For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house.
I woke up this morning thinking about medical diagnoses and how many are given to us at times. A particular friend was on my heart, who has a listing of so many diagnoses that she could make alphabet soup. At that same moment I was pondering the list of disorders, I heard the Word of the Lord repeat the scripture of Matthew 9 in my mind, "Which is easier..."
It got me wondering, why is it easier for us to believe the magnitude of our sins are forgiven, or that we have eternal peace with God and a new home in Heaven when we die, but we get stuck at believing in Jesus' redemptive work of healing for our physical bodies here on Earth?
Which is easier to believe?
Probably it's easier to believe our sins are forgiven, because we often do not emotionally or physically feel the weight of all those sins in our body the same way that we feel pain or disease. It's easy to feel the difference between your healthy body and an unhealthy body, or know when an illness or injury affects you. With the physical body, we can measurably experience the difference between our good health and a negative health. With sin, people don't immediately feel disease impacting their souls. The eternal effects of sin are more intangible than say a broken leg, diabetes, or a stroke. Because humanity is more experienced with the physical realm via our senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell), our spiritual plane of existence is more easily theorized than practically experienced.
Yet, if scripture is to be understood as true, than the healing Jesus offers to all who come to Him in Isaiah 53 is a package deal with the forgiveness of our sins. The fullness of Isaiah 53 is explained just one chapter earlier in Matthew (8:16-17), where it states all of Jesus' ability to heal disease and broken bodies and offer deliverance from demons was accomplished as fulfillment of Isaiah 53, by Jesus' stripes we were healed. Healing and salvation are two parts of the same coin. Isaiah 53 intertwines Jesus' ability to physically heal people with His ability to be the vessel for our forgiveness of sins.
Which is easier to believe?
If only we could see and experience spiritually the way we understand and relate to our physical world; it would transform our minds. Many of the roadblocks to healing for our bodies would fall away. Our willingness to embrace disease would be eradicated, and our ability to believe the Word of the Lord would grow and overcome the world.
Scripture states forgiveness of sins is just as easy as the healing of a paralytic body, and Jesus has the power to offer you both!
I enjoy reading books about pioneers and great men and women of faith. One of my favorite men of faith is Smith Wigglesworth. The following is an excerpt from God-Given Faith, written about Smith Wigglesworth upon a house and encountering a woman who was in extreme need of deliverance.
" 'I knew something had to be done, no matter what it was.' He said, 'then with my faith, I began to penetrate the heavens, and I was soon out of that house. I will tell you, for I never saw a man get anything from God who prayed on the earth. If you get anything from God, you will have to pray into heaven. That is where it all is. If you are living in the earth realm and expect to receive from God, you will never get anything... I saw in the presence of God the limitations of my faith. Then there came another faith, a faith that cannot be denied, a faith that takes the promise, a faith that believes God's Word. And from that presence, I came back again to earth, but not the same man. God gave a faith that could shake heaven. And in that faith there was total deliverance for that young woman.' "
May we all learn how to expand our faith off the earth, into the Heavens, and back again to help others.
I'd like to see a bible where the words that God speaks are all in RED. We have a similar concept for putting the words of Jesus in red in the New Testament, but too often are the spoken words by God in the Old Testament neglected. While every word, be it black or red, was inspired to be written down by the Holy Spirit, seeing how much God spoke in the Old Testament to believers would be a valuable insight. Probably, it would be just as important to believers today as the first coloring of red words were for Jesus' speaking in the New Testament.
Psalm 91 is perhaps my favorite psalm, particularly because of its personal miracle displayed in my life when leaning upon these words. With the thought of Yahweh speaking in red, I've taken Psalm 91 and revised it. What do you think?
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him:
I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him, and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
We cannot live in Christian community without transparency. Yet, too many of us go to Sunday church or meet with other Christians with a mask on. We come smiling, ready to put forth a positive face and attitude. Unfortunately, entering a world of smiling faces may not be an honest reflection of our walk with Christ.
Sinners entering into such an atmosphere may feel rejected, like we cannot understand their pain and struggles. If we fake joy or happiness to appear what we are not, we build barriers between us and those needing Jesus. Saints may also feel insecure about admitting their failures or struggles to other Christians. This insecurity leads many to put on a mask to appear that Jesus has completely fixed their life. Sometimes, all these masks look like everyone else has their act together and you're the only one failing. As a result, you might fear judgement should the truth be known you don't feel much joy right now or you are struggling with a sin. If we create an environment where everyone is allowed to wear masks, we undermine the power of the Gospel.
The Gospel is for our darkest hours, our trials and temptations, and even our complete and utter failures. Christians must be able to safely express the darker side of life with each other without fear and rejection. In order to grow in our walk with God, we must be free to express the not-so-nice things of life without condemnation, in a safe environment where we are protected by love. Fear of not wearing a mask prevents many from experiencing the freedom that comes in true Christian community. Freedom where we can ask and receive help at any time, for any thing.
Every person has faults. We who are spiritual should be in the process of edification and restoration for everyone around us, especially the household of God. And we must be willing to work from a humble place of remembrance that our own sins have been forgiven. Operating from love and humility, we will avoid the temptations of gossip and pride and fulfill the Love of Christ. When we create a culture of love, humility, and acceptance each other's areas of strength and weakness, the family of God will pray for each other and experience unimagined victory together!
Masks may be comfortable, but the rewards of living mask free are SUPERIOR.
A mask free life can:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
On Friday, I had a dream, which I believe represented the state of the Church today, not one denomination but all of us combined. I have pondered on this dream over the past several days, debating whether or not to share it. The more I pray, the more compelled I am to share. I hope as you read it, you will not pigeon-hole the events to any particular local church. I know the meaning of the dream was not directed at any particular local body but represented the Body of Christ in general. While I mention two specific churches in the dream that have been in my life in the past, these churches and people in the dream were only symbolic of the majority of churches/Believers in the world today. I hope that no one will cause division in the Body through this dream, but that Believers would be encouraged to truly examine their hearts, thoughts and religious justifications, and the work being left undone all around us.
I had a dream that I was attending a large Thanksgiving event. The event was being held in this giant auditorium. Oddly enough inside the auditorium, tables were arranged in groups. Each group of tables was separate from other groups by either a small space of an empty row or by plants in pots. Every group had the same setting with round empty banquet tables and chairs until people from the church showed up to decorate. Behind all the groups was a large stage, about three feet off the ground. Behind the stage, a wall separated the dining area from the kitchen. You entered the kitchen by going through a door off the left side of the stage. The stage was fairly dark as there were no specific lights turned on to illuminate the area. It was void of any furniture or items, with the exception of a small row of flower bushes in pots that sat on the edge of the stage as decoration for the main room. I don’t know how I had come to the Thanksgiving event. I was not with any particular group, but sat and ate dinner at a table adjacent to the group from Farm Loop Church where my children attend youth group.
After finishing my meal, I noticed many of the other Christians who had eaten had left already, leaving the tables full of all their dirty plates and silverware. I got up and started clearing the dishware off of my table. As I walked with dirty dishes in hand toward the kitchen, I passed by another area where a group from my previous church, Church on the Rock, was setting up. They hadn’t eaten yet and were just beginning to decorate their section with different table centerpieces. Each group could decorate their area differently with a centerpiece or tablecloth. I walked on to the kitchen, noticing a different group of Christians off to my right were still eating dinner.
Inside the kitchen, everything was a mess. There were dirty dishes and spilt food on the counters. The sink was overflowing from people bringing in their dishes, but no one was in the kitchen working to wash them. I was angry that the area was left in such disarray. Out front, everything looked relatively clean, but here it was so dirty. Obviously, many groups had already eaten before I got there. I started filling the sink with soapy water to start washing dishes. I also began loading the one dishwasher too. After turning on the dishwasher, I started on the pile in the sink to clean by hand. As I was washing, the pastor from the old church came in and was very surprised to see me. He said, “Oh, Sharon are you using your spiritual gifts at Farm Loop Church now?” By this he was asking if I attended Farm Loop and was working on their behalf in the kitchen.
I replied, “No, I don’t attend Farm Loop, and there is no spiritual gift for washing dishes.”
He seemed confused and flustered by my comment. He grew very uncomfortable and was relieved when another person from his group came in the door to tell him it was time to eat. I didn’t know exactly where the food came from that everyone ate. There was no food in the kitchen, only a giant mess. What food was in the kitchen were leftovers on the plates. I remember food was on the plates on table as I had come in. I also remember a vision of seeing a giant buffet table, as long as the eye could see with all sorts of food prepared on it. I never saw anyone serving the food or handing out dishes of food either. As I stood in the kitchen washing dishes, I became more and more angry as I realized that the pastor’s question was the reason no one had cleaned up. It was the same reason most people had eaten and left, leaving their dishes out in the main auditorium on the tables for some unknown person to clear away. Everyone assumed someone else would do it. Someone else would clean up after them. They all had used the logic or excuse that those particular someones would be ‘anointed’ or called for the job of cleaning because they had a spiritual gift of helps. They believed wrongly that a gifted someone would come behind them to do this dirty job. This was a job that almost ANYONE and EVERYONE who was not severely handicapped could do if only he/she had the heart to see it needed doing.
