Before we can have peace on earth, we must have peace within our communities. Before we can have peace within our communities, we must have peace within our families. Before we can have peace within our families, we must have peace within.
Unfortunately, instead of Christmas being a time of peace, it is a time of great stress for many. Overfilled calendars and planners, strapped budgets and strained family relationships often come along with the holidays. How, then, do we overcome the accompanying anxiety and dwell in peace? Let’s look to Paul.
While confined in a Roman prison he penned the text of Philippians proclaiming his contentment in whatever situations (including prison) he found himself (4:11). How? How could he be content, at peace in prison? His “secret” comes in the preceding text, verses 4-8.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV)
There are three key words in this text, and they provide us somewhat of a formula for peace. Prayer. Supplication. Thanksgiving.
In this stressful season and throughout life, pray. About what? Everything! Don’t get caught up in the theology of prayer – what it is, what it isn’t, how to, how not to… Prayer is talking to God. Whatever is robbing you of your peace, talk to Him about it.
Supplication is the fifty cent word for asking earnestly and humbly. Praying is not about laying out a list of requests before God. (Do not confuse God with Santa Claus.) In prayer we come humbly before our Father, and in that relationship of child and Father, we share with Him all that is on our hearts – our frustrations, our confusion, our fears, our angst, our sorrows our disappointments… Whatever you are feeling, tell Him.
Thanksgiving is synonymous with gratitude. “But God hasn’t answered my prayer yet,” you might say. Thank Him for loving you, for hearing you and for accepting the burden that is troubling you. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burden on the Lord and, in the words of Charles Tindley’s 1916 hymn, leave them there! That alone is enough to be thankful for – not only can we give our troubles to the Lord, we are commanded to do so, and He will take care of each one. What else can you be thankful for? Past faithfulness. God’s love. God’s grace. Salvation! Thank Him when you pray expecting that He will answer!
In 1955 Jill Jackson Miller and her husband, Sy Miller, penned another familiar song that shares a powerful lesson for us. The opening line is “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Pray in earnest humility thanking God for what He can do, has done and will do – then let peace begin with you!
THIS WEEK: What action can you take each day this week to bring peace to someone or to some situation?
“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
And Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”
And Jesus said, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”
And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
And he said unto her, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (KJV)
I think no woman can even begin to imagine having “an issue of blood” for twelve years! Twelve months would be unbearable; twelve days alone is debilitating, but twelve years?! Try to imagine this woman’s life. The Law made it clear that unless her bleeding ceased for at least seven days, everyone and everything she touched would be deemed unclean and cursed, just as she was.
I imagine her as the subject of idle gossip and ill-intended chitchat because everyone knew about her issue. I suspect some didn’t even know her name; she was defined by her issue. And I picture her isolated, outcast, alone and lonely yearning not just for healing but for companionship and friendship.
What “issue” is defining you?
Be honest with yourself.
Do people know you as an adulterer? Do co-workers raise their eyebrows when you speak because you are a liar? Has the PTA and playground crowd tagged you as a bad mother? Is the Bridge Club whispering in the corner because you’ve been an unfaithful wife? Have your friends labeled you as wishy-washy? Or narcissistic? Maybe unreliable? Possibly bossy? Does your employer consider you incompetent? Lazy? Unproductive? Are you a troublemaker? A quitter?
Has your “issue” isolated you?
Do people avoid you, make excuses to shorten their conversations with you and always seem to have somewhere to go when you appear on the scene? Or does shame make you keep to yourself? Might you be afraid to show your real self because of your “issue?”
That’s how it was for Luke’s woman. For twelve years the woman in Luke’s story was identified and isolated by her issue.
Mark shares this same story in his Gospel with a few more details. A key one is found in Mark5:27-28 (KJV) which says, “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.’”
Therein lies the secret to our “issues.” Jesus.
The context of this story conveys another important point for us. Jesus was not alone. He was in a crowd. The woman touched Jesus, and He asked, “Who touched me?” Peter and the other disciples don’t believe their ears. “Who touched You? You have to be kidding? Who, in this crowd, didn’t touch You? People are everywhere.”
But Jesus knew there had been a special touch, a seeking touch, a believing touch, a power-filled touch. Jesus knew the woman needed a touch, and He knew the exact moment when she had touched His garment.
And He knows that you need His touch as well!
Make note of three quick points. Jesus asks, “Who touched me” then, according to Mark, “looked round about to see her that had done this thing.” This woman had broken the Law, and here is Jesus putting her on blast. If anyone hadn’t seen her, they saw her then. Mark and Luke tell us that the woman fell at Jesus’ feet. Luke says the woman “declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” Mark concludes this story with Jesus telling the woman to “go in peace and be healed.”
