“We had our eyes closed, even when we could see.”

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I enjoyed a decent movie on YouTube called The Day Of The Triffids. The last line jerked me back into present-time with this phrase: “We had our eyes closed, even when we could see.”

Jesus healed many people, but his qualifier was that those who needed healing must confess their need for it. Even the blind had to confess it. No one ever received healing without first confessing their need.

How many ways can I say it? Many “Positive Confessing” believers refuse their need to do just that. We have so many ways to have blindness or crippling, regardless how we color those needs. Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 10:32) This passage doesn’t qualify any type of need, so I take it with a broad stroke.

Confess your faults before God, and He who knows all will heal them.

Crash, But No Burn

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Details: After some abdominal surgery and I was ready to head home, I decided to get some exercise with quick walking through my hospital floor. Without realizing, my right foot tended to drag just slightly, catching that foot on the pavement and throwing me hard to the concrete.

My foot felt a bit wet, so I looked down to discover that my assumedly blue blood was crimson red, and lots of it. Within just a couple of seconds, many hands materialized to keep me still while analyzing my condition. With my bones apparently still in place, the medical folks hefted me from the floor and deposited me in a wheel chair.

After just a few more seconds they had me back in the hospital room and began sowing me back up. That began the most thorough testing I’ve ever seen. The first thing I noticed was my glasses’ left temple piece was flattened, preventing any good TV viewing. Next I discovered some internal brain bleeding, which is not a good thing. The news they gave me was I had better take no more falls, or that could kill me. Shortly thereafter I needed to go to the potty.

I awoke in bed after my unconscious crashing to the floor and bashing the bathroom door opened. At least that unintentional embarrassing movement failed to hurt my feelings. Then they had to code me. I didn’t even experience some white light upon entry to the nether world.

They questioned me about such complex issues like my name, which had temporally escaped my notice. Other amnesia-related questions such as my location and date were also beyond my grasp. I did, however, recognize my family, but without their names.

Things gradually came back to me. I still can’t remember the nursing home’s name or its location(mental block). But it does make sense hear it. The Thought Cops (mental therapist) practiced some of the most cruel exercises, like requiring the date and telling me what was on the pictures they showed me.

My driving was another issue. Until they decided I was in my right mind they refused to allow me to drive. And I don’t like cabs. After a couple months I now have permission to drive. What a wonderful convince.

Apparently my improvement will come slowly, and the experts tell me I’ll never get full recovery. People tell me that I’m so much better than I was, though it’s hard for me to see it. All I can do is praise God for what I have and not regret what I don’t have.

Mom’s Admonition

I used to have the habit of picking at my scabs. Mom warned me about it, but I usually forgot, or worse yet, ignored her admonitions. Why didn’t I realize it only caused my wounds to start bleeding again? Truth be told, my idle fingers still find the occasional scab, and without thinking I reopen those old wounds. What is it about imperfections that draw our attention to them?

Jesus’ disciple Thomas wasn’t around when the resurrected Savior first appeared to the others. I’m sure that when he finally saw Jesus, wounds and all, he had seen enough to convince him that Jesus was alive. Yet, Jesus told the doubter to place his fingers into the open wounds, driving His message home with a force like that of the spikes driven through His holy flesh.

Even though He gave my body the ability to heal itself naturally, my interference keeps reopening those old wounds. Similarly, I still bear open wounds from my past sins, but that’s not because Jesus failed to heal them. These bothersome scabs are emotional: shame, remorse, and regret. Since Jesus’ blood already covers the sins that inflicted these wounds, my insistence on “picking” at them makes them fester, causing completely unnecessary pain, and worse yet, forming an artificial barrier between myself and my Lord.

The Prideful Sin of Perfectionism

You’d never know to look at my room that I tend toward perfectionism … spiritual perfectionism, that is. As I read Christ’s perfect law of liberty (the entire New Testament), I can’t help making a checklist of my personal infractions, which in itself is an infraction. Apostle Paul gave us a beautiful, liberating, absolute rule in his letter to the Roman church:

Romans 8:1-2
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
(2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Like I said, it’s a beautiful thing. Yet, I read the conditions and wonder if the promise truly applies to me. Am I really in Christ Jesus? Do I really walk according to the Spirit? Only with affirmative answers can I claim that promise.

I have to constantly remind myself that the very fact of my concern along those lines means this wonderful promise is my very own. And for those not-so rare times when I slip up, Apostle John provided an equally beautiful answer:

1 John 1:8-10
(8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Take THAT, all who stand pridefully in your, “sinless perfection.”

A careful examination of this passage reveals the identity of its audience: we, us. That includes St. John himself. So, if “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was guilty of sinning, what business have I picking at my scabs of imperfection?

The answer is Mom’s admonition!

If Thou Wilt

Jesus heals the leper

Mark 1:40-45 tells of a leper falling to his knees before Jesus, begging Him to cleanse his leprosy. Did Jesus shun the leper as was typical of the good religious folks? Did He flee from the ostracized leper so as not to become ceremonially unclean?

No! Jesus, in His compassion, not only dealt directly with the leper’s plea, but He even reached out to touch the man’s scaly flesh.

We typically hear this passage preached topically, stressing the leper’s faith and Jesus’ compassion, which are important lessons for us to grasp. Along with the leper’s faith, though, we need to recognize the attitude he displayed in begging for Jesus’ healing touch. While the unclean man obviously believed that Jesus could heal him, he didn’t demand it, or even expect it. Instead, he humbly yielded to Jesus’ sovereign choice of whether or not to honor his faith.

How does this teaching align with today’s “Word of Faith” and “positive confession” doctrines? According to those, the leper should have demanded the healing, certain that it was Jesus’ will. Maybe he should have not even bothered Jesus, but rather affirmed that he wasn’t sick at all.

I realize the Word of Faith teaching isn’t quite that simplistic, that Jesus’ Holy Spirit gives us His authority over sickness and other misfortunes of life. Yet, how can we presume to speak His will to such matters, simply because we have faith? 2 Corinthians 12:7 seems to indicate that God, in His perfect sovereignty, does not always answer our prayer of faith to our satisfaction.

2Co 12:7-9
(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Even though the leper’s humility models the attitude with which we must approach our Savior God, where is the balance between expecting Him to fulfill His promises, and avoiding the presumption of demanding affirmative answers to prayer? Therein lies my personal struggle with prayer; though I believe with certainty that God can grant my pleas, I’m never sure that my will aligns with His.

One of my greatest fears is presuming upon God’s will, and thus bringing a reproach upon His holy Name. How often have I heard well-meaning brethren speak with a certainty that God will heal, or otherwise answer prayer according to their demands? And does such presumption escape the notice of unsaved observers? We often express dismay at most people’s gospel-resistance, but in view of so many believers’ religious antics, how can we expect otherwise?

If we simply know God’s Word and honestly proclaim Jesus’ gospel of grace, not what we want it to say, but only what it actually says, we can overcome much of the world’s hateful prejudice. But that requires that we love sinners more than our pet doctrines.

Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make us clean of our putrid attitudes.

Just Ask

The Humanist View of Knowledge

Confession time again; I often fail to tell God what I need because I expect Him to already know my needs, and know them better than I do.

Well, that is true; He knows my heart, my circumstances, my wants, and my needs, because He knows me perfectly, through and through. But I just realized (duh!) that one of Jesus’ miracles tells me a key truth about what He wants us to do when we need something. Mark 10:46-52 tells of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar whom Jesus found sitting by the road to Jericho.

Jesus asked him what he wanted. Now, I used to puzzle about why He would have to ask. I mean, Jesus is God, and knows everything, past, present and future. Right? So, why did Jesus have to ask what he needed? From what Jesus said when His disciples asked when He would return (Mark 13:32), I saw that Jesus could choose not to know something. Maybe He chose not to know Mr. B’s mind. Or, I think more likely, Jesus wanted him to confess his need so that when Jesus healed him, there would be no confusion about the power that did the deed.

Regardless of Jesus’ reason for doing that, He gave us a most valuable lesson in prayer. So:

(7) “(You must)Ask, and it will be given to you; (you must)seek, and you will find; (you must)knock, and it will be opened to you.
(8) “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
(9) “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?
(10) “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
(11) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Mat 7:7-11

GREATER WORKS THAN JESUS?

Jesus heals the lame man at the pool.

John 14:12  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

Did Jesus know how these words would cause controversy among His sheep? As the universe’s eternal Creator, He had to.

