LORD, Give Me The Eyes To See

2 Kings 6:15,16

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed. “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he loooked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Contrary to popular belief, what you don’t know can, and will, hurt you.

What you don’t know about God, that is, will cripple the slightest confidence you might otherwise have in Him. On the other hand, what you do know of God—intellectually, experientially—will compel you to trust Him for against-the-odds kinds of situations.

Have you known this to be true, that the more you know of God’s faithfulness, the more apt you are to trust Him for the impossible?

Have you personally experienced God’s heroics?

When you read a story like that one in the Bible, do you find yourself hoping or expecting God to come through for you?

Elisha expected the hillside to be riddled with angelic beings, because it’d been God’s habit, His pleasure, to do outrageous feats on Elisha’s behalf. When the enemy had surrounded them, Elisha knew God’s warrior angels were shadowing them—more numerous than the enemy.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them (Ps.34:7).

The moment trouble arises, heavenly warriors are present and primed for war.

Your daily survival alone depends on God’s strength and foreknowledge, not this human muscle of yours with your limited knowledge.

But because we can’t see God, can’t touch Him or hear Him audibly, we may be tempted to act as if God is far away, oblivious, or at the least, not overly concerned. We begin to doubt that He’s not shouldering us along this journey that He’s set us on, not surrounding us with His fiery ministers. Not true.

Never forget, precious brother, sweet sister, God knows each time you sit down and every time you get up. He is intimately acquainted with the way you think. He watches you going out and every time you lie down. He knows your habits. Before a single word tumbles off your tongue, He already knows it completely (from Psalm 139).

You are more than covered, my friend; you are surrounded!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus. Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean, in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Your love. Leading onward, leading homeward, to Thy glorious rest above!

When you, at last, come to the end of your life…as you look back over the long passage since the days when your mother first carried you in her womb…Oh, how near Jesus has been to you. Every step of the way.

Has something tempted you to feel afraid today? Stop right now and close your eyes. Ask God to give you the eyes to see how all of heaven is ready to protect you, fight for you, and preserve you. Thank God now, for how He is already working behind the scenes on your behalf.

Jesus, you are my Refuge and my Strength, the only One who holds me up in times of trouble. Thank you for what You are going to do through me, and for me, today. Amen.

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Life Demands Daring

This life is one continuous generator of challenge. Everytime you turn around, something demands your daring. The daring to be honest when honesty might cast you in a dimmer light.

Can you live with your humanity out there in the open?

There’s the daring to see, even admit, the true character of a significant person in your life, and the Truth inside you is moving you to do something about it.

Will you?

There’s the daring to see some situation for which you’ve been making excuses and, once and for all, decide to move on or deal with head on.

What will you do?

Life Demands Daring!

Christ before Pilate from the series The Life ...
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This week, something will challenge you to stand up—again, or for the first time— for what is biblically right, while darker temperaments will determine to intimidate and silence you.

Will you trust God to make your wobbly legs stable?

This week, something will challenge your good character.

Will you allow yourself to be wronged, your name to be maligned, convinced that God will settle this account in His good time?

Because He will, you know.

This year, you may be asked to walk an unfamiliar path where no one knows your name, your potential, your past accomplishments.

Will you go as Christ’s ambassador to win some for the Kingdom? Or will you be like Lot’s unbelieving wife and cling to the past, the way things used to be?

Yours just may be to stay behind, to remain faithful to the same ol’, same ol’ while everyone else seems to be moving forward and getting on with their lives. But for you, it’s another year of purely putting one foot in front of the other, persevering for perseverance’ sake, because “the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” and “perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3, 4).

Will you finally allow God to have His way with you?

Because He is Spirit, God appears absent from your reality. Realistically, He couldn’t be nearer. These challenges that demand your daring are merely opportunities for God’s character to take root and begin to grow in you. Without them, what is there to confront your humanness, waking your momentary need for God? What will better expose your weaknesses and sinful tendencies and the faith to stand up against them?

