115. Born blind – yes, me too!

It’s true. Really. If you cannot see, you are blind. So what can you see? Yes, I know the song.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I also see those things, hearing the “instantly recognizable gravelly voice” of Louis Armstrong who wrote these words… but the words go on.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

Do you see that? Do you see the blessing and the sacred? That is the true test.

To truly see you have to see the invisible.

How is that possible? There is only one way. Another song points it out.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

look full in His wonderful face

and the things of the earth will go strangely dim

in the light of His glory and grace

That is perspective; the right perspective for this life – dim earthly things and shining glory and grace.

In John 9 it is stated that this man was afflicted with blindness since birth. Affliction since birth is mentioned twice in Acts: the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:2) and the cripple in Lystra (Acts14:8). The blind man here in John was well known. The disciples knew him.

Not everybody with illness could sit in prominent places to beg. The city authorities issued a special garment to “official” beggars only after the validity and true nature of their affliction have been established.

The Jews connected suffering and sin. His blindness could be due to parents’ sin or his own. Many reformed doctrines today still teach that a baby is born into sin. It is cited as one of the reasons for infant baptism. I could never understand how involuntary sin could bring sickness over some and not others. If this is true, all babies should be sick with something or another, otherwise – how is it explained?

The Jews had a strange concept of prenatal sin. They interpreted the words of Genesis 4:7 that talk about “sin crouching at the door” as the door of the womb. They also believed in the pre-existence of the soul. It was a Greek philosophical superstition that all souls were in existence at creation and waited in a heavenly chamber to be born, therefore contaminated by sin as soon as they entered the womb and come into a sinful universe.

Alternatively, his parents’ sin could bring affliction about. God Himself said He would visit the iniquity of the fathers onto their children (Exodus 20:5,34:7, Numbers 14:18). The Psalmist curses with that notion (109:14). It is also mentioned in Isaiah 65:6-7. In Isaiah 65:23 the generational blessing of the Lord is emphasized.

What about today? What do you think? There is DNA testing that presents you with the details of hereditary illness at the core of your physical compilation.

Jesus does not explain the correctness or not of the argument. The illness, whatever the source, is an opportunity for God’s glory. The history of affliction is not important.

The future of affliction is being dealt with decisively.

Miracles are always the sign of God’s glory and power. Other Gospel writers showed Jesus’ compassion in His healing ministry. In all the Gospels combined, Jesus’ power is illustrated by His pity on mankind.

Afflictions, sorrow, pain, disappointment and loss are always opportunities for displaying God’s grace. It shows God in action.

When trouble and disaster fall upon a man who does not know God, that man may well collapse, but when they fall on a man who walks with God, they bring out the strength and the beauty, the endurance and the nobility, which are within a man’s heart when God is there.

By helping those who are in trouble or in pain, we demonstrate to others the glory of God.

 God’s highway runs straight through us. Frank Laubach.

This is one of two miracles in which Jesus uses spittle to cure. [Also the deaf stammerer in Mark 7:33] Spittle as an ointment was quite common in the ancient world. The spittle of some distinguished person was believed to have curative qualities.

Jesus was wise and gained the confidence of his “patient”. To this day there is so much confidence in drugs to heal. Prescribed medication is one of the most important methods of healing.

The Pool of Siloam was a landmark in ancient Jerusalem and an engineering feat of the time. The water supply in Jerusalem was always a problem. The water came from the Spring of Gihon in the Kidron Valley. A staircase of 33 steps led down to it for people to draw water. The spring was completely exposed. In the event of a siege it was easy to cut off the water supply for the entire city.

When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib was about to invade Palestine he determined to cut a tunnel or conduit through the solid rock from the spring into the city (2 Chronicles 32:2-8; 2 Chronicles 32:30; Isaiah 22:9-11; 2 Kings 20:20). If the engineers had cut straight it would have been a distance of 366 yards; but because they cut in a zigzag, either because they were following a fissure in the rock, or to avoid sacred sites, the conduit is actually 583 yards. The tunnel is at places only about two feet wide, but its average height is about six feet. The engineers began their cutting from both ends and met in the middle – a truly amazing feat for the equipment of the time.

The Pool of Siloam was the place where the conduit from the Virgin’s Fountain issued into the city. It was an open-air basin called Siloam, which, meant sent, because the water in it had been sent through the conduit into the city.

Jesus sent this man to wash in this pool. The man washed and was healed. He obeyed the command of Jesus. His healing could have taken place right there and then in front of Jesus and all the onlookers. He was sent away from his familiar places where he was able to cope with his blindness. He had to step out of his comfort zone and find his way – still blind – to the pool in order to obey the command of Jesus.

In this act, he was given privacy to experience sight all by himself and face the world on his own terms and in the time of his choosing. He accepted Jesus’ way of doing things. He did not question the method.

Jesus’ words must have carried heavenly authority. He did not promise healing. He commanded the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Why would the blind man obey this man? He could have looked like a fool if he went to the Pool and nothing happened.

His obedience defeated doubt.

 The words of Jesus; the voice of God commanding action was enough to change his whole life!

Jesus gave instructions for the next step without informing the blind man of the consequence of the washing.

What do you do when your miracle does not come the way you expect or desire? Do you still blindly obey? Are you willing to take the next step in full obedience without knowing the outcome?

We often hear the term – blind obedience. We do not often talk about obedience. Obedience has lost its power when evil-inspired institutions and persons of authority abused their subjects to obey. Church leaders and parents who overstep and hurt in their respective roles of authority over people and children have drained the life-changing muscle of obedience.

The Greek word for obedience is hupakouo, which means to listen attentively, to obey as a subject, to listen and respond and submit without reservation.

To listen and respond – action for your miracle.

Are you willing to take the long route? Can you acknowledge and submit to Jesus’ word whatever it takes WITHOUT knowing the outcome?

Phew! Tall order indeed.

 

Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.

(Psalms 143:7,8)

 

 

 

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71. Come out – where are you?

Are you with me? Way, way back when the story of the Bible began, let us walk with Adam and Eve into the well-known disaster describing the birth of all destruction and devastation. Twisting the magnificence and glory in God’s promise of bounty and beauty, Satan sows doubt in Eve’s thinking and make her think she might be missing out on something. She eats of the fruit that would turn her into her own god and becomes the proud deity of her own destiny.

Eve gave Adam to eat; they saw their own nakedness and hid from God – as if it is possible to hide from the omni-present, all-knowing Father. That same day, not letting the sun go down on their devastation, God came and called in the wind: Adam where are you?

Do you really think He needed information about Adam’s whereabouts? Do you think the all-knowing, everywhere God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were and precisely what happened in the garden that day? He knew off course! Still He came…. and called.

Sin did no end the conversation. No sin can ever end the conversation.

Today, this day, as through all the ages, His invitation rings true:

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message:

“If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.

If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, The Message)

What an amazing word! This is the answer to sin. Get it out of the way. Come back into His Presence. No detours, no guilt, no hiding from God. Come back, call out – forgiveness is guaranteed.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Confess whatever you are hiding from God. If nothing comes to mind – ask the Holy Spirit to show you.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence? 

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Psalm 139:7,8)

If God said it, it is life-giving and life-changing, powerful, miracle-working words. His words of forgiveness will lift you up and out of failure and hopelessness.

Why did God ask questions? Not to get information, but to get the exchange going. Adam had to talk it out, tell God why they are hiding, confess, explain and in spilling the secret, be healed and forgiven. Sin is so often a secret, unspeakable and shameful – so much that it holds you captive just by the sheer shame of it. Talking about it is rendering it powerless.

God has an answer, a miracle, for the biggest scandals you can think of. He will not allow satan to defeat you and your potential in this world. His plans are steadfast and sure.

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, The Message)

Often, but not always, His first point of communication is our circumstances. He does not orchestrate it, but He uses the evil coming out of our wrong decisions for good. All the disaster in our world today is the consequences of sin and man’s wrong decisions. God judges sin continually in order to bring people to repentance. In any crisis of choosing right above wrong, discipline above easy, effort above letting slip, know that God is good, always, and will ALWAYS work our mess for our benefit.

What happens in the garden? God prevails – until His voice calls them out of hiding. He gets them to talk. The whole story is blurted out with blame and accusations. As always God’s judgment comes sound and clear, not to man – who will off course carry the consequence of sin, always with God by his side, but to satan, who will bear the ultimate defeat at the cross, when his head will be crushed.

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,

Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.

I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

 After this declaration of judgment, God did a very important thing.

He covered their nakedness His way. He killed an animal – I believe it was a lamb, but the Bible does not say – and clothed them with the symbolism of innocent blood flowing for the cleansing and covering of their sin. Their own efforts with fig leaves did not spare them the shame of their failure. Only God could cover them to live on the cursed earth, the brokenness that we still live in today.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: we are covered by the blood of THE Lamb.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Thank God for instant restoration and forgiveness to defeat sin and walk in victory.

By His blood the Garden is restored and we can walk with God in His Presence, entering into conversation with our Father as of old, before sin. Where He is, is peace and rest.

