Friday, July 22, 2011

God Our Healer

I have been pondering the name, Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. Growing up I knew God could heal. I had heard the stories of Jesus healing the blind man, the lame man, the lepers, and raising people from the dead. God had created mankind, He could heal us.

I have also personally experienced God’s miraculous healing power in a way that gave me a whole new perspective on Jehovah Rapha. Right after I got married, I began to suffer debilitating reflux. I missed work, lost sleep and was in so much pain I couldn’t go twelve hours without taking some medicine. When I was 28, my Dad prayed for me and I was miraculously healed. One day, I was taking medicine every 12 hours and the next I was healed! Amazing!

More recently, I have been learning about God’s ability to heal our hearts and our souls. My Mom has shared with me her insight on God’s ability to heal great hurts from our past and emotional pain.

Her Timeline Process involves visualizing giving Jesus the painful feelings and events from our past. She said that if we still feel pain after we give Jesus the pain from our past we should:

A. FORGIVE- Say, "I forgive those who caused/allowed my “pain, trauma, abuse, etc.”, for parents/others not honoring me" (Matt 6:14, Eph 6:4)

B. REPENT- Say, "I repent of sins and name specific sins such as anger, fear, greed, making a vow, not honoring my parents" (l John 1:9-10)

C. VOWS- Say "I break any vow in Jesus' Name" (For example: I will never do such and such again, or talk to them, or trust them again)
Deut 27:15-26, Num30:2

D. JESUS- Ask Jesus come in and heal me. (Through rewriting the experience or by showing Himself in the situation (Ps 147:3)If you were not a Christian at the time of the offense, ask Jesus to come into your life at that time. (Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Heb 13:8) (He became the curse when he hung on the cross/tree. Gal 3:13) (He does not condemn, we are saved through Him. John3:17)

E. GOOD GIFTS-Next, Recognize the Work of the Holy Spirit providing in the gifts to counter-balance the negatives. Ask Jesus for good gifts to replace the pain and loss. For example ask for Joy to replace grief/mourning

F. SEAL-Ask God to seal the good work of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. Next, Gather and Bind any other negative reactions or backlash.

When she first shared her perspective on this, I was skeptical. However, God worked on my heart so I could experience this truth. One night, we were talking about something that happened when I was a teenager. Even though it had been over twenty years, talking about it still hurt. Humbling myself, I asked her to walk me through her Timeline Process. As she led me through this process, I was miraculously healed. The pain is not only gone, but I now see how God replaced what was destroyed with something only He could give. As a result of this experience, I look at healing very differently now. I realized that it isn’t just our physical bodies that need healing but our spirit and souls, as well. As Author Kay Arthur says, “Only one Physician can heal the ills of our souls.”

How have you experienced God's healing power in your life?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Will You Be My Friend?

The other day I was sharing with my Bible study group about my insensitivity to other people’s feelings and overall lack of social awareness. For example, when one friend asked me about her new short haircut, I looked closely at her and said, “Oh, I’ve had bad hair cuts, too.” After sharing this, my neighbor Elizabeth asked with absolute sincerity and curiosity, “Penny, how do you have so many friends?” I paused for a moment and joked, “Maybe since I am so insensitive that I just don’t realize that they aren’t actually my friends.” While I joked about it, I really started to wonder, “How do I have so many really good friends?”

God has truly blessed me with wonderful friends, who know me, encourage me and bless me. Friends like my neighbor Elizabeth, wonderful college friends, and Kimberly, my best friend from high school. God has blessed me with friends that are much smarter, more stylish, better organized, more creative, compassionate, and better singers. It is truly miraculous that someone as socially inept as I am, with no sense of style, and who discovered that I was lactose intolerant late in life; would be so blessed with such wonderful, gifted beautiful friends.

As I was pondering the miracle of my friends – God brought to mind the prayer my friend’s mom, Beth prayed in 8th grade for her daughter Kimberly to have good friends. Kimberly’s family had just moved to Charlotte and so Beth started praying for her daughter to have good friends, friends that would encourage her and bless her. As Kimberly and I grew to be friends in 9th grade, Beth shared with me that I was an answer to her prayer for Kimberly.

As Beth shared her prayer with me, God used it to begin the process of softening my hard heart. Two years before, I had decided that I could achieve my middle school goals of good grades and friends without God’s help. But instead of the success and happiness that I longed for, I was lonely, had bad grades, didn’t have enough money and had a really bad perm.

On my own, I had failed at all the things that I thought would make people like me and want to be my friend. God used Beth’s prayer to show me that He could give me good friends. As I grew in my friendship with Kimberly in high school, I realized that friendship wasn’t based on who I was because I was not worthy to have such a beautiful, smart, giving friend as Kimberly. I could never reciprocate the trips to the beach or put gas in her car. I realized that it was God who provided friends. When I went to college, I realized that my Father God could answer my heart’s prayer for friends, just as He had answered Beth’s prayer for a friend for her daughter. In the years, since He has abundantly answered my prayer for friends.

