Meditating on the Commands of Christ (29): “Stand Forth”

If we can do nothing else, we can at least stand up! That’s what Martin Luther had to do back in April 1521 when Emperor Charles V demanded that he recant. Luther was unable to disavow the pile of books on the table in front of him (which he had authored), because Luther sincerely believed they were true, and so it is often reported that he finished his defense with: “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”

In today’s account, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on a sabbath day and saw a man with a withered hand. I suppose he could have ignored the man’s weakness to avoid confrontation (since he knew the scribes and Pharisees were just looking for a chance to accuse him of doing something “wrong”), but Jesus’ compassion for the man obviously outweighed any human desire to avoid conflict. Without flinching, the great teacher took time to heal! He told the man to “Rise up and stand forth in the midst.

Even the scribes and Pharisees hadn’t added any regulations denying a man the right to stand up on the sabbath, so Jesus wasn’t asking the man to do anything the religious leaders could condemn, although I’m sure the man with the withered hand would have felt both fear and joy at the prospect of Jesus singling him out. Why was Jesus asking him to stand up in the middle of everybody? Would Jesus heal him? If so, how would Jesus heal him? Would Jesus require anything from the man that would make the religious leaders persecute him or kick him out of the synagogue?

In our lives, no matter what our problems, Jesus is able to heal us. But, he will often ask us to take a stand, the way the man with the withered hand had to make a public “spectacle” of himself, and the way Luther was required to stand up for what he believed to be true about God and the Bible. Do you need healing? Do you want Jesus to heal you? Are you willing to “Rise up and stand forth in the midst” ?

I have a friend who is a Messianic Jew (that means he is Jewish by birth and by religious conviction, but he does believe that Jesus is the Messiah who was prophesied to come as the Savior of the world). Because he was a member of his synagogue from childhood (and before his conversion to Christ), the leaders didn’t kick him out of the synagogue until . . . until the new rabbi (who was a female) had an agenda to support abortion. When my friend took a stand against abortion, he was summarily kicked out of his synagogue.

How tragic that religious leaders sometimes stand against the way of mercy and truth. If you are part of a church where the Bible is not revered as Truth and the God of the Bible is not worshiped as the one and only true God, please be willing to take a stand! You might not get thrown out. (The man with the withered hand did not, although my dear brother in the faith did.) You might not get burned at the stake. (Martin Luther did not, although I’m sure he feared that, because he was so influenced by the work of John Huss, who had been burned at the stake exactly 100 years before Luther posted his 95 theses.) Any time we stand against false doctrine, we are very likely to be persecuted, but that is part of the cost of discipleship: “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Let’s be willing to take a stand!

“The Stand” (Hillsong United)

You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
And what can I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand

So what can I say?
And what can I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

Hillsong United singing “The Stand” Live in Miami
Words and Music by Joel Houston © 2005 Hillsong

Texts for this study: “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth” (Mark 3:1-3).

And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.2 And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth” (Luke 6:1-8).

Calling Versus Being Allured

Walking on the water

Sometimes You call us;
Sometimes we are lured away.
Always—You’ll rescue!

Last Sunday our church commissioned a young female surgeon who is heading off the Africa as a missionary. To me, that’s nothing short of asking her to walk on water, and yet I know it’s possible that she will do just fine, since during the Ebola epidemic a few years back, another young female surgeon with tremendous courage left the safety of Grand Rapids to help out with the epidemic in Africa . . . and lived to tell about it.

Probably more often than not, people are lured over their heads by temptation rather than calling, but I know God loves us and is willing to help us regardless. Whether we break through the ice accidentally, like John Smith, or we’re drawn to some addictive idol and find ourselves drowning, or we’re called to walk through oceans of difficulty with Jesus, He will rescue us if we’re willing to turn to him for help.

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” ( Isaiah 43:1-3).


“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” (by Hillsong United)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
And You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

(The two beautiful paintings are used by permission of Yongsung Kim. I will share more about him next week! Thank you!! To see more of his work, click here! https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrCwLB8IqZce2cAeQ0PxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=yongsung+kim+paintings&fr=yhs-SGMedia-sgmedia_maps&hspart=SGMedia&hsimp=yhs-sgmedia_maps#id=83&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fmelaniejeanjuneau.files.wordpress.com%2F2014%2F07%2F4ecee8ce284d4b49e0b89f77132b6122.jpg%3Fw%3D452%26h%3D539&action=click )

What is It? Whodunit?

I look up in awe!
This looks more like Star Wars than
A hotel lobby.

While in Atlanta, where Alan attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, we were treated to this stunning view that seemed more like a set for a sci-fi movie than the atrium of a hotel. I marveled at its beauty and thought to myself, “Whoever did this deserves some type of architectural award!” Indeed, the designer is none other than John C. Portman Jr. who died at 93 in 2017.

