Author: fathomingheaven

About fathomingheaven

Wife, mom, doctor (the philosophical kind), amateur photographer, and blogger...oh, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus. :)

Justice, Mercy, & Humility

Micah 6:8

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

It was March 9 when I told my family I was considering a new tattoo. In fact, I’d been considering it for much longer than that, but was finally ready to go forward with it. It’s comprised of three symbols (in Korean, only because they’re so beautiful) that represent justice, mercy, and humility. These come from a verse that has long meant much to me—Micah 6:8. 


A few years ago, I was watching a speech by Coach Lou Holtz, and he challenged the audience with this statement: “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you figure out WHY you were born.” I thought I knew why I was born at that time—to one day donate a kidney to someone in need. It was just something I KNEW I was put on this earth to do, you know? But then he answered the question, and to my recollection, he said something to the effect of us being born to know and glorify God. Oh, yes, well that, I thought to myself, but also to donate a kidney.

Well, over the next few weeks and months, I also began to think about Micah 6:8. According to this verse, God has shown me what is good—to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord my God. This meant to me that, even if life conspired to prevent me from the kidney donation (or the other unfulfilled dreams I had about what glorifying God would look like in this life), I could still honor God through the way I would choose to live my everyday life.

So back to March 9. It was a few days before COVID-19 hit—or at least before the reality of it really hit the US. By the time I would have been able to schedule an appointment at the tattoo parlor, it and everything else in town was closed. But during the next couple of months, the words—justice, mercy, humility—would take on a new meaning. I realized that even absent the physical image of these symbols displayed on my body, I could live them out amidst a global crisis. I could stay home to keep my neighbors safe, I could recognize the great risks and sacrifices being taken daily by the front line and essential workers around me, I could wear a mask in public to protect the most vulnerable, I could learn about the disparities and injustices in the outcomes of this virus that stem from racial and socioeconomic inequality, and so much more.

But in the past couple of weeks, these words—justice, mercy, humility—have taken on yet another meaning and significance. In the wake of the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd (among others), we have seen on one hand, Americans stand in solidarity and call for justice, and on the other, the destruction and devastation that seem to inevitably arise when voices go unheard for far too long. During this time, what does it look like to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord my God? First, I can see and acknowledge and SPEAK UP when I see injustice. I can not wave horrific actions and outcomes away on the argument that they are perpetrated by “a few bad apples.” I can say out loud that the status quo is NOT acceptable. I can show mercy to people who are hurting beyond what I can even fathom or begin to understand. But I can hear the words that my brothers and sisters are saying, and I can believe them. I can do my very best to empathize, even when those efforts fall embarrassingly short of truly seeing through their eyes and walking in their shoes. I can walk humbly by acknowledging my privilege, rather than denying it and pretending like the playing field is equal, and the hand dealt each of us is fair and unbiased. I can give of my time, my money, and my voice to be part of the solution that has been too long in coming.

Goodness, when the day comes that I can finally get this tattoo, its meaning is going to be so loaded that I will never be able to easily answer someone who asks me, “What does your tattoo say?” And, you know what, I think it’s better that way. Who knows, maybe it will start a conversation that needs to be had.

My prayer today is that you, and all of us, would join together today and every day in the cause of justice, mercy, and humility—knowing that THIS is what God sees as good.

Open Doors

Acts 16:25-28

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

Well, we’ve been quarantined for awhile now, and much of Texas has gotten restless. So restless, in fact, that as of Friday, May 1, many restrictions have been lifted here (with the exception of a few guidelines regarding capacity and whatnot). But for our family, I can’t say that much has changed—if anything. It can be hard to put into words exactly why this is. But I just listened to a sermon that I think will help.

Long story short, Paul and Silas had been flogged and beaten and thrown into jail for delivering a woman from an evil spirit (no good deed goes unpunished, right?). And as any of us would (not) do when wrongfully accused and detained, they spent the night singing hymns. But they were interrupted by a huge earthquake that shook the prison’s foundations and flung the doors wide open.

Now, the obvious thing to do with this fortuitous freedom would be to flee. That would have been the fair thing to do, as they were being wrongfully imprisoned in the first place. It would have been the convenient thing to do, because they could have gotten back about their mission more quickly. It would have been the comfortable thing to do; I mean, who wants to be sitting in a nasty, stinky prison full of God knows what kind of vermin. But they didn’t flee…why?

