Listen to today’s devotional.

THE MYSTERIES OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS

Mysteries of Partial Blindness

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29 

Scripture does not say whether Jesus was sad as He asked His disciples this question, “Who do you say that I am?” He was God and understood spiritual blindness. He knew that spiritual eyesight is never completely cured on this earth. Only in heaven will we exclaim, “I never knew you were this glorious.” Or, “I never knew you loved me like this!”

In my ignorance, I can wonder how the disciples could have been blind. They had the advantage of having Jesus with them. They saw him heal leprosy, drive out spiritual oppression, and calm the seas. Yet, Jesus knew that spiritual blindness takes time to clear. It would only be sometime later, after the resurrection, that they would finally grasp His deity and give their lives to tell others about Him.

Just as people can be blind to Jesus, they can also be blind to Jesus in me. Believer, or unbeliever. The ones who struggled the most to see Jesus’ divinity were his own family. Likewise, those who know me best, and the longest, are often blind to the presence of Jesus in me. It’s the nature of hometown dynamics.

There may come a day when family and friends see His Light and take a step back. Just about the time I believe must accept being misunderstood, God will begin to clear the fog. It was He who allowed me to be concealed for a time and it is He who facilitates the unveiling. It’s as if they’ve never seen me before. Comments are taken seriously. Insights are valued. Company is sought after. I shake my head and wonder how this could happen after so many years.

If I live near others who don’t really see me, it’s not necessarily permanent. While I languish under invisibility, God is near. I am in God’s schoolroom where lessons abound. I remember the Old Testament scripture that says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” Proverbs 25:2 The period of others’ blindness is under the sovereignty of my Heavenly Father. While I am hidden to them, He ‘searches me and knows me.’ Though often rejected by them, ‘He calls me His and has me engraved on the palm of His hands.’

You change the hearts of kings and turn on the lights when it’s time. While I wait, give me the grace You received from Your Father as you walked out Your faith before those who knew You and loved You – and yet didn’t see You. No matter how painful, You are with me and I am known completely. Amen

Jealousy Has Many Colors

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellows Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.  Romans 11:13

If I believe that my own flesh poses no threat to my spiritual condition anymore, then I just have to experience how powerful my feelings of jealousy can be.  I can be offered something, turn it down because it fails to interest me in the slightest, but change my mind when someone nearby considers it a treasure.  I’ll be sorry I refused it.

Jealousy can actually work towards something positive, according to Paul.  He hopes that a spotlight will be put upon his ministry to the Gentiles for the purpose of making the Jews take notice in order to arouse their jealousy.  They had rejected Christ.  He had come to them, called them His own, taught in their synagogues, healed many of their people, but in the end, they rejected him.  All He offered, they refused.  So, before His ascension back into heaven, Jesus sent His disciples to the ends of the earth and extended salvation to the Gentiles.  When the Jews watched them embrace Jesus, watched them worship, even give their lives for the privilege of being His, jealousy began to simmer.  This was the plan.  God wanted, and still wants, the salvation of the Jews so badly that He’s willing to use jealousy to bring them to embrace His Son.

Can jealousy work like that today?  I can turn down a church position but then envy the one who does take it and prospers.  I can watch others worship with passion and abandon, decide it’s way too out of the box for me, but then struggle with jealousy over their free spirit.  I can be spiritually lazy and take communion without emotion but then envy the ones who seem to tremble over the very word ‘communion’.

The first wake up call is that I still fail to understand the depth of my own sin.  But God wants my heart so badly that He will even use my own jealousy of others to woo me.  May I know a jealousy that saves!

Jealousy can make me want to hurt the one who has what I want.  May it only lead me to You, the One who is everything I want.  Amen

I Don’t Always Know

Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
                                                                       Romans 16:19
I can think I know how to recognize good and evil.  I over-simplify.  Honesty is good.  Deceit is evil.  Forgiveness is good.  Revenge is evil.  But get into the deep complexities of scripture and what God calls good and evil and things get muddy because of my own sinful nature.  Paul had to tell the Roman church to be intentional about gaining wisdom regarding ‘good’ and staying ‘innocent’ about evil.  If it were so simple, why the mandate?
Jesus said it another way about my blindness to good and evil.  He said, And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19 Because of my sinful nature, I won’t be attracted to good.  I won’t even recognize the Light when it is right in front of me.  How many called Jesus evil instead of righteous?  Even His own family.
‘Walking in the Light’ and ‘abiding in the Vine’ are concepts Jesus used to help me understand how imperative it is to live ‘in Christ.’  The connection we have because of the indwelling of His Spirit gives me instant access to wisdom and discernment.  When I want to call an affliction bad, the Spirit of God may tell me that it is a saving affliction – designed to grow my faith.  When I call prosperity good, the Spirit of God may tell me that it is dangerous.  I can even call my material goods God’s blessing when I’ve really amassed it out of selfish ambition.
How many things in my life aren’t I seeing clearly today?  Half of my prayer requests may be gifts in disguise.  And what about the things I’ve concluded are ‘good’ and don’t need prayer?  Perhaps those are really the critical needs.  Jesus’ words are difficult and scripture does not open up to my understanding without the help of the Spirit.  I don’t know how much I need Him on a daily basis, even yet.  My churchy background lulls me into believing that I understand more than I do.  The verses I committed to memory, the stories I heard addressed in thousands of sermons, may not yet be grasped the way they should be.  God is waiting for me to cry out for clear eyes, open ears, and heart that perceives spiritual realities.  None of these can I bring about by myself.  All are given to the heart of the seeker who comes with great need.
I want to live like Solomon in his early years.  He called out to you to say that he was like a little child and didn’t know where to go without you.  Take me by the hand, Lord, and teach me.  Amen

Thieves and Robbers

All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  John 10:8

 

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the ones accusing him of heresy because he claimed to be God.  The Pharisees saw themselves as true spiritual leaders, elevated to be judges of spiritual truth.  It’s unsettling to realize that thieves and robbers have always been in the church.  According to Jesus, they are self-deceived leaders.
But, it is reassuring to see that Jesus says the sheep are never really comfortable following them.  In their hearts they know the truth.  It may take some time, but eventually God’s sheep will know they’re being robbed.  Self-proclaimed shepherds always steal something precious from our faith, leaving any who try to follow them and Jesus at the same time in great conflict.
  • False shepherds steal our peace.  They set up impossible spiritual standards for us to meet, causing us to live in torment, never feeing we measure up.
  • False shepherds steal our childlike trust.  How can we trust a God whom, we’re told, is never pleased with us?  We become like anxious children who know that when they round the corner into their parents’ room, they’ll probably experience disapproval.
  • False shepherds steal our affection.  How can we love a God with a cross face?  Because they misrepresent God as the unreasonable Father, we miss the joy of knowing we are dearly loved children.  We miss throwing our arms out in abandon, proclaiming our affections, knowing we will be joyfully received.  No refusals.

If we can’t run home today with joy, or even limp home with high levels of confidence, chances are we’ve been robbed blind.  Discover what’s missing. Then start looking in places where peace, trust, and affection should abide. False shepherds are rarely peaceful, humble, and gracious.

Show me where I am an easy target for a fast-talking robber.  Amen

The Language Of Intimacy

Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind in Athens alone, so we sent Timothy to establish you in your faith.  I Thess 3:1,2

Paul uses some strong heart language here.  What is going on?  He is writing to a small group of believers in Thessalonica whom he had brought to faith in Christ.  But after their conversion, he had to flee for his life and he knew that once he left, they would also be persecuted.  What could be the outcome if he left them alone?  They might deny their faith.  When authorities came knocking on their door and demand that they recant or go to jail, would they still believe that the decision they made to embrace Jesus as the Messiah was a sound one?  Would they be strong enough to handle the persecution?

Now Paul is in Athens with Silas and Timothy.  If Paul goes back to check on his new converts, he will be killed.  He knows that.  To use the words “when I could bear it no longer…” is pretty strong language for how worried he is about them.

Has anyone ever worried about you?  Overprotective parents who smother the life out of their child will ruin future chances for an “Apostle Paul”.  The concern of a mentor might feel like the familiar invasion of boundaries.  Straining for independence, legitimate loving concern is pushed away.

More often than not though, this is not our experience though.  We live in growing isolation inside the church.  We put on our best face, take up a spot in a pew, and rarely reveal how tenuous our faith is.  No one knows that they should be worried about us.  Imagine, if throughout our lifetime, we were used to getting a phone call that began with, “I could endure it no longer without checking on you.” Many will read this today and cry for the want of it.

This is the level of discipleship that pleases God.  If your church doesn’t provide that, either be the catalyst to shake up things or find a church where you can be part of a small group that practices true soul care.  Life is hard, disappointments are plentiful, and pressures are nearly unbearable.  You must be in a place where others look out for you. There is someone out there, like Paul, who longs to stand there with their arm around your shoulder, cheering you on to stand in truth, and serving you in faithfulness.  And what’s equally true is that there are many who need the same from each of us.

Biblical soul care was your intention.  What is my part?  Amen

Jesus, My Ark Of Safety

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.  Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  Genesis 6:114

God’s children are not destined for wrath but eternal life.  God’s wrath was about to destroy the earth with a flood but God proclaimed a different outcome for Noah. When the world would groan under the weight of God’s judgment, His child would safely nestle in God’s care.

This is not the last time an ark is mentioned.  When the male children of the Hebrews were being slain by Egyptians, God had one mother make a nesting place for her baby amidst the bulrushes of the Nile.  The same words for ‘an ark made with pitch’ are used again as she made a ‘floating box made with pitch’ to save her baby, Moses.

God’s purposes, written before time, will always prevail.  Even though it may appear that evil has snuffed out God’s promises, His covenant is unshakeable. The end of the story has already been written and God does not have to labor to make it all work out in the end.

What floodwaters are threatening to undo you today?  When trouble rushes in like a flood, I can feel that my life is at stake emotionally, even physically.  Noah heard the roar of the storm, felt the fury of the wind on his ark, but rode out the storm with confidence.  Today, Jesus is my ark, my hiding place .

David said, “The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”  When in danger for my life, I run to Him.  Like a child who flees to a parent’s room to hide in their embrace during a storm, I run to Christ.  Under His wing, I hear His assurances.  “Shh, don’t be afraid.  I’m here.”  Under His wing, He even serves me a banquet in the presence of my enemies.  I eat food that He has served up with the most poignant revelation.

I must not listen to voice of my enemy today.  He would assure me that I’m doomed.  He will tempt me with many ways to self-preserve.  Defend myself against accusers.  Self-comfort in ways that are not good for me.  Force circumstances to work in my favor.  All the time, God’s arms are open, He’s stooped down to beckon to the scared small child.  “Come!”

Jesus, my ark of safety.  Sealed by Your Spirit.  I run to You at the sign of the first threat on my life.  Amen