Healing Power

Running commentary on how Jesus' Healing Power is affecting my life - and helping me to help others.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Being Broken

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what
You want from me

So, take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord
- Holiness by Sonic Flood

This week, my family took a vacation out of state. I'm home alone. Not a bad thing for a guy who really needs a break from his kids screaming and crying all the time. But I'm lonely. My wife left me with a long list of honeydos, and we agreed that Monday would be my "restoration day".CivIII Image

Rather than allow myself to be restored by God, I spent all day playing Civilization III and surfing the internet. I didn't even go to my workout. I just sat all day in front of any of three different computers and ate Doritos. Is this inherently bad? No. But when I heard the Lord calling my name, I didn't respond. I just sat there playing my game or finding useless stuff to do in the accursed 'net. Even this morning, as I wrote this post, I find myself searching for stuff for my newfound XMMS Linux-based music player instead of writing. My daughter does the same thing to me, and it really torques me off.

That hit me this morning. Here I am, doing the same thing to God that my daughter does to me. I get mad at my daughter 'cuz she won't even give me the dignity of a response. She just continues playing, without even looking at me. No, she's not deaf - she's been tested. She just ignores me. When she does this to me, I get the feeling that I simply do not matter to her.

So, this morning, I get the feeling I've done this to God. (When you get a feeling like that, out of the blue, that's the Holy Spirit and God, Himself, talking to you. It's not just your imagination or conscience.) I prayed, asking God to forgive me. I know He has, He promised He would, but the remorse remains. That feeling of remorse is brokenness.

Brokenness is what happens when you crawl on your knees to God and say, "I am wrong." Brokenness is what happens when you cry out to God asking for His mercy and forgiveness. So now you're forgiven. What, though, is repentance? How do I fix it so I never do this again (yeah, right!)? How do I remove this nagging guilt and shame?

Quite often I'll find the answers in a song. Today was no exception. The lyrics at the top of the page are from SonicFlood's version of a song written by Scott Underwood. Sonic Flood added the verse about brokenness. The answer came in the chorus:

  • Take my heart and form it - Change my heart to reflect Your glory.
  • Take my mind and transform it - Change my thinking to reflect Your glory.
  • Take my will and conform it to Yours - Is that self-explanatory or not?

After carefully considering what this means, I'm trying to head back down the right road. I honestly desire nothing less than what God wants from me. I feel like Paul in the wordiest passage in all of scripture.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
- Romans 7:14-20, NIV
If I'd wrote something like that in high school composition, Ms. Wroten would've given me an F!

I want to be like Christ. I don't want to be "holier than thou", but I want to be like Christ. I don't want to be better than anyone, I want to be like Christ. I want to be able to face the temptation and tell it to "take off". I'm going to let God continue working His reconstruction in my life. He'll be done when I join Him in Heaven.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Church of the Warm Fuzzy

Two days ago, I wrote about Paul's sufferings for Christ. I referred to this passage, but today I will elaborate on it. There are many wildly popular preachers out there who preach a good message on good fortune. They constantly present a gospel of wealth and prosperity for all who will listen. And, I'm really not opposed to their core message. But many of them don't appear to realize that there is so much more to the gospel message than prosperity.

Where will their congregation be when beset by hard times? In what will the members put their faith when a test comes along? How will they be prepared for the "flaming arrows of the evil one" (- Ephesians 6:16)? When will they hear about the hard times that always accompany faithfulness?

Paul wrote the following to such a church in the city of Corinth:

Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I'm their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can't believe I'm saying these things. It's crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I'm going to finish.)

I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
- 2 Corinthians 11:21-27, The Message

Oh, and don't forget about Acts 9:16, either. So, the church in Corinth was being led astray from the gospel by "egomaniacs" who presented a false gospel of unknown content (the content is irrelevant - all false gospel will fall under this category). These egomaniacs were pushing the Corinthians to abandon Paul's preachings because they were better than him. That is why Paul felt led to boast the way he did about everything he had suffered for Christ's name.

This is the problem I see with the gospel of prosperity. It leaves out all the stuff Jesus and Paul said about not being prosperous in this world. In Matthew 8:19-20, we find this:

a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
Does that look like prosperity to you? Animals have homes but Jesus does not. Can you follow this God that doesn't even have his own shelter?

I have personally experienced the lack of "stuff" as a result of being shaped by God the Blacksmith into the person He wants me to be. And, the funny thing is, I don't mind it. The computer on which I write this is a hand-me-down with Linux (a free system) installed. I can't afford to buy updates for Windows, but I can afford to get updates for Linux - 'cuz they're free! Before I dedicated my life to Christ, I understood that there would be lean periods in my life, and I was prepared to accept that. The only prosperity I'm promised is that "Mansion over the Hilltop". In the meantime, I've got whatever God gives me, and that includes the grace to be happy with the lack o' stuff.

I am very happy for the prosperous Christians. God has blessed them well. But where will they be if all that prosperity was gone? We are all disciples of Christ and "Satan has asked to sift [us] as wheat." That means we are going to be "Tempted and Tried" in an attempt to get us away from Christ. After all, Satan has no need to tempt the lost; he's already got them.

If you subscribe to the prosperity gospel that is so popular today, I implore you to read the Gospel of John for yourself. Read about Peter's Denials and his restoration. Read about the Stoning of Stephen. But those happened two-thousand years ago! What about modern-day persecution? Read about the persecution of overseas missionaries. OK - that's overseas. I live in the United States and I'm free to worship as I please. Unless you want to pray at a football game or read a bible at a courthouse or meet with fellow Christians at school.

I believe we are all given gifts of one sort or another by God. Some have been blessed with the wealth of this world so they can support those who do God's work without pay. But those who have been blessed with wealth need to be aware that one day it may all come crumbling down.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Paul must suffer...

I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.
- Acts 9:16, NIV

These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to the disciple Ananias - the man who taught the Apostle Paul about the Lord. The him and he in this passage refer to Paul (at that time, Saul of Tarsus).

Saul was famous in these parts for persecuting Christians. He excelled at his chosen task, to the point when Christ appeared before Ananias in Damascus, Ananias asked Him, "Are you sure you have the right guy?" Today's scripture was part of Christ's response.

Suffering is part of the Christian gig. Paul notes that throughout his writings. He had been arrested many times, imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, caned, stoned, and spent at least 24 hours in the open sea. (You can read this yourself in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27.) Paul learned what it meant to suffer.

But perhaps, more compelling to me personally, is in the next chapter of 2 Corinthians. Paul tells about the "thorn in [his] flesh". In the fist six verses, Paul elaborates on his vision of Heaven. He described how he will not say, "I'm better than you because I saw all of this," because he is not the one to be glorified. Then, in verses 7 and 8, Paul says:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

Scholars have argued for centuries about this thorn. Was it a physical ailment? Was he suffering from a loss of vision as a result of his conversion (Acts 8)? Was he lame? Was he suffering pain in some way? Or was it emotional? Was he clinically depressed? Was he suicidal? Was he bipolar?

I say it doesn't matter. Whatever the thorn was is not important. Paul's point was that he was suffering for the name of the Lord. And he goes on to clarify that point in verses 9 and 10:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That last sentence is somewhat of a paradox. "When I am weak, then I am strong." Isn't all of following Christ a paradox?

  • "Those who are first shall be last."
  • "Those who think they can see are blind."
  • "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."
These are mysteries that our feeble human minds cannot comprehend.

So, if Christianity means we are to suffer, then why do we even bother? How can life be joy when it is filled with suffering? Entire religions have been founded to face this question. Buddhism is one that comes to mind. Once you accept the joy that life is suffering, you are bound for Nirvana. Until then, you're doomed to repeat life over and over again in a reincarnated body. Nirvana is oblivion - nothing left. In other words, your only hope to escape suffering is complete corporeal destruction.