Because of the jailer. He had already been threatened with his life should anything happen to the prisoners, and to avoid this, he was all ready to take his own life instead. So one way or another, he was going to die. And worse, he was going to die without Jesus. We know this because when he found out that the prisoners were still there, and that they had willingly given up their freedom to save his life, he “fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30). Ultimately, he and his entire family were saved and baptized, and were filled with joy.

Paul and Silas could have chosen to act in their own self-interest. But they didn’t. They followed their own advice: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). And that’s my reason, too. If one person, or one family, has an opportunity to live one more day—a day that may by God’s grace be the day of their salvation—because of what I do with my freedom, then who am I to be behindhand?

And look, I fully recognize that staying home is a privilege that is not afforded everyone. Some are essential workers and have been fighting on the front lines for the rest of us this whole time. And now that other industries are opening back up, I realize that some who have been struggling to make ends meet finally have the opportunity to begin providing for their families again. Still others are probably being forced to go back to work, against their will, for fear of losing their jobs.

But I can’t help but feel (and see the evidence around me) that this is not the case for everyone. That sermon I mentioned, it highlighted the point that Paul and Silas both had and took the opportunity to choose a better story, and a better outcome—a better YES, if you will. When this is all said and done, I have hope that my temporary disappointments, struggles, and sacrifices will have amounted to a better story—and “a glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17)!

Be well. Be safe.

Shelter in THIS Place

I’m not gonna lie. I miss the days of endless chips and salsa brought to my table at a Mexican restaurant. I look forward to a future when the Happy Hour specials are back in force and I can sit across from (or even NEXT to!) a friend to enjoy them. But for the moment, we—like so many—have been ordered to SHELTER IN PLACE.

Huge caveat there, though, because this order (at least for us) doesn’t apply to “essential” products and services. And let’s be honest, the nature and extent of what we consider essential is an indictment against our society and our way of life. But that’s a topic for another day.

For today, I know there are many people who are a little anxious over being saddled with any restrictions on their personal freedoms. A word to the wise, though, from the wise, tells us that “the prudent see danger and take cover, but the simple keep going and suffer the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3). If that isn’t a poignant commentary on our time, I don’t know what is.

Consequences notwithstanding, the current conditions may have you sheltering in a tiny studio apartment, on a sprawling ranch, or somewhere in between. You may be quarantined with a large family or all alone, or again, somewhere in between. You may be lonely, overwhelmed, or stir-crazy. You may be working from home alongside three “coworkers” under the age of five. In any event, I want to share some encouragement with you today.

The Scriptures are jam-packed with verses reminding us that no matter our earthly living arrangements, GOD HIMSELF is our true shelter, our refuge, and our hope (see Psalm 34:8; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 61:3; Psalm 62:8; Psalm 73:28a; Psalm 91:1; Proverbs 18:10; Nahum 1:7). To highlight just a few of these:

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 61:3

“For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy.”

Psalm 73:28a

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge.”

Psalm 91:1

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Nahum 1:7

“The LORD is good. A strong

hold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

So then, let us affirm with Paul that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Yes, wherever you find yourself—in body or in spirit—may you find shelter in THIS place.

 

 

Spirit of Sound Mind

Who am I to be weighing in on the global debate surrounding the Coronavirus?

  • True, I’m a doctor—but the philosophical kind.
  • I’m also a mother of two who takes pride in the value of “building up immunity” by allowing contact with the germs and dirt of this world.
  • And I’m a planner who has therefore thought of contingency plans for a range of crises, including those of pandemic proportions.
  • I’m a Christ-follower, and one who’s been chomping at the bit to get to heaven…like, my whole life…as in, I have to remind myself regularly that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)…as in, I believe so strongly that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that I felt it necessary to start a blog about it. I. LONG. FOR. HEAVEN. PERIOD. I also firmly believe that God is forever on His throne—and that includes now, today, and in the months from now. All that is to say, I have no cause or inclination toward fear or anxiety over the thought of death as a result of this virus.

So I suppose it could be argued that I have no business at all throwing my two cents in on the topic.

BUT….and this is a big but…

Between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon of this past week, over the span of 24 hours, I experienced a drastic shift in perspective about the so-called “Christian” response to this virus.

It’s based on the ideas that we should be “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), that we should “look to the interests of others, and not only ourselves,” (Philippians 2:4), and that “God has given us a spirit of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), to name a few. But again, I’m NOT an epidemiologist. I’m NOT a virologist. I’m NOT a public health expert. So take what I have with a grain of salt…but hopefully with a grain of light, as well.

