Saturday, April 30, 2022

Water and Oil: Healing of Body and Spirit


Photo by Kui Doraku

Throughout Biblical history, and continuing to modern times, oil  heals and restores both body and spirit. Water and oil used together may have curative properties for our physical and spiritual well-being.

When we have a cold, for example, the healing powers of Mama’s chicken soup are legendary! Not only is the warm liquid a soothing source of fluids, but the oil in chicken fat is thought to loosen chest congestion. Aromatic oils released from oregano and other herbs in the soup also clear stuffiness and have antibacterial properties. And Mom’s special recipe, passed down through generations, prepared lovingly with hours of simmering on a hot stove, symbolizes her tender care that restores our tired, discouraged spirit when we’re feeling sick.

In the Bible, oil represents a rich source of physical and spiritual healing. The Good Samaritan dressed the wounds of the assault victim with oil as well as with wine (Luke 10:34), and Jesus’ disciples used anointing oils to heal the sick (Mark 6:13). James instructs those who are ill to be anointed with oil applied by the church elders (James 5:14).

When God judged the Israelites by sending the plague, Moses instructed Aaron to burn incense as an atonement for the people, and the plague was stayed, or contained (Numbers 16:46-48). Burning incense releases the aromatic, antibacterial oils into the air, which stopped transmission of the plague. Even today, aromatherapy with frankincense, cinnamon, and hyssop is used to prevent disease spread and bolster immunity, as well as to relieve various symptoms.

Moving beyond disease prevention and treatment, oil in Scripture also symbolizes health and an optimal state of well-being. Queen Esther and other women of the Bible anointed themselves with perfumed oils to purify themselves from their menses and to be pleasing to their husbands (Esther 2:12). The Song of Solomon describes the Beloved not only as a well of living waters, but also as a garden of exotic spices (Song of Solomon 4 :6-16).. Frankincense, cinnamon and other spices were often blended into ointment and were highly valued in Bible times to allure and heighten the senses (Proverbs 7:17; Revelation 18:13).

Men used oil on their head as part of their grooming and as a sign of good health, joy and blessing (Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 61:3) Yet during mourning, men would not anoint themselves with oil, to express their sad and downcast state (2 Samuel 14:2).  Even today, men as well as women use scented oils to make themselves more attractive.

The word of God to Jerusalem through His prophet Ezekiel was that He had washed away her bloody sins with water and anointed her with oil as His chosen nation (Ezekiel 16:9). For all who place their faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), He does the same – washing away our sins with His shed blood (Revelation 1:5), and anointing us with the Holy Spirit!

David praised the Good Shepherd not only for leading him beside still waters, but also for anointing his head with oil (Psalm 23). Praise God that He leads us to the still waters of peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and to the joy of His anointing as children of the King and joint heirs with Christ! (Romans 8:14-17)

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Spiritual Triathlon

Photo by Funk Dooby 2015

 A triathlon is an endurance race consisting of three consecutive events, usually swimming, cycling and running long distances. I have neither the inclination nor the stamina to participate in such an event, although I admire those who do!

While at our favorite beach getaway, though, I do enjoy my own kind of modified triathlon, first swimming alone in a refreshing outdoor pool surrounded by hibiscus, tall evergreens and palms and frequented by mourning doves, butterflies and a pair of osprey tending to their nest atop one of the Norfolk Island pines.

Then I join my husband for a long walk on the beach, searching for special treasures and enjoying the antics of sea birds frolicking at the water’s edge, a squadron of pelicans flying overhead, and even dolphins surfacing and diving not far from shore. In the afternoon, we often cycle through charming beach neighborhoods and have to pedal hard to make it up the steep bridges connecting the barrier islands!

These consecutive forms of exercise got me thinking about analogies in our spiritual life. The apostle Paul told Timothy that physical exercise profits us a little, but that flexing our spiritual muscles is far more important, for godliness is profitable for all things, in this world and the next (1 Timothy 4:8). Yet physical exertion has its place. Paul and other occupants of a ship sailing to Italy were saved from drowning and shipwreck by swimming to shore (Acts 27: 41-44).