After washing the dishes in the sink and those in the dishwasher, I returned to the main auditorium to finish clearing off the table where I had been sitting. I was passing the group from Church on the Rock, and most people had finished their meal and were gone. The leaders who had come into set up early were also leaving. Again, all the tables had dirty dishes on them. None had been moved to the kitchen. There were a few people on the fringes of the main tables of this group still eating. Most of them were finishing up their desserts. As I walked by the last tables before the empty row separating this group from the next, there was a woman struggling to finish her dessert. On a plate in front of her was a slice of three-berry pie. Others in her group had eaten it, and it was delicious. She on the other hand, didn’t like the taste of raspberries. She was in a quandary. She felt like she had to finish her food, but she really didn’t like to eat this pie. Walking by, I heard her discussing her problem with the person sitting beside her at the table. I stopped and turned to her and said, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.”
Surprised she looked up at me and replied, “But it will look bad if I don’t eat it. Others might think I’m wasteful, which I’m not. I just don’t like the taste of these berries.” She said pulling the fruit out of the pie with her fork.
I replied again, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. It’s really that simple. Stop worrying about what others think and go choose a different dessert.” Now she was really surprised. She hadn’t even considered for a moment that there were other desserts to choose. She felt because this plate had been set before her, she had to eat it. She looked at me questioning, but I turned to the table in front of her and started clearing it off. It had been the table my family had sat to eat dinner, and I felt responsible for making sure that mess was cleaned up. The table was empty of all the people. Just then, some of my family members came through the door. They had brought the car around front and were waiting on me to leave to go home. They were slightly impatient, wondering what could be taking me so long. I said, “I have to clean off the dishes first.”
Then one member of my family said, “Leave it. Someone else will clear these off. We were only invited to dinner.”
I was very frustrated. I practically snapped back, “Who? Who is this someone? I don’t see anyone cleaning. There is no one in the kitchen cleaning either.”
My family member responded, “So you want to clean all the dishes? For everyone? Seriously? Come on; you did your share by now. I’m tired and hurting and need to get home to bed.” Then I woke up.
I knew upon waking what this dream had meant, to a large degree, and through prayer I’ve learned more. The giant auditorium filled with lots of different Christian groups was the Church itself, the entire body of Christ gathering for Thanksgiving. Sadly, we had divided ourselves by spaces or rows of plants between us. Before we had separated ourselves, we were all invited to the same place to have thanksgiving. Originally, all our tables and chairs were identical, until we chose to decorate them differently. The local church leadership did the decorating, arriving before their main members to get things in order. The members simply came to eat without any thought of work either before or after. While I don’t feel decorating the tables differently was a problem, the obvious grouping off of Christians into regional/local church areas was a problem. It separated us from each other and from the collective wholeness originally designed.
The Thanksgiving meal was pretty much the same for everyone. No human brought food for us to eat. There were no servers or waiters. The food simply was there to eat in a variety of choices. I recall a type of buffet where you could go to get anything you wanted to eat represented by the large buffet table overflowing with all types of food and desserts. We could choose what we wanted to eat, but many people ate only what was in front of them on their table already. They worried and feared they might offend others if they refused the food they didn’t like. Some had never even considered the possibility that there was a different way, a different choice from that large buffet table. Most people also believed the food being served was from their local church group. People believed their church had specifically prepared and provided the Thanksgiving meal, but it did not. This is what led Christians to think that if they refused what was in front of them, they would offend their church members. The individual church areas did not provide the food. I had eaten a wonderful Thanksgiving meal while not being part of any specific group. The food was provided from the Father, not the people.
The biggest frustration of the dream for me was the fact that most Christians had a twisted or false belief what was a spiritual gifting, anointing, or “calling” from God. They somehow believed these special gifts applied to the daily necessities and work of life. While there are spiritual gifts from God, many of our daily tasks do not require them. Simple tasks like cleaning up after yourself or washing the dishes were obvious jobs that most anyone could do, yet no one really wanted to do them. Everyone acted as if someone else would serve or clean up after him or her, but in reality, it was not happening and was unfair to expect. Every Christian was responsible to help and clean up. There was no special “helps” anointing or spiritual gifting for washing dishes. The mentality that someone else would do the regular job others didn’t want to do was hurting the whole Church. It separated people and gave an entitlement mindset to many within the Body of Christ. Most Christians believed they could enjoy all the pleasures without any thought to the responsibilities that went with those pleasures. This mentality was rooted in selfishness, which pervaded the whole auditorium and universal Church. It even affected my own family. It was also the reason so many people had simply eaten and left without thought to those who would have to clean up their mess.
There was also a temptation for me at the end of the dream to give in to my family member who was hurting to take him home. I knew that it was highly unlikely that he would leave without me, since the family car was my way home. I wondered how many others had been pressured into leaving with their family. Could this be why there was such a big mess left behind? Perhaps they knew they should help clean up, but for the sake of avoiding an argument with their loved ones who wanted to leave immediately, they simply left with them. I was given two choices at the end of the dream. I had the power to prevent my family member from becoming increasingly uncomfortable and in pain by leaving and going home immediately. Or I could continue to stay and keep cleaning with the strength I still had. In staying I would offend my family member and cause possibly increased physical pain to him and also an emotional rift between us. I awoke before I made the final choice, though I hope I made the right one and offered to stay to continue cleaning and let my family go home.
The dream reminded me of the scripture in Matthew 9:36-38 where Jesus talks about the Work of God. He said the harvest was plentiful, but the laborers were few and that we should pray for God to send more laborers. In this dream, the people of the Body of Christ were many. They were the ones Christ was originally speaking about to be the laborers sent into the harvest. But the majority of Christians were apathetic to the work in the Church. The work was still great, but the willing laborers were so few that I did not see any at all. I felt this dream was warning the Body of Christ has become complacent and selfish. We were ready to gather together in a form of Thanksgiving among our local church groups to eat, but most were not willing to work. Most did not work in their own local church groups much less together and cross over spaces to work for and with other groups. Most Christians are simply leaving the work undone believing falsely that they’d only been called to dinner, to eat instead of work. They also believed wrongly that a mysterious anointed someone else would arrive to do the work around them, which made them feel justified in not lifting a hand to help.
If this dream truly represents the state of the current Body of Christ, then what a sorry mess we are in brothers and sisters. The mess is piling up all around us, and we don’t even realize it should not be. We each have the power to put our hands to service, simply doing what is right in life. Instead of being comfortably served and our own bellies sated, we should seek to serve after we have finished eating of the goodness of God. We cannot wait for a perceived calling or spiritual anointing before we put our hands to service. If you have been saved by the blood of Jesus and are in the Body of Christ, then His Spirit lives in you. The Spirit works through us as we work, but if we won’t work, how then will the Spirit move? We are His hands and feet, the physical body of Christ on earth. There are so many of us that we should be moving forward, using our hands to help and our feet to take Jesus wherever He is needed in this world.
Christians everywhere are called to finish the work left undone around us. There is no special anointing for washing dishes or the daily aspects of life. We must step into these chores and work for ourselves. We need to put our hands and our time into the messes of this life and make a positive difference, but to do so we must first lay down our selfishness and desire to please others. After we have eaten from the goodness of God and are full of Thanksgiving, we shouldn’t squander those pleasures in the comfort of our own beds. The fullness of God should lead us to the awareness of our responsibilities as fellow heirs with Christ.
Beth Moore has been a wonderful example of a Christian minister and has encouraged hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to study the Scripture and know Jesus as their Savior better. Recently, Beth released an open letter to her brothers in Christ explaining her denominational history, her respect for her Christian male mentors and pastors, and challenging Christian men everywhere to recognize the ungodly behavior by many who dismiss a woman simple because she was born female.
As a woman in Christ, my heart ached with Beth's letter, as I deeply understand the ridicule she faced in using of her gifts given by the Holy Spirit at the hands of some men in leadership positions within the Body of Christ. As Beth states, "attitudes among some key Christian leaders that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire. It was just the beginning. I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness."
