Believing is Seeing!

1-FrontJesusLeper11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).

In this passage, we read about the kind of faith that God is pleased with. We’re not talking about faith in faith—that has nothing to please the Father. Faith in God and the One He has sent is what pleases the heart of God (John 6:29; Hebrews 11:6). Lepers, having a communicable disease, were commanded to stay at a distance outside the city and community and either ring a bell or cry out, “unclean, unclean” when a clean person came near them (Leviticus 13:45-46). The only way that they could re-enter the community and social network inside the city was for them to receive the all-clean stamp of approval from the priest (Leviticus 14:2).

We are told in verse 12, that they stood at a distance shouting to Christ to have pity on them. It’s interesting to see that Jesus required them to act upon His Word and do what a cured leper would do even though they were not healed yet. He asked them to take steps of faith and trust in His Word. He didn’t lay hands on them, even though He had healed lepers before by touching them (Luke 5:13). He didn’t give them much instruction as to why they were to go to the priest. He just told them to present themselves to the priest to get checked out. This required faith in His Word even though they were not yet seeing what they were believing for. They were only healed as they were on the journey. It must have seemed illogical to them as they started on their way to get a healing certificate when their faces and limbs were contorted with Leprosy. Sometimes faith in God will seem illogical. One of them was a Samaritan, a person that the Jews did not normally associate with, although we find them together in their misery.

What do you think was on the mind of the Samaritan as he started on the way to the Temple? Don’t you think he might have been a little bit suspicious of Jesus? He knew Jesus was a Jew by His clothes. The Samaritan leper must have wondered to himself as to why this Jewish preacher would want to heal him, a Samaritan? I wonder if he thought that the healing would not work for him, due to the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. At what point did the miracle start to happen to him? Wonder of wonders! As they were on their journey the miracle healing happened! Imagine their surprise that as they are walking, their fingers start to grow, their toes suddenly begin to fill their shoes, and they can feel the skin on their faces become soft and their noses growing out again! One of them, the Samaritan, was ecstatic with praise to God and could not contain himself. He left the company of the others for he had to find Jesus and thank Him. This man ran back and when he found Christ, he knew how to give thanks! He gave vent to his emotions as he shouted loudly to God. He approached Jesus and threw himself on the ground (Verse 16) lavishly shouting praise and thanks to God. He acted according to His belief and trust in Jesus’ Word and he saw the power of God at work in his life as a result. How his thankfulness must have warmed the heart of the Lord! Let’s never forget to thank God for all He does for us.

Let me issue you a challenge: Think of a situation in your life which needs resolution, it may be an impossible thing to you, but dare to believe that God can work through your simple faith. Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:4). Call out to Him and ask Him for faith to believe that He will accomplish what you ask of Him. Then praise Him, loudly!

Keith Thomas

Zacchaeus The Tax Collector

Zacchaeus-11Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” 8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus had a problem in trying to see Jesus–he was small of stature. The crowd along the road would not let him push through. I am sure that when people saw who was pushing to get through the crowd, that there was an elbow or a kick designed to hurt him, but his curiosity could not be satisfied until he had seen Jesus. He ran ahead along the road to the place where there was a large Sycamore Fig tree and hastily climbed up the short trunk and hid in the wide branches. Which one was Jesus? Zacchaeus did not know Jesus but Jesus knew him. Perhaps Christ had come this very way because he knew exactly where Zacchaeus would be waiting.

Jesus could have gone directly to Jerusalem from Galilee but chose to go by the longer route past Jericho, no doubt to call Zacchaeus. Do you think he knew which one was Jesus as he looked down from the tree? I’m sure his heart skipped a beat when the crowd stopped as the Lord looked up into the tree, and said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

I am amazed at the condescension of Christ. Not only did He look down from heaven but He also came down and entered into our painful world. Furthermore, here He is looking up to Zacchaeus and asking him to come down. God always humbles a soul before he brings him to heaven. We must let go of every bough that we hold on to and come down. There is a need for all of us to come down in our own estimation of ourselves. John the Baptist had the right attitude when he said, speaking of Christ, “He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30). As we become more mature in Christ, we will live more for others and not so much for ourselves. The cause of Christ becomes much greater in our estimation than our own personal agenda for happiness. Zacchaeus would have felt very humbled that the Lord knew him by name. He had lived his life climbing to the top of the ladder and realized that the ladder was against the wrong wall. He had chased money all his life but had become hated by the people around him. He had lost all self-respect due to the way he had treated people, yet Jesus valued him so much that he would come to his house!

