Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lord, Make Me More Blind, Deaf and Dumb

I'm sure you've seen these little guys umpteen times before, but this visual came to mind during a lesson about the man born blind in John 9.

It occurred to me we all are born blind, dumb and deaf to the Truth. Our spiritual eyes, ears, and mouths are dead at birth, so it's easy in our deadness to see evil, speak evil and hear evil when the loudest voice in the room is the prince of the air (Satan).


As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts (Ephesians 2:1-3a NIV)

We have no trouble seeing, speaking and hearing what the world wants us to when we are blind, deaf, and mute to spiritual truth.

On an ordinary day, a man born blind encountered Jesus as he went about his life as usual - sitting and begging outside the temple. Because Jesus is all-knowing, he knew this man wanted to see. Until Jesus placed the mud mixed with His spit on the blind eyes of the lifetime beggar, he lived in utter darkness. Until the Creator gave him his sight, creating brand new eyes formed from the dust of the ground, this lonely man couldn't see Truth, speak Truth, or hear Truth. Even those in the synagogue had cast him aside because they believed his own sin or the sin of his parents was the cause of his affliction.

This is when I realized something else.

Before the man could see, Jesus had to cover up his blindness to keep him from seeing as the world had always told him he should see. Jesus covered up what the world had been telling him all of his life so he could only focus his attention on what God was saying to him in this powerful moment.

Jesus covered his blindness to blind him to the distractions of the world so he could give glory to the Creator of the world with new eyes.

Before the man could be healed, he had to be obedient to the words Christ spoke after covering his blindness with mud. "Go and wash in the pool of Siloam."

Why didn't Jesus just heal his eyes right there on the spot?

Why did He send him to wash in the pool?

Both questions have extensive answers, and those will have to wait for another time. But ultimately, I believe both answers have to do with obedience. The blind man wanted to be healed so he did what was asked of him. He acted on his newfound hope and faith. 

  • By faith he did what Christ asked of him.
  • By faith he believed he would be healed.
And, by faith he was healed physically and spiritually. 

Can't you hear him shouting, "I was blind, but now I see!"(John 9:25)


It became so clear to me that before the scales can fall off, we must desire to see Truth. God then muddies up our eyes, blinding us to the distractions of the world, to see Him, hear Him, and speak truth with assurance, clarity, and boldness.

Another man who could see quite well had a "blind" encounter of a different kind with Jesus after the Resurrection. This man's name was Saul, later changed to Paul. (To read the whole account, see Acts 9:1-31) On his journey to Damascus, Saul was seeking ways to murder Christ's disciples and others who were following the Way. As Saul was seeking evidence against believers, Jesus would be presenting evidence to reveal the real Truth. So, on the road to Damascus, Christ chose to blind Saul to get his undivided attention to hear the evidence. The Truth. He didn't use mud this time, but He did muddy up Saul's vision with the Light of the World, on purpose and for an extraordinary purpose.

Paul's physical eyes would be healed, but only if he chose to act in faith by going to Ananias' home. [And] immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. (v.18)

The result? With eyes wide open, Paul began to preach Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, fearlessly! 

Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. (v. 23)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. 
(v. 31)

Do you see the parallel with these two stories? How does your life parallel with these guys?

Do you see God's purpose unfolding? How is His purpose unfolding through your story?

Neither could speak truth, see truth or hear truth until they encountered the Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Until the Lord blinds us from our worldly blindness we are unable to fulfill our purpose in the Kingdom. Through the Spirit's blinding power, Jesus calls us to our purpose; to further His glorious Kingdom by hearing Truth, seeing Truth, and speaking fearlessly the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Paul's purpose is still proving that Jesus is the Christ today through the power of the Word of God.

The formerly blind-from-birth beggar's story is still fulfilling God's purpose through the power of God's Word as more and more people are called to shout, "I was blind but now I see!"

Oh God, how I want to live out the purpose You have called me to. Protect my senses from the world's distractions. Deafen my ears to hear only Your voice, blind my eyes to see only Your face, and allow my mouth to speak only Your truth. May Your greatness be proclaimed through the story You are writing with my life from now until forevermore. Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

God is Working All Things for Good...Really?

How can a good God allow all this bad stuff to happen? 

Why are people suffering if God is love?

Everyday, bad things occur. We see it in the lives of family. We see it in the lives of people we come in contact with at work, school, recreation. We see bad stuff happening all around the world. For centuries, people have asked these same questions, especially when chaotic circumstances have encroached on their personal space.

Why is God letting this happen to me?

When Evil rears its ugly head, it seems as though the first one blamed is the good God who isn't supposed to "let" anything bad happen.

But, when good happens in the world, humans jump to take the credit and the good God conversation is no where to be found.

In seeking to make sense of what doesn't, I've learned to go the source of truth, Jesus Christ, and ask for clarity to understand what His word says about such things. In studying the Bible, I've learned to search for details, things I may have missed before and examine original meanings of the text in the Greek or Hebrew. In doing so, we get a better understanding of what God is saying to us.

According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek word for good is agathos.

Definition: intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it be seen to be so or not.

God's nature, the essence of His being, is good

Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8 NIV). 

Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (ESV).

In my experience, when Romans 8:28 is quoted, it's often summarized to say, "God works all things together for good." 

Really? Is that what it really says? 

This verse has been used to explain God's goodness in dire situations, but I rarely hear anyone emphasize the key words in the verse - for those who love the Lord.

