What’s the Formula?

I’ve been thinking tonight about some of the healings that took place in the Bible, and here’s what I’ve noticed:

Sometimes, they require action. In one of my favourite healing miracles, Jesus told a blind man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam – a word that means ‘Sent’. The man washed, and came home seeing (John 9:7). An action on his part resulted in the healing on Jesus’ part.

Sometimes, they follow an answer. In Luke 18:35-43, again before healing a blind man, Jesus asks: “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” is the response.

Sometimes, Jesus takes the person aside and works quietly. Another of my favourite healings is in Mark 7:31-37. Some people bring a deaf man to Jesus, wanting to have him cured. Jesus starts by leading the man away from the crowd, by himself – what a lovely, thoughtful thing to do. If you were deaf and you got your hearing back, wouldn’t it overwhelm you to be in a crowd of people and suddenly assaulted by all their voices? Jesus tells us He’s gentle and He really shows it here, taking the man to a quiet place to heal him.

If you’re wondering what the formula is that ties these healings together, well … that’s the whole point: They’re all very different. Interestingly, in Luke 18, Jesus doesn’t say: “I made you well because you answered the question I asked you”; He says: “You are healed because you believed.” In Mark 7, Jesus commanded the people not to tell anyone about the deaf man’s healing, but the more He commanded them, the more they told about it! In John 9, the blind man confessed his faith after he was healed and not before.

Can we learn anything from this? Are we, perhaps, too quick to try to find a formula when Jesus might just want to treat each person differently?

Doubt

I’ve heard it said that doubt and faith can co-exist. To me, it seems clear from Jesus’ conversation with Thomas that they can’t. I’m not sure where Thomas was the first time Jesus appeared to a group of His close friends after His resurrection. They were locked in a room for fear of the Jews. Maybe Thomas had braved the streets to go and get them something to eat, but anyway, he missed the big moment. They told him about it afterwards and he said: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Later Jesus came again and specifically said to Thomas: “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Faith and doubt may not co-exist, but faith and questioning can. After all, a question Thomas asked brought us one of the most central truths in Christianity – Jesus’ statement that: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

I’m reading a book at the moment about when Christians are faced with the hard questions in life. Why does God supernaturally heal one person but leave another to cope with their disability, when we read about those wonderful miracles, and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever? Why does one person have a supportive network of family and friends, while others grieve loved ones and appear to have very little? We really don’t understand, so what can we do? We can hold onto what we know. We know that Jesus is our good Shepherd and our admission ticket to heaven. I’ve told you before about the time this verse came into my head immediately: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

“Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it” (Hebrews 11:1). We may not see the full picture; we might still have questions, but in the midst of those questions, our faith in Jesus can triumph over doubt.

Our Father, my Shepherd: “21 Seconds to Change Your World” Book-Review

This was marketed as a book on the Lord’s prayer – how the 21 seconds it takes to say it can benefit us, so I was surprised to discover it included the 23rd Psalm as well. Part one gives an introduction to their authors, Jesus and David. Part two is the substance of the book, where Mark Rutland breaks down the prayer and the Psalm phrase by phrase, and part three lists some ways we can use them in our lives.

I would say this is a worthwhile read for pastors and those in positions of leadership within the church, as well as for Christians in general. One thing that slightly bothered me was the author’s encouraging non-Christians to use the Lord’s prayer. If he believes Jesus’ words in John’s gospel that the Way to the Father is through Him, I don’t know how he can expect those who don’t believe in Jesus to address God as ‘Father’ and be heard, but if you can look past that, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” tells us a lot about these passages of Scripture. I think I’ll be using them more in my prayer-life. I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a free copy to review.

More Dignity

If it’s true that you should write what you’re passionate about, then I’ll write about this quote someone shared on Facebook. “God designed my disability to make me not independent, but interdependent.” This seems to me just plain wrong.

Can you imagine Jesus Himself visiting someone who’s paralysed from the neck down? They ask why they’ve got their disability and He says: “Aha! Well! You see, it was to make you interdependent. Now you need this person to clean you up when you’ve been to the toilet; to hold a glass of water to your lips; to feed you … I designed it specially so you’d have a need for other people.” What a cruel, horrible thing to say. If that were true, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that; I really wouldn’t.

Happily, I can’t find that callous God anywhere in the Bible. I’ll just use a few examples; I could be here a long time otherwise. First, in Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus, saying: “He has an evil spirit in him that stops him from talking” (V17). Jesus’ response? “He ordered the evil spirit, saying, ‘You spirit that makes people unable to hear or speak, I command you to come out of this boy and never enter him again’” (V25). Was it God who made the boy unable to speak? No! It was a spirit that Jesus made sure to cast out of him.

