Gratitude Attitude

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee and encountered ten lepers. The ten lepers stayed at a distance from Jesus because they were considered contagious. The Bible does not name these ten lepers or fully describe their conditions, but they knew that they were doomed to be isolated from their families and society because of the destructive and debilitating disease of leprosy.

During Bible times, there was no cure or treatment for leprosy. The old testament law prescribed that those with skin lesions must go before the priest to be examined. Those with potentially contagious diseases were isolated from their community for a time, but many with leprosy were isolated for the rest of their lives. The priest in the Jewish culture was the one person to examine and say whether someone was clean (or free from disease) and able to return from isolation or remained unclean and had to continue their isolation from family and friends. It was often quite devastating to families to lose a family member to leprosy. Lepers often could not continue in their workplace and some lived in leper colonies where everyone had the disease. Lepers who traveled were required to notify those that may come near them by shouting “unclean, unclean” so that others without the disease wouldn’t be exposed to them. There was a considerable stigma for the leper in addition to the disability, deformities, and destruction of the body that came with leprosy.

The ten lepers discussed in Luke 17 had heard enough about Jesus that they called out in a loud voice saying, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” A few things are very interesting about their statement. First, it seems that they all in a coordinated fashion shouted out to Jesus. They seemed to know or have heard who Jesus was and called him by name. Second, they call Jesus Master indicating that they consider him to have rule and power over them. Not everyone considered Jesus their Master or respected his authority, but these ten lepers did. Third, the men don’t specifically ask to be healed, but that Jesus have pity on them. Leprosy can be a severely debilitating causing terrible skin lesions, vision problems, muscle weakness, nerve damage, and the loss of limbs. We don’t know what stages of leprosy these ten men were in, but they begged for pity. Pity is said to be a sympathetic sorrow often leading to relief, aid or mercy. The lepers wanted that. They knew they had an incurable disease, but they wanted whatever Jesus could do to give them relief, aid, and mercy.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say he will heal them, but he says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Jesus knows that to be accepted back into their culture and society, they must be approved by the priests. Luke goes on to say that “as they went, they were cleansed.” All ten left Jesus headed to the priest with their leprosy, but on the way, they were cleansed. Leprosy leaves many marks on the skin, but after encountering Jesus, they knew before they had time to get to their priests that they had been healed. All ten of them. What an amazing miracle and wonderful thing for these men to know that soon they would be allowed and welcomed back into their communities and families.

One of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, came back praising God and threw himself at the feet of Jesus thanking him for healing him. The Bible describes this thankful leper as a Samaritan. Most Jews didn’t and wouldn’t associate with Samaritans, but Jesus did. It is assumed that the other lepers were probably Jewish, since other nations did not have in their law to present themselves to the priest to be judged unclean or clean.

Next, Jesus asked the thankful Samaritan praising God at his feet, “Were not all ten cleansed?” It seems a rhetorical question as Jesus goes on to ask, “Where are the other nine?” And “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus intimates that the Jewish lepers should have known to praise God and be thankful for healing. It seems that Jesus would have expected the Samaritan to not praise God or thank him, but Jesus is surprised at his own people. They had all just called him ‘Master.’ They all had some expectation that Jesus could help them or they wouldn’t have cried out. Yet when Jesus did help them, nine of the ten didn’t take the time to be thankful to him. They couldn’t be bothered to go back and show their gratitude.

What about us today? Do we pray for God’s help and never acknowledge that it came? Do we ignore the blessings our heavenly Father brings us each and every day? Do we give credit to someone or something else, after we’ve made our appeals to God for healing? Do we assume it is simply our good luck that helped things turn out well? Do we ignore God after our appeals to Him?

Look at the statistics of gratitude in this story. Only one out of ten said thank you. Jesus never heard back from 90% of those he healed in this case. Why? Were they just that selfish or self-centered? Did they not connect their request for pity with the removal of the plague of leprosy from their bodies? Do we sometimes get so excited that a trouble or trauma is over that we just want to move on and forget it? Jesus seems disappointed and specifically disappointed in his own people as he asked, Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” What does this say about God’s people, who supposedly know and follow him? What does it say about the foreigner?

In the region of Tyre and Sydon, another foreigner came to Jesus for help and healing. She was a Canaanite mother begging Jesus to help her daughter who was demon possessed and suffering terribly. Jesus said that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, but as the woman begged, “Lord, help me.” Jesus explained again that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. But the Canaanite woman said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus replied to the woman that she had great faith and granted her request and in that moment for her daughter’s healing.

The Jewish teachers and leaders of Jesus’ day often claimed to be the children of Abraham and to only worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were a proud people and boasted in their Jewishness and relationship with God, yet they weren’t really obedient to him, following him, or even grateful to him for his blessings. God addresses this many times with them, and I see a lesson here for us, as Christians.

