Just pray and walk away

“Just pray and walk away.” That’s what I read on a spray bottle that was sitting on the side of my bathtub the other day. I was praying, as I often do, while I took a bath, and I was trying not to worry. My parents had been dealing with Covid, and my mom had been having a hard time getting a deep breath. So I recalled some scriptures that would buoy my faith. And that’s when I saw it: God’s message to me on a plastic label. The thing was, there was nothing spiritual about that spray bottle, but it was turned a little bit to the left so that one letter of the caption was unseen. It was supposed to say, “just spray and walk away“; just a daily shower cleaner that was designed to prevent mildew. But this morning, it was used for something sacred; it was God’s tablet. When I saw the message, at first it took me by surprise. It was just what I needed. And then when I spotted the missing “s”, it made me laugh.

I don’t know if you have had this experience: When something is going on in your life that concerns you, you pray about it, just like every Christian ought to do, but then you conveniently hold on to the concern so that you can make sure and worry about it some more later. It’s like dropping your dry cleaning off and then carrying it home in your car. It’s like taking your child to her grandparents’ house so that you can have a date with your husband and then buckling her up again in her car seat to join you for a movie and a fancy dinner. It’s like bringing all your financial information to your accountant and then staying around to help file your taxes. You get the idea. So I have to admit, I do this sometimes. I don’t really mean to. I know that we are supposed to pray continually, but we’re definitely not supposed to worry continually. The Bible teaches us to cast our cares upon the Lord, not to hold one corner of them while we let Jesus hold the other side. Cast our cares; get rid of them; wash our hands of them (1 Peter 5:7).

I knew that morning that’s what I needed to do with my concerns. Just pray and walk away. So that’s my goal now. And thanks to God’s ability to use everything in my path to get the message across to me (including household cleaners), I have a handy little slogan to remind me.

By: Cynthia Butler

The Prayer Lady

By: Cynthia Butler

            At the hospital where Christiana works they call her the prayer lady.  She shares her testimony everywhere she goes.  She says, “Doctors can give you medicine, but only God can make it work.”

            Christiana knows God’s healing power first hand.  Eleven years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had been asked to return to her doctor’s office after a mammogram so that he could give her the report in person.  As the doctor stepped into the examination room he stated matter-of-factly, “It’s cancer.”   Taken aback, she asked, “Is this how you give results?”  “I know you are in shock,” the doctor assumed.  “No I am not,” she replied “I reject it in Jesus name.  That’s not my portion.  My body is a temple of God .”  And she left.  Her response was confident, but her heart was shaken.  Hearing the doctor’s report was like listening to her own obituary.  But as she was leaving, paperwork in hand, she heard a voice saying “Why would you allow an unbeliever to scare you.”  And as soon as she got home God comforted her once again.  Her pastor called saying, “God told me to tell you, ‘This sickness is not unto death.’”  His words were a timely confirmation, but her pastor had no idea she had received a cancer diagnosis.  He didn’t even know she had been to the doctor that day.  She immediately shared the news with him.  Then he and his wife joined Christiana on a three-day fast to seek God.  During the fast, God brought a promise from scripture into her mind: “Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.”  Christiana knew that God had not planted cancer in her body, so she trusted that he would uproot it.  Soon after this, Christiana went to a hospital for a second opinion.  Nearly a dozen doctors hovered around her proposing cancer treatments, but Christiana could feel God’s spirit come on her mightily.  She started speaking many scriptures and claiming God’s promises.  She refused the chemotherapy that the doctors were suggesting.  She was determined to lean on her Lord for healing instead.  “Even the preachers get cancer treatment,” one of the doctors said.  But Christiana replied, “Because they don’t know the God they serve.  I know the God I serve.  I am a daughter of Zion .”

            A few months later Christiana went to a festival of life in Maryland with her church.  The man who was speaking that night gave a word of knowledge (a message from God) just as they were walking in the auditorium: “There is a woman here.  You have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  The Lord asked me to tell you that He has healed you.  Go back to your doctor and check.”  Knowing the message was for her, Christiana claimed it; she received it.  She jumped up and said, “Yes, this is for me!  This is why I came.”  But for four years she did not go back to her doctor. She didn’t want them to give her a negative report.

Later, when Christiana was discussing family matters over the phone with a family member who was living in England , he became angry and said, “You are close to your grave; you have cancer.  We are waiting for you to die.”  But Christiana responded, “I will not die but live and declare the works of the Lord.  My God will prove you wrong.  My God will disappoint you.”  So she finally went back to the doctor to confirm what she knew by faith God had already done.  When the results came back, there was no trace of cancer whatsoever!

It’s no wonder, then, that Christiana is quick to give words of encouragement to patients she meets who have received disturbing diagnoses.  She recalls entering the hospital room of an 81-year-old lady who was crying over the doctor’s report.

“Mama, why are you crying?” Christiana asked her.  “The doctor just told me something,” the woman said between sobs.  “If God has not failed you in 81 years, you think He can fail you in another 81 years?” Christiana challenged her.  “No.” she conceded.  “Do you believe in Jesus?” Christiana asked her. “Yes.” The woman replied.  “Just give it to Him,” she urged her.  Then Christiana held her arm and said a simple prayer.

            A couple of days later the 81-year-old lady, just after being discharged from the hospital, found Christiana.  “I have been looking for you,” she told Christiana. “The doctor said everything is okay!  Thank you so much.  Thank you for encouraging me.”  Christiana assured her, “It wasn’t me.  It was God.”  And she gave her a big hug.

