Category Archives: God

Another Prince, Another Pauper

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prince and pauperTwo men came to Jesus, each with a request. One man was blind and poor, and wanted to see; the other was rich and sighted, and wanted eternal life.

Both requests were good and right, and Jesus offered answers to both. So why did one man walk away praising God and the other walked away sad?

The difference between the two men was not in their wealth, but their heart. Yes, the blind man was poor; unable to see, his only income was the coins he begged from passersby at the city gates. Yet his poverty went deeper than his wallet. Downtrodden and outcast, all that his blind eyes could see was the rejection of those walking past him each day. And it was in this poverty of spirit that he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” His request was both simple and impossible: I want to see.

The rich man may well have been one of those who tossed a few coins at the nameless, faceless beggars he daily rode by. Doubtless honored both for business savvy and his commandment-keeping righteousness, his request was no less honorable than the blind man’s: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Though both petitions were good, the difference between them was stark. Where the blind man knew he was could do nothing to bring about his own healing, the rich man believed his prayer could be answered by some good deed, some noble gesture, some further mark of his own power and wealth and righteousness. His perfect eyes and fat money-purse blinded him to the poverty of his own soul.

Jesus answered both men’s requests just as they wanted him to: He did for the blind man what he knew he could not do for himself; and he gave the wealthy man a very simple task – a good deed that was very do-able yet proved impossible for the seeker of life.

There is a deep irony in these two encounters (read them in Luke 18:18-43): a penniless blind man sees his poverty, and purchases by his faith the new eyes that no king could ever afford. Across town a wealthy man, blind to his own destitution, refuses to trade his affluence for the only thing that could make him truly rich.


It is easy to read these stories in the Bible, to celebrate the healing of the one and groan at the obstinacy of the other. But God does not want us to merely read, cheer, and groan. He wants us to see ourselves in His Word, to decide how we will respond. Who are you?

Are you the man without eyes, convinced of your unworthiness and the impossibility of your situation? Or are you the one with both eyes and money, wondering what else you can do to earn God’s favor and presence?

Will you come to God in helpless faith, pleading for mercy first and sight second? Or do you come with wallet open, looking for yet another spiritual tax deduction?

Will you walk away with Jesus, glorifying God? Or will you just walk away, sadly looking for an easier way?

Going It Alone

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Ethiopia vista

Jordan is the type of separation where there is no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one can take the responsibility for you.1

How many years had Elisha walked with his mentor, Elijah? Seven? Eight? How many times had he witnessed the power of God come down through the words and deeds of the great prophet? Countless times. And now….

For days now, Elisha has known the time was at hand. Three times the prophet had told his young protege, stay here while I go into the city. Three times, Elisha has refused, insisting that he stay by his side. And in each city, the locals remind him that his master’s days are numbered. I know, he says. Shut up and don’t remind me! And now….

Now Elijah has disappeared, taken up miraculously from before his very eyes. Chariots. Horses. Fire. A whirlwind. And when the tumult dies down, Elisha is alone. Alone on the banks of the river they had crossed together only moments before.

The thunderous drama of the prophet’s exit only magnifies the deafening silence in which Elisha now stands; Elijah’s billowing cloak, now lying in a dusty clump on the parched ground, the only sign that he’d ever been there. And now….

Such spectacles do not come frequently in our lives, but the times of aloneness are all-too-common. We leave the spiritual height of a mission trip and, on returning home, find that no one really understands, and too few even seem to care. We meet God at a mountain camp, only to return to the doldrums of daily life back at sea level. We are fêted well as we say goodbye to a ministry we have loved and prospered, then find ourselves alone and waiting by the Jordan for some sign that we are not really alone.

And there on the banks of our own Jordan, as Chambers says, “you have to put to the test now what you learned when you were with your Elijah. … If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.

Think about that for a moment: Do you want to know whether God is the God you think He is? You can only know it when you get alone. No one can know it for you. Friends, mentors, a spouse… they can all tell you it’s true… that God is true. But only you can know it.

In order to know he was not alone, Elisha had to pick up the prophet’s cloak and put it around his own shoulders. What is that cloak for you? Perhaps a Bible that has sat too long untouched. For me it was a Jacob-like wrestling match with God (see Genesis 32:22-32).

Pick up the cloak and know the truth of what you believe.

1 [Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, Aug 11. See 2 Kings 2:1-25.]

Spiritual Rhythms: Fasting

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He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29

Fasting is a little-practiced discipline—certainly by me. Recently my wife and I had dinner with some long-time friends who shared their story, which has strong parallels to our own: loss of jobs, wondering where next week’s groceries will come from, wondering what God is up to. But part of their story was also about fasting, and how God clearly answered prayers in the context of those fasts.

Today’s post is written by Katherine Kehler and first appeared at the blog, Thoughts About God

Prayer became more of a discipline in my life after I yielded the control of life to Jesus Christ and began to walk in the Spirit. (Until then, I called to God in emergencies and before meals, but talking to God had not become a way of life.) Then the Bible became alive to me and I began to pray specifically, trusting in and testing God’s promises. Many, many prayers were answered.