Many will disagree with my opinion on this passage so I’ll get the outrage out of the way first, so I can tell you how I came to my conclusion; Jesus didn’t mean to say that individual believer’s miraculous works would in any way exceed His, after all, He is the ultimate source of power in the universe, so all of His followers’ works are done in His power. To say we can do greater miraculous works than He did is like saying the high tension wires leading away from a power plant have more power than the plant itself.

So, if He didn’t mean it that way, what did He mean?

Jesus is Father God’s divine Son who, as I’ve already said, created all things, both observable and invisible. For Him to restore limbs to the lame, sight to the blind and life to those who have died is no great feat. He possesses power for that and infinitely more. But when His followers perform the works that He took in His stride, such works are relatively far greater for us than they were for Him. Jesus knew who He was, so His faith required no leap at all. We, on the other hand, identify with Jesus only by faith, and not by sight.

I hope that explanation meets with your approval, even though God’s word doesn’t spell it out. Of course, I could be all wet, and Jesus meant exactly what our English translations say. Whether or not you accept my thoughts on the matter, you must believe in Jesus and accept His gospel if you hope to receive His eternal life.

Non-Swimmer’s Lament

Surf, but not for some
who dive in, get wet,
who know real surf,
and thrill to the threat.

Cold water, so refreshing,
life healing, and
soul cleansing, but
it may be messy.

I want to be bold,
to get soaking wet,
yet, I may catch cold,
so I play at the edge.

Spirit says, “Come to me!
Leap into my waters!
Refresh yourself,
nothing else matters.”

So I leap, in halting faith,
swim warm—
not cold,
soaked with infinite grace.

Why did I not leap sooner,
a coward to the core?
But he is always faithful,
that I might fear no more.

C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

I’m pasting the whole of today’s C.S. Lewis Daily feed. Though it may seem long, Lewis wrote it with his masterful, economy of words. This is valuable because unforgiveness creeps into our lives so stealthily at times that we are wont to realize it has invaded our spirits. If you have no lingering anger issues, you are indeed blest, and rare. I hope it ministers to you as it did to me.

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE, whose difficulties with her daughter and son-in-law continued: On the experience of forgiving; and on the tedium of dying.

6 July 1963

All one can say about Lorraine is that if she is really so brainwashed as you think, she is then no more morally responsible than a lunatic. I fully admit that as regards her husband you have been set as difficult a job in the forgiving line as can well be imagined.

Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realised suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again. But this time I feel sure it is the real thing. And (like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle) the moment it does happen it seems so easy and you wonder why on earth you didn’t do it years ago. So the parable of the unjust judge comes true, and what has been vainly asked for years can suddenly be granted. I also get a quite new feeling about ‘If you forgive you will be forgiven.’ I don’t believe it is, as it sounds, a bargain. The forgiving and the being forgiven are really the very same thing. But one is safe as long as one keeps on trying.

How terribly long these days and hours are for you. Even I, who am in a bed of roses now compared with you, feel it a bit. I live in almost total solitude, never properly asleep by night (all loathsome dreams) and constantly falling asleep by day. I sometimes feel as if my mind were decaying. Yet, in another mood, how short our whole past life begins to seem!

It is a pouring wet summer here, and cold. I can hardly remember when we last saw the sun.

Well, we shall get out of it all sooner or later, for even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Let us pray much for one another.

I wish to reiterate Lewis’ final comment. We must pray for one another, even for those we dislike. One thing I know is, loving others isn’t always easy; some are so un-loveable that only God’s grace will open your heart to them. And the one prayer that God will always answer is to let his love flow through you. But if you pray for his love, you must also be willing to experience his pain when it is rejected. But it’s not a pain that injures. Rather, it heals your spirit like nothing else.

Superficial Healing vs. Revival

Today’s daily reading included Jeremiah 8:11 “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

Here is one of the foundational human faults: We trivialize sin, the “wound of my people,” accepting superficial sorrow as repentance, rather than truly grieving because we’ve grieved the Holy Spirit of God(Ephesians 4:30). We count on “Eternal Security” as our pass-key to the Pearly Gates, rather than truly repenting of our sin. We interpret the warm feeling of emotional worship as peace with God, when we harbor unrepented sin. And we accept lack of conflict as peace, when we cling to hatred, bitterness, and the whole range of socially acceptable sins. The “we” of which I speak is Christ’s church.

And we wonder why there is no revival.

In medicine, superficial healing is a serious danger after surgery to remove tumors and cysts. It leaves a void under apparently healed flesh that can fester, and become more of a problem than the original issue. The church is even more adept at glossing over the cancer of sin. We accept the Sunday smiles and handshakes as a statement that all’s well. In corporate prayer, we lift up Aunt Minnie’s gall bladder or Cousin Ray’s bunions to God for healing, and never mention our family or personal struggles that could, if left untreated, cause disastrous consequences. Out of pride, we refuse to “air our dirty laundry” before the brethren, while exactly that sort of reticence erects the fragile bubble of apparent well-being that we refuse to burst. Lie builds upon lie, providing grist for the rumor-mill. Hurt builds upon hurt, until families dissolve and factions crash the church into pieces.

And we wonder why there is no revival.

God’s church, each Christ-follower, you and I, need to quit manufacturing our own counterfeit peace, and submit to God’s conviction that grows ever more quiet the longer we suppress it. How long will God suffer our stiff-necked pride? How long before he allows true persecution to winnow the chaff from the fruitful seed. As the “B” movie thug said, “Look, we can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way.”

Yes! Pray for revival, but then we must steel ourselves for the hard climb, through conviction, through repentance, through humiliation, to true, Spirit-filled honesty and love. We must learn to support one another without sideways glances and raised eyebrows. We must learn to accept one another, even when their sin-struggle repulses us. We need to tear off the scabs from personal wounds until the deep healing is complete, bearing the pain with the same stubborn resolve that used to conceal those wounds.

Only when we, through God’s Holy Spirit, persevere until our sin-wounds completely heal, will we receive the true peace that passes understanding. Only then, will we see revival.

Not coincidentally, I’m sure, the New Testament reading included Colossians 3:1-17  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The passage from Jeremiah tells us what to do, while that from Colossians tells us what it looks like. Sermons based on this passage abound, but it deserves a seriously prayerful reading and study. Apostle Paul wrote similar entreaties to all the churches, so we know these principles are crucial to healthy Body life.

Why, then, do we keep ignoring them? Why do we attentively listen while thinking John, or Mary would profit from them? Not a single one of us has mastered Christ-likeness! Yes, we like Christ, but that’s not the same, is it?! If we love him we will keep his commandments(John 14:15). That’s called obedience, brethren. If we’re serious about revival, we’ll study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).

I could type till my fingers fall off, but I can’t convict you of your failings. Let God’s Holy Spirit convict you, and then, ACT ON IT!

Permission to rest, from Our Daily Bread

Once in a while I read an Our Daily Bread meditation that speaks to a common issue, so I callously plagiarize it on my blog. If you don’t already get the ODB daily feed, you might consider it. No, they don’t hit the mark every time, but they have a better record of relevance than most. Click one of the links below and give it a try.

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Our Daily Bread — The Gift Of Sleep

January 12, 2013

READ: Psalm 121
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late  . . . ; for so He gives His beloved sleep. —Psalm 127:2
Sleep is essential for good health. Scientists don’t know exactly why we need it but they know what happens when we don’t get enough. We put ourselves at risk of premature aging, weight gain, and diseases ranging from colds and flu to cancer. What God accomplishes in our bodies while we drift off to dreamland is nothing short of miraculous. While we do nothing, God replenishes our energy, rebuilds and restores our cells, and reorganizes information in our brains.
The reasons for not getting enough sleep are many, and some we can’t solve, but the Bible indicates that overwork should not be one of them (Ps. 127:2). Sleep is a gift from God that we should receive with gratitude. If we’re not getting enough, we need to find out why. Are we rising early and staying up late to earn money to acquire things we don’t need? Are we involved in ministry efforts that we think no one else is capable of doing?
I’m sometimes tempted to believe that the work I do when I’m awake is more important than the work God does while I sleep. But refusing God’s gift of sleep is like telling Him that my work is more important than His.
God does not want anyone to be a slave to work. He wants us to enjoy His gift of sleep. —Julie Ackerman Link
The love of God is my pillow,
Soft and healing and wide,
I rest my soul in its comfort,
And in its calm I abide. —Long
If we do not come apart and rest awhile, we may just plain come apart. —Havner