Other mentions of swimming in Scripture are mostly metaphorical and refer to God’s infinite power. To accomplish His purposes, He can even make iron swim, or float on water (2 Kings 6:6). To save His people, He will spread forth his hands in the midst of their enemies as a swimmer spreads his hands to swim, conquering pagan nations (Isaiah 25:11-12), and He will fill rivers where His enemies once swam with their own blood (Ezekiel 32:5-6).

New Jerusalem, our heavenly home, will be supplied by a river of blessing so deep that we will be completely submerged in it and will swim through it to fully experience its goodness and provision! (Ezekiel 47:1-5). These living waters (Zechariah 14:8) constitute the pure river of water of life gracing the Heavenly City (Revelation 22:1-2). Jesus Christ Himself is the Living Water (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13), which He freely gives those who believe in Him (John 4:10).

Water baptism (Acts 8:36-39) does not save us (Mark 16:16; John 3:18), but it is a glorious picture of our faith, by which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When we are submerged beneath the water, we depict the burial of Jesus Christ, and dying to our sin nature, to be raised to new life in Him! (Romans 6:4). Once we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, living water flows from us to nourish others (John 7:38). What a transformation from the sorrow we experienced when we had no hope, expressed by the psalmist David as swimming in his bed overflowing with tears! (Psalm 6:6).

Running is a key component of most triathlons, but even the most hardened runners must sometimes walk to recover between sprints. Scripture tells us that we should walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), walk in light (Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:7), and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25). Not coincidentally, God is love (1 John 4:8), God is light (1 John 1:5), and God is a Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Our Christian walk refers to our thoughts, lifestyle and behavior. Although we are saved by faith and not by works (Galatians 2:16), we are Christ’s workmanship, saved to do good works ordained by Him since before time to glorify Him and benefit others (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8; James 2:14-26).

If we bring our sin nature under subjection, we can run with patience the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1) until we cross the finish line entering Heaven! Paul encourages us to be inspired by athletes who run for an earthly, temporal prize, yet to realize that the race we run is of far more significance (1 Corinthians 9:24), and that its rewards are eternal!

Cycling was not a thing in Bible times, but we could substitute fighting in this analogy of a spiritual triathlon, not in the sense of brawling or contention, but rather of being a warrior in God’s army. The patriarch Jacob fought so earnestly in prayer that he wrestled all night with God Himself, until God agreed to give him a great blessing (Genesis 32:24-30).

Like any good soldier, we must endure hardness (2 Timothy 2:3-4), obey our Commander (John 14:15,21), and fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). In spiritual warfare, God gives us His armor of protection (Ephesians 6:10-18), He is the Victor (1 Corinthians 15:57), and in Him we must prevail! 

© 2022 Laurie Collett


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Backward to Forward, Down to Up: Even Jesus Descended to Ascend


Our Christian life is not static, but marked by ups and downs, often seeming like three steps backward for every two steps forward. But God allows and uses these setbacks for our instruction, growth, and ultimate spiritual victory.

In the Psalms, David not only thanked God for lifting him from the deep pit of his sin and despair (Psalm 9:15; 28:1; 30:3; 40:2), but further prophesied that even Jesus Himself would descend to the depths of hell, where God the Father would not allow Him to be corrupted (Psalms 16:10). Several of the ages, dispensations or pivot points of Biblical history are marked by the movement of Jesus downward to once again ascend upward.

In contrast, the path of Satan is always relentlessly downward. God created him as Lucifer, the most beautiful, wise and talented angel of light, the covering angel protecting God’s throne. But he fell to the sin of pride, wanting to exalt himself above God’s throne and Name, so God cast him out of His third Heaven to the skies and earth below, from there to be brought down to hell (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:13-19).

Lucifer thus became Satan, prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and temporary ruler of this world (Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 4:4). After the revelation and second coming of Jesus Christ, Satan will be defeated at the battle of Armageddon and chained in the bottomless pit, under the earth, for one thousand years. Although he will be let loose briefly at the conclusion of the Millennial Kingdom, his ultimate destiny is the even lower depths of the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-3,10).

Satan, as a created being, must answer to God despite his rebellion, whereas Jesus is Himself God and Creator. Christ willingly left His heavenly throne to descend to earth in human form (John 1:1,14), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the lowliest of circumstances (Luke 2:7), born to die as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Hebrews 10:1-14), and to rise again so that all who trust Him will have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

Once Jesus had given up the ghost on Calvary’s cross, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy recorded by David in the Psalms by descending into the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40), or Hades, which at that time was divided into two compartments separated by an impenetrable barrier (Luke 16:19-31). Hell was the compartment designed for the devil and his angels, and the place of eternal torment for those who were doomed because they did not believe and trust God.

The other compartment, known as Paradise (Luke 16:19-31), which means garden of God, or Abraham’s bosom, was a place of peace, joy and comfort for those who were saved by faith. The thief on the cross who called Jesus Lord and asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom thus proved his submission to Christ and His faith that He was indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus answered him, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

After the death of their bodies, the soul and spirit of Jesus and of that thief then descended into Paradise. There Jesus gathered all the saved souls and elevated them with Him to the third heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10), which is now the abode of Paradise and of the souls of those who go home to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

On the third day after His physical death, Jesus descended from Heaven to earth, then in His glorified body of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39), that had a visible (John 20:14), tangible, recognizable form; that could eat; and that could pass through walls (Luke 24:36-43).

Forty days later, after numerous appearances to His disciples and to other witnesses (Acts 1:3), He rose upward into Heaven, where He is now at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19-20; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; etc.). There He acts as our intercessor in prayer to the Father (Romans 8:34) and our advocate defending us from Satan’s accusations (1 John 2:1; Revelation 12:10).

Praise God, one day Jesus Christ will descend part of the way to earth, at the same time catching up all those who died in Him and all those believers who still remain alive, to meet with Him in the air! We will then all be in our glorified bodies and live with Him forever! (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

After the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) in Heaven, we will descend to earth as His armies, when He appears in the clouds in power and glory and descends to conquer death, sin and Satan (1 Corinthians 15: 24-28) with the Word of His mouth!

After renovation of the heavens and earth by fire (2 Peter 3:10), the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, will descend from Heaven like a radiant bride prepared for her Husband (Revelation 3:12; 21:2), Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, where we will rule and reign forever with Him!  

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Triplets of Mary’s Witness: Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ministry


Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we know that our eternal destination is in Heaven (John 14:2-3). As we proceed in our Christian walk (Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:8), our direction is more important than our current location. God is less concerned with what we did yesterday, whether good or bad (Psalm 103:12), and more interested in whether we are moving closer to Him today, growing in faith, and becoming more conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).

Mary, mother of Jesus, is a wonderful example of someone who believed with childlike faith (Matthew 18:3-4), fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7), and finished strong in the victory only Christ can give (1 Corinthians 15:57). She suffered as she witnessed His crucifixion; she rejoiced in seeing the evidence of His resurrection; and she obeyed God through her ongoing ministry of witness.

Mary submitted to God’s will for her life (Luke 1:38), followed His plan, and nurtured Jesus as His loving mother. God led her on this path through confirmations that she had understood His mission, encouraged her by bringing her joy in her Son’s miracles (John 2:1-11), and strengthened her faith by allowing her to endure trials.

All this had prepared her for the ultimate crisis, the worst nightmare any believer in Christ as the Messiah could face, yet especially cruel, terrifying and heart-wrenching for His mother. As Simeon had predicted when Jesus was still an infant, the same sword that would pierce Our Savior would pierce His mother’s soul also (Luke 2:34-35).

How could it be, that the King of Israel would be arrested, falsely accused, and unfairly condemned? How could the Anointed One be rejected by the people He came to save, sold into captivity by one of His own twelve apostles, and humiliated by all who passed by? How could God’s own Son be whipped, tortured, and allowed to suffer the excruciating punishment of the cross?

The twelve apostles had one another for moral support, yet they scattered like frightened sheep at the first sign of trouble. Judas had betrayed Him (Matthew 26:25; 27:3); Peter denied Him three times (Matthew 26:69-75); and only John remained at His side through His ordeal.

For all practical purposes, Mary had no male family support to sustain her through this trial. She had evidently been widowed, for the last that Scripture mentions Joseph is when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). When Jesus preached in His own country, those who belittled Him did not mention Joseph by name, but mocked Jesus for being just a common carpenter; with Mary as His mother, and four brothers (Mark 6:3).

