Jesus Never Fails To Meet Us Where We Are.

Soon after giving birth, I was injured and unable to walk for the first month of my son’s life. This should have been a time of rejoicing but I felt helpless, alone and scared. Thankfully my injury was only temporary and I eventually healed. I will never forget how God met me where I was and strengthened my faith even in my isolation. 

However, If anyone felt alone and helpless it was the sick man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). The Bible says that he had been sick for thirty – eight years and he was lying there in a crowd hoping to be healed. It must have been such a pitiful sight. Broken bodies were littered all along the porch. Along with the pain and sorrow in their eyes, the horrible odors alone would have been enough to make a grown man cry. What was even worse was the fact that the pool was a longshot at best. The legend was that the first one who entered the pool when it was “stirred” by an angel would be healed. The rest of them would be a day late and a dollar short.

But something totally unexpected happened on that day. A healthy, young Jesus approached the sick man and asked, “Would you like to get well?” I imagine that after the initial shock, the sick man’s hope soared. I don’t blame him, mine would have too. I know for a fact, that no sane man would want to stroll through a battlefield of wounded soldiers just for the sake of the view. So, if this healthy man was walking amongst them then it must have been to help. And to the sick man’s limited knowledge, the only way for Jesus to help was to lower him into the pool of Bethesda. So, after Jesus asked, “Would you like to get well?” He said, “I can’t sir… For I have no one to put me in the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone always gets there ahead of me.” Notice that the sick man chose his words carefully so as to invoke Jesus’ sympathy without being too forward. After all, this was an once in a lifetime opportunity.

Nevertheless, Jesus had another way in mind. He didn’t need the Pool Of Bethesda. In fact, he didn’t need to lay a hand on the man. He simply spoke and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk!” Miraculously, the man obeyed. On that very day, the sick man came face to face with the source of true healing.

Bethesda means the “house of mercy”. Interestingly, it was there that mercy triumphed. (James 2:13). For instance, Jesus had extensively traveled the area healing the sick, lame and the blind but for some reason the sick man had not been able to follow his public ministry. Maybe he had heard the reports and didn’t believe. Whatever the case, Jesus came into the sick man’s midst to meet him where he was, lying on the porch desperately hoping for a miracle. Isaiah 65:1 aptly prophesied about Jesus.  It says,

‘I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me, I was found by those who did not seek me . . . I said, ‘Here am I , Here am I.’

Are you as grateful as I am that Jesus passionately pursues us? If so, then we must always remember that the greatest miracle performed at the pool that day was that Jesus not only raised him up to his feet, but that he more importantly raised him up as a child of God. Although we can be confident that we will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, Christ’s ultimate goal is eternity with us in heaven (Psalm 27:13). Jesus will meet us where we are and in ways we never expected; but it will always be for his glory and for the salvation of our souls.

Ananias – A Man Who Truly Trusted God.

IMG_0820

I was once told by my late aunt, that while napping, I fell from a very high bed when I was one year old. After that, I stopped walking. I guess my struggle with trust may have started then. To be honest, life has presented me with a thousand reasons not to. Am I the only one who breaks out in a cold sweat when someone says, “Trust me.”? As a matter of fact, I know that I am not alone and that most people struggle with trusting others, at least to some degree.

 While it is wise to be cautious around unfamiliar people, trust is extremely important in our personal relationships. Stephen Covey once said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” No where is this truer than in our relationship with God. He doesn’t just expect us to trust him but he requires it in order for us to have close fellowship with him. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding”.

But what about if and when he asks us to do something we may consider impossible or potentially dangerous?

For example, many missionaries heed the call to go into unchurched countries to preach the gospel. There are those in America, who go into crime infested neighborhoods to feed the poor and to tell them that someone truly loves them and that his name is Jesus. Some of God’s children are, even as we speak, having to choose between Christ and their families. The list goes on and on . Many people, who do not know Christ, may wonder why someone would willingly do these things. It simply doesn’t make sense to them.

