Touch me and see

“Jesus said to him, “‘Everything is possible to one who has faith.” 

Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:23-24 (NAB)

Faith is knowing that everything is in God’s hands, and even when things seem to be getting worse, and our faith is weakening, it’s okay to come honestly to Jesus and say, 

“Lord help me in my unbelief.” 

Those were the words of the father of a demon possessed boy. He barely had faith to believe that his son could be delivered, but He had enough faith to come to Jesus. Every miracle begins in just coming to Him, even when faith is not perfect. 

When the father of that boy heard Jesus say, anything is possible to the one who has faith, he figured that excluded him, since he hardly had any hope for his tormented boy. He had very little hope, but a whole lot of honesty. When he said to Him, “Help me in my unbelief,” a miracle was about to happen. 

It’s easy to get the impression that Jesus only responds to people of great faith. He praised the Centurion who said “Only say the word, Lord.” He was impressed by the woman who said “If I can just touch the fringe of His garment.” He used the example of the gentile woman who humbly persisted by saying, “Even a dog can receive a crumb that falls from the table”. 

There’s  no doubt that great faith pleases God, but He also responds to great honesty. Jesus was touched by the desperate father who said in honesty, “Help me in my unbelief, Lord.” 

God has always desired intimacy in His relationship with people, and intimacy requires honesty. There is a blessing of intimacy, when we open our heart to Him in truthfulness.

Jesus wanted to help those who were struggling to believe that He had truly risen on that third day. He made an extra effort to convince His disciples that He was risen in body, not a ghost or a spirit. He went to every extreme to remove their doubts, by asking for something to eat, and eating food in front of them. He showed them His scars and His wounded side. He went even further by telling them to put their hands into His scars, saying, 

“It is I, myself. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 

(Luke 24:39)  

God is patient with everyone who struggles to believe. He was patient with the father in this story, He was patient with the disciples, and He is just as patient with us today. He desires intimacy with us through our honesty, and by spiritually putting our hands in His scars. 

Jesus is pursuing every one of us with those nail scarred feet and hands. He desires that we come to Him, which is an act of faith in itself, and He won’t scoff at the areas where we are weak in faith. 

As we remember His unconditional, relentless love for humanity, it’s like putting our hands in His scars, hearing Him say, 

“Touch Me and see how much I love you.” He gave it all for us, so that we can trust Him for all things. 

Lord, thank you for your patient relentless love for us, and help us to keep coming to you, in those areas of unbelief. We touch your scars today, and trust you to raise us up to a higher level of faith and devotion to you. Amen

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The hand in the fire

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:7-8 (NIV)

The words of this psalm are like a three part formula that the Holy Spirit gives us to keep our faith from being shaken during the fiery trials of life. 

It involves three areas to focus on: the heart, the eyes and our right hand. I think there is a message of hope and faith for us in these verses.

In breaking it down, the first focus is the heart, but it’s not referring to the organ that pumps blood through our body. Our heart is that place deep within, that believes and finds strength from the Spirit of God. It’s the place where the Lord counsels and instructs us late at night, after we bring Him all of our concerns of the day. Sometimes a new problem arises earlier in the day, that leaves us with anxiety, feeling like a knot is in our stomach. When we release our worries to Him, the Holy Spirit comes and eventually replaces the knot of anxiety with peace, hope and faith within our heart.

Next, it says that we need to keep our eyes on the Lord. If our eyes are not on the Lord, we will focus only on the problems. The Lord is invisible to our physical eyes, while problems are very visible all around us. Jesus said “Blessed are those who believe and don’t see.” These are the times to use our eyes of faith, not our physical eyes. 

The eyes of faith are described in the well known faith chapter of the Bible. The first line, Hebrews 11:1, reads, “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” God’s word tells us we can still know with certainty what we cannot see physically. It says we can know with proof, and it is all done with our eyes of faith.

Finally, the third part, involves our right hand, which is my favorite subject. It reminds me of my vivid childhood dream, that my school was on fire and chaos was all around me. Someone took hold of my right hand and led me around the corners and down the school hallways, while people were running in all directions. I was safely led out the exit door of the school. When I looked up, it was Jesus, standing there holding my five year old right hand. 

Yesterday, I certainly had a knot in my stomach and the fire is starting to heat up. I am going to re-open my eyes of faith and as I remember my dream, I am keeping my right hand in the hand of Jesus through this fire. 

Jon’s surgery was five days ago to replace the bone flap on his head, after a traumatic brain injury months ago. The surgery went well, but yesterday, I was informed that Jon is  having a puzzling setback. 

The surgeon called me and I could discern a level of concern in his voice, explaining that they aren’t sure what is causing this setback. Replacing the bone flap can lead to infection, but not this soon. Jon is running fevers but his white blood cell count is not high as it would be with an infection. There is increased swelling in his brain, and the ventricles are more enlarged than before surgery. The surgeon thinks something else is happening, which an MRI will help to explain. I will receive the results of that MRI today, which will tell us whether he had a stroke. 

In the chaos of our lives, we cast all our cares on Jesus, and His Spirit comes to us at night, restoring our peace, while we keep our right hand in His. He is in every fire with us. He never promised to prevent the fires in our lives, but He knows where the fire exits are, and lead us to them. When we keep our hand in His, He keeps us in peace and safety.

Our family is praying and I thank you all for your continued prayers. When I searched the internet for the right picture to attach to this meditation, I chose the one below of Jesus leading through the fire. I later realized that I once knew the artist. Jon and his brother Michael, were childhood friends and playmates with the two sons of Ron DiCianni, the artist who painted the attached picture. We all attended the same church many years ago. My boys were so excited every time Grant and Warren came over. After choosing Ron’s painting, it seemed like a sign from heaven, that Jesus is holding all of our hands through the fire. 

Lord, open our eyes of faith as we give you our right hand, trusting you to lead anyone who reads this message today. Whatever type of fire we are going through, we praise you for replacing our anxiety with your hope and peace. Amen

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Called from the womb


“Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb, He has spoken my name.”

Isaiah 49:1 (NIV)

What a beautiful thought, that before we were born, God called us by name. While we were in our mother’s womb, we received our very first introduction to God’s voice, as He called our name.

This scripture could refer to Jesus, who became incarnate in a womb, but it can also apply to every person. God loves all people and has a plan for all of our lives. It’s a reminder that He not only has a plan but He has called us by our name, early on. He did it so that we would recognize His voice later on, and know our true identity is in Him.

The earliest identity that Jesus had, was being known as “the carpenter’s son.” (Mark 13:55) He learned everything about carpentry from His father, Joseph, long before He was ever called Rabbi or teacher by His disciples. Jesus probably never forgot anything that Joseph taught Him, but in those last three years of His life and ministry, He spoke only of His Heavenly Father.  Although He loved Joseph, He never mentioned him in any of His teaching and preaching, according to the gospels. His identity made a clear transition from Jesus, the son of the carpenter, to Jesus, the Son of God.

We are all sons and daughters of God, and it’s an identity that we also transition to, at some stage in our lives. Our identity in God always overshadows our first identity in life.

I remember my first identity. When I was young, I used to visit my mother at her workplace, which was walking distance from my school. I entered through the front door of a ladies’ dress shop, then walked all the way to the back room, where a team of seamstresses were seated in front of their sewing machines. As I walked by, I could hear employees say, “That’s Marge’s daughter.” My mother was a seamstress and the head fitter in that ladies’ dress shop, and my identity back then was as Marge’s daughter.

Later, when I invited Jesus into my heart and life, I transitioned from that first identity, to a new awareness of the heavenly benefits and all the wonders of being a child of my Heavenly Father. We all belong to God, and deep within our soul and spirit, He has left the mark of His voice. We can still recognize His voice that once called us by name from inside our mother’s womb. It’s the small still voice that leads us today. 

For those who have been neglected or rejected by their biological families, and suffered much pain in their first identity, my hope is that they will find their truest identity is not a biological one, but a spiritual one, in being a son or daughter of God. A few residents at the Nursing Facility shared their stories with me, of an early distorted identity due to a sad, dysfunctional childhood. I’ve learned that even those who had good childhoods, still suffer later with dysfunctional family situations. 

There are two people who are temporary residents in the Nursing Facility. They are fortunate to have had strong family relationships, faith in God and receive regular visits by their loved ones. The reality is that even people with close family ties, still get hurt when their families let them down. 

The two residents I’m referring to are expecting to be discharged one day next month, and plan to go home and live with a family member. A man who is recovering from an episode of heart failure, will eventually go to live with his older sister, whenever he is discharged. 

A lady, who is recovering from brain cancer and is in remission, is expecting to go home and live with her oldest son and his family, when she is discharged.

Both of them, although their identity with family is a strong one, still had disappointments this past Easter weekend. He expected his sister to bring him some Easter foods that she cooked, and she expected her family to pick her up and take her home for the Easter weekend. 

The man said he was informed by his sister that she was too busy helping to plan her daughter’s upcoming wedding and didn’t cook her usual big Easter meal, so she never visited or brought any food to her brother. The lady waited all day in her room on Easter, but no family member showed up, to pick her up and bring her home for the weekend. I don’t know if she misunderstood the plan or they did. I felt heartbroken for both of them, when I later learned what happened.

I cannot decide which is sadder, residents who have no one who ever visits them, or those whose family members neglect or forget about them on a major holiday like Easter.

Our very first identity in life is in being someone’s son or daughter. Later, that identity develops into being a parent, a spouse, grandparent or a sibling. There comes a time when we realize that our truest identity which never changes, is in being God’s son or daughter. Being God’s child comes with no disappointments and no false hopes. God is true and unchanging, His promises are secure, and being His own child, is the best identity to live with. He is our Heavenly Father, the Almighty One, who holds all the days of our life in His hands. 

We will recognize that His voice was the one who has been guiding our lives all along. It’s that same voice who once called us by our name from inside the womb. We cannot consciously remember being called from the womb, but our soul recognizes His voice when we hear it. Some have named that voice within, calling it our “conscience,” but Jesus told us it’s His voice. He is the good Shepherd, who has placed a longing within us, which began in the womb, and it can only be satisfied when we respond to Him.

Our true identity is found in listening for that familiar voice of Jesus, who said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” 

(John 10:27)

Lord, what a loving Father and Good Shepherd you are, to have placed your voice within us so that we can know and follow you all of our days, in our true identity as your sons and daughters. Thank you that we have always belonged to you first. Amen

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The “So much” quality

“Father of the fatherless, 

defender of widows;

God in his holy abode,

God gives a home to the forsaken,

who leads prisoners out to prosperity.”

Psalm 68:6-7 (NAB)

To adequately describe God, the most important word to precede any description of His attributes, is the word “so”.  That two letter word modifies any verb or noun, by increasing their value and meaning.

In John 3:16, it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” 

It doesn’t say that God loved, but that He “so” loved the world. Imagine the difference of how you would feel if you heard God say, “I love you” compared to hearing Him say,

“I love you so much.” Everyone would be more moved to hear that they are loved “somuch”. 

God is the primary example and Lord of “so much.” Everything about His character can be described starting with the word “so.” He doesn’t just offer us mercy, but so much mercy. He forgives so much more than we deserve, because He loves us so much more than we can imagine. He doesn’t give in mediocrity, but He gives so much more than we would ever ask or expect. (Ephesians 3:20)

Here is how God described Himself to Moses long ago and He never changes :

“The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”

(Exodus 34:6-7)

As we read God’s own description of Himself, we can visualize the word “so” before every single trait. He is so merciful, so gracious, so slow to anger, and so forgiving of our sins. It doesn’t matter how far away someone strays, God does so much to bring us back home to Him. He has so much steadfast love for so many, while all of His judgements are perfectly just.

Some of the greatest leaders in scripture had big hearts and were an example of that “so much” quality of character, which comes from God. 

God reveals Himself to us, through these leaders, whose hearts were full of love, mercy and grace.

When a crowd of angry rebels rose up against Moses, his reaction was always full of grace, and he prayed, more than once, pleading with God to forgive those rebellious people among him. (Numbers 14:19, Numbers 22:7, Exodus 32:12)

Moses prayed for his people, even though he was hated by some of them. Scripture described Moses as more humble than any man on earth.(Numbers 12:3)

Was he chosen to lead because of his humility, or did he became so humble after being in the Presence of God on Mount Sinai ? I lean more toward the latter reason, because there’s something life changing about God’s Holy Presence.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and tried to kill him. They left him  for dead, but Joseph survived, and after being sold as a slave, falsely accused, and spending years in jail, by a twist of fate, he was promoted to governor of Egypt. God led Joseph from prison to prosperity, as the scripture today describes. He had the power and authority to punish his brothers, but when finally reunited with them, his heart was only filled with love, mercy and forgiveness. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was a foreshadow of Jesus, the son of God. 

Both Moses and Joseph were leaders who had Godlike qualities within them. They forgave those who wanted to kill them. They prayed for those who were angry with them. Moses made peace within his own congregation, and Joseph made peace with his own brothers and family. May God help us to do the same, and give us Spirit filled leaders like them today. 

From the cross, Jesus said of His mockers and murderers, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God’s grace is not ordinary, it’s extraordinary, which is what makes it “so” amazing. His amazing grace is not granted to us once every few decades, like the rare solar eclipse which takes place next week. The sun, moon and earth will be fully aligned in one rare event, but God’s love, mercy and forgiveness are always fully aligned and offered  abundantly to all people, all of the time. 

Today’s scripture is just another way of describing the God who “so” loved the world. He is so loving, a Father to the fatherless, and so mighty as a defender of widows. Out of so much mercy and love, He offers an eternal home to those who are forsaken in the world, and He leads prisoners out of bondage and into prosperity. If we learn anything today, it’s that God is “so” good and we are “so” blessed. 

