Tag Archives: wholeness

God’s People, part 189: Talitha Koum

Read Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.’”  (John 11:25, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-raises-the-daughter-of-jairus-2015-01-01Part 189: Talitha Koum. In the previous devotion, the bleeding woman was discussed. If you recall, she had come to Jesus utterly desperate to be healed after 12 years of bleeding. Those 12 years also amounted to 12 years of being rejected and isolated from community. They equaled 12 years of spiritual deprivation because she was deemed unclean and impure.

What was not mentioned in the last devotion is just how the woman came in contact with Jesus. Her story is sandwiched between the story of Jairus and his daughter. Jairus was a leader in the local synagogue and he came to Jesus to let him know that his daughter was actively dying.

Jesus agreed to go with thim and that was where he was heading when the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years found him and touched his robe. Thus, the bleeding woman was a detour on his way to visit with this dying girl. This detail alone should tell us that Jesus saw everyone as equal and that no one was deemed “out of his way” or “not important enough” for him to give his attention to.

With that said, the diversion took enough time that by the time he actually arrived to Jairus’ house, the little girl had died. When the arrived, there was much wailing and mourning going on and everything seemed to be in vain now that she was dead. In fact, messengers came to Jairus and told him that it was not worth troubling “the Teacher” now that his daughter had died.

What was Jesus’ response? “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” Then he went into Jairus’ house with Peter, James, and John. He made everyone else wait outside. Inside, the family members were found to be weeping. Jesus assured them, “The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” The people who heard Jesus say this laughed at him, because they could not believe what they were hearing. Clearly this little girl was dead and Jesus was just out of his mind!

Seeing the crowd’s unbelief, Jesus took Jairus and his wife into the girl’s bedroom. Jesus went to her side, held her hand, and uttered these Aramaic words, “Talitha Koum”, which means, “Little girl, get up!” In that very moment, Mark tells us that the girl stood up and then walked around. Everyone who witnessed this were completely amazed! Of course, as is par for the course in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus told the people there to not tell anyone what they witnessed!

What a powerful and profound miracle to have witnessed. What’s more this miracle foreshadowed his own resurrection, which was the ultimate display of his power over death and the grave. Even when the messengers pronounced the daughter’s death to Jairus and were urging him to not trouble “the Teacher”, Jesus ignored them and went to the girl anyway. The result, Jairus’ daughter was resurrected, showing all who witnessed the ultimate power of FAITH.

The challenge for us is to self-reflect on our own faith. Do we REALLY and TRULY believe that Jesus is GOD and that in Jesus rests the full power and authority of God? Do we believe that Jesus has the power to bring us into full and EVERLASTING LIFE? If so, how does that change us from who we are to who God has created us to be.

Let us be a people who respond to Jesus as Jairus and his wife responded to him. Let us invite him into our homes so that he can take over as Lord of our lives. Let us NOT laugh at him when he says that he can wake us up into the resurrected life. Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking and waiting for us to open up and let him in. I pray that you answer him and let him reign supreme in your heart and over your life!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
““Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – Jesus Christ  (Revelation 3:20, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I open the door of my heart to you. Come in and rule over me so that I may serve you and be one of your Kingdom Builders. Amen.

God’s People, part 188: Bleeding Woman

Read Mark 5:25-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the LORD for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding.”  (Leviticus 15:28-30, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

woman-touches-clothes-of-jesus-mediumPart 189: Bleeding Woman. When the accounts of Jesus’ healings are read, they are most likely read with a certain “wow” factor in place. Most people, I would imagine, are not aware of the social, economic, or spiritual implications of the afflicted in these accounts. At best, they are most likely looked at as unfortunates whose fortune changes for the good when they encounter Jesus.

In the account of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years we learn a number of things. First, we learn of what it must have been like in Jesus’ time. So many desperate people were trying to be in the right place at the right time in order to receive healing. Every where Jesus went, people were coming to him seeking to be healed.

