Meditating on the Commands of Christ (24): Be Thou Clean!

One of Jesus’ most prominent ministries while he was on earth was his ability and willingness to heal people of all sorts of sicknesses, not only physical ailments, but spiritual problems. Furthermore, he wasn’t just able to heal some of them. He healed all of them: “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40). There was no sickness that Jesus could not heal, and there’s no record of him ever refusing to make anyone well who came to him for help.

In our passage for today, a leper came to Jesus seeking help. Do you know what leprosy is? I’d never heard of leprosy as a child, and it’s very uncommon in America, but it’s a terribly disfiguring, painful, progressive bacterial infection that can result in blindness, loss of limbs, and eventually death.

Arran Reeve, age 24 in 1886, suffering from Leprosy

It’s not just one of those diseases like small pox that has been largely eradicated, either. Hundreds of thousands of people (more than half from India) are still contracting new cases every year. Although it can be cured if treated early (and in the past 20 years, more than  sixteen million people have been cured), two thousand years ago when Christ lived on earth, there was no known cure. During biblical times, because it was contagious, people who had leprosy were ostracized from their families and communities. They were required by law to call out, “Unclean!” if anyone approached them. So, it’s not hard to imagine the distress the disciples might have felt to see a leper coming toward them. I think it’s noteworthy that this particular miracle is recorded by three of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The blind and lame were healed, but probably most people didn’t think they had contagious diseases. To have a leper approach meant possible contamination for all of them.  However, Jesus didn’t shrink away. Instead, he reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus wasn’t afraid of catching infection; he came to deliver us from evil: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). In 1 Peter 2:24, we are reminded that Jesus “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Jesus came to heal, and he did: “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42; See also Matthew 8:1-3 and Luke 5:12-13).

Isn’t this beautiful? From the second Jesus touched him, the leper was a leper no more! He would never have to shout “Unclean!” when someone approached him! He could be clean if he would be clean, and he desperately wanted to be clean! He was cleansed in a moment, and now he could shout, “Clean” whenever he wanted! 🙂

Do you ever suffer from feeling “unclean?” Would you like to be clean? Jesus can heal you if you’ll come to him and ask! I do not know of a single prophet, priest, or king on earth besides Jesus who has been recorded as being able and willing to heal “all” our diseases. Do you? Only God can heal ultimately and completely, and that’s one of the ways in which Jesus revealed that he was and is God. Come to him!

 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4).

He Touched Me
(—William J. and Gloria Gaither, copyright Capitol Christian Music Group)

“Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.”

Scallops, Scallops Everywhere!

Do you love scallops?  I do, although they’re so expensive I rarely ever eat them.  I had some last fall at Judson’s Steakhouse in the BOB (here in Grand Rapids, MI) when my son Joel took me out for a special birthday treat!Alan and I also ordered some “Scallops Florentine” for an appetizer at Charlie’s Crab, where we went to celebrate our 46th anniversary last month.Over the years, I’ve enjoyed them on various special occasions, and particularly last summer on our cruise of the North Sea aboard the Celebrity Summit, where scallops were often part of the offerings, not only as a main course, but as a possibility for adding to gourmet spaghetti, as an appetizer (here mixed with avocado, tomatoes, and seasonings), as part of a fresh salad (with lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, green beans, apple chunks, and olives in a light vinaigrette dressing),deep-fried as kabobs with seasoned fries and a sriracha/mayonnaise dip, or as part of a seafood platter extravaganza. Scallops are so special to me that I decided to make some for our annual high tea, where we three Birthday Clubbers invite our guys to join us for an evening of fellowship and unusual taste treats. Here’s a simple but delicious recipe:

Sizzling, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
(Makes 6)

1. Fry six slices of bacon until nearly done but still flexible. 2. Wrap a strip of bacon around each scallop and secure with a toothpick. (When you shop, make sure the scallops are very firm and fresh; they should not smell fishy! 😦  )3. Season by sprinkling with seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s), dried, crushed garlic, onion powder, basil, and pepper, then fry for 3 minutes at medium-high heat on each side. Serve immediately or cover until ready to serve and then heat quickly to full temperature. (Best if eaten piping hot right away so they don’t get overcooked and mushy.)