Christiana has had many such experiences while working at the hospital.  What causes her to encounter the miraculous again and again?  “Every morning when I go to work I pray and ask God to give me His grace, to give me His word; a word that will heal; a word that will encourage; a word that will bless,” Christiana explains. And God has been faithful to answer Christiana’s prayer.  His grace and His word have done in her life and in the lives of those around her what no one else could do.

A Rampart

         The answer to your prayers is not always flashy.  Sometimes when it looks like something might get bad, and you pray, it ends up being nothing.  It’s not dramatic. It’s not showy, but it’s God at work.  You just got protected.  It might be easy in those moments to forget to thank God, but if we could see all the disasters He has saved us from, we would never neglect to praise him.

         Someone said to me one time that they wondered if the movies we’d watch in Heaven would be a show of all the times God spared us from some danger and we didn’t even know it.  That sounds like a movie I’d want to see!

         Psalm 91:4 says, “[God’s] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  Many of us have found ourselves fighting battles in life and have seen God’s faithfulness in the midst of it.  We held on to Him, and He got us through.  In those moments He was our shield.  Let’s praise Him for that.

         But how many times has He blocked a threat before it ever affects us or before we were ever even aware of it.  In those moments He was our rampart, a wall around the city protecting those inside.  Let’s praise Him for that most of all.  It is a foretaste of our Heavenly destination where nothing will ever disturb us.  And yet, this kind of blessing is most easily overlooked.  Isn’t it ironic that God would receive the least glory when He gives us the most protection?

         I remember years ago in a prayer meeting at church a lady recounted to the group how her relative had been misdiagnosed with cancer.  If I remember correctly, the family was angry with the doctors for giving them such a scare when, as they discovered from a later diagnosis, there was no cancer present in his body.  Listening to her reaction, I was incredulous.  Why were they upset with the doctors for what seemed like a mistake instead of joyful in Christ for what may very well have been a miracle?  What if this man had truly had cancer, and after the church had prayed about it the Lord had answered our prayer and healed him.  What a missed opportunity for giving God glory!

         And while I may point a finger at this family for neglecting to praise God, I am guilty at times of neglecting to trust Him.  After all, God has already saved me and my family from a number of threats- some known, some unknown- yet I find myself worrying about what could happen in the future. I would do well to remember that there is a wall around me, and it is His faithfulness.

When my daughter was young she fell down a flight of stairs one day.  I immediately began to quote scriptures over her.  “Look,” she said through tears, presenting her pinky to me.  There was a tiny red dot on her finger.  It was the only thing she was upset about, except for maybe being scared.  Other than that, she was completely unharmed.  The same God who watched over her that day gives His angels charge over us today.

One winter, my parents-in-law were driving on a freeway in Houston.  They hit an icy patch and skidded sideways across several lanes.  Thankfully, their car came to a complete stop just short of crashing into the median.  There were no collisions, and they were not hurt in any way.  The same God that plotted the course of their car that day is riding beside us each time we are driving.

My sister’s car, on the other hand, was totaled one time when she was involved in a wreck.  She drove out to the median to turn left, and an 18-wheeler was blocking part of her view.  All of a sudden another vehicle hit her car causing it to spin around and strike the median, breaking off a chunk of concrete.  The impact was great enough to flatten a metal water bottle that had been in the back seat.  Thankfully, x-rays revealed no broken bones, but my sister was dealing with negative feelings after the wreck.  She resented that it had happened and felt unsafe in the car.  But then she heard God’s Spirit speak to her heart as she was talking with someone who happened to be missing some teeth.

“See, I didn’t even let you lose any teeth,” God pointed out to her.  She realized at that moment that she was meant to learn confidence rather than fear from her experience, because God had kept her safe, even through a dangerous wreck.  The same God that guarded my sister’s body also holds us safely in His own hands through the dangers we face daily.

      You probably have some stories of your own.  Have you had any close calls?  How have you or your loved ones been protected?  Maybe, if the times when God rescued you are still a mystery, you’ll be watching them in a Heavenly theater someday.  If so, save me a seat!  I’ll look forward to that premiere!

Written by Cynthia Butler

Full of Light

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Devan knows what it’s like to be full of darkness and she knows what it’s like to truly “see”.  God opened her eyes in more ways than one.  Noticing the glory of God in a beautiful sky; spotting trees on a distant horizon; these may be things that some take for granted, but for Devan, they are both miracles.

Growing up, Devan knew that God was real, but she didn’t know He was meant to be her everything.  She didn’t have a clear understanding of who God even was.  With her dad and step-mom, she would go to the prestigious churches with bowling alleys that preached prosperity.  With her mom, she would go to little bitty Baptist churches that preached “Hell and damnation”.  She professed faith as a child.  She had gone through the big fancy baptism at the big fancy church, but it wasn’t a true conversion, she had no change of heart, and she was still blind to God‘s love . . . that is, until she saw His love played out for her in the life of a friend years later.

Devan was substitute teaching when she met Darla.  Darla was an aide who worked at the school.  Before Darla even knew Devan, she recognized that God had a friendship to cultivate between the two of them.

“The Lord told me to come say hi to you,” She told Devan out of the blue.

“Well that’s great for you,” were the sarcastic words that popped into Devan’s mind and may have even popped out of her mouth.  In fact, a lot of things popped out of Devan’s mouth back in those days that could have been considered offensive.  But it didn’t faze Darla.  It was pretty obvious that Devan wasn’t walking with the Lord, but Darla showed love to her anyway.  She invited Devan into her classroom during her breaks.  She showed Devan that she valued her.  It was the first time Devan had ever seen unconditional love from anyone other than her mom—so consistent and so faithful. It made a difference.  Pretty soon Devan found herself wanting to go to Darla’s classroom, even when she wasn’t invited, just to hang out and see what stories Darla would tell.

