For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with us in our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all these things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Satan is well aware of those windows of opportunity by which we are most vulnerable to the reaching of his grip.
A few months ago, in what appeared to be a stable season of my life, I found myself in battle. For one day, I felt a force threatening to keep my mind, body, and soul from grasping onto hope. It was the peak of a descent into a darkness of which I had never before experienced. I literally felt a heaviness that kept pressing down on me; making the transition from laying in my bed to standing up nearly impossible. Yet, in the midst, I pulled out my armor and fought.
The point of evil’s intrusion occurred as I was struggling with an unexpected mood change. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a several years. Not surprisingly, the seasons of stability have given way here and there to brief phases of losing my footing. Those moments challenged me but I always found the ability to arise and keep walking forward.
I refused to let Satan draw me back from finding the place where God was leading me. I recognized the tactics of discouragement, unrestrained anger and hopelessness. (Read about another battle here: http://stephaniejthompson.com/2016/08/31/if-god-can-raise-a-man-from-the-dead-why-cant-he-keep-my-crockpot-from-falling-2/)
When I found my spirit listening to voices which beckoned to surrender hope, I cried out to Jesus to help me claim victory over them.
Struggles of the mind and body are not indications of a weak faith or losing “favor” with God. They are consequences of the broken realities of the world in which we reside. This place points to the complete restoration which is possible in our Heavenly home but may not be experienced in it’s complete form here.
However, we are offered wholeness in our spirit through the grace of Jesus. He not only triumphed over the power but wrestled with it himself. Until the end of his life.
“…yet without sin.”
What is the significance of these three small words in reference to the act of being a high priest?
Being a high priest brought with it a significant amount of responsibility. He acted as God’s representative to proclaim that the offering for sin had been redeemed. Reconciliation to God had been achieved.
These individuals were specifically chosen based on character and knowledge of the Jewish law. But, their humanity still existed. Very possibly, they had committed the same sins as those who came to them seeking forgiveness.
Only Jesus could wear the title of “high priest” and yet also become the offering at the same time. By doing so, he removed the “curtain” that separated the humanly appointed righteous from the humanly designated unrighteous.
In addition, his humanity left him vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh.
But did he really experience the same temptations as we do? We could spend hours analyzing his life; searching for specific examples of weaknesses of the flesh.
Does it matter?
Jesus experienced the suffering that accompanies our spirit and possibly our minds and bodies when evil powers try to lure us away from where God has placed us.
For each of us, those temptations make look different. The consequences of refusing to follow those voices may result in remaining in a place of discomfort. Or they may not.
Regardless, we look to Jesus’ strategy in keeping his feet planted: calling out to his Father.
We share the same one.
He relied on God’s word to root him when his feet were tempted to move. And it’s no different for us.
Fortunately, our high priest will always be advocating for us. He liberated us from evil and knows of its force firsthand. Furthermore, he has assumed his position as king.
“Therefore, LET US draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.”
Charles Spurgeon writes, “It is a throne of grace where no ordinary monarch presides, but where one is sitting who is infinite and
all sufficient, one who can bestow upon us more than we ask, or ever think of asking, and yet not
impoverish Himself in the slightest degree! Always remember, beloved, in coming to the mercy seat,
that you are coming to a King and to one who gives like a King! Always open your mouth wide and ask
great things of the King who is so ready to bestow them upon you!”
Words barely express the ways your actions have breathed life into my daughter.
Movement into unknown territory involves risks. Your willingness to do that does not go unnoticed. As you know, she’s not one of those outgoing social butterfly types. She’s an observer. In addition, her mental illness makes identifying and controlling emotions challenging. She realizes the impact of her actions and words, yet, managing the whirlwind within becomes difficult at times.
By inviting her into your space, you moved beyond the walls of fear that easily keep us from engaging with those who seem different from ourselves. Sometimes the fears are rooted in real experiences, yet, each of us has our own narrative. You have demonstrated to others that learning how to give and receive support is a significant life skill. There is no “us” and “them.” Everyone faces their own struggles. Read more at:
” Do you want to be made well?”
