Spiritually Blind

 

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)  

"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor. 4:4).

Wonder of wonders! How enlightening it is to have the Bible speak to your soul! You may not have read the Bible much before your surrender to our Lord; I did. In and out of the church for many years afforded me an abundance of biblical history, and while I would not have tagged my knowledge 'foolishness', it made no impression on my soul. My cognizance of the Bible was in its history, wise sayings, and of a law I could never keep. It spoke of heroes who were as flawed as me, as unable to keep the commandments as I was. It was only following my salvation that I would realize that the Book wasn't about its 'heroes'; it was about God using these imperfect, weak-willed, failures to exhibit His power, His majesty, and His love for His creation, and how, when the scales are removed from our eyes, we could now taste and see the glory of our God, and in our humility we too could be used by Him.

The Bible has much to say about blindness, both physical and spiritual and I often see that the two dissolve well, one into the other. The 27th chapter of Deuteronomy is that which lists many of the transgressions for which God says we are cursed and among them, in verse 18 is, "cursed is the man who leads the blind astray on the road." Surely we cannot be shallow as to presume this would only apply to the physically blind.

In the ninth chapter of John we read of Jesus healing a blind man. The passage begins with the physical healing of his blindness (vs 6-7). After much agitation and furor by the Pharisees the man was reunited with Jesus who asked him "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" (vs 35). The man said "Lord, I believe" and worshiped Him (38). Then Jesus makes a somewhat cryptic statement. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (39) Responding to the Pharisee's question of "are we also blind?", Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, 'We see', your guilt remains" (41). His point was that the spiritually blind, the uneducated; those without knowledge of Christ, were without guilt, but those with this knowledge, the Pharisees claiming spiritual sight, were the guilty ones.

There is an account of the 18th century French electrician, Ampere, who spent much of his life extremely near-sighted without being aware of it and when per chance he became conscious of his defective vision through the casual use of the eyeglasses of a friend, burst into tears as he realized how much he had missed throughout his life of the wonderful beauty and interest of the world around him.

It is my prayer that I could see the beauty of God's creation as He does. Having traveled over much of this earth I have beheld many of our Lord's masterpieces, of which Genesis relates, "and God saw that it was good" . Yet it is only following His creation of mankind that He said "it is very good". I pray that we all, in lock-step with John Newton, understand the significance of being blind, but now we see, being lost, but now we're found.

It is only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that we can indeed 'spiritually discern' the things that come from the Spirit of God; those things being an understanding of His holy word, of the miracle and wonder of Calvary, and of the power of prayer.

Be blessed.

Dealing With Failure

While failure is not necessarily the most popular subject, it is one that is absolutely mandatory for all of us to address, because failure is one of those few things all of us do frequently and skillfully.

The complexity of American life offers an abundance of opportunities to fail. Many grapple with an overwhelming sense of failure as an aftermath of divorce. Others may sense failure at the loss of a job or on the occasion of being passed over for a raise or a promotion. Failure can also be experienced at the heartbreaking disappointment of a wayward child.

For the sincere Christian failure is a certainty when one focuses upon the rigorous requirements of discipleship given in the Scriptures. Even for those who may appear to be a success, there is the haunting fear of failure in the future.

Failure is one of those dirty little words we all want to disassociate ourselves from. Who wants to be seen as a failure – who wants to view themself as a failure?  Who likes even recalling a time we have failed? Not me! My prideful self would deny my failings; and if I did fail, it was not my fault; the failed issue was out of my control – someone else must have failed.

It is by no small degree of humility that we recognize and acknowledge where and when we have failed.  Here, once again, we see the ongoing war between pride and humility.

This week I came across the results of a most interesting study:

“In 1928 a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Present were:

  • The president of the largest utility company.
  • The greatest wheat speculator.
  • The president of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • A number of the President’s Cabinet.
  • The greatest “bear” in Wall Street.
  • The president of the Bank of International Settlements.
  • The head of the world’s greatest monopoly.

Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples. Twenty-five years later, let’s see what happened to these men.

  • The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life, and died broke.
  • The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad, insolvent.
  • The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was recently released from Sing Sing.
  • The member of the President’s Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
  • The greatest “bear” in Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide.
  • The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.
  • The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger, committed suicide.

A great Biblical example of someone who must have had to cope with failure was Moses.  For forty years he was a prince – and then overnight – in a moment of anger – he was a failure. He would flee for his life – into the desert wilderness of Midian. The Exodus narrative of Moses’ flight from the Pharoh and of the ensuing years in Midian is fleeting in itself (Ex. 2:15ff).

Our next hint of a time line is the beginning of chapter three where Moses encounters the burning bush – now another forty years later.  But in the intervening forty years of exile he must dealt with thoughts that he was a failure.

Moses had enjoyed forty years of luxury and now forty years of living with the rewards of a failure. But God had use of this failure and it is reasonable to conclude that He had orcherstrated Moses’ years of both success and failure. The years Moses spent in desert were years he may have regretted. There is no record of remorse or self-reproach given but human nature would assume such.

Likewise David must have experienced feelings of failure as Psalm 51 attests and Peter certainly knew the pangs of failure as he denied our Lord Jesus.

But – and with God there is always a ‘but’ – David and Peter were both used by God to His glory. Jesus forewarned us that life on this earth would be no bed of roses (John 16:33). God knows we aren’t perfect, that we will stumble, we will fail Him, fail our loved ones, fail even ourselves.

He has never said we must be perfect as Jesus was perfect. He said be Holy, as I a Holy – that is that we are to strive toward holiness. We strive, we try, we endeavor, we perseveer, we struggle, we toil, we aspire, we do our best. . . and yet, even then, we will stumble, we will fall, we will fail Him.  But He is there to pick us up, dust us off, and send us on our perseveering way.  That’s what we do –

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 emphasis added).

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.” (Ps. 37:23-24 emphasis added), and  “The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises all who are bowed down”. (Ps. 145:14)

When God Says “No”

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.  During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10 NKJV

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:8-9a

Paul asked God three times to take away the ‘thorn in his side’.  By His saying that “My grace is sufficient for you. . .”, God was saying, “No!”  When Paul and his troupe were planning to go from Mysia, which is in Southern Turkey, to   Bithynia, an area of Northern Turkey, God said “No.”  Why? Paul was doing Kingdom business; he was taking the message of salvation to the heathen Gentiles. Yet God had a master plan and Bithynia was not a part of that plan at that moment.

How often do we rush into something, perhaps even Kingdom business, without seeking God’s direction or praying that the mission we’ve determined to undertake is “His will be done”? Last year I determined that the Weekly Witness website needed a new face and new functions for the site were necessary.  I made this determination near the end of 2010 and began to seek out recommendations as how to accomplish my goal and who was going to re-construct the site.  I was certain my vision could be realized within just weeks and that there would be little or  no interruption to my commitment of having new issues available to our subscribers each Monday morning (well, OK, sometimes afternoon).  Boy – did I get it wrong.

For a variety of reasons the new site was not weeks but many months in development, and much more expensive than I anticipated. I became irritable and short tempered with those who were helping me. It was only as I took my exasperation to God in prayer that He finally revealed to me that He was saying “No, not now”.

Now I had two issue to deal with.  First I had to apologize to my designer for my impatience with him. Second I had to absorb God’s words, “Wait. . .on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14b) and “Be still and know that I am God. . .” (Ps. 46:10a)  The second demand was harder than the first, for as I have shared with you in the past, my greatest weakness is my impatience. I am convinced that God, in His wisdom, was working on that sin. The very ministry of sharing Him through the Weekly Witness, which was so dear to my heart, became a lesson in placidity for me.

We often encounter people in our churches who have agendas, proposals, or programs that don’t proceed with the speed or direction desired or expected. They become irritable. “This was Kingdom business!”, we say. Being able to acknowledge and understand when our prospective of Kingdom business doesn’t align with God’s is often difficult. In our rush to serve His church by our self determined and designed plan and schedule, we often find ourselves in conflict with God’s perfect plan and thus our plan fails. Then we began to find fault with the church rather than stepping back to say – was this “His will be done?”