One day, when Devan was in her friend’s classroom, Darla exclaimed, “Look at that sky.  Isn’t that beautiful?  That’s the glory of the Lord!”

“I don’t understand that,” Devan expressed.  “I don’t understand how you can say that the sky is the glory of the Lord.”  Darla’s heavenly perception confused Devan who only knew how to look at life from a worldly viewpoint.

But Darla was fully aware of the power of God to enlighten Devan.  “If you will allow me, I will teach you,” she assured her.  As Darla daily revealed the truth to her, Devan’s eyes were finally opened, and God transformed her.

In keeping with her new life and her new perspective, Devan began going to church and participating in Bible studies.  But she hadn’t learned yet how to daily seek the Lord.  She hadn’t really taken ownership for herself.  She was always doing the dance or walking the walk somebody else was telling her to.  She didn’t experience genuine personal moments of faith and revelation from God until her marriage almost came to an end.

Devan left her husband Jared after 7 years of marriage, but her heart was breaking, knowing that this was not the kind of life God wanted for her.  She remembered how her father’s affair when she was a child had led to her parents’ divorce.  She didn’t want to walk that same path.  She didn’t want to repeat those same sins.  Baring her soul to the Lord more than ever before, she asked Him, “What do you want from me?  What do you require of me?  Surely this isn’t life.  Surely this isn’t what you’ve called me to.”

As she willingly became vulnerable in God’s hands; as she began to read the Bible all the way through, she started seeing the character of God.  For the first time, the words “God loves you” became more to her than just something people say.  Once she asked God to show His love to her, she recognized that He had truly loved her all along. When she received that love more deeply, she was able to love others more deeply as well. God healed her marriage and He brought life to her spirit.  He was turning her heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

But while events were unfolding in her life which awakened her spiritual eyes, Devan’s physical eyes were in need of healing as well, and she didn’t even know it yet.

Devan had never had perfect vision, even while wearing contacts or glasses.  She had been thinking for a long time of trying LASIK surgery to correct her eyesight.  So in the summer of 2020, she set up an appointment with a highly-recommended eye-surgeon in College Station.  The first step was for Devan to have a couple of tests to evaluate whether she was a good candidate for LASIK.  The second step was to have a consultation with the doctor.

She had never met Doctor Riggs before, but when he walked into the room there was something familiar about him.

“I know you,” she told him.

“I don’t think so,” Doctor Riggs replied.  But after talking a little longer they realized that Doctor Riggs’s wife Sarah had been in a Bible study with Devan a few years earlier.  The fellowship she had shared with Sarah gave Devan a feeling of trust toward the doctor, even though this was her first appointment with him.  It helped Devan have a sense of peace and safety.  That comfort was valuable to her in the next few moments as she received an unexpected diagnosis.

Dr. Riggs explained that Devan was not a good candidate for LASIK surgery because she had an eye disease called keratoconus.  The disorder results in progressive thinning near the center of the cornea causing it to bulge.  It produces blurry, distorted vision.  Thankfully, corneal cross-linking had recently been approved in the United States, a surgery that can halt the progression of keratoconus.  Prior to that it was only available in Europe.

After hearing the diagnosis, Devan wanted to know how long ago she had developed keratoconus.  According to Dr. Riggs, she had probably had it for eight to ten years already.  This explained symptoms Devan had been experiencing for a while like dry eyes and contact lenses falling out.  She hadn’t been able to see well, but no doctor had ever been able to figure out what was causing her vision problems until that day in Dr. Riggs’s office.

Rather than being upset about the diagnosis, though, Devan was inspired to praise God.  She believed it was a blessing from the Lord that He had not revealed the keratoconus to her until there was something tangible she could do about it that was readily within reach.  If she had found out about the disorder eight or ten years earlier when she had likely first developed it, it would have been on her mind constantly.  She would have had to go to the doctor every six months or so to check the progression of the keratoconus.  She might have felt anxious, wondering whether she would some day need a cornea transplant.  Maybe she would have even tried to convince her husband to allow her to fly to Europe to have cross-linking surgery, which would have placed a serious strain on their bank account and also on their marriage.  She would not have handled the news well had she received it a few years earlier.

God had prepared her for this day so that thankfulness rather than worry filled her heart.  It wasn’t as if she felt no concern, but realizing that events were unfolding according to God’s timing put Devan’s mind at ease.

She rallied some of her closest girlfriends to join her in prayer.  “Hey, I have this eye disease, and I’m really scared,” she confessed.  “I don’t know what to do, but I’m praying that God is going to heal me and that I either don’t have to have cross-linking surgery or that, if I do have it, it just goes swimmingly well.”

It would be several weeks before Devan would return to her doctor for follow-up tests to see whether the disease had advanced.  When Dr. Riggs walked into the exam room, Devan received news as surprising as the diagnosis itself.

Dr. Riggs glanced down at the test results.  Then he looked back up at Devan.  Taking them in his hand, he placed the papers on Devan’s lap.  “What have you done?” he inquired.  You have no keratoconus; nothing; not one sign of keratoconus!”  Devan was blown away; at least that was her initial reaction.  Then she thought, “Of course I don’t have keratoconus; we’ve been praying.  My God is that amazing!”  And even though she had not really been expecting such an amazing announcement, Devan had already felt at peace with whatever the tests would reveal.  However, there was a part of Devan that had reservations even as she was rejoicing.  “Maybe the test was wrong and I really do still have it,” she considered.