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11)

Slight of Hand and Sleight-of-Hand

I slighted my hand when I was only four. The youngest of five, I was racing out the storm door behind my brothers and sisters one night, but instead of waiting to catch the door properly, I thought I could stop it with my hand. My entire hand plunged through the glass, shattering the pane into a thousand pieces, cutting and bruising my hand in multiple places, and breaking my little finger. Mom set it on a popsicle stick and called it good enough. (By the time you have five, you don’t run to the emergency department for every small distress, and money was scarce in those days.) Yes, my slight hand was slighted.  😦Over the next decades, my little finger began to drift to the right, I suppose because it never healed perfectly straight and I put constant pressure on it playing the piano. For a few decades, it just made me able to reach more than an octave, and I liked that! However, in my fifties the drift became more pronounced, because after the kids grew up I started writing (typing) for hours every day. Typing exacerbated the problem; I tapped the keys with the left side of my finger, slowly pushing it further and further out of alignment.  Eventually, my pinkie began to develop arthritis and sometimes hurt.

About ten years ago, I had a hand surgeon look at it, but at that time he told me  as long as I wanted to play the piano and type, I should leave it alone. However, just a few weeks ago, my ophthalmologist told me that he’d had surgery on both his thumbs and 2 fingers and was very pleased with the result! So, last week I went for a second opinion with this doctor’s surgeon. Dr. Naum said he could clean out the joint and straighten my finger without limiting any of my current activities.

That’s where Dr. Naum’s sleight-of-hand comes in! According to Merriam-Webster, “sleight-of-hand” can mean “skill and dexterity in conjuring tricks,” and if the operation goes successfully, I will say that’s a very clever trick he’s executed with great skill! This afternoon I’m going to have the surgery done. If I can figure out how to take a photo of my hand when I get home, I’ll add that, and in six weeks, I’ll hopefully be able to show you the finished product if all goes well by God’s grace.

Meanwhile, I’ve been able to write just a few posts ahead, so if I don’t post much until mid-May, know it’s because I can’t type much! April is National Poetry Writing Month, and I may write poems or share poems with more enthusiasm than usual, given that poetry takes fewer words to express ideas! Perhaps a slight hand can do a little sleight-of-hand.  🙂  Also, if you have any poems you’d like to share, please feel free! My email is:  kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com

Blessings!

Kathi

P.S.—Some of us may have broken hearts that were sleighted years ago and never healed right. If you are suffering from an old injury that is causing you pain today, know that God is the Great Physician. He can do what others can’t (no matter how much they love us or may try, like my dear mother, who did the best she could). God is in the business of mending hearts, even if he sometimes has to re-break a crooked bone to set us straight!

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8)

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Atlanta: Immersed in America’s Largest Aquarium

If  you ever get to Atlanta, be sure to make time to visit the Georgia Aquarium. This fantastic aquarium houses 100,000+ animals representing 700 species of fish and sea creatures in 10 million gallons of  sea water! It’s is the only place outside Asia where you can observe whale sharks, and one of only four sites in the world to display giant South African Manta rays. The Manta rays at the aquarium have wingspans of up to 13 feet, but the world’s largest have wingspans of up to 30 feet!          They are magnificent creatures and look like they’re flying in slow motion as they glide through the water. The  Georgia Aquarium is also home to several beluga whales, who are quite friendly with some of the staff and are happy to do tricks for applause! There are seven galleries and exhibits, each featuring creatures that thrive in particular environments. The largest exhibit, “Ocean Voyager,” contains 6.3 million gallons of water and several thousand fish. It is the largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world. It also has a 100-foot underwater tunnel and one of the world’s largest viewing windows. Other galleries include the “Suntrust Pier 22” where you can enjoy California Sea Lions splashing about . . . the “Cold Water Quest” for a look at African penguins  . . . “River Scout” for watching the antics of river otters, and “Tropical Diver” where you can experience an intimate look at shrimp and other sea creatures that live deep down under the sea! There are several “show times” worth catching too: feeding sea lions, talking to the beluga whales, and probably most thrilling of all—Dolphin Celebration. No photos are allowed during the dolphin show, so relax and put away your camera. Also, know that the first 10 rows routinely get drenched by the dolphins intentionally splashing you for fun, so if you don’t relish a good soaking, head for the 10th row or higher ASAP, which should be about 20 minutes before the show begins to secure a good seat. We visited just a few weeks ago while Alan was at a conference in Atlanta, and even though the aquarium is amazing as is, they’re in the midst of a $100 million dollar renovation, hopefully to be completed in the fall of 2020. I couldn’t help but think about the seemingly endless varieties of animals that God has created—the seas teeming with fish, and every little stream filled with turtles and other forms of life. No matter how hard we try, and although what men have accomplished is impressive, we can’t begin to contain or even identify all the forms of life on our planet. Did you know that our earth contains something like 326 million trillion gallons of water and another 3,100 cubic miles of water vapor in our atmosphere? I can’t even wrap my brain around just how big our “aquarium” is! No matter how hard we try, humans have never been able to create a single living animal! Only God can do that. I’ve been meditating on Psalm 8 lately, and it starts out by praising our Creator God, the LORD, because He can do what we cannot! His power is unfathomable. He has “set His glory above the heavens.” Mid-song, the psalmist points out that God has created man and crowned him with glory over all the earth, giving him the privilege and responsibility for caring for all of God’s earthly creation.     At the end of the Psalm 8, David praises God for his excellence. He reigns over heaven and earth, and his glory is so far above man’s that we can’t begin to contain or even imagine it! What a mighty God we serve! O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

What a Mighty God We Serve
(Originally an African folk song,
but more recently sung by Hezekiah Walker who added to the lyrics)

“What a mighty God we serve
what a mighty god we serve
Angels bow before Him
Heaven and earth adore Him
What a mighty God we serve.

He holds the winds in His hand
And He is the great I am
He is the bright and morning star
And without Him I would fall

Jehovah Jireh, my provider
Jehovah Shalom, my peace
Jehovah Tsidkenu, my righteousness
What a mighty God we serve.”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (23): Do Not Think That I Will Accuse You

Many people envision God as The Great Judge who will determine our eternal destiny by weighing our souls in the Balance of Life after we die. If our good works outweigh our bad works, we’ll be ushered into glory; but if our bad works outweigh our good works, we’ll be cast into hell. Is that what you think?

This is what the Pharisees thought, and this is what many religions teach, but this is not the way of Christ. He said, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47-48). Jesus told the Pharisees that if they would only come to him, instead of judging them, he would give them eternal life, but they refused.  When they refused to listen to him, Jesus told them:  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust” (John 5:45).

What did Jesus mean by that? In the Old Testament, God—through Moses—gave us  humans a list of basic “Do’s and Don’ts,” commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. Most people from Christian countries would say they believe we should keep the Ten Commandments, and many people agree that lying, stealing, and cheating are wrong. But in fact, none of us keep the commandments perfectly at all times. For example, how about the first one: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Who among us has never let some little god—some idol—come between God and ourselves?

Do you know what an idol is? It comes from the Greek word eidolon, which means “a reflection” as in water or a mirror. It’s not necessarily a literal image we bow down to and worship, but it is the representation of something we see and want. In Francine River’s  sweet devotional, Earth Psalms, she points out that idols are just “little nothings.” I like that. Idols are as ephemeral as a reflection in water . . . fleeting and without substance. We want them intensely, but they never really satisfy. They can’t.

On the other hand, God—our Father God, God Almighty—is unchanging and eternal. He is the only One who can satisfy us completely. Only God is worth worshiping, yet how often we chase some illusory vision or allow our own reflection to become our idol! Are we worshiping God, or ourselves? Who is the center of our personal universe? Whom do we love and live for?

So, if we can’t even keep the first of the Ten Commandments, I don’t think we should really want to be measured by the Mosaic Law. But, God does give us that choice: We can be saved through faith in the work of Christ, or we can be judged by the Law of Moses. Which would you prefer?

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12).

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

Be ye holy; for I am holy.17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:16-19). This is my testimony: I am not hoping that my good works will outweigh my bad works. I know that won’t happen. Instead, I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, who died for my sins and for the sins of all who will put their faith in him. I hope this is true of you too! May we give up all our “little nothings” and place our faith and hope in Christ.

Texts for this week’s study:

And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.41 I receive not honour from men.42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:40-47).

And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” John 12:47-50

The “Ten Commandments” from Exodus 20:1-17

“And God spake all these words, saying,

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

Unforgettable Belgian Waffles: History and Recipe

The first time I ever met a “Belgian Waffle” was at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which opened almost 55 years ago, on April 22, 1964.  What I didn’t realize then was that this Belgian dish, developed by Maurice and Rose Vermersch for the fair—sizzled at 500°F. in cast-iron waffle makers and selling up to 2,500 per day for $0.99—would sweep America as a nationwide sensation!  For those of you born after 1970, I’ll bet you thought Belgian waffles always existed, right? As I recall, they were served at the World’s Fair with powered sugar, fresh, sliced strawberries, and whipped cream, but no maple syrup. I usually serve them with syrup and bacon or sausage on the side, but suit yourself! Alan and I enjoyed similar waffles last summer at the Vatnahalsen Hotell in Norway after a ride through the mountains along the fjords on the Flam Railroad. (I doubt they call them “Belgian” waffles there! Maybe “Norwegian?”)At any rate, in Norway, we were given waffles and allowed to serve ourselves from two mammoth bowls: one with fresh, whipped cream and the other filled with a fantastic raspberry puree. Unforgettably, mouth-wateringly delicious!On cruise ships, waffles are often a staple, and you can crown them with various toppings, such as bananas foster, strawberry compote, fresh berries, etc!A breakfast of Belgian waffles is a great favorite at our house, and I try to serve them at least once any time our kids and grand kids visit (which happened last week when some of our kids were home for spring break). Despite the fact that I make them very often, they go so fast, and are in such high demand, that it’s almost impossible to get any good photos before they’re being devoured! If you haven’t made them yet, here’s one excellent recipe:

Belgian Waffles
(Makes about 8  five-inch waffles)

1. In mixing bowl, add:
2 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

2. Mix together slowly, then add:
1.5 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs (you’re supposed to separate them and whip the whites separately, adding at the end; this makes the waffles fluffier, but if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind the loss of light texture, you can just add the yolks and whites together here)
1 cup melted butter (I actually only use a half a cup, because I think it’s too rich and fattening, but suit yourself! If you use a half a cup, then add another 1/2 cup milk above, making it 2 cups of milk.) Whip until completely uniform.

If I’m really in a hurry, I use:
2 cups Aunt Jemima Buttermilk pancake mix
1.5 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter

This second recipe doesn’t melt in your mouth the way the other one does, but I don’t think our kids take time to let them melt anyway!  🙂

3. Regardless of how you make the batter, crisp the waffles in a preheated waffle maker until golden brown, then serve with generous supplies of:

*Fresh, sliced strawberries (or whatever else you have; in the winter we’ve even used cherry or blueberry pie filling)
*Syrup (or powdered sugar; our kids prefer syrup)
*Whipped cream

*And, of course, serve with lots of coffee, tea, and/or milk

O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever” (Psalm 30:12).

P.S.—Alan and I now have a son living in Belgium. I’ll have to ask him if Belgian waffles taste even better there  . . .

Now You See Me; Now You Don’t

Have you ever had the sensation that something completely disappeared from view, just like magic? Yesterday was March 20—the first day of spring!—and while I was driving, a bright, orange sun began to peak above the horizon, reflecting its beautiful glow onto the hood of my car. I wanted to get a good picture, but to my disappointment— just as I got to the stoplight—a vehicle turned in front, totally blocking out the sun.  😦Thankfully, I was able to take a pictures on my cell phone (not great resolution, but you get the idea) after the truck passed, while the light was still red.It was breathtaking! I felt like I was heading straight into the sun! As I approached the next light, the sun was so bright it was hard to see. Both the road and sky had turned to glorious shades of oranges and reds!Strangely, after I crested the hill, where I expected to be overwhelmed by grandeur, the sun was completely invisible! Where had it gone?The sky was still dazzling, but there was no sun to be seen anywhere! Was it the angle of the hill? The signage? The evergreens? Had the road (which seemed straight) actually veered enough to obscure my view? Where was the sun?Only after I turned off the highway onto a side street could I see the sun again.

I think seeing God is like this. Sometimes we catch a glimpse—hopefully even reflected in us—and we are enthralled. We feel like we’re heading straight into the heart of God. His light is blinding, the effect of his presence glorious. His light casts a rosy tint across our sky and even the worn roadway  before us. But, at times He disappears from view. If you try to show Him to a friend, they might think you’re just imagining things. What blocks the view? Occupational hazzards and business? Angles and perspectives? The writings and opinions of others? Beautiful distractions? Veering just a little?

We can all see the gorgeous glow of nature, but sometimes the One whose presence has created the beauty is not visible at all. However, like a stunning sun rising in the sky, God is worth pursuing, even if it means turning off the highway onto a quiet street.

Honour and majesty are before him:
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary
” (Psalm 96:6).

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2).