Paul offers us a different hope.

as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
- Galatians 4:1-7, NIV

We are no longer slaves to sin, but children of God. As a child of God, we are heirs to the throne. You and I are no different than Paul or David or Abraham. We are all children of God.

Next time you are down 'cuz life is treating you hard, remember this. Remember that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness says you must smile all the time. Joy says you have a promise, a bright future to which you can look forward, even you don't feel like smiling.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You are My Strength and My Shield

Psalm 28 (CEV)
(By David.)
A Prayer for Help
1 Only you, LORD, are a mighty rock! Don't refuse to help me when I pray. If you don't answer me, I will soon be dead.
2 Please listen to my prayer and my cry for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy temple.
3 Don't drag me away, LORD, with those cruel people, who speak kind words, while planning trouble.
4 Treat them as they deserve! Punish them for their sins.
5 They don't pay any attention to your wonderful deeds. Now you will destroy them and leave them in ruin.
6 I praise you, LORD, for answering my prayers.
7 You are my [strength and my] shield, and I trust you completely. You have helped me, and I will celebrate and thank you in song.
8You give strength to your people, LORD, and you save and protect your chosen ones.
9Come save us and bless us. Be our shepherd and always carry us in your arms.

I woke up with the emphasized words above on my heart. I don't know why, but they were there. So I began to meditate on them as I went about my morning routine. They (as all of scripture) are powerful words. These words build a picture of a God in whom we can rest knowing that the battle around us will stay there - around us.

But the word shield has little meaning for a 21st-Century man like myself. I mean, I've seen pictures of ancient soldiers running into battle carrying their sword in one hand and their shield in another, but can I really relate to that?

In 1996, I was in a car wreck. My folks were letting me use their '92 Mustang while I was car-less. It was early in the morning and I was in McAllen, Texas (8 miles north of the border!) looking for some breakfast tacos. I was still sleepy and had slipped out of work without notifying my boss. I was only going to be gone for a few minutes, not for long. My light turned green, and I started going. Suddenly, I'd turned 90° to the right. The store to which I was headed was out my right-side window, now it was on my left. I was wondering what the heck happened. The hood was crumpled and steam was pouring out from the engine. But I was all right. I walked away from that wreck - a little sore, but otherwise all right.

My car was my shield. It protected me from the '68 Buick tank that ran the red light at about 55 mph.

I can relate.

David wrote a lot of Psalms about protection from enemies. While we, as Christians have problems relating to the crying out for vengeance in the Psalms, we can relate to David seeking refuge in the Lord.

Well, after my last post being a marathon, I guess I'll let you slide with this short one. God bless you. May He be your shield in rough times.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thoughts on Blessings and Getting in Touch with God

Note: This post is rather long. I actually composed most of it while on a sand dune on Padre Island National Seashore this afternoon. I had a wonderful time clearing my mind and soul so I could get back in touch with God. Enjoy reading!


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
- Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

A few weeks ago, we were working with these verses for a homeschool writing assignment. Every day, my girls were to copy these two verses twice. I'll admit - I was grasping at straws for many things (Bible Story, writing assignment, memory verse) and -d "Verse of the Day". This passage came up.

Through the trying month of February 2007, these verses - especially one phrase - kept coming into my mind. "To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine..."

Immeasurably more is a wonderful phrase. I can't think of a better way to put it. He can do more than can be measured. If we ask for a teaspoon of blessings, He is able to provide a fload of Noahic proportions. If we can imagine a swimming pool full of blessings, He can deliver the moon - literally.

Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. That's quite a bit! As I write this, I'm watching the waves roll in on the Gulf of Mexico. I'm in Texas on the Padre Island National Seashore, looking toward Florida. Or Cancun. Or Alabama. All I can see is water (and the occasional oil rig). The amount of water in the Gulf of Mexico is immeasurable. I mean, sure we can estimate it.