Atlanta was his hometown, and the street right outside this hotel—Atlanta Marriott Marquis—bears Portman’s name! Furthermore, I’ve seen his buildings (and photographed them) all over the world, from San Diego’s Bayfront to Beijing’s Yintai Center and Shanghai’s Tomorrow Square. Even Detroit’s Ren Cen (whose central tower held the title of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013), where Alan and I used to watch the Grand Prix races out the window from our friend George’s law office, was built by this man!

I marveled both at Portman’s prestigious career and at my own ignorance. He has built some of the most creative architectural masterpieces of my time, and I have been astounded by their beauty, but I never stopped to figure out who designed them, nor did I put two and two together to formulate a simple question: Phenomenal designs . . . do you suppose the same person designed this one too?!

How about you? Have you marveled at the beauty of our world—from the majestic mountains to the tiny, fragrant flowers—and felt overwhelmed by the creative genius without ever asking who the creative Genius is?

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrew 11:3,6).

By Faith
(Stuart Townend)

By faith, we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design;
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.

By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.

By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.

First Bouquet of Spring

In fall we plant bulbs;
In spring God gives us bouquets
That say, “I love you!”

My youngest son and I had a standing game for many years: Who could find the first crocuses each spring? (They are the first flowers to bloom around our home.) Although we’ve planted many crocuses over the years, between the ground squirrels, deer, and construction projects, I take each blossom as a treasured gift, recognizing that I can plant and wish, but only God can take dry, brown bulbs, nurture them into life, and allow them to grow safely into a riot of color and beauty! What a gift we enjoy in the resurrection of life—without, and within!

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

I Believe in Miracles
(—John W. Peterson)

“Creation shows the power of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

Chorus:

“I believe in miracles, I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod;
I believe in miracles, for I believe in God!

“I cannot doubt the work of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

“The love of God! O pow’r divine!
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary.”

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.”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (22): Search The Scriptures

While riding on a train in Scotland nearly fifty years ago, I sat next to a young woman about my age who was willing to engage in talking about the Bible. Near the end of our conversation, I asked if she believed in Jesus, whom the Bible presents as the Son of God.

“No, I couldn’t do that!” she responded emphatically.

Surprised, I asked why.

“Because if I really believed what the Bible says, I’d have to change the way I live, and I don’t want to.”

I never heard the Gospel until I was twelve, but I was immediately thrilled! Doubt wasn’t even an issue. I simply believed that God loved me and sent his Son to die for me (and everyone) so that I could have my sins forgiven and become God’s child. What’s not to love about that?! As a child, I didn’t have deep ruts already set in my life that would be hard to get out of. I don’t think I was even on a path at all. I was still simply roaming about the meadow, picking flowers, going no where in particular. I think that may be why young children so eagerly believe and are willing to trust. They don’t have their hearts set in stone yet, and they’re used to following, so to follow the Good Shepherd, who loves them dearly, sounds like a good plan!

My husband’s experience was more like that of the young woman on the train. He grew up in a church hearing about Christ but thought becoming a Christian would impede his social life. It wasn’t until listening to a straightforward Gospel message by Billy Graham on T.V. one night that he felt all his reservations melt away, and he saw no reason to resist God anymore.

If your true heart is to resist God’s love and choose your own way, then I can only pray the Lord will soften your heart so that you desire to know and love Him, because His love is better than anything on earth, and to know Him is life eternal! However, if you find that  you would like to believe but are struggling, then I’d like to encourage you with these words from Jesus: “Search the scriptures . . . they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

How do the scriptures testify to the validity of Jesus as the Messiah (the One sent from God to save us)? There are hundreds of references to Christ in the Old Testament which were written hundreds (and even thousands) of years before Jesus was born. For a starter, the Jesus Film Project has listed 55 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus pared with the verses in the New Testament explaining how each prophecy was fulfilled. If you’re sincere about wanting to know the truth, please take a few minutes to peruse this article:

https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/old-testament-prophecies.htmlOver time, two of the best ways to increase your faith are by meditating on the Bible, perhaps starting with the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, and by praying, asking God to reveal Himself to you and give you faith to believe the truth.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:30-39).

Jesus is All the World to Me
(Will L. Thompson, 1904, Public Domain)

  1. Jesus is all the world to me,
    My life, my joy, my all;
    He is my strength from day to day,
    Without Him I would fall.
    When I am sad, to Him I go,
    No other one can cheer me so;
    When I am sad, He makes me glad,
    He’s my Friend.
  2. Jesus is all the world to me,
    My Friend in trials sore;
    I go to Him for blessings, and
    He gives them o’er and o’er.
    He sends the sunshine and the rain,
    He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
    Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
    He’s my Friend.
  3. Jesus is all the world to me,
    And true to Him I’ll be;
    Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
    When He’s so true to me?
    Following Him I know I’m right,
    He watches o’er me day and night;
    Following Him by day and night,
    He’s my Friend.
  4. Jesus is all the world to me,
    I want no better Friend;
    I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
    Life’s fleeting days shall end.
    Beautiful life with such a Friend,
    Beautiful life that has no end;
    Eternal life, eternal joy,
    He’s my Friend.