These challenges that demand our daring only appear to be working against us. But in fact, they are ever forging us into the image of Christ. So let us determine to react to them through eyes of faith. Let us lean solely on Him who enables us to stand, to persevere, to move forward into uncharted territory, to be maligned, to suffer, even to succeed.

English: Resurrection of Christ
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Almighty God, Friend and Savior and Lord, this life is not my own. So as You direct me this week through the landscape of challenges before me, help me to realize that the power that raised Jesus from among the dead is also mine. Help me to see what my human eyes cannot; that You are as near to me as the breath I breathe; that You are my reason for being alive in Christ today. Give me a hunger for Your Word, O Lord, that by it, its transforming power may be fully realized in me.

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The Perfect Storm–of sorts…

Well, readers, I sure hope you’ve been able to stay clear of this nasty thing that’s going round. It’s like some jet streams managed to get tangled up inside my house, and nothing’s pushing them on, away from here. Took me and my oldest daughter down big time. We survived. Obviously. But boy, this is the flu of all flus. I’m still trying to recupe, hacking up my lungs and working the stuffing out of my head.

So bear with me, okay? I’ll be back.

A New Kid In My Neighborhood

Every once in a great while I run into a head-turning voice out there that wrecks me. It happened again earlier this week. A brief comment left on my blog.

old sidewalk

old sidewalk (Photo credit: arsheffield)

Out of curiosity, I took off out my door and skipped over to her street, to her blog. I stood there waiting, at first, for the image to sink in, and then…“I like this place already,” I’d told myself.

Before me was this moment…captured, and tastefully set into the banner, a black n’ white of her and her four guys. An enviable shot taken by someone who’d been quick on the draw and knew exactly when to snap! The setting, the moment, the expressions, the emotion…oh, if we all could only step into that instant, find out what all the joy was about!

I just stood there (in my mind’s eye, of course), like a kid at an unlikely new friend’s house (because, it is the unlikely kids to whom we are most often attracted).

Music greeted me and wrapped me—like a warm blanket that instantly relaxes the tight, chilled skin of a kid who’s been out on a winter street too long after dark.

Compelled, I ventured further inside, reading one, two—oh, my gosh!—three, four, five posts, at least! I gobbled the words like I hadn’t eaten in days. But another hunger suddenly, and just as unexpectedly, started stirring inside me. But what exactly?

I didn’t take one second to analyze it for fear I’d lose it. I just kept absorbing the background music, the images coming at me from the sides of her room, and feeling the pleasurable uncertianty of the ground beneath my feet moving me slowly forward, into her voice. Or was it Jesus himself leaning in close to me? I could almost feel warm breath on the lobe of my ear, words that no one else could hear, confessing to me how I often miss such goodness, so eloquently and joyfully related in her experiences.

Her voice? Jesus’ whispers? Whichever it was, I’m still not sure. I only know that at her place there is a kind of authentic joy I don’t normally get to frequent. Which is odd, since I’m around more Christians than not. And it has been bothering me. See? I told you. She wrecked me. But it’s a good wrecking. The kind of wrecking that, in the aftermath, forces you to pick up the pieces and study them, one at a time. These aren’t the pieces that would put a broken me back together; no, these are clues. Clues as to what exactly I bring to this universal table, set every which-way, out in cyberspace.

And this…well, this has been nothing short of a case of “iron sharpening iron,” that thing Jesus likes to do through the words and deeds of His friends. Most times, a person doesn’t even know she’s being used to sharpen her sister.

Why not stop by my new friend’s blog on the way home. She loves having visitors. Who knows, she just might be your next new friend.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Part Two

“Is this all there is? We’re born. We live a little while. We die. That’s it?”

Those questions just about took me under one Saturday morning, only weeks before my high school graduation. I’m grateful to say, that since then, I’ve come to know Jesus Christ. I’ve come to experience a new life because of His death. But here’s a question that a lot of people wonder about:

Question: If I’m going to die eventually, what good was Jesus’ death afterall?

The Death of Jesus

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Answer: Jesus’ death, His meeting the bill of costs and particulars of the courts, was only the beginnning.

Jesus told his twelve disciples that He would be killed, but that three days later He’d “raise this temple.” Of course, He was talking about His own body, the true temple, where the Spirit of God now resides in the hearts of true Jesus-worshipers.

Jesus Resurrection 1778

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Then, just as He said, He did raise Himself from among the dead. Three days later. And for the next forty days, Jesus appeared to over 500 witnesses.

Then Jesus went up to heaven in a cloud, while His disciples stood there amazed, gazing up into the sky. Two angels who’d been standing there said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Why do I bring this up? Two reasons:

1: JESUS IS COMING BACK

During their last earthly supper together, Jesus predicted His betrayal and death. Jesus quickly added, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).”

2. JESUS BECAME THE FIRST AMONG MANY BRETHREN TO EXPERIENCE THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD

This is our hope, people! If this life is all there is, we are to be pitied. We have lived for nothing that lasts forever. Because even if I live for the sake of passing something on, eventually those others will die too. And all that I ever did will die along with them. If there is no resurrection, there is absolutely no hope of ever reuniting with loved ones. This is it! This is all there is.

But that is not true. And if we live for Jesus, whatever we do in His name will last. Forever! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We will all be raised from our graves. Some of us to life eternal with Jesus in heaven, others to life eternal in hell, separated from God and all that’s good. That is what Jesus told us. And speaking of being raised…

English: The old graveyard View of the old Gra...

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You might be wondering exaclty how the dead are raised. What kind of body will we have?

Think about it this way: When farmers plant their tiny seeds with their various shells, those seeds must first be dead, then buried into the soil. The body of the life inside that dead shell breaks through and bursts the crust of the earth with a brand new look, a new body.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.” Your body and my body is made up of skin and bones that is already winding down to its death. We’re dying as I speak. But these bodies of ours will be exchanged for new bodies that never get old, get sick or die.

So, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…” said the Apostle Paul.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep [die a physical death], but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

Torricelli's Trumpet

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For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised…then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ ”

These fleshly bodies of ours that have been marred by sin’s disgrace will be raised with Garden perfection.

These bodies of ours that right now are still affected by sin’s influence, and prone to give in to sin, will be raised in power.

Your physical body is anchored to earth’s laws; but the spiritual body will transcend the laws of gravity and the bounds of time.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:35-56, italics mine).

No, this life is not one long Schlitz commercial, clanging our mugs together, saying, “You only go around once.” But today, if you hear His voice, know and believe this: that “the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Part One

I’ve been walking with Jesus for 33 years now. But everytime I try to tell someone the Good News of God, unfortunately, I’m not as clear as Jesus was when Pilate had asked Him: What is truth?

Русский: "Что есть истина?". Христос...

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So today, I sat down and scribbled down my own thoughts, to help me put it into the kind of words that would conjure clear and powerful images. At least, I hope I succeeded. And I thought I’d begin with a question that a lot of moral people wonder about. (I’d love to hear your take on this.)

Question: How can God, the Law-laying Judge, ever pardon sinners and, Himself, remain holy and righteous? (and in this answer lies the Gospel of Jesus Christ)

Answer: Because He went through all the legal channels. He did it, and continues to do it, lawfully.

But how so, right?

Well, most of us can agree that sinners are guilty people. “Guilty” of breaking the ten commandments. Even if we break only one commandment, we are guilty of having broken them all, the Bible says.

And the verdict for lawbreaking is death. Bam! The curse for being Adam’s seed is also death. Bam! Guilty for simply being born. Bam! Take these sinners away! Then put an eternal chasm between them and the living Key!

But Jesus said, “No! But let Me go to trial on their behalf.” And so He did.

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...

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Up in the heavenly courts God the Father, The Righteous Judge, watched as Jesus endured a grueling, earthly, secret trial, a near-death beating, and amazing ridicule.

