TOUCHING JESUS

[There was] a woman in the crowd.  -Mark 5:25 NLT

Mark records, “There was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for 12 years.” She is desperate and her desperation births an idea—”She had heard about Jesus” (v27 NLT). Jesus is coming to town. By invitation of the synagogue ruler. Odd to find the ruler and the woman in the same story. He’s powerful. She’s pitiful. But his daughter is dying. Tragedy levels social topography. “If I can just touch His clothing, I will be healed” (v28 TLB). So she scurries through the crowd. Knees bump her ribs. “Move out of the way!” someone shouts. She doesn’t care and doesn’t stop. Jesus’ robe is in sight. She extends her hand. “Immediately.. .she could feel… that she had been healed!” (v29 NLT). She feels power enter. Jesus feels power exit. “Jesus…asked, ‘Who touched my clothes”‘ (v30 TLB). Next we read: “The woman.. ‘knowing she was the one.. .knelt before him, and gave him the whole story” (Mk 5:33 TM). Wow! How long had it been since someone listened to her story? With the town bishop waiting, a child dying and a crowd pressing, He makes time for a woman on the fringe. Using a term He gives to no one else He says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (v34 NLT). And we have been her, haven’t we? Illness took her strength. What took yours? Red ink? Hard drink? Late nights in the wrong arms? Long days in the wrong job? Pregnant too soon? Too often? Is her hand your hand? If so, take heart. Your family may shun it. Society may avoid it. But Christ? He wants to touch it. Yes, yours is the hand He loves to hold!



BE A FOXHOLE FRIEND (2)

TWO can accomplish more.   -Ecclesiastes 4:9 TLB

Before you get into a foxhole with someone, understand:

(l) Foxhole friends are few. During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln once received a request to pardon a soldier sentenced to be executed for desertion. The man didn’t have a single letter of support vouching for him. Next morning the officer was shocked to hear Lincoln say that the testimony of a friend had sealed his decision to pardon the man. When the officer reminded the President that the request had come with no letter of reference, Lincoln simply stated “I will be his friend” then signed his pardon. If you have such people in your life value them, they are rare indeed,

(2 )Foxhole friends provide strength before and during the battle. Even before the battle, simply knowing that someone believes in you and will fight for you is uplifting. Epicurus said “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confident knowledge that they will help us.”

(3) Foxhole friends see things from the same perspective. Five-year-old Tracey asked her dad if she could play at the house of a friend. He told her she could as long as she was home by 6 0’clock for dinner. When 6 0’clock rolled around Tracey was nowhere to be seen. After about 25 minutes, Tracey opened the front door. Her father, working to control his impatience, asked where she’d been. “My friend’s doll broke right when I was supposed to leave for home.” Her dad said, “And I suppose you were helping her fix it?” Tracey replied, “No, I was helping her cry.” What was Tracey? She was a foxhole friend! Are you?



BE A FOXHOLE FRIEND (1)

TWO can accomplish more.     -Ecclesiastes 4:9 TLB

It is said that Marines are taught to dig a foxhole big enough for a friend. That’s good advice! We all face battles in life, and our “foxholes” come in many shapes and sizes.

So let’s understand three things:

 (1) The foxhole is for you and a friend—not a friend alone. You can ask a friend to fight with you, but you should never send someone else to fight your battles for you.

(2) Before the battle, you should have developed the friendship. Foxholes aren’t about using people. You first need to be a friend, before asking for the help of a friend.

(3) You have also been in your friend’s foxhole with them. You should be willing to fight for any friend whose help you would request. That’s what friends do.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Never let it be said you were a silent friend! Here are two important truths about foxholes.

(a) Foxholes without friends are unhealthy. Trying to face the world alone is dangerous and unscriptural: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Ge 2: 18 NLT).

(b) Foxholes prove friendships. In tough times you discover who your real friends are. When Pepper Rodgers coached at UCLA, his team had some bad seasons. Recalling one, Rodgers told a reporter “My dog was about my only friend, and I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends. So she bought me another dog.” As the old saying goes: “In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”



HOW TO SUCCEED ON THE JOB

With good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men.  -Ephesians 6:7

How do you succeed on the job?

(l) By keeping your eyes on your objective. Are you selling windows? Then don’t walk into someone’s house and offer unsolicited advice about their living room décor. Focus on what you’re called to do. People can be easily offended, and by speaking about areas outside your expertise—what your customer has solicited your help in—you can jeopardize good opportunities. And learn to appreciate people, even those you don’t like. Customers are not friends; friends are friends. Place value on others. Respect them, even if your personal opinions differ from theirs! Remember, your success is not determined by their personality.

(2) By treating everyone fairly and equally. If you show favoritism by only being kind and respectful to those you like, you’re in for trouble—if not now, then down the road. You need to learn how to work with people who aren’t your favorites. Why? Because they will remember your attitude, whether good or bad, and not be particularly inclined to help you in the future.

(3) By trying not to take things personally. You must learn to let go of grudges and to set aside past histories with some of your co-workers. When you find your emotions flaring up and you’re tempted to react, stop and remember what’s really going on; you’re in the midst of a battle and the first shots have been fired. This is the time to say a silent prayer, remember your true calling, and respond with love, patience and a professionalism that will cause those around you to want what you’ve got!



