God’s Daughter

Today’s blog is based on the story of two people Jesus healed. Before you read on, you may want to stop by Mark 5:21-43 and read it.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/mark/passage.aspx?q=mark+5:21-43

  I plan to spend a chunk of eternity meeting some of these characters we read about in the Bible.  And the very first thing I want to ask most of them is, “What’s your name?”  In so many cases, we know these people only by their circumstances. In this story we meet two females. Neither has a name, but over the years they’ve come to be known by their labels: Jairus’s Daughter and the Hemorrhaging Woman (now there’s a label to aspire to).

 Jairus’s daughter is the first one we meet, because of her father.  He’s a synagogue official, a man of influence who’s desperate to save his daughter.  He searches for Jesus, pushing through the crowd, humbling himself before this Messiah because he knows this man is his last hope for his daughter’s life.  “Lay your hands on her, that she may get well and live,” was his plea.

 What a wonderful blessing to have a father like that.  Every little girl deserves to have a loving father who will fight for her.  Deep inside of us, we all long for this because that’s God’s desire for us too.

 This father knows the clock is ticking for his daughter. Her life is slipping away and, with it, all his joy & delight.

 But . . . in the middle of this father’s passionate dilemma, the Savior is distracted. Someone has touched Jesus in the crowd, and He wants to know who it was. As if He doesn’t know?  Of course He knows!  Jesus wants the woman to know that He knows.

 Because. . .

 Though the little girl enjoys all the blessings of a father’s love, the hemorrhaging woman knows the shameful curse of rejection. 

  •  She was an outcast. Twelve years with an issue of blood meant twelve years of being unclean and cut off from worshipping in the synagogue. 
  • She was alone.  Mark tells us in chapter 5, “she had endured much at the hands of many physicians and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.”
  • She was hiding. She “came up in the crowd behind Him, and touched His cloak.”

 No one has fought for her.

 No one is passionate that she be healed . . .

right?

 Make no mistake, these two stories are not placed together by chance.  This is no coincidence, no accidental meeting in a crowd, and Jesus takes special care to prove that to us.  Notice the words and phrases that intersect in this passage:

  •  Jairus wanted Jesus’s touch for his daughter, and now Jesus feels someone touch Him.
  • A synagogue official and his agenda collide with a synagogue outcast and God’s plan.
  • Twelve years of a young girl’s life meet with twelve years of suffering by an unnamed woman.
  • Just like the father searched the crowd for Jesus, now Jesus searches the crowd for this mystery woman.

 Jesus has a message for this suffering woman. “Daughter,” he calls her.  And in that one word we know that the beloved child of this story is NOT the daughter of Jairus, but the Daughter of God. 

 Throughout her dark and lonely twelve years of suffering, she has trusted her heavenly Father. Now, God—her Father—pushes through the crowd of humanity on the feet of His Son, Jesus.

God halted the plans of men that day to save His daughter.  She was the reason Jesus walked among them.

 Jesus has a message for the rest of us too—“your faith has made you well.”  Not the faith of others—even the most religious father on earth cannot produce a saving faith in his child.  It’s by personal faith in our heavenly Father that we are made well. 

 Many of you enjoy the love of an earthly father.  You know you have someone who will fight for you.  Be grateful for that picture of God in your life, and let it lead you back to Jesus.

 My story looks a lot more like the woman’s—shamed by rejection, alone and hiding.  But it’s those difficult circumstances of life that God used to draw me to Himself.  Over many years, looking for answers to many questions, I too decided to reach out to Jesus.  He responded to my weak faith by searching for me, drawing me out of hiding and giving me a name—“Daughter.”

 But He didn’t stop there. He’s given me the same charge that He gave to that woman in the crowd . . .  “go in peace and be healed.” 

 What’s your name?

Are you the unnamed daughter of someone else OR are you God’s Daughter?

Are you labeled by your circumstances OR have you been called out of the crowd?

 God is the One who will fight for you. He has sent His Son to find you in the midst of the crowd with a word of truth—You are Loved, You have been Faithful, We are at Peace.

 Are you at peace with God today? If not, ask your heavenly Father to speak to your heart.

His Shocking Love

We’ve seen many messages from the world this Valentine season about love.

The world says “I Love You” in many ways—with chocolates and cards, maybe even flowers and a candle- lit dinner; not to mention, lingerie and sex.

How does that compare to the way God says, “I Love You”?

I’ve noticed that the love of God looks very little like the cards & chocolate the world gives out once a year. His love is much more involved.  Sometimes, even shocking.

Hosea, a small book in the OT, portrays how shocking God’s love can be.  In it, we find the story of a man who God told to take a prostitute for his wife. After their marriage, the wife returned to her earlier trade, yet her husband continued to love and pursue her, even though she was unfaithful to him.  That example of unselfish, undeterred love gives a glimpse of how radically God loves His people.

In Hosea, God accuses the Israelites of chasing after lesser lovers by loving the things of the world rather than loving Him. And, in the middle of that story, we learn something about how God says, “I love you.” 

 “And now, here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to start all over again.

I’m taking her back out into the wilderness

where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.

I’ll give her bouquets of roses.

I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.

She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,

those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

                                                                Hosea 2:14-15 MSG

 I notice a few shocking things about God’s love message:

  • He calls for a do-over.  When we’ve made a mess of things, God gets to call a do-over.  He doesn’t punish for the sake of justice, but . . .  
  • He does involve the wilderness.  I’ve always thought of the wilderness experience as punishment.  It’s not.  It’s the most extravagant show of God’s affection—to take us out of the distractions of the world—to get us alone—to BE WITH HIM.
  • God is jealous in His love toward us.  He doesn’t want to share our love. He woos and wins us.
  • We know He’s won our hearts when we find ourselves living in Acres of Hope rather than in Heartbreak Valley.

 I came across these verses in Hosea a number of years ago, at a time when Heartbreak Valley was very real. 

We were recovering from the tornado of 2004. 

 There was a farm in our area that was rundown and unkempt.  It had been a grand farmstead years ago, but when a lazy son inherited it, he let it fall apart. The joke in the community was that you couldn’t tell it had been damaged by the tornado because it was nearly as bad BEFORE.  That summer, the owners asked if we might like to purchase it; they were not interested in fixing it up and starting over. They wanted out. 

We bought the property and began to clean it up, hoping to farm it the next year.  We burned the house and buried the debris.  I remember walking back and forth across that property, picking up garbage from someone else’s broken-down life and wondering . . . why am I cleaning up their mess?!

Reading those verses from Hosea 2 at that time, I wondered. Could God turn that rundown farm into Acres of Hope?  I’m certain it was God alone who gave me hopeful thoughts about that property.  We planted the homestead in grass and planned to sell it as an acreage to try to recoup our cost.  But no one else seemed to catch my Acres of Hope vision, and it went unsold.

So we waited.

The farm land itself was depleted of nutrients and hadn’t been maintained. My husband (Shawn) planted and waited, trying to improve the farmland the best he could.  Mediocre seasons passed, until Shawn, when looking at an aerial map of the property, noticed there was just enough room for a center- pivot irrigation system.

He decided to dig a well.  Research into the geography of the area showed that water was not likely, and a nearby neighbor was especially skeptical. He had tried to find water three times without success.  But Shawn was willing to take the risk.  He was also willing to commit to prayer throughout the process.

As God would have it, right in the middle of Heartbreak Valley, was a great source of underground water.  Today, the well we dug there, not only waters that property, but another field across the road. It’s a very good well.

 The neighbor who couldn’t get water stopped by one day while Shawn was in the field.  Bracing for the man’s criticism and crankiness, Shawn entered into a conversation.  Sure enough, the man asked, “So how is it that I can dig three wells across the fence and get nothing, and you come along and find water?” 

After a deep breath of courage, Shawn said, “Well . . .  I prayed.”  And they had a very good talk about prayer and faith.

“I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope,” says our loving God.

I wonder, as you look across the landscape of your life on the day after Valentine’s Day 2011 . . . is it a heartbreak valley you see or acres of hope?

 I hope you understand today that God pulls you away from the world you’re used to, out into the wilderness with Him, because He wants ALL your attention.  That kind of love can be shocking . . . it’s so unlike the cards and chocolate the world offers.

A God who is so shocking in His love for us is worth our trust.  He knows what’s under the surface . . . the rest of the story.  He knows just when the time is right to water your life so you thrive and flourish in acres of hope.

I invite you to listen to the song “How He Loves” by the David Crowder Band (linked below). It speaks of God’s jealousy and passion for our hearts.  There’s one line at the end that says,

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves.”

Living in Heartbreak Valley can leave us with lots of regrets.  I’ve lived most of my life with far too many regrets, but God has been calling me out of there.  I don’t want to waste time maintaining my regrets when I can be focusing on all the ways Jesus loves me.

If you have regrets today, maybe you’d like to offer those back to Him, then join me in remembering all the ways Jesus loves you.

Blogs, a Widow & Prayer

This past Tuesday morning, our Prayer Team Leader, Jill Trucke, shared these thoughts with us on prayer:

I enjoy reading blogs and have a long list of blogs I follow. One topic I notice a lot on blogs this time of year is people talking about their “word” for the year—words such as intentional, hope, and joy.  That started me thinking about what my word would be, and I decided on the word DEPENDENCE—or more specifically—Dependence on God (though that is really three words).

Dependence is how I want to live my life this year.  For the past three months, my life has been chaotic. My husband changed jobs, we had a baby, we put our house on the market, sold it and moved to another, and for almost two months straight, one of my three kids was sick.  I think I had made it to church maybe three times in those three months.  It was hard.  There were many days I would literally look up at the ceiling and say to God, “I need your help!”  BUT when things are going well, it is very easy for me to forget that need for dependence. I seem all too independent, like I can do life without God. I would never say that, but my actions speak differently. 

I think a great example of living a life of dependence can be found in Mark 12:41-44. I’ll be reading from the International Children’s Bible because I like its simplicity.

 Jesus sat near the Temple money box where people put their gifts.  He watched the people put in their money.  Many rich people gave large sums of money. Then a poor widow came and gave two very small copper coins. These coins were not worth even a penny.  Jesus called his followers to him. He said, “I tell you the truth. This poor widow gave only 2 small coins. But she really gave more than all those rich people.  The rich have plenty; they gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor.  But she gave all she had. And she needed that money to help her live. 

So the point is, the rich gave what they didn’t need, but she gave all she had.  This passage is specifically talking about money, but the principle is also applicable to our time, our talents, our way of life, and so many other things. The poor widow exemplifies “dependence.” If she did not believe God would take care of her, she wouldn’t have given all she had. For her to be willing to give all she had, she must have known a lot about God in order to trust and depend upon him. 

Let’s contrast her actions with those of the rich people in the story.  The rich people gave only what they didn’t need—they are independent rather than dependent. They seem to give out of obligation and a “this is my money” attitude. They were dependent only upon themselves.

How does all this apply to prayer?  So often I am guilty of living “independently” (just like the rich people in the story). Prayer is obligation that I must get done each day. Or maybe it is something that gets pushed to the bottom of my list for the day that can wait until I have more time. I’ll give God only the time I don’t need for anything else.  

I was very convicted by a paragraph in the book, A Praying Life , by Paul Miller:

Another objection (to prayer) is busyness. . . . If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.  You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray. Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done.

 My desire is to increase my dependence on God in 2011 through prayer.  But just me saying words to God, doesn’t help me get to know Him and, thereby, increase my trust . . . my dependence. I need to develop my relationship with Him. How do I do that? Through His Word.  Then, I take His Word and what I learn about Him, and that helps me know how to pray. 

That’s why at Titus Women we put an emphasis on prayer.  We want each one of us to be equipped with God’s Word and be able to use that when we pray.  For those who are new, we design our prayer time around the Upward, Inward, and Outward Look. 

In the Upward Look, we praise God for who He is.  This helps us remember we cannot depend upon ourselves, but rather on God, when we remember and thank Him for who He is.

Then we look Inward as we confess our failures, sins, and weaknesses to God. Asking Him to forgive us and help us, again, takes dependence.

Finally, we pray the Outward Look—praying for others. Here, we are also depending on God to work mightily in other people this session. Our desire in all of this is for each one of us to have a relationship with God that helps us live dependently upon Him.

God’s Gift

Though we missed our face-to-face time at Titus Women this week, please know that you are prayed for today. I hope you were snugly tucked in and out of the storm on Tuesday.

The one thing I love about living in Nebraska is a snow day—you know, the day after the storm when everything shuts down, and all the plans you thought were so crucial just got cancelled.  It’s a gift! 

 After the storm comes a “free day.” A day to play. Hopefully, the sun is shining on the white-covered ground as you bundle up and head outside for snowmen and snow angels, snowball fights and sledding.  Then everyone tumbles back inside for hot cocoa.

Sure, the storm interrupted plans and added some new clean-up responsibilities, but how else would you ever get a day like this?  God loves us enough to bring the storm. . . . He takes us out of our hectic, urgent, down-to-the-minute lives and heaps on something new that gives us a different view and a deeper experience with Him. 

Drifts of new perspective,

a covering of brightness,

and a calm assurance that—after the storm—comes a stillness.

There’s just no substitute for the danger of the storm followed by the wonder of a snow day. God waits for us to take our lives of service off the shelf and willingly risk safety for the reward of His presence. For God is wild and free and, those who would be set free, must know the truth of who He is . . . and who He has called them to be.

“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit”. Galatians 5:16, The Message