A Healing Touch

A Healing Touch

The power of physical touch. Spiritual intimacy, and the hope that is in Christ Jesus. Scripture is full of stories of healing. In the majority of those stories, a human touch is involved. There is also a face to face conversation. i can think of only one story where Jesus says, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” Matthew 8:13 This was the Centurian who pleaded for the life of his servant. Jesus offered to go to the man’s house, but, in the end, healed the servant without going. At the moment, i can not think of another instance where there wasn’t some form of touch involved in the process of healing.

Now i am not saying that it is required, i am only raising the point that it seems pretty clear that we are physical people, and therefore a physical touch goes a very long way. Take the women with the issue of blood.

Luke 8:43-48 English Standard Version (ESV)

43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[a] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[b] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

This woman needed to touch Jesus, not because it was the only way to receive healing, but rather, it was the step of faith reaching out in human touch. There are many instances of healing, Jesus laying on of hands, and each one is a miracle that shows God’s faithfulness. It also reveals humanity’s need for the physical, for the spiritual touch of the divine nature that dwells in us, as we are created in the image of God.

We are living in a time that humanity is lockdown. There are people in hospitals who, although they are getting the human medicines they are missing the touch of the divine, brought in through the personal impressions of those we know and love. We were created for this type of intimacy. God said, “Let us create man in our image.” We are created in the image of the Divine. No wonder scientific studies show the healing power in touch. Here is an article that supports this idea of skin to skin contact with preemies and how critical a loving touch can be. Although this article is on preemies it is clear even in the article that this idea stretches well beyond birth.

So naturally, with lockdowns and the lack of personal touch from loved ones to those sick and or recovering from surgery is leading to great heartbreak. Whether slowed recovery or even death, that perhaps could have been avoided by the power of human touch. And not the touch of a doctor or nurse in the line of duty, but a sincere touch of love, hope, faith, a touch of the divine nature through a loved one. We have been forced to phone calls, and although voices are great there is something about presence and touch.

my mom is recovering from surgery. We haven’t been able to see her. We hear her voice, she hears ours, but there is something missing that i can only explain as the intimacy that exists between the spiritual touch. Today, we were able to make a Zoom call with her. It was absolutely amazing. It did lift the spirits of everyone. Earlier that day, my mom was at a low point. Healing was going slowly, the road to recovery seemed bleak, long, rocky, and insurmountable, “I feel like I am withering away,” were the words from her mouth. We were rightfully concerned. The face to face call, although not physical, touch was spiritual in its connection. Everyone felt it, everyone was uplifted by it, most importantly, the one in desperate need of a divine touch was blessed into a new outlook. Hope restored, Faith strengthened,  Love displayed.

We are created for intimacy, for human contact, for divine touch. If you have a loved one who is in the hospital and you are unable to see them personally, do everything you can to reach out and make every moment a spiritual connection in the absence of personal touch. Some ideas, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype . . . make those calls to see each other. But also arrange for a personal touch. Call the chaplain, do you know a nurse or hospital worker? Get them to visit on your behalf. In a time of uncertainty, we must become creative. Finally, pray! Take every opportunity to pray and in praying, remember there is hope for even the Centurians servant was healed simply by Jesus’ words and the man’s faith.

You are loved,

cj

Be Thou my Vision

Be Thou my Vision

i have thought recently that Jesus is my vision. As i describe who Jesus has been to me. This is one of the daily devotional questions i ask myself. It is based on the question Jesus poses to His disciples, “And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29.  Of course, i would say the same, but also i think of it as if how would i describe Jesus in particular moments of my life. As i have thought about it more and more, this song came to mind, “Be Thou My Vision.'” Here is the first verse.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

This verse i think is exactly what i have been trying to express. Be Thou my Vision, may i see what You see, how You see, why You see . . . i desire to know and understand more of God. i don’t want to be one who learns and learns but never understands.

“always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7

Becoming dependent on God to see into the world. So that i can truly love and serve like Him. In Philippians 2:5, it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” NKJV. To have the mind of Christ, i jokingly made the reference to the whole WWJD phenomenon that was . . . by making my own, HTMOC, which stands for, have the mind of Christ. Although joking, it really isn’t that bad an idea. We should all strive to have the mind of Christ. To have the eyes of Christ. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart!

You are loved,

cj

We need more Grace in this world . . .

We need more Grace in this world . . .

