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In  our Friday night Bible study last week we took a look at Matthew, chapter 8.  The whole chapter, and that of chapter 9 as well, are chuck full of miracles. You got your basic calming the storm, casting out demons, raising the dead and 7 healings, including the blind seeing, lepers cleansed, fever gone, paralyzed man walks, and a  woman’s bleeding is stopped.  Matthew writes in 8:16 that Jesus healed ALL the sick, and that this was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah; “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

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Nathan and friend

In my last post I wrote about Jill, an ordinary Christian who helps out at the home for needy children in Oaxaca,Mexico.  I also mentioned she adopted two children.  The youngest is Nathan, whom she began to care for when he was an infant.  He is now two years old.  When she began to care for him, she was told that he had hepatitis c.  His mother was a drug addict.  Nobody would ever guess Nathan had this disease.  He was the picture of good health.  I took to calling him Bruiser because he looked so healthy and was so big.  Everything went along fine until about three weeks ago when his eyes started turning yellow.  Jill took him to the doctor who had tests done.  His liver count was about a hundred times higher than normal, and he was still hepatitis c positive.  His liver was failing.

Jill and Nathan got on a plane for the States, and saw a doctor in Chicago who specializes in children’s livers.  He took two hep c tests along with a host of other tests.  He told Jill to go back to Mexico, as there was not a lot that could be done treatment wise.  Nathan was showing some signs of improvement.  His body was fighting the virus, and all they could do was to monitor his liver.  The doctor told Jill that the hep c tests would not be ready for a week or so, and that he would contact her when they were ready.  Back in Mexico, little Nathan continued to improve.  So much so that Jill was able to travel to Foundation For His Ministry  (FFHM) children’s home in Morelia, to help them with a situation of a little girl who had fallen into a coma, and needed specialized treatment in Mexico City.  While in Morelia, a lady came up to Jill and told her that God had healed Nathan.  Jill was incredulous and simply said “Thank you.”  Shortly thereafter she received the results of the U.S. hep c tests.  Nathan had tested negative.  His body was clear of the hepatitis c disease.

But, he still has an abnormally high liver count.  He was healed of hepatitis c, but there is still a problem with his liver.  He didn’t receive the “whole healing”.  Why not?  When Jesus healed people they received the whole healing immediately.  But not Nathan, and perhaps, not you or me.  Sometimes we ask God fervently for healing of our aches and pains and diseases, and we are not healed.  After beginning my study of Matthew 8 + 9, I injured my back and was in pain.  I remembered what the leper said to Jesus, “if you are willing you can heal me.”  Jesus said, “I am willing” and healed the man.  So I said to Jesus, “if you are willing, you can heal me.”  Jesus seemed to say to me, “I am not willing.”  My back still hurts.  Why would Jesus say to one of his followers, one of his disciples, “I am not willing to heal you”?  I think the answer revolves around faith.  Faith is mentioned many times in these two chapters of Matthew.  Because of a person’s faith, or great faith, or the faith of friends or family members, people are healed.  So are we not healed today because we lack faith that Jesus can heal us?  Quite the contrary.  Any Christian who takes even a cursory look at the gospels sees that Jesus healed anyone and every one who came to him asking for healing.  Most Christians have no doubt that Jesus can heal them, which makes the question even more perplexing.   The issue is faith, but not faith that God can heal you or me, but faith in the idea that God loves us and wants us to be happy. If we believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then, even if we are not healed physically,  we will rejoice in God our maker, because in his wisdom and knowledge, he knows what we do not know about our future, namely, that somehow, someway, we will be happier by not being healed immediately of our physical infirmity.

Carmen is a good example of this.  I mentioned her in my last post as well.  She works in the mission school and is married to Fabian, the administrator.  She shared in devotions a couple weeks ago about having bone cancer when she was 15 years old.  She said it was a painful time; a scary time; and a time that she wouldn’t trade for the world.  Why?  Because of what she went through then, helped transform her into the happy person she is now.  She told the story of the prognosis – bone cancer in her ribs.  Her doctor said they would take out a couple of ribs, and then begin chemotherapy.  Sure enough, they took out two ribs, and after recovering from surgery, she went back to the hospital to begin chemo.  The doctors prepared her for the treatment, and then discovered that Carmen had not eaten anything, and she needed to eat something, so she went to the cafeteria to get some food.  In the meantime, the doctor received some test results back from the Mayo Clinic.  A doctor there said that if one more rib was taken out, that might cure her and she wouldn’t have to have chemo.  The doctor at the hospital discussed the situation with Carmen and her family, and they decided on removing the third  rib.  After the rib was removed, she was tested for cancer, was found to be cancer free.  She was checked regularly after that for eight years and remained cancer free.