In a similar passage in Matthew, Jesus responds that a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and his own house (Matthew 13: 53-58). We know that Joseph would have loved, honored and respected Jesus to the death, so the implication is that Joseph had already died and that the half-brothers of Jesus did not believe He was the Son of God.

So Mary faced the ordeal of Christ’s crucifixion without comfort from the other men in her family, yet she was not alone. God surrounded her with the women who had followed Jesus (John 19:25), with the apostle John whom Jesus had appointed to act as her son (John 19:26-27), and with His own guiding hand, for He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5).

Mary’s three female companions sharing her grief as she stood by the cross were her sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25), all of whom loved, obeyed and worshipped Jesus. This was Mary’s darkest hour, yet what an amazing consolation it must have been to hear her Son’s tender expression of love.

In the midst of His own immeasurable agony, Jesus saw Mary’s need, answered it by offering John, the disciple whom He loved, to be her son, and ensured her future protection by commanding John to care for Mary as his own mother. John obeyed immediately and completely by taking Mary into his own home from that same hour (John 19:26-27).

At the cross, Mary was an eyewitness of our Savior’s suffering, His love, and His power. As He cried out with His dying breath, the temple curtain tore apart from top to bottom, signifying that man could now boldly approach the Holy of Holies in Heaven (Hebrews 4:16); the earth heaved in a great quake, and the rocks split apart (Matthew 27: 50-51).

Even more miraculous than this display of God’s command over nature was His power over death and salvation of the souls of sinful men. The graves opened, bodies of the faithful saints arose, and they appeared to many in Jerusalem (Matthew 27: 52-53).

All of this led the Roman centurion and his fellow soldiers, Gentiles who within the preceding hours had mocked Jesus, gambled for His coat, and pierced His side, to be saved, fearing God and confessing that truly Jesus was the Son of God! (Matthew 27: 54).

Three groups of women witnessed all these events: Mary herself, who had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus entrusted her to John; a group of women afar off who had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to Him; and three specific women mentioned by name (Matthew 27: 55-56; Mark 15:40-41). Matthew singled out Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matthew 27: 56), and Mark refers to these as Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40).

But the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus were only the beginning of Mary’s triplets of witness. Her sorrow at His death paved the way for her joy in His resurrection and her endurance to continue her ministry of witnessing to others. May we follow her example!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Ordinary Things; Extraordinary Purpose


When I was in college, decades before I was saved, I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway. Even then I was struck by the contrast of the meek, humble Jesus, washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:5), as portrayed in the Bible stories I had learned in Sunday School, and the rock star idol on the fast track to fame, as depicted opulently in the bright lights and glitter of the stage production.

The unfortunate trend to glamorize and sensationalize Christ, as if His Truth were not enough, is prevalent today in some churches. In theme parks such as The Holy Land Experience under former management, glittering gold, purple velvet, jewel-encrusted thrones, and lavishly produced but cheesy musicals sadly replaced Biblical accuracy and Scripture-based singing. But God came to us in the flesh not in a royal bassinet lined with silk and linen, but in a feeding trough filled with scratchy, dirty hay (Luke 2:7,12,16).

Just as God uses foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27; 3:17-19), He uses ordinary things to accomplish the extraordinary. Aaron’s walking stick became a serpent as a sign of God’s great power (Exodus 7:9,10,12); and a burning bush in the wilderness was not consumed but revealed God’s presence to Moses (Exodus 3:2).

In Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (Matthew. 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12: 12-19), He used an ass and colt for the most significant journey in history, and others used clothes and branches to worship Jesus as the King.

Even by contemporaneous standards, Christ’s approach to Jerusalem was more in keeping with His humble and modest impoverished lifestyle as an itinerant preacher (Matthew 8:20), rather than with the pomp and circumstance expected for a celebrated ruler or warrior. He rode on an ass and colt, procured by His foreknowledge and the disciples’ obedience to His seemingly strange command as to where to find and how to acquire them

It makes me wonder how many times we miss out on the blessing of being part of God’s plan because we don’t understand the logic of what He is asking and therefore disobey, rather than simply trusting that He knows best (Isaiah 55:8). If Joshua and his army had recoiled at the idea of defeating Jericho by circling it seven times while blowing their trumpets (Joshua 6:1-16), or if Naaman had not finally humbled himself by bathing seven times in the dirty Jordan River to be cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14), their human “wisdom” would have kept them from tremendous blessings.

