“I Delight In Thy Word”–Brief scriptures packing unforgettable insights — (Fourth segment. Nos. 16-20)

(For previous segments on this series, go to our blog, www.joemckeever.com, and scroll back.)

16) The leper who broke the law when expressing his great faith. Matthew 8:1-3 and Mark 1:40-45.

It’s so easy to run right past great scriptural blessings.  Take this tiny incident….

According to Leviticus 13:45, lepers were to withdraw when healthy people drew near. They were to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” lest the person accidentally brush them and become ceremonially tainted, or worse, catch something contagious.  But look at this leper. He spots Jesus and runs toward Him.  Falling to his knees in front of the Lord, he calls out, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Interesting way of putting it: “I know you are able; what I don’t know is whether you are willing.”

Both Matthew and Mark tell us Jesus reached out and touched the man.  Remember, lepers were called “untouchable” for good reason. But Jesus touched him.

Gotta love Jesus. (I do!)

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Regaining the swagger

Swagger: To carry oneself–walking, talking, daily activities–with an attitude of confidence, even boldness.

Here is our Scripture for today, class:

“Be strong and of good courage. Do not fear them. The Lord is with you. Since God is for us, who can be against us? I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!”

There!  That’ll put the iron in your backbone, Christian.

Three quick little incidents need relating here….

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Brief Scriptures with unforgettable insights: (third segment, nos. 11-15.)

(For the first two installments on this series of brief, memorable insights, stories, parables, etc, in Scripture which are easily overlooked but jam-packed with meaning. For the earlier installments, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll back to January, 2015.)

11) The “snake on a pole.”  John 3.

In the brief incident told in Numbers 21, the story is presented without one word of explanation or interpretation.  It takes all of 6 verses (21:4-9) to describe how the people grumbled against God and Moses, how the Lord sent “fiery serpents” to cause the death of many, and then how the people repented and Moses interceded for them, followed by the fascinating remedy God handed down. Nothing had prepared them for such a panacea for their ills:  “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole.'”

Then, the snake-bitten should merely look at it and live.

“Look and live.” That’s what He said.

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“How are you feeling?” The hardest question.

It’s been over a month now since the hospital called saying simply, “Sir, you need to come to the emergency room. Now.”  Nothing more.

The lady said it twice. I got the message.

We had had no warning that my wife Margaret’s death was imminent.  We had welcomed family in over the Christmas holidays and Margaret had been doing pool therapy at the rehab hospital.  She wanted to be more independent and was driving herself from time to time. Twice recently she had said, “It’s time for you to buy another car and give me this one.”

“This one” was the Honda CR-V which, because it’s built a little higher off the ground than the Camrys we’ve driven for years, was easier for her to maneuver.  A year or more ago, we had given our other car to our local granddaughters. Margaret was putting 5 miles a month, at most, on it and Abby and Erin needed transportation.  When we began looking for cars, Margaret picked out this Honda with the understanding it was her car.  I smile at that. “Her car.”  To date, at 2 years 4 months old, the odometer shows over 72,000 miles, almost all put there by her preacher husband going hither and yon in the Lord’s work.  Still, she knew it was hers.

Life changes abruptly.  Your “other half”–boy, is that ever right!–is suddenly taken from you.  From the moment she coughed a couple of times and collapsed in the nail salon, then was whisked to the hospital a couple of miles away, until all life-support apparatus was removed and she took her last breath, was six days.  The death certificate lists January 29, 2015 as “the” day.

One I will never ever forget, I’ll tell you that.  If that is not the worst day of my life, then the previous Friday–January 23–when this happened, was.

“So, how are you feeling?”  Or, “How are you doing?”

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My love language was “being on the same side.” Here’s the story.

In an earlier article on this blog, we told how Judson Swihart’s book “How Do You  Say I Love You?”was all the rage in the 70s and 80s, until Gary Chapman restated and refined his material down to “Five Love Languages.”  Swihart’s book featured eight languages of love–meeting material needs, helping each other, spending time together, meeting emotional needs, saying it with words, saying it with with touch, being on the same side, and bringing out the best in the other.

When Margaret and I discovered the Swihart book decades ago and then did the assignment in the back to determine our love languages, we made some interesting discoveries.  We found that hers were “helping each other” and “spending time together”. Actually, this came as no surprise. I had known for some time that nothing made Margaret feel more loved than when I pitched in and helped around the house and we spent quality time together.

The surprise was discovering my own love language.

According to the formula, my love language was “being on the same side.”  If Margaret wanted Joe to feel loved, she should support him as a man, husband, father, Christian, minister, pastor, etc.  And she did.

I’m the one who had an awakening by this revelation.

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Second five of our list of overlooked but unforgettable Scriptures

I love coming across powerful but brief summations of God’s story. Sometimes it’s a paragraph or story, but often it’s two or three or four words.

We must emphasize that these are not isolated exceptions to the overall message of Scripture. Instead, they are small insights into the entire theme of God’s word.

Continuing the series….

6) Romans 8:31 “God is for us.”