While thinking about Elizabeth’s question, I realized my friends are not a reflection of my worthiness, my sense of style, or my achievements; they are a reflection of God’s love for me. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father…”, My friends are a wonderful gift from God, the on-going answer to a Mother’s prayer for her 8th grade daughter to have a good friend. (NIV)

How has God answered your prayer for friends for yourself and for your children?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eating a Cookie for Lent

Over the years, God has used Lent to teach me and show me some amazing things. A couple of years ago, I gave up sugar for Lent and I was feeling pretty good about living a sugar-free, Splenda life. I started taking cinnamon in my coffee and the only chocolate I had had was 3 or four tiny sugar-free Dove chocolates. Except for ordering sweet tea right after Lent began and a bite of a peanut butter granola bar- which I spit out, I had done a great job of not eating sugar.

About three weeks after Lent started, we decided to go to hit the Taco Bell drive-through after church. Though I had a difficult time deciding, I finally settled on a chicken Grilled Stuffed Burrito. Since my husband and I both like these, I was a little surprised when I opened the bag to find only one Grilled Stuffed Burrito.

“Honey,” I said, “They didn’t put your burrito in the bag. There’s only my burrito in the bag.”
“I didn’t order a burrito for you. That is my burrito.” He said, “You asked for a chicken soft taco. I ordered what you asked for.”
“I asked for a chicken grilled stuffed burrito,” I said.
“No you didn’t, I listen, and you ordered a chicken soft taco,” he said.

Now, it is possible that I didn’t say Grilled Stuffed Burrito because I frequently misspeak and say the wrong word. For instance, I’ll say “Did you get ice cream” when I meant to say “Did you get gas?” However on rare occasions, my husband doesn’t hear what I say. So based on our track record, it is likely that I could have said Chicken Soft Taco or that he could have heard Chicken Soft Taco. So, I asked him to go back through the long Taco Bell line so that I could have a grilled stuffed burrito. He said no.

This made me mad, spitting mad, hungry mad. So I started to eat his burrito. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t yell, cry or talk. I just slowly and deliberately ate his lunch. About halfway through, I started to feel bad and so I offered him the half of the burrito I hadn’t eaten. He declined.

We got home and God brought to mind the passage in Luke 6:27-31 that I had read before church. "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

When I read this passage in the morning, I wondered how I could apply it. I didn’t have any enemies and no one had asked for my cloak. God said to me, “Penny, you’ve spent so much energy on not eating sugar, being perfect under a “man-made law.” I didn’t ask you to give up sugar, I asked you to love one another.” I knew had had to stop focusing on not eating sugar and start focusing on loving my husband.

So sadly, I went down stairs and had a cookie. The cookie tasted bitter in my mouth and I knew that was nothing in comparison to my selfishness. To some people eating a cookie would not be a sad thing but to me it was a sign of my sinfulness, my failure to love, and to follow His greatest command, “Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.”

How has God used Lent to draw you closer to him and others?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thoughts on being Holy

Hebrews 10:10 it says “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

This scripture says something amazing; When we believe in Jesus, we are holy. We don’t have to do anything to be holy because, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has done it all. We can stand before God, pure and clean, righteous and holy.

So now that we are holy, what does that mean? The word “holy” means “set apart.” For example, dirt is just dirt except when God tells Moses to take off his shoes because he is on Holy Ground. Bowls are just bowls except when they are used in the service of the temple, and then they are holy. Bread is just bread except when it is broken and taken in communion. Being used by God for His purposes and plans is what makes each of these things holy. The same goes for us; we are holy because we are set apart for God’s use and purposes, not our own.

Being holy also means that we need to separate ourselves from the life patterns and evil desires of the past. 1 Peter 1:14 says “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

Do you think you are holy in all you do? Why or why not? If I am honest, I have to say that I am not. First, I am terrified of the accountability of being “holy.” I think I don’t like accountability in general. For instance, when we bought my mini van it was brand new and I was a little disappointed because I would have preferred a used car. The funny thing is even though I am a major cheap skate, my reason for wanting a used van was not just price but was so that if I got some dings on it or a fender bender; it would be no big deal. So before I agreed to get a new van, I made my husband promise that he would not say anything about the cleanliness or dings on the side of the van. I didn’t want to have to keep my van “perfect” without spot or blemish just like I don’t want to have to keep my life perfect. If my car is perfect, even the slightest imperfection is noticeable but one more scratch among hundreds is no big deal. I am afraid if I am “set apart” and I do unholy things, what will people say; will they hold up my hypocrisy and weakness and doubt God or even worse judge me? I think if I don’t even try then maybe no one will notice my mistakes.

I am also afraid of being set apart for God’s purposes. Living a holy life sometimes means giving up certain things that other people are able to do. I am not sure if I want to give up things I like in order to be used by God. One of the biggest things that I struggle with is giving up my wants and desires. Being holy means that I will be used by God for his purposes and plans, not my own. Just as the priests, bowls and knives in the temple were holy- used for the purposes that God intended. So my life would be for God’s purposes and plans. – am I willing to give up whatever God calls me to give up for His plans and purposes because He has made me holy?

I would love to be “good” or even “great” but “holy” is scary and alienating. I am worried that if I live my life wholly for the Lord, if I am set apart from the culture or other people, people will think I am weird. Since I am already a little weird that is really scary. I am afraid of being set apart, of being different than everyone else.