A couple of days ago, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t quite get it. I felt like maybe we were all overreacting just a bit. I mean, I wasn’t out licking subway polls, but I thought, “Of course I’ll go to church,” and, “Gosh, I really want to see the ‘I Still Believe,’ movie coming out next week.” But a few things intervened that caused me to begin wrestling with those thoughts.

First of all, I saw the responses of my friends living literally all over the world—Italy, Poland, France, Australia…they were responses of proactive caution, not panic or hysteria, but also not complacency or (God forbid) arrogance. I also saw the responses of the epidemiologists—yes, plural epidemiologists—that I know personally, and read the accounts they shared about how responding earlier as opposed to later might well shorten the length of time that we need to take these more severe measures. Doing so might also keep health care facilities from becoming too overwhelmed to provide needed care for those who become very ill, and by extension may save lives. And finally, I saw the responses of my friends who were adopting the attitude that all of the closures and cancellations we’re now facing are somehow tantamount to “extra vacation.” Well, at that I felt like I was looking into a mirror at my own calloused heart—and I didn’t like what I saw. I was disgusted—not with them, but with myself—and praise God, I was repentant.

Of course, we Christians have freedom from fear—but does that mean we should flaunt it? Does it mean we should cavalierly take others’ lives and eternities’ into our own hands by hastening their suffering, or their deaths? “By no means!”, in the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:2). If even one life or one soul can be saved by our actions, then isn’t that worth the inconvenience that comes from a little bit of social distancing and a few (okay, a lot of) changed plans?

You see, when my epidemiologist friends warn that school closures do not equal additional vacation, that this is not the time to visit the zoo, the museum, the park, the movie theater…not the time to have block parties or social gatherings of any size…I want to believe them. They are the experts, after all. Their math is far more reliable than mine will EVER be (says the qualitative researcher who only dabbles in statistics when it is ABSOLUTELY necessary). We MUST heed their warnings. We can’t wait to act until there’s “at least one confirmed case locally.” By then, it will be too late. Besides, if we stand with Moses in praying that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90: 10-12), and recognize that their entirety is but a handbreadth (Psalm 39:5), then what’s a few weeks of “lost time”?

Please don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Christians of the early Church, who according to Dionysius,

“showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and
ministering to them in Christ….Many, in nursing and curing others,
transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…”

And rest assured, if and when the local healthcare facilities call on laypersons to start doing field triage, I will be the first one to put myself in harm’s way for the sake of my neighbors. However, it seems that for the moment, the better part of wisdom and godliness is to help keep that demand under control in the first place, by practicing prudence (aka social distancing).

Certainly, as in Esther’s day, should we fail to act, “relief and deliverance…will arise from another place.” But who knows? Perhaps we have been brought to this place, to our positions, “for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Lord, let not one death from this virus be on our hands—be it directly or indirectly. Guide us in your ways and give us YOUR wisdom. Amen.

 

The Perfect Match

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good.

You may have grown up hearing this in church. But now and then, we are given the opportunity to prove to ourselves and to others whether we truly believe it. Whether we believe that it is God who is ordering our steps, even when our own hearts have planned another course (Proverbs 16:9). Whether we believe that His thoughts and ways are truly higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Whether we believe that all of our days are ordained before one of them comes to be (Psalm 139:16). I can say today that my answer is yes.

Six months ago, I embarked on the process of becoming a living kidney donor, with a projected donation date of March 6 of this year. Yesterday, however, I learned that my transplant center has not yet found “a really great match.” This (combined with other logistical challenges) pushes my projected donation back to around Thanksgiving. I, not being one who is known for my patience, am not relishing the delay. But God…

You see, I recognize that God has ordained my March 6th…and my November 20th…not to mention every day before, between, and after. Who knows but that He has divine appointments scheduled for me throughout this season that I might miss if my timetable remained in place? I find it apropos that Lent begins today—as season wherein many choose to “give something up,” in solidarity with Christ for all He gave up for us through His death on the cross on our behalf. I’ve often said that God ordains seasons of Lent for me not based on a liturgical calendar, but based on His sovereignty. But this time, the two seem to line up perfectly. So I will give up these plans, and hopefully only for a season. And my prayer is that, on the day that God has ordained for my kidney donation, I will be able to say with Esther, “Who knows but that I have been brought here for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

I don’t know why God has decided that now is not the time for my donation. But I do know that God is not just the God of time, but the God of timing. And thanks to Beth Moore for that recent reminder. But in the waiting, would you join me in praying:

  • That God would identify not just a really great match for my kidney, but “the perfect match.”
  • That my recipient, their family and friends, and their transplant team would all be blessed in the process.
  • That my friends, family, community, church, and transplant team would be blessed in the process.
  • That I would notice and appreciate all of the opportunities God will surely give me to bless and minister to others in the meantime.
  • And that I would wait patiently on the Lord.

