Remember when young people, on fire for Christ after a Christian camp or rally, would all be sporting coloured elastic wrist bands with the letters WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? It was a simple, no-nonsense reminder to compare their decisions and actions with what their growing knowledge of Christ suggests He would do in the same situation.
These days our young folk would probably prefer a tattoo to a wrist band but the idea encourages a number of good growth habits:
• Building the habit of a prayer – however brief – before making a decision;
• Accepting that our actions are based on the choices we make;
• Learning to remember and apply their expanding knowledge of God and His guidance and purpose in their life;
• Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit;
• Accepting that choices have consequences.

What you are today depends on the choices you made in the past. Aren’t we blessed to hace a God who will re-create usto live a new life…if we let Him?

Give Jesus a Gift for Easter

Give Jesus  a Gift for Easter.

Matthew11:28. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Lent (the forty “wilderness” days leading up to Easter) is, for many Christians, a time to think about how their Christian life is going.  It can be encouraging, depressing or boring to reflect on the past year and make choices for the year ahead.  Some of the areas it’s easy to shy away from are what we’ve done with broken relationships, habits that leave us feeling weak and depressed, and specific things we’ve done that we wish we could undo.

When we’re down, the last thing we feel is loveable.  Yet our feelings do not diminish God’s love for us one bit. Once we have accepted Christ as our Saviour and cleared the decks of all things in our past that we regret, they are forgiven and forgotten.  They are wiped off that ledger that so many Christians feel God is constantly up-dating like a profit and loss data base.  Instead of being kept for God to mull over, they are dumped on the Cross and never seen in heaven again.  Look at Peter, devastated by his own cowardice, forgiven even before he opened his mouth to deny Christ.  Look at the soldiers and jeering crowd taking their “Good Morning Show” from the agony of the crucifixion – “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.”  Look at Paul, who as a bounty hunter brought Christians to their death, yet accepted God’s forgiveness and love to become one of the greatest evangelists of all time.

So give Jesus a gift for Easter.  Accept His grace.  Accept that He loves you. Your past is forgiven.  Listen to Him say, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased” as you take the first steps in your new abundant life.

Your Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5: 17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

This must be the hardest job on earth – the ministry of reconciliation.  What makes it so hard?  The other people in the equation!  It is one thing to kneel alone at the throne of grace, confess our sins and walk on, forgiven and renewed.  It is an entirely different thing to take seriously the call to a ministry of reconciliation, where at least two parties are involved, sometimes with many years of painful memories to be resolved.

It may be a family feud against a sibling, a parent or an in-law, or it may involve groups whose constant back-biting, criticism and snide comments turn the simplest gathering into a tension filled, gut-churning nightmare.  Or perhaps the Lord has laid on your heart that group of aimless youth who turn your neighbourhood into an undeclared war zone.  Or people of a different culture, language and expectations who are finding it difficult to fit into “our” society.  We may be part of the conflict, or it may be a situation that niggles at us to do something.

The wonder of the ministry of reconciliation in Christ is that “all things become new”.  The old flawed relationship can be put aside and forgotten while we enjoy the new one, holding our positive prayer picture up to Christ’s love and healing power as it becomes more and more the reality.

You and Your Healing Ministry (3)

Mark 6:12-13

“(The Twelve) went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

Let’s assume you have linked up with a Bible-based partner or group.  If your pastor is part of it that is an excellent start.  New prayer warriors are often concerned about what is the “right” way to administer God’s healing grace.  One idea is to keep a bookmark in your Bible and add to it every time you come across a different approach that Jesus used.  Don’t limit yourself –  or Him – by trying to use just one method.

It is obvious that multitudes of people longed for Him to touch them.  There is something about a loving  touch that connects people in a special way, and when it is given “in the Name of the Lord” it brings in a whole new dimension.  However, touching or laying on hands was not the only method Jesus used to heal.  It is interesting to track His healing ministry through the gospels and see for ourselves that we don’t have to limit healing to one particular method.  The following examples are taken from St. Mark’s gospel, and show that there is no single “right” way to minister.