God’s plan will be done, regardless of our participation, but believers will suffer loss of rewards when we face Christ at the judgment seat and realize that we failed to enter the doors He opened (1 Corinthians 3:15). In contrast to their overall reluctance to accept what Jesus was telling them about His upcoming betrayal, arrest, false trials, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the disciples appeared to show unquestioning obedience and unity of purpose in fulfilling the mission of finding the ass and colt their Lord needed.

In some of today’s churches, there would first have to be an explanation, a committee presenting a proposal, a vote on whether to go, a vote on who would navigate, who would get the ass, who would get the colt, who would answer if they were asked why, who would pack refreshments for the trip, etc., etc. By then, the resurrection, much less the triumphal entry, would have long since been accomplished. But the disciples just immediately went and did as Jesus commanded them (Matthew. 21:6-7).

The disciples’ faith was rewarded as Jesus proved Himself faithful. They found the ass and colt where He said they would, and He had told them what to say to the animals’ owner so that they would not have to steal. We should trust and obey God, knowing that He will never put us in a compromising situation that would go against His will and His commandments, and that we will be rewarded for our obedience, if not in this world, than in the next. No doubt the owner also received a blessing by providing what the Lord needed.

Christ’s followers, thinking He was now ushering in the promised Kingdom, may have thought it would have been more regal for Him to enter on a procession of camels or even elephants in noble trappings, but that would not have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that the King of the Jews would enter Jerusalem on an ass and a colt (Zechariah 9:9). Similarly, Solomon rode on David’s mule when he was to become king in his father’s place (1 Kings 1:33).

As today’s society worships pop idols of the entertainment industry, or even honors dignitaries visiting on foreign soil, we “roll out the red carpet” so that they need not place their feet where we ordinary mortals walk. As a bride goes down the aisle, she may have not only a carpet, but her path may be strewn with flower petals.

Jesus lacked such an opulent display, yet the path He rode was far more meaningful, as His followers took the very clothes off their backs to pave the way. Garments in that day were not plentiful and cheaply made as many are now. His disciples in particular did not have any extra clothes with them (Luke 9:3). Clothes were not only expensive and made to endure many years of hard wear, but they were necessary for survival in the brutal desert sun and cold of night.

I believe that those who laid their coats in Jesus’ path made a considerable sacrifice to honor their King, as these would not have been useable after being laid in dusty streets and trod upon by a donkey, colt and the crowds following. God took ordinary, readily available, yet essential belongings and transformed them into symbols of their admiration and worship of Christ. If we freely give back to Him what He gave us in the first place, He will use our gifts mightily for our good and His glory, as He did in the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:14-21).

As Jesus passed by, the crowd worshipped Him not with silk banners and trumpets, but by crying "Hosanna" and waving branches they cut from the neighboring trees. John tells us that these were palm branches (John 12:13), and this is the only reference to palm trees in the Gospels.

In contrast to His first entry into Jerusalem on the ass and colt, Christ will enter in glory on the Warrior’s great white horse when He comes again to judge and defeat Israel’s enemies (Revelation 19:11). The redeemed of all nations -- those who have trusted Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and the only Way to Heaven -- will again worship Him with palms in their hands (Revelation 7:9).

Those branches remind me that we are fruitful branches only as long as we abide in Him, the True Vine, without Whom we can do nothing (John 15:5). Sadly, these palm branches, hastily torn from the trees nearby, no doubt withered and dried as quickly as the crowd’s ardor for their King. A few days later, His people would no longer honor Him, but would instead cry out for His crucifixion (Mark 15:13-14).  

Although these Jews were His chosen people and in a perfect position to be nourished by Christ, they ultimately did not accept Jesus as their Messiah and cut themselves off from Him. Praise God that He gave the Gentiles, people of all other nations, the opportunity to be grafted in as wild branches of the olive tree, representing Christ and His Kingdom!  (Romans 11: 15-25). 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives