The Darkness of Sight (Starting Out Life Right Pt. 3)

Have you ever had an experience that overwhelmed your mind?  What about your senses?  A number of years ago, I was driving from one service call to another.  The traffic was normal and I was able to do just above the speed limit.  As I drove, I was listening to various preachers talk about reaching those who need Christ.  During this time, I started to think about my life prior to knowing Christ.

I was young when I met Christ and never experienced an adult life without Him.  The doubt started and I wondered what it would be like to be a non-Christian.  How could I understand the mindset of those who haven’t had Christ most of their lives?  I wanted to know what it was like.

As I drove down the highway, I turned off my radio and prayed, “Lord, please allow me to see as those who don’t know you see.”  Almost immediately, it was as if I could no longer see the road ahead.  Here I am, driving 60mph and couldn’t see.  I felt blinded and could only know what was only a few feet in front of me.

When I asked God for His protection, my sight came back fully.  It was only for a minute or so, but I suddenly understood the mind of those who don’t know Christ.

Romans 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (NIV)

During my “blinding” experience, I realized that those who don’t know Christ cannot see and when we cry out to God for help, He is willing and able to do what we cannot accomplish.  Only God can allow us to see Him.  Only God can take our blindness and give us sight.

John 9 talks about a situation where a blind man receives his sight and the ramifications that came along with it.  First, the disciples see this blind man, who had been blind from birth and asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?”  Isn’t it amazing that instead of asking Jesus to heal the man, the disciples immediately assumed this man or his parents had sinned.  They thought, “If someone had a disability, either they or their parents sinned.”  However, this was not the case.

Jesus responded, “Neither this man or his parents sinned…”  So why did God allow this man to be blind all his life?  Think about it.  Here is a man who could not contribute to society.  All his life, he probably heard people say, “I wonder what his parents did?” or “I wonder what he did to make God upset?”  It was no surprise for this man to hear what the disciples said.  What probably came as a surprise was what Jesus said next.

“…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Suddenly, this man heard that God allowed him to be blind in order to show others that God exists and loves those who respond to His calling.  AMAZING!!!  There was no sin.  There was no accident.  There was no scientific possibilities   Simply, God allowed him to be blind to work in his life.

How many times do was ask God to take away or problems, illnesses or circumstances?  The last time you and I suffered, did we ask God to take our situation away from us?  The story that keeps coming to mind is my friend Peter.  God allowed him to suffer greatly.  God allowed him to experience abuse, loss and extreme pain.  Yet during his last days, he was on fire for God.  God was able to use his painful experiences and painful circumstances to bring others to Christ.  It was in Peter’s weakness that God showed His mercy to others.  But the story doesn’t end there.

This blind man was healed and then experienced another aspect of God working in his life…persecution and disbelief.  The religious leaders of his day found out he was healed and wanted to know more.  When they asked him when he was healed, they realized it was the Sabbath (a holy day that required no one to work).  According to the religious leaders, anyone who worked on the Sabbath must not be from God.  They thought that the traditions of religiosity out weighed the actual healing.  Over a few different times of questioning, they threw this man out of the synagogue.

So for a moment, here is a man who was not a part of society, gained his sight and wanted to be a part of society but was kicked out of the synagogue which meant he was no longer part of society again.  How would you feel?  If I were him, I would probably be angry and depressed.  I would want to try and figure out why God gave me my sight back only to take what I thought was my life, away again.  Jesus had a solution.

When Jesus heard about the man’s situation, he approached him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Basically, Jesus wanted to know if this man believed in Him.  Unlike many others, Jesus healed this man prior to his believing in Jesus.  God gave him the gift of sight without requiring him to believe in Jesus.  That was why Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

This man answered, “Who is he, sir?  Tell me so that I may believe in him.”  This man wanted to know who Christ was.  He desired to know who the Messiah was.  Jesus responded with the greatest surprise of all.  Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”  WHAT A GREAT RESPONSE!  WHAT A GREAT SURPRISE!  It was then the man worshiped Christ.  But did you notice what Jesus actually said?

Jesus didn’t focus on the man’s prior disabilities   He focused on what God had done for him.  Jesus then revealed Himself to this man to call him into a relationship with God.

The same holds true for us today.  Sometimes, God uses painful circumstances to work in our lives.  When we come out of those experiences and tell others, we are ridiculed and told (sometimes by Christians) how un-Christian-like it is to think or do what God has called us to proclaim.  Yet through all of this, Jesus reminds us of what God has done in order to bring us closer to Him.

In our life, we should not focus on our negative past, nor should we worry about what others think.  The only part of life we need to be concerned about is that Jesus loves us, died for us, healed us and wants us to tell others that we have been healed.  Unfortunately, we have a tendency to become angry or depressed because life isn’t going our way.  What we need to do is focus our attention on our relationship with God.  This way, He can help us see clearly the path He has for our lives.

