Master Relater: Why Jesus Doesn’t Just Heal our Infirmities

Not long ago, my eight-month-old daughter, Jubilee, received her tracheostomy – an answer to months of prayer, waiting, and wondering.

At last, The Master Physician…not just making a way for greater health but advancing her recovery to the next level.

Yet, in recent days, as I’ve considered the Cross with Easter still in mind, I’ve been moved by the Messianic prophesy captured in Matthew 8:16-17:

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'”

A popular verse among those quoted in hospitals, I want us to consider Isaiah’s verb choices.

For instance, he doesn’t say verbatim Jesus would cure our infirmities and heal our diseases. Rather, he suggested Jesus would take them up and carry them – a metaphoric preview pointing to the Cross to come. Granted, on the surface this may seem discouraging for those seeking immediate results; however, I submit these words can carry powerful resonance if we allow them.

Think of it this way: Before Jesus could heal our diseases, He first had to relate to them. As Hebrews 4:15 emphasizes, Christ identified with us in our sufferings so He could restore our brokenness, transform our perspective, and fix our eyes to His presence. Cross in mind, this is why Jesus did not purchase our eternal freedom at the cost of iniquity alone as He knew our physical reconciliation was part of the package. Hence, why we must understand…

…while Jesus died for our sins and eternal relationship, He also endured our physical limitations so we could better relate to Him in our weakness.

To me, this blows my mind knowing…

…Jesus, even in His final moments, was not only proactive to consider our need to walk in fullness by His grace but cared just as much about our physical restoration as our spiritual freedom.

As for how this can encourage us in the short-term? Again, consider the Cross within Matthew 8:16-17. Before Jesus could instantly heal, there had to be a way to Him and for Him to call us to receive His healing. By establishing this pathway, He also made clear a critical order: Healing, in its rightful place, is not a catalyst but an overflow – a means to relationship with God. Accordingly, since Jesus is the answer (John 14:6), we must be careful not to assume His divine intervention is even close to the solution He is.

Yes, the NICU life, like many settings and situations, is a struggle stirred by our desire to know the ‘why’ of God’s plan, but this shouldn’t deter us from pressing into Jesus. As Matthew 8:1-17 reminds us, healing is a holy prompt to discover God as He connects to our circumstances. While miracles are often perceived as the mic drops of God’s power, dare to see the waiting for them as opportunities to know His love, nearness, and faithful sovereignty in a fresh way.

After all, it’s God’s heart our burdens aren’t the only things growing amidst our perseverance.

Bottom line: While healing is a culmination of God’s power, the anticipation of it should excite our hearts knowing He never stops pursuing us in the midst of chaos and crisis. Even though many of us reading this have felt the letdown at one point or another, take heart: The next time you sense God knocking, open the door, cast your anxieties, and let Him minister to you in ways only He can.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

Master Messiah: The Final Lessons of Jesus

When we reflect on the Easter story, we often dwell on the Cross and its aftermath. We consider Jesus’ final moments, the empty tomb, and the ascension sealing the end of Jesus’ first coming. 

However, while Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest climax the world has ever known, one must not forget the lead-up to Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion. True, He took the nails for our transgressions, paid our ransom in blood, and secured our freedom with the keys from hell. But He also offered some crucial reminders on how we’re to press into the Father during life’s greatest trials…when we feel betrayed, abandoned, even abused. 

Accordingly, as we prepare for the ultimate remembrance, may we heed and receive these final lessons of Jesus…our Master Messiah.

  1. How to Overcome Verbal Abuse

For those familiar with the Gospel culmination, we know Jesus was accused, mocked, and beaten before dying a criminal’s death ahead of His vindication. Yet, what’s sometimes lost in translation is the verbal nature of Christ’s abuse. While Jesus was accustomed to being misunderstood from ministry origins to His triumphal entry, the assault taken as He carried the cross is worth noting.

