December 2012


When Jesus saw the man lying there (by the healing pool) and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

John 5: 6

 

This is the question that God asks people every day. These words are the opening of a dialogue that has been going on between the Lord and us since the beginning of time. We often respond by telling Him that we are completely healthy and that there is nothing that we could possibly need that we don’t already possess in ourselves. Sometimes we say that we are too far gone to be worthy of the effort to heal us. Then others say that we’ll check back later, you know, go to the doctor if we decide that the need is great enough or the symptoms linger too long.

 

These can be adequate responses when we are dealing with something like the flu; yet, even then, waiting to allow the physician access to our illness can be catastrophic or even fatal. How much more do we need treatment when the illness carries an absolutely fatal prognosis? The man that Jesus came upon waiting by the spring was just like everyone else in this world. He was ill, crippled by the effects of disease, injury, and neglect. He knew that he desired to be made whole, and he had no idea about how that was truly possible. Hopeless, helpless, and beyond desperation, he waited for the miracle but didn’t trust that there would ever be one. He dreamed of walking upright while knowing that this would never be his waking reality. Jesus walks into the lives of everyone, everywhere. Christ’s Spirit is resident in the souls of each person who has allowed Him to heal us; thus, Jesus goes with us through every day that we live. Sure, there are still symptoms of the illness, and there are days when these relatively minor ailments get us down, but the fatal disease, the heart infection of sin has been permanently conquered. Each of us who knows Jesus as the healer of our souls needs to share the joy of getting up off of the sick bed that evil tried to tie us to with the fatally ill who surround us daily.

 

Jesus allows us the privilege of walking into the lives of others and of inviting them to do as He said to the sick man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5: 8 In fact, Christ commissions His people to do this. He commands us to go into the world and to live in a manner that brings His glorious presence and His loving grace into its darkness. We are to take the message of healing to the fatally ill in our lives. We should carry the simple yet profound truth of God’s perfect love to each and every person that we find waiting for the miracle by the side of the pool, for Jesus wants us to bring His message of faith, trust, and hope to His beloved lost sheep. He wants us to do as He continually did and walk into people’s lives with the question whose answer brings eternal life.

 

Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4: 24

 

Most people have dreams and aspirations toward things that we would like to do or skills and qualities that we would like to have. When we are young, these are often at their wildest and most imaginative; then, we aspire to be athletes, super heroes, great thinkers, inventors, and actors. As life progresses we continue to hold dreams and desires for things that we would like to do and for ways that we would like to have influence in our world. God made us with hearts and minds that keep looking outwardly and ahead toward new and greater challenges. It would seem that our Creator gave us the gift of aspiration.

 

Yet, as we are in a relationship with Christ, the greatest thing that we can aspire toward is actually found within ourselves. Christ has called us to become totally new beings. We are now people who are different in all of the ways that are truly important. Christ transforms us into being people who are living lives that have lasting impact and eternal consequences. Thus, as the Spirit of Christ becomes a part of us, we are transformed by our Lord in a way that opens us up to the on-going and life long process of recreation that God has promised to perform in each of His children.

 

Our part in this process is vital. I need to recognize the need for change, accept the truth about how God is calling me to think and behave, and stay humbly repentant for the ways that I will fail to live in the righteous manner that the Lord desires for me. I also need to be a seeker after the truth that is the center piece of my new identity. There will be times when that truth is painfully revealing of how far I still have to go in order to have fully accepted my new self. Yet, this journey along the road toward the center of life is the greatest adventure that I could ever imagine, and the changes in myself that are the result of the travels bring me ever closer to being the person that my heart was created to desire to be.

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”

John 9: 39

 

Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but there seem to be two basic ways of viewing a personal relationship with God; in one, the person lacks an awareness of who God is and of how He works in this world and, more specifically, of how He seeks to relate to each of us. In the other, the person believes that he or she already possesses all the knowledge and understanding of God that are required and that there is no need for any change in these beliefs; this is essentially an attitude of self control, determination, and reliance. Fortunately, God understands both of these perspectives, and He seeks to communicate truth to all of us regardless of where we are coming from.

 

From my own experience, these states of being at times blinded to the truth and at other times overly confident in my own understanding and application of it continue throughout life. Although, I have known Christ and have been seeking to live in an intimate relationship with Him for a very long time, there are times when I still need to have Him apply His healing mud to my sin obscured eyes, and there are others when I need to have the Spirit of Christ grab me by the shoulders and shake the delusional thinking from my mind. The extraordinary thing about God is that He will continue to do both of these things for me for the rest of my life, and He never stops seeks to bring all people into a place of sound, solid, and complete understanding of His loving truth.

 

It is true that Christ came into this world in order to judge our sinfulness; however, the story doesn’t stop there, for He also came in order to bring healing and restoration to our wounded souls. For people who do not know Him, Jesus removes the blindness from their eyes and lets the light of relationship with God into their hearts, and for those who do know Him, Jesus is the answer to our need for ongoing guidance and direction in order to navigate the dangerous path that is the landscape of this life. Like He did with the blind man and the Pharisees, Jesus asks each of us to trust Him for our vision, to open our hearts to His truth, and to follow the path that He sets before us.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.

