Monday, February 24, 2014

PODCAST: Everyday Healing


Welcome to another podcast episode of Everyday Healing.

I composed these thoughts over the Christmas holidays on the beautiful island of Oahu. I visited my son who is stationed at Schofield Army Barracks, and of course, enjoyed my three energetic grandchildren.

A big thanks to Jim and Deb, friends who made my dream come true. I ask you to join me in blessing them for their generosity!

Beforehand, my oncologist and I discussed taking a much-needed break from chemotherapy for a six-week period. It felt good to have increased energy and a release from a few of the more aggravating side effects from the treatments.

But now I’m back home--full of great memories and ready to catch up.

Today’s Scripture to consider is Philippians 1:12:

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." 

Paul was in chains, imprisoned in Rome when he wrote those words to the believers in Philippi.

He de-emphasized his circumstance, however, to assure them that God was using his adversity to further the Gospel. He exhibited the love and victory found in Christ to everyone who guarded and tended to him. In turn, they shared with family and friends what they saw and heard. Thus, all of Rome was coming to know that Paul was held captive because of the Gospel, and the good news continued to be spread abroad despite the Apostle’s confinement.

Cancer attempts to box us into an oppressive regulated life--therapy, tests, hospitals, and doctors. Often, we cannot see a future beyond these things. The heaviness of our chains seek to diminish our hope over time and wear down our faith. After a while, we are tempted to give up because the fight is too hard, too painful, too full of side effects that work to rob us of the joys of normal, daily living.

Nevertheless, we must make a demand upon what is the full and sufficient grace already residing within us. Although not being as mobile and independent as before…despite having depleted reserves of energy and stamina, we can ask God to turn our situation into opportunities to further the Gospel—WITHIN our limitations—just like Paul.

Just click on the  title "Make It Count", and enjoy basking with me in the Lord's presence!

If this message blessed you, please share it freely with family and friends.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Simeon and Anna:
Discovering God in the Seemingly Insignificant

Today, folks watched Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his burrow in Pennsylvania. Since he saw his shadow this year, six more weeks of winter weather will supposedly linger across the United States. (Southerners prefer to let General Beauregard Lee prognosticate their weather from Stone Mountain, Georgia.)

However, February 2 is also a significant day for Christians—so important that earlier believers in some countries did not consider the Christmas Season concluded until this date.

Candlemas was listed on commercial calendars in my childhood, but I rarely see it noted these days.
Candles are carried in procession before the service, blessed, and distributed as a symbol of the Church to go forth as the light of the world. It is the Christian's "Festival of Lights".  The observance is also known as Christ’s Presentation in the Temple and The Purification of Mary.

Jesus' ransom in the Temple beautifully foretold the imminent reality of humanity's long-awaited redemption, rise, and restoration in Christ to divine heirship. Today, it also challenges us to follow the examples of Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna, who were able to find God in the small and unassuming.

Rembrandt's Simeon and Anna
All first-born males were brought to the Temple for presentation according to the Law. So nothing appeared out of the ordinary that day to the priests, attendants, and scores of people flowing in and out of the Temple courts.

A few visitors probably nodded at Joseph and Mary as they passed--perhaps noting that the couple could only bring an offering permitted for the poor (two turtledoves or two young pigeons).

"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

"So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

'Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 

For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.'

"And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
(Luke 2:25-35)

Based on a personal word from God, Simeon was assured that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah; consequently, he lived expectantly surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the Temple on this particular day where, with spiritual eyes, he was able to recognize that God was present in an unusual way. Through all the noise, converse, and rituals, he discerned the uncommon from the common, the divine swaddled in plain humanity. As a result, Simeon became a pivotal mouthpiece for God, whose prophecy concerning the ministry of Jesus continues to be proclaimed thousands of years later.

Anna had been a widow for eighty-four years. Instead of remarrying, she lived at the Temple and spent her days in prayers and fastings. Anna was also easily moved by the Spirit of God, and she walked by at the very moment Simeon was prophesying over the Savior.

"And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem."(Luke 2:38)

Notice she did not have to stop and ask, "What's going on?" She instantly received a Word of Knowledge and began to prophesy with Simeon.

Simeon's and Anna's prophetic words about Christ are significant; they are the last ones we hear from an old era of salvation by works until Jesus steps out of the Jordan to begin His ministry. What an honor to hold and bless God, the Son, and proclaim the arrival of His Kingdom.

Simeon and Anna are two of my favorite people in the Bible. Their lives give me hope that I, too, can find the divine in the everyday places and people of life.

As a whole, the Jewish nation missed their day of visitation because they had preconceived notions as to how the God-king and rescuer would arrive on earth…how he would look and live. The people were taken off guard and even offended at the lowliness, humility, and gentleness of Jesus.

I'm sure I've missed many days of visitation. That's why I pray for a heart like Simeon's--so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that I can spot God wrapped in the smallest and most unpretentious packaging.

I know I've passed up opportunities to be blessed because I didn't recognize him in that homeless guy that I use to pass on the way to work. I should have taken time to look a little closer into the eyes of the rude clerk at Wal-Mart. I would have seen Jesus through the fatigue of a single mom standing on her feet hour after hour, only to pick up a screaming child from the baby sitter's after work and silently wonder if she could put off her car payment one more time.

We cry, "God, where are you?" and then go blindly through the day. We look, as did Elijah, for the dramatic wind, earthquake, and fire for evidence. We miss Him because we forget that when God came to earth, He chose to do so incarnate in human flesh.

Nothing has changed. God continues to work in the world incarnationally--human to human. You see, the Church is the visible Body of Christ--His heart and His hands--the continuing ministry of Jesus on earth. And God is at work in the lives of the most unlikely, unfortunate, and unlovely of humanity. He challenges us to push past the "outer court" and look deeper.

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ "
Matthew 25:34-40

Did you know that the final covering used for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was porpoise skin? To the undiscerning, it was just a large, dull-looking tent. However, the outer shell served an important purpose because it was resilient and waterproof--ideal to protect the treasure within.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Father, help us recognize you in the people we come across in our daily lives. They bear your image and likeness, though marred and muddied. Help us see past the unlovely skin to the treasure within.

Unlike Anna, I do not physically reside at church twenty-four hours a day, but my heart is a home (temple) for the Holy Spirit; there I can continually commune with Him. I've been praying for some things for what seems like a lifetime, haven't you? However, we must draw encouragement from Simeon and Anna's "suddenlies". It's never too late and you're not too old.

What did Anna and Simeon have in common?

1) They were humble people with extraordinary commitments and sensitivities toward God.

2) They allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt their day (even those noble, religious duties).

3) They had pushed aside fleshly expectations and used their keenly exercised spiritual senses.

No wonder Christians included Simeon and Anna in the Christmas Story!