All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

Let’s just ask

He asked for healing. Jesus did what he asked.

We forget the many accounts of Jesus and his actions in Matthew. (Or maybe you haven’t read them yet.) Go to Matthew 8.

Two in a row – first there’s a guy with leprosy. He comes up and says to Jesus that if he’s willing, he can heal him and make him clean. They guy does not say, “Lord, if you want to, some time a few years down the road, you could slowly heal me.” He just comes right out and expects Jesus to heal him right then and there.

Then there’s the Roman centurion (a leader of 100 men). He knew about authority. He was used to asking for something to be done and it happened right away. He was smart enough to know that Jesus had the power to heal that servant without having to travel in the centurion’s chariot all the way to his home to do the healing. (Matthew didn’t write about that kind of miracle taking place before this one, so maybe the centurion had never heard of that happening.)

Jesus healed the servant right then. No delay. No travel needed.

We love to put conditions on what Jesus can do… “I have to be right first,” or “maybe it’s not the right time,” or “I don’t have enough faith.”

No. Jesus just healed when the people asked. And sometimes when they didn’t. Read on – later in the same chapter, Jesus commanded some demons to leave two men. Those guys definitely weren’t in a place of having all the boxes checked before they asked for healing. Jesus just did it.

So let’s strip away all our conditions and just ask Jesus to work. Today. Now.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Fresh beginnings

As we start a new year, it’s a perfect time to put the bad stuff behind us and start with a beautifully clean slate. There’s something magical about that new number at the end of every date.

Many of us will make resolutions about adding new exercise routines. Some will set out to quit a harmful habit. Others will determine to develop a fresh relationship.

Aiming for new heights of personal growth is an excellent way to start any new year. Having goals helps us achieve milestones – or simply move forward in a direction we should be going.

When we fail at our resolutions, it can be really frustrating. When those failures hurt us or others, it’s easy to beat ourselves up. An apology to the offended person may be in order – or taking action to make up for the wrong we did.

The one thing I take comfort in is that God always forgives us. All we need is to reach out and ask him for forgiveness. God has the ability to forget better than we can possibly imagine: “He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

It’s easy to hang onto guilt. For some reason, occasionally we love to wallow in our bad feelings. Maybe we feel that beating up ourselves for doing wrong somehow makes up for the bad.

It doesn’t.

Jesus took care of all our bad actions and thoughts when he died on the cross. Give the bad stuff back to him. He can handle it. “But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (1 John 1:9).

I’m resting in that comforting truth as I begin my new year.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Easy to forget

There was a constant low hum whenever I would fire up my old record player to spin some vinyl. It definitely took away the music’s beauty that was trying to escape from the record’s grooves.

I knew better. There’s a thing called grounding. I knew that if the record player wasn’t grounded, it would hum. But that fact got buried in the clutter of life. I took a few minutes to look at the back of the record player and couldn’t find where the grounding wire was supposed to plug in. So I gave up.

the grounding wire at the back of the turntableSeveral months later, I checked again. Buried under an overhanging part of the back of the record player was a little hole. I pushed the grounding wire in there, and voila, the hum disappeared.

How often I forget stuff I know. (How much easier life would be if I applied what I know!)

Here are a few concepts that I keep forgetting – any maybe you do too.

  • When I treat the people around me with love, they will often love me back. It’s way too easy to get into business mode and be short; gentleness works much better. Luke 6:31 – Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
  • Be thankful – and more than just on Thanksgiving. Don’t just be thankful – but share what I’m thankful about with others. Psalm 105:1 – Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.
  • Generosity doesn’t just benefit the person I’m giving to – it benefits me. 1 Timothy 6:18b-19a …be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age…

What are some things you keep forgetting?

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Babylon – and babies

Holding your own child for the first time is one of the greatest joys ever.

Seeing your grown child make a desperately bad choice is one of the most gut wrenching experiences on this planet. We can’t know what lies ahead. So depending on previous experiences – or our level of optimism – we can cling to hope or be driven to despair.

God made us and held us when we were born. He watches us make really bad choices. A huge difference between our parenting and God’s parenting is that He knows the end of our choices. So the depth of pain – or joy – He must feel has to be incredibly greater than what we feel. And he feels that millions of times over.

A super popular verse these days is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God spoke that to his servant Jeremiah when the Israelites were in exile – living in the land of people who defeated them in battle. They were not having a good time. They were definitely missing their favorite BBQ. And Babylonian guitars just didn’t sound quite right.

But God somehow knew that it was best for them to be in that foreign place. He didn’t send a FedEx overnight delivery with a plane ticket out of there. They had to wait for the right time to be restored to their home.

We don’t know when our pain will be done. Or how long our joy will last. God does. And we can rest in knowing He has a purpose for allowing what we’re going through.

Meanwhile, let’s learn to appreciate the sound of those Babylonian guitars.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Facing three mountains

I’ve been trying hard to figure out what to write about three mountains in front of me.

During the last week, three separate friends have asked me to pray for their challenging situations. Each faces a similar huge trial. I don’t want to describe the situations out of respect for their privacy. But suffice it to say that they are facing something where they feel out of their depth to even know where to start. Solving the problem is far from simple. The path to understanding is murky at best.

And I’m also totally out of my depth in trying to solve their problem. (One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that giving advice on something I’m ignorant about is like entering a dangerous field of land mines. If I were a lawyer, I’d start to think about liability issues if a friend took my advice and it blew up in their face.)

So it’s off to the prayer rug. I’ve been praying for God’s mercy and wisdom for my friends. For peace in the midst of waiting till things change – or understanding to know what to do if things don’t change.

Two of my favorite verses of all time are Philippians 4:6-7. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I’m praying for God’s peace to guard their hearts and their minds. And for that peace to be amazing as it settles in.

I rest in this: Matthew 19:26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.