1 Peter 5: 6

 

Humility is a tough concept to grasp. Worldly wisdom says that if you have too much of it, no one will listen to you. Its voice continually directs us to be wise and to exhibit strength so that others will respect and follow us. So there is established a daily challenge for people who know Christ. For during the course of every day of my life there is more than enough wisdom and way more strength available to me than I ever realize and than I ever utilize. This is particularly true on the days when I am most stretched by trying to just keep up with the stresses and the demands that life has covered me with. These are the times when I am most likely to go deep into myself to try to find the resources that my ego tells me are always going to get me through.

 

My mind tells me that I have it all under control, that I always have the answers, and that I am the captain of my own ship’s destiny. Yet, my relationship with Christ is slowly teaching me that everything that actually works comes from Him. So, I am placed into a quandary of decision, for in the most demanding and stressful of times in my life, I need to become the most submitted to the love, wisdom, and grace of God. In other words, at the moment that my experience, training, and practice drive me toward independence and personal strength, Christ asks me to let all of that go and trust Him first, and this is counter to my well trained, deeply-held and intuitive response.

 

Still, the truth is that God’s hand is mighty. His loving heart is huge beyond description, and His desire is for me to prosper in ways that matter at the eternal level. When I take the time to pray my way into and through the hard conversations, interactions, and decisions of my day, the Lord never fails to give me wisdom, understanding, and the peace that I need to proceed. As I let God’s word provide me with guidance and His Spirit mentor my decisions, things become clearer, and my responses take on a loving attitude that is not naturally mine.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5

 

As we have just entered into the season of Advent, this time of waiting and of anticipation, I want to look at its inception. I admit that when I have considered this idea in the past that I have usually started the thread of this part of the story with the coming of the angel to Mary. This is then traced backward in time to Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah which are founded in God’s words about the crushing of the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. All of this would seem to ground the narrative of God’s plan and design for our salvation and restoration into the earliest days of humanity’s earthly existence. Yet, it seems to me that there is a quality to this that is somewhat like crisis management. By the third chapter of Genesis our ancestors have already defied God and are being set out on their long and wandering journey.

 

Although God is the ever-present and only true answer to all of the crisis that come in life, the God that I know is not surprised or caught short by anything that we do or by what happens in the world. He knows and sees and is prepared to respond to all of it. Even in His power, knowledge, and absolute capacity and capability the Lord God is always the Father. Everything in His dealings with people is framed and motivated by His unending desire for us to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. God yearns for the time when each of us will surrender our stubborn, isolationist ways and turn to Christ in humility and submission to His righteousness. God knew from a time when the concept that we consider as time had not been created that there would be a fatal break in our relationship with Him. Yet, He proceeded with the creation of humanity, but God did so with our restoration to that relationship also in full view.

 

This point in absolute pre-history would seem to be the true inception of Advent. God always knew that He would come to dwell among humanity. He was actively preparing for that time from before the moment that he first touched the soil of the new born earth to form the man whose great to a very large degree ancestor we all are. God imparted the life that came from His breath, His Spirit, into us, and He determined that we would be brought back to life from the self-imposed grave that we entered through disobedience. In our time, God has already come. Christ entered into our world, and the way to salvation and the means to transformation is present with us. Now we wait in anticipation of even more. The advent to come is the one in which all that is broken and diseased in all of Creation will be destroyed and the new heaven and earth will become one. Today we can live in the hope of the light that is Christ in us and the promise of His glory which truly overcomes all that is darkness in our world.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Galatians 6: 9

 

The idea of “due time” is a hard concept to grasp, and it is even harder to wait it out. It is particularly difficult when it is someone else who is due and when it is my time clock that is ticking. Yet, I think that this is a big part of the point that Paul is making, for he had a very special and totally real grasp on the differences between human internal clocks and God’s eternal clock. Christ was willing to out wait Paul’s stubborn heart. Then Christ taught Paul how to view his interactions with others from a perspective wherein he no longer needed to be responsible for the results. This is a difference in viewpoint that changes lives.

 

We invest in people by giving them our time, understanding, tangible gifts, love, and our view of God’s wisdom and truth, and sometimes these people respond in ways that are amazing and transformative for them. There are other times when the investment seems futile or when the person simply rejects the effort to care for and about them. Yet, people aren’t like a poorly performing mutual fund; we don’t get to just change our investment to a different portfolio and go on with life. When we are involved with people, we need to seek the wisdom of the Christ’s Spirit first; then, we need to react to what He says to us, and we need to be brave enough to always tell others the truth as God reveals it.

 

The Lord may tell us to change our approach with someone, or He may lead us to simply continue to care about them and to provide a safe place where truth can be heard. Every person is different, and each situation is unique. However, there is one constant in all of this messy business of becoming involved with people’s lives, and that is that God is a shepherd who never stops seeking to save each of His sheep. He is the unending source of all of the strength, courage, wisdom, and grace that I will need to answer Christ’s call and to join Him in that quest.

 

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