We also learn that these people were the “untouchables” in society. While these were the people who NEEDED to see Jesus, the crowds gathered around Jesus completely unaware and apathetic to the plight of the afflicted. In one such story, a paralyzed man had to be lowered down through a roof by his friends in order to get to a place where Jesus could see and heal him.

In this account of the bleeding woman, she too was crowded out by the apathetic mob following Jesus. She had to fight through the to reach Jesus and she could only do so from behind. There was no chance she would have an opportunity to talk with him and explain her affliction. “She thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5:28, NLT)

Before we can fully understand her plight, we need to truly understand the full weight of her condition. The Bible tells us that she was “bleeding” for twelve years. What this meant was that she basically had her menstrual cycle, non-stop, for twelve years. This condition would have rendered, and anyone who came in contact with her, ceremonially unclean.

In Leviticus, the law was laid out clearly. The bleeding from childbirth made a woman unclean for 33 days afterward (Leviticus 12:4). Any woman with her menstrual cycle was ceremonial unclean for two weeks, the week of her period and the week after (Leviticus 15:19). As for a woman experiencing bleeding unrelated to her menstrual cycle, which is exactly what this woman in Mark was experiencing, the law stated: “…she is ceremonially unclean. As during her menstrual period, the woman will be unclean as long as the discharge continues” (Leviticus 15:25).

That means that this poor woman had been ritually unclean for 12 long years, cut off from society and from spiritual nourishment and care. 12 years of isolation and rejection, not to mention the physical effects of it, including pain. Priests wouldn’t go near her, and the doctors were ineffective at curing her. In fact, her condition only worsened.

So, this woman was desperate and in her desperation she wasn’t going to be ignored, even if it mean that she would reach out and grab Jesus’ robe. She was going to do whatever it took to receive healing. Just her touching Jesus would have defiled him in the eyes of the religious leaders. But that didn’t stop Jesus from seeking her out when he felt her touch.

Ignoring the disciples jeering him for wondering who in the crowd touched him, and ignoring the crowd itself, Jesus turned his attention to this woman and, when she presented herself before him, he let her know that her faith had healed her. This woman became an example for us all in the power of faith.

The challenge for us is to have the faith of the bleeding woman and to separate ourselves from the judgmentalism of religious people and people in society. We all struggle with something and our faith can be a healing foundation for us. What’s more, we all have the Holy Spirit given power to be a healing presence in the lives of others; however, we have to take the time to be aware and notice the people who need healing. As God’s people, let us not get distracted by the mundane, but open our eyes to the REAL NEEDS around us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.” – Henry David Thoreau

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for the faith you have nurtured within me. May it grow to move this mountain into service of others. Amen.

God’s People, part 187: Demoniac

Read Mark 5:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

THE-EXORCIST-1973Part 187: Demoniac. We’ve already discussed the exorcisms Jesus performed and the battle he waged against demons who had possessed people. That was a major part of his earthly ministry. There can be no doubt that there is more to meet the eye when we think about this world and the sin and evil that plague it. There can be no doubt that we are at war not just with our own sinful nature but with the spiritual forces of darkness that work behind the scenes in the world.

So, naturally, Jesus’ ministry included many exorcisms and conflicts with the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world. With that said, the account of the demoniac reveals whole new level of possession, and not in the way that one might think. That is why I felt that it was important to single out this particular person who was possessed by demons.

In the account, we learn that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and came upon a series of burial caves. It is at this place of burial that we are introduced to a man who was possessed by “an evil spirit” or “a demon”. I put that in quotes because we learn that, in fact, the man had many evil spirits or demons within him. When Jesus demanded the man was not living by these caves due to personal choice; rather, he had been chained up and placed there by other people.

We all know the result, this man rushed up to Jesus and begged him to not torture him or send him out of the region. Jesus then exorcised the demon and sent him into a herd of pigs which ended up squealing and running into and drowning in the sea. We also know that the man was so joyful to be delivered from the demons that he begged Jesus to let him come with him, but Jesus declined and told the man to spread the good news in that Gentile region.

The focus for this devotion, however, is on the people of that region. Not only did these people shackle and chain another human being in a cemetery, leaving him for dead, but they also had no apparent concern for the person. I am sure he was chained by the tombs out of fear that he might harm the villagers; however, when he was healed and he shared what Jesus had done, the villagers begged Jesus to leave because he had cost them their entire herd of swine.

In other words, they had more concern for their own safety and their own financial stability than they did for a human being in desperate need for hope, healing and wholeness. That is possession on a whole new level. These people were possessed with their own selfish desires and they allowed those things to justify the evil they perpetrated on this man.

The challenge for us is to recognize this fact: demons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. One need not be turning their head 360 degrees and vomiting pea soup in order for one to be possessed by evil. Sometimes evil is much more subtle and, as always, the devil surfaces in the details. The question for us is this, what have we allowed to possess us? What sorts of things do we have within us that enables us to justify the wrong we do.

You may be thinking that there’s nothing. Yet, if we think outside of the box on this, the truth will be revealed to us. Plenty of Christians, for instance, have used their “love for their children” as an excuse for not raising their children in the church and worship God. Kids are now given the religion of sports and activities, as opposed to being raised in the Church worshiping God.

Plenty of Christians have allowed their love of nation to justify treating immigrants and foreigners with contempt and lots of other evil thoughts and deeds. There are tons of examples where people are possessed by a different spirit than the Holy Spirit, and every one of us is possessed by things that are counter to the Spirit and the teachings of Christ. The challenge for us is to be honest about that, to repent, and to invite Christ into our hearts so that we can be delivered of such things. While this type of possession is different than that of the demoniac; however, it is just as destructive. My prayer is that we all may continually open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that such things may be driven out.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Human beings, we have dark sides; we have dark issues in our lives. To progress anywhere in life, you have to face your demons.” – John Noble

PRAYER
Lord, deliver me from the demons that possess me so that I may be freed for joyful obedience to you! Amen.

God’s People, part 186: Deformed

Read Matthew 12:9-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.” (Luke 6:11, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DeformedHandPart 186: Deformed. Jesus was a healer. He was someone who took time to seep people’s deepest needs and to bring healing into their lives. There was no disease, no demon, no condition that was too great for Jesus to heal. It was the power of God, rested in him, that was working to give us a glimpse of what it means to be God’s people in God’s Kingdom.

This world is a broken world, where pain, suffering, sickness, disease, sin, evil and death reign supreme. In this world there is no guarantee in regard to anything. As a pastor, I have watched cancer rot people from the inside out, I have prayed over and given blessings to babies who have died in the womb, I have watched people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, and I have counseled people who are suffering from emotional and spiritual distress due to a wide variety of things including abuse.

Scripture promises us that one day, those things will pass away. They will die; however, those of us who love God and are called according to his purpose shall never perish, but will inherit eternal life. How do we know this to be true? Because God, in Jesus, walked the earth and gave us a glimpse of what is to come. That glimpse we see in the healings as well as in Christ’s teachings. What’s more, Christ invited us to join him in bringing God’s hope, healing and wholeness into this broken world; however, we have often not been faithful or receptive to Christ’s call.

The account of the man with the withered, or deformed, hand is a great example of how God’s people often miss the boat when it comes to helping usher in God’s peaceable kingdom. Before we get into the healing itself, let us give some thought to the man with the deformity. With out a hand, how could he ever work or make a living? He could not, obviously. Thus, this poor man was left to the generosity of others, whether that generosity came from family, friends, or strangers passing by.

We are not told if this man had family or not, but he is clearly out in the public square for the Pharisees to use as a trap to bait Jesus. It is likely that this man had no one to help him, family or otherwise. That very fact actually speaks loudly to the man’s situation. Even more, it speaks much to the hearts of these specific Pharisees.