The question posed to the man in John 5:5-9 appears rhetorical. We do not know if he was born with a disability or his physical limitations are the result of an injury. Regardless, he is accustomed to his place near the pool of Bethesda. He has resided in that spot for 38 years! He knows the perceptions of how he got there. Surely his parents must have sinned greatly in order for God’s blessing to be withheld. Whispers and stares abound. He watches those whom wear the badge of “blessed” murmur as they pass his way daily. His life appears anything but abundant; however, it has become his norm.
And then he encounters Jesus although it wasn’t intentional. Yet, Jesus approaches the man.
Who, would not embrace the offer to be healed? After all, multitudes clamored to be healed through Jesus’ mysterious yet miraculous touch.
Simple Question, Complex Implications
Three years ago, my son became sick. Originally struggling with a chronic upset stomach, epilepsy presented suddenly. Our lives became caught up in a whirlwind of questioning, troubleshooting and despair. Thankfully, God’s mercies held us tight during that year. However, reeling out of that trauma, my son struggled with being made well. As I walked with him in that journey, I reflected on moments in my own life when I too feared “being well,” The voices spoken both audibly and echoing in our heads, appear to hold power and keep us from breaking free.
Restoration changes our perceived identity
Is it no wonder that the man in John 5 became accustomed to his socially appointed lot in life? We develop into creatures of habit-even if the routine subtly and deceptively keeps us from being restored-fully whole in communion with God..
My son’s visit to Mayo Clinic included a visit with a psychologist who only sees adolescents with chronic illnesses. Why? Because narrowing one’s identity to fit around the illness becomes tempting. Doctors exhorted my son to not let his epilepsy define him.
Our own identities may be informed by life changing parts of our narratives, illness, injury,sinful actions committed against us or sinful areas with which we struggle. Regardless, Jesus has promised us abundant life Healing may or may not happen here on Earth but restoration is always possible.
How would my son recognize his purpose now? What would it take for him to break through the perception that he is no longer dependent on others for basic needs? How would he establish autonomy?
Restoration Places Us Out of our Comfort Zones.
When he returned to high school for his Junior year, following the previous year of illness, I anticipated that he would welcome the fresh start. However, anxiety filled him as he began. I felt completely blindsided. Why would apprehension fill his heart? He had become accustomed to his lot. Sympathetic teachers. A force of people supporting him. Extra time at home.
As my writer friend Emily Conrad wrote in response to one of my posts, “I finally got something I’ve been longing for for years and now I find myself on the other side of a situation I had grown comfortable with. I had accepted it. And now that Jesus spoke and I’m moving on, I feel a little wobbly on these legs.” Transitioning to a posture of empowerment demands walking forward. Even if the ground feels shaky at first.
Restoration expands our view of God’s character.
Believe it or not, grasping who God is can cause one to feel a bit unsettled. Humanity has always yearned for the predictable. Comfort is found in explanation. Uncertainty sends our hearts and minds stirring. We simply find difficulty in grasping God’s words through Isaiah”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8-9
Doesn’t it seem easier in a chronic situation to adapt and accept that God is not capable of Forgiveness? Mercy? Delivery? Healing?
“Do you want to be made well?”
Jesus heals the man in a way that the man never expected. Not in the pool but simply out of Jesus’ authoritative word: “Rise. take up your pallet and walk.” Later, Jesus finds the man to complete the process of restoration. “Go and sin no more.”
daily rhythm of life changed. Walking forward demands trusting our sovereign God in our new steps. Acknowledging that we can balance on one leg as we move the other in front in order to stride toward the longed for but unfamiliar horizon.
It’s possible. because of Jesus
Jesus, who desires my wholeness so much to encounter me when I wasn’t looking for restoration.
Jesus, who believes that I am so much more than what I think of myself.
What must you surrender to Jesus so that you might be “made well?”
My throat is caught off guard; attempting to take in air at a slower pace. Yet, the frigid heavy wind finds my mouth and forces its way in; making resistance difficult. A battle of the colliding forces entangles.
