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Christmas is in the air. Cookies are baking in the oven. Christmas trees are twinkling with lights and ornaments. A spirit of giving is palpable, and families are gathering together - some in small, nuclear groups and others virtually. It truly is a most wonderful time of the year and for Christ followers it is an even more special time to pause and reflect on the sheer awe and grandeur of the Gospel story. That is what I want to provide this week: an opportunity to reflect, via the Scriptures, on the ultimate gift of Christmas to refresh my heart, your heart, and to renew our passion to spread this good news of great joy to those in our clinic in the days and weeks ahead.
“ Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not here.” Isaiah 59:1-2,
“...but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ...Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ...having no hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:1-4,12
The Promise of Light and Life
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2,6
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9
“...An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and the shall call his name Immanuel.’” Matthew 1:20-23
The Fulfillment Bringing Joy
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:5,14
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24
“But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ - by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
Praise be to God for not letting us wallow in darkness forever but making a way of hope and salvation through the shed blood of Jesus, who came into the world on a loving rescue mission! This Christmas, when we think about baby Jesus, let’s proclaim like John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” There was eternity altering power laying in that manger in the little town of Bethlehem bringing hope to me, to you, to your patients, and to everyone. That is good news of great joy. That alone brings comfort and hope. Do you believe that?
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We’ve often heard that America is a great melting pot. In other words, America is a country with an amalgamation of different people groups, ethnicities, and heritages. This is one of the things that I love about our country. So many people from all over the world have come to this country for a myriad of reasons and because of that we have a diverse citizenry in every city.
Every city also has physical therapy clinics. Or, at least clinics close by that serve our country's diverse population. I’ve often been thinking about this reality in the context of mission trips and Covid-19. I mean, let’s be honest, most of us have not been able to travel to different countries around the world to minister and serve on medical mission teams. What are we to do if we have a heart for international missions? What can we do to serve internationally without leaving our city? Discover the melting pot in our own backyard.
The opportunities are boundless. I have friends in the Pittsburgh area that are missionaries to the expansive Middle Eastern population that has immigrated and settled in that area. Many of these people would be difficult to engage because of travel and governmental restrictions, but my friends are staying within our national border and literally reaching many Middle Eastern Muslims in their own city as full time missionaries without leaving their city limits. How cool is that!
Similarly, we can think about the diverse population that steps into our physical therapy clinics and workplaces. We may not be full time missionaries but we have an incredible opportunity to share the good news of Jesus to the many people who walk through our clinic doors, step into our rehab facilities, or are admitted to our hospitals. It reminds me very much of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
I know in my own clinic as I began to think about all the different countries from which my patients called home, I was quite surprised. My Jerusalem and Judea were quite diverse! I have treated patients from China, Morocco, Vietnam, India, Columbia, Germany, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Egypt, Haiti, Turkey, Malaysia, England, and Russia. I have been able to share God’s truth with many of them without ever leaving the office. But I also know that I can leverage this gift of international proximity even more purposefully. So how can we think internationally without leaving locally? Two quick ideas:
Search and Learn. Search for information about different people groups that might live in your area and begin to learn about their culture. Find out what ministries in your area might already be serving international citizens and volunteer your time to help and interact with these different people groups.
Pray. Pray that God brings some of these international people into your clinic and on your schedule. Use your clinic time to build a relationship with them that could carry over when your time with them in clinic is completed.
So, you want to reach the nations? Great! Let’s all start in our own backyard together making the most of every patient encounter.