Review: Here and Now

Gentle Reader,

Faith, in a Hellenistic, Western culture, is normally thought of as agreeing to creeds and catechisms. I do not mean to imply that orthodoxy is not important. It is. But let’s not favor orthodoxy, what we believe, to the extent that we neglect orthopraxy, how we act. When the religious leaders inquired about who their neighbor was, Jesus didn’t distribute a how-to manual for categorizing good and bad neighbors. He shared a story about what a neighbor “does.” He stops for an injured man, tends to his wounds, and he cares for his needs.

– p. 34

Here and Now: Thriving in the Kingdom of Heaven Today, by Robby Gallaty, is not an easy or quick read. It’s not that the book is difficult or overly academic; anyone can pick up this book at understand what Gallaty is saying. Here and Now is simply one of those books that you have to set aside for awhile, after reading a chapter or two, in order to process what you’re learning.

Consider:

[Jesus] referred to the kingdom as a present power that is ruling over one’s life, not in terms of a future place to wait for until after we die. A citizen of the kingdom follows the instructions of the king, a response that garners blessings, favor, and abundant life today.

– p. 93

There is a lot to unpack in those sentences, which Gallaty does well throughout the book. We who follow Christ are to be completely given over to the way of the kingdom. Our allegiance belongs to a country we cannot see, a country whose Rulers goes out of His way to break and transcends all ethnic, national, and socioeconomic boundaries. This allegiance does not guarantee health or wealth in this lifetime; Gallaty is careful to point out that those blessings, favor, and abundant life have nothing to do with a fat bank account, material possessions, or physical well-being, and everything to do with a life overflowing with the joy and purpose found in an intimate relationship with the King.

Gallaty begins by grounding the teaching on the Kingdom, so central to earthly ministry of Jesus, in the soil of first-century Judea. He discusses the importance of the Temple as the resting place of God’s presence, and why it was (and remains) so radical that the death and resurrection of Jesus made “the Temple…mobile as the people of God became the church. They were not restricted to a particular location any longer” (p. 44). The Kingdom of God was never meant to settle in a certain place, confined to a certain people. It is designed to spread and grow, encompassing the whole earth, and all peoples therein.

A “subject” has multiple roles as a kingdom citizen, not the least of which is representing the crown everywhere they go. Each person is an image bearer or witness to the monarchy, and with great privilege comes great responsibility.

Similarly, Jesus envisioned this citizenry when He pronounced the kingdom as come. The kingdom messaged seasoned His sermons. The Gospel writers went to great lengths to ensure their readers understood this truth.

– p. 79

Whether highly visible or hidden in our daily lives, we represent the Kingdom of God. We do not have the luxury of sliding through the hours, content in complacency and laziness. We do not get to turn off our minds and accept whatever our preferred news sources tell us about the world. We do not get to decide who is worthy of grace and love. We do not have permission to cast anyone as “other” when we know that they are made in God’s image, just as we are.

In short, our faith must mean something, right now, today.

Christians, at the moment of salvation, become citizens of Heaven while still holding passports on earth. That is precisely why Peter urges Christians “as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). Our identity influences our activity. A passport is required to travel out of the country you have citizenship in. The stamp on your passport upon entering a foreign country is a reminder that you don’t live there. As a visitor, you’re just passing through.

– p. 125

Here and Now will step on your toes. Stomp on them, in fact. But we could all do with a good, holy bruising from time to time. Go out and get this book. Take your time reading it. Allow the message to soak into your soul. You won’t regret growing in your understanding of and relationship with God, despite the pains.

I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR MY FAIR AND HONEST REVIEW.
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Sisters: This Pain in My Side

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Gentle Reader,

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” He said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB)

I wasn’t expecting this to take 13 entries.

But here we are.

I sit in my writing spot – just a corner of the couch, nothing fancy – and occasionally press a hand to my side. My liver’s been acting up. Extra nausea, sharp stabs of pain. I can feel one of the hepatic hemangiomas, a tangled up ball of blood vessels. It’s hanging out just to the left of my ribs. I wince as I push too hard on a bit of scar tissue that was stretched earlier by some abdominal exercises. Strange how that stuff still hurts after so many years of surgery.

My body is ridiculous. I have to laugh about it. I have to shake my head at it.

Who gets liver disease without being an alcoholic or a drug addict? Seriously. Who does that?

Whose cholesterol numbers go up despite eating a non-fatty, plant-based diet?

What woman my age complains of aching joints?

Yes, I look forward to Eternity and a new body. I’d take it right now, in fact. But Jesus, He doesn’t seem to operate on my timetable. He has His own plans. And right now, His plan seems to be that I learn, each day, how to love and trust Him through this pain in my side. That I learn to hold tightly to His hand, despite no guarantee of relief this side of Heaven. That I learn to grit my teeth and to continue on, then, paradoxically, learn to cry and to rest.

Those who suffer have not been rejected by God. He is not angry with us. We are not great sinners in need of punishment. We are just people, like you. People who happen to have bodies that malfunction and break down at a faster rate than yours. Because yes, my friend, the day will come when you can’t do all that you want to do. Hardly do I wish that day on you. I pray that it is a long time in the coming. But it is there, marked on an unseen calendar, part of being the children of Adam and Eve.

Never forget that we who have been saved by Jesus are also His children. So when that day comes, you can walk through it, because He will give you the internal fortitude required. He will empower you. He will teach you how to be resilient.

We who arrived at that place before you did, we’ll be there for you. We’ll hold your hand. We’ll teach you how to navigate the confusing maze of doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and insurance regulations. We’ll share with you the slightly dark and somewhat twisted sense of humor required to cope. We’ll listen as you rage and hold you when you cry.