This earthly court found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, for He’d claimed to be the Son of God. Then they bound Him and took Him to Governor Pontius Pilate—a people pleaser—who consented to Jesus’ conviction and death.

And as Jesus cried out from the cross, “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do,” God stamped the front of my casefile: PAID IN FULL.

I’m free to go but only “dismissed without prejudice.” Because I may just leave the courtroom in my arrogance or self-reliance, refusing to believe Jesus did anything for me. There’s a lot of those people around, right?

In that case, I’m only out on bail (John 3:18), in a manner of speaking. Because for me, there’s an upcoming Trial on the calendar. The White Throne Judgment Day.

At that time, I will be brought personally before the Honorable Ancient of Days. My life will be scrutinized this time. This time, I will be found guilty. Guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, an unpardonable offense against the High Courts of Heaven for having thumbed my nose at Jesus’ law-appeasing sacrifice. The unforgivable sin of unbelief.

But it doesn’t have to be the case, if you believe that “this Christ who died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, has brought you and I to God” (I Pet. 3:18).

Stay tuned for Part 2

I Needed A Miracle

Rosary with pomander

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I understand that lots of people don’t talk to God; they don’t believe He exists. That was never the case with me. I’ve always talked to God. Hearing from God was another matter entirely. But talking to God…

Early on, of course, it was through the rote prayers my Catholic parents had taught me.

Then, in my late teens and purely out of necessity, I’d exchanged those redundant sentences for something more suitable to the moment, like: “Oh, my God! Help me! Oh, please help me, please, please, please!”And in those periodic, innocent crises God never let me down. (Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Psalm 94:9)

Every single time I found myself in a scary situation God would always come through, and I’d be standing there, freshly rescued from my little pickle, saying, “Wow!” —a fiendish grin plastered on my face—“that was really close!” And a current of holy gratitude would keep me in its pull the entire day. Then I was off again.

Off on another adventure, another rendezvous. God would’ve called it “a gradual hardening of heart” that would eventually lead me out into a riptide and pull me completely under, with no hope of ever breaking through the surface for that unreachable quality of life.

But sometimes, God just allows us to play right there, right in the path of the undertow.

English: Springtime

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It was only twenty minutes into May 28, 1976. Five minutes earlier Mom had died. She would miss my 21st birthday in two and half months. How her death had become “all about me” I don’t know. But it did. And the devil had his heyday with it too.

Her expected—but never really expected—absence would be my undoing, a defining moment (D.M.), that “point at which the essential nature or character of a person…is revealed or identified.”

I’d already had an ongoing flirtation with L.A.

English: The Hollywood Sign, shot from an airc...

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Who didn’t who was living down there? So I decided one day that I’d dive into the deep end of Hollywood and try to stay afloat among the many who’d have loved to have taken me down with them. But the lure was enough to keep me hanging around.

One day,  about two years—and becoming an entirely different person—later, the scent of my licentious living must’ve reached the heavens. The God who I’d thought had stopped watching long ago had indeed been paying very close attention, and right under my nose He went and changed the game plan. Some would see such a turn of events as a real inconvenience, a problem that demanded to be remedied. I certainly did.

I’d suspected something: the nausea, throwing up, a missed cycle; my dad would’ve killed me if he’d ever found out. (Not really, but what daughter wouldn’t think that way?) I put my face into my hands, and out gushed: “Oh, God! Help me! Oh, please help me, please!” As if that could change anything as irreversible as being pregnant.

To my relief, however, and just in the nick of time! —two friends did show up, and with a solution too. Thank God for friends!

New five dollar bill debuts March 13, 2008.

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The first friend took me down to Medi-Cal and got me all “set up” for a $5 abortion. The second friend held my hand through the entire abortion process. I remember thanking God for those friends, that they’d known exactly what to do. I certainly didn’t.

Oh, wait! I knew that what I was doing was a sin. So how could I ever have thought that God actually had anything to do with the decision to terminate life? (And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Romans 1:21.)

The ordeal of having been “caught and trapped” so scared me, I swore off such acts that might lead again to such a horror. But true to the nature of memory, my fears diminished quite quickly. Soon, I was back in the swing of things and barely missed a beat.

Try not to judge me so harshly though, it’s what too many of us were doing in the seventies.

Cheers
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It’s what a lot of us did to hopefully find some purpose in all this, to make sense of our existence.

Honestly, who asked me if I wanted to be here? No one! No one ever once consulted me about whether or not I wanted to be born. I didn’t know why I’d been put here, why anyone was here. So I was just trying my best to hold my own in this crazy game of living. This is what I ended up doing, because I knew there had to be a reason for being here, and maybe, just maybe this was the way to find out.

But the longer I stayed in that fast-lane living, my conscience merely became the wind in my ears.

It was a whole year later, when the urge to clean up my act was starting to gnaw at me. So the first thing I did was to try to stop smoking. But being a 3-pack-a-dayer it wouldn’t be easy. I tried to stop cussing too. But that left such an awkward vacancy, my friends kept asking me, “What’s wrong with you? You sick or something?”

I even determined to stay away from the nightclubs. That was the only thing that stuck. But it burned some relationships too. Because now we’re talking judgment calls. At least, that’s what a couple friends accused me of doing. But it wasn’t two, maybe three weeks, and I was feeling the pangs of withdrawal. Mostly, I was just lonely. Understand, I’d been living in a rhythm, and here I’d broken that momentum and suddenly, I needed to feel something again. I picked up the phone and dialed an old guy-friend who would temporarily convince me that it would all be okay somehow. We ended up smoking some weed and having a few drinks.

Neither of which I wanted to do.

Early the next morning a friend of his showed up, and he and I ended up going out the very next night. A real date, I thought. Someone, I thought, I could maybe start something new with, with that newness I so wanted to begin living in. No drinking. No cussing. No sex. No weed.

But on the way to dinner, this nice guy shoved a blimp of a joint my way and didn’t bother to tell me that he’d laced it with something really bad. I didn’t want a hit. I really didn’t. But I wasn’t one to stand up for myself back then, as you probably already guessed. Once the laced joint had done its dirty work, and while he was doing his…I knew. I knew in that instant.

I’d been drugged and still I knew.

In fact, I could’ve sworn I’d heard a voice inside my head, whispering, “You’re pregnant.” Weeks later, it would become official.

Ever hear the term watershed moment? It’s when everything around you converges on you and something changes; things are never the same again.

God is in those watershed moments. He is continually orchestrating life’s events to turn our gaze heavenward. Isn’t that amazingly cool? But you and I can think a watershed moment is more like our worst nightmare. We give up, would rather die than wait around for God’s preserving hand through it all. We might not give it a second thought, that God could take our mess and make something beautiful of it. There’s just no way, right?

So there I was, about eight weeks after this nice guy. I’d lost my job, spent two days in the county jail, and came home just long enough to find out that I was indeed pregnant. In my mind, things could not be worse. I won’t go into it, but I’m really playing it all down here. It’d gotten so bad I was convinced that ending my life was the only option left. And that’s what it took for me to cry out to God.

That’s what it took to open me up to God’s forgiveness and life-changing work. It was right where I needed to be, before I could actually see and admit my sinfulness and genuinely repent. But the miracle here was that I couldn’t even do that on my own; God had to do it for me:

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD” (Jeremiah 24:7).

And listen to this: “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 disobedienct. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts….But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1–5).

There was my miracle! To be awakened to the Person of God. Really shaken, I’m telling you, and woken up! I needed a place with a view to God’s perspective, to begin understanding the whys of this life down here. That place would end up being a brand new heart—because my old one had always been so consumed with me and the things that are only seen with human eyes—the very key to unlock the Scriptures.

I never realized to what extent I needed God. And when I’d asked Him to make Himself real to me, I had no idea how He’d go about making it happen. I’m not convinced that I could even begin to explain what happened to me. I’ve tried, but it only seems to take away from the transformation that took place. All I can tell you is, my life has never been the same since.

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