Thursday, July 21, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the whole realm of healing, especially what a marvel and blessing it can be.  On June 29th I had a surgical debridement of a chronic wound on my right ankle bone.  An MRI had shown that the underlying cause and barrier to healing was some minimal osteomyelitis (bone infection).  Given that diagnosis, I had little choice but to move forward with this procedure.  Going in to it I knew a few things: 1st, I was going to wait until after our 2011 Bible Conference in June, 2nd, it was something that had to be done, and 3rd, there was going to be subsequent time and recovery issues.  Any paraplegic knows about and must be constantly aware of and vigilant for any skin or wound issue.  As a result, I have gathered a fair amount of understanding of this over the last nearly forty years.

Wound care happens to be one of the growing, necessary, and cutting-edge fields of medical science today.  This is due in part to the huge increase in the number of victims of diabetes in America and much of the Western world.  Wound care and its related costs are also expected to grow with the increase of the elderly population.  So, being informed about this can obviously be helpful.

Enough talk about wounds or infirmity, since what’s been at the forefront of my mind is the matter of healing.  First, because this is one of the biggest grace needs that exist today.  Part and parcel of the human condition that we are confronted with on a daily basis is brokenness or wounded people.  This can be physical, mental, emotional, relational or spiritual.  This is not saying that the most basic root of human behavior is the therapeutic model.  No, it is moral, or at the root of man’s condition is the problem of sin.  However, the results of that sin leads to all kinds of brokenness.  We are confronted with this reality on a daily basis in a myriad of difficult manifestations.  This gives real insight into the power of God’s working, which is bringing wholeness to people living in a broken world!  This is why the revelation of God’s Name and nature is so fantastic.  (Ex.15:26) says, “...For I am the Lord, your Healer.”  This is one of the compound names of God where we anchor our faith: Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord, your Physician.  I think this is why the human body is such a marvel!  God has created and formed us in such a way that in the presence of injury or sickness, the human body, its cells and immune system goes to work immediately to protect and to heal.

One quote that caught my interest said, “Wound healing is a complex, multi-faceted and dynamic process.”  A major aspect to this process is creating a healing environment that promotes overall healing.  This “environment” is essential to breaking through the various barriers to healing that always present themselves (everything from the excess of bacterial burden or edema, the absence of moisture, lack of adequate blood flow etc.).  It has helped to clarify and define in my mind a large part of the church’s calling: the church is called to be God’s hospital...a healing community.  (Eph.4:11-13) sums this up for us, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Since I’ve been pondering this, let me give you some of my thoughts (Bible-based) about some important elements in creating this healing environment.  I’ve actually come up with 9 elements, in no particular order; but enough for you to digest and apply to your own life.

Following Doctor’s Orders - Obeying God’s Word

The Psalmist put it succinctly “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Ps.119:9).  Healing is inextricably connected with God’s Word.  At the beginning of the Lord’s ministry at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, Mary, Jesus’s mother said, “whatever he says to you, do it.” (Jn.2:5) Let’s visit again the revelation of the God of healing in Exodus 15, and put it in its context, "If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer."  Obedience to God’s Word is such a powerful and necessary healing element.  On July 10th I gave a live Skype progress report to the church where they could see me on the large screens, and I could see and hear many of them.  In that report, when I said, “I am following Doctor’s orders” the congregation spontaneously clapped and voiced their approval.   What were they trying to say?!  They just might know me, so it said, “Pastor, don’t be too reckless, but flow with the program.”

The Power of the Blood

Oh, yes, the miracle of the Blood!  (Lev.17:14a) said long before the advent of modern medicine, “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.”  Nothing is more important to healing in every dimension of life as the Blood.  If the blood can reach a wound, it brings with it marvelous healing power.  This is why in praying with people for healing we appeal to the power of the blood, for this reason.

Sterile Environment - It Must Be Clean

I must admit, for the two and a half days in the hospital until today, it’s easy to become a bit “germaphobic.” 
My wife has a little sign and list of requirements in the kitchen, and at the top of the list is, “Wash your hands!”  God is looking for people He can use, and He’s looking to use people who want to be holy.  (Heb.12:14)LB puts it this way, “Try to stay out of all quarrels, and seek to live a clean and holy life, for one who is not holy will not see the Lord.”  This is our master passion: to see the Lord and help others to see the Lord!  As a Christian and leader, there’s no greater way to be used, and we’ve got to be holy to do that.  We’re not talking about perfection, but a heart and life that keeps short accounts with God, seeks to remain humble and honest before God.  All of which is vital to God’s healing grace.

