Daily Devotional ~ Telling Your Story ~ Week 4 ~ Jesus Presence and Compassion

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Jesus Presence and Compassion:

Day 1                         The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith                      Mark 7:24-30

“From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’” But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” NRSV

When most of us hear a prayer request for healing, our minds automatically go to physical healing such as healing of cancer, surgery, broken bones, and so on. We tend to overlook healings that are needed in other areas of people’s journeys. The Syrophoenician woman’s daughter had a demon. The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus had the ability to cast out demons, and that he did so frequently. This mother’s persistence showed her faith and Jesus healed her daughter because of the mother’s determined faith.

How strong is your faith? When you do not perceive your prayers being answered in what you consider to be a timely manner, does your faith begin to dwindle or does it stay strong in knowing and believing that God will answer and that God’s answer will be for God’s glory?

The way our prayers are answered is God’s story. Our response to God’s answers is our story, and the two create the story of love and grace between a parent and a child.

Reflection: What is your response when God seemingly does not answer your prayers? What is your response when the answer is positive and a great miracle has occurred? Do you share those stories with others?

Prayer: Loving God, forgive me for doubting your power and presence in my time of need. Help me realize that I may not understand your answers to my prayers, but to face those answers with courage and the knowledge of your love for me. Amen.

Day 2                                      Let the Redeemed Tell their Story             Psalm 107:1-3

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.”
NIV

My friend Angel gave permission to use her story. She says, “God is so awesome. Yep. Thirteen years ago I had brain surgery for a pretty serious looking brain tumor. Following that surgery in April of 2002, we were told the tumor was successfully excised. Just two short days later, I was released from the hospital and found out a week later that though it was considered a grade 2 (out of 4) tumor, pre-surgical MRI scans showed it was a more aggressive tumor. I then went through treatments of chemo and radiation. After almost two full years of treatment, and over 50 follow-up MRI scans to check for recurrence, and many, many, prayers later, I am still tumor free! God is good! I pray that how I live my life, now, shows God how amazingly grateful I am for this blessing.”

We never know from day to day what will happen in our lives that will become a part of our greater story. My friend Angel did not dream that she would have a brain tumor diagnosis, and go through brain surgery, radiation, and chemo. When I asked her about using her story in this devotion she did not hesitate, but she wanted to make sure that it is understood that her story should be used and told to bring God praise. Angel not only gives God praise and glory for her healing, but also for bringing her beloved husband Jim safely home through multiple deployments during his military career.

Reflection: Do you let others know what a wonderful God you serve and how you have been healed or touched by God? Sometimes we think that those parts of our story aren’t important because they are specific to our lives. Who wants to hear about my life? Sometimes we might think that we are boring people with our stories, however, if we are being faithful, observant, and most importantly listening to God, we will find ourselves at the right time, right place, and right audience to tell the part of our healing story that God wants to be known, and all the glory will go to God.

Prayer: Give me the wisdom to know what part of and when to humbly share our story, Lord. Give me the strength and courage to tell others that without your healing and strength, I would not even have a story. Amen.

Day 3                          Peace in the Promises of Jesus                                John 16:33

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” NRSV

There are times when we do not go to God with our pain or hurt because we do not think that our hurt or infirmity is important enough to bring before our creator. Sometimes we feel that if our illness is not the size of a mountain then God will not have time for it. We unwisely choose to try to handle the small things on our own, which often leads the small things to grow into large things. Maybe we feel as though the pain or hurt we are having is deserved because we have either failed those we love, or we feel we have failed ourselves, or we might even feel we have failed God. My friends, I am so thankful that God’s love for me is not based on what I deserve but on God’s freely given grace. We do not always understand that there is nothing too small or too big to take to our Lord in prayer. Please know that God is aware of our issue/s before we speak it, regardless of magnitude. God’s desire for us is that we find our peace in Jesus’ promises to us, as seen in today’s Scripture. The only way we will truly find rest or peace is when we look toward Jesus as the healer. We will find pain and hurt in this world, but we need to always remember that our Lord conquered the world, and the victory of Jesus is the only lasting cure.

Reflection: Where do you need peace today? What small or big thing needs to be brought before our Lord today?

Prayer: Forgive me, Jesus, for not trusting you with everything in my life regardless of size. Thank you for being the cure, and bring me the peace that only you can offer. Amen.