In John 9, Jesus’ disciples wonder why a man was born blind. He tells them: “This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him” (V3). If anyone asked me why I was blind (which no one ever has), that would be my reason: So that God’s power can be shown in me. In the case of the man in John 9, Jesus healed him. I realise that doesn’t always happen this side of heaven, and it hasn’t yet happened to me, but Jesus did teach His disciples to pray to God: “Your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven”.

I’ve told someone before that I’m not independent; I’m God-dependent, but that’s as true for me as it is for anyone, whether they have what you might call a disability or not. If you believe Paul’s words that “In Him we live and move and have our being”, then you’ll agree that we couldn’t move one limb without God’s help; we wouldn’t even exist.

I don’t think God designed disabilities to force us to rely on others. I believe that in every area of our life, God wants us to acknowledge Him. I know it’s not healthy to completely cut ourselves off from others, but I don’t think doing what we can independently should be frowned upon; I think it should be encouraged. I wrote a post last year about some of the ways I could give as well as receive. Perhaps it seemed to some like I was boasting, but I genuinely wrote it with a grateful heart to God for the things I was able to do. What kind of a country would we be if people constantly relied on others, never making important decisions or learning to do anything for themselves? I’m glad the Britain I live in gives me more dignity than that.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Forever

Day 20 and I hope you’re enjoying taking a look at these Jesus-benefits. There are so many ways I could word this next one, but the simplest and best seems to be:

He’s forever.

Israel’s king, David, wrote in Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me.” God is utterly dependable and will never let us down. In one of the devotions in her book “A Year’s Journey with God” (which I’m reading at the moment and would heartily recommend), Jen Rees Larcombe writes about her 8 years in a wheelchair, and how she wasn’t healed until she learnt to put her hope not in the healing, but in Jesus. If we’re disappointed, it’s because we’ve put our hope in the wrong place.

“I am the LORD; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23).

* * *

As a thank-you for being a reader who’s supported Write31Days, you could enter the Dayspring.com giveaway to win a $500 shopping spree. It’s open till the end of the month.

5-Minute Friday: Whisper

My thanks to Kate Motaung for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt: Whisper.
* * *
My first thought when I hear the word ‘Whisper’ is of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. God wasn’t in the earthquake, the wind or the fire, but He came to Elijah in a gentle whisper – a still-small voice. Some say it could be translated as ‘The sound of silence’.

Have you had any of those whisper-moments with God? Sometimes His voice says things you don’t want to hear. I remember when my uncle was dying – how badly I wanted God to heal him and people to listen to his testimony and believe; God whispered that this wasn’t going to be a time of harvest, but a time of growth.

His whispers can give you comfort too. I remember sitting on my bed, wondering who would look after me when I was old and unable to do the things I do now; the children I write to in the Philippines are so far away … God whispered that even to my old age and grey hairs, He would sustain me, and a song came out of that:
Keep me safe in Your will, dear One;
I know Your power will sustain me to the end:
When there’s fear that could come in,
I remember the hope and the future that You have for me.

I know it’s safe to trust in You;
I know You will never disappoint:
I know You loved me enough to send Your Son;
You will not leave me alone –
You’ll sustain me as I grow old.

A-Z: Outpouring

Normally I would have waited until tomorrow before covering O in the A-Z challenge, but I’ve just come across this report of what God is doing NOW, as in this last week, in South Wales!!!  So I really think you should read this about the outpouring in Cwmbran, and if anyone feels like jumping into a vehicle and heading straight there, me too!

A-Z: Glow

I’ve written before about a negative experience I had of someone praying for my sight and me not receiving it.  There have been a few of those.  Thankfully though, having been a Christian for 13 years, I can count them on one hand, but can you have positive experiences of healing when you’ve not been physically healed?  Well, I would say yes, and today, on day 7 of the A-Z challenge, I’ll tell you about one of them.

We had a visiting speaker at church who’d seen many miracles.  Several of us went up for prayer and when it was my turn, he asked me:  “What do you want the Lord to do for you?”

“Whatever He wants.”  The speaker’s wife prayed with me for a bit and the meeting came to a close.  On my way home, I realised I should have been specific.  Like the man in the Bible when Jesus asked what he wanted, I should have said:  “I want to see!”

The next week, it was another visiting speaker – the man who’d preached at my baptism.  Again I went up for prayer, and amazingly, he asked exactly the same question!  “What do you want the Lord to do for you?”

So I said it.  “I want my sight.”

He gently put a finger on each of my eyelids and turned to face the rest of the church.  “Everybody pray,” he said in a voice full of emotion, and everybody did.  “Can you see?” he asked, so I told him no and we carried on praying.  “Can you see?” he asked again.

“No.”

“Well, what’s happening?  Your face is radiant!”  I don’t know whether he meant my face literally shone, like Moses’ when he walked down the mountain after meeting with God.  Maybe it did, but I felt radiant too.  I cannot describe the feeling when you’re there being prayed-for, knowing that in a moment God could completely change your life.  It takes your breath away.

And afterwards, I wasn’t made to feel like a second-class citizen.  We were asked to go on praying for this throughout the week, and people came to me with their encouragement.  One friend said she believed God would want me to see because He’d made such beauty on the earth; someone else had a word for me that I’ve always remembered …  I really felt they were with me, not against me.

Is God awesome to you?  Do you go to church with a glow in your cheeks, and an expectancy that today He might just change your life forever?

No Accident

The other day, I read 2 blog-posts one after the other.  They really made me think!  One was called “My Pirfect Life”, written by a mother about her daughter Sarah, who had Down’s Syndrome – a girl who always had the mind of a 6-year-old, who wrote misspelt notes in the covers of her books like:  Someday my prnce wll come, and:  I have a pirfect life.  The mother wrote:  “She dressed up on ordinary afternoons.  She danced.  She smiled. …  Sarah’s disability did not define her”.  Such positive words.

 

Then into my inbox came a post by a friend of mine, who doesn’t have the mind of a 6-year-old.  She has the mind of a 30-something and tells it like it is.  Please read her post.  She does a good job of describing the challenges that we as blind people face, but it was the title that got me thinking.  Having a Disability has no Benefits?  I understand where my friend’s coming from on the practical side, but from a faith-perspective, there has to be some benefit to me being the way I am, doesn’t there?  Because if there wasn’t, surely as soon as we became Christians and started living by faith, God would step in and heal us.

 

Let me tell you about a time I had prayer for healing (I do that sometimes).  This particular day, I’m in a queue at the front.  It gets to my turn and the man asks:  “What’s the problem?”

 

“I’m blind.”

 

“Oh.  That is a problem.”  He asks about my blindness, so I tell him I was born premature and given too much oxygen; that’s what caused it, so he puts his hands on my eyes, and starts to pray.  “We rebuke this accident at the hospital.”  I hadn’t expected that.  I thought:  I’m not sure I want to say that.  Oh well, if I have to; if that’s what’s going to get me healed … so I say amen.  Then he gets excited and says:  “We won’t go until you’re healed!”  Well … he went, and 6 years later I’m still not healed.  Please, if you’re praying for somebody, don’t make hasty promises.  This man had seen blind people regain their sight in other parts of the world; I thought he knew about healing, so I clung to that promise; so when we stopped praying and I still couldn’t see, you can imagine how I felt.

 

Obviously rebuking the ‘Accident’ wasn’t what was needed, and I’ve never done that again.  I can’t think of the whole thing as an accident, because that would be 31 years of my life wasted.  When I pray now about my sight, I first thank the Lord for my life up to this point.  I’ll let Him decide when He wants to start a new chapter.

 

So, are there no benefits to disability?  Or can we dance for joy on ordinary afternoons, like Sarah with Down’s Syndrome did?  I think it’s a bit of both.  We certainly have challenges; there have been days I could quite sincerely ask the question my friend ended her post with, but nevertheless, I want to take a leaf out of Sarah’s book – to have the joy and contentment that she had.

Friend Friday: When you Need a Miracle

Exciting post for you today.  This is my best attempt at shouting it from the rooftops.

 

A friend of mine has a very rare disease (one of the symptoms being osteoporosis).  The other day, a Christian she knew invited her to a retreat for the day, which focused on healing.  She’d had a particularly difficult week and wasn’t sure how she’d take it, but she went.  On the way there, she was feeling really sick from the pain of old and new fractures.

 

A girl prayed for her, and she felt another hand on her head, then on her back.  She went from being in terrible pain to being able to touch her toes, and she said she had great fun at the hospital.  After convincing them to re-X-ray her wrist, they couldn’t work out how a wrist so obviously fractured 2 weeks ago could look like it had never been fractured ever!

 

You don’t have to get as excited as I did – standing up off your chair and waving your arms in the air, but will you praise God with me, and will you pray the other symptoms also go in Jesus’ name?  Thanks!