The Time Element

It’s amazing again how well people know you (if people know, then how much more God).  Tom Connors sent me a message right after the surgery, and it consisted of really one word, “patience!”  There are different things we can do to assist in healing, but there’s no substitute for time in the healing process.  As a younger Christian and pastor, I used to think that change could come quickly and easily.  The more I’ve matured, I still have great confidence in God’s power, but I realize that real change and healing takes a lot more time than we think.  Time is not an enemy, but it is a factor that none of us can escape.  This is why we call it a process, because it is a process!

Nutrients - Watch Your Diet

Bill and Kim Neil allied themselves with me a few weeks before my surgery to help with my diet.  “You are what you eat” has some truth to it.  If we want to heal, then our intake is a very important matter.  The Apostle Paul said (1Pet.2:2, 3) “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness.”  The mile and the meat of God’s Word contribute to a balanced spiritual diet to grow strong in the Lord.

You Need Help - No One Heals Alone

I’ve always held to the adage, “If you see a turtle sitting on top of a fencepost, you know that it got some help!”  That’s true with all of us.  None of us are going to finish this race well on our own; we need the help of others.  The principle is spelled out in (Ps.68:5, 6) “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”  It is a fact of spiritual growth that God uses other people to help, to heal, and to mature us.  We’re not going to experience these things in isolation.  I love the story that John Ortberg tells about a friend traveling to the South, and ordering breakfast one day.  He saw grits on the menu, and being a Dutchman who spent most of his life in Michigan, he had never been very clear on the nature of this item.  So he asked the waitress, “What exactly is a grit?”  Her response in classic Southern drawl was, “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.”  Grits don’t exist in isolation!  The point here is that to be spiritual and to be made whole is to be relational.  God uses people to help us grow.  The word “community” is one of those currently popular and frequently used religious words.  I think the definition puts it well: “A group that possesses and implements an irrational commitment to the well-being of its members.”  This was the early church’s environment, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46, 47) They worshiped together, ate together, talked together, prayed together, taught together.  They stayed connected! 

There is a Cost Element to Healing

The cost of wound care is high.  As far back as 1995, in the United States alone, spending on wound care and management exceeded $3.3 billion a year.  That figure has gone up substantially since then.  It makes me think of Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan in (Lk.10:33-35) “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” Caring for others may be costly, but the alternative of an uninvolved life is a poor one indeed, and does not see God’s wonders or power.  Healing and compassion are connected at the hip.

Not A One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Healing, like people’s needs, are all individual in nature.  This is why Jesus employed a variety of healing methods from spit and mud, to the laying on of hands, to words of command, to specific steps and direction that led to healing; even delay was used by the Lord to demonstrate His power.  I think it’s quite common if we find something that works, to ride that into the ground.  While there are principles that never change, methods always do or need to be flexible.  Individual needs and healing is not a simple formula or an exact science, but it is a combination of a number of factors and markers.  Wounds, for instance, must be treated individually, and sometimes changing approaches can lead to a real breakthrough. 

Elevate, My Good Man

Especially, if you’re dealing with injuries to the lower extremities, you are encouraged to elevate your leg and foot.  A focus, a perspective, an attitude that looks upward is essential to a healing environment.  This is true with a harvest of souls: Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (Jn.4:35)  Elevate.  It is true with mental stability and spiritual growth, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col.4:1, 2) Elevate.  Personal strength flows from this elevation principle as well, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa.40:31)

In the Gospels, as Jesus touched people’s lives and brought healing, deliverance, hope and transformation, a frequent description (kind of like a “release form”) was “your faith has made you whole.”  That is the comprehensive word, “sozo” for salvation, healing, forgiveness, and deliverance.  If I were to sum things us here, it is the Gospel that heals and saves people!  In our therapeutic age, we must never lose sight of this pivotal fact: that it is repentance and forgiveness of sins that flows from faith in Jesus Christ that is the only answer to the human condition.   Jesus’s ministry was inaugurated with the prophetic declaration, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” (Isa.61:1) Do you remember the children’s nursery thyme, “Humpty Dumpty?” 

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men,Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Well, what all the king’s horses and men couldn’t do, the Lord Jesus Christ can and does!  Make sure you are still being part of this on-going process.  Open your heart to Him and embrace His healing power and the various elements that contribute to this healing environment.  
“Preach to broken people, and you will never lack an audience, for there’s one in every pew!”

Oh, by the way, my E.T.A. for church services again in 7-31-11, the start of a revival with evangelist Stacy Dillard!

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