In Your Name and for Your Glory, Lord, let it be so.

Lenten Blossoms

Withholding Good

The Bible is pretty clear about God’s intent that we help others. For instance, Proverbs 3:28-29 says:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.

Likewise, James 4:17 admonishes, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

But for whom? For whom are we to do good? The verse above references a “neighbor.” And like the Pharisee, who—trying to justify himself—asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”, we also tend to draw boundary lines on our goodness. But Jesus’ answer doesn’t allow for these artificial boundaries. Instead, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, wherein

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” (Luke 10:30-35).

Through this parable, Jesus taught the lesson that neighbors are not just those closest to us, but also strangers, and even enemies. And in Deuteronomy 10:18-19, we see that we are to “love those who are foreigners,” just as God himself “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” I don’t recall whether I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. There is a Mennonite saying that goes like this: “If I have two coats and my brother has none, then I am stealing from my brother.” This tracks with James’ instruction to the Jewish believers of his day (2:14-17):

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Paul echoed this by instructing us to “share with the Lord’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13). So then, from whom may we withhold good? Enemies? Strangers? Foreigners? Friends? Family? I’ll let Jesus answer for us (Matthew 25:41-45):

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
I was a stranger and you did not invite me in,
I needed clothes and you did not clothe me,
I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me.’

The least of these…who in your life, your path, your sphere of influence, is the least of these?

Lord, may we find them, and do the good we ought.

2018-05-01 14.36.47-2

Of Mist and Treasures

Have you ever heard the saying, “The days go by slowly, but the years go by fast”? I think some of the authors of Scripture had the same idea. David wrote in Psalm 144: 3-4, “Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.” He echoed this in Psalm 62:9— “Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” And again in Psalm 39: 4-6, he pleaded,

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.”

And long before that, Moses—the man of God—prayed:

“Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away….
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90: 10-12

And if my life is but a vapor, let me do with it what Matthew advises in verses 19-21 of Chapter 6— “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” For my heart and my treasure to be in the right place, I believe my second kidney needs to be in its rightful place as well. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, recorded in Luke 12: 18-21:

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones,
and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself,
‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.
Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Likewise, His brother James declared (4:13), “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 

I don’t want to hoard the life God has given me. I want to share it with as many people as I can in as many ways possible. And Lord willing, living kidney donation is one of those ways for me. And, while it may not be one of those ways for you, I feel quite strongly called and empowered to this act of compassion. So I have to try, because, again in the words of James (4: 17), “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

A breath…
A handbreadth…
A shadow…
A phantom…
A mist…
A vapor…

What will you do with yours?

 

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Train Up a Child

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NIV

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

“What about your kids?” I often hear this upon mentioning to people my desire to donate a kidney. It’s an interesting question. One motivator for those who ask this question tends to be 1 Timothy 5:8 (NIV): “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I greatly value this verse. Growing up in relative disadvantage, my childhood was fraught with insecurity and uncertainty. I have always vowed to honor Paul’s command here, to protect my children from those feelings to the very best of my ability. In fact, the desire to hold tightly to this guidance is the main reason for having delayed my donation for these past 8+ years. But now that my kids are 8 and 7, and relatively independent—but more importantly, followers of Jesus! – I believe that they are in good hands, regardless of my short- and long-term outcomes as a result of donation.

Besides this, though, as I look at the totality of Scripture, I believe that the commands given throughout with respect to childrearing point to support of this decision, rather than opposition. For instance, Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) states, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” What is this way in which they should go? The way of Christ, of course….of Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV). For this reason, Paul urges believers, “….in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3b-4)

I can think of no better way to raise children in the way they should go than by showing them God’s love in action, His compassion in action. As Psalm 127:3-4 (NIV) says,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.”

Sara Groves wrote an amazing song, entitled, When the Saints. It enumerates some of the great saints from the Bible times and also from more “recent” history. There are so many, but in this context, I’m especially reminded of her reference to Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed by members of the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador. Of him, she sings, “I see the young missionary and the angry spear, I see his family returning with no trace of fear.” And indeed, they did. His daughter, Valerie, was 10 months old when he died, and less than three years later, she and her mother, Elisabeth Elliot returned to live among the Huaorani for another five years. Valerie Elliot Shepard continues to live out the legacy that her father and mother began so long ago—like an arrow in the hands of a warrior!