In calling attention to the woman, Jesus brought glory to God identifying Him as the Healer. Point One – Your “issue” is not just about you. Lay it at Jesus’ feet and permit Him to heal you and to bring glory to God. Point Two – Healing requires boldness to overcome the fear of what others may say about you and your “issue.”
Jesus told the woman to go and be healed. Wasn’t she healed when she touched His garment? The bleeding stopped, but the healing was incomplete. Sheila Walsh suggests the woman needed healing from shame, disappointment, self-hatred and the burden that the “issue” had been. Jesus knew that the woman needed to be made whole; she needed salvation. Point Three – Christ works in our lives well beyond the point at which we first come to faith. He desires that we become whole in Him.
“Issues” of blood are draining. After extensive bleeding, anemia is likely. The Mayo Clinic tells us that as the body becomes increasingly deficient in iron, anemia worsens and signs and symptoms intensify. Symptoms vary but may include extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness and, eventually, death.
“Issues” of the heart are no different. Isn’t it time for you to lay yours at Jesus’ feet?
Read Mark 5:27-34 this week and ponder the daily questions for reflection.
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said unto him, “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
And he said unto her, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
Monday Questions for Reflection: What is your “issue?” How has it caused you to suffer? How is it defining you?
Tuesday Questions for Reflection: The Law prohibited the woman from touching others no doubt leaving her feeling isolated, abandoned and lonely. How does your “issue” isolate you from others? Are you choosing to isolate yourself – your REAL self?
Wednesday Questions for Reflection: The woman risked breaking the Purity Law and pressed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ garment. What risks must you take to be free of your “issue?” What or whom is keeping you from Jesus?
Thursday Questions for Reflection: Jesus told the woman her faith had made her whole. Do you have the faith necessary to experience God’s miracle in your own life? Are there areas in your life that you do not yet trust to God? What are they? What keeps you from trusting?
Friday Questions for Reflection: The woman, fearing and trembling, fell at Jesus’ feet and, before the crowd, told Jesus everything. Testimony of healing is powerful. Will you lay your “issue” at Jesus’ feet, be healed and share your testimony with others? Who needs to hear your testimony?
Over the past few days I have been reflecting on the many names of God. Someone once asked, “Why? Why so many names for the One true and living God?” Well, consider the many names we have for our family members and friends. Formal names and more intimate names that attest to our relationships. Mom, mommy, Mommy Dearest (smile, couldn’t resist). Dad, Pops, Daddy, Father. My Sweetie. My Honey. My Boo Boo Kitty.
Every Name of God attests to His character – who He is as well as to a relationship we can have with Him.
I think of God and pray to God using a variety of names with one of my favorite and most used being “Abba Father.” It has long been supposed and broadly accepted that the ancient Aramaic word “Abba” is a term of familiarity that a young child might use to address his/her Daddy or Papa. That’s big for me; I was a bona fide Daddy’s Girl, so that my God would allow me to approach Him and to address Him as Daddy is big. But that He would embrace me, open His arms to receive me and His ear to hear my cries as His child? Wow! That’s even bigger.
But another Name has been on my heart. I woke one morning last week with it on my mind. It comes from Psalm 3:3 (ESV). “You, O Lord are…the lifter of my head.” The Lifter of My Head. Double Wow.
So many things, so many experiences make us hang our heads. Sometimes from shame, possibly from confusion, perhaps from exhaustion, maybe a sense of defeat or overwhelming grief. We hang our heads. We hang our heads. I’m convinced that sometimes we don’t even realize our heads are hanging; we have become accustomed to and accepted the defeat of that posture, so let me repeat. He is the lifter of our heads.
This Scripture paints for us a word picture, so make sure you get the complete picture. Naturally, in times of trouble, we hang our heads. So, it would follow to reason that as the lifter of our heads, God brings us out of whatever it is that caused our heads to hang. But go a little deeper. It also means that He will bring us into a situation and time that will cause our heads to be held high. There are several examples in Scripture where heads were lifted up. 2 Kings 25:27 tells us that the King of Babylon lifted up the head of Jehoiachin out of prison, and Genesis 40 says that Joseph foresaw that Pharaoh would lift up the head of the cupbearer and restore him to his position.
If men – Kings, Pharaohs – can lift heads and restore positions and wealth, just think what God can do for us!
It is David who is telling us in Psalm that God will be the lifter of his head. Understand the context of this passage. David’s son, Absalom, had rebelled against him and turned the people of Israel against him causing David to flee Jerusalem with little more than the clothes he was wearing. 2 Samuel 15 says that David climbed up the Mount of Olives, covered his head and wept. He hung his head.
David was King. He had resources at his hand. Though Absalom had turned the people of Israel against him, there were surely others that he could have turned to. He chose to turn to God. Why? You have to look closely at Psalm 3. Earlier in the passage David declared, “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory” before adding “and the lifter of my head.” David’s choice of expressions – me and my – indicate a personal relationship and intimacy with God.
