes because you are living a supernatural life!

“…love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The message of Paul to the Thessalonians isn’t to look for the good things in your life and say thanks. That’s easy. Even pagans can pull that off. Paul is teaching that there is a blessing to be found in every page of your story. Search for the work of God throughout your life. The lesson here is to begin and never stop the practice of speaking thanksgiving every single day.

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

Be Inspired

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Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors. – Proverbs 8:34

 

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. – 1 John 3:1

 

Till men have faith in Christ, their best services are but glorious sins. – Thomas Brooks

 

…there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries… – Daniel 2:28

 

Since He hath looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it. – Samuel Rutherford

 

What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how your remember it. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12

 

You will be dead as long as you refuse to die. – George MacDonald

 

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the [a]Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. – Matthew 27:27-31

 

 

The Everlasting Arms

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I think Christianity has little value in the here and now if people cannot see a high degree of interdependence among believers. Our faith, put into practice, is a story of strangers made into blood family holding on to one another, experiencing dear life. This is one of the important ways that we come to experience the everlasting arms of God.

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” – Deuteronomy 33:27

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy devine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlastings arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

 

In these days as you look around, it is the frail and the sick who seem to do most of the leaning. They bend over walkers and shuffle along, uncertain about each step. A steady arm is necessary and urgent. Unfortunately, needing to lean is often defined as a sign of weakness. It reminds us that we are fading.

Being strong, independent and full of life means we aren’t supposed to be leaning. Right?

And yet…just a few steps into this world and we soon come to realize that we are alone, there is always a storm coming and the dark night is all around. Leaning can be a very important survival skill. We do it all the time. Mostly without realizing it, from asking strangers for directions to depending upon our parents to teach us about life.

To be human is to lean.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

THE LAW OF CHRIST: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

All of us need to lean on other people. This is not a sign of weakness or of failure. Learning to lean upon others is a way of putting our faith into practice. It allows us to see firsthand how dependent we really are and to be reminded of God’s constant care for us. As we make ourselves more available to others when they need someone to lean upon, we are putting the essential command of our faith into practice. If we cannot lean, cannot find anyone to lean upon nor make ourselves unavailable to be leaned upon then what does Christianity mean to a watching world?

The everlasting arms of God sometimes appear so unexpectedly. A miracle to our veiled sight. A stranger’s offer of help, a decision that was supposed to go the other way, or a chain of events that fell right into place despite all of your worry. While we are to do the work of God here on earth, becoming his hands and feet, don’t stop believing in the mysteries of his divine moving in the dark shadows of your life. He is “…always ready to help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Who do you have to lean upon?

Who needs to lean on you?

 

Where Else To Go?

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Sometimes, there aren’t any answers. Other times, the way forward seems covered in mist and shadow. I don’t think you ever get too old to feel lost and afraid. There are always quick fixes, easy answers, rational calculations… and then, one day, the ultimate solution is staring you in the face…

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”   – John 6:66-69

Jesus starts some heavy lessons. He’s not a carnival sideshow. He’s not going to raise up an army and deliver from the Romans. He’s talking about death, blood and sacrifice. It’s just too much, too deep, not what most wanted to hear. They turned and looked for an easier road, one that better fit their expectations. As the crowds of followers started to thin out, Jesus turns to his own trusty men and asks, now that you’ve started to hear more of the truth, are you ready to jump ship too?

One day you have to get to the end.
One day you have to see for the first time.
One day you have to speak the truth, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Fear and suffering drive you into the dark or face to face with your faith.

Peter replies to Jesus, where else are we going to go? What you have been telling us is the eternal truth. Everywhere else is only shadows. And surely in those shadow we will only find more fear and suffering.

Here is where Peter makes his great confession: The reason that your words are eternal is because You are the Savior.

There is a great confession that you and I must make as well. One that we must make to ourselves again and again…

  1. There isn’t any where else that I can go to find peace, truth and love.
  2. The words that the Savior spoke are true, the promises that he made are sure, the love that he demonstrated and is even now demonstrating is eternal.
  3. These two points are absolute and more certain than the next sunrise because he is the Son of God.

When you determine to believe this confession, the path before you is lit with hope, your suffering becomes light and you know that you are not alone – you never were.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” (Lemmel)

His divine power has given us everything we need to experience life and to reflect God’s true nature… – 2 Peter 1:3

Today What Stands in Your Way?

Be on guard.
Stand firm in the faith.
Be courageous.
Be strong.
And do everything with love. 
I Corinthians 16:13-14

 

“Do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” – Phillips Brooks

 

Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle; face it.
‘Tis God’s gift.

Be strong!
Say not the days are evil – Who’s to blame?
And fold the hands and acquiesce – O shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely,
In God’s name.

Be strong!
It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long,
Faint not, fight on!
Tomorrow comes the song.

– Maltbie D. Babcock

Believing is Seeing

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Pity me that the heart
is slow to learn
what the swift mind
beholds at every turn

– Edna St. Vincent Milay

When you’re looking at the world and all its traffic racing past you every day, how do you tend to see things? What shapes your “definition of the situation” as you navigate through all of those opportunities and obstacles? What do you see when you get a glance of that mirror deep in your own heart? Is this who you thought you were going to be at this point in your life?

At the end of the day, are you being transformed – even your perceptions and all that excess baggage buried deep in the basement?

Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!  – Matthew 6:22-23

One clue to the state of your transformation is your eyesight. Our perception of reality is connected to how we think and feel. Attitudes shape perceptions. Perceptions shape attitudes. It’s usually easy to figure out how someone sees and thinks by listening to what comes out of their mouth. Have you spent much time listening to yourself lately? Real transformation effects the whole you.

…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  – Romans 12:2

I thought I would get there one day. That I’d finally cross all the bridges and arrive in that vast field of dreams.  I’d be there having learned the hard lessons and would be wise. What a bitter revelation now, to see that field so very far away, almost beyond reach. Transformation never stops, it keeps on working, rooting out all the stubborn holdouts that cling to this life. I guess it’s a good sign, that this essential work is still happening in my hardheaded soul. But of course, my pride is bruised and my ego is not a happy camper.  I still need to be saved, just about every single day, usually from myself.

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and the heart has turned to stone.”   ― Thomas Merton