First, imagine bleeding to death, muscles exposed, your beard ripped out, a scarlet robe dangling from reclotting wounds, all the while carrying a 100-lb wooden crossbeam two miles to your execution site. Then, ponder the compounding pain of venomous falsehoods cracking your spirits simultaneously. I don’t know about you, but words and modern-day recreations can only go so far though this scene is a valiant effort…

Although Jesus had cultivated a lifelong habit of not taking offense, who knows what thoughts and temptations crossed His mind at this juncture. After all, it’s one thing to be mistaken as you’re praised; it’s another to be scorned as you’re dying. Still, even with the weight of the Cross on His shoulders, the Cross was still before Him. Despite the brutal slew of ridicule, Jesus, with fading strength, knew these people not only represented the very thing He came to die for but also what future generations would continue to do. 

Think about it: What we do in secret and subdued fashion tacks on to this moment. In times of misjudgments, we react out of confusion and anger, subconsciously doubting Jesus is who He says He is. From there, we take matters into our own hands and curse our troubles as if the victory on Calvary never happened. Granted, I know an insult to fallenness before us is different than a personal attack; however, I suppose the relatability from present to past is what grips me – the idea we, though millenniums apart, played a part in Jesus’ death, the future weight of our sins notwithstanding.

Like those who cast their slights on the first Good Friday, we, too, must confess the times we’ve a) failed to identify our Lord as Savior amidst our struggles and b) undermined His authority by not taking captive what He took captive 2,000 years ago. 

Of course, given we’ve been forgiveness and restored, why not learn from Jesus by turning the other cheek when we’re derided and declaring His sovereignty during suffering?

For when the world interrogates our faith wondering if we truly believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for our deliverance, our life should speak with or without the words.

Even though we can’t control what others say, we can love by an unwavering stand to deflect offense Luke 23:34-style while stilling ourselves to pray…

Bottom line: Jesus was cursed but not crushed in the face of verbal abuse. While we, like Peter, may occasionally renounce Jesus in word or in thought, this doesn’t mean we can’t stand firm amidst verbal onslaughts. As long as we know what we wrestle with is not a matter of flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we can invite God into the calibration of our emotions.

2. How to Pray Amidst Anxiety

Between The Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest, we note Jesus goes to Gethsemane for one last communion with the Father, a time during which He asks God not once, but twice for the cup of His wrath be removed. Anxious to the point of hematohidrosis, He cries out in desperation longing for God’s nearness and an assurance of His will. If there was any possibility of an audible, now was the time to reveal it. 

Yet, even in anguish, a lamb among wolves, Jesus stood firm modeling one last lesson to the disciples before His betrayal. We see this in Matthew 26:36 when Jesus asks His followers to sit and watch as opposed to incorporating them in group prayer. No question, Jesus needed the vertical one-on-one under the circumstances, but this didn’t mean He was cavalier concerning what the 12 would witness. Hence, why Jesus’ charge matures from ‘sit and watch’ (v. 38) to ‘watch and pray’ (v. 41) in a final effort to encourage them. Specifically…

Just because I’m not physically with you doesn’t mean you can’t participate with me. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak…but fear and faint not. For I long to take comfort with you as the Comforter preps His homecoming. Until then, join in, stay with me, and keep watch though my enemies are lurking, though evil abounds. Taste and see one last time:

You don’t have to be overcome because I have overcome the world (John 16:33). 

Bottom line: Although Jesus was in great despair, He used this emotion to steer Him into the Father, showcasing the epitome of reliance in the process.

3. How To Let God Go Before

Following Jesus’ death and descent into hell, we note an almost anticlimactic return to start Matthew 28. Rereading v. 3, one would think the description of the angels would have been assigned to Jesus as part of a grander entrance; however, just like His triumphal entry, we find Jesus applying the symmetry in v. 7. As the angels tell the Mary’s…

 “…go quickly and tell His disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you

Now, I know this may seem like a random pivot point but just let that bold phrase sink in a little. During the final days of Jesus, His life message to His followers, in part, was a progression of hope:

For a short time, I was with you, then I went before you to seal the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. And now, I am back going before you one last time before taking my place on the right side of the Father so like Him, like my Spirit, I can be among you. 