What a privilege to instill such a legacy into future generations. It is my hope and prayer that my kids will be able to say the same of me, that I trained them up, through my example, in the way they should go.

IMG_0470 (3)

 

At the Mercy

Mark 2:3-5

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the many was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

John 5:2-7

“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’”

2019-07-31 17.13.50
Have you ever felt helpless? As in, completely at the mercy of another person or people to do for you that which you needed, but couldn’t possibly do on your own. Especially these days, I think we place a high premium on self-reliance. So when we do find ourselves in a place of utter dependence, we don’t just find it humbling, we find it humiliating. We would rather suffer on our own than have to ask for help.

But as I read the Bible, helping those in need is a huge part of why we’re here—or at least of what we’re called to do. Consider in Mark 2, when the paralytic was saved and healed not by his OWN faith, but because of the faith of his friends, who went to heroic measures to bring their friend to Jesus. In John 5, we see a contrasting story, where a man had sat paralyzed for 38 years, for want of such friends to carry him into the pool of Bethesda when the waters were stirred up for healing.

I read an interesting passage in Leviticus recently—yes, there ARE interesting passages in Leviticus! And this passage was describing how someone was to be declared clean after being afflicted with a skin disease.

Leviticus 14:3-4

“The priest is to go outside the camp to examine him, and if the skin disease of the afflicted person is healed, the priest shall order that two live clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop be brought for the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall command that one of the birds to be slaughtered over fresh water in a clay pot…”

Long story short, people were typically to bring their own sacrifices to the priests in Leviticus. But in the case of someone who’d been essentially quarantined outside of the camp, the priest needed to go to that person, determine that they’d been healed, and command that another bring that person’s sacrifice FOR them. They couldn’t do it themselves. Just as the paralytic friend who was brought to Jesus, and the paralytic man He approached, those afflicted in Moses’ time were at the mercy of others in their search for healing and restoration.

These seem like microcosms of another story, wherein those helpless to save themselves are rescued by the only one who could save them…

2 Corinthians 5:14

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

I’m drawn to the implication of Christ’s sacrifice—that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” In other words, I should live to help the helpless. I believe that, for myself, this looks like living kidney donation. At any given moment, over 100,000 people in this country alone sit waiting by their own pool of Bethesda, waiting for someone to usher in their healing. They wait, at the mercy of the system, the deceased organ supply, or another person to act on their behalf.

Can you imagine how immensely valuable you would feel if you were in those shoes, and you learned that there was someone, a total stranger, who wanted to give you that gift of life? I can.

153

John 21: 6-11

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish….
153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”

The story of Jesus’ breakfast with the disciples is one of my favorites—so many little gems in the passage. But yesterday, when I listened to Tara-Leigh Cobble comment on the story, I found another one. Of course, I’ve heard plenty of teaching on the 153 fish the disciples caught. It provides detail where no one else would bother—it doesn’t seem to matter, it doesn’t serve any common symbolic purpose (it isn’t 40 or 7, for instance). It *seems* random, until it doesn’t. You see, this may not be simply an effort to show that the story really happened, or that God cares about even the most minute details—though these interpretations also serve us well. No, it turns out that, according to some scholars, the 153 fish may represent the totality of fish types available at the time.

And if we recall, these guys are supposed to be fishing for men. But without Jesus to accompany them, they’ve gone back to what they knew before. It sounds to me like Jesus is trying to tell them, “You’re not done yet…you need to take the Gospel to ALL the earth, ALL people groups. I’ve got work for you to do.” Then Jesus doubled down by calling Peter in particular to more, when He asked Peter three times, “Do you [agape] love me?” Peter, in a moment of insecurity, tells Jesus that, no, he doesn’t love Jesus with the sacrificial love that is agape. That had become evident on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Instead, he espouses the brotherly [phileo] love he feels for Jesus, a love he could commit to. “Isn’t that enough?” is the implied question in his voice. But Jesus says, “No, it’s not. I have more in store for you” (again, I’m paraphrasing). Yes, more—more for the one who swore he would never deny Christ, only to do it three times before sunup. More for the hot-headed guy who chopped a soldier’s ear off in haste and anger. More for the guy who took his eyes off of Jesus on the water, and trembled in fear at the storm Jesus calmed.

I think there’s a message here for all of us. God has more for us, more for you—despite your failures, betrayals, insecurities…God’s not done using you. Don’t let Satan use your past to disqualify you from the calling God has placed on your life. Live into it. Go out and catch your 153 fish.

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