“Walking and Leaping and Praising God”

For the last couple months, I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s monthly Bible Reading Challenges to put together a weekly blog post, daily adding a brief reflection and graphic on that day’s passage. I still plan to continue doing this, but as I was reading today’s passage from the Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths and I felt compelled to go beyond my short entry for the weekly post and do a separate blog post.

Today’s Everything Beautiful passage is found in Acts 3:1-10 and tells of one of the miracles during the early years of the church. It took place at the gate of the temple that was called the Beautiful Gate, probably so named because of it’s ornate decorations, but commentators are divided about the actual location of the gate. It was apparently one of the gates or doors through which the Jewish men who came to worship entered, but it’s exact identity is of little importance. The emphasis in this passage is on what happened here.

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those who were entering the holy place.

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. This morning, the words following the actual miracle stood out to me, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

As I read these words, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that this was of great significance to this newly-healed lame man. So I did some research to confirm what I was sensing. If the lame man had never before been allowed to enter the temple, was this somehow a case of looking down on those who had less than perfect bodies? As a woman with a long list of chronic illnesses and disability as a result of an automobile accident and actively involved in ministry to others with chronic illness, this definitely had my attention.

Were the blind and lame restricted by God from entering the temple, forced to stay outside the temple gates because of their infirmities? Scripture does tell us (in Leviticus 21:16-23) that the blind and lame were excluded from serving as altar priests, presenting sacrifices and food offerings to God. But there are no specific verses that teach the physically disabled were to be banned from the tabernacle or temple. So we know this was not God’s plan.

Yet there are extra-biblical sources that seem to indicate this was common practice by the time of Jesus. The fact that the man was at the gate, which Peter and John were about to enter, and not inside the temple, seems to confirm this. If so, it came about either through Jewish tradition or the misreading of Scriptures such as Leviticus 21 and 2 Samuel 5:8, where David is quoted as saying on the day he was anointed as king, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the house.” But this could not refer to the temple, since it had not been built at that time, and in context doesn’t even appear to refer to the physically blind and lame.

We do know, according to Matthew 21:14 and other passages, that Jesus healed the lame and blind in the temple. This shows they were at least able to go into the court of the Gentiles, and it along with the many healings during His earthly ministry show us Jesus’ heart was to include those who were afflicted or disabled.

If the lame and otherwise afflicted were actually banned from the temple, as many believe, when the previously lame man who had been healed entered the temple with Peter and John he was probably as excited about this as he was about being able to walk. No wonder he was “walking and leaping and praising God!

Today, regardless of what was true at the time this miracle took place, we can be confident that chronic illness neither separates us from God’s presence not makes us unqualified for ministry. Jesus’ death and resurrection instituted a new way of life, a life described in Hebrews 10:19-20 as “the new and living way.”

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”

We are no longer under the law. We now live by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Romans 6:14 clearly states that we are not under the law but under grace. Why is this true? Because one of the things Jesus came to do was to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ESV)‬‬

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

And that’s such good news that we, like the once-lame man of Acts 3, should be “walking and leaping and praising God!”


A Guest Post Opportunity

A friend from God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness is doing a series of articles on how to explain the challenges of living with fibromyalgia to friends who don’t understand this usually invisible illness. I wanted to see if any of my readers are interested in doing a guest post on this subject. If so, click on the following link for more information.

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week Three Summary

Day 15: 1 Peter 1:3-8

After walking with Jesus for over forty-five years, I can honestly say my life has been very much like what is described in this passage. “For a little while” in light of eternity (though it definitely doesn’t feel like “a little while” when we’re in the midst of such a time), I “have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (verse 6). These trials have proved my faith, refined it by fire (verse 7). But verse 8 is equally true. I can also honestly say each time I have come through a difficult season, as my knowledge of my Lord has grown, my love for Him has also grown.

Day 16: Ephesians 3:14-21

These words of the apostle Paul, originally his petition for the Ephesian church, make a beautiful prayer for us to pray for our loved ones – and even for ourselves. Lord, fill me will power through Your Spirit in my inner being. Help me to be rooted and grounded in Your love. And give me the power to grasp the vastness of Your love, Jesus, to know how wide and long, high and deep this love You have for me really is. Help me to know this unknowable love more each day.

Day 17: Galatians 5:1-6

How do freedom in Christ, faith and love fit together in the Christian life? Jesus Christ made a way for us to walk in freedom, but that requires that we not allow ourselves to come back under a list of laws we must keep in order to be justified, declared righteous. Freedom is the result of placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, in that alone with nothing added. The early Galatian believers were saying Jesus’ sacrifice plus circumcision was enough, but Paul’s message in this passage was faith is enough. And in verse 6 he added an observable evidence that we are truly walking in faith: love. Love is the expression of our faith, love for God and love for others.

Day 18: Galatians 5:22-26

Sometimes we read familiar Scriptures half-heartedly, thinking we already know those verses. But this morning as I read this well known passage, my eyes were opened to a new truth. The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t automatically grow in our lives because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Spiritual fruit grows in those who have chosen to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, those who have put off the things that belong to the flesh and are seeking to keep in step with the Spirit. It’s growth requires our cooperation.

Day 19: 1 Peter 4:1-8

Suffering is a part of life on this earth. As believers in Christ, we are not exempted from difficulty, but we are called to live differently in the midst of it. Instead of living to fulfill our own desires, we are called to live for the will of God, recognizing we will stand before Jesus’ throne and give account to Him for how we have lives. We are to be alert and of sober mind, devoting ourselves to prayer. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our sins have been covered, and in response we are called to love those around us deeply, following Jesus example and covering their sins.

Day 20: 1 Peter 3:8-12

At some time in our lives, all of us will receive evil or insult from another person. When this happens, we are faced with a choice. Will we repay evil with evil, insult with insult, or will we repay evil with blessing? Peter encourages us in these verses to turn from evil and do good, even to those who have hurt us.

Day 21: Ephesians 4:10-16

God doesn’t want His children to stay immature and childish – yes, child-like in our faith, but not childish and easily swayed by the lies of the enemy. He has placed us in the body of Christ with other believers, so that we may be built up and grow to maturity. This happens as we learn the truth through the study of God’s Word, apply it in our own lives, and share it with others. But there is an important key in these verses about how we are to share truth with others. Well known Bible teacher and author Warren W. Wiersbe said, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” Lord, teach us to share truth balanced with love with one another.

Exploring Rest: Physical Rest and Chronic Illness

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began studying REST as my Word of the Year for 2018, my main focus was on RESTING in the Lord. This is definitely important, but as I’ve prayed and listened to God’s voice I’ve recognized the need for some study on the physical aspects of rest as well. The God who formed our bodies in the wombs of our mothers is concerned about physical rest. It is a God-given gift to “refresh tired bodies” and “restore tired souls” (Jeremiah 21:25 MSG).

I’ve had a bedtime routine for several years of getting in bed around 10pm, then spending thirty to sixty minutes relaxing and reading before turning off the lights and actually going to sleep. My alarm is set to go off at 7:30am, so this schedule allows for the recommended hours of sleep. Occasionally, our special-needs son will have problems during the night, setting off the alarm on his monitor and waking me up, but overall this schedule was working.

However during the last few months, I’ve noticed most nights I either have trouble getting to sleep in a timely manner or I’m waking up much earlier than I used to, around 4am most mornings. Suddenly, I was seldom getting the amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for those in my age group. Because of a combination of living with a long list of chronic illnesses and some other age-related problems, I now seldom get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. And as one of the leaders of a large group of Christian women with chronic illness, I’ve seen that I am definitely not the only one who faces this problem.

Sleeplessness and Chronic Illness

Insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for the recommended amount of time, is a common problem for those with chronic illnesses. In some cases, a medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in other cases symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for us to sleep. Also, insomnia is sometimes a side effect of some of the medications used for chronic illnesses. Common medical problems related to insomnia include gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems, neurological conditions, allergies, asthma and chronic pain. Unfortunately, treatments may help relieve the severity of these problems but they seldom totally remove them.

While those who suffer with these and many other chronic illnesses may never be totally free from the issue of insomnia, there are some positive steps we can take to keep from living with constant exhaustion. Here are a few ideas.

  • Talk with your primary physician about the problems you are having with insomnia. While I personally do not take any type of prescription sleeping pills, that may be an option for some. Personally, when my PCP has tried this the side effects were worse than the insomnia itself. But your doctor may have some other recommendations that would be helpful in this area. For example, some medications or combinations of medications can actually cause difficulty sleeping or aggravate a problem you are already having in this area, and there may be a different medication that would help with the symptoms without keeping you awake at night.
  • Watch your diet. Caffeine and chocolate are stimulants, and used in the late afternoon or evening can make it difficult to get to sleep. Foods containing sugar can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and make you restless instead of sleepy. Spicy foods and foods high in protein and fat, especially when eaten in large amounts and late in the evening, can keep you awake when you need to go to sleep. If possible, eat early so your food will have time to begin digesting before bed time. And limit fluid intake for at least three hours before going to bed so you don’t have to get up frequently during the night to urinate and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
  • Get some sunshine daily, whenever possible. Regular exposure to sunlight helps keep vitamin D levels within the normal range and prevents daytime drowsiness and nighttime restlessness that are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Add some exercise to your daily routine.If you are too sedentary – which is another problem often associated with chronic illness – this often adds to problems with impaired sleep. Find a way to add regular aerobic exercise to your daily routine at least five days a week, working up to 150 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re not sure what exercise is appropriate with your medical condition(s), ask your physician for a recommendation or if possible for an assessment by a certified physical and/or occupational therapist to help you set up a safe exercise program. I did this after a major surgery on my cervical spine about a year and a half ago, and since I was homebound at the time I had both a PT and an OT come to our home to get me started on a safe exercise program. But don’t wait until after supper to exercise, as this can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • If you feel extremely tired during the day, a short nap may improve your alertness and ability to concentrate. But nap in a comfortable environment, preferably with limited light and noise, and do so early in the afternoon and for no more than forty-five minutes. Sometimes a simple time of resting without napping will also help. But avoid longer naps or those later in the afternoon which can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
  • Limit or eliminate back light devices and bright artificial light before bedtime. Watching television late at night, working on your computer, even reading an e-book on your iPad or other tablet to relax at bedtime can all contribute to sleeplessness. Even over-exposure to artificial light can cause difficulty getting to sleep. Whenever possible, use low-wattage bulbs and turn off your television and computer or tablet at least one hour before going to bed. And if you want to read to relax at bedtime, make sure you use a regular book or an eReader that requires an additional light source.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and that the temperature is neither too warm nor too cold. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. And don’t allow sleep problems to become a cause of anxiety. If you do all you can to get a full night’s sleep, and you still wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, realize that any rest is better than none. If you feel restless, take some time to listen to some relaxing music or meditate on some encouraging verses of Scripture, but then turn off the light, close your eyes and rest until it’s time to get up and start another day.
  • Finally, remember God is in control, ruling in love and wisdom over our world whether we are awake or asleep. When you lay down to go to bed for the night, lay down your anxious thoughts as well. As you powered down your computer at least an hour below heading to bed, it’s now time to power down your mind and turn everything over to the One who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4). Relinquish control to Him, relax and go to sleep. Almighty God is still on His throne, and He can handle anything that might happen before it’s time for you to begin a new day. Close your eyes and go to sleep, confident He will make you dwell in safety through the night.

Exploring Rest: How Work and Rest Fit Together

As I learn about what it truly is to rest in the Lord, my goal is to do a short weekly blog post exploring what it is to REST IN THE LORD. This week, we are looking at how work and rest are not opposites but rather two sides of the same coin.

To rest, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, can mean “freedom from activity or labor.” When we are speaking of spiritual rest or resting in the Lord, this is not what we are referring to. Another definition given by this dictionary comes much closer to the biblical meaning of rest: “peace of mind or spirit.” When I am resting in the Lord, I am at peace within, regardless of what is going on around me.

My normal morning routine includes a time of being quiet before the Lord and listening to His voice. I also spend time in God’s Word, since this is what He often uses to speak truth to my heart. And this morning, through a verse that popped up as the Verse of the Day on one of my Bible apps and another on Scripture passage on my regularly scheduled reading, I heard one message loud and clear: REST IS NOT CEASING FROM WORK. IT IS COMMITTING THE WORK I NEED TO DO TO THE LORD.

If you are like me, most days you have work that needs to be done. So this is an essential principle to understand about walking in rest. I am writing this on Tuesday, which is a day that will be filled with laundry, writing two needed posts for God Living Girls with Chronic Illness, and doing some bookkeeping for our business. Not what I would normally think of as a day of rest! Yet this is what God was speaking to my heart this morning. So how can we rest in the Lord and still accomplish the tasks that need to be done?

  • This begins by committing to the Lord whatever is on your schedule for the day. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NIV)‬‬
  • To commit our plans to the Lord, in the original Hebrew language, means to roll the weight of them onto the Lord. What a wise way to begin the day! By rolling the burden of our responsibilities on Jesus’ shoulders, we stop trying to carry the heavy weight ourselves and acknowledge our need for His help. We still need to fulfill our responsibility, but this enables us to enter God’s rest even while we are working.
  • So what are to commit to the Lord? Whatever project or undertaking is scheduled for this day, whether it is routine or especially difficult and complex.
  • This verse promises, when we take these steps, the Lord will establish our plans. To establish something is to make it firm and stable. But the Hebrew word translated “establish” in this verse can also mean “to direct, as an arrow” on it’s way to the target. If we have committed our plans for the day to the Lord, rolling the weight of it onto the Lord, He will direct our steps throughout the day. And while inwardly at rest, we will accomplish what God desires for our day.

Wow! When I sat down to study this verse, I had no idea all of the meat in these few words. I know this is my desire for my day. How about you? And to accomplish God’s purposes and be at rest as I’m doing it! A double blessing. Lord, I commit the tasks before me today to You, and I choose to work at them as You instruct me to in Colossians 3:23-24, with all my heart, working for You and not just to please those I am serving. Because in reality, it is the Lord Jesus Christ I am serving.

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus During the Holiday Season

Keeping our eyes on Jesus is a discipline many of us fail in daily. Yet Scripture teaches this is an important, even essential part of running with perseverance the  race God has marked out for us.

If  you live with the daily challenges of chronic illness, loss, physical or emotional pain, financial struggles or a variety of other issues that are a part of daily life on this earth corrupted by sin, keeping a godward focus becomes even more difficult during the holiday season with its added pressures.

Even though I’ve been doing daily posts this month on the meaning of twenty-five of the names of Jesus, I’ve had some days that it was very difficult just to keep going. Earlier this week, I had a day where brain fog made it really difficult for me to write. By the end of the day my post for the next morning was done, but little else. I was exhausted and on the verge of depression. I knew I needed to do something to stop this downward spiral before it got worse.

The first thing I tried was to relax by playing a couple games on my iPad. In my current frame of mind, that just made me feel worse. So I decided to go in my bedroom, get ready for bed, and read for a few minutes before going to sleep (something I do most nights). This also didn’t help.

Then I remembered what usually helps when I’m feeling discouraged or anxious about something, using worship music to turn on focus off the problems I’m dealing with and onto the One who loves me and is working in my circumstances for my good and for His glory. So I turned on my iPad and listened to some Christmas worship music. This helped me relax and prepare mentally for sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, it was with a completely different frame of mind, one that enabled me to have a much more positive day.

The holiday season with all its extra activities and pressures is naturally stressful. For those who are living with the daily limitations of chronic illness and the often associated financial pressure and emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. Here is a YouTube link to some Christmas worship music that I’ve found helpful this Christmas season in turning my eyes off the problems of life and back on the One who is our refuge in the hard places of life.

Have you found something that helps you cope with the added pressures of the season and keep your focus on the One whose birthday we are celebrating? If so,  please share what has helped you in the comments below.

The Benefits of Brokenness

In February 2017, when I was asked to be a team leader for God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness first Virtual Retreat Weekend, I had no idea how fitting the focus of these three days was for what laid ahead for our family during the rest of this year. We were doing a study of the recently released book and video series by Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way:A Daring Path into the Abundant Life.

The retreat was encouraging, but what our family has faced in the months since then has been difficult. Legal issues concerning the property we inherited from my husband’s mother, high monthly property tax payments that strain our budget to the point of collapse, the loss of our only vehicle due to mechanical problems, damage to our home from Hurricane Harvey, and our special-needs, medically fragile son’s life-threatening illness made worse by lack of available medication during the hurricane – all of these have made for a year where brokenness is no longer a theory I read about in a book.

To continue, please click on the following link: