Treasuring Me

green-twigs

“Then, as the sun was setting, all those who had friends suffering from every kind of disease brought them to Jesus and he laid his hands on each one of them separately and healed them.”

 – Luke 4:40, Phillips –

Healing was more than a job for Jesus.

He healed very few people en masse, although He did heal the ten lepers with only a word (Luke 17:11-19). But ten isn’t a very large crowd for a God who spoke a galaxy into motion.

“Our God is at home with the rolling spheres, And at home with broken hearts.”

– M. P. Ferguson –

He could have very easily said the word and healed everyone at once.

But He didn’t.

When He called a rag-tag group of disciples to follow Him across the countryside, He could have used supernatural revelation to reveal His vast knowledge to them in an instant. Instead, He spent three years walking and talking with them. He didn’t infuse their minds automatically with Himself–He let them slowly soak in and learn of Him.

He lived in moments and worked in the context of time. More importantly, centering His will on His Father’s plan, He concentrated on whoever was in front of Him.

Not to say that Jesus had a people-centric view of life. He was always God-centric.

But that divine fellowship daily overflowed into moments focused on loving others. Complete in His triune nature, God, in His great grace, overflows to those who could never repay it. We are poor companions, yet He delights to know us. We are unfaithful partners, yet He is pleased to wash us and bring us back home.

I was listening to the Daily Audio Bible this week and heard a passage from Luke 4. Eager crowds flooded Jesus with friends in need of healing, and the passage takes great care to record His response: “Then, as the sun was setting, all those who had friends suffering from every kind of disease brought them to Jesus and he laid his hands on each one of them separately and healed them” (Luke 4:40, Phillips).

He put his hands on them.

Separately.

Each and everyone one of them.

And they were healed.

This is how my God does business. He works in subtle moments and cultivated relationships. He moves in compassion, not just addressing a problem with a general, one-size-fits-all solution, but with a wise plan tailored just for me, just for you.

He stopped and poured Himself into each precious moment with whoever stood before Him.

He paused in a crowd to search out the woman who had grasped His robe in faith. He stopped His sermon for the lame man being let down from the ceiling. On the roads, He paused for cripples, the blind, and lepers who called out for His mercy.

And when we are stumbling along in our own confusion, He is there, also. The God of galaxies smiles upon us and puts His hand on us.

Separately. Individually. Specially.

The Church is the Bride of Christ, all the members together making one body. But individually, we still matter to our Father. We are not faceless appendages in the body. We are treasured children.

“See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are!

 – 1 John 3:1, AMP –

The gospel is not people-centered. God’s love doesn’t revolve around me. I am not the center of the universe or the focal point of heaven. And I was never meant to be.

But oh, what grace is mine! What have I done that He would stop and look upon me?

We should not be surprised to hear that heaven and earth does not wait for our beck and call.

But we should be surprised, eternally surprised, that God would ever stoop to look at the specks upon this planet–specks that, somehow, He has seen, and loved, and filled with the image of Himself.

Take courage.

We serve the same Jesus that lovingly attended to each person He met. He has not changed.

Sometimes God is silent. Sometimes He does not move when we think it is time for something to happen. Sometimes He says no.

But He comes when we call. He places His hand upon our heads when we cry out in need. He cares about our cries.

Always.

 

“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

 – Deuteronomy 31:6, HCSB –

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That Glorious Generosity

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“Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ—that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son.”

 – Ephesians 1:5, PHILLIPS paraphrase –

Pneumonia has a way of simplifying life.

At least, that’s what it just did for me.

Like any illness, it got in the way. I couldn’t keep my appointments and I wasn’t a very productive citizen the past 2 weeks.

But when I thought about God during my illness, something unexpected happened.

Since I didn’t feel like doing much, I decided against long devotional times or heavy theological ponderings.

So I just thought about Jesus.

These weren’t long thoughts, or especially original.

But when I didn’t feel like doing anything, it was comforting to remember Who loves me.