Do you realize that the God of the universe knows your name and values you highly? He wants to come and live inside your house. He said, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).He values us so highly that He calls each one of us individually in the midst of our own circumstances. Zacchaeus was singled out by Jesus and directly called by name. He is told by Christ “I must stay at your house today.” There doesn’t seem to be any act of faith that brought Christ to his door except perhaps his curiosity, the fact that he wanted to see Christ. Jesus deliberately came to the place where Zacchaeus was and initiated the conversation that brought a saving response. The phrase “must stay” (NIV) or “must abide” (KJV) is used. It uses the Greek word dei, “It is necessary by the nature of things.” One must, one has to. It denotes a compulsion of any kind, such as unavoidable, urgent, compulsory necessity.”[1] It seems that it was all written into God’s plan, the calling of Zacchaeus.

He directly calls each one of us. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The Bible tells us that God has ordained (To prearrange unalterably; predestine: by fate ordained)[2] beforehand those who would be saved. We may think that we are the ones searching for God, but He is the Shepherd, searching for His lost sheep. God orders our circumstances to cause us to call out to Him. We cannot say that the depths of sin that we got into were ordered by God, our own choices were involved, but the Bible declares that God uses all things to work together for our good to bring us to Christ (Romans 8:28). What do we mean by the word election? Wayne Grudem in his book, Systematic Theology, defines election as “an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any unforeseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure.”[3] Zacchaeus and all those of us that have been born again, were called and chosen before the foundation of the world to be His elected ones.

4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).

What wonderful grace God has lavished on us! It boggles the mind to think that He has planned you and me out before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless, adopted as His sons and daughters. Zacchaeus and you and I were called before the beginning of the world ever took place. He had us on His mind and heart. He was one of the last that people would think would be saved. Jericho was a cursed city (Joshua 6:26), yet Christ came there and called Zacchaeus. He called the worst of sinners from the worst of cities with the worst of trades. Maybe He’s doing the same for you today!

Keith Thomas

 

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Notes on Page 1604.

[2] Dictionary.com

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Published by Zondervan, page 670.

Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind

80_jesus-heals-a-man-born-blind_1800x1200_72dpi_21As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).

In the previous chapter Jesus had stated that He was the great I AM (John 8:58), the name God had told Moses that He was to be called by (Exodus 3:14). To the Jewish people, to make such a declaration was unthinkable! How dare He say that He was God! They were so angry at His statements about Himself that they began stoning Him for blasphemy (John 8:59). He had also stated in the previous chapter, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). He said this about Himself while up in the Temple Courts (John 8:2), more than likely before the four big giant candelabra’s symbolizing God as the One who had been their light leading them in the darkness during the wilderness wanderings. Notice that He didn’t say I am a light, but I am the Light of the World. He claimed exclusively to be Israel’s Light. Now He is set to prove it as He is leaving the Temple precincts. Often beggars would be sitting near the gates to the temple area, ready to hold out their hands to any worshippers whose hearts were softened by worshiping the Lord. Even today, although there is no temple there, people can often be found begging near one of the gates to the Old City. Please consider coming on tour with me some time to Israel. How life giving it is to walk in this city that is so loved by our Lord!

Put yourself in the shoes of the man born blind. He could hear the conversation between the Lord and his disciples, but didn’t know what was going on. He more than likely heard Jesus collecting spittle in his mouth and spitting it on the ground. I would think that the Lord told him He was about to put something on his eyes. Did he know Jesus before the mud was put on his eyes? I think not. He explained later on, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see” (verse 11). If he would have known Jesus he would have said, “Jesus told me to go to Siloam and wash.”