There is an old song, hymn really, called “Grace Greater Than All Our Sin.” It dates back to 1911, and it is full of . . . well, grace. Here is the refrain:

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

You know what we lack in these days? You might have guessed it, grace! Just look at the comment section of any hot topic on Facebook or Twitter or any social media platform, and you will see some of the ugliest comments imaginable. Not only that, but you will see that many folks will agree with the comment, judgment, or condemnation. For instance, i was reading an article on the arrest of the Florida Pastor who went against the state orders to not congregate. The comment section was alarming, scary even. Here are some:

“Should arrest all of the people that showed up as well and put them on the front lines without any PPE’s working as volunteers in the emergency room since they clearly don’t think they ‘re going to be affected.”

“Plays right into his favor. He and his followers will delight they are being persecuted for their beliefs, and will count it as a blessing. They will pray harder and sing louder, and most importantly, rejoice they are being persecuted in god’s name and getting coverage.”

“Arrest him, jail him, and gain access to his money. Take away his tax-exempt status.”

“Every fool that attended the services should be last in line for ventilators or ICU beds. The pastor and his wife shouldn’t even be allowed into a hospital parking lot. They can self-heal at home.”

Regardless of how you feel about this or the decision to continue to meet against the government’s orders. The reality is there is a huge lack of grace or compassion expressed in these replies. And that should alarm anyone, believer or non-believer. We must always err on the side of grace. How many times are we to forgive someone? “and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) That doesn’t necessarily say that there will be no consequence for the action. It only puts that consequence in the hands of the ones who can enact them. Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Peter 3:13-17 . . .

Here is my point. We need more grace in this world! We need to live out the forgiveness that we ourselves claim in the name of Jesus. We must live in such a way that brings honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. Be more grace-filled today!

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

You are loved,

cj

Social Distancing

Social Distancing

Today my friend and i were in Natural Grocers, where we ran into a mutual friend. This friend is a hugger, and so we hugged it out in the produce section. Beside us was a woman with a bag over her hand as she selected her organic vegetables. Another woman in the store was pushing her cart around, gloved, and with a medical type mask on. As we stood with our friend near the apples and talked conspiracy theories and Scripture, i heard over the loudspeaker a plea for social distancing. “For the safety of all our customers, Natural Grocers is practicing social distancing. We ask all our customers to please observe these practices, stand 6 feet apart, and limit contact and touching.” i don’t know if that was said because of us or something that the store just announces ever so often to keep folks aware, but we continued talking. Although we weren’t in each other’s laps, we definitely weren’t practicing social distancing. We did wrap up our conversation a bit later and went about our shopping.

These are some crazy times that we live in! Just yesterday a pastor in Florida was arrested for holding services on Sunday. Today in Louisiana another pastor who held services on Sunday had a warrant issued for his arrest as well.  Both of these pastors ignored the government’s restrictions on large gatherings, based on the idea of social distancing. This applies to all large gatherings, the church is not being singled out. However, these pastors feel that their faith is enough to protect them, and in almost every other case, i would agree. However, here it seems they have ignored Romans 13:1-2 which simply states that we are to honor the government.

Given these two scenarios, my grocery store encounter and these pastors holding services, is either justifiable? To what degree is it proper to follow the directives of the government? Do we, as Christians, have an obligation to adhere to every edict the government has decreed? Given the absolute panic, some folks are faced with in these trying times are we as Christians too loose with our freedoms in Christ?

As we stood talking i could visibly see one of the checkers uncomfortable with our little gathering of 3 persons. Her uncomfortable look made me slightly uncomfortable as well, and so i stepped back a little and over towards an empty case as to make room for shoppers around us; was my freedom and fearlessness out of line at that moment, i wondered. Shortly after leaving the store, we went to another to get one other item before heading home. Here we saw an older gentleman with a mask that had a ventilator. Was he wearing it out of fear or caution?

i have a lot of unanswered questions and more questions every day. i do worry for my family. Am i doing all that i can to keep them safe? As the priest of my home am i leading them spiritually? Am i being enough of a comfort to them or am i adding to any of their anxieties? i don’t have all the answers in all of this . . . but i do know that as i ponder these thoughts i am drawn back to the words of Paul.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

We are living in unprecedented times. We can either be paralyzed by them or we can find ways to love others better in them. i choose the latter.

You are loved,

cj

Four Dimensions

Four Dimensions

What is our mission or goal in life? We hear all the time that we are to run the race to win it! That isn’t wrong. We hear that we are to strive to be the very best version of ourselves! That isn’t wrong either. We hear that we are to put others first, above ourselves, to be second. That isn’t wrong either. Yet, when we consider all of these things together, we get a pretty mixed impression of our mission or goal in life. So what is it, and how do we achieve it? Well, let us consider together for a moment the puzzle of these three statements.

Run the race to win it . . . based on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” ESV

Pretty clearly, one could understand, how, one might perceive, the need to be a cut-throat Christian.  However, this is only one perspective of the same cube.

Striving to be the very best version of ourselves . . . based on Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ESV

By this, one could easily conclude that we strive to be the best we can. Doing everything in our power to strain for that perfect version of ourselves.

Putting others first . . . based on Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” ESV

Here, one could easily conclude that a Christian is best described as a doormat. Always and forever, second place. Each of these obviously is true. But there is more! A fourth dimension, if you will.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 ESV

Alright, then here we have the four corners if you will. We as imitators of Christ are to run the race as to win! Train hard every single day, and beat our bodies, to mean our fleshly desires, into submission. To have self-control. We will make mistakes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going, striving for that heavenly crown.

Meanwhile, when you see your brother stumble, stop and help them up! Our goal, although it is to run to win! It is also to cross the finish line with as many people as we can! And to do so without giving offense, you will not be able to do this 100% of the time. However, we are to sill try! We are to love all equally, yet declare the truth of God boldly.

So run to win. Do all that you can to better yourself, start by listening to the Holy Spirit. Put others before yourself, considering their needs above your own. And finally, do everything in love as to be imitators of Christ.

You are loved,

cj

me and my bike

me and my bike

When i was eight years old, i remember for my birthday that year getting the greatest ever gift! A bike! It was a beautiful chrome Mongoose BMX bike! i absolutely loved that thing, and together we went on many an adventure. That same year for my birthday my sister and brother also received bikes . . . the now-classic beach cruisers. i didn’t care that we all received bikes on my birthday i was just happy to have the greatest ever gift in the entire world!

The three of us rode those bikes to Glendale Galleria, at the time it seemed like the biggest shopping mall on the planet! i was eight. We rode those bikes to Los Angeles Zoo and the old Los Angeles Zoo, where many a film was made. We would watch the production crews and the such from a distance but as close as we could get! We rode those bikes to Griffith Park and then would take a ride on the miniature trains. A few years later, when my parents trusted me to go on adventures with my friends, we would ride our bikes to Universal Studios and the back lot of Burbank Studios. That bike helped me deliver thousands of newspapers as a “newsie” on my paper-routes.

Oh, the adventures i remember taking on that bike! i even got hit by a car on my bike. Neither of us suffered anything more than a bruise or two. i could go on and on about my adventures, those were the days! Simple days, no cares or worries, of course, i was only eight. But the world was so much bigger then, and i lived in just a small part of it. The bubble of my universe was my three best friends, the girl i had my eyes on, and my bike. Now, the world is so small, and if i allowed myself, it would be full of worry.

Yet, we are told not to worry. For we serve a God who is able! Even if we are to suffer in the moment . . . joy comes in the morning. Be encouraged friends that no matter what may come our way, our God is BIGGER!

Fear NOT, for I AM with you; be NOT dismayed, for I AM your God; I WILL strengthen you, I WILL help you, I WILL uphold you with MY righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV (emphasis added)

It’s Time.

It’s Time.

It is time to grow up. Move on from the elementary lessons and on to the meat of the matter. We don’t want that, though, because it requires something of us. Yet, we must begin a new, and greater process of letting go of our selves. A journey in which we die to our selves daily, that we might take up our cross to follow the only one who knows the way, The Way. Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

This isn’t the only passage that calls us to maturity. There are countless others. Each one rings true to the fact that we must grow-up! To remain toddlers or babies in Christ is to live a meaningless life that will be rift with crisis after crisis, swaying you and blowing you about in an endless torrent of catastrophe. The writer to the Hebrews writes:

“About this, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

How does one begin to move from the elementary to the secondary, from the milk to the meat? It is done daily. It is done intentionally. It is done moment by moment and decision by decision. It requires death. Death to your old self and a putting on of the new self in Christ Jesus. It requires prayer, and meditation, meditate on the Word, day and night. It requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. It is a choice, and only you can make it. Be encouraged by Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 5 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 5 of 5)

The final verse of the song by Chris Renzema is, for me, the most powerful. (If you haven’t yet you can find a link to the song at the bottom of Part 1) Here is the lyric:

Like Jesus in the garden
Will you take this cup from me
Like Jesus in the garden
You don’t call where you won’t lead
I wanna love like you love
I wanna bleed like you bleed

The struggle is real, my friends. i love how Chris writes this first part, “Like Jesus in the garden, Will you take this cup from me.” It is based on Jesus’ request recorded this way in the Gospel of Luke 22:

41And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

The anguish in those words is unmistakable. Yet Jesus’ resolve is in the very next part of verse 42, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.” It isn’t about our will; it is, however, completely about the Will of the Father. And like Jesus in the garden, the Father won’t lead us where He doesn’t’ first call us. His love for us is genuine, and therefore, our love must mirror His.