Thinking about the love, grace, and kindness of my Savior brought worship into my heart, even though I didn’t feel especially devout while lying on a recliner with a fever and cough.

A friend on Instagram recently took a photo of her morning’s reading in Ephesians, so I opened up to Ephesians 1 a few nights ago. The powerful, affectionate language instantly lifted up my soul in amazement.

I was reading verse 5 in my thick NASB Bible:

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…”

The kind intention of His will.

Wow!

Do you ever forget that God is kind?

I do. In my determination to remember His holiness and His justice, His perfect mix of anger and love, I forget HE IS KIND.

And He has been gracious enough to direct this kind intention toward you and toward me.

Another version of Ephesians 1:5 (The Living Bible) says it this way:

“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!”

This one makes me smile.

He saved us because He wanted to. He wanted us, just because.

Just because it would show off His amazing love.

The New Living Translation (verses 4-6) says:

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”

This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.

Does that excite you? I am amazed that He could find pleasure in me. I know that, on my own, I am nothing. But just think! Being Jesus’ purchased possession makes me pleasure to the Lord!

Next time you are down–whether you are feeling discouraged or whether pneumonia has you bedridden–remember Jesus.

Remember that He is a God of many beautiful, thunderous, earth-quaking qualities–and He is also full of kindness.

He chose us. He decided, long ago, that we would be the ones He loves for all time. What love is this? What glorious generosity!

“That is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”

And it brings Him pleasure still.

“God doesn’t owe us anything–yet in His grace, He still gives us good things.”

 – Billy Graham –

When God Talks

young woman praying

“Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him….”

– Genesis 17: 3a, NKJV –

It’s funny how simple statements can rock a world’s construct.

So far, in the Bible, God hadn’t spoken to all that many people.

Adam and Eve walked with Him.

Enoch walked with Him too, and was taken up into heaven one day, no death-taste.

There was Noah, the man who believed God’s weather forecast years in advance. Talk about faith.

Then there was Abram.

An old man, far from home, who’d left all to follow a God who spoke to Him and called him to a place he’d never seen.

Was there something special about Abram?

It sure wasn’t his youthful vigor–he was ninety-nine in Genesis 17, when the Bible says God talked with him.

It wasn’t his truthfulness–he lied about his wife to a king.

It wasn’t his brains–he lied again, to another king. Some people just never learn…

It certainly wasn’t his upstanding moral character–he let his wife talk him into marrying her servant girl in hopes of a child.

And, although Scripture commends his faith, that wasn’t flawless either–what else do you call that man-made attempt at an heir that Abram agreed to when he took Hagar to himself? What do you call it when Abram laughed out loud at the idea of himself having a son, when he was already almost a hundred years old. Normal people were having great-grand kids at this age. Maybe even great-great-grand kids.

So what was so special about him?

All I can figure out is that it is the same thing that is so special about us–

The calling of God.

Us, unworthy, never with enough good deeds to make us valuable. And still He calls.

The Most High, Almighty God, who bends down and talks to us.

Just like He stooped down from His majesty in this verse and made a covenant with a not-so-perfect nomad with sun-wrinkled skin and wobbly knees and a faint heart. A wife who had even less faith. A house that had never rung with the laughter of their own child.

And He promised him a nation, when he didn’t even have an heir.

There’s a lot that God did for Abram–gave him a new name, for one. Promised him an everlasting nation. Sent him out into a land where he was a stranger. Said He would multiply him as the stars. Answered his prayers of persistence.

But one thing still strikes me, quivers like an arrow sticking into wood.

God talked to Abram.

Why?

We’ve established that it wasn’t because Abram was so great.

We aren’t so great either. Our sin totally corrupts us, blinds us to the Light.

And yet He came into this world that we like to call ours, and He talked to us.

Talked and lived and then made His biggest statement of all–a living Word, a dying cry–

“It is Finished!”

The debt was paid, the ransom price given. It was so,so high. Did all of heaven gasp when its King shuddered out His last breath? Is that why the ground writhed and the rocks seemed to cry out in that hour? In what kind of world would God die and let us live?

He wrested the sin-gap from between His face and ours and let in all the light of His glory. And–wondrous love–He still talks to us. He loves to walk with us. He loves to love us.

We should get excited here–God talks to us. We have a Book full of His messages, a prayer-closet that could overflow with communion, a Spirit that dwells with us.

Loving us isn’t a dull duty to God. Not at all! He delights over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)!

Facing today may seem impossible to you.

The deadlines hover. The dishes are mountains in the sink. You’re just fed up.

But stop. Breathe. Remember.

God chose to speak to you. That is a great honor, a beautiful, filling thing.

He delights over you with singing. Not because you’re worthy, but because He is worthy.

Beloved one, rest. Live in the light of His face. Really live–a whole-heart, down-to-earth, in-the-grit living. He didn’t call us so we could sit here, did He? We must walk in Him, abide in Him, go and be poured out as He was.

It’s an exciting life. It’s a joyous life. And He will be there, all the way–leading, talking, loving…and singing with delight over you.

Can you hear His song?

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….”

– Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV –

Thank you to Petr Kratochvil for the photo from Public Domain Pictures!

How Long Will You Love Worthlessness?

worthless 3

Just days ago, I had to wonder…

If when my life takes no faith, am I truly living?

When it all comes down to the bare basics, the end of the matter, shouldn’t faith reside there?

Maybe it’s all resting on one question:

Do I believe God or not?

Do I believe Him when He promises abundant life?

Do I honestly think I can take Him at face value–that His face alone will satisfy me?

Do I believe He can fill my soul, delight me more than anything?

As much as I tell myself that I want Christ, how much do I really?

Sure, maybe I don’t desire some things that are bad–worldly and out-there–but do I really believe He totally satisfies?

Do I really believe?

Do I?

Sitting in repentant silence, I knew, of course, that I believed God deep down. But how small that seed of faith was–how much it needed to grow. What kind of faith was this, that produced so little fruit? And the apostle James warned that faith without works is dead (James 2:14).

Mine was just barely holding on.

Holding on by a thread of devotion–a very real place in my heart that knew Jesus was more to me than the whole world.

But what did my living say? It said that after I “pay my time” reading Scripture, saying a prayer, that I was done. I could go look for satisfaction in other things now–in movies, books, friends, television, internet. Not bad things–not at all. But what was I trusting for happiness? And why in the world shouldn’t praying bring me more pleasure than a chat with a friend? Why didn’t reading my Bible satisfy me as much as getting that next novel in the series…

I sat cross-legged beneath a stairwell, asking hard questions in my journal. Close beside me, my computer began to play the Psalms on audio, Chapter 1, 2, 3.

Then, Chapter 4. The narrator spoke right to me:

 “How long will you love worthlessness?” (Psalm 4:2b, NKJV)

Oh, for grace to believe that He will give me every good thing! For faith to treasure Him and cast away worthless things.

But I was afraid, terribly afraid.

Afraid that by seeking Him above all, I’d miss out.

Afraid to be stodgy, miserable, depressed. Afraid, so afraid, to give up my way.

Afraid to obey without feelings–yet being a slave to obey my feelings.

But, see, Psalm 4 was still playing.

Soft words, pinning like barbs to my soul.

“But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly….Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:3,5, NKJV)

So while I was wondering if it was worth it to sacrifice, God sent His words out with so much power that my soul stood still. My heart filled with wonder at the next words:

“You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.” (Psalm 4:7, NKJV, emphasis mine)

He will fill me up, more than anything in this world ever could.

He has a better Story than any other novel.

He has a greater Love for me than any romantic writer could dream up.

He has more abundance, pleasure, joy in His presence, than a host of friends could supply.

So I open self-stuffed fists.

I surrender.

I believe.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.”

– Isaiah 55:2-3, NKJV –