Five Senses – Touch

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
(Matthew 8:2-4 NIV)

Today’s passage is one of many where Jesus touched people to heal them.  In other passages, Jesus healed people with just His spoken word, so touch was not required for healing.

What drew my attention to this passage was the nature of the man’s affliction and Jesus’ interactions with the man.

Leprosy is an infectious skin disease that was incurable in Jesus’ day.  In today’s world, leprosy is known to be caused by a bacteria, and is treatable by medicine.  The World Health Organization estimates that only 3 people in every 100,000 people has leprosy.

In the Old testament and in Jesus’ day, skin diseases were not uncommon.  Not all skins diseases were leprosy; some were a rash or other non-infectious conditions.

In Leviticus chapter 13 , the Lord gave the priests specific instructions on how to categorize various skin diseases, and whether a person was to be classified as “clean” or “unclean”.  If the skin condition was classified as “unclean”, the person had to be separated from the general population for the overall health of the community.

Once exiled from the general populace, lepers had to pronounce themselves unclean if anyone came near them.  This was to prevent the spread of the disease to others.  Imagine having to yell “Unclean! Unclean!” any time someone came near you… not exactly a ego-boosting moment, to say the least.

If the person’s skin condition changed, the person could ask the priest to re-examine them.  If the priest determined that the person could now be classified as “clean”, then the person would follow the Lord’s instructions in Leviticus Chapter 14 for the offering to be made.

Notice how the man came to Jesus in humility and worship.  The man knelt before Jesus and called Him “Lord”.   The man came in great faith – he never doubted that Jesus could heal him; he asked only for God’s grace and mercy and willingness to do so.

Jesus responded compassionately, and told that man that He was willing to heal him.  But before Jesus spoke the words to heal the man physically, Jesus reached out and touched the man physically.

By touching this leper, Jesus healed the man in so many other ways – socially, relationally, mentally, psychologically, spiritually.  The text does not say how long this man had leprosy – only that he had it.  The man likely longed for human touch again – to shake hands with someone, to hug his family members, to simply be back in the community and not living in exile outside the town.

Jesus knew what this man needed, both physically and spiritually, and He used a simple touch to make the man whole again.

When I read this, I stopped to think about my body language, especially how I communicate with people:

  • What is this person longing for?  Maybe not a flood of words, but simply a hug?
  • Do I present an invisible “wall” to someone that communicates unwillingness to have appropriate physical contact (even a simple handshake), or do I communicate openness and God’s love via appropriate touch?
  • Have I replaced direct human interaction such as appropriate physical touch with technology (for example, sending a picture of a hug or texting “hugs” to someone who is nearby)?

May we remember to listen to and observe the longings of another person’s heart as shown by Jesus in today’s passage.

And when fitting, may we make ourselves vulnerable and use appropriate physical touch to communicate God’s love and acceptance to those who are hurting.

Blessings,
~kevin

Five Senses – Sight

For a little change of pace, let’s take a few sessions and see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
(Mark 10:17-21 NIV)

For many, this is a familiar story from the Gospel of Mark.

A rich young man runs up to Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life.

Jesus plays along with the man and reminds him of six of the Ten Commandments in verse 19.  The man assures Jesus that he has kept all of those commandments since he was a boy.

This man was measuring his relationship to God through his performance – what he could do to earn or inherit eternal life.  This man likely felt he needed to work his way into heaven.  He probably saw God as an exacting taskmaster, requiring strict adherence to Jewish laws and traditions in order to merit eternal life.

Notice the first sentence in verse 21:  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

Here, Mark captures the facial expression and body language that Jesus used to communicate with this man.  What Jesus was about to say was preceded by the expression on his face, specifically, through the look in his eyes.

As Jesus and this man looked at each other eye-to-eye, Jesus communicated the most important thing this man needed to experience – God’s love.

When Jesus communicated love toward this man, He was changing the dynamic of the conversation.  Jesus told the man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor, not because the man was too rich, but because Jesus was saying the man’s possessions and money didn’t earn him a way into heaven.  What mattered most was the man’s relationship with God.

Jesus offered a radical alternative to this man’s view of God.  The man was focused on performance – earning so he could give, keeping the laws and traditions of his people.  Jesus countered the endless demands of performance with an offer of loving relationship, free of the burden of performance.  And it started with a loving expression communicated through Jesus’ eyes.

When I read this, I stopped to think about my body language, especially my eyes as I communicate with people:

  • Am I aware of my facial expressions?
  • What do I say with my eyes before words come out of my mouth?
  • Do my eyes and my mouth communicate the same thing?
  • Do both my eyes and my mouth communicate God’s love?

As I write this, I am reminded that my eyes are really a window to my soul, my heart, the deeper place of who I am.  If my eyes communicate love, it’s because my soul is centered on God and at rest.  If my eyes communicate anything else, it’s because my soul is not centered on the Lord.  Our eyes tell of the condition of our hearts.

As you look in the mirror today, may you experience God’s favor and forgiveness, and see Him looking at you with love, just as Jesus looked at the man in today’s passage and loved him.

As you experience God’s love, may you share His love for others through your facial expressions, through the look in your eyes before you say the first word.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:6

Preface:  This past week, we have been experiencing God’s love through His Word.  We have been using Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Psalm 23:6 NIV – New International Version)

Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.
(Psalm 23:6 TLB – The Living Bible)

So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!
(Psalm 23:6 TPT – The Passion Translation)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.(Psalm 23:6 KJV – King James Version)

As we consider today’s verse, we see the continuation of God’s love from the previous verses:

  • The care of God’s love as He provides rest for body and soul (v. 2)
  • The calling of God’s love, as He gives purpose to our lives through work (v. 3)
  • The comfort of God’s love, as He provides for us and protects us, even in fearful circumstances (v. 4)
  • The celebration of God’s love, powerfully manifested in the very presence of our enemies (v. 5)

As the author (King David) wraps up this psalm, his confidence in God has grown as he has seen God walk with him through good days and bad, providing for him and protecting him in both perceived and real threats.

So what is the psalmist’s conclusion?

As he has experienced God working on his behalf, he trusts God to continue walking with him through the rest of his life journey, and into eternity.

This statement is a step of faith, as the psalmist does not put his faith in his own ability to provide for himself and protect himself.  The psalmist does not say, “Lord, thanks for getting me through that rough patch of life; I’ve got this now.”  Neither does the psalmist demand that God take care of him because he has somehow earned or merited God’s favor.  Instead, the psalmist surrenders his life to God’s immense love, both in this life and the next.

Additionally, this statement is an act of worship.  The psalmist glorifies God by acknowledging God’s continued protection and provision over the remainder of his days on earth, and God’s ability to carry him from this life to the next.

The psalmist is not saying that life will be easy and problem-free.  In fact, he expects troubles and enemies to persist.

The psalmist is trusting God to be consistent in His character, His promise, and His love toward him.  As God has cared for, called, comforted, and celebrated the psalmist in the past, God will continue to do so in the future.

So what is the psalmist’s responsibility in all this?

Does he get to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants?  No.

Does this mean that God is some sort of cosmic kill-joy, sucking all the joy out of life, leaving only duty and drudgery?  No.

The psalmist’s responsibility, in the analogy of the sheep, is to stay with the Shepherd.

May we stay connected to the Shepherd of our souls, walking with Him along life’s journey.

As Jesus said in John Chapter 15, may we abide with Him, as branches depend on the vine for their very life.  This “with-ness” is both God’s command and His invitation.

What’s holding you back from surrendering to God’s love and abiding with Him?

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:5

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5 NIV – New International Version)

You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
(Psalm 23:5 CEV – Contemporary English Version)

You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow!
(Psalm 23:5 TLB – The Living Bible)

You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.
(Psalm 23:5 GNT – Good News Translation)

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(Psalm 23:5 KJV – King James Version)

As we consider today’s verse, we see the continuation of God’s love from the previous verses:

  • The care of God’s love as He provides rest for body and soul (v. 2)
  • The calling of God’s love, as He gives purpose to our lives through work (v. 3)
  • The comfort of God’s love, as He provides for us and protects us, even in fearful circumstances (v. 4)

Today we see the celebration of God’s love, powerfully manifested in the very presence of our enemies.

The psalmist noted the fearful circumstances in verse 4, but those fears were mere shadows, not actual dangers.  In verse 5, the enemy is not just imagined, but it is real and present at the scene of this verse.

Notice that the psalmist did not say that God was hiding him while the enemy passed by.  Instead, the psalmist was careful to note that God set out a banquet to honor him in full view of the enemy, and the enemy was powerless to do anything about it.

This was not a quick morsel to be eaten on the run – this was a full-on sit-down banquet, with abundant supply of food and drink, and the psalmist is the honored guest!

What was the psalmist’s response?

Was it gloating in front of the enemy?   No.

Was it resistance, where the psalmist rejected the attention because he didn’t feel worthy or didn’t feel like he had earned this favor?  No.

The psalmist humbly accepted God’s love and honor and felt God’s favor and blessing.

How often do we feel we must earn God’s favor, rather than receive His love?

And what is our mindset of God’s love toward us?

Do we see God’s love as scarce, and to be hoarded as if it’s a rare jewel?

Or do we see God’s love as abundant and extravagant, more than overflowing our needs, so much that we can freely share it with others?

May we see God’s love toward us as the psalmist did – blessing us when we haven’t earned it, incredibly generous, more than meeting our needs and wants and desires, so much so that we can’t do anything other than joyfully give the excess to others, even in the very presence of our toughest enemies and life situations.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:4

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 NIV – New International Version)

Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
(Psalm 23:4 GNT – Good News Translation)

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
(Psalm 23:4 AMP – Amplified Bible)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 KJV – King James Version)

As we continue with Psalm 23, we see the progression of verse 4 building upon verses 2 and 3.  First comes rest (verse 2), then the work of the journey (verse 3).