“I wanna love like you love,  I wanna bleed like you bleed.” What breaks the heart of the Lord should also break our hearts. What stirs the Lord to move must also stir us to action! Are you living a life that loves like that and bleeds like that? i desire to live in this way, i hope that you do too!

Seek the Lord, and boldly declare, “i don’t wanna go if you’re not going with me!” And “i wanna go where You go and stay where You stay!” i want to be where You are Lord, lead me, and i will follow.

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 4 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 4 of 5)

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:1-8 ESV)

The Transfiguration was a sight to behold i am sure! Just by the reaction of Peter, James, and John we can see that it was spectacular. Can you imagine being there? Seeing what they saw surely would invoke many questions. Peter’s response to build tents or altars in that place certainly wasn’t said in jest but in sincerity. An honest desire to mark the occasion.

As we continue our look at Chris Renzema’s song, “I Don’t Wanna Go” we see him touch on this event.

Like Peter on the hill
I wanna make this my place
Like Peter on the hill
For your transfigured face
I will go where you go
I will stay where you stay

i have many a memory of which i have built an altar of remembrance to the goodness of Jesus. i believe that is what Peter desired to do, given the many altars of stone that were built in the Old Testament as reminders of God’s faithfulness. i also feel that is what Chris is trying to say here as well. Like Peter, in awe of God’s glory, desires to live in that place. To dwell with the Most High and to build an altar . . . yet, to also say, “I will go where you go, I will stay where you stay,” must remain our heart’s desire.

We cannot live on the mountain peaks of our relationship with God, but, we can mark them, remember them, even build an altar to look back upon later. As a remembrance of the Lord’s faithfulness. The past is a foundation, the present is our time, the future is the one we strive to share. It is easy to get locked into the present and desire to dwell there and for good reason. We cannot live in the past, we cannot go blindly into the future, we must live fully in the present, however, we do so with the words of obedience, “I will go where you go, I will stay where you stay!” (a link to the song by Chris Renzema can be found at the end of Part 1 of this series).

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (part 3 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (part 3 of 5)

This week we are looking at the 3rd chorus of the song by Chris Renzema (see part one for a link to the song). In this stanza, the focus is on Moses. We can look at the parts of Moses’ life and calling and see it was full of peaks and valleys. Here we are reminded that Moses didn’t get to lead the people into the promised land. Sadly, and as a humbling reminder that there are consequences for our actions and in the eyes of God no one is exempt from them . . . yet, still, His mercy and grace abound, and Heaven still remains a reward for those who remain faithful even after the storm.  Let’s look at the lyric:

Like Moses in the desert
I wanna see the land
Like Moses in the desert
I can’t fully see your plan
Still your love doesn’t stop
When I see the land from a mountain top

So many great things to be said of Moses; i don’t want to get lost on this one occasion. However, it is essential to note that even the godliest of people have moments of weakness.  Moses was instructed to speak to the rock in Numbers 20 and water would come from it for the nation of Israel. This is the same rock that we read about in Exodus 17. In the Exodus passage, Moses is told to strike the rock with his staff, and in Numbers, he is only instructed to speak to it . . . there is another interesting point, just before he strikes the rock Moses says, “. . . shall we bring water for you…?” Although, Moses is the mouth piece, it was God who was going to bring the water.

Now the people of Israel were a grumbling sort. We read that they were often grumbling against Moses and Aaron and God, for that matter. At this point, i am sure Moses was fed up with the 40 years of whining and complaining. He let his emotions get the best of him. i do that sometimes, i think we all do. Yet, even still, God, although carried out the consequence, allowed Moses to see the promised land, Numbers 27. Here is the main lesson that i take away from this, God is faithful, even when we are not.

But there is more! i have learned and am learning still to walk humbly, and completely with the Lord. my responsibility isn’t to please people but the Lord only. For when i focus on being obedient to the Lord, no matter how bad the grumbling might become i know that God, through His faithfulness, will bring everyone around to see His faithfulness. i needn’t try to make way for Him, no need to strike the rock, no need to take on the anointed of the Lord, no need to fight against the air . . . only listen to the Lord and obey Him.  i am again reminded of my life verse:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8

You are loved,

cj