Don’t allow the darkness of physical sight to blind us.  Allow God to remove that blindness and enter into a closer relationship with God.  Only Jesus can heal us, but no matter where we are in life, He will use our disabilities for His purposed and glory.

God bless and encourage someone today.

A Boy, a Coat and a Valuable Lesson (Starting Off Life Right – Pt.2)

Have you ever had a sibling that felt it was necessary to rat you out constantly?  What about a kid in school?  Has a co-worker ever told your boss things that makes you look bad?  Well, if so, then you will be able to relate to our next “Life Starter”, Joseph.

A bit of background first….

Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob.  He was the 2nd youngest, which means that Jacob was older when Joseph was born.  Eventually, all the sons of Jacob would one day be the “tribes of Israel”.  One day they would be the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise from God.  Unfortunately, Joseph needed to go through some things that seemed difficult.

As I was reading over the story of Joseph, there were a few things that came to mind.  First, Joseph is introduced to us as a “tattle-tale”.  We see that Joseph had ‘spoken badly about his brothers to his father’.  There is no reference as to why, so what I am about to say is strictly ‘opinion’.  I personally believe Joseph was not only immature, but felt that he could go further in life by telling on his brothers.  If not, he was at least not “street smart”.  Obviously, this would make his brothers angry.

Next, we see that Jacob favored Joseph over all his brothers.  In fact, Jacob made a special garment for Joseph.  It was the most beautiful of garments in that day.  No where does it say that Joseph didn’t want it or didn’t wear it.  Later in the story we see that Joseph wore the garment regularly.

Lastly, we see Joseph telling his brothers about two dreams he had.  He had told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him.  But we do not see where God told him to inform his brothers of this.  It was as if Joseph, having these dreams, understood what they were, but because of his immaturity, he decided to brag about them.

So what did his brothers eventually do?  Well, if you hated your sibling that much, what would you have done?  If you are like me, you would not talk with them, cut off all communication with them and regard them as non-existent.  However, Joseph’s brothers wanted to do more than that.  They wanted to kill Joseph.  If it wasn’t for the youngest brother, Benjamin, they would have.  However, Benjamin convinced them to fake Joseph’s death and sell him into slavery.

One day while Joseph was doing his chores, his father asked him to report what his brothers were doing.  Notice it doesn’t say rat out or talk badly, it was simply to be an update.  When Joseph arrived, the brothers jumped him, tore the garment that his father had made and threw Joseph into a pit.  They slaughtered a lamb, dipped the garment into the blood and sold Joseph to an Egyptian.  This is where I personally believe that Joseph started to understand what he had done.

Growing up in a church, I was always told that Joseph was simply being obedient to his father.  However, after reading this story more and more, I am convinced that Joseph didn’t start out life that great.  I also believe that it wasn’t until he was sold into slavery, that Joseph started to understand why all this “bad” stuff had happened.

Despite his rough beginning, Joseph ended his life on the right track.  While he was still young, he worked for a high Egyptian officer.  The officer’s wife wanted to commit adultery but Joseph wouldn’t have it.  Joseph understood that to commit adultery was not just a sin against himself and his boss, but it was a sin against God.  Unfortunately, Joseph ended up in prison because of lies the officer’s wife told.

While in prison, he was regarded highly by the guards and was put in charge of the inmates.  There were two other inmates that were there and were about to be released.  Joseph asked them to do him a favor and mention what had happened to him to the king.  But these two men forgot about Joseph.  It wasn’t until the king had a dream he couldn’t explain that one of them spoke up.

Over time, Joseph was released from prison and became the highest ranking officer (besides the king), in Egypt.  During Joseph’s reign, he was able to bring all of Egypt and his family through a famine. He also confronted his brothers and all was worked out between them.

Now think about this for a moment.  How many times do we go through horrific events only to ask, “God, why is this happening to me?”  I know I’ve asked that question.  What would happen if ‘bad things’ that happen to us were God’s way of preparing us for greater things in the future?  What if the bad was to be turned to good?  Isn’t that one of the promises of God.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV)

If ‘in all things’ means good or bad, then we see here that whether we face good times or bad times, God will work so that it will all turn out good and it will be because of His purpose, not ours.

We may start out life badly or make bad decisions, but God is able to take those bad situations and turn them around to profit the Kingdom.  When we see the kingdom growing because of our bad circumstances, we will be joyous through our trials.

Back in April, I watched a good friend of mine enter the Kingdom of God.  Prior to his death, we would pray with another friend of ours.  It was amazing to see my friend, who was in process of dying, turn to us and say, “It is okay for me to suffer now.  So long as others see Christ in it.”  He was only a Christian for a few years, but learned a lesson that most of us ‘older’ Christians haven’t learned…to trust Christ withe everything.

It was through my friend’s suffering that more people heard about Christ.  Until the day before he died, the visiting nurse had just started and in his pain he asked the nurse, “Do you know who Jesus is?”  She responded, “I’ve heard.”  His response was, “Then we need to talk.  We are going to have many discussions on Jesus.”

Until his last breath, he wanted others to know about Jesus.  This same nurse was there with us when he died.  As I cried as my friends feet, telling him that he did a great job and to let go, she sobbed not understanding what had just happened.  It was right after he took his last breath that I was able to share with her about the love of Christ.  In fact, at least 2 others asked about Christ because they saw something that was strange to them.  Even though we were saddened, we understood that one day we would see each other face to face, rejoicing in what God had done in our lives.

One day, I hope my life ends just as good as my friend’s and Joseph’s.  Our lives may not start out the way we want them to, but remember, it is not about us but about the Kingdom of God.  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Starting Out Life Right

As I sit here and write this post, I remember when I was younger.  When I thought the world was at my fingertips.  How the dreams and goals I had were reachable, not matter how exotic they had become.  Where was I going to live?  Who was I going to marry?  What kind of career was I going to have?

Just like most young adults, I figured that I would move out of New York, settle down in the countryside and start the most exotic career I could find.  I was going to conquer the world, make a ton of money and one day marry the most beautiful woman in the world.  Driving the most exotic of cars and lots of them were just the tip of the iceberg of the dreams and goals that I had.  But then, reality hit and I didn’t know what to do.

When I was 18, I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life.  By the time I was 20, I had met a girl, who I didn’t want to go out with and neither she with me.  However, both of us decided (she was convinced by her mom) to go out one time.  As it turned out, I had fun being with her.  It was then I realized that I had to do something quick.  I had to figure out how to start off this life and become who I was meant to be.

As life would have it, a year after we were going out, I had an “accident”.  It wasn’t really an “accident” but an assault.  In the middle of the night, someone was trying to steal my car, I, in a confused state, ran out to stop the individuals and ended up being hit over the head with a hammer.  This was one of God’s awakenings in my life.

As I was in the ambulance, I came back to consciousness and cried out to God for help.  Immediately, I could feel the presence of Christ with me and my body responded accordingly, peace and calm.  While I waited to go into emergency surgery, my father was crying over me and I responded in a way that can only be explained as “God given”.

My father was leaning over me, I told him, “If God could forgive me then I must forgive those who did this to me.”  As I lay there, I wondered if I was just crazy or if this was even real.  I knew that God had forgiven me for my sins and still does, so why couldn’t he forgive those who attacked me as well.

During that tumultuous time, I was also going to school to start my long lasting, money making career.  After some time, I graduated from school and started my quest of riches and fame.  Unfortunately, the only job I could find was to be a copier technician.  I figured that I would try it out for a three years and then move on to create the wealth that I felt I deserved.

Today, I am married to the most beautiful of women, the girl I had met when I was 20, live in the same area I grew up in and am still involved in fixing copy machines and supporting those in the field.  Did my dreams come true?  Was I successful in discovering how to make the most money in the shortest period of time?

Instead of answering those questions subjectively, let’s take an objective approach.  First, ask yourself this question, “What is the definition of success?”  Well, let me help you out….

Success – Favorable or desired outcome

Did I reach my goal of making a whole lot of money?  No, but what was at the core of that?  Let me suggest that pride and greed was at the core of my initial desires.  Therefore, sin was the core of my earlier drive.  However, no matter how sin was involved in my starting out life, God intervened and has done some miraculous things.

I have a good career that pays the bills and takes care of my family’s needs.  My wife is exactly, who I needed in my life.  My kids are healthy and we are able to live a pretty good lifestyle even though my wife has a “stay at home” career.

Early on, I thought one thing about life, but now understand something else.  Life is not about how much money you make or where you live.  It is about how God works in your life in order to accomplish what He wants in this world.  When we are open to what He wants to do, the dreams and goals we may have, will be placed into the light, purified and then given to us and fulfilled how God wants them to be fulfilled.

This doesn’t mean that we will become rich (as the rest of the world thinks) or famous, but it does mean that our lives will be filled with joy and be fulfilled.  Think of it this way.  If you are a child of God, who lives for Jesus, you are a child of the King.  You are considered a prince or princess.  You have an audience with the Creator of the entire universe.  He loves you so much that one day all that is His will one day be yours.  He will be our God and we will be His people.

I may not have started out this life the way I should have, but I have learned that I can finish stronger than I could have ever imagined.  Over the next number of blogs, we will be discovering how others started out life and where they ended up.  In the meantime, ask God to reveal to you His path for your life.  This way, even if you don’t start off life right at first, you can end it right on track.  Take time to thank God and seek His face for your life today.

God bless and encourage someone today.