Are we grateful? Are we thankful? Do our friends and family know that we hold God and Jesus Christ in high esteem? Do our friends, family and others know that we give thanks to God for the food we eat? Do our colleagues, customers, and even those who can’t stand us, know who we call Lord? Do we thank God for our jobs and financial provision? Do we praise God for healing after we’ve prayed for it, or do we assume it was the doctor’s skill, or the new medicine, or luck, or a simple quirk of ‘nature’ that healed us or our loved one?

If you were one of the ten lepers, what group would you be in? Would you be like the one Samaritan or the nine Jews?

We pray to God for help, then don’t acknowledge that He did help. Why is that? Are we embarrassed? Do we really believe He can, will, and does work today in the lives of men and women? If we don’t believe He is working and answering prayers today, why do we pray? Do we or can we understand how everything works? Of course not, but if we have prayed for something to happen and it happens, why not assume it is from God? He is, by the way, in charge of EVERYTHING! God cares for us down to knowing the number of hairs on our head. As we clean the lost hairs out of our hairbrush at night, do we understand that God knows how many hairs are in the brush and how many hairs are left on our head? Do we see the detail, care, and specificity with which the God of the universe has for each and every person? Matthew chapter 10 says that not one sparrow falls that God doesn’t know about it, and goes on to say that each of us are worth more than many sparrows.

For those who don’t know Jesus, He is the good news/the Gospel. No more is there a separation between people groups. Jesus came for all – for Jew and Gentile, slave and free, for you and for me.

All of us are sinners and have rebelled against God. All of us are on our way to Hell. Hell is the just destination and penalty for our sin. All sin is rebellion against God and His authority. All of us – (every single person and all of mankind throughout every age) have committed treason against the Lord. Our rebellion is clear, but thanks be to God, the penalty and just consequence for our sin has been paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

An eternal death separating us from God for all time is no longer necessary, if we will accept the gift of salvation that comes through Christ Jesus alone. The choice is ours. God will not force us to accept salvation from our sin. He will allow us to proceed on our own way, if that is what we choose. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. People choose to go there of their own accord. God stands at the door and knocks, but He will only come in if we open the door to accept and surrender to His will and way. That’s the deal. We can go our way or His way.

Long ago, some lepers were healed from a physical disease because they sought help, cried out, and asked for mercy from the Lord. Long ago, a mother secured health and safety for her child from demons because she had faith in and sought help from the One she knew had the power to save her child. Today, God still waits and wants all who will come to Him in faith with submissive and grateful hearts to live in His way and walk in His will in this life. Won’t you come like the leper and the mother to the feet of Jesus? Won’t you look to him for help and healing? Won’t you give God all praise for all He has done and is doing in your life? Won’t you trust and draw near to Him? He loves and cares for you more than you can even imagine?

Won’t you, think on these things…

Robin Robbins House ©️

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

Football, Politics, Polls and Fair Play

angry voters

Do you know who won the football game last Sunday? Did you see it? Though the Dallas Cowboys are not “my” team, no one can dispute the successes and quality of the Dallas Cowboy team play since Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and others banded their team together to complete one of the best Cowboys football seasons in recent history. Since Dak Prescott is from my hometown, I have enjoyed seeing his success. Watching a great athlete compete with skill and perseverance while calling his mind and body to perform at an elite level is a beautiful thing – no matter what team a player is on. I saw only the last seconds of the game Sunday night, but it was in those final moments that it became clear that Green Bay’s kicker, by the narrowest of margins, kicked the football between the uprights to give the Green Bay Packers a winning score of 34 to 31 over Dallas. The scoreboard numbers and the celebrations by the Packers team and fans showed the television audience that Green Bay would move on to the final playoff game before the Superbowl. Dallas Cowboy fans were stunned, shaken, and sad. What happened?

What happened was that the Packers won and the Cowboys lost. But wait just a minute. On Monday I heard a story that said Green Bay won the scoring vote but that the Cowboys won the popular vote. The Cowboys had been ahead during the game and let’s face it — the Cowboys are America’s team. According to the story, the Cowboys deserved to win. The final score just couldn’t be the “be all and end all” outcome of the competition. Could it? Should someone send a note to the Green Bay Packers and fans to tell them that the final scoreboard score just didn’t count? Would someone actually say that a popular vote of public sentiment and rankings trumped the actual game played and score?

Of course not! Green Bay just like Clemson in the College Championship game beat Alabama in the final seconds because they scored more points than the other team. Yes, Alabama like Dallas, was favored to win, but they didn’t. They didn’t win because they didn’t score more points than the other team. That’s the way the game is played. Yes, some will be disappointed that their team did not win, but that is what happens in a contest. One wins, and one looses. The contest and the rules are clear to all before the competition begins, and then the game is played. For 60 minutes the football teams competed and each did their best to win.