The surface of the Gulf of Mexico is about 600,000 square miles. Average depth is ~1 mile, meaning the Gulf of Mexico contains 600,000 square miles of water. This is equal to 88,318,771,200,000,000 cubic feet (that's 88 quadrillion feet). There are 7.48052 gallons in one cubic foot, so there are 660,670,334,337,024,000 gallons (that's 660 quadrillion gallons) of salt water in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that's just an estimate, not a measurement. And I can be anal about numbers - just ask my wife. In my not-so-humble opinion, it's already immeasurable. OK, so we can estimate that the Gulf of Mexico holds a bunch of water. It's not an ocean. The oceans are bigger and deeper. And there are more seas and gulfs that we haven't discussed. How much water is on the Earth? Immeasurable. And God is capable of pouring out even more blessings on one person than can be contained in all the oceans, gulfs, seas, lakes, ponds, rivers... of the world. And He can do the same for each and ever person in the world. Every day.

That's a lot of blessings.

What, though, is a blessing? Is it riches? Material goods? Food? Family? Friends? Power?

After seeking "blessings" through various means over a period of 40+ years, I don't think it's any of the above. After all, wise old King Solomon had all thesee things but did not consider himself truly blessed. (Read Ecclesiastes if you don't know what I mean. Here's a hint: Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.) True blessings may involve food, but only enough to keep you from starving.


I'm sitting on the beach listening to my MP3 player and thanking God for the blessing of having a beautiful, peaceful place to meditate while I write. Suddenly, "Adding to the Noise" by Switchfoot came on. Hint taken! Now I'm listening to the dull roar of the surf, the call of the gulls and the rustling of the reeds - and therefore to God's voice - as I write. Funny. As much as I love people's music, God's music is so much more beautiful! I'm moving south now.

The She-Log and Shells


I've moved about ¼ mile south - moseying along and getting caught up in my old beach days (minus the case of beer). I found some pretty shells I'll give my girls. I wish my digital camera wasn't broken so I could show you what I see.

As I walked just on the dry side of the waves, I saw several broken sand dollars lying in the sand. I picked up two pretty orange bi-valve shells for my daughters. Oh - and a spiral nautilus-type shell for science lessons. I can't see my van now - it's hidden by the dunes. I also can't see (or hear) the gas drilling rig behind me. I'm still surrounded only by the still, small voice of God.

The She-Log is a huge chunk of driftwood covered with dead, dry moss. It looks like it's covered with long gray hair. :)

Gathering shells is an innocuous, selfish activity. Steven Wright is the lease selfish shell collector I've heard of. (Go ahead - say that line several times really fast!) He keeps his seashell collection scattered on beaches around the world. :) But it brought to mind the subject of blessings, once again.

I'd seen all these broken sand dollars and I thought it would be neat to find a whole one that I could take home. I heard a reply, "You mean, kill a sand dollar so you can add it to your collection?"

"No," I thought, "just wash a dead one up on the beach."

Again the reply: "So you can keep it and not share it?"

One-on-one time with God can really make you think!

The pelicans are feeding. These are huge birds with at least an 8-foot wingspan. They dive into the water and catch fish - then come up with beaks full of water and fish. They spit out the water and eat the fish. It's really cool to watch God's creation in action!

Our blessings are peace, peace and peace. Not safety from sorrow or pain. Not giant TVs and an unending HD-DVD collection with a Dolby 7.1 400W Surround. Our blessings do not include any earthly guarantees except joy and peace. And these are still hard to come by if we are not leaning on the Lord. But they are more important than anything else.

"The Son of Man has no place to lay His head." We should consider ourselves blessed if we do. Our world, particularly America, considers blessings of a material sort to be "real" and those who accept peace in lieu of Easy Street are missing out. I'm sorry, Mr. TV Preacher. I can't find anywhere in scripture where I'm guaranteed a beach-front bungalow with a bottomless refrigerator/freezer and no bills. I can, however, find a promise that I will be filled with joy whether or not I have those things.

Now who's missing out? The guy who puts all his joy in his wealth or the guy who sacrifices his wealth to find joy?