Sometimes the Lord tests our obedience to His voice. He will offend your mind to reveal your heart. How would you feel about someone rubbing mud in your eyes? Was he offended as he stumbled about with mud on his eyes trying to find his way to the Pool of Siloam? I’m sure there were a few on the way that probably offered to give him water to wash off his face while he was going. I’m sure there were a few that laughed at his obedience to Jesus. Was someone leading him on the way? We do not know, but no matter what was on the way or who was leading him, he was determined to do just as Jesus had said. He was well rewarded when he found his way down the steps to the pool of water. He washed and was instantly healed!

How determined are you to hear His Word and do the will of God? What if he had washed his eyes before He had got to Siloam? I don’t think he would have been healed and we wouldn’t be reading about his obedience to the Lord. Can I encourage you today not to compromise your faith in Christ? Hold on to Him in the midst of the darkness as we stumble towards Siloam. We might not see everything that we would like to see but obedience to Christ pays big dividends! The end of our faith is well worth listening and trusting His Word.

This study was taken from the study of John 9:1-41, Jesus and the Man Born Blind. It’s found in the middle column under the heading of the Book of John.

Keith Thomas

The Parable of the Orange Tree

imagesI dreamed I drove on a Florida road, still and straight and empty. On either side were groves of orange trees, so that as I turned to look at them from time to time, line after line of trees stretched back endlessly from the road – their boughs heavy with round yellow fruit. This was harvest time. My wonder grew as the miles slipped by. How could the harvest be gathered? Suddenly I realized that for all the hours I had driven (and this was how I knew I must be dreaming) I had seen no other person. The groves were empty of people. No other car had passed me. No houses were to be seen beside the highway. I was alone in a forest of orange trees. But at last I saw some orange pickers. Far from the highway, almost on the horizon, lost in the vast wilderness of unpicked fruit, I could discern a tiny group of them working steadily. And many miles later I saw another group. I could not be sure, but I suspected that the earth beneath me was shaking with silent laughter at the hopelessness of their task, yet the pickers went on picking. The sun had long passed its zenith, and the shadows were lengthening when, without any warning, I turned a corner of the road to see a notice “Leaving NEGLECTED COUNTY – Entering HOME COUNTY.” The contrast was so startling that I scarcely had time to take in the notice. I had to slow down, for all at once the traffic was heavy. People by the thousands swarmed the road and crowded the sidewalks.

Even more startling was the transformation in the orange groves. Orange groves were still there, and orange trees in abundance, but now, far from being silent and empty, they were filled with the laughter and singing of multitudes of people. Indeed it was the people we noticed rather than the trees. People and houses. I parked the car at the roadside and mingled with the crowd. Smart gowns, neat shoes, showy hats, expensive suits and starched shirts made me a little conscious of my work clothes. Everyone seemed so fresh, and poised, and gay.

“Is it a holiday?” I asked a well-dressed woman with whom I fell in step. She looked a little startled for a moment, and then her face relaxed with a smile of gracious condescension. “You’re a stranger, aren’t you?” she said, and before I could reply, “This is Orange Day.” She must have seen a puzzled look on my face, for she went on, “It is so good to turn aside from one’s labors and pick oranges one day of the week.” But don’t you pick oranges every day?” I asked her. “One may pick oranges at any time,” she said. “We should always be ready to pick oranges, but Orange Day is the day that we devote especially to orange picking.” I left her and made my way further into the trees. Most of the people were carrying a book. Bound beautifully in leather, and edged and lettered in gold, I was able to discern on the edge of one of them the words, “Orange Picker’s Manual.”

By and by I noticed around one of the orange trees seats had been arranged, rising upward in tiers from the ground. The seats were almost full – but, as I approached the group, a smiling well-dressed gentleman shook my hand and conducted me to a seat. There, around the foot of the orange tree, I could see a number of people. One of them was addressing all the people on the seats and, just as I got to my seat, everyone rose to his feet and began to sing. The man next to me shared with me his songbook. It was called “Songs of the Orange Groves.” They sang for some time, and the song leader waved his arms with a strange and frenzied abandon, exhorting the people in the intervals between the songs to sing more loudly.