The past is irrevocable, irreversible and unchangeable. But Joel 2:25-27 (AMP) reads, “I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten…you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the Name of the Lord…I the Lord am your God and there is none else. My people shall never be put to shame.” Translation? He will lift your head!
Reflect on that this week!
Monday: Psalm 3:1 (NIV)
“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me?”
Questions for Reflection: What or Who is causing or has caused you to hang your head? Have you, like David, cried out to the Lord? If not, why not? If yes, what answer have you heard?
Tuesday: Psalm 3:2 (NIV)
“Many are saying of me, “’God will not deliver him.’”
Questions for Reflection: Do you believe that God will deliver you? Why or why not? What is the evidence of your belief?
Wednesday: Acts 4:12 (NIV)
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Questions for Reflection: To whom or what have you been looking for strength, hope, restoration, salvation? How has that worked for you? What changes do you need to make?
Thursday: Psalm 3:6 (NIV)
“I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”
Question for Reflection: FEAR is false evidence appearing real. What “false evidence” have you accepted as truth? Jot down your fears and name specifically those things, people, emotions and situations that assail you. Pray very specifically about each one and make note of God’s responses to your prayers.
Friday: Psalm 3:8a (NIV)
“From the Lord comes deliverance.”
Questions for Reflection: Are you positioned and postured expecting deliverance? What are you doing in the meantime?
Yesterday felt like the title of a book I read some years ago, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (Mark Batterson, Author). Just read that title and ponder each word while adding the next word and image to it. In a pit. Bad. With a lion. Worse. On a snowy day. Worst! But actually, there is good news in this story from 1 Chronicles. Paul tells us in Romans 15:4 (NASB) that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that…we might have hope.” So what are the lessons from the text that gave title to Batterson’s book?
First, let’s read the Scripture.
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)
What instruction does this text, written in earlier times, have for us? Well, let’s see.
Benaiah was the son of a Priest. We have a personal relationship with a great High Priest – Jesus. (Hebrews 4:14)
Benaiah was a valiant fighter. You are a fighter. Daily, you must fight the good fight of faith! (1 Timothy 6:12)
Benaiah was from Kabzeel, a city in southern Judah. The name means “gathering of God.” As a Christian, you are part of God’s gathering, the church.
Benaiah struck down two warriors from Moab. The Moabites were closely related to the Israelites, but they were enemies of Israel. There are those who are close to you, but they are your enemies. Perhaps your closest enemy might even be you – your flesh, that is. And you must strike down those enemies – yes, flesh included.
Benaiah went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. Bet you’re thinking, “Hmm. Let’s see her make a connection with this one!” 1 Peter 5:8b says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Renowned Pastor, Ray Stedman said in a sermon addressing this topic, “Benaiah slew a lion — a lion, not a leopard, not a wild hyena or a boar or a buffalo, but a lion… it is not for nothing that the lion is called the king of beasts, because it is indeed a very powerful animal.”
But I did a little research.
The “king of the jungle” doesn’t have the strongest bite. There are many other cats and many other animals that surpass the lion for bite. As a matter of fact, ListVerse says, the lion has the “weakest bite of the genus Pathera or big cat.” Wow. But the research clearly points out that the lion doesn’t need a strong bite. This big cat is really a social animal and presents as quite cooperative during the hunt. It is not by power of bite that the lion kills; rather, it is by strangling its prey – biting the trachea. ListVerse says lions “lack the need of a strong bite.”
Our enemy, the Devil, prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour. Like a lion, he is often social. Like a lion, he is often cooperative. Like a lion, he doesn’t need a strong bite. Like a lion, he often slips up on us and strangles the life out of us.
Every one of us has a lion prowling and pursuing us – that something, someone or some situation that is waiting, seeking to devour us. It might be a loss that we just can’t seem to move beyond – the grief of it has entangled our hearts and minds and even our lives. We may even feel as though a part of us died. There may be a physical disease that is daily draining our bodies of strength or our minds of clarity. Possibly your lion is a habit – a bad habit, that you know is killing you – a substance addiction, gambling, overeating, gossiping, worrying… Your lion might be fear – of the unknown or of something very specific, but it has you paralyzed. You know your lion.
But let’s get back to Benaiah.
Benaiah met his lion in a pit on a snowy day. Bad enough to meet a lion – anywhere. (I once met one on an African road. The body and windows of a little old minivan separated us. That was not enough for me, so in a pit? Not!) But Benaiah met his lion in a pit. Pits tend to be small. They tend to be deep. They tend to have slippery sides. They tend to be hard to escape. And then it was snowing! When I first read this Scripture, my response was, “Really!” (Not as in I doubted, but as in “Really. Can this get any worse?”)
Have you been there yet? In the pit with your lion? On a snowy day? Ray Stedman said, “He met the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.” Now, that’s the Devil for you. Getting you right where he wants you and setting you up for the kill.