SMALL DEEDS COUNT

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

Zechariah 4:10 NLT

What seems small to you might be huge to someone else. Ask Bohn Fawkes. During World War Il he piloted a B-17. On one mission he sustained flak from Nazi anti-aircraft guns. Even though his gas tanks were hit the plane did not explode, and Fawkes was able to land it. On the morning following the raid Fawkes asked his crew chief for the German shell, to keep as a souvenir of his good fortune. The chief explained that not just one, but eleven shells had been found in the gas tank, none of which had exploded. Technicians opened the shells and found them void of explosive charge. They were clean and harmless, and with one exception, empty. The exception contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it a message had been scrawled in the Czech language: “This is all we can do for you now.” A courageous assembly line worker was disarming bombs and scribbled that note. He couldn’t end the war, but he could save one plane. He couldn’t do everything, but he could do something, and he did it.

So, send that e-mail. Make that phone call. Write that check. David had a sling. Rahab had a string. Dorcas had a needle. All were used by God. What do you have? John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” With God, small deeds count!



CONFESSION

I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32:5 NIV

Confession does for our soul what working the ground does for the soil. Before the farmer sows his seed he works the land, removing the rocks and pulling the stumps. Why? Because seed grows better in prepared soil. Confession invites God to walk the acreage of our hearts. “There’s a rock of greed over here, Father. I can’t budge it. And that tree of lust near the fence? Its roots are long and deep. And here’s some dry soil, too crusty for seed!” Confession seeks pardon from God, not amnesty. Pardon accepts guilt; amnesty, derived from the same Greek word as amnesia, “forgets” the offence without acknowledging guilt.

Remember Peter who denied his Master when he should have defended Him? How did the New Testament writers know the details of Peter’s failure? How did Matthew know Peter’s accent made him a suspect? How did Luke learn of the glance of Jesus that melted Peter’s heart? Who told all 4 Gospel writers about the crowing rooster and flowing tears? Most likely, Peter himself! “Fellows, I’ve got to get something off my chest.” He describes that terrible morning, the fire, the girl, and the look on the face of Jesus. How can we be sure of this? Because Peter couldn’t stay away from Christ! Who was the first man to run to the empty tomb? Who was the first to jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus who stood on the shore? Peter! Those who keep secrets from God keep their distance from God. But those who are honest with God, draw near to God.



“IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH”

 Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV

Richard Selzer writes: “I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy; clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nonetheless, to remove the tumor from her cheek I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will be. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.” All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not old in an encounter with God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate her, and to show her that their kiss still works.”

A mastectomy, an illness, the loss of a limb that changes life forever by confining you or someone you love to a bed or a wheelchair, can transform the words, “In sickness and in health” into one of love’s greatest tests. In such painful moments we discover the truth of Scripture “Love never fails.”



TRUE GIVING (2)

See that you also excel in this grace of giving.      2 Corinthians      NIV

Our giving should be regulated and motivated by— gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Paul writes: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2Co 8:9 NIV). Understanding how gracious and generous God is to us is important, because some of us give Him our leftovers. If we’ve anything left after we’ve paid our bills and done everything we wanted to do, we’ll give. But even if we give God a million dollars, if it’s out of our leftovers, have we given Him our best? (See Mal 1:6-9).

Some people are “re-givers.” Re-givers receive a present they don’t want, wrap it up and give it to someone else. Some folks have whole closets full of such gifts. That’s how some of us approach giving to God—and it’s an insult! In the New Testament you don’t see preachers begging, selling stuff or using gimmicks to raise money for God’s work. What you see are people like the Macedonians responding to God’s grace because they understood and loved the God they served.

Everything God created was meant to give. He created the sun to give light during the day and the moon and stars during the night. He created flowers to give seeds. God Himself is a giver: “For God so loved the world, that he gave” (Jn 3:16). When you understand grace, circumstances take a back seat. Your giving is not determined by your debt-to-income ratios, financial indexes, leading economic indicators, or tax brackets. No, your giving is motivated by God’s grace!



TRUE GIVING (1)

See that you also excel in this grace of giving.      2 Corinthians      NIV

Paul tells the Corinthians “see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2Co 8:7 NIV). Then he challenges them with the example of the givers in Macedonia: “I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people in those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of… generous gifts. . . They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford! —pleading for the privilege of helping  This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives” (2Co 8:1-6 TM). Notice, the Macedonian givers: (1) First gave themselves to the Lord, with no reservations.

(2) Understood that everything they possessed was through God’s grace alone. Paul said that the way he knew the Macedonians had given themselves to the Lord, was that they begged him for the offering plate. Wow! When was the last time you sat in church, anxiously waiting for the offering to be taken because you couldn’t wait to give? This is not giving because the preacher is begging, or the ministry will go under, or you feel guilty, or you’re trying to cut a deal with God. No, this is giving out of the overflow of God’s goodness to you. This is true giving!



ARE YOU MOVING TOO FAST?

One who moves too hurriedly misses the way.  Proverbs 19:2 NRS

John Ortberg writes: “When I first moved to Chicago I called a friend—the wisest spiritual man I know— and asked him, ‘What do I need to do to be healthy spiritually?’ He said, ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’ There was a long pause, and I finally said ‘Okay.’ I wrote that one down. ‘Now, what else do you have to tell me, because I don’t have much time and I want to get a lot of wisdom out of this conversation.’ He replied ‘There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life. You can hardly do anything the way Jesus did it if you’re in a hurry. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried. Hurry is an inward condition in which you’re so frantic and preoccupied that you’re unable to receive love from the Father, unable to be present with other people, or to give love to them.”‘

Understand this: things will not just “settle down.” If you wait to get around to what really matters, you’ll never do what God’s called you to do! Your soul will wither. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Furthermore, no one else can do this for you—not your boss, your pastor, your spouse, your kids, or your best friend. You must do this for yourself. Take a moment and ponder these two scriptures: (l) “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Pr 19:23 NIV). (2) “Desire without knowledge is not good, and the one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (Pr 19:2 NRS).




 

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