The entire 8th chapter of Romans is a mother lode of spiritual riches if one has ever existed.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote several books on just this one chapter.  But let me call your attention to verse 31.  “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This is the hinge verse of that great chapter. For 30 verses, Paul has been declaring that God the Father is for us, God the Son is for us, and God the Spirit is for us. (He does not do this in consecutive passages, but braids all three points together throughout.)  Then, in verse 31, he says, “What are we to conclude from all this? Just this: If God is for us, then who in the world can be against us?”

This needs saying: When Paul says “IF God is for us” here, he is saying “SINCE God is for us.”  He’s just established repeatedly that God is for us. Now he says, “Since God is for us, what does it matter who is against us?”  Answer: It doesn’t.  Some people will always oppose you, but Romans 8:37-39 says it really doesn’t matter.

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Those tiny vignettes we may overlook in Scripture (the first 5)

Vignette: noun; a short descriptive literary sketch. 

These are short excerpts from Scripture’s narrative of the salvation story which I find fascinating and in many cases, parable-like because in a brief story or a few lines they encapsulate so much of God’s message. They are so short, however, they often get overlooked. Only those who stroll slowly through the garden of God’s Word, taking time to notice the petal of each flower, only they see and appreciate and benefit. (I’m thinking of several articles with perhaps 20 vignettes in all.)

Take a look at these and see if they aren’t loaded with importance….

1) Lazarus on the front porch in Bethany.  John 12:9-11.

Brought back from the grave after four days of bodily decomposing, the man of Bethany required no book tour or television crew to attract a crowd. He sat on the front porch in a rocking chair–that’s how I figure it, at any rate–so that people arriving in Jerusalem for Passover streamed out the Eastern Gate, down the Kidron Valley, and over the Mount of Olives for a glimpse of the man dead four days! No one had ever seen such a thing. The crowds kept coming.

He was quite the attraction. Lazarus was the talk of the town. And as a result, Jesus was the Man of the hour.

Many believed on Jesus because a man sat on his porch doing nothing but smiling.  Lazarus was Exhibit A of Jesus’ power over death, hell, and the grave.

Ya gotta love it.  (In some ways–but different, of course–the Lord wants you and me to be Exhibit A of His power to change lives.  See I Peter 2:9-10.)

The enemies of our Lord were infuriated and came to a decision: they had to do something quick to put a stop to the Man of Galilee.

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About my wife’s death: So much I’m thankful for

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her own hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31).

(My wife Margaret collapsed around 11 am on Friday, January 23, 2015.  After six days and nights of intensive hospital care during which she was completely unresonsive, she took her last breath of earthly air on Thursday, January 29.  Her memorial service was held at our church on Monday, February 2.)

A longtime friend who saw on Facebook a photo of my wife of over half a century, said, “I don’t think Margaret ever knew how beautiful she was.”

I agree.  Margaret Henderson McKeever was a victim of perfectionism, her own–which rarely let her feel satisfied with anything she was or had done–and that of a few significant others in her upbringing.  I will not be dumping on them here; for the most part, they themselves were the victims of someone else’s poor child-rearing.  Margaret overcame signifcant obstacles to become a wonderful Christian woman, a terrific pastor’s wife, a loving mother, a college graduate “with honors,” and in short, “somebody.”

Nothing in these writings should give the impression she was perfect.  Margaret was an imperfect woman married to a flawed husband, but the redeemed child of a Savior who does all things well. “Christ receiveth sinful men, even me with all my sin…..”

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Okay, now.  Through my tears, which show no sign of abating, I give thanks….

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What I have learned about the creative process

“In the beginning, God created….” (Genesis 1:1)

Real creativity is a God thing.

When you sit down to write or draw or whatever, remember that your Muse (the Original Muse!) has read it all and seen it all and inspired much of it, so He is your greatest Resource.

Those who want to learn to write should surround themselves with good writing (i.e., excellent reading material) and inspired writers.

Those who want to think creatively should regularly plant themselves among off-the-wall thinkers, people whose minds push the boundaries in every direction. They will loosen you up.

And then, pull back and spend a lot of time alone, thinking.

Go to bed thinking about whatever is bugging you, inspiring you, burdening you, pestering you, charming you, or puzzling you.  Your subconscious will keep at it while you recuperate.

If something occurs to you in the middle of the night, you absolutely must get up then and write it down.  If you plead that you are sleep deprived and insist that “this is such a great insight, I’ll surely remember it in the morning,” the single thing I can guarantee is that you will not remember it when the night is over.  Iron-clad promise.

You must get up when the idea occurs.  Write it down.

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The heart of a pastor

“Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They were killing Jesus.  They would run up and spit on Him, then back off and laugh and call Him blasphemous names.  They would quote His words back to Him and dare Him to come down from the cross and prove Himself.

They were mean-spirited and ugly and hatefilled.

Jesus loved them.

As they killed Him, He prayed for them.

That, my friends, is a pastor.  A shepherd.  A lover of God’s people.

The heart of a pastor is a thing of wonder.

Something inside me wants to say preachers either have hearts of a pastor or they do not.  And if they do not, they should reject every invitation from search committees to become pastors because it’s a perfect set-up for disappointment on his part and disaster on theirs.  The preacher who can deliver a fine sermon but who is unavailable and ineffective during the week one-on-one should ask the Lord to show him other ways to use his gifts and calling.

The pastorate is not for him.

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