ONE OUT OF TEN

ducks
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?” [Luke 17:17 (NLT)]

In the Old and New Testaments, the Hebrew word tsara’ath and its Greek equivalent of aphe lepras are translated as leprosy. In Biblical times, however, leprosy had a much broader meaning than the condition we now call Hansen’s disease. It included any skin condition that spread over the body. Along with Hansen’s, it could have been anything from psoriasis and dermatitis to impetigo, scabies, or alopecia and, unlike other ailments, it was believed to have been caused by sin. Anyone considered a leper was shunned as an outcast and required to live in camps outside the city. Lepers had to tear their clothing, leave their hair uncombed, cover their mouths, and warn people of their presence by shouting out “Unclean! Unclean!”

On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing between Galilee and Samaria when, rather than shouting, “Unclean!” ten lepers called out, “Master, have mercy on us!” In response to the lepers’ pleas, Jesus simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests. While this seems odd to us in the 21st century, it made perfect sense to the lepers. It was the priests who inspected afflictions and decided whether someone was diseased or healed and could return to society. Being told to see the priests meant they were cured of their affliction. The healing, however, only began when the lepers showed enough faith in Jesus to depart and head into town.

All ten obeyed Jesus by starting out for the priests and they were blessed for their obedience by  healing. Unlike blocked arteries or diabetes, skin conditions like leprosy are recognizable so these men didn’t need to see the priest to know they’d been healed. Imagine their conversation as they walked down the road. After glancing at a fellow leper, one might have exclaimed, “Hey, Uri, wasn’t there a big abscess on your leg? I don’t see it now.” Perhaps Uri responded, “You’re right! And I can feel my toes again and my nose is no longer bleeding. Look at your arm, Asa, what happened to those scabs? Jacob, your eyes are clear and you no longer limp!” Although they needed a priest to officially declare them clean, their clear skin and strong limbs told them they’d been miraculously healed.

Nevertheless, before they could return to their community, they needed a priest to declare them clean and the process, described in Leviticus 13 and 14, would take over a week’s time. After the priests examined the men outside of town, an elaborate ritual involving two birds, a cedar rod, scarlet string, hyssop, a sacrifice, and the sprinkling of blood would be performed. Still not officially clean, the men needed to wash their clothes, bathe, shave, and stay away from their homes for seven more days. It was not until the eighth day, when they made five different offerings and were anointed with oil on the right earlobe, thumb, and big toe that the lepers would be declared clean!

The lepers had several days of rituals ahead of them before returning to society but Jesus and the disciples were just passing through the area. Jesus wouldn’t be around in eight days to receive their thanks. Instead of rushing to the priests, the healed lepers should have turned around and rushed back to thank their healer. It was only one leper, a Samaritan, who thought to return to Jesus and thank the rabbi from Nazareth who showed mercy on him. Anxious to enjoy their return to health and community, the other nine thought first of themselves and kept going.

I don’t know to what the nine attributed their miraculous recovery but the tenth rightly attributed it to God. Shouting “Praise God!” he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. Nine congratulated themselves on their clear skin but one gave all the glory to God. The Samaritan didn’t need a priest to declare him clean—Jesus did that when he said, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Moreover, it wasn’t just his leprous body that was restored to health—so was his very soul!

When our lives are blessed, do we thank God or do we just move on with our lives? Are we in such a rush to enjoy our blessings that we fail to thank the Giver of All Gifts? My mother never let me play with any of my birthday or Christmas gifts until I’d written a thank you note to the giver. What if God did the same thing?

What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday? [attributed to Max Lucado]

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. [1 Chronicles 16:8-10 (NLT)]

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PUTTING OUT THE FLEECE

Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” [Judges 6:39 (NLT)]

In Judges 6, we find the people crying out to the Lord after being oppressed by the Midianites for seven years. When we meet Gideon, he is hiding from the marauders in a wine press while threshing wheat. When an angel of the Lord appears, the angel addresses the frightened man as, “Mighty hero.” Instead of kneeling before the Lord’s messenger in awe, Gideon boldly questions him about the nation’s difficulties and protests being handed over to the Midianites. Instead of answering Gideon’s questions, the angel tells him that he is the one who will rescue Israel. Continuing to question the angel, Gideon immediately points out the difficulty of such an insignificant person as he ever gathering an army. After being reassured of both God’s presence and the army’s victory, Gideon asks for proof that he really is speaking with God. When his offering is miraculously consumed by fire at the angel’s touch, the doubtful man realizes he is speaking with the Lord and erects an altar to Him. At the Lord’s command, Gideon then destroys the town’s altar of Baal, cuts down their Asherah pole, and erects another altar dedicated to the Lord.