Carmen and Ollie

Carmen and Ollie

Ask her if she would change anything about that time in her life and she would tell you, “NO.”  Why not?  Because during this difficult time in her life, a lot of her friends grew distant and stopped coming around.  She said that was a good thing, because girls from her church became her new friends, comforting her, helping her, being there for her.  Later on in life, some of her old “friends” got involved in drugs and one even went to jail.  So that was one positive – New Friends, which became True Friends.  Secondly, she thinks about all the adolescents who fight and argue and rebel against their parents, especially their mothers.  If she didn’t have cancer, she could see herself going down that path, but with the cancer, her mother became her primary care giver, and they developed a close bond that continues to this day.  Because of the faith of  her friends and mom, she grew in her faith and dependence on God.  Her love for Him grew incredibly.  After high school she went to Bible College and then began serving God along with FFHM in the Baja peninsula.  Now she is enjoying and glorifying God here in Oaxaca.

Finally, the mission pastor here showed a few short video clips of an incredible man named Nick during his sermon last Sunday.  Nick was born without arms or legs.  He begged God to heal him, to give him arms and legs, as a boy.  He wanted to be normal, like all the other boys.  God didn’t give him arms and legs.  He begged God for a reason why He made him so different from everyone  else.  He tried to commit suicide in the bathtub at age eight.  He wasn’t successful, partly because he thought of the great love his parents had for him, and how bad they would feel if he killed himself.  Finally he came to the realization that God loved him and wanted him to be happy.  On the video clips he looked like one of the happiest people I have ever seen, as he travels the world telling people that God loves them and gave his Son for them, so that, they too, could be full of joy, peace and purpose.

Ultimately all Christians are healed.  Sometimes they are healed by a supernatural touch from God. A lot of times they are healed by the bodies natural healing process.   Other times they are healed by medicines and doctors.  If they die, they are risen to new, healthy lives, living in the immediate presence of our loving heavenly Father.  One way or another, we all experience healing, the whole healing, and nothing but the healing, so, thank you God!

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It is not the miraculousness of God’s acts that constitutes their significance, it is their redeeming and informing and instructing content.  God’s miraculous activity is not against nature but against sin.  A miracle is not an abnormal or unnatural occurrence presupposing the normality of nature, but a redeeming reinstatement of the normality of world and life through the new dominion of God, which stands antithetically against the kingdom of this world.  Miracles cause surprise because people have become accustomed to the abnormality of sin and its curse of death and terror.  Terrance Tiessen in Providence and Prayer

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In sermon after sermon I’ve been told that I need to be like Abraham, Moses, king David and the apostle Paul.  In other words, extra-ordinary.  After hearing these sermons I initially feel encouraged and challenged to do great things for God.  But then I feel discouraged, inadequate and guilty because I don’t do great things for God.  I am not an Abraham, Moses, David or Paul.  I’m just an ordinary kinda Christian who likes to garden.  I’m just an average guy who likes to teach and write a little bit on the side.  I’m just a regular man who loves his wife and children and enjoys God and His good gifts.  Nothing real special in all that.  Nothing radical or extra-ordinary.  Just an ordinary guy trying to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  Just a follower of Christ who wants to love my neighbor as myself and do unto others as I would like them to do unto me.

I’m OK with that.  More importantly, God is OK with that.  Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to be like Abraham, Moses, David or Paul, or any one else for that matter, except Christ.  We are to imitate Christ in humility and love.  Jesus never says, “Be like me.”  He does say, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:10-12).  Our joy is not complete if we try to be more like Abraham.  We are not happier if we try to be more like David.  We do not live contented lives by trying to imitate David.  WE ENJOY GOD more when we are being the person that He created us to be.  Love is the keyword to being that person.  Jesus said the  two greatest commandments are  “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,38).  What does that kind of  love look like?  In  the sermon on the mount, Jesus told the crowd, “Treat others as you want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12).

I thank God for people who do do great things for God.  Who are so full of love for  God and their fellow man, that they

Jill with her children, Salina and Nathan

Jill with her children, Salina and Nathan

accomplish incredible things in the name of Jesus.  They create opportunities for average, ordinary Christians like me to use my God given gifts to enjoy and glorify God and make a difference in other ordinary peoples lives.  Two names come to mind.  One is Bill Hybels.  Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, one of the  largest churches in the United States.  Maybe you have heard of him.  Most of you have probably not heard of Jill Adams.  Jill Adams was a member of Willow Creek and also worked on staff there for awhile.  The ministry of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church touched her life in a significant way.  Now she is one of the leaders here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  She has also adopted two Mexican children.  She is just an ordinary lady who loves God and loves others.  Bill Hybels greatness opened spiritual and physical doors for Jill to grow into the person God created her to be.

Another person who has done, and continues to do great things for God, is Charla Pereau, founder of Foundation For His Ministry which operates four Homes For Needy Children in Mexico and touches thousands of lives every year with its outreach programs to the poorest of the poor.  Because she has faithfully followed God, she has become the kind of person God created her to be, a person who does great things for God.  And that opens doors for people like me to be the ordinary kinda Christian God created me to be, doing gardening, teaching English, and helping children.  It opens doors for people like Fabian and Carmen.  He is a Mexican.  She is a North American.They met at FFHM’s children home in Baja, Mexico, got married, and are now leaders here at the Oaxaca mission.  Fabian is the administrator and Carmen works in the elementary school here. They too, have adopted a poor, Mexican baby.   Because of the great faith of Charla, Fabian and Carmen are able to use their gifts to better the lives of the poor, oppressed and downcast here in Mexico.

That’s God’s general plan.  He calls Abraham who becomes a  great man, a patriarch of the faith, who had millions of ordinary descendants who  carried on the faith.  God calls Moses, who becomes a great leader of the Hebrews and leads them out of Egyptian bondage.  Millions of ordinary people are set free to learn about and worship the One, True God.  God calls David, an ordinary shepherd, and makes him an extraordinary King, who turns ordinary people into  ordinary soldiers who do ordinary things that make  a great kingdom.  God calls Paul, an extraordinary sinner, and transforms him into a  great apostle, who started lots of churches, made up of ordinary people who learned about a God who loved them and wanted them to be happy, and then began loving their neighbors and making them happy.   He wrote half the New Testament and his God inspired ,great writing, has changed ordinary peoples lives for almost 2,000 years.

With God, Ordinary is the Norm;  Greatness is Abnormal.  As Christians we rejoice in both.  We rejoice that when we open our hearts and lives to God’s will, we become the  kind of person that He created us to be.  We rejoice in greatness and we should also rejoice in the ordinary.

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Only God knows your full potential, and he is guiding you toward that best version of yourself all the time.  He has  many tools and is never  in a hurry.  That can be frustrating for us, but even in our frustration, God is at work to produce patience in us.  He never gets discouraged by how long it takes, and he delights every time you grow.  Only God can see the “best version of you,” and he is more concerned with you reaching your full potential than you are.  John Ortberg in The Me I Want To Be

I made up a new song a couple days ago. It’s called I’m So Glad I’m Not a Worm.  It’s sung to the tune of Everybody Ought to Know. earthworm It goes like this:

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

Eating dirt all day.

It was originally called I’m So Glad I’m not a Dog.  It came to me as I was taking a pail of table scraps out to the compost pit at the back of the mission.  As I approached, three mongrel dogs crawled out of the pit and scampered away.  I thought how glad I was that I wasn’t a dog like that, and began singing, “I’m so glad I’m not a dog.” As I thought about those words, I realized that there are probably some people in the world that would like to be dogs, especially a pet dog in the United states.  Most pet dogs in the U.S. have it made.  They have all the comforts of home.  They live better than most people in the world. I read recently that in 2012, Americans spent over 53 billion dollars on their pets, a large majority of those pets being dogs.  I read a mission web site that said that Americans spent as much  money on their pets Halloween costumes as they did on helping to send the gospel message to the unreached people groups of the world (310 million dollars).  It’s a dog’s life, and it’s a pretty good one.    So I changed the words to I’m So Glad I’m not a Worm.  Although I expect to receive a scathing email any day now from the NAAW (National Association for the Advancement of Worms).

What I am really saying when I sing “I’m so glad I’m not a  worm” is that I am glad that I  am a chosen, elected, predestined from the foundations of the earth, child of God,  who daily experiences the riches of God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, gentleness, goodness and provision of all my daily needs and most of my wants because He Loves Me and wants me to be happy.  Much better than being a worm.  Although, maybe I am a worm at heart, or used to be.

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Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

At The Cross by Isaac Watts