She felt like Gideon, the farmer-turned-warrior, whose story in the Bible is a journey from insecurity to victory.  After an angel announced that Gideon would defeat an enemy army, Gideon asked for a sign to confirm what the Lord had revealed.  The angel touched a rock with his staff and fire sprang up.  Then the angel vanished.

This experience was enough to inspire awe and obedience in Gideon, but he still craved another sign:

“look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” (Judges 6:37)

God didn’t chastise Gideon for being slow to believe the angel’s message.  He granted Gideon the miraculous sign he had requested.  When Gideon woke up, the ground was dry, but the fleece was wet with dew.  But even these two signs were not enough for Gideon.

“‘Do not be angry with me,’” he said. “‘Let me make just one more request.  Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.’  That night God did so.  Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.” (Judges 6:39-40)

This was the last test. Gideon was finally convinced, and God indeed used him to defeat Israel’s oppressors.

Like Gideon, Devan felt that she needed one more test.  She needed God to strengthen her faith.  So in six weeks she went back to her doctor for another round of eye assessments.

“Ok, Lord, if I don’t have keratoconus, let it be zero again.  Let it have absolutely no resemblance of this disease,” she prayed.

Just as she had hoped, when Doctor Riggs came in the examination room, he declared, “Devan, you’re cured!  There is nothing here; nothing!”  Devan immediately praised the Lord.  But, in all honesty, she still had a little bit of doubt.  If she was to have LASIK surgery, she needed to be sure she was not putting herself at risk.

So Devan prayed once more, “Lord, please don’t be upset with me, but let me find favor, and show me one more time.  Show me one more test.  Let it come back clear, or let it be so apparent that I have keratoconus that there’s no doubt one way or the other.”

Six weeks later, in that same familiar exam room, Dr. Riggs reassured her again that Devan had no sign of keratoconus.  Everything was perfect.  “You can have LASIK; you are a good candidate,” he reiterated.  “However, in the next week or two we are going to have a new state-of-the-art technology that can test your eye in a completely different way,” he continued.  “We would like for you to go ahead and have this test, and this will show us without a shadow of a doubt if you have keratoconus.”

So Devan prayed and she waited.  After two weeks had passed, she returned for the fourth and final test.  When her doctor entered the room, Devan could see his cheeks rising up in a smile behind his mask.

“Your eyes are amazing!  They are so healthy,” he marveled.  “I would absolutely tell you, if you were my wife or my daughter, that you can have the surgery if you want to.  Obviously, there are risks, but as far as I’m concerned there are no risks, because your eyes are that healthy.”

“Ok, Lord, thank you for the dry fleece and the dry ground,” Devan prayed.  “Thank you for letting me ask You the hard questions and for showing up in a big way.”  There was now nothing holding Devan back.  She knew that she could have LASIK surgery without fear.  But despite the miracle they had both witnessed, Doctor Riggs wanted to make sure Devan did not have unrealistic expectations.

“I can’t give you 20/20 vision,” he explained.  “I think the best I might be able to do is 20/25, but you’re probably looking at 20/30.  The Lord gives you your eyesight, and this is the best he’s ever given you.  I think that’s all you’re ever going to get.”

Devan was too busy counting her blessings to be upset by his prognosis, though.  “It’s ok; it doesn’t really matter.  If you’re telling me the best I can see is the best I’ve ever been able to see, but I’m not going to have to wear contacts and glasses, and I don’t have keratoconus, this is great.  It’s fine.”

Her positive outlook was not what Dr. Riggs expected. However, it wasn’t the first time Devan’s attitude had taken him by surprise.  He had already noticed when he had first diagnosed her with keratoconus, her instinct had been to praise the Lord.  And it made an impression.  As it turned out, when Devan had LASIK surgery, she made an impression on several others, too, and she was completely unaware.

The day after the procedure, Devan returned to the office for a checkup.  Her doctor walked into the exam room and gave her a fist bump.  “You are legendary in our office now,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” Devan replied, curious, but a little embarrassed.

Dr. Riggs explained, “Devan, you smiled throughout the entire procedure.  I wish I would’ve video-taped you.  I would show every patient who walked in, ‘Look how easy this surgery is.  This girl smiled the entire time.’”

Dr. Riggs had seen patients react in a variety of ways.  Some would flinch or say “ouch” when he would cut around the eye. At times they even showed anger, fear or bitterness.  While Valium was administered to sedate them, they were not completely conscious of their own responses.  But when Devan received Valium and was undergoing surgery, she began to tell every single person that came into view, “Jesus loves you!”  She had no recollection of it, but she heard the report the next day.  One nurse who passed her in the hallway after her follow-up appointment even called out to her, “Hey, Jesus loves you!” in response to Devan’s blessing from the day before.

Although it made her laugh to think about her half-conscious evangelism, Devan was truly grateful that, in that moment when she had limited control over her actions, what came out of her mouth were words of grace.  She thought about the scripture that says, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).  It was yet another reminder of how God had poured his joy into Devan’s heart.

And the Lord was gracious in yet another way to Devan, adding to her joy once again.  She had been content when Dr. Riggs had told her not to expect 20/20 vision after LASIK.  When they tested her eyesight that day after her surgery, sure enough, she did not have 20/20 vision.  Amazingly, her vision was 20/15, even better than 20/20!  That was “the icing on the cake”.  It was all so sweet.  God had done more than Devan had even asked or imagined. (Eph. 3:20)

That Sunday, just three days after her surgery, Devan gazed out of the window as she rode in the car with her husband on their way to church.  It was the same route they took each week, the same landscape they passed regularly, but this time it caught Devan’s attention.  When they came upon a hill where the distant horizon was visible, Devan began to cry.  “Jared, look at that hill over there, and look at all those beautiful trees!  Isn’t that amazing?” she exclaimed.