As the Midianites gathered for battle in Jezreel, the man who was sure that he couldn’t gather an army recruited 32,000 willing warriors. Nevertheless, Gideon’s faith continued to waver. He again doubted the Lord’s promise that he would lead Israel to victory and even had the audacity to demand that God again prove Himself by passing two more tests. In the first, Gideon put out a dry fleece and demanded that in the morning it be wet with dew while the ground remained dry. The next day, unsatisfied with dry fleece and wet ground, Gideon then demanded that the dry fleece remain dry when the ground became wet.

At this point, had I been God, I might have struck Gideon dead and found someone else to lead Israel to victory. Instead, God acceded to Gideon’s demand. That He did so says more about His incredible patience and love for Israel than His approval of Gideon’s impudence. That God didn’t rebuke Gideon, however, doesn’t mean He endorses this practice. In fact, Gideon knew he was treading on dangerous ground with his demands when he asked God not to be angry with him.

Remember, Gideon wasn’t asking God for a sign of what he should do—God had given him clear instructions as to his assignment. Filled with doubt, Gideon wanted a guarantee that the Lord was stronger than the pagan god Baal. God, however, proved His power when Baal couldn’t destroy Gideon for destroying both pagan altar and pole!

Whether Gideon was hoping to reassure himself of divine support or merely hoping the demanded miracles couldn’t occur so he wouldn’t have to go to battle, we’ll never know. Either way, what he did was wrong. Deuteronomy 6:16 tells us we are not to test the Lord—a command Jesus repeated when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. Moreover, Deuteronomy 18:9-11 warned the Israelites about imitating the customs of the pagans with such things as fortune-telling or interpreting omens and Gideon’s demands did both!

Just because Gideon put out the fleece doesn’t mean we should follow his example when making decisions. After all, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Him, Jacob deceived his father, David committed adultery and murder, neither Eli nor Samuel disciplined their boys, Samson broke his vows, and Jonah fled from God. No pastor ever says we should follow their examples! Nevertheless, there are some Christians who, like Gideon, “put out the fleece” by testing God’s will. Having made a decision, they demand a sign from God to confirm it. Be it a phone call, job offer, letter, opening the Bible to a random verse, or something else entirely, that’s putting God to a test and seeking omens! Neither is how we are supposed to determine God’s will.

We don’t need to put out a fleece to give us the answers only God can provide. Instead of looking for signs, we should be looking to the Giver of Signs and His word for our answers and reassurance!

One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. [Matthew 12 38-39 (NLT)]

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OUR VOWS

For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. [Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)]

But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, the Lord, have spoken. [Jeremiah 3:20 (NLT)]


Throughout the Bible, marriage is often used as a metaphor for man’s relationship with God. His covenant with Israel is seen as a form of marriage, their unfaithfulness as adultery, and their alienation from God as divorce. The book of Hosea is a story of a prophet with an unfaithful wife that parallels God’s relationship with his unfaithful people. Some scholars say the entire Song of Songs is an allegory of God’s love for Israel or the church. In the New Testament, John the Baptist describes the Messiah as a bridegroom and Jesus refers to himself as the groom in wedding parables. Marriage was ordained by God and the marital bond illustrates God’s relationship with His people.

55 years ago, I promised to love, comfort, and honor my husband and to forsake all others, keeping myself only for him as long as I lived. I took him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and to love and cherish until we were parted by death. In light of the many Biblical references to our spiritual marriage, I started to evaluate how I’ve done keeping those same vows with God.

Although I’ve done a pretty good job of doing all that I promised to my husband, I’ve not done as well with God. In times of health, wealth and contentment, I often forgot who made those good times possible. Moreover, I often was doubtful, distant, or angry with God in the times of sickness, scarcity, and sorrow. Since I frequently followed my peers, took the easy rather than right route, and listened to the enemy when I should have listened to Him, I’m not sure I even forsook all others for the Lord. Like a mistress or prostitute, I seemed to love Him for his gifts and often came to Him only because I wanted something more. While I can’t comfort our Almighty God, I’ve probably caused Him a fair amount of discomfort and grief. Fortunately, there was nothing about obedience in my wedding vows because obedience certainly hasn’t been my strong suit with the Lord. While I haven’t failed completely as a spiritual wife, I certainly haven’t kept our covenant relationship as well as I should have done.

On God’s part, like the perfect husband, He has been faithful and loved me in all circumstances. In spite of seeing me at my worst and knowing my every fault, God continued to love me. When I stopped believing in Him, He never stopped believing in me and, when I rejected him, He never rejected me. No matter how unfaithful I have been, God has remained faithful to me. He’s been loving and true to me at my sickest, poorest, and most contemptible. He gave me unconditional love when my love for Him seemed to depend on circumstances. Just as God told Hosea to redeem and love his adulterous wife, God has redeemed and loved me! The gift of His only Son to save my sorry soul is evidence of that.

