Jesus reached out to the lepers at great personal risk. Likewise, we need to be who God says we are and be loving the body of Christ. We need to be involved with each other, not forsaking the gathering of believers, and spending time in prayer. The power of prayer isn’t based on anything that we do. The God to whom we pray is the Source of the power of prayer. Prayers puts us in touch with our Creator and we can expect incredible things. He can and He will answer us according to His timing and His will. Let’s be believers of action and trust Him as we move forward. God is in control, and we are not alone.
Podcast transcription is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Psalm 51:10-15
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Hey, everybody. This is Heidi St. John. Thanks for joining me at the podcast today. Today is episode 958. It’s Wednesday, July 15th. So much happening in the culture today. World’s on fire, but God is still in control. Stick around, I think you’re going to be encouraged.
Thanks for tuning in today, you guys. We really appreciate your listening, especially right now, and there are a lot of things on my heart today. As I told you yesterday, Governor Newsom ordered the closure of most businesses in California within hours the Governor of Oregon, Governor Brown followed suit, and what we’re looking at right now really is the United States going back down into lockdown, something that we have said vehemently here at the podcast for several months, would be devastating for the United States, and so I began to just call people to prayer, and really, that’s what I’m going to do today.
I’m going to remind you of the power of prayer. I’m going to tell you why we’re praying, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what it means to be unfriended in the culture right now. I know, I know, I know because I’m hearing from you guys every day that you’re struggling, and I am also struggling. The Bible says in Matthew 5:44, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Like many of you, my life was forever altered by the Rona, and it’s had a devastating impact on many things.
It has also unearthed many things, and one of the things that I’ve been talking about for a while and really praying about is that we are a very weak, and in many cases, an ineffectual church. It’s frustrating for me to watch as churches who have not opened at all, I mean, they took all this money, you guys. Millions, and millions, and millions of dollars have been taken by our churches, and they have remained closed. I cannot help but wonder what God is thinking as He’s looking down on everything that’s happening around here right now with regard to the Rona. I wonder, is He like, “Good job, church.”
“You guys stay. Stay inside. I think that’s a great idea.” No. We know, because the Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Don’t forsake the gathering together, as some are in the habit of doing,” but even more, especially now, as you see the day approaching, we are called to be together to stir one another up, to love and good works.
As I’ve been saying for many, many months here, I’m going to continue to say, we have got to do what God says to do. We close at the very beginning of the Rona. Nobody was sure. You guys, I know of Christians who have not left their homes since February. So much fear, but there’s not fear everywhere.
I don’t know if you guys read about this, but there are about 300 people gathered outside the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve been watching this guy, Sean. He’s kind of an incredible human being, and he said, “We’re protesting.” They basically had a protest, and they protested with worship. Pretty cool. He’s the founder of Hold the Line, which hosted the event, and he said, “Nobody was angry.”
“We’re just like, we’re here to worship. We want to declare a blessing over the state of California. When they persecute and discriminate, we bless. We want to release hope, and we want to unify the sound of the church.” Listen to what Fox News said online. He said, “As the Golden Gate saw a surge in cases, second only to New York, with 328,000 confirmed, state health officials issued guidelines that said, ‘Places of worship must, therefore, discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of the building capacity or a maximum of 100, whichever is less.'”
As you guys can imagine, Christians and pastors across the state and across the nation have … They’re outraged at this because it’s completely wrong, and as we’re watching what’s happening around us, I’m just going to encourage you, you guys, with everything that’s in me to say the Lord is not unaware of what’s happening, and I keep hearing people say, “Well, this is the way we love each other. We love each other by basically putting a mask on and closing our churches.” You guys, people come into our place of business, into our ministry center every single week. Oftentimes, they will come in and they just start sobbing because we have a normalcy thing going on over here.
People are not running around in masks and gloves. We’re praying with people. We’re laying hands on them. We’re loving on them. We’re helping them to educate their children. The church has got to be the church, and I keep looking at the example of Jesus and how Jesus acted around people who were sick.