All we ask is that you do the same for us in return – right now.

Because that’s what family does.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Sisters: Daughter

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Gentle Reader,

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” He said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)

Allow me to step onto my soapbox.

These words are misused, taken out of context, so often. Well, if you really had faith, you’d be healed. No. No. That’s not what happened. That’s not what Jesus said.

Consider:

On one of those days while He was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea, and also from Jerusalem. And the Lord’s power to heal was in Him.

Just then some men came, carrying on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed. They tried to bring him in and set him down before Him.Since they could not find a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the roof tiles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus.

Seeing their faith He said, “Friend, </span><span class=”woj”>your sins are forgiven.”

Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to think to themselves: “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus replied to them, “Why are you thinking this in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He told the paralyzed man, “I tell you: Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.” Immediately he got up before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. Then everyone was astounded, and they were giving glory to God. And they were filled with awe and said, “We have seen incredible things today.”

– Luke 5:17-25 (CSB)

The miracle is never just in the physical healing. The point is never just in the restoration of the body. The faith is not just for renewal of joints and muscles.
This woman knew that Jesus was someone different. She knew that He was unlike any physician. Like the other women in Luke’s gospel, named and nameless, she gets it. She recognizes Who Jesus is long before the men do. I say this not to demean men, but rather because Luke is very deliberate in highlighting that it’s the unexpected people who immediately understand both the Person and the message of Jesus. As the only Gentile writer in all of Scripture, Luke knows what it is to be the outcast. His gospel sheds light on the universality of Jesus, how He came to save all who call upon Him in faith.

This woman calls upon Jesus. The words don’t leave her lips, but we see in her actions the desperate plea for salvation.

Jesus [called her forward] so that she would know <i>why</i> she was healed. When Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well” it showed the woman that it really wasn’t touching the clothing of Jesus that healed her. Instead, it was her faith in Jesus and what He could do for her. …

Jesus did it because He wanted to bless her in a special way. He called her “Daughter.” Jesus never called any other person by this name. Jesus wanted her to come forth and hear this special name of tenderness. When Jesus calls us forward, it is because He has something special to give us. Never forget that we who have been saved by Jesus are also His children. So when that day comes, you can walk through it, because He will give you the internal fortitude required. He will empower you. He will teach you how to be resilient.

David Guzik

He called her “daughter.” And she was daughter still when her body did what bodies do and returned to a state of decay.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile are probably tired of reading these words, but I’m going to write them again anyway: We live in a Genesis 3 world. Yes, we are Revelation 21 people, always looking forward to the hope of an eternity of completeness and perfection, in the presence of God. But that looking forward, it’s the “not yet” part of the Kingdom. The “already” part is lived out in a world that spins ever-faster into a state of chaos. We do not escape the chaos. We are not guaranteed trouble-free lives.

In short, there is no room for the health-and-wealth/prosperity not-gospel when we handle Scripture rightly.

If I may, get over it.

Get over the fact that you may never have a bursting bank account, a huge house, or a body that looks and does exactly what you want at all times. Get over expecting God to operate like a magical sky-genie, giving you everything you want, exactly when you want it. Get over abusing the words of the Bible, twisting them to fit your Westernized notions of what blessings are. Get over crushing the abused, the ill, and the marginalized under your smug sense of superiority because they suffer and you do not.

Blunt words, I know, but I say them to myself as much as I do you, because we all struggle with viewing others as less-than.

This woman’s faith in Jesus made her His daughter. That’s what Luke wants us to focus on. The healing is amazing. It’s wonderful. I thank God that she received relief. But the real miracle is her adoption, by grace, into His family.

That’s the real miracle for us, today.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Sisters: My Jesus

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Gentle Reader,

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)

Lemme tell you about my Jesus.

He is the King of Kings. He is the Lord of Lords. He is fully God and fully Man. He alone can save. He literally lived, died, and rose again. One day He will return. Until that day, He sends His Spirit out into the world, indwelling those who call upon His name and drawing those who do not into decision moments, clearly revealing Himself to them. He holds all of creation together. He is the power that sets the captive free. He is the comfort that soothes the brokenhearted. He is the grace for the chief of sinners.

My Jesus is strong, but tender. Has all authority, but longs to hold people close. Judges rightly, but takes no pleasure in the separation of anyone from Himself. Possesses a voice that booms like thunder, but also speaks in the quietest whisper. Exists outside of time, but operates within its scope. Eyes aflame and hair whiter than snow. Sits, because the work is finished. There is none like Him.

My Jesus is awesome.

People say I’m foolish and weak for believing. I don’t care, because I know my Jesus. I know what He has done for me. No, my body does not work right and probably won’t this side of Eternity. But my Jesus, He’s done something much greater. More important. In a moment, He justified me. He claimed me as His own. Saved me. Across a lifetime, however long or short it may be, He sanctifies me. Teaches me to live like He does. Transforms me into the person He wants me to be.

The reason I reach out to Jesus, the reason I touch Him?

Because I need Him. I am lost, I am nothing, without Him. I cannot function apart from Him.

He set me free, right when I took the breath for the cry meant only for His ears. Instantly. I did not recognize it, and sometimes still choose to rush back to my jail cell. But the door is open, never to be closed again, because no one can close what He has opened. Patiently, lovingly, He helps me to keep moving forward, even after I’ve gone backward. I do not deserve His grace and mercy, yet He continues to offer it. I am His beloved, His child, His daughter, His friend.

I love my Jesus. Not perfectly. Not even well at times. But love Him nonetheless. Because He first loved me.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.