At landmark anniversaries, people often remake their wedding vows. Our vows to God need to be retaken not just every ten years but every day. Merciful God, thank you for your unconditional and lavish love. Forgive us for being less than you deserve and thank you for giving us more than we could ever desire. In all circumstances, may we love, honor, cherish, and obey you, now and forever.

Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. [Isaiah 62:4-5 (NLT)]

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SOWING

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of heaven is alike a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.” [Matthew 13:14-16 (NLT)]

p0rairie rose - rose hip
Our brief return north last June meant we again enjoyed walking among the Midwest’s summer wildflowers. I only stepped a few feet off the path for a photo and yet my pants were covered with sticky seedpods from the Tick-Trefoil. Sometimes called sticktights or beggar’s lice, their seed pods are covered with fine hooked hair that catches on anything it contacts—whether clothing or a passing squirrel. I spent the rest of the walk picking off the pods and scattering them along the trail. After carefully stepping over a pile of seed-studded raccoon poop, I was reminded that a flower’s purpose isn’t merely to look pretty; it’s to spread its seeds any way it can.

Like the Tick-Trefoil, some flowers have pods that attach to clothes and animals and ride through the forest on pants’ legs and fur until they find a good home. Flowers like the False Solomon’s Seal and Pokeweed, however, produce fruit that is eaten by animals and, like that raccoon, leave the seeds behind in their waste. Other wildflowers, like the Asters and Milkweed, have seeds attached to a feathery sort of “parachute” that is blown away by the wind to (hopefully) land on fertile soil. That the flowers are rooted into the ground doesn’t seem to keep them from spreading their seeds every which way to make more of their kind.

Looking at the colorful blossoms throughout the park, I saw that the native wildflowers have done their seed-spreading job well. Unfortunately, undesirable invasive species like Canadian Thistle and Purple Loosestrife also have been expanding their territory. The seeds of these invasive weeds are trying to defeat the native wildflowers in the same way Satan is trying to defeat us by planting his seeds of evil. So far, the flowers are ahead of the game; are we?

Jesus also told a parable about a farmer who planted seeds and the various kinds of soil on which his seeds fell. Types of soil, however, make no difference if the farmer fails to sow any seeds! Unsown seeds will never germinate! Would that we Christians were as determined to spread God’s word as the flowers are to scatter their seeds. As pretty as it is, the Prairie Rose knows that its job isn’t finished when it blooms into a beautiful flower. Its real purpose is to bear fruit (the rose hip) and spread its seeds far and wide. Unlike the rose, however, many Christians are quite content just looking good and give little thought to bearing fruit, let alone enlarging God’s garden by sowing His word.

It’s what you sow that multiplies, not what you keep in the barn! [Adrian Rogers]

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” [Matthew 9:37-38 (NLT)]

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” [Mark 16:15 (NLT)]

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WHICH CAME FIRST?

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. [Genesis 1:3. 2:7 (NLT)]

hen and eggs

Years ago, The Jerusalem Post published a joke about human arrogance. After considering all of humanity’s scientific progress, a group of scientists decided that God no longer was necessary. The chief scientist explained to God that man’s ability to clone people, manipulate atoms, build molecules, fly through space, create body parts with 3-D printers, and perform other miraculous feats meant God was unneeded and could be replaced by man. After patiently listening to the scientist, God suggested a human-making contest with only one rule: “We have to do it just like I did in the Bible.” Saying that was easy, the arrogant scientist bent over to pick up a handful of dust. “Put that down!” said God, while adding, “To do it my way, you have to make your own dust!”

Our vacation home in Idaho came complete with chickens and hen house. Every morning, the littlest grands would trek out to the hen house, check for eggs, and return with the makings of an omelet. I was relieved they never asked the age-old unanswerable question of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” We need a chicken (actually two) to have a fertilized egg but we need a fertilized egg to make a chicken. This seemingly futile question has been discussed for thousands of years. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered it but evaded the answer by saying that both egg and chicken went infinitely backwards and always existed. The oldest fossilized eggs are 190 million years old and the oldest fossilized birds are only 150 million years old so paleontologists might say the egg came first. A strict reading of Genesis, however, would lead us to conclude that the chicken came first because animals appeared on the 5th day of creation. It’s a silly question but people ask it because they want to understand how something can come from nothing.