My scarf! Quickly wrapped around my neck, it provides a warm safe space to allow the life giving process inside to proceed. ah……………….At once, the air flows out of my lungs and back in rhythmically. No longer stifled. I am surrounded by a fortress of protection.
A few years ago, I confronted an equally blustery wind. Blowing with blustery force into my soul. My lungs initially blindsided by the cold grasped to exhale. My eyes witnessing the unforeseen storm of sickness and epilepsy emerge in my teen son. Death of my husband’s beloved grandmother. Death of a dear family friend. Death of an aunt.
But breath is essential to life. The forces of death and life collide. A battle entangles. I fight. hard. I need a fortress of protection….and like the scarf, I find it right in front of me….and behind me….and next to me…..
Yahweh. The Holy Spirit. One breathing life into my humanity; One breathing life into my soul. Ruach and Pneuma; together awakening the physical and spiritual rhythms necessary for me to move forward to the next moments.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life,…” Deut. 30:19
Once upon a time, (which didn’t seem so long ago), my husband and I snuggled and watched “our” shows together after putting the kids to bed.
Truthfully, we watched about a half an hour of shows before we feel asleep too.
There was a pretty clear line between the content of the shows that our kids found entertaining and what we enjoyed. Dora, Diego, Wordgirl are fascinating….to a preschooler. But growing older, non animated characters and talking animals no longer hold our attention. (although, I still find my self belting out “We Did It!” at unexpected moments of conquest).
Our kids were not just plopped in front of a tv as a babysitter (most of the time..). I would usually try to fold laundry or accomplish some other small task while watching television with them. The goal was 1) to know the actual content before their eyes and ears and 2) find ways to engage them in conversation from the subject. I’m sure you are familiar with the subject matter-kindness, respect, friendship, wonder of nature, understanding your emotions. These topics are core values for most families-they are tenets of our society. And they reflect basic characteristics which, we as image bears, “wear” as God’s children.
The infusion of God’s word into our hearts and minds comes about both through intentional discussion as well as those teaching moments that occur in the daily moments of life as a family. One way to engage your older kids/teens in conversation about the intersection of faith and choices? Watching tv together.
The idea really isn’t as unrealistic as you may think. Because, there isn’t just a one size (or show) fits all method.
So what to do?
There are three questions that you may be asking:
1)How do you decide what’s appropriate? What you choose to watch is a decision based on your family’s dynamics.. What we feel comfortable letting our kids watch may not suit your family’s comfort level. There are so many factors that affect your decision. I trust that you are seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in your parenting journey.
2) How would I ever get my teen to watch tv with me? Getting teens to watch a show with you may be like pulling teeth. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be planned. Teaching moments often come through unexpected moments. We are fortunate because our one tv is in the living room- the gathering space where our kids hang out with their electronic devices. Yes, they do watch some shows on their laptops but they prefer the big screen. I know their favorites. Become familiar with a few. Catch a couple episodes with them. (It’s a great time to “pay bills” or “fold laundry” in front of the screen). When I notice that they are engaged in a segment of a show, I can utilize a few bytes for discussion at the time or later.
3)What could I say to my child that will elicit an actual response (not an eyeroll)? Sometimes nothing. Stories can speak for themselves. One of the shows my kids like is “The Middle.” The plots speak lessons for themselves. Who hasn’t wanted to crawl in a hole after experiencing something thoroughly embarrassing at school? Yet, everyone must face the choice in how to respond to those moments. Another one that my daughter and I used to enjoy is “Girl Meets World.” Yes, it can be a bit cheesy but the lessons are significant and address character in a way that hits home.
Take advantage of historical presentations
For our family, the miniseries “Roots” provided a visual account of slavery in a way that no verbal description could match. Admittedly, the graphic events were difficult to watch. But this is history and the events were real. The discussions that took place were initiated through my kids’ observations. Furthermore, we could engage them in identifying the effects of those events today.
The show “Timeless” (NBC) provides a fantastic opportunity for interaction. Set within the context of time-travel, the characters go back in time to various events in order to alter details which are seen as “destructive.” The twist is that the characters’ present lives are unknowingly affected by the outcomes as they are changed-and sometimes the tragedy still happens but differently. In the midst of it all, they are fighting against an antagonist who is seeking to destroy America by showing up at the same events and bringing about greater catastrophe. Not only does the show give you a real life glimpse into the complexities surrounding the events but the viewer is challenged to wrestle with the ways history impacts the present.
Though the values portrayed on some shows differ from those that we have instilled in our now older children, there is a point where kids must realize values, struggles, injustices, tragedies and consequences of choices in the world around them. The characters and stories emulate real life. Relationships are complicated, we all make choices we regret, tragedy can occur at any moment. How do you respond?
Engaging with our kids about these “glimpses” of the world around us offers opportunity to reinforce where hope is found, why following Christ impacts our choices, and how God’s Word navigates us through the wind-y paths of life.
It’s a modern context of the conversations between parents and kids that took place long ago:
” 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
What conversations popped up as a result of your recent viewing?
My neighbor and I have some lively discussions. It’s refreshing; actually, since our demographics differ greatly. He is an 80 year old widower, father, grandfather, vet; and agnostic I am 50, wife, mom, and Christian. We talk about everything: parenting, economics, the state of the country, gardening and when the Spirit opens a window of opportunity-religion. Although his wife was connected to a church family, he had (and continues to have) no desire to learn more about the character of God nor be part of the body through whom the Holy Spirit here on Earth.
The funny thing is, we share similar philosophies regarding many issues such as parenting, lifestyle and a belief in right and wrong. The difference of course is that I see my worldview reflecting the “kingdom” on Earth in which I live. One that is supposed to radiate light to others; one that should bring a salty flavor to those who encounter it; one that turns the human ways of looking at things on its head. It is indeed a Kingdom that began as God chose to be in covenant with imperfect human beings and through whom would show the other nations that “I am your God”.
As our recent discussion turned to the issues of abortion and valuing life, I heard him passionately state his sadness and anger at the act. Personally, I believe abortion to be more than a legal issue. I think there are a plethora of social layers that must be addressed in order to decrease abortions, I stated to my neighbor, “Well, it would help if the Church would be the Church.”
He stared at me for a minute before replying, “You know…that’s a good one! That is really true. ‘If the Church would be the Church’, he mumbled to himself. “I’m going to remember that.”
When I said that, I wasn’t referring to protesters outside clinics or social media comments. I was referring to being the hands of feet of Christ who bear the image of God through actions that seek to restore and bring wholeness-providing, shelter, materials, friendship, help along the journey of giving life. Hopefully, it would result in reducing the possibility that abortion would even be considered as an option.
Because of Ray’s reaction to my statement, I am left pondering the question, “Why is he not seeing the Church?”
Who else is not drawn to it because its visibility has diminished; it’s saltiness has become stale; its light-dim?
Certainly, we, in our humanity, can’t fix everything. Earth is a taste of Heaven. But at the same time it’s just that-a taste. Shouldn’t there be something about living in God’s Kingdom that would make people walk away from life as they know it in order to be part of such a place?
Casting Crowns’ song, “We are the body” so eloquently asks the questions we as the church should be asking. (the song is based on James 2)
But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them…..There is a way?
As Jesus is the way.
In my next post, I will share some creative ways that the body of Christ’s arms reach others in their dire circumstances and show them Jesus is the way.
You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section. What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?
Well, for a few reasons. I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact, certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal. Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves. At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death. Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.
One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life. In those few words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people. These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them. Such was the case this past week.
As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s. Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders. I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.
It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds. And in the 70’s?
My gut reaction was, “Wow!” That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.
The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.
“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”
Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made. The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements) To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing. Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.
Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life
If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade. You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it. You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.
That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,
“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”
We just must embrace it. We must believe it.
What about you? What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?
Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?