So, it’s interesting as much play we give to Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, the education never stopped. Until the end of His human tenure, Jesus was steadfast to reinforce our corporate calling:

  1. To love one another as a people covered in grace, secured in freedom, and strengthened by faith.
  2. To inspire our unity and resolve to know He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. 

To the Mary’s, the disciples, and future generations to come…this is why He came back. To make sure we, scattered as we might be, could understand the truth – that as we go tell it on the mountain, the streets, at work, even the most hostile environments, as Christ is in us, God is with us, as in heaven…so on earth.

Bottom line: While Christ’s death allowed Him to take the keys to the Kingdom, it also served as a reminder to generations of believers to come: Since I have overcome the world, I can be with you and among you simultaneously. That is why I, as your forerunner (Hebrews 6:20), will never stop going before you as you learn to teach my ways to the ends of earth…to the ends of time. 

Selah. 

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Message in a Bottle: Why God Collects our Tears

Recently, I received a letter from a dear friend who encouraged Lys & I to consider Psalm 56:8.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (ESV)

At first, I was confused. For starters, what are tossings apart from 3:00 am body shifts…and what exactly is the tie between “bottle” and “book”? Is there something specific I’m to glean from this in present application?

So, I did some digging, following my curiosity into the Word (which may or may not be my default entrance these days). And upon further review, I couldn’t help but notice some powerful reminders…

1. Per Psalm 56‘s header, this passage was written after the Philistines seized David in Gath. As such, the oft quoted, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (v. 3) a few verses prior would become a critical heartcry allowing his hope to rise above the flesh. While simple in statement, the declaration established immediate divide between eternal safety and present concern for David. In turn, this solidified his endgame as “[walking] before God In the light of life” (v. 13).

2. The word, “tossings”, stands out as a word worth underlining. Although bedside maneuvers can be involved, on a larger scale, tossings refer to wanderings and challenging seasons we walk through. Accordingly, the fact God is quantitatively cognizant of our sufferings should assure us of His sovereignty and omnipresence in times of strife. One could say this makes perfect sense given God is continually directing our steps (Proverbs 16:9) and knows everything from the number of our days (Psalm 139) to the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7)…

3. Despite the verse’s urgent tone, the concept of bottled tears stabilizes the tenor. To David, tears were deposits of desperate trust into a bottle of remembrance. Given he had already surrendered his fear (of what men could do to him), he had, by proxy, opened his heart to receive comfort and his posture to look up. Poetic license applied, the metaphor is a beautiful reminder how even in great pain and distress, we can acknowledge the God who rejoices over us with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17) is the same God who weeps alongside us when troubles mount.

4. Just as God is omnipresence, so is He omniscient. Since nothing takes God by surprise (Psalm 95), the idea of God tallying a ledger of our trials and tribulations should hearten us to take heart. After all, God not only wipes what we weep but is forever on standby to offer joy as featured within the unveiling of His purposes/promises.

How sweet it is knowing we can delight in suffering in remembrance of Christ knowing He does the same thing with us each and every day!

Bottom line: In seasons of grief, in times of challenge…don’t be afraid to cry out and leak a little along the way. As David expressed literally and figuratively, our tears are never in vain as they…

All the more reason to trust God through the struggle and know He’s for us through the sorrow (v. 9).

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll return to our Power in the Mud series to discuss why Jesus was so passionate about healing on the Sabbath. For now, I’d like to thank all our supporters and prayer partners as we share this 200th post! We greatly appreciate your words of encouragement and engagement the past five years especially as we’ve turned the corner from youth ministry into marketplace ministry. Although there’s much going on behind the scenes, we look forward to continuing our aim to resource the church and empower vocationals everywhere to live as Christ within their arenas of influence.

Footnotes

  1. Hence, why God tracks what He allows to stretch us and what He appoints to transform us into His likeness.

Cover photo creds: Marilyn Gardner

Power in the Mud (Part 1): Why Jesus Used His Spit to Heal

So recently, I’ve been investigating some of the more creative and intense miracles of Jesus during His ministry.

Among my questions: What is the full significance of the garment at Gennesaret? Why were those at Gadarenes intimidated by Jesus? And whenever a specific number is mentioned, is there a reason for it? Or is it just arbitrary in some cases?

But perhaps the most pressing of late is the most random:

Why did Jesus use saliva in some of his healings?

While my research is ongoing, what I can say for now is while the Spirit of God as demonstrated through the spittle of His Son seems like a bizarre theme, the concept is not so far-fetched.

You see, back in the day, the medical community, particularly in Judea, believed strongly in the curing power of saliva. While practicing with spittle seems disgusting by our standards, as BC became AD, a patient would want a physician’s spit to be part of the prescription. Pretty crazy, right?

Accordingly, Jesus healing a deaf man by a wet touch to the tongue (Mark 7:33) and two blind men with a similar approach to the eyes (Mark 8:23, John 9:6), should not surprise us. Granted, Jesus could have gone against conventional wisdom and treatments in ‘out of leftfield’ fashion.

But that’s not who Jesus is or what He came to do. Rather than discredit welcomed practices (by Jewish and Roman cultures, no doubt), Jesus operated within an expected vein so He could communicate His intention to heal before actually doing so.

And while there’s plenty of symbolism involving the mud and washing of eyes, as I revisit these stories with one in the NICU, I’m encouraged by the Prince of Peace channeling a relatable ‘big picture’ into these miraculous moments.

For instance, while Jesus knew there was power in His Word, He also knew there was healing power in His saliva intended to impart life and restoration. With divine DNA flowing with His humanity, we can better understand such an operational dichotomy:

Just as there was future power in His blood, so was there present power in the mud…

…revealing His power to heal the afflicted and open their eyes in more ways than one.

Put another way, Christ’s lifeblood was His lifesource. To the extent He yielded and relied on God, to that extent His wonder-working power manifested through grace, understanding, even medical empathy. This makes sense especially when we take a birds-eye view of Christ’s creative healings.

For Jesus so loved whom He took compassion on, not only did He seek to model love by His power but also care by His intent.

While I will aim to unpack this further in my next post, for now, I live this in real-life in real-time. Given the amount of preemies I pass in the halls these days, I’m stirred by the fact Jesus never repeated the same healing miracle twice. And as Lys & I enter these dogs days at Vandy, I’m reminded how, like Jesus, we can be dependent upon a higher power pulsating through us…reviving our hearts again.

How sweet it is to know our Savior is an expert at making something out of nothing and meeting our spiritual need with a physical manifestation? After all, to heal is to not only restore what once was lost but to reclaim by faith God’s original design for our life.

Selah.

Jubilee (“Juby”) Fry after her laser eye surgery on 1/27/22.

3 [More] Ways To Sharpen Your Sword

After a four year hiatus, a former January staple finds its ‘Part 2‘; for more context, check out the pod above and ‘Part 1’ below…

Part 1: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/01/26/3-ways-to-sharpen-your-sword/

Otherwise, get ready, get set…it’s the first post of 2022…

1. Don’t force the reset.

Often, when we start a new year, we’re quick to go into ‘reset’ mode. Without hesitation, we launch into the dream of a ‘better us’ laced with new habits and self-improvements…all in the spirit of grabbing time and hope by the horns. 

However, when it comes to discerning God through His Word, we must remember there’s no rush on God’s end for us to reach the ceiling of our understanding. While Bible reading plans are beneficial to any spiritual walk, to jumpstart your quiet time, always start with humility, gratitude, and prayerful intentionality. Rather than assume a strategy, ask the Lord how He desires to guide you in Spirit and Truth through His Word. Once confirmed, determine a game-plan to not only keep you anchored to the Spirit’s leading, but also on guard against the attacks and schemes of the enemy.