I also began to fast. Sometimes for three days, sometimes once a week, sometimes for 10 days or two weeks. Sometimes it would be a complete fast – only water. Sometimes I would have juice. At times I would give up eating certain foods, or watching television or even wearing makeup.

When our son was in his early 20s, we discovered he was addicted to alcohol. For a while he alienated himself from us and from the rest of the family. We never saw him drunk – not once – but others had and we loved him too much to let him destroy himself.

I love coffee and our children often joked that I was addicted. So I reasoned, “If they are right, my prayers for our son are phony.” So I decided, with God’s help, I would stop drinking coffee until he quit drinking alcohol. And that is what I did. Giving up something I really enjoyed so that perhaps God would deliver our son.

God answered. As a family, we decided to have an intervention. We all told him that we loved him, but knew he was in deep trouble and wanted him to go to a treatment center to get help. Before the intervention, my husband made the arrangements for his flight and stay at the treatment center. His boss not only gave him a leave of absence, but helped pay for his treatment. There was only one thing left – he had to agree to go.

Thankfully, he did agree to go and after six weeks at the center he came home and to our knowledge has never had another drink. He was delivered from the addiction to alcohol and today has become a great husband and father.

Sometimes we have to fast and pray to have our prayers answered. If God impresses you to do so, let me encourage you to obey Him.

I’m going to take some time in the next couple weeks to fast—not as a “magic pill” or a bribe to induce God to answer our prayers, but in the hopes that he will do something transformative in me. I encourage you to do the same.

Holy Week

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Holy Table SettingHoly Week—what is it? We tend to focus more on the second word, week, than the first; for many, a legitimate synonym to Holy Week is Spring Break, with all the connotations that phrase carries. But what is Holy Week? And why is it holy?

Holy isn’t just about righteous living, and it certainly isn’t just about religious living. Holy means “set apart for sacred purposes.” It is a distinction between the common and the sacred, the ordinary and the God-focused. Perhaps the best picture is the difference between the dishes and silverware we use every day and that special set we bring out only at holidays or for special guests: the wedding china and the silverware.

Holy Week is so much more than spring break, so much more than just a week off school. It is a week set apart for the sacred purpose of drawing near to God; of setting the table of our heart with the good china and inviting Christ to dine with us each day.

“Behold, I—Christ—stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and will dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Will you make today holy? Will you set apart this day, this week, for Jesus Christ? Will you set your table for Him?

Planted by the River

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God spoke to me this morning—and, ironically, He used Facebook! Prayer Tree in EthiopiaNow, I don’t recommend starting off the day with Facebook, but that’s exactly what I did this morning; and it just goes to show that God can use any means He wants to get our attention.

What caught my eye this morning was a post from a friend who… well, you should read it in her own words:

Saturday night I was baking cookies for my boys when I burnt my hand badly. Brian came home from a work-trip at midnight and we were in the ER until 8:30 the following morning. My hand was so badly burned and swelling that they cut my wedding ring off and recommended that I see a plastic surgeon asap.

Twenty-four hours later, after a horrible reaction to the pain meds including multiple rounds of vomitting, I called the plastic-surgeon’s office. And, I cut off the bandage on my hand. Despite not being able to keep down any pain meds, I had NO PAIN and MY HAND WAS HEALED.

Later Monday, I was in the plastic surgeon’s office, reviewing pictures from the ER and said “I think maybe I’m here to encourage you…”

The doctor, a beautiful asian woman, Harvard Med School Grad, former Johns Hopkins Resident said, “Yes, actually, I’ve been really sad because my son is leaving for college. I could use some comfort!”

“Well, God is a God of comfort! I’m so thankful that he’s gifted you to be a healer for many! That’s just incredible!” I said.

She replied, “Well, thank you!”

Then I said, “I don’t normally do this but… can I pray for you?”

She said yes.

So I prayed, “Lord, you’ve known this doctor and watched over her all the days of her life and you have a plan for her future! I pray that she will experience your comfort like the arms of a kind, strong husband around her. I thank you for equipping her to help kids and grown ups heal from horrible scars, allowing them to be accepted in our culture. Lord, you know that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters to you. Thank you for helping others heal with this lady’s help from scars and may they heal from the inside out…”

I explained that praying is turning to God. That she could turn to God in prayer for comfort at any time.

The doctor said she had chills while I prayed.

It’s two days later and my hand looks perfectly healed. No pain.

Did I mention that my mom, sons and husband prayed for my healing? Because they did!

I shouldn’t be surprised that God still answers prayers like that, or that He heals people like that, but I confess: I am. But I’m also encouraged. And I needed that reminder of God’s sovereignty and His care for us.

But God didn’t use just my friend’s words this morning; He also spoke to me from His own Word. I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Jeremiah recently and after closing down Facebook, I read these words in chapter 17:

The man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water; it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (verses 7-8)

Then this, in verses 14-15 (which hit me especially hard after reading my friend’s story!):

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise.

My prayer for today: Healing, Sovereign Father, help me to trust you today. Refresh me from the streams of Your grace. Sustain me in the time of drought. Free me from worry and keep me producing fruit. Heal me; save me, for You are my praise. Amen and amen.