Day 4                                      More than Conquerors                                Romans 8:37-39

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Life Application Bible

The Life Application Bible reminds us that, “These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. Christ’s death for us is proof of unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great God’s love is so that we will feel totally secure in God. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid.”[1]

Fear causes us to mistrust God’s love for us, it makes us ill. Paul reminds us that we can let go of fear and we can face our trials head on knowing that God is with us. As Christians, our stories do not have to stand on their own. Other stories of suffering join ours. Jesus’ story of the ultimate suffering is there as well. We are not alone. We have each other, and more importantly we have the love of God and God’s story to help us through. There is a plaque that hangs on my office door that reads, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” As long as we allow God to lead the dance we will keep in step and end gracefully in the arms of Jesus.

Reflection: What fears do you need to let go of today? Close your eyes, and imagine the presence of Jesus with you. Ask Jesus to take away your fears and to be a constant abiding presence in your life.

Prayer: Blessed Jesus, help me to release the fear that sometimes grips me causing me to lose timing and doubt your healing power and blessed grace. Create in me the strength to splash through the puddles of life until we meet in your kingdom. Amen.

Day 5                                                  Spiritual Health                                Matthew 9:1-2

“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” NIV

When the paralyzed man was brought to Jesus, the first thing Jesus said to him was “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus’ first concern was with the man’s spiritual health. When we allow our spiritual health to weaken, we lose our strength to fight what this world throws at us. Our ability to endure physical, emotional, or relational issues weakens and we end up digging ourselves into an early grave. For a moment pretend that your spiritual life can be gauged by weights, one pound through 66 pounds. (One pound=one book of the Bible or one chapter of the story). Each pound represents the amount of time spent in building your spiritual health. As spiritual weight lifters if we do not lift weights regularly then we become weak and do not have the strength to conquer the enemy. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with regular spiritual exercise, we become stronger and eventually we will lift those 66 pounds with less effort while being able to provide more impact. We become less intimidated with worldly factors because we have gained the confidence and spiritual strength required to standup to the worldly woes in a Christian manner.

Reflection: The Bible is our set of exercise weights to strengthen our spiritual body. Do you exercise your ailing spiritual body regularly? Are you getting stronger so you can be used by God?

Prayer: Blessed Savior, forgive me for not being faithful to my spiritual health. Grant me the desire to be more attentive to the strength that can only be increased through you. Amen.

Day 6                                                  The Hands of Jesus                                       Luke 7:14-15

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” NIV

Jesus restores life to a woman’s dead son. Jesus touched the bier, which is a stand on which a casket containing a corpse is placed to be carried to the grave. Jesus restored life! Have you ever thought about what the healing, restorative hands of Jesus looked like? Have you ever thought about what Jesus’ physical touch would have felt like? My imagination sees rough, worn, calloused, tanned, hands that have been subjected to hard days of physical labor as a carpenter. After the crucifixion, those same hands would have holes in them where spikes were driven to hold Jesus’ body on the cross. Those hands reach out to comfort us in our times of need and sorrow. Those same hands are the hands that work through us as we share the story of Jesus. Those same hands are the ones that clasp ours as we provide healing touches to others in their time of need, bringing Jesus’ story, our story, and the one to whom we are telling the story together. Rough, worn, and torn hands that provide a love far greater than we can imagine.

Reflection: Many times just the touch of a hand is all of the healing necessary to change a life. Do we provide this kind of healing? No, but the one who does can work through our touch, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to heal and make new. Are you willing to give your hands over to Jesus?

Prayer: Jesus, open my eyes and show me how and where you can use my hands. Let them be an instrument of your healing power. Amen.

Day 7                                                 United in Jesus!                                Hebrews 13:15-16

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” NIV

Someday all who profess the name of Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be set free from all earthly sufferings. One of my favorite old hymns is “There Will be Peace in the Valley”. The chorus is as follows:

There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me.

We will all be healed from whatever ails us. God’s stories and our stories will join in an unending hymn of praise. Until that time, my prayer is that we are all willing to be disciples of Jesus Christ, sharing our stories of Jesus’ healing power for the glory of God.

Reflection: Will you allow God to use you? Will you be the healing hands of Jesus to your family, friends, and the stranger on the street?

Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, I thank you for your story and the story you have given me. I pray that I will see my weaknesses and allow you to take them away and strengthen my faith. Help me to keep my body physically strong and my mind and soul spiritually strong. Take away the fears that I may have in serving you. Help me, Lord, be open to you as you use my hands, and God stories to help others realize your love for them. In your name, blessed Jesus, I pray. Amen.

[1] Life Application Bible, Tyndale Press, 1993, p. 2071.

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