Lord, thank you for loving us so much, though we will never fully comprehend it. Thank you for your unlimited grace and mercy and your free gift of salvation to all who believe in you. Amen

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Utterly amazed

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.

He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him.”

Mark 16:5-6  (NAB)

Easter morning was a morning full of surprises. When we think about the huge stone already rolled away before the women arrived, that was the first surprise. Then they entered the tomb, even more surprised to see that it was empty. Jesus was not even in there.

Finally, they saw a person they didn’t  know, dressed in white, sitting in the tomb, on the right side. By now, they were utterly amazed, as an angel greeted them, saying that Jesus was alive. That first Easter morning was flowing with pleasant surprises.

Yesterday was a day of surprises for me. I went to the Nursing Facility to visit Jon, but I came with special treat bags filled with candy and cupcakes for the 24 residents who I regularly see there. 

I thought I was going to be the one with all the surprises, but God had other plans. 

After I gave out the treat bags and cupcakes to the residents in the room, one older lady in a wheelchair, named Vivian, called me over to her. With her arms outstretched, she said “Come here, I love you.” I hugged her, and then I wondered how someone could have so much love to give, yet never receives a single visitor. That breaks my heart, but her loving nature still touches me every time I think about her. 

After distributing each one’s Easter treat bag and seeing how happy it made them, I went to sit and talk to Jon. His friend Dan, told me that he visited him early that morning, so I said to Jon, “So Dan visited you today, do you remember seeing him?” Jon looked at me and nodded yes. That head nod was a small but pleasant response to see. Then, I placed my cell phone on his chair beside him, while I turned to talk to the resident sitting nearby. 

When I turned back to talk to Jon, he had picked up my cell phone and held it to his ear as if he was waiting for a phonecall. That action really surprised me. I never saw him put my phone to his ear like that. He clearly knew its purpose and wanted to communicate, so I quickly texted his father and brother to tell them what he just did. 

They each called to talk to him. Jon listened, though he wouldn’t hold the phone to his ear anymore, as at first. It still was a great breakthrough, seeing him put that phone to his ear. When his twin brother called, it was a FaceTime call. He looked at his brother and seemed to listen to him talking. Then Jon reached out to touch either my hair or my earring, I’m not sure which, but that was another surprising response. He was so much more alert and responsive yesterday, more than in the days before.

Both Jon and Vivian made my day, and yet there was one other surprise yesterday. I once wrote about a young lady named Monica, who became my inspiration for reaching out to the residents there. She left a first impression on me because she would visit, greeting every resident by name in that Day room. At first, I thought she was a staff person, but later I learned that she came there to visit her own mother, who lives there. She is an amazing  example of Christian faith and I’m glad I met her. 

On Easter morning, the Lord took Monica’s mother to heaven. It’s sad to lose a loved one but it’s a gift to leave this world on the Lord’s resurrection day. I pray for Monica since she had always hoped her mother would be discharged and come back home. Her mother was finally discharged by Jesus, but went to her eternal home instead.

All of yesterday’s surprises left a deep joy in me. Each time I recall Jon and Vivian’s responses, I cannot stop smiling. I felt like those women in the gospel, who arrived at Jesus’ empty tomb, encountering one surprise after another. 

In every life, there is a time and a season for everything. While Jesus was in that tomb, things seem to be getting worse for His disciples, but then a surprise resurrection brought joy to all of them.

A pleasant surprise is coming to all of us who believe. Easter teaches us never to give up hope, because God has many more surprises to reveal. He still gives us resurrection joy, so that we will continue to discover how utterly amazing He is. 

Lord, I pray that you will send pleasant surprises to all who keep  trusting in you. Hear and answer when we pray by utterly amazing us with the joy and blessings of Easter. Amen

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Sunday is coming

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Matthew 16:21 (RSV)

Jesus warned His disciples about everything that was going to happen, in advance. They heard Him say that He would be killed and rise again on the third day. It doesn’t get much clearer than that, but it’s obvious that they didn’t comprehend what He was saying.

We know Peter didn’t understand it, from the way he fought to prevent His arrest. We know by the disciples’ skeptical response to Mary’s news that she saw the risen Jesus. Thomas’ reaction proved that in his mind, a resurrection was never even anticipated. We know from the events on the road to Emmaus, that the disciples never expected something as incredible as a bodily resurrection from the dead, after they watched how much the body of Jesus suffered, before death. 

So everything Jesus told them was basically forgotten. While He was in a sealed tomb, completely absent from all of them during those days, hope was shattered. Not one disciple stood up and said, 

“Hey, remember what Jesus told us about rising on the third day?”