From this moment on, everything is focused on the conversation. Satan wants to break it off and God loves and forgives to restore it.

 

 

70. Only rumours …or firsthand?

There is another principle to prayer that we often overlook.

 God initiates prayer. Not us. He speaks to get the exchange going.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Every time the words “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” occur in the New Testament, Jesus is the one who is speaking. This is no casual expression. It is the divine Son of God saying, “Don’t ever close your ears or your heart to your need to be taught.

How we listen will determine our prayer life.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Let us start at the beginning.

The story of the Garden in the Book of Genesis is all about words. It is recorded in words and it tells about words. The first words ever created – big time – bigger than ever or anything we might know.

Words brought the world into existence, words flung the stars into space; words spoke the light into being and set the oceans their boundaries. Then God formed man from the dust, the woman from the man and spoke a blessing over them to give them authority over all things.

The ancient Hebrews believed words are a unit a unit of energy that goes out and accomplish something. Therefore the blessing spoken could not be retracted. Once Isaac spoke the blessing of the firstborn over Jacob, it could not be undone and Esau had to accept a lesser blessing.

God’s first words to man was spoken in His Presence in that beautiful perfect garden.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: God speaks. If He asks us to pray without ceasing, He will talk to us without ceasing!

Therefore My people shall know My name;

Therefore they shall know in that day

That I am He who speaks:

‘Behold, it is I.’” (Isaiah 52:6)

You cannot live on rumors of God – hearsay. Like Job (42:5) we declare: (The Message)

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!

There in the Garden He sets the scene for constant communication. He never ceased to speak. Not even sin could thwart the voice of God.

I am not sure what you think of prayer. Just the word might bring bad associations – forced prayer, awkward moments, heartless prayers, judgmental prayers, long windedness, religious rituals and so forth. Just think for a moment what is your intellectual and emotional response to the mentioning of prayer. Are you excited by the thought, or do you feel guilty? Are you hesitant or expectant? Do you feel indifferent; having decided long ago it doesn’t work or can you testify enthusiastically about recent answer to prayer?

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Express the desire to hear God’s voice.

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden as royalty to reign over the magnificence of creation. They dwelt in perfect communication and entered into the rest God planned for them. Remember, their first day on earth was the Sabbath. One can never reign effectively and victoriously without entering into the rest of the Sabbath with God, relaxing and finding fellowship with Him.

That was the first, fabulous consequence of communication – rest and peace. Adam was a scientist. He worked every day and met God in the stillness of the evening. He named creation. It is science. Talk to anyone in the natural sciences and they will tell you they are still naming creation.

Then in the darkness that followed the decision to listen to that challenging half-truth of satan, came the distancing of shame and failure, fleeing from the Presence and conversation.

Satan questioned God’s words, and Eve added some of her own understanding when she said: we are not to eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God never said not to touch, only not to eat. Sin comes to us in various ways, but it is the participation and immersion in it, that corrupts and destroys. It exposes our nakedness without the covering of God’s Presence.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:  Prayer is a conversation – initiated by God.

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39,41,42)

Pray with me:

Lord, open my ears to hear what the Spirit says to he church, so that may I know Your plans and purposes on this earth.

 

Pray without ceasing.

29. Come take a bath for a change.

We live the fast life. Morning routines with school-going children and office hours fill the house with hasty showers, wet hair and the smell of shampoo rushing to spend a few minutes on breakfast before the duties of the day chases them out the door. Mothers stand guard, remind, encourage and pack food with one eye on the clock, no time for self-indulgence.

Evenings are better for a slow bath – thinking, meditating, judging… yes sharp and strong judging of the particular challenges that day. It takes time; sometimes the luxury of bath oil and something fragrant added – something to look forward to. A bath is the full immersion of the body in water that was used throughout history for personal hygiene, a religious ritual or therapeutic purposes.

Greeks invented showers; Romans used communal baths for socializing. Personal cleanliness took time and was constantly upgraded and modified to ensure more effectiveness and personal luxury.

We can take a spiritual bath and I would recommend the private, slow method with the fragrance of the Word of God in the water.

Ephesians 5:26: [Amplified]

26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God],

[NLT=New Living Translation]

to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

The full immersion into the Word of God, cleansed by the Blood, resurrected by the Power, spending time to hear His voice, soaking in the Presence, so that we can be clothed in white robes [Revelation 3:18] all dishonour washed away and equipped for every good work, are the elements of a victorious prayer life.

2 Timothy 2:20,21:

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

The Word of God cleanses us from dishonour and makes us vessels of silver and gold, worthy of the calling. [Ephesians 4:1]

Let us open the taps and prepare to indulge.

James 4:8:

Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your unfaithful hearts, you double-minded people. [Amplified]

Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. [The Message]

What a shame to be called double-minded. The NLT explains:

…for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Double-minded people give Christianity a bad reputation. People who live the church life unconsciously, all the trappings of secular society comfortably embedded into their lifestyle. For sure, a nasty, slimy piece of dirt waiting for some Word-water. In the chilling words of Jesus…

John 8:44:

You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what it natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.

What brings about this sorry state of affairs? Distance from God, no doubt. What distances us from God? Sin.

We are called into holiness, set distinctively apart for a heavenly purpose.

It is not fashionable to talk about sin. Do we proclaim legalism or slavery under the law? After all, Jesus came and we have a gospel of grace, redemption, forgiveness and victory. Don’t be so negative and talk about sin…

James talked about sin straight and strong. The word used is: hamartolos, used to describe hardened sinners, those who live in the company of lawlessness. He talked about sin in the same breath of talking about drawing near to God. What is the connection?

The solution for this distancing from God is to draw near to God – a simple command. Drawing near from a place of sin, shame and guilt is a simple act of confession. Sin hinders God’s closeness. Repent and come clean. The assurance of God’s forgiveness is full guarantee of Him drawing near to you.

1 John 5:17:

All wrongdoing is sin

1 John 1:8,9 en 3:4:

 If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose].

Sin is breaking God’s law. It is the source of all evil. Anyone who walks in the light of God will be aware of his own sinfulness. A transgression [parabaino in Greek] is the rejection of trust, rebellion against truth, disobedience and a willful change of course away from the right way. Sin will cause you to lose purpose and waste your potential. It is a decision, once off or repeatedly, that will rob you of the excellence of the life of faith.

No Christian can ever get away from the Cross. The Cross is not for first-time believers only. It is the core of our existence and our daily bath from all wrongdoing. Your distance from an awareness of the Cross and the work Jesus has done there is a good indication of your sensitivity to unrighteousness. In the brokenness of a cursed earth, the Cross is the ultimate remedy for all wrong.

This is James prescription – 4:10 [Amplified]:

10 Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].

Don’t you feel like jumping and shouting for joy?

Psalm 13:5:

 But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation.

We have the solution for double-mindedness. We have full control over sin. A humble and contrite heart, bowing before our God empowers us to triumph in Christ. First and foremost, let us repent of pride and arrogance and humbly submit our lives to Holy Spirit inspection. We do not need to guard our honour. God will lift us up and honour us His way.

James 4:10 [The Message]:

Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

In the Garden of Eden, sin exposed their nakedness and they had to hide. The devil smirks when we are humiliated by our sin and become a public spectacle of shame. God’s covering of grace and forgiveness protects us from this humiliation.

Psalm 37:5,6:

Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in Him also and He will do it.

He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light,

And your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun].

The Cross is our gateway back into the Garden, the full enjoyment of His presence. Praise God, our sins are forgiven. We cling to the Cross, like the people of Israel to the animal sacrifices in the prescribed rituals to remind them of their sin and the forgiveness through innocent blood. The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin in perfect love and give you the bath you need. Of Him Jesus said:

John 16:8:

And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment…

Come let us consider sin, identify it, face it, confess it and leap into liberty with exceeding joy!

Pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments.

Greed is inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort.

Know that everybody must earn money. Money is not the solution to your problem, even if your problem is a money problem. God is the solution to your problem. He is the Source of all wealth. Submit all money matters to God and His kingdom principles. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and everything will be added...Matthew 6:33.

Lust is an emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. The lust can take any form such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion.

Envy (from Latin invidia) is an emotion, which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it”.

It is normal that feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction with your own level of success in life come over you. Get over it quickly by counting your blessings and grabbing hold of an attitude of gratitude. Envy can rule your life and destroy relationships around you and with God. Again: Seek first the kingdom…. Back to James 4.

Verse 11:

Believers, do not speak against or slander one another. He who speaks [self-righteously] against a brother or judges his brother [hypocritically], speaks against the Law and judges the Law. If you judge the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge of it. 

The Message:

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

Gluttony, derived from the Latin: gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste.

Anger or wrath is an intense emotional response. It is a normal emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation. Often it indicates when one’s basic boundaries are violated.

Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional apathy, neglecting what God has spoken, and being physically and emotionally inactive. It can also be either an outright refusal or merely a carelessness in the performance of one’s obligations, especially spiritual, moral or legal obligations.

God will correct and balance your life. Lean hard on Him and break free from the bondage. Our God reigns!