Thursday, June 22, 2017

Disciples of Jesus can (and should) heal the sick

Shaun has been discipling me in praying for healing for people, and he does a good job of modeling, explaining, and then inviting me to try (in a gentle but persistent way).  Recently, I have seen the documentary, "The Last Reformation" (2016) several times, and it has really inspired me with (a) how simple it is to pray for people who have pain or injury and also (b) how significant it is in people who experience the healing power of Jesus.  In my reading this morning, I was impressed with the connection between Jesus's promise of power and His command to share the Gospel:

Mark 16 (NASB)
15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." 19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.

Acts 1 (NASB)
8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

In our Sunday gathering, some of the people who are homeless come in for coffee and oatmeal. This past Sunday, I greeted several of the people sitting at the front table, and one lady winced when I shook her hand.  So, I took a chance and asked her if I could pray for her hand.  I simply commanded, "In the name of Jesus, all pain must leave."  I asked her to check it, and she told me that the pain was gone.  She was pleasantly surprised.  Then I noticed that her hand was swollen, and she had limited motion of her fingers (i.e., she couldn't clench her fist).  I asked her how far she could move close her fist, and she could barely bend her fingers at all.  So, I asked her if I could pray again, and I commanded, "In the name of Jesus, motion be restored."  I asked her to check it, and she could fully close her fist.  She was even more surprised.  She kept opening and closing her fist and telling the guy sitting next to her, "I couldn't close my fist this morning."  I told her that Jesus loves her.  

If I could go back in time and do it differently, I would have asked her if she had any other pain or injury that I could pray for.  And then I would tell her that Jesus loves us, died on the cross for us, and was resurrected so that we can have abundant life with Him.  And then I would ask her if she wants to receive healing in her soul like she received healing in her body.

I want to grow in these experiences - both in frequency and magnitude.  I want to be like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love for us.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your example, your commands, and your promises.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power.  May I be attentive to what you are saying and doing today. I want to be used by you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Home is where the heart is

This interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene on the morning of His resurrection has always intrigued me:

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
John 20:17 NIV

I am trying to imagine what Mary must have been thinking at that moment.  She was one of the most passionate followers of Jesus, having been delivered from a lot of baggage from her past life.  Mary loved Jesus, and she was a devoted follower. I can imagine her clinging to Jesus's ankles and swearing to never let go.  Mary reminds me of Ruth promising to follow Naomi:

... "Donʼt urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16 NIV

Ironically, it is Jesus who echoes Ruth's oath, in His own enigmatic, upside-down, inside-out way.  I wonder if He was poetically saying, "You will, indeed, go with me, as will all of My disciples."

As a follower of Jesus, we want to be with Him.  And Heaven is wonderful because we will spend eternity with the Good Father who gave His only Son so that we could walk with Him again.  I think sometimes do a disservice in highlighting the streets of gold and the crystal seas.  It is the people we long for, not the scenery.  At the end of time, after a long "week of weeks" (as the prophet Daniel might describe it), we get to rest with our Family.  Heaven is the never-ending weekend that we have always wanted, that we get to share with our Good Father, Loving Brother, and Amazing Spirit.  

But of course, one of the essential realities of Jesus's abundant life is that Heaven starts as soon as you begin following Jesus. We are His temple, we are His body, and He invites us to abide with Him.  He is the vine, and we are the branches.  Even now, He is inviting us into the throne room with the Father, and He is inviting us to enjoy the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love, lavished on us all, that we could become your children.  Jesus, thank you for your promise to be with us always, and for our spirits already mysteriously abiding with you in the Heavenly realms.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your fellowship, which is not without the Father or the Son.  May my life be characterized by walking with you, knowing you, enjoying your presence, and sharing your great love with everyone around me. Lord, give me a deeper longing to abide your presence. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anxiety, Part 2

At our Sunday morning gathering, we were singing the song "Brokenness Aside" by All Sons & Daughters, and Brandi told me that she felt like my work stress/anxiety was "caught up in words tangle in lies".  She pointed out that while it is true that I need to produce some deliverables in my work (e.g., publications, grants, graduating students, etc), my motivation and self-perspective has been sabotaged by fear and lies.  Brandi mentioned how I have previously struggled with impostor syndrome, and I am glad to say that, I think the Lord has delivered me from that, and I now feel like a legitimate professor.  

However, I have recently been acutely aware that I have had a chronic struggle with work stress and/or anxiety.  At the end of our gathering, Caleb asked me to pray for him about anxiety, and as I was listening to the Lord, I felt the incredible depth of the Father's love for Caleb.  It was very impressive to me.  And I saw Caleb as a strong man, with no fear.

