do you want to be healed?

“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.”

‭‭John‬ ‭5:5-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you want to be healed? The answer is more complicated than you think.

Take a moment and ask yourself, “Do I want to be healed?” Then, record your response.

Before your automatic, “Uh, of course! Who doesn’t want to be healed?”, think about this:

What would change if you were healed?

Excuses would expire. Expectations would increase. Routines would be disrupted.

Your life would drastically change.

Let’s look at the invalid’s life. While he seems to have positioned himself in the proximity of a healing angel, he’s also prepped himself with pre-recited pretexts for his prolonged paralysis. He’s so close, yet so far; and his intentions are unclear. So Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed because at that moment, the man seems satisfied in his situation. He’s got an answer for the perturbed looks on people’s faces; as they scrunch their eyebrows and ask one another, “He’s been sitting there, how long again? Thirty-eight years?”

“While I am going, another one steps down before me.”

Oh, okay.

His illness, his identity – the man who deserves your pity. And he’s achieved the half-hearted healing that hitches along with acceptance. He’s come to accept his ailment and his perpetual position in the back of the line.

After all, his existence, while stagnant, isn’t difficult.

In fact, it would even be safe to say that even in his current state, he is blessed! It seems God has been providing for him all these years – despite his inability to stand or walk or work, he’s been fed. After all, he’s still alive. He can be grateful in this state! He can rest! He can talk about God’s faithfulness and provision!

But is he healed?

According to Jesus, he isn’t.

Jesus’ questions are always worthy to wade in because Jesus asks us the questions that we need to ask ourselves. When Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”, it’s because the man doesn’t quite know anymore.

Do I want to be healed? I’m not so sure anymore.

I’m pretty comfortable here on this mat. I get enough food, I get to talk to people every now and then. I enjoy the comfort of predictability. Do I want to change?

Oh, the lies we’ve rehearsed in our minds to excuse away our demise.

On the mat, the man survives.

But with feet on the ground, hands carrying His mat, the man can glorify God.

Are you shooing away your healing out of self-professed piety?

Surrender your fears and be healed. Get up, take up your bed, and walk.

Or, simply let your story of God’s glory pass before your very eyes.

 

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make every effort

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬


Make every effort to add to your faith…virtue.

Virtue. Synonymous with goodness, righteousness; and defined by behavior showing high moral standards.

Do we do that? Do we make every effort to be righteous? Once we have faith, do we immediately strive to display behavior of high moral standards? Or do we try to first learn as much as we can?

I believe Saint Peter ordered these holy nouns intentionally. First virtue, then knowledge; not the other way around. Be kind – then, find out more information.

I worry we excuse our sin under the guise of a lack of knowledge. “I didn’t know better.” Or, “I don’t know how to change.” As believers, we must know one thing and one thing only: Christ crucified.

Through the knowledge of Him and His divine power, knowledge that comes by faith, he has granted us His great and precious promises. Promises of His faithfulness. His provision. His guidance. His holiness. His sovereignty. His life in us.

And through His life in us manifested in the glorious presence of the Holy Ghost, our guarantor of Heaven, we are able to escape the corruption of the world. We can escape the opposite of virtue: Sin. Selfishness. Pride. Prejudice. Hate.

We can do it, through Him!

Now, knowing that you can do it, make every effort to add to your faith virtue.

we are family

When you were younger, did you ever attend Vacation Bible School?

We church kids know all about VBS, or Church camp. Church camp occurred one week during the summer from Monday through Friday. Each year’s events surrounded a different theme, i.e. under the sea, outer space, polar blast, or something like that; the theme explicitly explained by a rather large rectangular lacquer poster proudly staked in the church lawn, in direct view of every driver pulling into the parking lot.

Each weekday consisted of a slam-packed schedule of singing sing-songy Jesus songs, creating Bible-themed crafts, running around outside in July heat, eating, smiling, sweating. Repeat. Then, once you’re in high school, you transition from a camper to a volunteer. (That is, if you hadn’t rebelled into a pot-smoking, fire-breathing freshman by then.)

Ah, nothin’ like a nice hot slice of nostalgia for the Veggie Tales prodigies!

As I am now in my post-pigpen prodigal daughter days, daily eatin’ good at Abba’s house, I have come to understand Church camp not as a week-long lawn party strewn with dehydrated delinquents, pro-GMO snacks and oversized, multi-colored water balloons, but as the ever-present differentiation of passions and personalities that can either make or break us.

“What camp are you in?”

So-called followers of Jesus ask this question with alarming regularity about everything from hymns to homosexuality, cessasionists to separatists and sermons with too many stories.

I am not arguing that everyone must see the same way. In fact, the Church forms camps all the time, naturally, because we’re all so very different. And that’s a good thing – if we humble ourselves to both teach our sister and learn from her. 

But so very often, instead of lending our differences as living thread to weave unity into the tapestry of His bride, we let our differences divide. Human nature leads like-minded people towards one another and erects walls, barring the unknown. We do not learn from another, but instead we lean on our own misunderstanding.

Thus, a silent polemic of our misunderstood brother brews within our hearts. And we’ve lost sight of love.

Never forget: Human nature alone cannot please God.

Lately, the Lord has formed a friendship between me and a young woman who is so very different from me. She’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. She’s a thinker, I’m a feeler. She’s reformed, I’m charismatic. We’re different, and that’s a good thing.

We need each other.

Why do we need each other? Well, the feeler feels and the thinker thinks.

Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind; and she helps me do that. The super spiritual people need the super scriptural; and vice versa. In tandem, the two can make something beautiful.

Please, family.

Let’s be family.

let the lover of Your name be loud!

 

Let the lovers of your name be loud,

Let the lovers of your name be loud.

Let the lovers of your name seek your face,

Trusting that you draw as we lift you up,

Jesus.

For no other name can save!

Yet no other name,

is so used in vain.

Forgive them, Father

Forgive those who speak with disdain

The precious name of Jesus.

And Forgive us, Father,

For so often

do we let voices of hate

drown out the songs of your beloved.

Forgive us, Father,

for we have been too quiet.

Let the lovers of your name

Be

LOUD!

 

 

secret battles of the heart

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51:6

 

Recently, the Lord gave me a very powerful dream.

In the dream, I slept. And as I slept, I fought. With eyes closed, I saw things that made me want to sin. But I fought through the temptation. I fought in my sleep. And in the dream, when I awoke, my teeth had fallen out.

I went on a quest to find new teeth.

I was embarrassed and I couldn’t stop crying, but I went to my mother first; she’s a dental hygienist. She tried to remain calm but she could not mask her palpable worry. I too was worried, but I was proactive. I made arrangements with her and her coworkers to get new teeth the next day.

I then left her office to walk “home”, only the way home involved somehow walking along a highway; casually stepping over hundreds of limp human bodies strewn along highway exits and lanes. Some were alive; some were not.

I arrive home. I sleep. I wake up…and I have new teeth.

What does it mean?

After researching the scriptural symbolism of teeth and chewing, my spirit’s consensus has been this: I will fight battles in my sleep by chewing on the word of God.

It’s not a natural battle. It’s an intensely other-worldly war of waters, words, and worship occurring in the depths of my heart. But though it’s in me, I do not fight. I surrender; and the Word fights for me.

My sin is darker than most. The sin in the depth of my heart is the sin that cannot be shared in small groups. I’ve done some very, very bad things. And I cannot afford to entertain even a sliver of darkness; for to crack open the door of darkness is to let it all in.

But in view of God’s mercy, I have been given the grace to render myself a living sacrifice. I allow his death to reign in me so that His life can reign in me, too. And His life is light. His light shines in my darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

But because of the depth of my darkness, I know the depths of His power.

Fighting my battles requires truth in my inward being; and He is the truth. His word dwells within me; He fights within me. And He even lets me see how He fights. He fights in front of me, leaving me with wisdom for next time. Because even if I fail, even if I forfeit His victory and let the darkness in, He is kind enough to leave me with His wisdom and grace for the next battle we will face. He reminds me that He is who I want. He reminds me that without Him, I have nothing. He unites my heart to fear His name.

And by His grace, that secret place get purer and purer every night.

What about all those helpless highway bodies?

Those are the victims of this very battle I fight. I fight for me, but I also fight for them.

I will not allow the enemy to leave me laying in the street. I will meditate on the word of God day and night. I will be blessed; and everything I do will prosper.

How about you? How do you fight your battles?

 

 

rhythms of grace

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

     Ephesians 3:14-19

Some say there are four seasons in a year. But our spiritual calendar springs and falls on its own clock.

Work, music, art, Church, home, heart. A season for everything; for He makes everything beautiful in its time.

On Thursday evening, after work, on my way to Victory World Church, I rounded the corner of the long winding Buford Highway exit, remembering a time when my view was reversed, and this exit was an on-ramp on my way home from my third job in Georgia. That was a challenging job. An underpaid position, an under-heated office, an ungrateful boss. A long commute. And yet, I did it for 7 months.

I sigh and I laugh. God, thank you for seeing me through that season. The grace you gave me in that place, in that season. What grace.

As I lean back in my driver’s seat, one hand on the wheel, the other hand popping Trader Joe’s Gingermints in my mouth, I think back on the plethora of positions I’ve held over the course of my life.

I smile as I remember the six months of selling succulents and centerpieces at a high-end family-owned florist in Greenwich, CT. God gave me grace in that season, too. The grace to stand on my feet for 8 hours, five (sometimes six) days a week; the grace to carry heavy boxes up and down two flights of stairs multiple times a shift. The grace to reveal through the physical labor a pre-existing tear in my tailbone, and the grace to stand the pain through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and, the busiest of all, Mother’s Day. (Side note, the Lord healed me from that ailment during a Sunday evening service at International House of Prayer shortly after moving to Atlanta. He still heals, y’all.)

Throughout every season, God has taught me this: If He confirms your position, He will give you all you need to walk in a manner worthy of what He’s called you to do. He will give you specific, personalized, supernatural grace for that particular assignment. The purpose of this grace is two-fold: that you may grow in the knowledge and power of His love, and that He may be glorified.

This grace will come in many forms. It may present itself through other people’s personalities and meaningful conversations.

I remember a day at the florist when grace came through a conversation with young female customer and her mother. Earlier that month, my friend and womentor Katie Nelson had given me a necklace with a copper coin attached to a chain; the word “Rooted” hammered across the coin’s radius. That was my season, a season of allowing the Lord to root my identity in His love. I never took it off.

One Saturday afternoon, as I stood behind the counter manually typing each item’s price into the PC’s Point of Sales system, the young woman complimented my custom jewelry.

“I like your necklace,” she said shyly.

“Thank you!” I responded cheerfully, now hand-wrapping their hand-picked flower arrangement. “My friend Katie gave it to me. It’s in reference to a Bible verse in Ephesians about being rooted in the love of Christ.”

She smiled. “I love Jesus, too.”

And there was grace.

There, in that moment, was the grace to encourage her to continue courageously living her high school years, not for the approval of her friends, but for the delight and love of Christ. There was the grace for the conversation to occur in front of my unbelieving coworker, to allow her to see the power of God and the the miracle of the Church. There was the grace to witness His glory displayed in a high-end flower shop.

Back to Atlanta.

As I make the last left turn on my route to church, I pray out-loud in the car to my Father in Heaven, confident that He’s heard me and that He will answer.

“God, what are you giving me grace for in this season?”

I pull into the church parking lot, grab my purse, and open the door. I walk into Victory World Church, chat with Robert, make myself a hot mocha, and take my seat inside the the main room.

At that moment, God spoke.

Healing. I’m giving you grace for complete freedom and healing.

And so, I beseech you: what is God giving you grace for in this season?

Ask Him; and He will speak.

 

repeat after me: i am dust

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

  Psalm 103: 8-14

I had a bad weekend.

I sinned against God; and I sinned against myself. I confessed my sin to God after I did it the first time, and He forgave me. But I didn’t forgive myself, so I did it again.

Why didn’t I forgive myself? Shame?

Most people will say, “I’m so ashamed; I cannot forgive myself,” and then equate the refusal to forgive one’s self as a textbook symptom of shame.

Is that shame? Maybe for some. But not for me.

The Lord is very gently showing me that my refusal to forgive myself is due to…

…pride.

I think I am better than I am.

I study my reflection often. Normally, I like what I see. But when I stumble, I throw a pebble in soul waters, disturbing perceived perfection, probing the ripples of my self-conscious to rehearse their regrets.

No, Gina. You know better.

I’ve disappointed myself. I placate myself in the prison of my past; while simultaneously maintaining my present reality in the prison of pride. I go nowhere. I keep sinning; I keep punishing myself.

Even though Jesus already bore the punishment for all my sin.

Why does God forgive us? Why doesn’t God give us what we deserve? Because as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.

And, because, “He remembers that we are dust.”

In His light, my reflection suddenly sharpens.

I AM DUST.

At any point today, did you forget that you are dust?

Do you think you’re more capable than you actually are? Maybe that’s why you struggle to forgive yourself.

God forgives you.

Who are you to withhold forgiveness from anyone…including yourself?