Wouldn’t it be great if life were all sunny days with plenty to eat and drink, no concerns about safety or problems to be overcome?  The psalmist is realistic and knows that times of trial and tribulation are as much a part of life as the good times.

In verse 4, the psalmist points out that the Lord is with us even in the dark times of our lives.  God is not a fair-weather friend – he is the faithful friend who stays with us through everything.  If we sense we are far from God, it is us who have strayed, not God.

Notice how the psalmist portrays the impending doom – as a sunless valley, as darkness, as if death itself owns this spot we must journey through.  And yet, God loves us so much that he goes before us and shows us that while it looks foreboding and scary, we are safe in His care.  Shadows can be scary looking, but they are not a real threat.

Notice the tools the Shepherd carries to provide for us and protect us – His rod and His shepherd’s staff (also known as the shepherd’s crook).  And these tools are in the experienced hands of the Shepherd, powered by His mighty right hand and strong arms.

Knowing God loves us and provides for us and protects us and is right there with us brings great comfort through these hard times.

May you sense God’s presence when you go through trials and tribulations in life.

May you walk in faith, knowing that your Shepherd is with you, guiding you through hard times when the way forward is not clear.

May you find comfort in His Word, reminding you that He loves you and will never leave you or forsake you.

May you abide (live each day, moment by moment) in His care.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:3

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 NIV – New International Version)

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 AMPC – Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.
(Psalm 23:3 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.
(Psalm 23:3 TLB – The Living Bible)

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 KJV – King James Version)

As we meditate on verse 3 today, we must loop back and look at verse 2, for they are clearly bound together.

Verse 2 gives us the picture of rest and revitalization.  Verse 3 gives us the picture of the benefits of that rest – new strength of body and character to do the next right thing which honors God and blesses us.

In our modern culture, we often think that the day begins with work and ends with rest.

In ancient culture, the day began with rest and ended with work.

In fact, God designed it this way from the beginning:

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
(Genesis 1:5 NIV)

Notice the order – evening (rest) first, then morning (work).

What difference would it make in our everyday lives if we adjusted our thinking to God’s design for each day?

First, we start work from a place of strength, not of weakness.

Second, we start from a place of wholeness – not only is our outward body refreshed, but our inward “heart” or “soul” (our emotions, our attitudes, our mind, our ability to focus, our outlook on life) is refreshed as well.  We can approach the day from a fresh perspective and full of joy.  The weariness, mental exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, and cares from the previous day are left with the previous day – we get a fresh start with rest.

Starting from a place of rest, God also provides purpose and meaning to each day.  The psalmist lets us know that there is a “path” that God guides us on.  We don’t have to “bushwhack” across the landscape of life – God leads us on the best way forward.  If we follow His leading, we don’t have to worry about going astray or getting lost.

And what is the meaning of our lives?  When we walk with Him, we bring honor and glory to His name.  Our lives have meaning when they are about Him, not about us.

May we experience God’s rest and strength and purpose and joy today, as we learn to live according to His design and calling.

He is holding out His hand, ready to lead us in His path, to walk with us along the way.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:2

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
(Psalm 23:2 NIV – New International Version)

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
(Psalm 23:2 NLT – New Living Translation)

He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
(Psalm 23:2 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
(Psalm 23:2 KJV – King James Version)

The psalmist continues his analogy of God as a loving shepherd and we being under his care.

In verse 1, we heard the psalmist testify that God was meeting all his needs.

In verse 2, we have the first specific example of God meeting all his needs – nourishment for both body and soul.

Green pastures signify abundant food supply; still waters signify drinkable water.  In a sheep’s view, this is meeting the physical needs for food and water.

But God’s provisions are not just for the body – this verse lets us know that God provides for our soul as well.

Laying down indicates rest.  If the sheep are being pursued, by a predator or driven by the shepherd, there would be no opportunity to rest – the sheep would be under constant stress.

Still waters imply a peaceful environment.  If the waters were flooding or the stream was running at a rapid rate, the sheep would not drink for fear of getting swept away in the water.

Likewise, if the water source were a pool of stagnant water, the sheep would not drink.  Instead, the Shepherd finds a fresh water source that gently flows as a stream, allowing the sheep to drink in peace and without fear.

While this is not a permanent place to live, it is an oasis of rest and revitalization that the sheep need for a long and productive life.  The shepherd knows this and makes sure to provide this place of refreshment for both the body and soul of those in his care.

What does your place of refreshment look like?  A quiet, sandy beach?  Or a high mountain meadow?

Maybe your place of refreshment is not a “destination” far away as much as it might be a state of mind – a favorite chair by the window with a book and a blanket and a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, or a quiet park bench among the trees on a sunny day with a glass of lemonade.

May you be intentional about finding times of rest and refreshment with the Lord – times to quiet your soul and enjoy His provision of rest.

There will be pressures and foes and hard times – but for now, may you find a few moments of rest for your body and soul.

Blessings,
~kevin