God is working all things for good, but for the good of those who love the Lord, for those called according to His purpose. If someone doesn't love the Lord, we cannot with a straight face tell them things are working for their good because it's just. not. true. In fact, for those who have yet to receive, or have refused to believe the Truth, Scripture tells us things are not working out so good for them.

For whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:18 NIV).

God is just. (2 Thessalonians 2:6)

All this is evidence that God's judgement is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just; He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10a NIV, emphasis mine).

Scripture is perfectly clear. God is working all things for the good of His glory (Jesus Christ) and The Church - The Bride of Christ - those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose. 

God is love. (1 John 4:8, John 3:16)

God is also long-suffering (extremely patient). By His Spirit, He draws to Himself those who have yet to believe through the evidence of our lives, and until He returns, He will continue to woo them so He can work all things together for their good as well.

The Lord is not slow about His promise (His return), as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 NASB, emphasis mine).

This is why I am so passionate about a real, living faith, sweet friends. Our faith reveals our love for the Lord. Our faith dictates how we respond to what life throws at us, not only in times of prosperity, but also in times of desperation, trial, temptation, and even terror.

As the evil acts unfolded from the weekend on the news, a gentleman working on our home renovations began to share his Armenian great-grandmother's story of terror and slaughter during the Armenian Genocide during and after WWI. He knows first hand about what the Koran teaches and about the Caliphate they are seeking. His great-grandmother and her family were taken from their homes, lined up on their knees (just like what we have witnessed through horrific terrorist videos) and asked if they were Muslim. She was a Christian, a Believer in Jesus Christ. Holding onto her Bible, she watched as the radical Islamists beheaded her family one by one. Then, they did the same to her.

So how can we say God is working all things together for their good, for those who love the Lord?

With full assurance we can say so, because our Lord promised that where He is we will be also (John 14:1-6), and there's nothing "more good" than to live in the glorious presence of the King of kings for all eternity.

Do we have that kind of faith? A faith so woven into the fiber of our being that we're willing to die for the Author of our faith?

Oh, I hope so, because that kind of faith can change the world!

Faith in God is believing in what's unseen and still trusting Him to work all things together (the good, the bad and the ugly) for our best interest and His glory.

How about you? Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't mean if you believe He was a real person who walked the earth or not. I mean, is He Lord of your soul, your life, your all? If not, He wants to be. He wants to begin a relationship with you today if you're willing to turn away from your own way and trust Him with your life. And yes, even with the hard stuff.

If you are a Believer, the next time someone asks you a 'blame-it-on-the-good-God' question, how will you answer them? I pray with love, grace and extreme patience.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

~ To read stories of real people living out real faith in real life, check out livingrealmag.com








Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Perfect Husband

I don't know of any woman who claims their husband is perfect (except me of course). Well, not really, but I would say he's close.

One of my husband's many nicknames he's acquired through the years is the human Quicker-Picker-Upper. Without fail, every time he walks in the house he starts picking up and putting away any and everything out of place. You may say, "Wow! I wish my husband was like that," but before you go craving the grass on the other side of the fence, it can be quite annoying. Especially if you were just about to get to it and he steps in and does it. It makes you feel like you've failed him somehow.

I know. Weirdness, but true.

When we were dating, we would go to his house between college classes (which is now our home) and make sandwiches. Before I could even finish making mine, he had put all of the condiments back in the refrigerator. Who does that?

I tease him often by calling the paper towel his security blanket because he loves to wipe down the counters. Even if I've already wiped them down, he comes behind me and wipes them again. He seems to always have one in his hand or in his pocket. The worst is finding them torn to shreds in the washing machine because he left it in his pocket.

I told you, it can get quite annoying.

Through the years though, I've learned this is his love language and not just an obsession with "everything has its place." He loves me by helping me and being intentionally involved in household chores. He has a true servant's heart, a very rare quality these days. I've even had friends ask him to teach "How To Be a Good Husband" classes.

Well, as perfect as my husband sounds, he's not. He's human. Born with a sin nature, he battles the flesh like the rest of us. No one is perfect. Only Jesus.

The Perfect Husband:

  • loves His Bride deeper than any human can ever love
  • is always faithful to Her
  • layed down His life for Her
  • honors Her
  • is patient with Her
  • keeps His promises
  • protects Her
  • provides for Her
  • satisfies Her every need

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I just started facilitating the Book of Hosea for our small group Bible study. It is so full of the heart of our true Husband, Jesus Christ. A heart devoted to His chosen even when she strays. A heart that's faithful even when she's not. A heart that woos her back to Himself time after time when she sins because He loves her deeply. He knows she's safe with Him and finds true satisfaction in Him alone. 

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD (Hosea 2:19-20 ESV).

The beauty of Hosea and Gomer's love story is also God telling His own love story with His chosen -you and me. As we study this intriguing book we will watch His story of Redemption, Love, Forgiveness, and Grace, as well as see the harsh truth about consequences when we turn our affections away from Him. I'm so excited to dig deeper into this amazing picture of God's heart.


Fabulous but flawed, I love my husband. God has blessed us and taught us so much through our 31 years of marriage. I'm forever grateful for how God designed him and chose him for me - to love me with a heart like Christ's - as Christ loves the Church, willing to lay down His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Loving and serving my husband is my pleasure, but loving and serving my Perfect Husband is my Pleasure Forevermore.

My Pleasure,
Melanie