Read an Excerpt
His Restoring Embrace
Don't get discouraged. I'm close to the brokenhearted,
and I specialize in rescuing you when you're crushed in spirit.
Your weakness is the perfect opportunity for my power to shine.
Meanwhile, I give you my all-sufficient grace.
Your God of Deliverance
from Psalm 34:18; 2 Corinthians 12:9
"Dear Lord, give me the grace to remember that you are ready to embrace me,
if I am willing to take one step toward you."
Somewhere along the way we've latched on to the idea thatbroken is bad. It probably started in our childhood when we gotthe glare for breaking Aunt Wilma's Waterford crystal orwhen the angry neighbor came over to ask if we knew about hisshattered living room window. Maybe it was reinforced when weheard a parent yell, "Do you have any idea how much that toycosts!" However it happened, we learned our lesson; brokenthings really bother and embarrass us. We wear hats on bad hairdays, hide broken fingernails, dump sour marriages, and avoidhospital visits. It's funny when you think about it.We're born into a cracked up, broken-down world. You'dthink we'd feel more at home in it. Jesus did. Of allpeople, you'd think he'd have a problem with anythingless than perfection. But Jesus seemed attracted to it! In fact,he made it pretty clear he hadn't come to visit the neatlyput together types. The sickly, unseemly ones drew his attention.Christ let everyone know what he thought of blind eyes and deafears andbroken hearts: They didn't repel him; theycompelled him. And two thousand years hasn't changed hismind about us. He'd still rather dine with the destitute,call on the crippled, and welcome the wayward. It's hard tocomprehend sometimes, isn't it?
We see the sorry, shattered pieces of our lives and concludewe're finished. The Savior sees them, solders the piecestogether, then stands back and lets the light of his glory streamthrough a brand-new stained-glass window. Don't be ashamedof your brokenness. It's fresh material for a masterpiece.Through your weakness God's strength is most brilliantlyseen.
Yes, I Mean You
She frightens little children. They run and hide or bury theirfaces in their mothers' skirts when they see her coming.Adults feel sorry for her, pitying the way she looks. As she goeson her way, they secretly hope what happened to her won'thappen to them.
The woman didn't always look this way. In her teens, shelaughed and lived like other young girls. She dreamed of marriageone day. She even collected linens and dishes from hergrandmother and stored them away, waiting for the right man tocome along. But he didn't get there in time. Instead of asuitor, a serious, disfiguring disease came knocking on her door.Within months it took up permanent residence in her body.
Though the doctors pronounced her incurable, she was young andhopeful. She searched for a treatment to reverse the painful,grotesque curvature of her back. But her efforts were futile.
The discomfort and embarrassment have been with her for eighteenyears.
"Why don't you come live with us?" her sister saysat least once a month. You can hardly reach into the cabinets.How long can you manage alone like this?"
"I do all right," the woman replies. "My gardenkeeps me busy. You'd be surprised how productive you can bewhen you don't have to stop and straighten your back everyfive minutes. Besides, you know the saying: The shepherd carriesthe crippled sheep on his shoulders. He looks after me."
Every week, without fail, the woman makes the long trek toworship. She shuffles her feet on the familiar route, hunchedover, clacking her cane on the cobblestones. Why is she sofaithful? She finds rest in the room and comfort in the words.The repetitive rhythms and ancient sounds soothe her soul. TheScriptures make her feel whole.
But today something peculiar is happening. The room is full,flowing over into the street. Buzzing through the crowd is newsthat a gifted teacher has come to read from the law and reasonfrom the prophets. He must be good, the woman thinks. Even a fewwell-known Gentiles have gathered to listen.
Her curiosity rises a bit but falls quickly as she realizes herusual seat might be taken.
"Make way here," she says, boldly swinging her stick."Let an old woman through." She pokes and jabs with hercane until a young man with a baby in his arms grudgingly stepsaside. One by one the group parts as if Moses himself hadcommanded it.
In her healthy days, the woman was average height. Now with herback bent over, she's almost the size of a child. In thecrammed space she looks like David in a land of Goliaths. Whenshe finally reaches her spot, it's taken. She'll haveto resort to leaning against a corner in the back of the room.She won't be able to see the teacher, but hearing him, shedecides, is better than nothing.
Looking between the heads of eager townsmen and past presidingelders, Jesus locks his gaze on the bent woman. He traces eachhalting step. He notes each wincing breath. And with the ultimateX-ray look, he determines which evil spirit is assigned to herbody.
His disciples know something's up. They've seen thislook in his eyes before. He's intent, focused, andapparently troubled. They can tell he's seen something inthe back of the room. A demon, maybe? They look and see ascrambling assortment of bodies. But Jesus sees only one. Itspain and disorder wound his heart, and mercy seeps from theSavior.
He takes a step forward. The disciples hush the crowd.
"Woman, come here," Jesus says gently. Every womanwithin earshot looks his way until all but one discovershe's calling someone else.
"I think he's talking to you," a young girl says,pulling on the woman's sleeve.
"Me?" the woman answers. "What would he want withme?"
Jesus stands alone at the front of the room, smiling. It'sthe kind of smile people use when they know a secret orthey're holding back a surprise. He stretches his arm out tothe woman with his palm turned up. Seeing her quizzical look hesays, "Yes, I mean you. Come here."
Heads turn and eyes fix on the deformed woman as she squeezesthrough the crowd once again. Maybe he'll pray for her, somethink. Maybe he'll give a special blessing for enduring sowell for so long.
"This is a break from our usual order. What does he thinkhe's doing?" one of the elders whispers.
The woman stands before Jesus, bent and baffled but obedient.She's not afraid. There's something familiar in theteacher's voice, something settling in his eyes. The roombecomes noiseless except for the whining of a child.
Then Jesus speaksnot a long lecture, not a fieryincantation. He speaks eight everyday words that, from the mouthof the Almighty, incite enough power to shake her world straight.With boldness he says, "Woman, you are free from yourinfirmity." And the Captain of the Lord's Host reachesout to touch her crooked frame and snap it to attention.
A gasp goes up from the crowd as a torch blows down her spine.The disciples blink, the elders gulp, a young girl screams, andthe woman jumps. In one split second her deformity is dismantled,demolished, disposed of. In the time it takes to catch yourbreath, the woman who had hung her head down for eighteen yearsis now free to lift it boldly toward heaven.
Just as her disease had come, so came her healing. She neverexpected it. She didn't even ask for it. But out ofcompassion, Christ offered and delivered it to her in person.
And he's still in the delivery business . . . worldwide.
A broken body and a shattered soul may be the last things we wantto be known for. But they're the first things that getGod's attention. When we can't stand up, we stand out.The Savior sees every mangled wreck we've made in our lives.He offers to use his "Jaws of Life" to cut away thedebris and lead us to a safe, secure place.
Rest assured, you've caught his eye. Be at peace.You've captured his heart. Even if you're sitting inthe back of the room, he sees you. And if you shush the racketinside you and ignore the enemy's distractions, right now,in this moment, you can hear him say, "Come here. Come tome. Yes, I mean you."
Let him carry you all the way home.
On Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and awoman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteenyears. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. WhenJesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her,"Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then heput his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up andpraised God.Luke 13:1013