  • 1:25. Jesus rebuked an evil spirit and ordered to come out of the man.
  • 1:37. Jesus took  the sick woman’s hand and lifted her up.
  • 1:41. He assured the leper he wanted to heal him, then touched him (against the law).
  • 2:1-12. He forgave the paralytic, then simply told him act on his healing, to pick up his bed and go home.
  • 3:5. A man with a withered arm acts on his healing, and can actually see it happening – and so can everyone else.  (I have watched a woman’s badly injured shoulder move out from her body a few inches, turn to a different angle and slot back into the right spot – all healed.  Despite our prayers we were stunned, and her friends, who came for moral support, may never have been the same afterwards.)
  • 3:10. So many people wanted to touch him that he had to preach from a boat to have room to breathe.
  • 3:11. Evil spirits left without being told.
  • 4:28. First the blade, then the ear, then the harvest.  Often we see a gradual healing rather than instant results, as it was for the blind man at Bethsaida Mark 8: 22-25.
  • 5:19-20  Legion is given a job to do,  sharing his healing experience  with his family and neighbours.
  • 5:25-29. A woman was healed  by touching his clothes.
  • 6:12. The disciples’ first mission – heal with anointing
  • 6:30. The disciples need to unwind. “Come and rest awhile.”
  • 6:42. Healing a basic need – feeding the 5,000.
  • 6:56. People to flocked to be near enough to touch his clothes and be healed.
  • 8:22-26. An interesting cameo. Jesus takes the blind man’s hand and leads him away from the village, uses mud on his eyes twice as a tactile sign that something is happening, heals him fully, then tells him not to go back to the village.  Was the attitude of that village a hindrance to the man’s initial healing, and would the man have perhaps lost his healing if he had gone back to their scepticism and disbelief?
  • 9:14-29. Jesus discusses the epileptic boy’s medical condition with the father, calms him down after the heated crowd scene, encourages his faith, then heals the child and gives him a hand to steady him on his feet.
  • 10:16. Even little children loved to be touched and hugged by Jesus.
  • 10:46-52. Blind Bartimaeus had to be persistent to get healed, and to say exactly what healing he wanted.  (I have found that asking some people to think about their most important need for healing leads to an entirely different request than the original one.)

At least two other methods used in the healing ministry are shown in other gospels.

  • John 4:1-26. A word of knowledge for the woman at the well broke down her barriers.
  • John 1:48. Jesus “sees” Nathanael under the fig tree and calls him to discipleship.

You and your Healing Ministry (2)

Mark 6:7(b)

“(Jesus) called the twelve disciples together and sent them out two by two.”

Different people will all have different stories on how they were first encouraged to dip their toes in the healing ministry.  For some, it may have been the illness of a friend or family member; for others, a sermon or book or Bible reading that resonated in their heart; for others a healing service or an invitation from some-one already involved.;  The interest may have grown from a prayer circle’s wish for a closer walk with God.  It may have grown gradually, or struck like a thunderbolt.

My introduction to the healing ministry was the thunderbolt type.  I was sweeping the floor one Saturday morning about a quarter past 10, reflecting on the way our ladies’ prayer group was being led to listen more effectively to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly, I heard a voice say, “Pray for Dee,” (not her real name).  “Now?” I said dubiously, looking at the pile of dust on the floor.  “Now,” said the voice firmly, so I went to my prayer desk and, not knowing what was needed, simply asked Jesus to be with her.  I was stunned to see what I call a “prayer picture” appear in my mind’s eye.  I “saw” my friend in bed, her face twisted in pain.  I saw the hands of Jesus placed one on each side of her face, and the pain fading away.  Then the picture was gone, and I felt free to finish my sweeping, still feeling stunned.

I felt more overwhelmed than excited by the experience and anxious to find a group of Christians who could help me come to grips with what had happened, especially when I met my friend a few days later.  She told me about the terrible migraine that had kept her in bed for two days then was suddenly perfectly all right on Saturday morning.  What time?  10.20!

I wanted to follow it up, but felt I needed a like-minded fellow-traveller.  We were between parsons at the time, but it didn’t take long to find prayer partners, as Toowoomba had an active chapter of the Order of St Luke Healing Ministry.  Jesus understands our need for a companion when we step out in His Name (see Mark 6; Luke 10).

You and your Healing Ministry (1)

Mark 16:17

 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name … they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Perhaps you are thinking this blog doesn’t apply to you Perhaps you are thinking it’s only meant for charismatic, super-spiritual Christians oozing sanctity from every pore.  Sorry to let you off the hook, but that’s not what Jesus said.  He always meant what He said, so we have to look at this a bit more closely – even if we have a sneaking feeling it’s going to take us out of our comfort zone.

When did He say this?  After the Resurrection, when He was giving his listeners his final instructions.

Who were told to heal the sick in His Name (Here’s the cruncher!)?  Those who believe.  Not super-saints, but everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and made way for the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us – all of us – to serve Him.  Check Luke 10 to remind yourself that Jesus had already sent out 72 unnamed ordinary followers to practise what He preached.

What was the result? For the Church’s first 300 years, the followers of Jesus took this command seriously.  The Acts of the Apostles showed the all-conquering power of preaching plus healing in action.  The church grew from a despised and persecuted minority to become the official religion of Constantine’s Roman Empire.  The writings of the early fathers show that healing was expected to follow prayer.  Using Mark 6:7-13 as a guide, a household could take a bottle of oil to the church to be blessed, and then use it at home as needed.