These Pharisees could have prayed for this man, they could have even approached Jesus to see if the Lord could heal this man out of concern for him; however, the only thing the Pharisees were concerned with here was themselves. They wanted Jesus out of their hair, so that they could remove the threat he posed to their authority. Rather than trying to bring healing to this poor man, they instead used him in order to get at Jesus.

Alas, we live in a broken world and even God’s people (in this case the Pharisees) get trapped in their own brokenness. This, of course, should cause us to pause and reflect on how we allow our brokenness to control what we do, rather than allowing Christ to free us from our brokenness for joyful service in the world. The challenge for us is to admit we are broken, to turn our brokenness over to Christ, and to allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to guide us into Kingdom-building action in the world. Let us be the healers Christ has called us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care.” – Jerry Cantrell

PRAYER
Lord, heal me from my sin and brokenness and use me to bring your healing into the lives of others. Amen.

God’s People, part 185: Paralytic

Read Matthew 9:1-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus told him, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!’”  (John 5:8, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

disabled-signPart 185, Paralytic. Accessibility has always been an issue for folks who have been traditionally seen as “disabled”. In fact, it still is an issue as not every place is accommodating of different needs. Still, overall, accessibility has come a long way and more places than not are taking into consideration the needs of others. In fact, the word disabled is even up for discussion as some people feel that is a denigrating label that devalues those with differing abilities.

For instance, while one might not be able to walk, that disability does not, nor should it, define the whole person and/or what they are or aren’t capable of. In fact, we all have “disabilities” one sense or another. For instance, I can sing. That is an ability I have. Others, however, are tone deaf and couldn’t even accidentally stumble onto a right note. That would be a “disability” for them; however, tone deaf people are not labeled and stigmatized by the term “disabled”. Yet, an opera singer who is paralyzed would be labeled “disabled”, which defines them by their disability, rather than their ability.

With all of that said, the fact that we’re even discussing the “labels” that folks in need of ability accommodations shows that we’ve come a long way from where people were in Jesus’ day. That just wasn’t a topic of discussion, nor was it in the social consciousness of people. Especially in Judaism, being born paralyzed or crippled was often seen as a result of sin.

We can see this is the case in the account of Jesus healing the man born blind. “‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins’” (John 9:2, NLT)? In that very question, we see the mindset of the people in Jesus’ day and age. The disciples assumed that someone who was born blind must have been paying the price of sin. Otherwise, why would God allow for that.

Jesus’ response was pastorally corrective. People are not paralyzed, blind, deaf mute, etc. because of their sin or the sin of their parents. God was not behind the man being born blind, he just was. God is not behind paralysis, or the loss of hearing, or any other “disability”; rather, those things happen because we live in a world that is broken and fallen. That brokenness is the result of sin broadly speaking; however, Jesus is clear that someone who is differently abled should not have their “disabilities” held over their heads in judgment.

In fact, the appropriate response to any person, regardless of ability, is to approach with dignity as children of the Most High God. To do otherwise is counter to God’s law and the teachings of Christ. The disciples were looking to find reasons to avoid the blind man and if they knew his sin, that would give them justification for their biases. Yet, Jesus raises their understanding to see the bigger picture: the child of God in front of them and God’s work within that person bringing about the glory of God!

We, as humans, too often fall into the trap of labeling people and judging them based off of the labels we assign them. We do this racially, we do this in terms of age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and a whole host of different categories we label people by. What’s more, as hypocrites, we do not like it when people label us. I don’t like it when someone labels me a “white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male”, but in what ways do I label others?

The challenge for us is to become more aware of how we refer to and treat other people. Are we aware of who they are as human beings, attentive to their needs, and respectful of their humanity and the divine image they’re created in? Or do we assign labels to them and objectify them in ways that take away their dignity and diminish (if not eliminate) their humanity. It is clear, which way is the Christian approach, and which way is not. Let us follow Christ and treat people with dignity regardless of differences.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be recognized as the person that they are and not a stereotype or an image.” – Loretta Lynch

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid labeling others and help me to treat everyone with dignity, respect and love. Amen.