If they had remembered what Jesus foretold about His resurrection, they would have camped out on the second night at His tomb, waiting for Him to rise the next morning.

Instead, their reaction was more as the prophet foretold, “Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7)

The disciples had scattered hopes and shattered dreams, after the joyful excitement of Palm Sunday, and then witnessing His cruel suffering and death. They had hoped that Jesus would bring about righteousness on the earth and destroy all evil. They didn’t understand that He is doing it, by changing one heart at a time.

We also can become discouraged by looking at the world around us. To summarize everything that Jesus  has been saying to the world since He first came, it might sound like,

“I came for so much more than this, and I made you for so much more than this.”

He wants us to know how much we are loved and we can put our hope in His promises. The apostles were depressed because they forgot His promises and His purpose.

Just like the disciples, we have been blessed to have Jesus in our lives, but we have gone through many Fridays, filled with disappointments and sorrows. At times, it may feel like Jesus is sealed away in a tomb somewhere, but feelings are deceptive. His words are truth.

His words and promises assure us that because of Sunday, He is risen and alive today. He will never leave us and He invites us to keep coming to Him, in good times as well as bad. When we are heavily burdened, He invites us closer, promising to give us rest.

Just as God had a plan and purpose for that first Good Friday, He has a purpose for all those Fridays in our lives. Sunday is the promise of resurrection fulfilled, which makes all Fridays worthwhile. Sunday is coming for everyone who believes. Whatever challenges we are facing, we can be sure that Friday really is good, because Sunday is coming. 

Lord, thank you for your truth and the power you left us through your resurrection. Lift up our hearts today with faith and hope to know that the Fridays in our lives will soon pass and Sunday is coming. Amen

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!

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A single blast of power

“So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

Matthew 27:66 (NIV)

The Pharisees feared rumors of resurrection and asked Pilate to help secure Jesus’ tomb, so Pilate granted their request to seal the tomb and appoint an armed guard at the entrance. After studying to learn what this seal on the tomb actually entailed, I learned the following:

They stretched a cord across the large stone which blocked the entrance to the tomb. They packed clay over each end of the cord, and then pressed a wax seal over the clay, which was the seal of Roman government authority. Finally, they posted an armed guard in front of the tomb. 

All these measures to keep the tomb untouched, appeared to work until the third day, just as Jesus predicted. On that Jerusalem spring morning, the earth quaked, the stone was rolled away, the cord was broken and the wax seals crumbled. That armed guard was helpless, since he was put into a deep anesthetized sleep. 

Inside the open tomb lay nothing but the grave clothes. A separate cloth that covered the head, (sudarium) that held the jaw closed, was lying apart from the 14 foot cloth (shroud) that covered both head and body.  (John 20:7)

There is no power known to man like the blast of resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead. No government seals of authority, armed guard or massive stone could prevent Almighty God from finishing His plan of salvation for us. A split second surge of power resurrected the body of His son, leaving only the grave clothes lying behind in the tomb. 

The analysis of the shroud of Turin by forensic scientists, gives us a hint of that powerful surge, that we Christians call, resurrection power. Other bodies wrapped in grave clothes never left an image on the burial cloth from the inside out, as the shroud of Turin has. 

It’s been determined that the image was not a painted one, since there is no pigment on the shroud. Original carbon dating done in the 70’s has been proven wrong, since that first sample was taken from a frequently handled patch, instead of from original sections of the cloth. Recent testing proved it to be from the exact time of Jesus. 

There is AB positive blood on the cloth but the image was not made from the blood. The bloodstains all match the type of death and scourging that Jesus suffered.  

In the documentary, scientists found that the mysterious image was made after the blood stained the linen cloth. 

The image is from an ultraviolet light of a single wavelength, similar but not equal to a an Xray, photographic negative and a hologram, all combined. The technology to cause an image of this type from a single wavelength of ultraviolet light, cannot even be duplicated today. 

The more recent documentary about the shroud is fascinating. We don’t have to agree on the credibility of the shroud, but we can agree that His resurrection came from the same power Source who said, “Let there be light” and there was light. 

This weekend we will celebrate the resurrection that changed the world. As the news of Jesus spread throughout the world, forgiveness and new life became available to every person, race, and nation. Lives are still being changed as a result of that empty tomb, 2,000 years ago. 

Every breakthrough in our personal journey of faith comes from that same source of resurrection power.

The cord of fear that held us back is broken. The clay seals of doubt crumble into dust. No previous powers or principalities have any control over us. The healing power of Jesus’ cross and resurrection is upon all who believe in Him, and there is more power in His blood, than any power or authority in the world.

His resurrection power is for all who believe in Him, and His mercy is endless. Only through Him, we have a total cleansing forgiveness, and a  chance for new beginnings. His Spirit helps us to become all we were meant to be. We can rise up to become new in Christ, and like Him, never look back again at our grave clothes. That is resurrection power. 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the promise of your resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead. Help us to rise up and become all that you called us to be, as we give all the glory to Jesus, our risen Savior. Amen

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(If interested, the following link is the most up to date video on the Shroud of Turin, with findings by seven forensic scientists. 48 minutes long)

By all means to save some

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV)

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the start of the holiest week on the Christian calendar. It’s also still Ramadan, the month long holiest Muslim holiday. Yesterday was also a Jewish holiday called Purim. Since I serve as one of volunteers for the chaplain department at the hospital, they occasionally ask me if I would escort a rabbi on a Jewish holiday, helping him to find the patient rooms on his list of people to visit. The Purim holiday comes from the Bible story, about Queen Esther and how she was in the right place at the right time to save her people from genocide.

I was scheduled to meet a Rabbi at the hospital yesterday, but instead of meeting one Rabbi, I met two nice young men in their early twenties, who were in training to become Rabbis. Their visitation in hospitals and Nursing Homes is all part of their clinical training. It was an honor to help two young men who have dedicated their careers to serve God through their faith. 

They both had beards and wore  black hats. I could see the Tzitzit, extending below their shirts, which are the fringes or tassels worn by observant males, in Orthodox Judaism. The laws of Moses required that every male wear those tassels at the corners of his garments as a reminder of the bond between God and Israel. As I glanced at the tassels, I thought of the woman in the gospel who touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment and was healed. 

For the Purim holiday, their patient visits consisted of briefly telling each patient the story of Esther, singing a few Jewish songs and then giving them a gift of chocolates and other items. 

I showed them how to put on the protective equipment, including masks and gloves if required, in order to enter each patient room on their list. I waited in the hallway outside each room, until they were ready to be taken to the next patient. Each patient enjoyed their visit and all that they did for them.

The two men carried with them a big rolled up parchment scroll, that contained the whole Bible story of Queen Esther, hand written in Hebrew. If anyone wanted, they would read the entire scroll to them in Hebrew. No one wanted the scroll read to them, but they all welcomed the prayers, the songs and the chocolates. 

I enjoyed seeing how the Purim  customs are observed. I’m probably a little extreme compared to most, in my interest in the Jewish culture. In the 1980’s I learned the Hebrew alphabet and taught myself how to read it, prior to my trip to the Holy land.

After the young men finished visiting all the people on their list, they wanted to show me the rare scroll with the hand written story of Esther. They had carried it around all day, but never opened it. On a table in the chaplain office, they unrolled the scroll to show it to me. It was about 4 feet long, all hand written in Hebrew, by a professional Hebrew scribe. 

There are expert scribes today, whose only job is to write Hebrew scriptures on a scroll. They allowed me to touch it as they told me how rare the parchment of that quality was. They said that the value of that sacred scroll was about $1,500. I thought of the gospel account where Jesus opened up a scroll in the temple, read it and then proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah, the one mentioned in that scripture.

I decided to have a little fun with the students, so I began sounding out the Hebrew words starting from right to left, and I was able to read out loud the first line of the scroll. It blew their minds, and they looked at each other in amazement. I laughed, telling them I can read Hebrew but I don’t always know what I’m reading. They were impressed that I knew enough Hebrew to read their sacred Hebrew scroll. We then thanked each other for a great day together and said our good byes.

I talked to God about it afterward saying, “Lord, I wasn’t trying to brag, but you know how much I love the language of your people, and I just couldn’t resist reading that scroll.” 

The words that came to my mind were, “We become all things to all people, that by all means, we might save some.” I knew in that moment, that it was to be the scripture for today’s meditation.

Paul wrote those inspiring words, because he became all things to all people, by embracing other cultures. People will be more open to honor our faith in Jesus, when we first honor theirs. Everyone wants respect, and there is more than enough hatred and division in the world today. I hope and pray that those “Rabbis to be”, will understand that there are Christian people who respect their faith, language and  culture, because it also belongs to our Lord and Savior.

Lord, show us how we can become all things to all people, so that we may leave an impression of you, so that by any means possible, you will save some. Amen 

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Lessons in the night

“For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.

In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls upon men,
while they slumber on their beds,

then he opens the ears of men…”

Job 33:14-16 (RSV)

God is infinitely powerful, all knowing and omnipresent, yet He enters time and space, just to communicate with us. He chooses how to speak to us, sometimes through our thoughts, or through scripture, or through other people, and sometimes through the dreams in our sleep.

I don’t always remember my dreams, but I wrote down the details of one mysterious and colorful dream I had over a year ago. While it seems more meaningful to me today, it also has meaning and inspiration for anyone, because this dream is an allegory of the Christian life. 

I dreamed that a mysterious male being, with an aura of authority, was telling me to leave my home and come with him to a hiding place. 

I didn’t know the man but I trusted him, and we set out to travel together on foot. 

We ran together through various landscapes, across fields and forests, and when he held my hand, I was able to run as fast as him, and keep up. When I let go of his hand and ran at my own pace, I lagged far behind him. He was faster, stronger and taller than me, and I finally called out, “Hold my hand so I can run faster !” When he held my hand, I ran like a gazelle.

We stopped at a pond to drink water, but we saw that the pond was all dried up. Without saying a word, he helped me to leap over it, and we kept running. I never felt tired or thirsty.

We finally arrived at a street, filled with a row of colorful stucco homes. Each home was a different color and there were men on ladders, still working on the finishing touches outside of each one. On the front of every house was a big cross and colorful banners containing scripture verses.

Then he led me to the particular home where I was to stay. The man called it my “hiding place.” I was about to go inside, when I suddenly woke up. 

Looking back at that colorful and mysterious adventure, here is the meaning that I found in it:

The man in my dream was a heavenly being, super powered, like an angel, probably my guardian angel. We each have the help of a guardian angel, who has been assigned to us from birth, to keep us moving toward a higher purpose that leads to our heavenly destination. The Christian journey was intended to be an active one, we were not meant to remain stagnant. The angel who led me in my dream, did it all with action, but few words. 

I was able to keep up and run faster, only when I held his hand. All of our hope comes from God, and as we stay connected to Him, keeping our hand in His, He upholds us, just as He promised us, saying,

“I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(Isaiah 41:10)

I thought about that dried up pond  and realized we encounter many dried up ponds in our lifetime. They represent the disappointments and sorrows that we face in our lives, along our journey. The angel held my hand and we leaped over the dried pond, in order to keep running forward. We will always do better in our walk of faith, when we look ahead, instead of looking back, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”(Philippians 3:13)

I never felt thirsty in my dream, but Jesus gives us His living water, promising that whoever drinks it, will never thirst again. 

The most important truth I take away is that we will never run alone. God is always with us as we progress on our journey. When we grow tired, He promises to renew our strength, 

“We will run and not grow weary, and walk but not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

The multi colored hiding place homes were not to hide away in, but contained the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge, for us to discover along the way. They contained all the lessons we were meant to learn through every dried up pond we have passed through in our lives.

Every house had a cross on it, with workmen on ladders, making the  finishing touches to the outside. We belong to Christ, and are sealed in His cross, but we are still under renovation as long as we live. God is making His finishing touches on our lives, through all that we go through. In every trial we suffer, He is producing new fruit in us, while uniting each person on a deeper level with the suffering of Jesus.

We expect prayers to be answered in a certain way, but God is trying to give us the wisdom to understand some of His answers. 

Instead of moving the mountain, maybe He wants us to run across it, with Him, holding our hand.

Instead of calming the storm, He may be inviting us to walk on the stormy waters with Him, as He is holding our hand. 

In asking for His healing, He might be waiting to feel us reach far enough to touch the fringe of His garment. 

Whatever trial we go through, the hand we keep holding on to, in our journey, is the nail pierced, scarred hand of Jesus. We can do all things when we keep our hand in His. 

I woke up from that dream, before seeing what was inside of that home, but took away the main message for all of us. To keep our hand in His and open our heart to the treasures of God’s wisdom that are hidden in Christ.

Lord, thank you for holding our hand and giving us strength to run with endurance. Help us to seek the treasures hidden in you, and continue to reveal the depths of your love to us today and always. Amen

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Unbound and set free

“So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

John 11:44 (NAB)

These were the first words of Jesus after Lazarus rose from the dead and walked out of his tomb. When the Lord transforms us from death to life, He not only gives us new life in Him, but He unties all that ever once bound us.

I was once bound, not physically to grave clothes, but to a powerful demonic grip over me. I was bound spiritually, to an obsessive pattern of thinking, both day and night. Every area of fortune telling was my constant obsession for about three straight years of my teenage life. If Jesus had not stepped in and unbound me, it probably would have affected my mind, at some point.

Demonic oppression is real, and there were some forces that had a powerful hold over me. Yet, I know now, that all during those years, the Holy Spirit and heavenly forces of angels were working overtime to keep me from going off the deep end. I am convinced that those same heavenly forces are also working on every person’s behalf.