“Devan, those have always been there.  You could never see that?” Jared asked.

“No, I literally just thought it was green.  I just thought it was like a part of the horizon.  I thought it was grass.  I never could tell that there was a distinct hill, and I never could tell that there were trees on that hill, even with glasses and contacts in.”

At that moment Devan thought, “This is what Heaven’s like.  We think we know, but we’re only seeing glimpses of Heaven with 20/30 vision. We think we’re seeing the best, but God’s got 20/15.  He’s got something so much better, so much more joyful and peaceful and fun and abundant than we could even think of in glory.”

“For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].”

(1 Corinthians 13:12 AMP)

Written by: Cynthia Butler (2021)

*Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the New International Version.

Scriptures of blessing for your health

When praying for healing or protection from symptoms I want to pray words from the Bible, because they are anointed by God, and they feed my faith.   For this reason, I compiled these scriptures in the form of a confession.  I hope they will be helpful to you, too.

If you are praying for health for a particular part of your body, words in bold may be replaced with that body part as you are confessing these scriptures. The words in bold that are also italicized from the 2nd to last scripture may be replaced with an activity that is difficult for you right now related to the body part you are lifting up. For example, if I am praying for my voice I will replace all the bold words with “my voice” and the italicized words with “sing” and “talk”.

All of these scriptures are in essence out of context, so I encourage you to first look up each individual scripture in the Bible and read it in context so that you understand what each one means and how it relates to you.

God, You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. My body shall rest and confidently dwell in safety (Psalm 16:8&9). Great shall be my peace and undisturbed composure. I will be far from even the thought of oppression or destruction, for I shall not fear (Isaiah 54:13-14). No weapon that is formed against me shall prosper. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is our vindication from Him (Isaiah 54:17). We will serve the Lord our God and He will bless our food and our water. He will remove sickness from among us (Exodus 23:25). Satan has fallen like lightning from Heaven, and Jesus has given his disciples authority over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm me. (Luke 10:18-19). I will have regard for the helpless and the Lord will protect me. He will restore me to health (Psalm 41:1-3). Jesus has borne my griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses and distresses). The punishment that brought me peace was upon Him, and by His wounds I am healed (Isaiah 53:4 & 5b). As I hope in the Lord I will gain new strength. I will soar on wings like eagles; I will run and not get tired, I will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13).

The Other Brother

By: Cynthia Butler

I caught myself being jealous the other day. Why is it that the people God saves from especially sinful lives have the best testimonies? They have the dramatic healings. They get miraculously delivered from drugs or alcohol. They receive a special message from God. While those of us who have been faithful to Jesus almost from infancy keep waiting. . . and waiting. . . and waiting for something supernatural to happen.

I should be happy for anyone who is blessed with a miracle. Really, I am. But I think that there is a part of me that feels envious; at least I did feel that way for a moment, until I looked in a mirror (so to speak)- a reflection of this less than holy feeling; a character in the Bible I never knew I identified with: the other brother.

You probably know the story of the prodigal son. He was dissatisfied with life on a farm. He wanted to see the world and do his own thing. So he basically asked for his inheritance before his father’s death. Then he went and squandered it on loose living until he was broke. Finally, when he had nothing, he came to his senses. “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death,” he considered. So he returned to his father saying, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” But his father embraced him instead and showered him with gifts. He threw a party to celebrate his son’s return. When the other brother came back from working in the field he found out what had happened. Instead of rejoicing, he became jealous. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

Basically what the other brother was saying is “My rebellious brother doesn’t deserve what you are giving him. If anyone deserves that kind of treatment, it’s me.” Well, that may come across as a little bit arrogant or judgmental, but actually, it’s half true. The prodigal did not deserve what he was given. So the fact that the father showed such favor to him reveals some things about his character: He is forgiving. He is quick to celebrate. He is not conservative in his giving, but surprisingly generous, beyond what is deserved. These are the ways he shows love.

It seems to me that the older brother had lived with his father all his life and had not truly known who his father was. He only saw him as someone to work for, a boss or even a slave-driver. But that was not how the father viewed their relationship. “My son” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” So the gifts that the older son coveted were actually not denied him; rather there was no need to gift them because they were his all along. That’s why his father said, “everything I have is yours.” The older son already had access to all the riches that the Father had bestowed upon his unworthy brother. Instead of making him angry, his father’s treatment of the younger son should have inspired him. It should have brought about this revelation: If my father is willing to lavish such gifts on one who betrayed him, won’t he be willing to grant them also to his son who has stayed faithful through the years?

And what about those gifts from God that we might envy in the lives of others? What about the healing, the deliverance, the miraculous provision, the favor and guidance? Why should we ever be jealous of the good things God has given to our brothers and sisters? Why not, rather, ask God for whatever we desire and expect the same generosity? If God is saying to us, as the father said to the faithful son, “everything I have is yours”, then He is withholding nothing from us (Psalm 84:11). “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). So it is through our knowledge of him that we receive everything we need. Let us not be like the older brother, then, who lived with his father, but did not truly know him. We need to see Him for who He really is. We ought to picture Him, not as a disconnected dictator, but as a compassionate father who runs to hug His son, who loves to give him gifts. We ought to think of Him as a friend who shares everything with us, because when we are obedient to Him, He doesn’t just consider us servants but friends (John 15:14-15). And you are rich by association, because if all things are God’s and he shares all He has with you, then “All things are yours. . . whether life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (1 Cor. 3:21-23)

“Your Will Be Done”

By: Cynthia Butler

            Jesus rebuked a storm, cursed a tree, cast out demons and healed illness. He said that people of faith would do the same things He was doing. I know that we have authority from God to overcome the power of the enemy, but before I go rebuking stuff I’d like to be sure that what I’m rebuking came from Satan rather than God. So I’ve got to get to the bottom of this: Is sickness ever God’s will?

Now I’ve heard both extremes. Some people figure if they’re sick it must be God’s will. So they just try to grin and bear it. They’re more likely to pray for grace under pressure or wisdom for their doctors than healing. That’s the crowd I come from. But a lot less healing occurs than I would expect among the disciples of a career healer. That bothers me. And then there’s the other camp. . . the ones that rebuke every sniffle, twitch, and cramp. Some of them would say that God never causes illness. I’m not so sure about that either.

Actually, I’d like to believe it, but I can’t; not after reviewing a number of scriptures. What about all the plagues that He brought upon the enslaving Egyptians? What about the snakes He sent to bite the complaining Israelites (Numbers 21:6)? What about the scores of verses devoted to curses: “If you do not obey the Lord your God . . .” He will smite you with inflammation, boils, tumors, madness, blindness, plagues and miserable and chronic sicknesses (from Deuteronomy 28). No, sorry guys. We can’t say that God never causes illness. Or at least we can’t support that view biblically.

Yet we know that “God is Love.” (1 John 4:8)   We know that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) We’re not talking about photons here; we’re talking about purity and goodness and glory. We’re talking about a being who is unpolluted by evil.

Sickness is not good or pure (and let’s not try to concoct some philosophy that says it is when we know it’s not). Let’s just go ahead and ask the obvious question: How can something so awful come from someone so good?

Here’s the thing about God: He sometimes allows things to happen that are not His will. Can we go one step further? God sometimes commands the very thing that grieves him. Let’s take a look at the story of David’s sinful census. King David decided to number the Israelite fighting men against the better judgment of his army commanders. But after the deed was done David was burdened by guilt. “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing,” he prayed (1 Chron. 21:8). So God gave David three options for punishment: three years of famine, three months of enemy attack, or three days of plague (“the sword of the Lord”). David replied, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” (1 Chron 21:13) So the Lord sent a plague on Israel and 70,000 men fell dead. “And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the Lord saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’” (1 Chron 21:15) After David offered sacrifices to God “the Lord was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.” (2 Samuel 24:25)

This story is told in both 1 Chronicles chapter 21 and 2 Samuel chapter 24. Interestingly, the writer of 2 Samuel tells us that the “anger of the Lord. . . incited David” to number the Israelites, whereas the writer of 1 Chronicles blames Satan. Could they have both been responsible? I have to be honest, I prefer to pin it on Satan. But how can I reconcile the two? I wonder if the story of Job can shed some light.

Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:1). But Satan accused him of honoring the Lord only because God had blessed him: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11) So God took Satan’s challenge. He allowed the Devil to destroy all that Job had. And next he allowed him to strike his health. Though Job was crushed, he still praised God. “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” he reasoned (Job 2:10). But later he complained, “God will not turn back His anger; for He bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause.” (Job 9:13, 17) “Your hands have fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:8) All of Job’s accusations were directed toward God, the one he considered responsible for His suffering. While God did scold Job for attempting to correct Him, He never pointed a finger at Satan. Instead He reminded Job, “Everything under Heaven belongs to me.” Satan may have been the one who carried out the attack on Job, but God was the one who approved it. So, though it was not God’s idea, He was certainly accountable.

Lamentations 3:37-38 confirms this: “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it. Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” But the writer of Lamentations also offers comfort: “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

When I discovered this scripture it was a ray of light to me. I read it over and over again. This is the answer I’ve been looking for. Is sickness ever God’s will? No. “He does not willingly bring affliction.” He may allow it; He may in some extreme cases even cause it. But it is not His wish.  Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus spent so much of His time during His ministry curing people, people said to be “under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38) Job was oppressed by Satan despite his righteousness. Others were stricken by God himself because of their own sinfulness. But deliverance came for all people, righteous or not, through Jesus. If we are oppressed by the enemy we need only “resist the devil, and he will flee” (James 4:7) since He who is in us is greater than “he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) If, on the other hand, our own sinfulness is the cause of our suffering, we may shed punishment when we repent and accept forgiveness since there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life set [us] free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1) Even the symptoms of aging and all illness of natural origin are a result of the “law of sin and death”. But this brokenness and decay was not a part of God’s creation. Before Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden they lived in immortal health. So the “law of sin and death” was established as a result of our failure, not because it was God’s original design. And that law was fulfilled when Jesus overcame death by His sacrifice and resurrection.

Why would any Christian ever be sick, then? I’ve been kind of confused about this. Is it a result of unrepentance or ongoing sin? There is scriptural evidence for this (John 5:14). Condemnation are not ours to bear, but God does discipline his children ( 1 Cor. 11:27-32). We ought to be careful, though, not to assume that an illness is the fault of the sufferer (John 9:2) or we will end up like Job’s friends: “miserable comforters” who are judgemental toward the ailing (Job 16:2; Job 42:7). And we also ought to be careful not to assume that God has given us an illness to teach us something. Did Jesus ever strike anyone with illness as long as He walked the earth? There is no record of it. As Christians we are redeemed to a life of peace with God. And to those under God’s covenant of peace the Lord says, “you will have nothing to fear. . . If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.” (Isaiah 54:14-15)­­­­­­­­.   Under the new covenant, the Lord is our ally, never our attacker.