Operation Finale

The most disturbing but worthwhile film from 2018 that I watched was Operation Finale, based on the memoirs of Israeli officer Peter Malkin, concerning the capture and testimony in court of Adolph Eichmann, the “Architect of the Holocaust.” Ben Kingsley did a masterful job portraying Eichmann, and Oscar Isaac was absolutely brilliant as the cunning but compassionate  Israeli intelligence operative who was able to form a positive emotional bond with the man who had been responsible for the murder of his (Malkin’s) sister and her children, along with six million Jews and six million people of other nationalities, including 1.5 million children.Is the movie accurate? Overwhelmingly. According to Director Christ Weitz,“For example, there was a girl in Argentina who was tortured by authorities and had a Swastika carved into her chest. We moved it forward to up the suspense, but we didn’t change any outcome. The majority of the film is accurate to the history.” In an interview, Weitz pointed out that he actually moved his family to Argentina so he could film on location . . . even using the same movie theater to shoot the scene where Eichmann’s son takes an interest in a beautiful young woman (who turns out to be Jewish). So, touches of extra romance (the expedition’s physician was really a man) and suspense (the timing of the plane’s departure), but otherwise distressingly factual.If I were still teaching history, I would definitely have my kids watch this movie, because the issues are (sadly) current within the Neo-Nazi movement today.I have no Jewish blood, so I can say (without feeling biased) that I stood in awe of the compassion and self-control Malkin exhibited. He said he thought Eichmann would be a monster, but when he spent time with him, Malkin realized that Eichmann seemed very human in person. In his memoirs, Malkin wrote, “A monster can be excused for his behaviour . . . The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it.” -Peter Malkin ObituaryI also marveled at how humane the 11 operatives were who were involved in the case. They didn’t torture Eichmann or brutalize him. He was fed kosher food and allowed to sleep in a regular bed. All this for the man who had been responsible for executing “The Final Solution” (extermination) for over 12 million people.Operation Finale tells the story of Eichmann’s escape from Germany to Argentina, how he was discovered fifteen years later, and how he was eventually brought to trial. This was the statement he was persuaded (without violence) to sign:

I, the undersigned, Adolf Eichmann, hereby declare of my own free will that, since my true identity has become known, I realize the futility of trying to continue to flee justice. I declare myself ready to travel to Israel and to stand trial before a competent court. It is clearly understood that I shall be provided with legal counsel, and I myself will endeavor to clarify the facts of my years of service in Germany so that future generations may receive a true picture of those events. I am making this statement of my own free will. I have been promised nothing and no threats have been made against me. I desire at long last to find repose for my soul.As the head of the Jewish department, Eichmann had been responsible for orchestrating the deportation of millions of Jews, but he never admitted any guilt: “As far as this question is concerned, I can only say that I’ve never killed anyone . . . I had to obey orders. I had to do it.” “So, it looks like, in those days, behind a desk, you could kill much more than with a pistol, and that’s what he had done. He’d just send them to the camps.” Peter Malkin-Charney ReportThe terrifying question that we all have to answer is: For what are we willing to die? Would we kill others to avoid being killed ourselves, or are we strong enough morally to choose what is right, even when it means resisting evil and most likely being killed as a result? I’m sure (I hope) that all of us believe we should and would stand up against evil and take the consequences, but in reality, martyrs for the sake of truth and righteousness are few and far between. Jesus is the only man I know who willingly subjected himself to death—and the horribly cruel death of crucifixion—for the sake of overcoming evil with good. He knew the night before his capture that he was going to be arrested and killed, and he forewarned his disciples of this. Jesus could easily have slipped away in the night and left the area. No one would ever have found him. Why didn’t he?

Why did Jesus tell Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:37)? Why did Jesus go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he knew Judas Iscariot would betray him? Why didn’t he defend himself when he went to trial? All he would have had to do was deny that he was God, and he could have gone free! Why didn’t he? Why didn’t he call down 10,000 angels to save him?

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-7).

Ten Thousand Angels

They bound the hands of Jesus
In the garden where He prayed
They led Him through the streets in shame
They spat upon the Saviour
So pure and free from sin
They said, “Crucify Him He’s to blame”

Chorus:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

Upon His precious head
They placed a crown of thorns
They laughed and said, “Behold the King”
They struck Him and they cursed Him
And mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything

When they nailed Him to the cross
His mother stood nearby
He said “Woman, behold thy son”
He cried, “I thirst for water”
But they gave Him none to drink
Then the sinful work of man was done

To the howling mob he yielded
He did not for mercy cry
The cross of shame He took alone
And when He cried, “It’s finished”
He gave Himself to die
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done

Chorus 2:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

(—Ray Overhalt © 1959 by Lillenas Publishing Co.)