I want that fearless life for myself.   I want to fear the Lord and nothing else. In my work, I am trying to focus more on the process (inputs) and leave the responsibility of the products/deliverables (outputs) to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love and acceptance.  Thank you for peace and joy.  Thank you for helping me be aware of what distracts/entangles me, and thank you for giving me a vision of freedom and abundant life.  I want to walk with you in abundant life.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

negative sine function

I was reading about Jesus's death and how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus quickly prepared Jesus's body before the "day" of Passover began at twilight.  In Genesis 1, the concept of a "day" is recorded as evening and morning, in that order.  So, a "day" (24 hour period) begins with "night" and then the "day" (light).  So, I think the concept of a day could be modeled as a sinusoidal function, specifically: -sin(2πx), where x represents the fraction of the day (a 24 hour period) and a negative ordinate value represents "night", and a positive ordinate value represents "day" (light), as shown in the figure below:

I think it is significant that Jesus was resurrected at daybreak, the beginning of the "day" (light).  Perhaps the magnitude of the ordinate value could represent how far away "God's people" are from His presence.  For example, in the beginning (x = 0), God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The "night" could be the time of the Law, and during reign of the latter kings of Judah and Israel (e.g., x~0.25), God's people had strayed pretty far from Him, but then Ezra and Nehemiah rallied a comeback.  And when Jesus walked the earth (x = 0.5), people were pretty close.  And then people drifted during the middle ages (x~0.75), the Crusades, etc. But over the past five hundred years, there have been various reformers and revivals, and so we could see ourselves in the greatest revival the world has ever seen, just on the cusp of Jesus's return (x = 1).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the patterns that you have embedded into time and space.  I love the beauty of your patterns.  Holy Spirit, I want to join you in your flow.  Come, Lord Jesus.  I love you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Practicing conversation with God: anxiety and joy

In our home group, we have been studying How to Hear God's Voice (Virkler), and two-way prayer journaling (i.e., writing down your conversations with God) is described in Chapter 5.

I tried it last Monday (Jun 5), hand-writing the conversation in a notebook, but I want to record it here since I think it is the first time that I have done something like this.  Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate whether it is my thoughts or the Lord's thoughts, but I believe a conversation happened:

I have so many questions, Lord.  Where to begin... I want to grow in conversation with you, and yet, I feel like I need to prioritize and limit my questions as if you may only answer a few.  But I have all day with you.  And all night, for that matter, since you can speak to me through my dreams.  Thank you for your presence.  Father, where does my anxiety come from?  What predisposes me, causes me to be anxious, or makes vulnerable to anxiety?  Please teach me about myself.  I want to mature in the character of Jesus.

Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

What in my life hinders or inhibits the development or expression of joy, peace, and self-control?

You have a false belief that God loves discipline more than having fun.  Father is in a good mood.  Jesus is joyful.  Holy Spirit is adventurous.  There is a difference between disciplined behavior due to fear of punishment versus Holy Spirit fruit of self-control.

How I treat my kids (boys, especially) is a window-glass into my soul.  What am I angry about?  What makes a person unnecessariliy (unrighteously) angry?  An infraction against selfish pride.

Father, thank you for speaking with me.  Please help me see in what aspects I am selfish and proud so that I can turn that over to you in humility.  Jesus, I want my joy to be complete.  Holy Spirit, help me grow in joy, peace, and self-control.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Jesus will be vindicated

As I was reading Matthew's account of Jesus's crucifixion, I was impressed with the reality that the sign above His head was true: Jesus is King of the Jews.  And while He was publicly disgraced, violently in Jerusalem, I sense that He will ultimately be vindicated and sit in a place of honor (e.g., on a throne) in Jerusalem, the Foundation of Peace.   

Who will sit on His right and left when He is vindicated?  In His death, Jesus had a criminal on His left and right, but on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah.  Was that a preview of Jesus's entourage when He publicly reveals His glory?

Heavenly Father, thank you for the hope of Jesus's vindication.  I want to be prepared for that day.  I want my whole life to be ready for that moment.  Jesus, I want to honor you now as King.  Holy Spirit, please help me line up everything inside my soul and every detail of my life under the reign of Jesus.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jesus died for being Himself

The Jewish leaders tried to condemn Jesus based on the testimonies of false witnesses, but ultimately, the high priest demanded that Jesus confess that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, which He admitted.  Jesus is the Truth, even in how He allowed humanity to condemn Him to death for being Himself.  (And I think that, because Pilot and Herod did not set Jesus free, God showed us that we are all guilty of the death of Jesus, Jew and Gentile alike.)

Even the sign of condemnation on the cross above Jesus was true and revealed another aspect of His identity: King of the Jews.  Beginning with Abraham, God was "king" of the Israelites, but they insisted on having a human king.  In His death, Jesus the God-Man finally restored the kingship of Israel to God.

The irony is that Jesus, the King, did not enforce His lordship.  We live in an age of voluntary submission to His lordship.  When the women were weeping for Jesus on His way to Golgatha, Jesus hinted at the coming judgement for those who do not submit to Him as king.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love lavished on us, that you would pay our debt so that we could be restored to relationship with you.  Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice on the cross.  Thank you for your humility to offer yourself as the propitiation for our sin, instead of insisting on your rightful place as King.  Holy Spirit, thank you for leading people to Christ.  May I join you in your work.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Blood on our hands and heads

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this manʼs blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"  All the people answered, "His blood is on us and on our children!"  Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Matthew 27:24‭-‬26 NIV

Pilot wanted to avoid the guilt of killing Jesus, but the Jews eagerly accepted it.  The reality is that none of us can wash our hands of the blood of Christ. Like Pilot, we are each guilty of killing Jesus.  And yet, the irony is that, from an Old Testament sacrificial perspective, having Jesus's sacrificial blood on our heads is actually pardoning (not condemning) us of the blood on our hands.  

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus's sacrifice.  Thank you for not holding us guilty of the blood on our hands.  Jesus, please help me better appreciate your sacrifice.  Holy Spirit, please help me help other people experience forgiveness and restoration through the blood of Jesus.  I ask in the name of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world.