Why did “ordinary” believers mostly give up on the healing side of ministry?  Once the Church came under the Emperor’s protection, many people joined who were not really Christian, or were more interested in using it to gain power than to follow in the footsteps of a humble Carpenter.  The power dwindled, until many people assumed that God no longer wants to heal, one of the most successful lies Satan has produced.

Feeling a frisson of excitement?  I hope so.  I’ll write more on this topic next time.

Please, Lord. Rescue Me from Myself!

Psalm 119:176
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek your servant,
For I do not forget your commandments.”
Have you ever felt like this distressed little sheep? He knows he’s lost his way, but he doesn’t know how to make things any better. He remembers a time when he felt safe in the fellowship of the flock, when his master made sure they all had good food and water and protection from the dangers that prowled around outside.

He thought it would be fun, very grown-up and daring, to go out on his own, do his own thing for a bit. But now it’s all gone wrong! He hates the loneliness, the coarse food, the fear, and, when he saw his reflection in a muddy puddle, he hated himself – dirty and unkempt, his face twisted by resentment and anger. He wants to go home, but he doesn’t know how. Perhaps if he keeps on bleating long enough the shepherd will hear him. “Please, good Shepherd, come and find me!”
What a breakthrough these few lines from the psalmist offer to those who are trying unsuccessfully to turn their lives around.

We have a part to play:
• Admit we’re on the wrong track;
• Want things to be better;
• Accept that sometimes restrictions are for our own benefit and safety;
• Be prepared to accept and make good use of help.
• Follow our conscience (the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit) to make changes, one step at a time, or a complete turn-around.
• Talk to God on and off during the day, owning up when we slip and accepting forgiveness and a fresh start.
God has a part to play:
• He searches for us and calls us to Him (Luke 15:1-32);
• Forgives us (1 John 1:9);
• Welcomes us back (Luke 15:1-32);
• Forgets the past (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25);
• Rejoices (Luke 15:10).

Cruisin’ Christians

2 Timothy 3: 5, 7.
5. “having a form of godliness but denying its power. 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Our churches are full of “Cruisin’ Christians”, faithfully attending services, helping with the cleaning and morning teas, even attending Lenten Bible studies, but never making the effort to pray with someone who is ill or grieving, never sharing their experience of God’s mercy and love with their children or grandchildren, and never letting God out of His Sunday box to show His power and His love in their everyday lives.

If only we took prayer seriously! Jesus told us to use the power of prayer to move mountains, but we don’t even use it to help us dig out a stubborn habit or cure a cold. I have been involved in the Christian Healing Ministry for more than forty years and it is still awesome to see Christ heal physical pain and traumatic emotional scars. and bridge the gap between a tentative faith and the unshakeable realisation that God really IS love.

We can know a lot about the Bible, even to being able to quote chapter and verse, without ever taking to heart the promises of Jesus or letting the Holy Spirit transform us closer and closer to His image. If someone offered us a lifelong make-over of our shabby garden we’d jump at the chance but an on-going progressive make-over of our lives? No way!

Can you imagine the force for good that Christianity offers our troubled world? Love and caring for our neighbour replacing hate and selfishness… words of encouragement instead of sneers and obscenities … shelters for the homeless instead of grandiose mansions for the rich … good clean healthy food and water for everyone instead of luxury for a few.   Let’s be Crusading Chrustians instead of Cruisers!

Two Basins – Our Choice!

Two basins, but what a difference in how they were used! In John13:4-5 we read, “(Jesus) rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel….”
Compare this with Matthew 27:24. “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it.”
John’s basin was used by Jesus to wash the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas who would soon sneak away to betray Him. Taking the role of the lowest household servant, Jesus demonstrated His love and desire to serve us. If Judas had only looked Him in the eye he would have seen the love and compassion there, but I imagine he kept his eyes anywhere but on Jesus’ face.
Pilate’s basin, far from symbolising a longing to serve – symbolised a man with ambition and power –the power of life and death. He could have released Jesus. He admitted He had done nothing wrong. but the risk of Rome’s displeasure kept him silent.
The will to serve? or to grasp for wealth and power? Still our choice.

Retirement? Or Renewal?

2 Corinthians 4:16, 18.
“Even though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is being renewed day by day… for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
At what age can we quit God’s service? How old or infirm do our physical bodies have to be before we can give up caring about others and simply concentrate on our own problems? God has a better idea! He renews the inner man, even while the outer physical shell is wasting away.  Renew the inner man and let us “still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock…” (Psalm 92:14-5).
So I’m sorry if you were expecting a passing out parade and a gold retiree’s watch any time soon. God still has plans for you, even if it’s as simple as a smile and a word of encouragement for those who look after you.