The Bible teaches us that God demonstrates His love for us, this is Romans 5:8, in how He came to us in Jesus, and He came down to us. He got His hands dirty so that we could have our hearts cleaned. This is the example that God gave to us, and it was in a leper colony that Jesus did one of His most amazing things, curing the leper, right? I read a story of a guy online who was talking about leprosy, and he was talking about seeing it in real life, and I’ll link back to this in the show notes because it’s kind of a crazy, really cool article, but he says, “It was in a leper colony in India that, finally, I began to understand Jesus’ incarnation. I’ll never forget standing there at the door of the village with a bag of oranges, trying to persuade the gatekeeper to let me into his leper colony.”
“I was starting to get a little bit nervous. My friends in India had warned me that this particular village of leprosy victims had a tendency to get a little testy sometimes, and I should enter with extreme caution lest I cause a scene. This, of course, was why I brought a bag of oranges. My friends had reiterated this advice as if it were common sense. You just take oranges to people with leprosy.”
“‘Duh, Johnnie, everybody knows this.’ Apparently, even for people afflicted with leprosy, the stomach is the shortest route to the heart, so there I was with my bag of oranges, trying my hardest to persuade this man to let me inside. Before long, I bargained my way through the gate of the colony and discovered exactly what I had expected. It was something out of a movie reel, produced in a different time. With this sort of thing, it was more commonplace.”
“There were two or three dozen makeshift homes crammed within small walls of a musty complex, and each shack sheltered a man or a woman who looked like they had been plucked right out of the first century. Their open sores were held together by blood-stained bandages. Many of their appendages had been sanded down into irritated nubs, and their noses had been ground down to the point, where they were almost totally flat, two small holes in their faces through which they could barely draw each difficult breath. The experience was an emotional earthquake. I felt a deep, powerful compassion for these dear people, but if I’m totally honest, I was also repelled by their wounds.”
“My heart was broken, but I was also concerned for my own health, and I didn’t give all of myself because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to leave the suffering behind when I left that barricaded colony. I don’t like admitting that I wasn’t some prepackaged American version of Mother Teresa who swept in and ignored the bandages and the blood and the smell. I wasn’t that gentle and warm and caring. I was deeply moved, but not moved enough to put my own inhibitions aside and get my hands dirty. I was afraid there was such a thing as too dirty.”
“I was uncomfortable to learn that day, a bag of oranges in hand in the home of lepers, that I had far less grace than Jesus. I would have never done for those people what Jesus did for me. Jesus didn’t just climb down the stairs to planet earth to walk around in a leper colony. It was if He became a leper Himself, taking all the pain and putrid sin of history, and consuming it on the cross. The way that Jesus Himself interacted with the leprosy victims is a great illustration of God’s compassion for us.”
“You see, Jesus lived in a highly superstitious time, when most people believed that leprosy was the result of a curse or some incorrigible or hidden sin, not unlike modern Eastern religious systems that teach that your current place in life is a direct result of karma or lack thereof in your previous life. It’s also not unlike the bad advice that Job, the Bible’s iconic figure of suffering, received from this nice, godly friend, when they barked at him to repent before his sin caused him even more problems. In first century culture, and especially among the ultra-religious elite, a victim of leprosy was often believed to have been afflicted by God. His disease resulted from some sin, attitude or choice, that deserved just punishment, and one of God’s chief tools for administering such justice was the infliction of this debilitating, humiliating, and miserable disease. It was the application of the age-old law of retribution, bad things happen to bad people.”
“Should a leprosy victim ever even travel back to town, he would have to announce himself as he walked through the streets, covering his upper lip, ‘Unclean, unclean, unclean,’ and in fact, in recent history, in some parts of the world, lepers have been required to carry a bell to warn others that they were approaching. Leprosy, above all things, produced fear, and not the simple startlement of finding a spider crawling across your shoulder. It was an incapacitating, panic-inducing fear.” Are you guys tracking with me yet? Keep listening.
“If you were walking down a market street with your kids, and you heard the hoarse cry of unclean from an approaching leper, you would immediately, without hesitation, drop everything you were doing, and get your family as far away as you could from the approaching person as quickly as possible. Most modern people can’t comprehend the kind of terror that leprosy produced. This cultural context is essential to understanding why Jesus’ interaction with lepers was so absolutely startling, and such a potent demonstration of the length to which God would go to extend grace, even to people whom society believes are the least deserving of it. Isn’t that the very definition of grace? You see, even Jesus’ disciples thought His interaction with lepers was reckless, even dangerous, and yet, almost as quickly as we’re introduced to Jesus in the gospel of Mark, we find Him running into a man with leprosy.”
“His reaction is a showstopper. Jesus didn’t run away, turn His head or try to avoid the diseased man. No doubt the man had yelled, ‘Unclean’ as he entered into the City of Capernaum, in a desperate effort to seek out the new rabbi who was rumored to have the powers to heal even leprosy.” When Jesus saw the man, the Bible says he was filled with compassion. Filled means just that.
“He was topped off, almost pouring over with compassion.” He was moved, as some other translations have put it. “When Jesus saw this rejected, isolated, abused, and very sick man, he was immediately moved from somewhere deep inside to care about this man. It was his first and immediate reaction. Most people were immediately repulsed, should they be unfortunate enough to stumble upon a leper, but Jesus immediately cared for him.”
“Then, He did something absolutely absurd.” The Bible says in Mark 1:41, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. The touch of Jesus was all it took to yank this man out of his misery and recreate his story. Within seconds, the leper’s life course was totally altered one more time. When hopeless situations come face-to-face with Jesus, things change, and this leper’s life was forever changed.”
“Jesus’ touch activated something inside of that man, and it must have produced one massive biological fireworks display. Could you imagine the chemical reaction as this man’s predicament met the power of his Creator? There were probably sparks flying off his DNA in every direction as twisted things straightened and numb things were resuscitated and life infused to make something beautiful again out of this man whose days had been numbered. It was the moment where this man’s soul heard the voice of his Creator again, and the miraculous stepped into the inevitable and made a dying man dance. Jesus was a healer, but he wasn’t just a healer, He was The Healer, who used His very hands to catalyze His miracles, and we see Jesus doing this all through the gospels, at least five times in the book of Mark alone.”
“Jesus willingly, frequently touched men and women, others tried to avoid. He not only interacted with these rejected ones, he reached out and touched them. He wanted and was willing to be close to them, and that closeness was not the sign of a weak God who meddled with the undeserving, but of a strong God who could heal the sick and perform an even greater miracle, giving dignity back to the despised.”
“Grace and God’s power are friends, not enemies of one another. It is not a weak God who associates with weak people, but rather a strong God attracted to the opportunity to be powerful in their weakness. Grace is hard. It shows not God’s weakness, but His incredible strength.”
This is taken from a book called Dirty God written by Johnnie Moore. I hope you guys will check it out. I’ll link back to the book and to the article in the show notes today. But I just … As I was reading it, I was thinking about what’s happening in the culture today, and the social distancing that we’re being really pressured to do. I wonder what would Jesus have done. If Jesus hung out with the lepers and Jesus touched the people that everyone else was afraid of, where are God’s people right now in the midst of this pandemic? Where are we? This guy had 100% chance of dying from leprosy. Incredibly, incredibly contagious, and miserable,, and deadly.
And the Church, unwilling to be the hands and feet of Jesus lest we get sick or get sued by the government, have moved to a place not of faith, but of fear in the culture. And grace and God’s power are friends, not enemies of one another. I wonder what would happen if God’s people became God’s people. I wonder what would happen if we started praying in the streets and praying for people, and offering to lay hands on people and say, “Listen, in the name of Jesus, we’re going to pray peace over you.” Because most of the people that I see right now who are so afraid to look each other in the eye, they’re afraid because of fear. You can’t go to the grocery store now and see people looking at each other. We have allowed a spirit of fear to come into our families, and into our churches, and into our communities and it is crippling. It is absolutely crippling. And it’s not how God would want us to act. I’m going to encourage you guys today. I know that more mandates are coming, I know more lockdowns are coming.
I know my voice is a little bit of a voice in the wilderness right now, but I’m going to keep saying it. We need to be the Church out into where the people are, not running away. The Church has business to attend to, and our business is God’s business. Our nation needs now God’s people more than ever not to be online, but to be in person. And I’m going to encourage you guys. People are going to reject you, they are. Walk this thing out, walk it all the way out and trust that God’s going to meet you on the other side. If God can heal a leper, He can heal the person who is crippled by fear. He can protect His own. God will do that. And as we continue to fast and pray here at MomStrong International and at Firmly Planted Family, and I know a whole lot of you are joining us. I’m going to continue to say, God is at work. God is never not working.
I think one of the things He’s doing right now … At least one of the things He’s been doing in my life in these last five months— is remind me of the power of prayer. The power of prayer, you guys. Don’t forget. Don’t forget how important it is that you take the time, that you stop what you’re doing whenever it’s on your heart and you just say, “Lord, show me, what do You want me to do? Lord, heal our land. Lord, protect our children.” I think sometimes we say the words “power of prayer”, but we forget that we are talking to the one who said nothing is impossible for Him. God invites us to pray to Him. The Bible teaches us in Luke 18:1 that prayer to God should be made persistently, and with thanksgiving, and in faith. That’s James 1. And within the will of God for the glory of God from a right heart with God. The Bible teaches us in Psalm 17:6, that God answers us. “I call on you, oh Lord, and You answer me.”
Psalm 34:17, “The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them. And He delivers them from their trouble.” Men and women, we got to start acting like Jesus in the culture and getting our hands dirty in the culture. But more than that, we got to be who God said we are. The power prayer doesn’t flow from us, it’s not special words we say or a special way we say them, or even how often we say to them. The power of prayer is not based on a certain direction that we face or a certain position of our bodies. It isn’t. It doesn’t come from the use of artifacts, or icons, or candles, or beads. The power of prayer comes from the omnipotence God of the universe who hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer puts us in contact, in touch with our Creator. And you guys, we can expect mighty things from prayer. We can expect incredible things. God does not always do what we want Him to do. But the point is, you guys, He can do it.
And whatever He answers, however God decides to move, the God to whom we pray is the source of the power of prayer. And He can, and He will answer us according to His timing and to His will. We saw this with my nephew, Bobby. And we prayed, we cried out to God. We wept in front of people that we didn’t even know on our faces on the floor in the hospital and we said, “God, we need Your help.” We’re there right now with our nation. God answers prayer. Psalm 17:6, the Lord, God almighty answers prayer. “I call on you, oh God, for You will answer me.” Psalm 18:6, “In my distress, I called the Lord. I cried to my God for help. From His temple, He heard my voice and my cry came before Him to His ears.” So Father, right now, we come before You. And Lord, we thank You that You listen to our prayers. The Creator of the universe, the one who made us and knows us and loves us. And Lord, we are so encouraged to watch how You walked among the sick and the hurting on this earth.
Lord, I pray that You’d help us not to be so socially distant from people that we forget to reach out and touch them, that You created us for relationship with each other. Father, I come against the spirit of fear that has come over this nation and this world in the name of Jesus Christ. Lord, will You show us what You want us to do? Lord, we know that no weapon that’s formed against You will prosper. No weapon formed against the children of God. Lord, I pray against the spirit of disunity. And I ask, Lord, that You’d bring us together. Help us to love each other. I pray that Your people would be compelled out into the streets. We would hold open Bible studies, open worship services. Lord, that the Church be the catalyst for healing in this nation. And we ask these things in the powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I hope you guys have been encouraged with me today. I’ve been in prayer with our family and with the women at the Ministry of MomStrong International. I teach over there every week on Wednesdays live. So if you’d like to see that, you can certainly do that by just checking us out at momstronginternational.com. We start a new Bible study every single month, and you guys will be encouraged as we dig into the Word. you guys, there is hope for what you see happening around you. Hope is not an emotion, hope is a person and His name is Jesus. We love you guys. We appreciate the reviews that you’re leaving over at iTunes, well, most of them. And we just want to encourage you to continue to be faithful. God is still on His throne and He is always at work. Have a great day everybody, and I’ll see you back here on Thursday.