These are questions that I have struggled with at multiple times in my life even though I was a believer. When I was in middle school I answered these questions with a no, “I don’t want to be holy. I don’t want to be different and set apart. I want to do the things that everyone else does because I don’t trust God to give me what I really want.” Middle school was miserable. I was weird, didn’t make good grades and didn’t have good friends.

By high school, I realized that I did want to be holy if that was what God wanted -It couldn’t get much worse and if I was going to be weird, make bad grades, have no friends, be poor and lonely then at least I would have God to blame rather than myself. In six short months, God miraculously blessed me with amazing grades, a full scholarship to college and friends that have been with me for over half of my lifetime. When I think back to my choice in high school to be holy, it was a choice to trust God with my life, dreams and aspirations. It was a choice to stop fighting, as Hebrews 10:10 says – we are holy. When I chose to be like everyone else and fight being set apart- I am fighting who I am in Christ.

As a grown up now, I still face the question am I willing to be used by God wholly w-h-o-lly for his plans? Do I trust that He has called me to be holy because He loves me and wants to bless me? Does He know more than me- I am a Mars Hill College graduate- if he has something he wants me to do, something to give up it is because He knows what is best. Does He love me- He did send his son to die for me. There is an old hymn that contains the line “trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” God’s desire for obedience is not to punish us and keep us from “fun, cool things” but instead he wants to protect us and give us better things. Obedience equals blessings. As I come to times in my life when God is calling me to greater holiness for areas that I have held onto for control and because I think my way, the ways I have done things in the past is best, God reminds me that he has something better for me. I just have to trust Him.

Do you find it hard to be holy and struggle with the idea of being set apart? How has God blessed you when you are faithful to trust and obey?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Gifts and A New Year's Quiz

When I was a kid, I loved to take quizzes in magazines. There were many silly ones I took like "Find out if you are a neat person or a messy person" or "What is your perfume personality." I still like taking quizzes so when my sister told me about an online spiritual gifts test from her church, I was excited to see what it would say. If you would like to take the quiz, click on My Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

I found the results of the test as both humbling and eye opening at the same time. Just as the "perfume personality" test is not a comprehensive measure of personality, it is important to read your scores on the spiritual gifts assessment as a guide and a way of understanding that God has given each of us unique gifts, talents and life experiences to carry out his Mission to go unto all the world teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ rather than a judge of how spiritual we are.

If there are spiritual gifts that you desire, ask God for them. God wants to shower his love on us, to bless us and to give us good gifts just as a parent desires to bless their child with good gifts. Matthew 7:11 says "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Though God does not give the gifts equally, as illustrated in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-28) He is abundantly generous (beyond what we could even ask or imagine) and will give us the gifts if we ask for them. As James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” I don’t naturally have discerning spirit and as a result I am rather oblivious to much around me. After I read this scripture, I realized that I could ask God for discernment just as Solomon asked God for wisdom. In the years since I asked God for discernment, God has heightened my sense of discernment into a tool that can be used for His Glory.

God gives good gifts to His children. However, sometimes we resist the gifts He wants to give us and don’t use the gifts He has given us. One of my family Christmas traditions is to put socks in the stockings. I love the irony of it and inevitably my kids need new socks. However, my kids don’t really love the socks. As the open their stockings on Christmas morning the socks get thrown in the “gifts I don’t want” pile. In the same way, there are spiritual gifts that we “throw away.” These are gifts that we are uncomfortable with or that we just don’t understand.

As I took the spiritual gifts assessment, I was convicted that the reason I had such low scores in some areas was not that the Holy Spirit hadn’t tried to give me the gift but instead that I had resisted receiving the gift. Get this point- God gives different amounts of the gifts just as in the Parable of the Talents; when one servant was given five talents, one given three talents and one was only given one- but all three servants were given something. Sometimes God has already given us a gift whether it is prophecy, speaking in tongues or healing and we have resisted receiving the gift.

One of my lowest scores was in Mercy. As I was sharing this with my friend Corinne, she said, “You weren’t surprised were you?” I guess I don’t come across as a very merciful person. She shared with me that people with the Mercy gift let their heart be broken by other peoples’ miserable situations. After talking with her, I realized that when I was exposed to such sad situations I would separate my self from the situation, I would turn off the TV, find something else to focus on or assume it wasn’t that bad. I would limit my exposure to things that would ever need Mercy. I was not comfortable with such misery and such sad situations, so I avoided God’s mercy in those situations as well. By doing this, I was also limiting the gift of mercy in my life.

Our resistance to His gifts could be out of fear of the unknown, other people’s opinions or our need for control. If we do not use the gifts that God has given us we run the risk of the gift being taken away, just as the one who had only one talent lost even what little he had.

Take a minute to look at your spiritual gifts test and focus on your lowest scores. As God to reveal to you the areas where you need to ask for more of the gift in your life and areas where you need to repent of fear and ungratefulness for resisting the good gifts God has for you.

"This passage was excerpted from my new Bible Study, Trusting God, Learning to Embrace Change-A study of the Old Women of the Bible"." ">