"Sell all that you have and follow me. (Clay's Paraphrase) I read that many years ago and thought, "That can't be right! I'm a college graduate! I didn't suffer through 12 years of college and the Navy so I could give away everything I own!" But, He didn't stop there. "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven." (again, Clay's Paraphrase) This doesn't mean that the rich won't get into Heaven, it just means that most people who have accumulated wealth have done so at the expense of others or have simply forgotten who gave them the wealth - Our Heavenly Father.

Now, having experienced life without all the fancy stuff (we watched DVDs on a 5" black and white TV for several months 'cuz our 13" color died!) I can say I'm ready to forego it all and experience His best. That may or may not include the latest technology. It may or may not include meat on the table three times a day. But it does mean I will not die of hunger or boredom! It does mean that I will not lack for the basic necessities (which are far more basic than most Americans realize!)


My butt's going to sleep again. I'm going to get moving again. I figure I've got about two hours of daylight remaining.

The Hydra Log


I walked the 1/2 mile back to the car. (I arrived at this figure in my own anally accurate way: I counted 767 footsteps on my left foot - with forty-five inches between heel marks for each step. This was a distance of 3,104 feet which is 0.58787878787878787878787 miles. Rounding to the nearest quarter mile, and accounting for possible errors in counting or math, I'll say it was ½ mile.) After walking back, I drove 3/10 mile north and ate a small package of blueberries! YUM! Now I'm in my van, parked facing the surf with the downwind window open. That north wind is quite chilly! The sun is hurrying toward the cloudless horizon and I'm going to be in total darkness in about an hour.

The Hydra-Log is a driftwood stump with the roots up. It reminds me of the mythical hydra - an animal with several snake heads.


HUNGRY!! I'm now in Rockport. Somehow I keep winding up here. I really like Rockport. Maybe someday I'll retire here?
As I drove from Padre Island National Seashore to Port Aransas, I watched the sun sink below the horizon. Only God can make pink, purple and blue look good together! I also watched with amusement as I passed the "Ferryboat Burma-Shave" signs. Starting a full 12 miles before arriving at the ferry landing, there were signs telling the rules and regulations for riding the ferry. I thought it was hilarious the way there was one rule every ½ mile for 12 miles. Then again, this was all new to me and I was an old-hand on the Island.

Anyway, I wound up at Off the Hook restaurant for dinner. It was a great seafood restaurant built right on Aransas Bay. The signs talked about their "forever view" out the huge picture windows facing the bay, but it was night so I didn't see the typical daytime view. But the sea is just as pretty at night - if not more so. As I sat, I watched fish jump in the lights and an egret standing on the other side of the lagoon right outside the window. The egret kept jabbing the water with its beak but always came up empty. Well, I know I'm going to eat. I must be more blessed than this egret. The tiny lagoon with the egret is very still, like a sheet of glass. Not a ripple mars the surface, save for the occasional jumping fish.

A red oval rose over the eastern horizon. At first I thought it to be some sort of light in the bay - maybe a channel marker. As it rose higher, it became brighter and more circular, evolving into the familiar sight of the light created to "govern" the night. The welcome smile from the "Man in the Moon" gazed at me after a long day of seeking God in everything I see.


AWESOME!!!! A gray porpoise just went jumping through the lagoon! God is great! Of course, that means it's not a lagoon. It also explains why the egret isn't coming closer to the jumping fish. The water's too deep! Egrets are long-legged birds that stand on the bottom. They don't swim like ducks, gulls or pelicans.

That was one of my blessings for today. As a lady at the next table said, "That will be one of my happy memories for the rest of my life. When a bad thing happens, I can pull up my happy memories - and that will be one of them." Seeing a porpoise, not boat-related, is a very satisfying experience. I've seen many in the Navy and crossing the ferry at Port Aransas, but never just swimming past like that.

Well, I'm heading home. It's been a rich day. I'll write more tomorrow. It'll be more concise and orderly. This is just notes from a very good day. I pray that God will bless you immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine as He has done for me today.

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