In the recent presidential election, the candidates entered the contest, knew the rules, and competed fiercely for victory. One won, and one lost. Since the infancy of our nation and for over 240 years, we have held the same system of electing a president. On several occasions the presidential candidate that won the popular vote did not win the majority vote in the electoral college. The first incident of this kind was in 1824 with Andrew Jackson winning the popular vote by over 10% but losing to John Quincy Adams in the electoral college. Yet in the 193 years since that first contentious election where John Quincy Adams became our sixth President, our citizens, and as a result our elected officials, have not voted to change the electoral college system or rules by which U S Presidents are elected each and every 4 years. I’m not giving an opinion on the electoral college system, but simply stating that it is the current system and provides the rules for the election of all of our presidents.

Our government is not a true democracy, but a representative republic by which each citizen (unless they are a felon or live in a U S territory) has the right to vote to elect representatives to vote their will. Unlike most governments in our world, the United States of America has a system of government that is of, by and for the people. Too often I think our citizens have abdicated their rights to control the government by being inattentive, ignorant and apathetic. In most elections only a small percentage of citizens even show up to the polls to cast their votes. As a result, the small majority that do vote or do push their agenda in the halls of our state legislatures and in Congress often get their way in a manner that is many times not “fair” or good for the citizenry as a whole.

Like the Clemson/Alabama game the week before and the Cowboys/Packers game this past Sunday, the presidential team with the popular vote, poles and rankings did not win. The final score was Hillary Clinton 232 and Donald Trump 306. Mr. Trump seemed to trail most of the game, and the popular opinion and poles were not favorable for him. But, in the end and at the end of the election, Donald Trump had the winning score.

In less than 24 hours, our nation is set to inaugurate the 45th President of the United States. This man was elected by the rules of candidacy and competition set forth in our laws to serve our nation and its people. Like the 44 Presidents before him and as required by the U S Constitution in Article II, Section One, Clause 8, Donald J. Trump is scheduled to take the same oath his 44 predecessors did. The oath says “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” George Washington, our first President, was recorded to have concluded his oath of office with the statement, “So help me God.” requesting the help of the Almighty as he served. Washington set a precedent that has continued for over 200 years, including both swearing in ceremonies for Barak Obama.

Our national motto says “In God we trust.” But do we? Our Pledge of Allegiance says “… One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But is it? I see a great rift in our nation today. What once was clearly an indivisible citizenry is divisive. Those promoting freedom and tolerance are often the most restrictive and intolerant. Justice seems to apply to some more equally than others. Have you read Animal Farm? Any look at our history, its monuments and the words engraved on many of our government buildings clearly shows that our nation was based and built on Christian values and freedoms. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political thinker and historian who came to America in 1831 and wrote Democracy in America, said, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Revisionist historians and teachers are working diligently to rewrite, revise and remove all semblance of this truth from our documents, monuments, buildings and culture. As a result, many today have no knowledge or appreciation for the work done and the price paid by our founding fathers for the freedoms we enjoy. In no other country in the world are people dying to “break in” to join our society. In no other country in the world do its citizens hold as many rights and freedoms. No other country has the opportunity and the great responsibility to self-govern as we, the citizens of the United States, do.

In watching the recent events and outbursts designed to disrupt, dismantle, and delegitimize our society and government, I am sad to see the disunity in these United States. This is not good for our nation. The spirit of anarchy should not be allowed to fester and grow. I hope that you will join me to pray and to work for our nation’s best interests and unity. I believe the answer to what ails us lies in developing a more godly, patriotic, informed, critical thinking and intentional voting citizenry that seeks not their own good, but the good of the nation as a whole. A citizenry that loves their neighbor as their self. Towards that end, here are some lessons that I learned as a child from my parents, teachers, and mentors about sportsmanship and life. Some in the younger generations may not have seen these teachings before, so I hope you will enjoy them, take note and let them guide and enrich your life.

LESSONS OF SPORTSMANSHIP AND LIFE FROM A LOUISIANA LADY

1. Life isn’t always fair. I just hated hearing my mom tell me that over and over, but it’s true.

2. You have to play the game to have a chance to win. Get in the game.

3. In almost every case, the more skilled or competitive player or team will win.

4. You won’t always win, even if you work and try hard.

5. There are no awards for just showing up and participating.

6. Opponents will often work and fight just as hard, or harder, to win as you did. Life’s tough.

7. When you give your best efforts and still lose, there’s no shame in that.

8. Competing by the rules with integrity and fairness is expected.

9. Cheating is wrong.

10. It is important to be a “good sport.” Otherwise, you are a bad loser.

11. You don’t argue about the rules of the game after the game is over.

12. You may not have a hissy fit if you lose. You’ll be disciplined if you do.

13. Be gracious in loss and victory. Learn to sincerely show respect and congratulate an opponent.

14. Learn to “follow the leader” elected or selected even when he/she wasn’t your preference.

15. Know that there might be a next time, or there might not be a next time for a rematch. Sometimes you just get one chance at something.