When making the children’s omelets, we still needed the raw ingredients. Along with the eggs that came from chickens (that came from eggs), we needed butter and cheese from cows, salt from the sea, pepper from the drupe of a pepper plant (Piper nigrum}, and green peppers and onions that came from seeds sown by a farmer, as well as a frying pan, whisk, spatula, and gas stove. Although my seamstress friend creates stunning clothing, she needs the silk from the silkworm (that came from an egg) or the cotton from the cotton bush (that came from a seed) to do so. My wood-working friend creates beautiful furniture but he can’t do it without the wood that comes from an oak tree that comes from an acorn that originally came from the oak! This begs the question, “Which came first, the oak or the acorn?” As the arrogant scientist learned, mankind can’t create something from nothing!

God, however, created everything from nothing. He had no eggs for the chickens, acorns for the oaks, seeds for the apple trees, or pollen for the flowers. He had no hydrogen or oxygen for water and no sodium or chloride to add to the water for the sea! Simply put, God spoke all creation into existence. That’s a rather unsatisfactory answer for those who want a technical explanation but the Bible is a book of theology that tells us the who and not a book of science that tells us how. We’re not about to get any more details as to how chaos turned to order, a void came to be filled, and nothing became something. Whether it was the chicken or its egg that came first will always be a conundrum.

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. [Psalm 33:6-9 (NLT)]

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MRS. JOB

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)]


When God gave Satan permission to test Job, He told the fallen angel that he could do anything he wanted to Job except take the man’s life. As a result, Job lost his wealth, possessions, children, and health. The only things left were his home and wife. Some might say that one of Job’s trials was that his wife didn’t die when the rest of his family did. After all, it was his wife who told him, “Curse God and die.”

Let’s not be too harsh with Mrs. Job; don’t forget that, when Satan stole Job’s normal, he also took life as she once knew it from his wife. She may have kept her health, but everything else she held near and dear was taken and she suffered the same emotional, economic, and social devastation as her husband. The ten children to whom she’d given birth, nursed and tended, were gone as were any grandchildren. Her mama’s heart had to be breaking. The family wealth (and status) had vanished in an instant; soon the bill collectors would arrive and, in all probability, the roof over their heads would vanish as well. Her strong and healthy husband, the man who loved and protected her, became an invalid overnight! He was covered with boils from head to toe and itched so badly that he scratched his skin with broken pottery. He had scabs all over his body and maggots and worms in his pus-filled sores. In deep depression, he was an insomniac who had nightmares when he managed to sleep. He was feverish, losing weight, in constant pain, had halitosis, his skin had turned dark, and he was in constant pain. Today’s doctors might diagnose a necrotizing skin fasciitis—think “flesh eating bacteria.” Job’s future was doubtful and his wife had to watch as he suffered. Witnessing her husband’s anguish and being unable to alleviate his pain couldn’t have been easy!

Moreover, there wasn’t much hope for Mrs. Job’s future; a better tomorrow was not on the horizon As far as she knew, she was facing imminent widowhood. A penniless widow with no children, she’d be the poorest of the poor, powerless, and vulnerable. Frightened and distraught, she was understandably angry at a God who allowed this to happen. Unfortunately, the only words of hers recorded are ones in which she took out that anger on her husband. Giving Mrs. Job the benefit of the doubt, those words may have been a combination of anguish and compassion— anguish about a seemingly hopeless situation and a compassionate hope that her husband’s suffering would end with his quick death.

As I thought about Mrs. Job, I thought of other people whose spouses are slowly being stolen by things like strokes, cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, and dementia. It seems that some of them have become rather cold to their afflicted partner and I’ve judged them unfairly (as I originally did Job’s wife). I forgot that they, too, are suffering. Their old normal is gone, their new normal is challenging, and their future is not the one they expected or hoped to have. Their lives have become a struggle as they try to cope with increasing responsibilities, mounting financial burdens, and a spouse who is deteriorating daily. Perhaps, what seems to be a lack of sympathy and understanding for their spouse is their way of preparing themselves for the loss they eventually will face. It’s not easy to summon compassion for people who seem to lack compassion themselves but, if I can muster sympathy for Mrs. Job, I should be able to muster far more sympathy for people I know who are caught in similar situations.

If ever presented with challenges like those of Job’s wife, I pray that I’ll be strong, brave, supportive, hopeful, loving, and trusting of God. As for now, I’ll no longer judge Mrs. Job or her brothers and sisters in similar situations. Whether or not I like their attitude or behavior is not my business. My job is simple—prayers, compassion, and support, not just for the afflicted, but also for their caregivers. The job of caregiver is not an easy one. Father, give them strength, wisdom and compassion in the face of their tremendous challenges.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. [Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)]

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