RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS AND HOLINESS

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What does rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have to do with holiness? RA is an auto-immune disease that we inflict on ourselves over time. It is occasioned by sustained high levels of inflammation due largely to diet and stress. I have RA: stage four, severe. I first became aware of it nearly six years ago. I didn’t know I had RA, but I knew I had a problem. My finger and wrist joints were hot and puffy with increasing discomfort. The doctor (GP) referred me to the specialist, a rheumatologist. Blood tests confirmed it. I had RA. I asked if it could be healed. The answer: “No.” Could it be arrested? Again, “No.” Slowed down? “Maybe.” Well then, what’s the long-range prognosis? He said, “You will be in pain everywhere, all the time.” That was grim! It didn’t take long for the prognosis to come true. Within two years I was in pain in every joint of my body all the time and functionally crippled. The alternative care of a naturopathic physician helped to a degree, but I remained in decline. I retired from my forty year career and returned to the States.

With time life got better. I had earlier obtained a second opinion and treatment plan from a world-class rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Eventually I connected with a first rate rheumatologist at the Lexington (Ky) Clinic with a similar plan.  Under his care for the past two years, I am now nearly without pain, highly mobile, active, and blessed. The prayers of friends have been an important part of a rather remarkable recovery. However, continuing health and wellness is contingent on obedience. I’ve got to be obedient to the medical treatment and take my meds on schedule. I must avoid particular foods that set off inflammation (gluten and cow dairy food products and sugar in the form of carbohydrates and in pure form). Inflammation is the culprit. It is where the RA began and built up over years of a high sugar, high carb diet, and a high stress occupation.

When I disobey my medical and dietary requirements, I get in trouble. Pain jumps up and bites. That’s where RA and holiness connect, around the idea of obedience and wellbeing. When I go off my routine of being in the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, worship, loving others in practical ways, and other means of remaining in the presence of God, I struggle with my faith. I am vulnerable to temptation. My faith begins to dissipate. I become self-centered, narcissistic, and not much fun to be with. When faithful to what is physically and spiritually required, I thrive. I experience an amazing quality of life.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have abundant life.” (John 10:10) He also said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5) So, an abundant life is contingent on disciplined obedience, doing what is required and necessary for health, wholeness, and holiness. The way of holiness is God’s abundant life intended for every believer. It is life in his presence and filled by his presence. It is the fruit of the Spirit in the likeness of Christ, the restoration to his likeness. Jesus also said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15). Holiness is a matter not only of discipline, but of devotion in love of God, neighbor and self. Thanks be to God for grace, his amazing grace both full and free!

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REST UNDER GOD’S TENT

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2 Corinthians 12:7-9

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. I pleaded three times with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The Apostle Paul had much to boast about. He had a remarkable life of privilege and achievement. He was highly educated, a citizen of Rome, and an acknowledged leader. He had an abundance of reasons have a high opinion of himself, to be conceited, puffed up and full of self-admiration. Still his apparent success was in the face of tremendous challenges and opposition. If there were someone in his time that could tell a good story and brag about himself, it was Paul.   His life was so amazing that he had detractors, enemies, people who were jealous of him, hated him, and worked hard to pull him down. But God was at work shaping him into the likeness of Christ. And for his part, Paul remained open to the refining work of the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 we see the value of human weakness. It is a platform for divine strength and testimony. Glory to God! He  was more interested in Paul’s holiness than Paul’s comfort. Here Paul’s constant pain, his “thorn in the flesh” was necessary to protect him from pride. Paul’s testimony (v. 9) is this, “But he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 Focus on a word we might otherwise pass right over, “. . . so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” The little word rest is huge. In the original Greek, the word used is episkenose meaning to dwell. When the Bible uses the word, it conveys something more earthy.  It means “pitch his tent.” In other words, Paul says he will boast of his weakness more and more so that he may take strength by living where Christ pitches his tent, or to live under the cover of God’s tent. Read Psalm 91:1-2 & 9&10.

Paul knows that wherever he goes, in the context of his weaknesses, he can be transparent and take strength from the fact that he rests where God has pitched his tent. There he is under God’s cover in the intimacy of his presence. The good news is that we may rest there too. Thanks be to God!

PRAY ALWAYS AND LISTEN

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And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.                                    Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;                                                      for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                      1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Scriptures reminds us that we can pray anytime, anywhere.  When we remember God is with us, we can pray.  When we remember he is waiting to hear from us, we can pray.We can thank him remembering all the ways his grace has sustained us and blessed those we love, those for whom we pray, those who are discouraged, lonely, and in despair. We can thank and praise him for answered prayers in the past and by faith for what he is doing and will do in the future responding to our prayers.

He is our Savior, Lord, Prince of Peace, a Mighty God. We can pray prayers of thanks and praise for his unfathomable, indescribable, most reliable goodness and grace.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  As we pray we recognize his uplifting, healing, transforming hand at work throughout history.  He is steadfastly faithful.  His desire for us is to draw nearer and nearer to him until our prayers of petition turn to listening.  Then the breath of God breathes his Spirit into ours.  Prayer becomes God intimately letting us into his inner most circle.  The Trinity lets us in on the conversation.  Then prayer truly “availeth much” in holiness and righteousness pleasing to God.