I grew steadily more puzzled. “When do we start to pick oranges?” I asked the man who had loaned me his book. “It’s not long now,” he told me. “We like to get everyone warmed up first. Besides, we want to make the oranges feel at home.” I thought he was joking, but his face was serious. After a while a rather fat man took over from the song leader and, after reading two sentences from his well- thumbed copy of the Orange Picker’s Manual, began to make a speech. It wasn’t clear whether he was addressing the people or the oranges. I glanced behind me and saw a number of groups of people similar to our own group gathering around an occasional tree and being addressed by other fat men. Some of the trees had no one around them. “Which trees do we pick from?” I asked the man beside me. He did not seem to understand, so I pointed to the trees round about. “This is our tree,” he said, pointing to the one we were gathered around. “But there are too many of us to pick from just one tree.” I protested. “Why, there are more people than oranges!” “But we don’t pick oranges,” the man explained. “We haven’t been called. That’s the Pastor Orange Picker’s job.

We’re here to support him. Besides we haven’t been to college. You need to know how an orange thinks before you can pick it successfully – orange psychology, you know. Most of these folks here,” he went on, pointing to the congregation, “have never been to Manual School.” “Manual School,” I whispered. “What’s that?” “It’s where they go to study the Orange Picker’s Manual,” my informant went on. “It’s very hard to understand. You need years of study before it makes sense.” “I see,” I murmured. “I had no idea that picking oranges was so difficult.” The fat man at the front was still making his speech. His face was red, and he appeared to be indignant about something. So far as I could see there was rivalry with some of the other “orange picking” groups, but a moment later a glow came on his face.

“But we are not forsaken,” he said. “We have much to be thankful for. Last week we saw THREE ORANGES BROUGHT INTO OUR BASKETS, and we are now completely debt-free from the money we owed on the new cushion covers that grace the seats you now sit on.” “Isn’t it wonderful?” the man next to me murmured. I made no reply. I felt that something must be profoundly wrong somewhere. All this seemed to be a very round-about way of picking oranges. The fat man was reaching a climax in his speech. The atmosphere seemed tense. Then with a very dramatic gesture he reached two of the oranges, plucked them from the branch, and placed them in the basket at his feet. The applause was deafening.

“Do we start on the picking now?” I asked my informant. “What in the world do you think we’re doing?” he hissed. “What do you suppose this tremendous effort has been made for? There’s more orange-picking talent in this group than in the rest of Home County. Thousands of dollars have been spent on the tree you’re looking at.” I apologized quickly. “I wasn’t being critical,” I said. “And I’m sure the fat man must be a very good orange picker – but surely the rest of us could try. After all, there are so many oranges that need picking. We’ve all got a pair of hands, and we could read the Manual.” “When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you’ll realize that it’s not as simple as that,” he replied. “There isn’t time, for one thing. We have our work to do, our families to care for, and our homes to look after, We…” But I wasn’t listening. Light was beginning to break on me. Whatever these people were, they were not orange pickers. Orange picking was just a form of entertainment for their week- ends. I tried one or two more of the groups around the trees; not all of them had such high academic standards for orange pickers. Some held classes on orange picking. I tried to tell them of the trees I had seen in Neglected County, but they seemed to have little interest. “We haven’t picked the oranges here yet,” was their usual reply.

The sun was almost setting in my dream and, growing tired of the noise and activity all around me, I got in the car and began to drive again along the road I had come. Soon all around me again were the vast and empty orange groves. But there were changes. Something had happened in my absence. Everywhere the ground was littered with fallen fruit, and as I watched, it seemed that before my eyes the trees began to rain oranges. Many of them lay rotting on the ground. I felt there was something so strange about it all, and my bewilderment grew as I thought of all the people in Home County. Then, booming through the trees there came a voice which said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers…” And then I awakened – for it was only a dream!

By Dr. John White

The Defender of Widows and Orphans

resurrection11Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people” (Luke 7:11-16).

Widows and orphans have always been people that God has given special care and compassion.  His heart goes out to them in their need. It is a cruel world for those who are unmarried and have children, they are amongst the most needy in our society and even more so in the Middle East where there is no Social Security or insurance plan for the unemployed.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5).

Let’s try and get a picture in our minds of the scene in front of us.  We are told in Luke 7:11 that a large crowd of people were following the disciples. Just as they were approaching the town gate they were confronted with the funeral procession. Normally there would be a band of professional mourners at the head, with their flutes and cymbals uttering their shrill cries of grief, followed by those that were carrying the boy in the coffin.  When we think of a coffin we think of a wooden box but this was more than likely a long wickerwork basket used for carrying the body to the grave. 

I find it amazing that we don’t see the widow asking for a miracle, Jesus undertakes without a request from her. Author Ken Gire says: “It is a miracle done without human prompting.  Without thought of lessons to be taught to the disciples. Without thought of deity to be demonstrated to the skeptics.  It is a miracle drawn solely from the well of divine compassion.  So free the water.  So pure the heart from which it is drawn.  So tender the hand that cups it and brings it to this bereaved mother’s lips.” We are most like our Lord when we can step into the shoes of those who are poor and hurting with hearts of compassion, longing to do what we can to alleviate their pain and need.

There are some situations that God does not require faith before He moves, He acts out of His own compassion, grace and mercy.  I find it refreshing to know that even when I am at low ebb spiritually that He will move on my behalf outside of His requirement for expressions of faith. Jesus was not worried about being ritually unclean as he stepped forward and touched the coffin. People are what matter to Him. There is a higher law at work, the law of love and compassion.

His heart, we are told, went out to her. He said, “Don’t cry.” He felt her pain. When any of His people are hurting He feels their pain. Turning to the boy, he said, Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15The dead man sat up and began to talk. We are told that there was an awe that filled them, astonishment at such a thing.  This awe was awareness that God indeed was visiting His people, How could this be! This man was dead! Imagine the praise that went up, verse 16, as relatives and the mother herself received her son back from the dead.  Imagine what pain there would be in losing your only son and then the joy of holding the one you already had to release to death.

“God has come to help His people!” (verse 16).

According to the gospel writers, every funeral that Jesus went to He raised up the dead person! There was Lazarus in John 11, the Centurions servant in Luke 7:1-10, and then Jairus’ daughter was also raised from the dead in Luke 8:40-56. Alfred Edersheim in his book “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” tells us that the Jews believed that there would be three evidences in the ministry of the Messiah, He would cleanse lepers, heal the blind and raise the dead.  Are you convinced yet that this is indeed the Messiah? God has come to help His people!

Keith Thomas

Thy Sea is so Great and My Boat so Small

breton plaque-mo 634861jpgHave you ever had a brush with death? In my early years as a commercial fisherman I worked with my father on his boat. It was winter time and for a time we were working out of the port of Boston in Lincolnshire, England, several hours north of our home port of Harwich, Essex. As we set our course South for home, my dad was on first watch and he steered for the first four hours or so. It was past midnight when he handed the helm over to as it was his turn to sleep. He told me that before I came up to the two sandbanks off of the town of Lowestoft that ran parallel with the coast, the Outer and Inner Scroby Sands, he wanted me to go close to the shore to escape the tide that would turn and be against us by that time. That way we would increase our speed if we were not going against so much tide.

We were following another fishing boat that we regularly worked with that was about two miles ahead of us. All I could see of the boat ahead was his stern (rear) light, a single white colored light. When I came up to the Scroby Sands, the Outer and Inner banks, I reasoned to myself that I could just follow the other boat that was going in between the two sandbanks that ran parallel to the coast instead of following my father’s instructions. There was a force 9 gale blowing at the time, so our boat was being buffeted badly with the waves breaking over the boat, diminishing my visibility. I was afraid that if I heeded the words of my father and stayed close to the shore, I would run into the pier at Lowestoft that I knew stuck out a few hundred yards. I reasoned that my dad would sleep for a few hours yet and wouldn’t even know that I had disobeyed his instructions. I decided to follow the light of the other boat through the channel in between the sands just like the other boat and ignore the voice of my father.

What I didn’t realize was that after the other boat had gone through the sands, he had turned his course and was now heading inshore to escape the worst of the tide. Due to following others instead of listening to my father’s word, I was now headed on a different course that would take me on a collision course toward the Inner Scroby Sands. Our boat hit the sandbank in total darkness at full speed in winter with a force 9 severe gale blowing.

My dad woke with a start as the keel (the bottom of the boat) went up on the sand and was stuck fast on the sand. Worst of all, the tide was going down and every minute our chance of survival grew slim. My dad told me to put the engine in reverse and give maximum thrust on the engine in the hope of getting off the sand before we keeled over. With only one keel the boat would roll over as the tide went down. As I put the engine in reverse and gave maximum revolutions on the engine, the boat leaned over and nearly capsized. In fear, I took the engine out of gear resulting in the boat becoming stable again. Dad said, “Do it, son!”

Again, I put the gear stick in reverse and pulled back on the throttle. The boat leaned over again as things fell off the side of the wheelhouse while I tried to maintain my balance. In terror that we were about to die, I pulled the gear stick into neutral. My dad said, “Let me have the controls, son.” I gladly got out of the way and let my dad take over the steering wheel and throttle. I was just a young Christian at the time and knew enough to pray. We were three miles off the coast, and if the boat went over, I knew we would die—we carried no life vests and no life raft and I could barely swim. We would not be found in the dark and the cold water would give us barely minutes before hypothermia would set in. I began praying like there was no tomorrow, and tomorrow seemed very distant suddenly as my father took the controls and went full throttle in reverse. The boat nearly went over again as I prayed for God to help us. There was a big bump and then two or three more as the back end of the keel dug into the sand and slowly slipped off of the sands. A huge sigh of relief flooded my soul as I thanked God for His deliverance. As we got back onto course and the danger subsided, God spoke to me very clearly saying, “If you would only listen to your Father’s voice, you would be safe.” Sometimes God speaks to us on two levels, and this was one of those times. I knew He was referring to my relationship with Him. My problem came about because I didn’t listen to my father’s voice.  When the situation looks bleak, hear His voice saying, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me, let me steer your vessel.” Can I encourage you to not follow others on your course of life, but to listen to your heavenly Father’s voice speaking from the scriptures.

Keith Thomas

Touching the Untouchable

jesus_leper12While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).

There were two kinds of Leprosy in Jesus’ day. One that was rather like a very bad skin disease, while the other was a disease that started from a small spot and ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.

The man in our passage was covered with Leprosy (verse 12). The Book of Leviticus gave very specific instructions about various skin diseases, Leprosy being one of them. Lepers could not live inside the town, obviously that meant that they could not go to synagogue or the Temple. They were outcasts of society. The leper was to cry “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went: he was to dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). They had to carry a bell everywhere they went and if anyone should come within 50 yards of them they had to ring a warning to them. Leprosy was a contagious disease.

Dr A. B. Macdonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious skin diseases. Shunned and despised, frequently lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.” Often the leper came to hate himself. That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean and Jesus touched him. It doesn’t seem as if this man came with anyone else if he was part of a leper colony. Somehow he heard of Jesus and sought Him out.

We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The leper had the faith to go in search of Jesus. The passage tells us, “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy (verse 12). He risked being stoned for being in the town. It was evident to all he was a leper because he “was covered with leprosy.” There seems to be a courage born of desperation that brings him to Jesus. There is a humility in the leper for he casts himself on the ground, and with his face in the dirt, proclaims his words of faith, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There is no doubt in his heart that Jesus can do this. If there is any doubt at all it seems to be about the willingness of a Rabbi to even associate with him. He knew Jesus to be a holy man and was afraid to cause him to be unclean by being near Him, but his was a courage born of desperation. To come into contact with a leper would demand that anyone wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. There seems to be no hesitation in Jesus. He is willing to heal. How long had it been since this leper had been touched? I wonder if he was moved in his spirit at the touch of Jesus. He felt Jesus’ compassion and love! I believe that we would all have wept if we had seen this untouchable being touched with the love of God.

Compassion is a quality sorely in need today. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to reach out beyond ourselves to those He loves and wants to touch. Jesus told him to go and show himself to the priest so that he would be inspected and having been found clean, would be able to be brought into the community of the faithful. Love the unlovely, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

Keith Thomas