Beth correctly identifies the source of negativity against women in ministry and leadership which has less to do with Scripture than the entrapment of sin. Scripture when taken in context and correctly translated does not forbid women from ministry roles as exemplified by their role within the early church, and nothing about the dismissive and demeaning attitude by men in leadership positions within the Church towards women is reflective of the image of Christ. I encourage you all to read Beth's letter for yourselves, because many people have already started to twist her words. Always encourage the Truth within the Body of Christ.
Yesterday, I noticed our local bookstore was going out of business, so I went in to see what books were still available. I found a small hardback book titled, Springs in the Valley by Mrs. Chas E. Cowman, copyright 1939. Intrigued, I purchased the little devotional and took it home. Last night while reading the second entry, I had a deeper revelation of the New Testament thanks to Mrs. Cowman expounding on the Emmaus Road experience.
When I read the Old Testament, it’s easy to see an allegory or parable within the event being described. Take for example the story of David and Goliath. We know this was a factual account of a historical confrontation between a young Israeli teenager and a seasoned Philistine warrior. While reading about the real event, most Believers also understand other layers that are allegorical or spiritually symbolic. We perceive situations in our lives when we are in a similar position to David. David, representing a man of faith, overcomes the impossible giant in life by trusting in God. From David’s historical battle, we can learn a lesson of faith applicable to our own lives. Or perhaps in the story of David and Goliath, we view Jesus the Christ, the Beloved (the meaning of David’s name) of God, taking on Satan, humanity’s giant enemy, and totally destroying him. Whatever spiritual depths we read in the story of David and Goliath, Believers seem to instinctively know there is more to the Old Testament story than just mere historical facts.
Somehow, I never truly applied this same bible reading principle to all the New Testament scriptures. Of course like many Christians, I regularly extrapolate spiritual applications from Jesus’ teachings and parables. Their practical application to a life of faith seem obvious, as well as in many other gospel accounts, like Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on water. Yet somehow, many of the other events in the New Testament I read as simply historical facts and never truly considered a deeper spiritual meaning concealed behind them.
Mrs. Cowman wrote about the Emmaus Road experience from a new spiritual perspective. She began recounting the tale of an early spring day when two men were walking the Emmaus Road, both recently saddened by their teacher’s death. Then she elaborated about their heavy emotional burden and mentioned a Stranger suddenly falls in step with them along the road. Together, the three men begin discussing the depressed hearts of the two disciples. While the two men don’t understand who the third man is yet, their discussion of scripture ignites a warm glow in their souls that bids them to stay in this stranger’s company. Loathed to see him leave, the two men invite him into their lodging for the night. At dinner with the breaking of bread, the two men suddenly KNOW the third man is Jesus.
Then Ms. Cowman challenges Believers to take the spiritual application of the Emmaus Road event into our hearts. Do we have times in life when we don’t notice Jesus walking with us because our journey is full of sorrows and with heavy heart and feet we barely take the next step? Like those two men of long ago, Jesus is walking beside us, even when we do not see Him. Like them, do you feel warmth within your soul while reading God’s word? Does it feel like that flame might be too small to completely lift your pain and burden, and yet you do not want the Stranger to leave? Well, take comfort Ms. Cowman reminds, for the Lord is walking beside you! Jesus’ revelations from Old Testament scriptures beginning with Moses clear up through Gospel events are only part of knowledge He wanted to impart to His disciples. Jesus desired they understand all that He was, all that He did, and equally important that they see Him as He is now. Had Jesus not wanted those two disciples to see Him as the risen Lord, He would not have stayed with them till dinner waiting for them to fully comprehend.
Take comfort for Jesus is with you. Even though you cannot see Him clearly, He is walking beside you, always with you. Mrs. Cowman encourages Believers to take the seemingly lonely road. Walk it courageous and unafraid, because Jesus is on that road. He will never fail you, nor ever forget His covenant with you. Like the disciples of old, Jesus continually walks beside us, even if we don’t realize it.
Wow! Looking through the eyes of the Emmaus Road disciples for a practical spiritual revelation the Holy Spirit wanted to impart to Believers today was fresh rhema for my soul. It also forever changed how I read the New Testament. No longer will I read of early church events as simply recording the facts of what happened. Like Old Testament stories, the New Testament facts are designed to give us a deeper revelation of Jesus Christ and His work in our lives. Imagine what Believers will find when we read through the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and all the letters to the churches with a heart to view another level of revelation, one beyond the mere facts. What precious treasures await those who seek!
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing and the honor of kings to search it out.
An Alaskan Author, Prospector, Homeschool Teacher, Ordained Minister,
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