Wash Your Hands

www.bible.com/1713/jas.4.8.csb

Corona virus is all people are talking these days. It has eclipsed the milquetoast tepidity of the democratic process. People have even stopped talking about impeaching Trump. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves faster than trees can be felled to produce more. Masks and gloves are at a premium. I wonder what people will do when a real disaster hits?

While corona virus is a real thing, is it that real? Is it so much worse than Ebola was? What was canceled for Ebola? What did we postpone for SARS? Did we close school for swine flu? Some may have. Most shrugged it off as “someone else’s problem.”

I heard just a few days ago that Bethel Church, the church in the news a few months ago for trying to pray back to life a small child who passed away in their church, has canceled faith healing trips to the hospital. Maybe their faith had been shaken by the aforementioned lack of resurrection power. They said that they didn’t want people to get infected by going into the hospital and praying over sick people. This sudden submission to western medicine seems suspect to me.

I know germs and viruses are real things. I also know this corona virus is spread like normal flu, through droplets which can be sneezed into the air but rarely survive for long on non-loving surfaces. My reason tells me that this virus is no worse than any other viruses. Christian who wash their hands regularly are in pretty good shape.

But I don’t think that’s what God is talking about this morning. He is calling us draw near to Him. Washing hands is a reference to our deeds. Just as purifying hearts refers to minds. Let our thoughts and behaviors reflect our relationship with the Lord. Let us draw near to Him. And the promise is that He will draw near to us, His people.

We will weather this storm as we have all the others. Some of us will not. But whether we live or die, let us praise the name of the Lord. When plagues ravages the earth, I dare say it is the Christians who helped, who nursed and who doctored, when others stayed in quarantine or fear. Some got sick, others received their heavenly reward. But I’m sure all received a crown of glory. Because their behavior reflected their faith in the God of the Universe, and the God of viruses. They acted as people of God, and we should do no less. Let us continue to minister to others the good news. Especially during times of crisis, our peace of the Lord should shine as a beacon. Let your light shine today.

Heavenly Father, You are the King of the Universe. By Your hand, even viruses are ordered to and fro. If by Your will this virus today become even an instrument of judgment, let us not falter or fail for fear. We have nothing to fear from You our Father. Instead, let us with confidence and boldness enter into service with Your Name in our hearts to help those in need. Let us not be ruled by fear, for perfect love casts out all fear. Let us be cautious, but not afraid. Let us reasonable understand our precautions, it not terrified of what could happen. You have called us to be Your people in this world. Let us answer that call and enter in other’s desperation with Your peace and grace. Thank You Lord that we have this blessed assurance. Let us draw near to You, so that You may draw near to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This Confidence

www.bible.com/1713/1jn.5.14.csb

I have always been amazed at the audacity of the faith healers and the “name it and claim it” folks who just lay hands and pronounce the name of Jesus over people as if it’s some kind of magic formula. I can understand such confidence if In fact Jesus does want to heal a person. In fact, if Jesus wants to heal a person, does He really wait until some human being comes around to pray a prayer of healing?

This is bothers me about faith healers and those who claim to have the gift of healing. They always say they can hear from Jesus or the Spirit and know what God wants them to do or where to go. I have a hard time with it because that is an awful lot of inside information. Would God take us into His confidence, and only those equipped to hear Him? Why would God choose only certain people? Why not everyone And remove all doubt as to what He wants? Why speak to only a few? Is that how God works? God works in secret? No one can challenge the faith healer because he alone has heard the word. No one should doubt him because God spoke to him. I have trouble with this.

Maybe I am confessing my lack of faith. Or I just don’t get it. I thought God spoke to the prophets and the apostles and completed His revelation to them. I thought that completed revelation was compiled into one book, and that book was sufficient in itself to equip the man of God for every good work. Why is there a need for new revelations? Why does God need to continue to speak when He has already spoken? Am I missing something?

Is God’s word true or not? Is God’s will sufficiently revealed in the Bible, or does there need to be something more? Did the miraculous gifts end with the Apostles, or do they continue to this day? Can God choose to heal someone? Absolutely. Does He? Yes! But can I demand that God heal? Can I put myself in the place of God and say someone is healed? May it never be. I don’t know if the person is suffering because of unrepented sin, because of God’s punishment, because that person is being tested, or some other reason. How can I put myself in His place when it is His will they be tested for a time?

We see suffering as inherently bad. But it is suffering that produces endurance, and that is a gift of God. Should I go an pronounce healing and deny someone the blessing of endurance through suffering? Perhaps God has something better in mind that healing. We have such a skewed view of suffering. It isn’t evil. It just is. And it is a tool, especially for those of us in this privileged nation, for God to use to purify us and produce in us jewels worthy for His kingdom. When we see a slight headache as suffering, maybe we need to endure for a while, instead of asking for the healing.

Something you may notice in the Scriptures. Healing is almost never for the sole benefit of the ailing. It is most often a benefit and a sign to the community, who see the power of God at work and come to faith. Yet today, healings are rarely done outside the community of believers. Outsiders can only hear about the lame who walk again, and only rarely come to faith because of it. What changed? Do believers still need to be convinced? Hmmm.

If your faith depends on seeing signs and wonders performed in your midst, then you don’t really have faith. Faith is believing is something unseen, not something you see everyday. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Pray for healing, be confident that God wants the best for you, but leave it up to God to work out His will in you. As the Lord wills, so we will do. Stop demanding things from Him, and let Him work in you to the pleasure of His will. That is a mature faith. If God says it, we trust in it and believe in it. But always give room for God in your prayers.

Lord, I know many of us would like to be advisors rather than followers. In our limited vision, we think we know what’s best. Help us to see things as You do, help is to grow in our faith. For we walk by faith and not by sight. Help us follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Power in Weakness

www.bible.com/1713/2co.12.9.csb

This is one of my go to verses. If God doesn’t heal you of that illness or infirmity, what then? Where do you go when God doesn’t take the pain away? Most people reject God, saying they’ve prayed and prayed and God hasn’t answered their prayers, or they feel dejected because they didn’t have enough faith to move this particular mountain. Is that how it works? We just send a prayer off to God and He is expected to meet our need, just like that? Does God have any say in the matter?

If God doesn’t heal you, does that make Him an unloving God? Does make Him harsh or cruel? Can God only be glorified and praised only if He meets your need exactly when you need it?

Then imagine Paul’s consternation at not being healed of his infirmity. Though no one is sure what his “thorn in the flesh” was, some suspect it was an issue with his eyes, based on Galatians. Paul prayed to have this thorn removed. Paul’s faith goes without question. He had the ability to heal others of blindness. Why didn’t God heal his? Did God not care?

But God did care. And God have Him an answer, the same answer He gives to all of us. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” What does that mean? It means God takes the long view. He knows this world is not our home. We have a new and glorious eternal body that awaits us where there will no suffering, crying, or pain. The purpose of this life is to prepare our souls for the next, not to enjoy all the pleasures. His power is made perfectly evident in our weakness, for the more powerful message of unshakeable faith comes from the voice of the tested, not the untested. The more powerful comes from the testimony, not the untried.

God’s message and purpose is to save the lost. The lost are better won by one who has been tested and finds his faith unshaken. That God is glorified in the midst of such terrible weakness is powerful testimony, and will many to their knees in repentance. I have been at the bedside of hospice patients who will make you weep because of their unshakeable faith. That is power perfected in weakness. That is the unmistakable power of God.

So the next time God doesn’t heal like you expect, be prepared. God may have other purposes for your illness. He may be disciplining you, or he just may be preparing you for a powerful testimony.

God bless you today!

Why go to Church if I don’t feel well?

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It seems especially true in winter that people are sick and they miss church, but this can happen anytime. Now, you can’t blame someone when they are sick that they miss service, right? We all get sick sometimes, and sometimes, we do the Christian thing and don’t share the illness with others. Parents of newborns are encouraged to stay home from church for this reason. But this reason can be used too readily, so that a slight cough and the uneasy headache are called upon as unwitting accomplices in the delinquency of Church attendance.

And what about those who are too old or infirm to attend Church? These are the homebound elderly or those whose chronic illness keep them from attendance. Shouldn’t there be an exception made for these too? Conversely, is the Church off the hook if these people can no longer attend Church?

The Scripture is quite clear to both sides of this. “If anyone is sick, let him call upon the elders. They will come and anoint the sick . . .” (James 5:14) I think it goes without saying that missing a Sunday is excusable, since most illnesses clear up in a week’s time. But this verse seems to speak to the more chronic conditions that keep someone from attending church regularly. The homebound and the chronically ill still need to be fed spiritually. The Church needs to engage them on at least a weekly basis. This verse implies that the one sick at home is not simply to just stop attending, but continue to be involved in the local church, calling upon the elders. If a Church has not made contact with you for being absent, then this verse demands that you contact the church and tell them you are ill and need a visit. Church leaders can’t read minds. Being at Church is so important, even for the sick, that the elders, in their shepherding role, need to continue to minister to them.

Non-Christians don’t really use this excuse, unless they are older. but being older, have a greater need for interaction. This is a perfect situation for outreach, and should not be avoided.