It was the day before Christmas Eve, and as I drove to a city where I was to meet my sons for lunch, it was hard to find a parking spot, as so many people were out and about on the last shopping day before Christmas. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood in this upscale downtown area where I was meeting my sons for lunch. Many were dressed in their holiday best, and there were families everyone; children giddy with glee as they undoubtedly were looking forward to opening presents soon. Since I had to park quite far away from the restaurant where I was to meet my sons, I had a few blocks to walk. At one corner, a woman who was sitting down by herself and talking caught my eye for just a moment. She was on the other side of the street, so I did not get a close look at her. "Why is she talking when she is all alone?," I quickly thought, but I was late for lunch and I pushed the thought to the back of my mind thinking "she probably has an earbud on and is talking on the phone to someone." Later, as we were finishing up our lunch on a table that was outside in front of the restaurant (the restaurant was very busy, and the only table available was outdoors as it was quite cold out), a woman walked by that caught my eye. She was not neat - she was dirty, carrying a backpack, smoking a small stub of a cigarette that I guessed someone had discarded, and had multiple layers of clothing and jackets on, well worn and dirty. I later learned she was in her mid 40s, but she looked older than that. She noticed me looking at her, and said to me: "God bless you! Jesus has redeemed me, and God is the God of second chances." I replied: "Amen! He certainly is the God of second chances. God bless you too." We began a short conversation, and I was waiting for and expecting the imminent request for money - but it never came.
Today is a holiday of "Thanksgiving" for many people in the United States. However, I think it is important to understand that this is not a day of Thanksgiving for many people, but a day of mourning. Dr. Gary Kohl has reminded us that Native Americans are not fond of Thanksgiving. Here is the text of a plaque that overlooks Plymouth Rock, the site where Puritans first landed on Native American soil that explains why Thanksgiving has only negative connotations for non-whites: "Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in a National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today." If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family members, you truly do have something to be thankful about. But for multitudes in the United States today, holidays like Thanksgiving are simply grim reminders of crimes committed against them that destroyed their families. It is very easy to look at the condition of our culture today, to see the injustice and abuses occurring on a daily basis, and lose hope. Why should one be thankful in the face of terrible injustice, where evil flourishes with seemingly no end in sight, and where it appears that there is no way to fight the corruption that is now the norm? Yet, there is still reason to be thankful...
Anniversaries are dates etched into history. Most of them are celebrated, because the reason we remember them is that they bring back pleasant memories. These are dates such as birth dates, dates of marriage, etc. Some anniversaries are dates in history that are painful, and not worth celebrating. Yet every day is significant for one reason or another, and even in the midst of tragedy or pain, good can come of it. Today, October 28th, is a date in my past that I have never celebrated, and have seldom even mentioned to others. Yet it is a date in my past that is now known by well over a million people, because I memorialized it (without mentioning the specific date) in my personal testimony, How I Found Peace with God. It is the most important truth I have to communicate to the world, and I have linked to it from all my websites the past 17 plus years, and today it is read hundreds of times every day. It is the day in 1977 where I tried to end my life, by first overdosing on drugs, and then after being unsuccessful in doing that, by driving my car into a light pole along the side of a road at 85 mph. 40 years ago on this date I though I had control over my life, and that it was mine to end. It was not. I learned through experience that day, that God controlled my life, not me. He handed it back to me, and told me I was not done yet. In fact, I was just beginning, and he made it very clear that he had a plan and purpose for my life.
Who do you run to first when you are sick? Who do you trust to bring you healing? Do you seek first the Creator of the universe who made you and knows you better than anyone else, or do you turn first to "health experts" who may or may not know you, and who can usually only deal with health on a physical level based on human knowledge? Do you willingly pay huge sums of money to these "health experts" for access to their limited knowledge? Who do you trust the most?
Are you facing trials through sickness today? How are you handling it? Can you look at it in a positive light as Paul looked at his sickness, and find some reasons why God may be allowing you to go through these trials? Or do you look at your sickness the way the world does, the way people who walk in darkness with a Darwinian evolutionary basis of life view sickness? In this view, God’s plan and purposes are not even considered, and sickness is seen as strictly a physical condition caused by natural forces that can only be cured through the purchase of medicine or medical services.
Are you a “model believer?” This passage gives us a good description of what was considered a “model believer” in the early church. It was someone who turned away from idols (and idolatry) to serve the living and true God. It was someone who set their hope for the future on Jesus, and his eventual return to earth to one day set up his physical kingdom here.
If we actually received what we deserve, it would be very ugly. But the good news is that mercy triumphs over judgment under the law of liberty, and opens the door to wonders and riches that are freely given in spite of the fact that we do not deserve them. Enacting this principle in your own life releases tremendous power for health to you, and to those around you.