Consider this: As I’ve applied these practices in recent weeks, I’ve sensed the Lord stir ‘encounter’ in my heart…in the context of embracing Him through the Gospels. Inquiring further, I’ve realized how God doesn’t want me to map out my entire Scriptural journey upfront but take a staggered, ‘wait and see’ approach. I know last year, prior to the Juby saga, I hit a decent stride engaging my Bible app for 100 straight days. Yet, for this year, God has made it clear He wants my attention on encountering Him as opposed to targeting numerical affirmation. For now, I will read through the Gospels capturing revelations on Jesus’ restorative power and creative miracles. From there, I will reassess the journey and proceed at His prompting.

Bible verse: “God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.” ~ Lamentations 3:25-26 (MSG)

Bottom line: Don’t perceive God’s discovery package for you in 2022 arbitrarily. Before diving in, seek and be still. Take inventory of pressure points and though you have an invitation into His courts, dare to knock on the door of God’s heart before entering.

2. Integrate community and conversation.

Once you have a divinely inspired plan of action, your next challenge, should you choose to accept, is to de-silo your insights. Although intimacy may start in the closest spaces of our hearts, ultimately, we were intended to share the unique angles of God’s outpouring within community. While this doesn’t mean we convey every download, for starters, it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself…

How does God want me to take our conversations to my neighbors, local church, the towns in which I do business, even the nations?’

Once you have direction, by all means, journal your thoughts and record the vision ala Habakkuk 2:2; just don’t limit the manifestations of your devotions to the notepad. After all, there’s way more in store with how God wants to illuminate your heart in 2022.

Consider this: Apart from corporate fellowship, make it a point to meet with friends and mentors in 2022. During your gatherings, be transparent about what God is teaching you without an agenda to trumpet your voice or force awakenings. If the dialogue lends itself, unveil the fruit of your quiet times organically; if not, remember you can still be a valued support system as you selflessly offer encouragement to the situation. Regardless of the circumstances, take heart:

To the extent you engage God through prayer and the Scriptures, to that extent you’ll be able to assess potential needs through love. The more you commit to this spiritual discipline through quiet time, the more you’ll see the impacts in real-time.

Bible verse: “Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part…gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 (MSG)

Bottom line: While much Bible reading is done solo-style, this doesn’t imply silo-style.

Accordingly, instead of isolating your intimacy with God, consider how He’s grooming you to be a mouthpiece for His power and presence. For as you know, where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is (Matthew 18:20)…and where He is is the ultimate edge on any spiritual battlefield.

Bonus thought: While quiet times allow God to train us in secret, for the point and purpose of those trainings to be realized, we must accept their place in the context of unity in community.

3. Pray and declare the Word.

So far, we’ve established how quiet time is not confined to individual study but is maximized in Spirit and Truth. While there’s not a one-size fit-all solution to channeling truth by the Spirit, one of the best ways to know the Word is to pray and declare it.

As Colossians 4:2 reminds us, if we’re to continue with anything, let it be prayer fused with thanksgiving. Even though we may suffer and enter in with fear and trembling, as Jesus did during his ministry, we can proclaim the goodness of God in reverence (Hebrews 5:7). Despite the adversity we may be dealing with, we can fire up faith and ignite our hope by testifying who God is constantly. In this way, we can use God’s Word as lamp unto our feet to center our perspective on what is everlasting and scale our perception of present trouble.

Consider this: As you read and examine the Word, be prepared to stop. Set your expectations on God’s faithfulness to convict and respond. Per your pauses, affirm God’s truth through praise and profess the reality of His love into your midst.

Bible verse: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” ~ 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Bottom line: One of the best ways to declare God’s sovereignty into any situation is through prayer and exhortation. The more you cultivate this strength into your quiet time, the more you will be able to prophetically encourage the people God has placed in your life for such a time as this.

Take it from my friend, Schmidt…

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Cathy McIntosh