God’s People, part 184: Lepers

Read Mark 1:40-45

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared.”  (Matthew 8:2-3, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Leper-HealingPart 184: Lepers. When we hear the word Leprosy or  Lepers, we think of people who have what is also known as Hansen’s Disease. According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), leprosy is a bacterial infection that attacks the nerves, skin, eyes, and the inner lining of the nose. When attacking the nerves, the bacterial infection causes swelling and discoloration of the skin, which can also get flaky.

If left untreated, permanent nerve damage can be done leading also to paralysis of the hands and feet. A slow growing bacteria, it can take up to 20 years before one even shows symptoms of having it. This disease was once considered to be highly contagious; however, researchers have come to realize that it is not so easily spread, especially when it is treatable. People with leprosy, if properly treated, can go on to live normal and productive lives.

In the Bible, we read the word leprosy a number of times. Namaan, the Aramean General in 2 Kings 5, had leprosy. Leprosy is also mentioned a number of times in the Gospels, where Jesus lays hands on them and heals them. There’s a lot we don’t know about the disease that these lepers had; however, what we do know is that those afflicted with leprosy in Biblical times did not have what we know now as Hansen’s disease which was described above. The Hebrew word for leprosy is tzara’ath (צָרַעַת, pronounced tzaw-rah’-ath). This word was used for those who had a dermatological condition that caused the skin to scale.

Psoriasis, which can also lead to crippling psoriatic arthritis, seborrheic dermatitis, scabies, crusted scabies, syphilis, impetigo, scarlet fever, and other such diseases could be classified in the ancient world as tzara’ath or leprosy. In other words, any number of dermatological diseases could have been considered leprosy and anyone with that disease would be viewed as a leper.

Leprosy was viewed as a defiling disease, meaning that anyone with it would be deemed ritually and physically unclean. Such people were shunned and avoided at all costs. They were not allowed to live within the community, nor were they allowed to participate in the community’s religious life. They often lived in “colonies” of others with the disease.

According to the annotations found in The Jewish Study Bible, “The Bible does not view disease per se as defiling. Only those having “tzara’at” or abnormal genital fluxes are considered to be impure…Tzara’at, seen as a gradual erosion of the skin, was thought to culminate, unless the patient recovered, in the ultimate disintegration of the flesh, which was taken as a manifestation of the gradual escape of life. The person afflicted with it was looked upon as potentially dead, death itself having begun to consume his body.”[1]

If one even so much as came in contact with or touched a leper, they too would be seen as defiled. Thus, people avoided lepers like the plague. What’s more, many believed that leprosy was a divine punishment for the act of slander. Thus, those who had leprosy were not only shunned, but judged by society. Thus, we can see how scandalous it was for Jesus to lay hands on and heal lepers. Not only did he risk defiling himself, but he was also showing his power over sin.

When dealing with the healings that Jesus performed, I want us to focus more on society and on us as “the people of God”, for it is there that we see the true sin and missed opportunities in living up to being God’s people. The stories of Jesus healing the lepers ought to challenge us that God loves people equally, no matter what may or may not be afflicting them. When we shun such people because they are “gross”, or “disgusting”, or “we might catch what they have”, we are actually shunning God. When we refuse to help people because “they brought it upon themselves” we are actually putting ourselves above God.

While we should take precautions so as to not infect ourselves or spread infectious diseases, we should approach all people as children of God who deserve to be treated with love, compassion and diginty. We should work toward bringing healing to folks, rather than more harm through shunning and judging them. Let us open ourselves up to being God’s people rather than being people of the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are blessed that we might be a blessing to others. Shunning people is not blessing them.

PRAYER
Lord, help us to be compassionate to all who suffer no matter the cause, and steer us away from judgment. Amen.

[1] Schwartz, Baruch J. “Annotations for Leviticus 13.1-14.57” in The Jewish Study Bible, Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999), 234.