Grateful for A Miracle!

Recently a local business in our community held a Arts Explosion. From November through the month of February local artists were invited to display their work. The business is involved with educating the public about agriculture and has a lot of public events at its facility. During this time people were asked to look at the paintings and vote for their favorite artist.

I entered one of my paintings. A very pleasant surprise when I won runner-up in the contest.

While I am grateful to have won this honor, what really makes it special is that this is the first painting I did after returning home from emergency surgery for a brain bleed. On a Thursday I had fallen in my art gallery in the basement of my condo. I hit my head on the concrete floor. Covid-19 had just started and I was reluctant to go to the hospital. By Sunday I was having a terrible headache and realized I should seek medical help.

After a CT scan at the local hospital they rushed me by ambulance to the hospital in our state capital about 20 miles away. Emergency surgery was required and I was in ICU for several days.

The doctor told my wife that I would need long-term rehabilitation. He listed several problems I might face including difficulty in communication, in swallowing, in walking.

But God had other plans. Within a matter of a few weeks I was walking without a walker and my communication improved almost immediately.

My wife and I are Scrabble addicts and she was worried that I might not be competitive with her any more. But I’m still able to beat her butt in the game. 🙂

Just a couple of weeks after coming home my son-in-love brought my art supplies up to the dining room table as I was still a little unsure about using the stairs to my art studio. I sat down at the table and painted this picture. I was inspired for this painting by a trip my wife and I had made a few years ago to Maine.

So – while I am thankful for winning second place out of over 40 artists who competed, I am even more thankful that I am alive and in good health.

Truly, God has been good to me.

Stretch Out Your Hand

Mark 3:1-6

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.  And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”  Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent.  And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.  Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Also in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11

Jesus knew that He was being watched by the religious leaders trying to find an excuse to harm Him.  But His compassion for the man was greater than any concern for Himself.

He gave a command to the man.  First, he called him to step forward.  Step out from the crowd.  This would draw attention to him – perhaps not something he wanted.  Then Jesus told him to stretch out his hand.

This was a direct instruction from Jesus.  Not “If you want to.”  “If you would like to.”  Of course the man had the choice of obeying or not.  But if he was to gain his healing, he had to do what Jesus said.  By stretching out his hand he was acting in:

  • Obedience – Do what God has told you to do.  Do what is right.
  • Faith – Believe God will do what He said he would do.

Believing and obedience go hand in hand.  To truly believe is to obey.  The man could have believed that Jesus could heal him, but it was only as he obeyed and stepped forward from the crowd, then stretched out his hand that healing came.

What is it Jesus is calling you to do?  Would it require you to “step away from the crowd”, to open yourself to possible ridicule or rejection by others?  Would it require you to take belief to the final step of obedience?

John 14:15 – If you love me, obey my commandments.

We can take this idea of stretching out our hand a further step.  We do not know what this man did after Jesus healed him, but we hope that we began to share the good news with others.

That is what Jesus has commanded us to do – to stretch out our hand and share the love we have received from Him.

John 15:12-13 – This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

  • Stretch out your hand – Rescue and Save –

Jesus told us that we were to be sent just as He was.

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

  • How was Jesus sent?
    • In obedience
    • In faith
    • In love and compassion
    • To rescue and save

We can take this idea of stretching out our hand a further step.  We do not know what this man did after Jesus healed him, but we hope that we began to share the good news with others

Who do you know that could use a helping hand today? 

  • A word of encouragement
  • A meal
  • A card saying “thank you”
  • An offer to babysit and give parents a date night
  • Just a smile

Too often we tell others “I’m praying for you” which is good, but let us put legs on those prayers.

1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

James 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.

Forgiveness Brings Healing – Healing Brings Forgiveness

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Specific needs require specific answers.  Only one answer will work in each situation.  God’s way!  Suffering, sickness can take many forms.  Healing is provided if we take the right medicine.  When a doctor gives a medicine, he writes a prescription.  There are specific ways to take the medication.  It is the same way spiritually.

Suffering and sickness is not only a physical need.  It can include

  • Emotional needs
  • Financial needs
  • Marital needs
  • Sinful problems

Healing is provided for all, but we need to follow the “prescription.”

  • Call for the elders of the church
  • Anoint with oil
  • Prayer of faith

Byproduct of following the “prescription” is – sins forgiven.

Verse 16 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 

Ephesians 4:32 – Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Matthew 6:12-15 – And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.   And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.   “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • Unity of the brothers/sisters – Let it go or retain it (anger/bitterness or forgiveness

Matthew 18:15-20 – Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Mark 11:24-26 – Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

Jesus speaks to the whole man – spiritual, physical, emotional, your whole being.  Forgiveness brings healing.

Names of God – Jehovah Rophe

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jehovah Rophe –The Lord Who Heals You

Exodus 15:22-26 – So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.  There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

At the Red Sea, Israel witnessed God’s incredible destruction of the Egyptian army.  The Israelites rejoiced in this victory, playing their instruments, dancing and singing, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!  The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!”

Immediately after this miraculous deliverance, Israel began a journey into the desert toward the Promised Land.  In three days’ time they covered some forty miles…yet they quickly realized they had been going in circles.  To their dismay, they had progressed only about twelve miles from where they had started.  To make matters worse, they found no water.  After two days in the desert, the supply they had brought with them was gone.  In this brief amount of time, they descended from the heights of praise and ecstasy to the depths of despair.  How easy it is to forget some great victory when something goes wrong!

Then someone spotted a body of water ahead.  You can imagine the stampede that took place to get to it.  I can see the fastest and healthiest Israelites arriving first, quickly dunking their faces into the water, taking in big gulps.  A few seconds later, however, they are spewing the water from their mouths.  They cry, “This water is bitter, undrinkable.  Do not swallow it – it’s full of poison.”

The people trailing behind them do not believe their claim.  They also quickly drink in big gulps.  But soon they are spewing out the bitter water too.  Scripture says, in Exodus 15:23 – “Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.”

Isn’t it amazing how Christians will not listen to warnings of other Christians?  They have got to find out for themselves.

What did God’s people do (yes, God’s people) in this situation? 

Exodus 15:24 – And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

The very same people of God who had rejoiced in the Lord’s glory just days earlier were now murmuring and complaining against Him. 

These people had seen God perform awesome miracles on their behalf in Egypt.  First, the Lord supernaturally protected them, while all around them he devastated Egypt with plagues.  Then, as they made their way toward the wilderness, God delivered them with the greatest miracle ever witnessed by man; the opening of the Red Sea with giant waves piled high, held back by incredibly strong winds.

In my mind, God provided an even greater wonder.  He removed all sense of reason from the Egyptian army.  Who but a supernaturally blinded army would rush in under such great walls of water?  Any sensible soldier would have seen this wonder and thought, “Wait a minute, this is supernatural.  Only God could do this.  The same God who sent the plagues.  Everybody else can move ahead if they want to, but I’m not going anywhere.”  Yet the entire Egyptian army proceeded and was destroyed. 

Do we ever forget God’s supernatural warnings and march right into trouble?  Then we cry out, “God, why are you doing this to me?”  If we could hear Him, He might be saying, “Hey, you did this to yourself.”  But He still continues to love us anyway in spite of our continued stupidity, in spite of continued stubbornness, in spite of our continued neglect to obey Him.

I ask you, how could any Israelite ever doubt God again, after witnessing such a miracle?  Here’s how:  As soon as the Israelites grew thirsty in the desert, they forgot all about God’s awesome miracles on their behalf.  It took them less than three days to begin to doubt Him.  How long does it take us?  Do we really know our heavenly Father’s nature?  Did He not say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you?”

This is why so many believers rush all over the world looking for signs, miracles, and deliverances.  They are trying to get to know God through supernatural works and wonders.  But nobody truly gets to know the Lord that way.  The apostle Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that faith does not come through witnessing supernatural works or miracles, but through God’s word. 

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

You may ask, “What is the specific word that produces faith?  It is the word that reveals who our heavenly Father is.  This is how we discover who He is – by seeing and believing for ourselves who He claims to be.  This occurs most often as God meets us in our trials. 

You may wonder, why did God lead the Israelites directly to the waters of bitterness at Marah?  Why did He just not take care of them as He had at the Red Sea?  He took control of an entire sea of water for them so clearly He could have easily changed the waters at Marah as well.  Why did He not do that?

The Lord had brought His people to Marah in order to deal with them.  He was about to begin building His wilderness church.  But He could not begin that work because the camp was filled with a deadly disease, infecting virtually everyone.  What was this disease?  The Hebrew root word for Marah means “corruption of bitterness.”  A spirit of bitterness had spread throughout Israel and it had to be dealt with.

Try to picture the scene at Marah, as the people spewed out the bitter water.  They must have been utterly confused, trying to figure out why God’s blessing and favor had disappeared from them so quickly.  They may even have tried to worship the Lord, but they could not muster up the spirit to do it.  They were unable to quench their thirst, physically or spiritually, no matter how hard they tried.

This is what bitterness does to people.  It brings on confusion, a sense of God’s disfavor, and an inability to worship.  God is trying to warn us about the deadly disease and consequences of an embittered heart. 

Most bitterness among believers can be traced back to a disappointment with God.  Most Christians who are bitter have experienced a deep disappointment with the Lord.  A time of crisis, marriage problems, family upheaval, a financial struggle, a tragic illness slowly draining the life of a loved one.  You were in need, hurting, crying out to God for help, believing for a miracle, doing the best you knew how.  But the Lord didn’t seem to be here for you.  Your trial dragged on, and over time things just got worse.

After a while you begin to wonder, “How could God allow this to go on?  I’ve loved Him, believed Him, and prayed to Him.  But nothing seems to change.”  You did not dare allow yourself to get angry at the Lord.  You made sure you did not do anything to cut yourself off from Him.  But deep down, you were disappointed.  Soon, a seed of bitterness took root in your heart.  Over time that root sprang up and blossomed.  Now it continues to grow and spread in your soul.

Childhood wounds can fester into roots of bitterness.  Certain traumas – abuse, molestation, abandonment – all leave their marks deep inside.  They often leave a trail of bitterness and unforgiveness in their victim’s lives.

Here is what I find most amazing about this passage.  The Lord could have wiped out Israel at Marah.  God had given these people incredible, undeniable miracles of deliverance.  Yet, all through the supernatural plagues and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, they continued to cling to doubt, fear and unbelief.  First, they did not believe Moses, the Lord’s servant.  Then they constantly questioned whether God was with them, behaving at every turn as if He had forsaken them.  When they got to Marah, God directed Moses to cut down a tree and cast it into the bitter waters.  Then Exodues 15:25 tells us:

So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

When we look to the tree – Calvary – life is no longer bitter.  We see once more that our God comes to us in our crises and failures, bringing us into a new discovery of who He is and giving us another revelation of His loving kindness.

It is at Marah that we discover Jehovah Rophe – “the Lord who heals you.”  The root word for heal here means “to fix or mend.”  God told Israel,

Exodus 15:26 – If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.

The Lord is telling His people here, “I am a God who wants to heal your diseases, to mend you completely – body, soul and spirit.  I want you to know Me!

What do you need to be healed of?  A trial, a difficulty.  Are you angry at society or certain individuals?  Do you have an unforgiving spirit toward someone who has hurt you?

What is the most important healing to receive – physical or spiritual?  What purpose is there in being healed of bodily sickness if we are not supernaturally healed of our bitterness, resentment and pride? 

Even if you harbor bitterness in your heart, you are still the Lord’s possession.  He is offering you total healing. He has revealed Himself to you as Jehovah Rophe – your healer and mender.  He is waiting for you to trust Him.  He longs to restore you to a clear conscience, to good physical health, to His divine peace and favor.  He stands waiting for you now, wanting to forgive you, cleanse you and give you a new heart.  Your physical healing is included, but the healing of your spirit must come first. 

Just cry out to God:  “Lord, I’ve carried this bitterness for too long.  Now I know it’s time for me to be delivered.  I want to be free.”  He will take it the rest of the way.

“I am the God who heals you.”