In fact, God says that. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine (Isaiah 55:8).

That’s where trust comes in and we realize anew that we are vessels for his glory to be used as he sees fit. We must know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28). The Bible has many examples of men and women who truly believed this and risked their lives to trust and obey God. One of them was a man named Ananias.

“Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” (Acts 9:10 – 12)

With that one command God had put Ananias in a position to show that he trusted God with all his heart. This was no simple house call.  Ananias answered God by saying,

“But Lord … I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priest to arrest everyone who calls upon your name. (Acts 9:13, 14)”

I don’t think most of us could imagine the danger Ananias could face for visiting a man like Saul. But God, in all of his mercy and wisdom, revealed his purpose for this seemingly outrageous request.

 “…Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. … (Acts 9: 15)”

God had an extraordinary plan for Saul’s life and Ananias would be used to help bring it about. Obediently, Ananias found him and laid his hands upon him. By calling Saul “brother”, Ananias showed that he did not harbor a grudge in his heart against Saul and that he truly believed what God had said. We all know what happens next in the life of Saul who became the Apostle Paul. The rest, as they say, is history. Ananias had a share in it because of obedience that was based on absolute trust in God. Not only is Ananias’ faithfulness mentioned in the scriptures but in heaven it will be greatly rewarded. Is God calling you to trust him concerning a particular matter? Remember Ananias and know that God could be doing something great with your life that will glorify Him for all eternity.

 

Are You Presently One With Christ?

 

If you would have told me that a child riding a bicycle could help me grow significantly in my relationship with God, I would have thought that you were stretching things a little too far, but that’s exactly what happened.

One morning, my husband announced that we were going bike riding and before I knew it we were at the local bike park. After determining what direction we would travel, we set off. I began to notice that my youngest son was having trouble riding his new bike. There was a steady stream of traffic down the narrow path and every time someone would zoom past my son, he would wobble and veer into the other lane. After quite a few near misses with the other riders, I slowed down and began to follow behind him. I guess I yelled one, “Stay to the right!”, too many because he demanded to follow behind me instead. We had a showdown. I wasn’t budging and neither was he. He tilted the scale in his favor when he said, “Mom, I’m just going to walk beside it.” I caved and let him follow behind me. After all, I wasn’t going to walk such a long way if I could help it.

Gradually, the whining and complaining stopped and to my surprise, he had made peace with his bike and they were functioning as one unit. Before long I was racing to keep up. I was amazed to see how much progress he made when he made the decision to pull away. He instinctively knew what he needed. Without the pressure and anxiety, he could discern what to do. It was like God was speaking to me that day through my son.

Just as few days before, I couldn’t shake the lingering feeling that God wanted more from me , yet I couldn’t discern what I needed to do. After seeing how my son resolved his dilemma, I knew in my heart that God was showing me that the only way to discern his will is to pull away from the world and lay all my concerns at his feet and be completely present before him in prayer and worship. There is not enough room in our hearts for the anxieties of this world and our heavenly Father too. Jesus says that the first and the greatest commandment is to love the LORD with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds (Matthew 22:37). Again, we cannot be divided between God and the cares of this world. Our Father simply wanted all of me and he wants all of you too.

Jesus revealed the ultimate goal of our full submission to God at John 17:21. In this verse, Jesus says, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” God’s will is for us to attain to oneness with Christ. In John 17:26, Jesus says, “…I will be in them.”

This doesn’t happen by happenstance. For example, David knew the importance of nurturing his relationship with God. He says at Psalms 5:3, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” David knew that he could expect guidance, wisdom, insight, and answered prayers if he wholeheartedly came to the Father and indeed, so can we. Unfortunately, at times we imagine that we would be further behind if we took our focus off the chaos around us, but God has a way of pushing us even further ahead than we would have been without him. Isn’t that amazing?

Has God spoken to you through something that happened in your life and if so, how did it improve your relationship with him?