There are several teaching points we should consider as we contemplate God’s answers of ‘no’, or ‘not now, wait’.

  1. God, who created us and is not bound by time, knows what is best for us (Psalm 8:3–4, 139:1, 16).
  2. Hearing God’s answer of “no” is inescapable in a fallen world (Hebrews 12:9–11).
  3. “Your will be done” is Jesus’ model of humble prayer (Matthew 26:42).
  4. We are God’s servants, and he is not ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  5. Suffering does not mean the absence of God or the certain presence of failure (James 5:10–11).
  6. Often God’s “no” is His protection from our misguided leanings.
  7. His “no” or “wait” may be His testing our faith and trust in Him.

“But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31)


A Look In the Mirror

Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Cor. 13:12

Now we see but a poor reflection.  How do we see ourselves?  When we stare into that mirror, what stares back?  Are we proud or boastful of the vision we behold?  Do we see what God sees?  Do we want God to see what we see?  When did you last look in a mirror and look yourself in the eye, looked deep into your soul?  Not to scrutinize that bump on your nose or to assure your teeth were sufficiently cleaned.  Not to see if you had rinsed away all the shaving cream or that your lipstick was evenly applied.  The vision I mean is that of your inner self. That vision that many of us have so often averted our eyes from, the true vision that we did not want to see much less confront.  I have less of a problem now than in years past, but still, if I stand and look deep enough I see ugly things that our Lord must grieve.  Thanks be that our God sees us through the blood of Jesus.

Many of you know of my love of Psalm 139 and by extension Acts 17:26 and Jeremiah 29:11.  We should all remind ourselves more often of the painstaking care in which God formed us, and that He did so with a purpose, and that our station in this life is by His grace.  That I would take this body that God has so lovingly designed; this body and mind that Jesus suffered and died to save, and to use it to hurt His other creatures, equally designed with His love and with His purpose, is just plain disgusting.  We hurt one another with our impatience, intolerance, judging, and self-aggrandizing.  We see someone less fortunate than we are and judge them as weak or lazy.  “Surely that person cannot be as great as I am.”

We must remember that the same God that made you made those you judge.  That you have a more aggressive character, that you are a better business man or woman, that you are “smarter than the average bear”, IS BY GOD’S GRACE, That you have achieved a better place in this world IS BY GOD’S GRACE, It is not only idolatrous, but blasphemous, to think that we are where we are by our own design.  Be we mighty men and women of economic and social standing among our peers, or be we among the homeless, living under a bridge, or in a refugee camp in Africa, the same God designed each and every one of us.  No person on earth is here by accident.  GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!  Read again Acts 17:26. “From one man He made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.” (emphasis added)  In Psalm 139 we read “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (vs 16)

Now I don’t deny that some of those ‘living under a bridge’ may not have used the talents God gave them, and are thus rewarded in kind; but who are we to judge which of those people are just lazy and which are truly less blessed than we. Take another look into that mirror.  Are you able to cast that first stone?

I am reminded of Jesus’ comment to Judas when he complained that Mary had “wasted” the valuable jar of nard to wash our Lord’s feet.  He said, “You will always have the poor among you…” He also said “…whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”, (Matthew 25:40), and the first of the beatitudes is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)  I have to believe that Jesus purposely noted the poor in spirit first. The poor in spirit here is not poor in the Holy Spirit, but poor in their attitude or demeanor.  The poor in spirit are the downtrodden, those poor souls we too often think ourselves better than, the widows and orphans that we are constantly exhorted to care for and to lift up.  Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

My prayer is that the reflection I see in my mirror, and the one you see, is one of a man on a mission for God.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

I don’t know the author of the following so as to give them credit. I keep it posted on a sticky-note at my desk. “Companions are a whole lot easier to get along with when we realize we’re all works of art and everyone’s clay is still wet.” To companions I suppose you should add neighbors, co-workers, and the guy living under the bridge.

From His Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)  We all need a deeper examination of our own souls before we censor our neighbor.

May our Lord God bless you and yours and may you be a blessing to others.

Consequences

“Be sure your sin will find you out!”

Joe sat at his dying wife’s bedside. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Joe, darling,” she breathed, “I’ve got a confession to make before I go. I’m the one who took the ten thousand dollars from your safe and spent it on a fling with your best friend, Charles. And it was I who forced your mistress to leave the city. And I am the one who reported your income tax evasion to the government.”

“That’s all right, don’t give it a second thought,” answered Joe, “I’m the one who poisoned you.”

 

There aren’t very many free passes when it comes to wrongdoing.  The sinner often doesn’t ‘reap what he sows’ right away.  He may skate for a season, unaware, even uncaring of the wake his trespass has wreaked.  Sometimes it is years before he realizes the aftermath of his offense, how many have been affected, and how deep the hurt he caused.  But the fallout can be, and most often is both immediate and unending for the offended.  There are consequences to sin – both physical and spiritual.

Our best example of this is that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their sin was both immediate and unending.

The initial result of their sin was their awareness of their nakedness. They had lost their innocence. Close behind had to be the first impression of fear and guilt.  Never before had they felt the need to hide from God.  And once they were exposed God’s punishment was both immediate and unending for both they and all mankind that would follow.

They were exiled from the Garden; their sin had introduced physical death into the world.  In fact in order for God to have provided them with clothing made of skins, (Genesis 3:21) an animal had to have been slain.  Prior to that Adam and Eve, and all animals were vegetarians (Gen. 1:30).  Most Biblical scholars agree that man was intended to live eternally in the Garden.  But now God decrees that man shall return to the dust from whence he came.

Famine and pestilence were now introduced as God curses the earth, (vv 17-19).  Never before had there been disease, crime, storms, or evil of any kind.  No poisonous beast nor plant populated Eden. Man would now labor ‘by the sweat of his brow’ for his sustenance. Woman would now suffer greatly in child bearing, from morning sickness, through agonizing labor pains, to postpartum depression.  She would be subservient to her husband, though many women would rail against this natural law, it was God ordained.

But the most dreadful and wretched consequence of sin would be mankind’s separation from God.  God is holy, ans as such He cannot abide with sin, and now man is sinful.  There would be no more walks in the Garden with the Creator.

But God, in His mercy, would provide mankind with a ‘get out of jail free’ card, an escape clause from our contract with spiritual death.  In His omniscience and wisdom He had planned our opportunity for salvation before the beginning.

Though we are forgiven our trespasses, that does not erase the consequences. God does not, nor can those afflicted, erase the outcome of trespass. Families are torn apart, lives are lost, relations are shipwrecked. I can personally attest to this.  Mistakes, self-serving attitudes, and selfish pursuits years ago by your author caused permanent scars for my family and friends. Though I have been the recipient of undeserved forgiveness, the wounds are permanent.  We need always remember that forgiven sins retain the repercussion. . . the fruit of that which we sowed.

The physical consequence to sin will vary with the sin that is committed. However, the spiritual consequence remains the same; for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The solution to the spiritual consequence of sin is revealed in the completion of the verse. . . “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“. Salvation from our sins does not remove the physical consequences of sin. If you drank too much and developed hardening or cirrhosis of the liver, it won’t go away. If you committed sexual sins and picked up a disease or became pregnant, those problems will remain. However, the long term problem, our separation from God and eternal life can be cured. In addition, learning to live life God’s way will give us the tools to handle the results of our past mistakes

I would encourage you to be quick to forgive those who have wronged you,.  You must know that you have wronged someone in your past and we all pray for grace regarding them, just as Christ Jesus provided forgiveness for our own sins.  We pray for their forgiveness and we trust the Holy Spirit has led us to repentance from those wrongdoings.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.  May the Lord God bless you abundantly, and may you be a blessing to those around you.

God bless,