In my senior year of high school, a work study program was available, which prepped students for a future career of their interest. Being interested in the advertising arts at the time, I had the opportunity to work in a major department store in downtown Chicago. I rode public transportation after school each day to that department store and then took an elevator to the top floor, where the advertising department was. 

Working with artists and copywriters every day after school was a dream job for me at the time. I learned the stages of preparing the ads for publication, but my main duty was to model the clothing that was being advertised in the weekly ads. The artists would sketch me as I posed in each outfit that was selected for that day. It was an easy job, just putting on clothes and posing while the artists made their sketches for the newspaper.

The Art Director, who was over the entire department, was a witch, and I do mean a real witch, a practicing member of a witches’ coven. Since we both shared a zeal for the occult and fortune telling, we got along very well. 

Many people who I worked with at that department store, knew about my involvement with fortune telling, card reading, palm reading and astrology. I remember many of them asking me to read their palms, and before long, one after another was coming to me for their palm reading. I was doing it for the love of fortune telling, not even to make any money from it.

One thing I had never done was to attend a seance, and the Art Director once invited me to one that was taking place in her home that same evening. I had every intention of going, but various circumstances during the day, kept getting in the way of my plan, and I never could make it to that seance. In looking back, I attribute all the day’s hindrances to my guardian angel’s protection, for which I am thankful.

There were two women who worked in that advertising department, who were very different from all the rest, and had no interest in fortune telling. Ruth, one of the artists, had a very peaceful, gentle spirit about her, and I remember that she was very active in her church. The other woman was an art manager, whose name I don’t remember, but she had a very cheerful demeanor and a genuinely kind aura about her. I have no doubt that those two ladies were Christians and probably were praying for me and the Art Director, at the time. 

In those days, although I never told anyone, I was having frequent nightmares and constantly felt a strange presence following me everywhere. I know now that I was experiencing demonic oppression. In one nightmare, I dreamed of running to catch a train and once I jumped on board, I realized I was in a coffin, connected to a train of coffins all moving toward some unknown destination. All the oppression and dreams just gave me a greater hunger for true peace.

I randomly heard about a book about Bible prophecies and the end times, so I went to the occult book store to buy it. When I learned that the book was not sold there, I gave up and headed home. While waiting for a bus, I looked in the window of a small storefront selling magazines and snacks. To my surprise, I saw that exact book in the window, so I walked in and bought it. There was a strange flow of events that day, with much evidence that an invisible spiritual battle was actively being fought for my soul. 

After going home that same day, while reading the book, I was alone in my house. My cats began racing through the house frantically, as if something was startling them. I was repeatedly interrupted by their odd behavior, as well as sounds I heard in other parts of the house, even though I was the only one home at the time.

I kept reading until I finally came to a page in the book inviting me to pray a prayer asking Jesus to forgive my sins. For the first time I was actually conscious of my own sinfulness, with a heightened awareness that Jesus died for me on the cross. I wanted to pray, and be free of all oppression in my life. 

When I bowed my head and prayed to Jesus, I immediately felt a sensation of warm oil slowly pouring over my head. I had a peace that I had never known before and was completely changed in that moment. I knew I was forgiven and delivered, never having another nightmare or any further desire for involvement in the occult. I threw out every book I owned on the subject. 

As Jesus walked into my life, I walked out of my tomb, and then He said, “Untie her and let her go!” Not only did I find a resurrected new life in Christ, but I was also delivered from the powers that once had me bound.

My obsession for fortune telling was replaced with an obsessive love for Him and His word. On that day, I felt like Lazarus, walking out of a tomb, unbound from my grave clothes.

I  know now that whatever binds anyone can be loosed in Jesus’ name. I have heard many different people share their own stories of how He delivered them from drugs, alcohol, pornography or any other addiction or obsession that controls of a person. 

Nothing has more power than the words and presence of Jesus. When He speaks, He unleashes divine power and His presence comes into the lives of all who call upon Him. 

Jesus did it all with His words. He woke up dead people saying “Come forth!” He cast out demons, saying, “Be quiet-come out!” He healed the sick saying, “Be it done according to your faith.” 

His words have divine authority, and today, He is still breaking the strongholds of demonic bondage, illness, and addictions, setting people free. He is still saying about each of us who believe in Him, “Untie them and let them go!”

I’ve  come to learn that demons tremble at His words, which is why I love Him and His words so much. As His words fill our minds and His Spirit transforms our hearts, the power of His truth will keep us set free. 

Lord, we praise you for the way you work the flow of events in our lives to reach every person and draw us all nearer to you. As we approach the celebration of Easter, we thank you for unleashing your resurrection power in us, that sets us free and raises us to new life in Christ. Amen

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