So why would a Christian be sick? At least we can eliminate the theory that it’s because God wants us to be sick. We know now that’s not the case. And it’s not because God’s power is limited either. That’s encouraging. That means that no illness is incurable. And God desires our restoration. One thing I do notice in the scriptures, though, is that God is a delegater. “All authority in Heaven and on Earth” (Matt. 28:18) belongs to Jesus, but He delegated some authority to us, too. We are officially equipped and commissioned “to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). What if we do not do so, either because we are too passive or we are unaware of our God-given ability? Then some things we wish God would do will be left undone because we who were appointed to do them are neglecting them- healing included. That is not to say that we are to blame when something terrible happens. It is just to say that there is more power available to us than we have yet accessed. And the inner conflict we experience when someone is suffering- the feeling that “This is not the way it’s supposed to be”- is probably right.

Here is another thing I find in scripture, and of this I am increasingly sure: God supplies power to us, but without faith we cannot benefit from it. The people of Jesus’ hometown saw very few miracles even while Jesus walked among them; “He was amazed at their lack of faith”. (Mark 6:6) And the disciples failed to drive out a demon in a little boy because they had “so little faith” (Matt 17:20).

This very same lack of faith may be what exposes us to illness when we ought to be well. We are told to “take up the shield of faith with which [we] can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16) We have access to a strong defense, but we must take it up in our hands in order to be protected. In this same passage, the word of God is described as the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17). In order to fight a spiritual battle we need more than casual familiarity with the scriptures. We need to be ready to wield them! But our confidence should not be based on our own spiritual knowledge or even our own faith, but on God’s faithfulness. I don’t know about you, but I have seen God answer many of my prayers, and not once do I remember praying with a perfect faith. I guess I just gave God what I had and He made up for what I lacked. He is faithful because He loves us, not because we perform well in prayer. All that is required of us is to seek Him, to remain in Him, and to learn from Him. “Have no fear. . . for the Lord will be your confidence” (Prov. 3:25-26)! And only with confidence in Him can we participate in the supernatural will of God.

As I have come to realize the power God is offering to his children for healing, the power that He is not withholding, it causes my spirit to embrace these promises in scripture. His words are my life-saver, not just for the afterlife, but for today. Isaiah teaches us that after Christ’s sacrifice, “the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). The will of the Lord has always prospered in Heaven, a place where sickness and sorrow are foreign. And now Jesus has established the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. So, Heaven is not just something we wait for, it is something we can already be living out. And it is not just a faraway place, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21). Now I know that when I call for healing, I am really praying “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” And “this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)


By: Cynthia Butler (Spring of 2008)

A year or two ago, I held an all night prayer vigil to request healing for my chronic jaw problems. It was a difficult night, and my prayers were more depressing than hopeful. In retrospect, I think my attitude reflected an immature faith. I tried to believe that God was answering my prayer, but in reality I felt that all my efforts were in vain. As far as I could see I was missing a good night’s sleep for nothing. This was only one of the ways I was attempting to achieve miracle-working faith through discipline during that stage of my life. I am sure there is spiritual value in discipline, but something was missing in my efforts. I thought about Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” But I felt no rest in my Christianity at that time. Instead, I felt oppressed by my self-inflicted regiment of personal sacraments. And every extra effort I put forth in prayer seemed like nothing more than a song and dance to get God’s attention. Maybe I even resented it. After all, why would a God who already knows our thoughts need us to repeat our requests over and over again.

So at some point my focus changed. I no longer wanted to pray or fast because it was on my calendar. I wanted these things to be a natural outpouring of my faith. The problem was, so often in the course of a busy life, I did not feel a desire to pray. It occurred to me that if this was going to work I would need to take full advantage of those rare moments when I was desperate for God or when something was heavy on my heart. So I began trying to respond to those inner stirrings by dropping everything and dropping to my knees. I’d be organizing or washing dishes or checking my e-mail when I would become deeply concerned about something or someone. I would leave what I was doing and go somewhere private to kneel and pray. After a while prayer started to feel less like a required burden and more like a welcomed haven.

In fact, I felt like I had come full circle when I recently held another prayer vigil; this time because of an immediate need that started with a phone call in the middle of the night. Instead of calling out to God through the night to try and get His attention, I felt that He was beside me; that I was on mission with Him. I realized that night that fasting (whether from food or sleep) is not just an academic exercise. It is a way that we can stay vigilant in our prayer. And we are willingly vigilant when we expect an answer.

I did receive my answer that very day with another phone call just after sunrise. I felt the joy of victory like the restfulness after a hard day’s work when you have accomplished what you set out to do. But more than that I felt thankful to God for the lesson He had taught me, knowing that He was and is leading me into greater understanding.

He Made a Choice

By: Cynthia Butler

Peter’s heart began to pound. A crowd was approaching, moving through the shadows. They were armed. They were coming for Jesus. Peter had been asleep only seconds before, although he and his companions were supposed to have been keeping watch. But Jesus’ voice had woken them: “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Even as He was speaking they could hear the sound of marching, the clinking of weapons. Startled, Peter’s weariness was replaced with panic or perhaps some misplaced heroism. He clutched the hilt of his sword and swung it through the air. It tore through flesh, severing a servant’s ear. “No more of this!” Jesus directed. He touched the servant and healed him. “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Peter was speechless; his sword motionless beside him. He had heard of the battles won by the great men of old like King David. Peter had been ready to fight for Jesus, even die defending him. He had not realized that Jesus intended to die for him.

As a boy he had heard the prophets being read in the synagogues. And now before his eyes Jesus was living out what they had predicted: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” But why did Jesus accept punishment as if he were guilty, as if he were a helpless victim? If He could call down angels to save him from his enemies why did he say nothing? Each Sabbath Jesus had worshiped side by side with his friends. They had sung Psalms together, words of security: “God is a shield for all who take refuge in Him”; words of glory: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame”; even words of invincibility: “If you make the Most High your dwelling then no harm will befall you, for He will command His angels to guard you”. Jesus’ disciples had seen God’s deliverance before. An angry crowd had wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy on more than one occasion, but he had slipped away unharmed. Certainly the angels were on their side, just as Jesus had said. But on this night their angelic defenders would not come, not because they could not or would not, but because Jesus did not call for them. Jesus was making a choice.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” They were not his to carry, but he made a choice. It may have seemed like his enemies had overpowered him or misfortune had overtaken him, but he could have been rid of it all in a moment. He needed only to summon the spiritual army that was poised and ready to protect him. But he made a choice. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

It was at that moment of sacrifice that the veil separating us from the presence of God was torn. And all the blessings that our creator had desired for us from the inception of humanity became accessible: every joy, every victory, every promise in scripture. The very verses that spoke safety to Jesus speak the same to us. Sin would have made us unworthy to claim such riches, but Jesus’ sacrifice has qualified us. We are crowned with glory and honor, accompanied by invisible bodyguards, and healed by the wounds of Christ. The guarantees given to Jesus were given to us as well, and even more, because He has fulfilled God’s word and added His own blessings to those that had already been given.

There is only one reason Jesus was not delivered from his oppression on the night of His crucifixion; he made a choice. Now it is our turn to make a choice. Will we continue to carry what Jesus has already taken from us: our sorrows, our guilt, our infirmities? Or will we let go of them, trading them for the wholeness and peace that Christ won for us? Will we passively accept the attack of the enemy, or will we remind him that though 1,000 may fall at our side, even 10,000 at our right hand no pestilence or plague or sword or snare is allowed come near us. Will we try to fight a physical battle as Peter did, trusting in our own efforts? Or will we call on our Father to fight for us, knowing that He already has an army prepared to come to our defense? If Jesus had the power to summon them and the same promises were given to us, then we have that power too. If He had a choice, then so do we.

From Matthew 26, Luke 22, John 18, Isaiah 53, Psalm 34:5, 91 and 18:30 (TLB, and NASB)

The Same Clay

By: Cynthia Butler

I know a man named Joe with a personality like no one else. He has friends wherever he goes (some real, some stuffed). He wears an inquisitive grin while delivering his signature greeting, “Are you happy?”. Joe likes to entertain his friends with feigned werewolf sightings and other comedic concoctions of his imagination. One time when we were driving Him home he had us laughing with some such stream of Joe jokes. As he waved good-bye and walked into his apartment, I exclaimed in between giggles, “Good job, God!” Joe is a work of art.

Joe has what would be considered a disability. Some tasks that are easy for many prove to be a mental challenge for Joe. (Incidentally, he could probably out-bench-press a lot of people with higher IQ scores, but that’s a different story). Was it God’s plan that Joe should be born with limitations? He is what he is. I find it hard to dissect in my mind what is Joe’s identity and what is his disability. Are conditions like Joe’s a product of a broken world or are they just a part of God’s creation? Compared to God, we are all disabled. I don’t know any person, for example, who is omniscient. We are each individually responsible for the gifts we are given without regard to what we may lack. And God reassures us that His “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) A person who is less equipped physically or mentally who relies on God fully is stronger than a highly gifted person who relies on his or her own power.

When God selected Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, Moses protested, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent. . . I am slow of speech”. But Moses’ impediment was no surprise to God. “Who gave man his mouth?” the Lord replied. “Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Even after Moses spoke to the Creator himself (the one who had made him the way he was), his lack of confidence caused him to doubt God’s calling on his life. If only he had been able to see in the beginning all that the Lord would one day accomplish through him, perhaps he would not have seen himself as disabled but as perfectly able to do what God had intended him to do.

It may seem unfair that God would purposefully create some people with less ability than others. Naturally, we question what we don’t understand. But, as the writer of Romans asks, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21). And indeed, we do all come from the same lump of clay, regardless of how we are crafted. We find our true value not by comparing ourselves to others but by fulfilling the purpose for which we were made.

If God includes disabilities in His perfect design, is it wrong to pray for “healing”? On the contrary; a prayer offered in faith and thankfulness is pleasing to God. Centuries ago, a little boy was born blind. Did he pray for God to grant him what he lacked? Finally, when he was a man, he encountered Jesus who did just that. Seeing the blind man, the Lord’s disciples asked why God had denied him sight. They thought it was punishment for sin, but Jesus told them instead, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) Then Jesus spit in the dirt making mud and put it in the man’s eyes. He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The blind man made his way to the water’s edge. As the mud washed away from his eyes, for the first time in his life he saw the light of the sun, the ripples in the pool, the leaves dangling on the tree limbs. From that point on he became a walking testimony of God’s power.

Some people, like the man in this Bible story, display the “work of God” by receiving a miracle; others display the “work of God” by enduring challenges with patience. Paul, the great evangelist, knew what it was like to live with a disability. He called it “a thorn in my flesh”. Although he never revealed what limitation he was given, Paul recounted in one of his letters how he came to have peace in the midst of this struggle. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,” he recalled. But the Lord said to Him instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-9). With God’s help, Paul learned how to be content in all circumstances.

Joe says that some people are poor sports; they cheat to win and grumble when they lose. But Jesus is not like that. Joe figures if Jesus was jousting with someone for hours on end He could take His opponent out in a second, but He wouldn’t do that. Jesus makes himself like us. That’s the kind of God we have, someone who identifies with our weakness; a God who elevates the humble, small, and weak; so that no one can boast in their own ability. A God who values us for who we are . . . inside.