Luke 17-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our heartfelt praise and thanksgiving

My husband and I didn’t stay in youth ministry for 40 years because of the spontaneous and habitual outbursts of gratitude from teenagers.  No, it was because we just couldn’t help ourselves – we loved those kids.  But when those words of thanks came on occasion, they were deeply appreciated, and they encouraged us to do even more to minister to them and get to know them in a greater way.  Because we are made in God’s image, I imagine He feels the same way towards words of thanks, and the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is a beautiful illustration of gratitude and the blessings that flow from it.  Just for the record, I would never compare teenagers to lepers. 

@ Luke 17
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (11-13)  This was the last road trip for Jesus before His death and wouldn’t it be just like Him to travel right through Samaria, the town that other Jews went out of their way to circumvent.  I must admit I might have been tempted to avoid groups of lepers calling out to me, but not Jesus.

Jesus made one request of them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (14)  From verse 13, we know that the lepers knew who Jesus was and perhaps had heard of His healing power.  Even before they saw the evidence of healing, they responded in obedience and did what He said, and because of it, they were cleansed

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done.  This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine?’…And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.’”(15-19) The nine lepers were so focused on their healing that they forgot about the Healer, but the Samaritan man who had every reason to avoid Jesus returned to give thanks.  This allowed him to move on to Round Two.

By returning to the Healer, the man not only was healed of leprosy like the others, but he found out why he was healed.  His heart of thanksgiving opened up a face to face dialogue with Jesus who gave him one of the keys to future healing, “Your faith has healed you.”  However, in the original language, this word healed has a deeper meaning and is often translated made whole, speaking not only of physical healing but of spiritual healing as well.  The man’s belief in the Lord and His wholehearted act of giving glory to the Lord made him the winner that day!

God revealed in Psalms, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (50:23)  And that is what happened for the Samaritan leper!  His words of true thanksgiving were not given to get something more from Jesus, but blessing came because of them.  Just as gratitude encouraged my heart to do even more for our youth and to know them better, I imagine that God is also encouraged to do even more and to reveal Himself in a greater way in response to our praise and thanksgiving given in honor to Him.

Moving Forward: I will move through this day with praise in my heart and words of thanksgiving on my lips for who He is and all He has done.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 1-2

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39)  While we want freedom for everyone to worship as they please, it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in my God and my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Luke 17-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our heart-felt praise and thanksgiving

My husband and I didn’t stay in youth ministry for 40 years because of the spontaneous and habitual outbursts of gratitude from teenagers.  No, it was because we just couldn’t help ourselves – we loved those kids.  But when those words of thanks came on occasion, they were deeply appreciated, and they encouraged us to do even more to minister to them and get to know them in a greater way.  Because we are made in God’s image, no doubt He feels the same way towards words of thanks, and the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is a beautiful illustration of gratitude and the blessings that flow from it.  Just for the record, I would never compare teenagers to lepers. 

@ Luke 17
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (11-13)  This was the last road trip for Jesus before His death and wouldn’t it be just like Him to travel right through Samaria, the town that other Jews went out of their way to circumvent.  I must admit I might have been tempted to avoid groups of lepers calling out to me, but not Jesus.

Jesus made one request of them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (14)  From verse 13, we know that the lepers knew who Jesus was and perhaps had heard of His healing power.  Even before they saw the evidence of healing, they responded in obedience and did what He said, and because of it, they were cleansed

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done.  This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine?’…And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.’”(15-19) The nine lepers were so focused on their healing that they forgot about the Healer, but the Samaritan man who had every reason to avoid Jesus, returned to give thanks.  This allowed him to move on to Round Two.

By returning to the Healer, the man not only was healed from leprosy like the others, but he found out why he was healed.  His heart of thanksgiving opened up a face to face dialogue with Jesus who gave him the key to future healing, “Your faith has healed you.”  However, in the original language, this word “healed” has a deeper meaning and is often translated made whole, speaking not only of a physical healing, but of a spiritual healing as well.  The man’s belief in the Lord and His wholehearted act of giving glory to the Lord made him the winner that day!

God revealed in Psalms, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (50:23)  And that is what happened for the Samaritan leper!  His words of true thanksgiving were not given in order to get something more from Jesus, but blessing came because of them.  Just as gratitude encouraged my heart to do even more for our youth and to know them better, I imagine that God is also encouraged to do even more and to reveal Himself in a greater way in response to our praise and thanksgiving given in honor to Him.

Moving Forward: I will move through this day with praise in my heart and words of thanksgiving on my lips for who He is and all He has done.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 1-2