16. Remember that President Abraham Lincoln quoted Jesus when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” from Matthew 12:25 (NIV)

17. It is often beneficial if you can get along with those with which you disagree. We know that Galatians 5:15 (ESV) says, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” So, don’t burn your bridges and boats.

18. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” I John 4:20-21 (NIV) Love is the greatest commandment.

19. About authority, remember Romans 13:1-7 (NIV) which says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience…” Respect those in authority, whether you like them or not because they are under authority too.

20. Don’t forget that “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)

21. Winning doesn’t make us better than others.

22. Losing is not the end of the world, and God is in charge of the end of the world too. (See Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32)

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you. May God bless you and yours.

Robin House

Open Doors and Opportunity

In a new year I often feel like I have a new beginning point and opportunities. New resolutions, renewed plans to try again or start over, and the desire to set new goals for the coming year come to mind after Christmas and in the first weeks of the new year. Sometimes I make resolutions for the new year, and sometimes I don’t. This year I am having a “take 2” shot at one of the major resolutions from last year. I “sort of” like making resolutions but often bite off more than I can chew. Like a child in front of a restaurant buffet or at a church pot luck dinner, my ideas – like my eyes are often bigger than I can possibly handle. Committing to a better diet, exercising regularly, beginning new projects, exploring interests and learning new skills all call to me. I like challenging goals. I like the satisfaction I get when I have completed a difficult task well. It gives me feelings of confidence, accomplishment, optimism, and fulfillment when a goal is achieved. It just makes me feel good!

Today opportunities abound for many worthy causes and goals. Just Google it, and you’ll see. As a child of the 70s, I grew up with the “Superwoman myth.” It said that as a woman, I could do it all, be it all, and have it all. Both experience (I tried it.) and wisdom have taught me that I can’t do it all, be it all, and have it all. So how do I choose what priorities to address, goals to set and plans to make? I credit my husband for pointing out and sharing a passage in II Corinthians 2:12-13 for helping me address this question. I read this passage again this week and want to share it now.

Paul had travelled to Troas to preach the gospel to the people there. The Scripture says that he had an open door from the Lord, but Paul had no “peace of mind” or confidence in his ability to carry on the work in Troas. Paul said that because his brother Titus was not there with him, he said goodbye to the people of Troas and went on to Macedonia. It seems that Paul gave a pass to Troas in his missionary journey to share and spread the gospel. What did that mean for Paul then? What does it mean today?

Here’s what I think. Sometimes we have great opportunities open to us for doing God’s will and good in our world, but something is just not quite right. A specific ingredient is missing, or the timing is not quite right in the moment. In Paul’s case, the Lord gave him an open door of opportunity in Troas, but Paul didn’t walk through it. In Paul’s example, I see that I don’t have to go through every door of opportunity either — even if the Lord opens the door. I believe that if God really wants me to go in a particular direction or through a particular “door,” He has just as much power today as He did when He dealt with Jonah to send me through any “door” He wants me to enter. I can say that I have had some “Jonah-like” experiences during my life, minus the fish, of course. Second, I think it is important to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Not now.” Sometimes, like Paul, I don’t have a “peace of mind” about a project or goal. Third, I need to remember that some plans and goals are better achieved with the help of a trusted colleague or friend. Some goals are just not meant to be completed alone and may need to be deferred until help arrives. The church Jesus established is an excellent example of this principle. The body of Christ works best when it works together to support, nourish, and spur its members to love and good works. God made us to need each other. If not, why did God make Eve for Adam? If not, why did God tell Adam and Eve to be one as husband and wife and have children? If not, why did Christ establish his church for his followers?

I hope that as we encounter various opportunities in this new year, that we will remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 where He says to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and all the things we need will be provided to us. In addition let’s look at the very next words of Paul in II Corinthians two after he reveals that he left Troas to go on to Macedonia to preach the gospel. In II Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Paul knew — and I think we can see, that wherever he went and whatever “door” he entered, as he put and served God first, God made him effective in His service. In the same way, we, too, can be effective and successful with our goals and plans as we go through whatever “doors of opportunity” we may enter.

May God guide and bless you in all ways!

Robin House

Additional study verses Colossians 3:2, Psalm 119:112, Hebrews 12:2, Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 16:3, II Timothy 1:7