Turn to Benaiah once more. The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”
Hopefully, you are encouraged that you can face your lion. You can go down into the pit with him – even on a snowy day, and emerge victorious.
But there is one remaining question. How? How did Benaiah kill the lion? How do you kill your lion?
I am typically a private person – sorta. I talk. A lot. But I share what I want to share. There are certain “topics” that I simply don’t discuss. Decided that a long time ago.
So, I was the first person to be surprised by what my fingers were typing. But, as I told a friend, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to share. Still, though, I have been running this narrative in my head:
“Hmm, probably should’ve kept that to yourself.”
“That’s too much information.”
“Well, it’s out there now.”
And, since we are being open and honest, I will confess that I even thought, “Well, you could deny that it was YOUR story.”
And then, I was cleaning up one of my personal email boxes. I don’t get to those boxes as often as I used to, so there are a lot of messages. I am able to see the subject lines which helps me decide quickly whether I want to open the message and read it or simply delete it and move on. One line caught my attention: “Someone, Somewhere Needs to Hear Your Story.”
My first thought was, “Does God do email?”
Well, I know the answer. “No. He gets others to send it for Him.” (Smile)
Why do we keep our stories locked away in diaries, buried deep within ourselves and barricaded behind clenched teeth? There are myriad reasons. None good. None excusable. None acceptable. Not really.
Oh, there’s shame, guilt, fear, pride… Like I said, none good.
Acts 1:8 (NET) says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Let’s just get three things straight.
When the Holy Spirit comes to you, you shall be witnesses. Translation, you will speak and share how Jesus has worked in your life. Yes, we are called to share the Gospel of the Good News and to tell others how they can be saved, but that is not all that we are called to share. Our personal stories are the most powerful – especially those of how we were saved, healed, forgiven, restored…
You shall be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth. Translation, you will witness anywhere and everywhere.
You shall be witnesses. Translation, you shall be witnesses.
One of the greatest testimonies ever recorded was that of a pagan emperor who came to know that the God of Israel was the only true and living God. In Daniel 4:1-2 (NET) King Nebuchadnezzar testified to all peoples, nations and language groups living in the land, “I am delighted to tell you about the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me.” In 1 Chronicles 16:8 (NET), David directs the Israelites to “Give thanks to the Lord! Call on His Name! Make known His accomplishments among the nations!”
Not so comfortable telling all peoples, nations and language groups? You probably don’t have to. Just be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and tell what He directs you to tell, when and to whom.
Summer has ended and fall has truly begun – not just on the calendar, but in the weather. We’ve had some really cool nights and mornings. I love the change in the seasons, especially between summer and fall. But I’m a little sad, too. This summer seemed to fly, and it is the first summer in years that we did not get to the beach. Once. Never. Not even a drive by.
I am really fortunate to live about an hour’s drive from the ocean – the real beach! Ponds are nice. Lakes are lovely. But nothing compares to the ocean. Waves lapping. Squishy sand between your toes. Seashells and Seagulls. Sometimes we’ve driven to the beach just for a walk along the shore. With sandals in hand we let the waves wash over our feet, and we occasionally stoop to pick up shells.
That’s a good day – walking hand-in-hand with someone you love along the water’s edge. But to really enjoy (and experience) the ocean, you have to go beyond the shore.
The same is true with life. The same is true in ministry. We have to go beyond the shore.
“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:1-4 KJV)
Obediently, but possibly with some hesitancy, Simon launched out. Isn’t this His command for us, too? Aren’t we to launch out into the deep doing what our Lord commands? No excuses. No hanging around the periphery? No sticking with the familiar and the comfortable. No waiting for something to wash up onshore.
Faith can bring the most unexpected of miracles. Verses 6 and 7 of Luke 5 (KJV) tells us that when Simon and his men had done what was commanded, “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”
Faith is about action. We can say that we have faith, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20 KJV). Simon could have responded to the Master, “Thank you for letting us know that there are fish in the lake. Wow, we were wondering since we didn’t catch any. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow night.”
Faith requires us to yield – our thinking, our possessions, ourselves. Our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) We must trust His commands and be quick to obey them.
As Alvin Slaughter sings, “…by faith we must climb into the boat, and follow His command” letting our faith take us somewhere that we’ve never been before. “Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”
“Sometimes we hold on a little longer than we should Letting go can be hard but it’s sometimes for our good The fear of what’s ahead sometimes makes us fall behind. We can see the times are changing but pretend that we’re so blind You’ll never really know just what the future holds But we know God holds us in His hand. So by faith we must climb into the boat; And follow His command.
CHORUS Launch out into the deep. Let your faith take you somewhere that you’ve never been before. Launch out into the deep. Let your faith make you fly. Let your faith make you soar. Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”