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Many times when we see bad things happen to good people, we bemoan our lives and say this shouldn't be.  He was a good person, or they are good people, or she was only a teenager.  And we secretly question God's plan.  Maybe we think how?  Why?


Yet in the Bible, we read about Stephen, who in Acts is described as "full of grace and power, and was doing great wonders and signs among the people," who was just beginning his ministry.  Yet he was violently stoned by his neighbors.  Paul, a man complicit in the crime, watched.  But we say, well, Stephen knew God, and his vision probably mitigated his horrible death.  It probably wasn't so bad.


Even John the Baptizer, a cousin of Jesus and a holy man, languished in prison, perhaps hoping for Jesus to rescue him.  In times of isolation and waiting, we wonder, like John, what is going on.  Did I really hear God?  Have I placed my hope in the right person?  Is God real?  He sent his friends to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3)


Maybe his unspoken question was, "Are you going to get me out?  Do you know where I am?  Hey Cuz, how can you heal others and not help me????"  Jesus tells his disciples: "Tell John what you see and hear: the blind see and the lame walk.  Lepers are cleansed; the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.  AND BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO IS NOT OFFENDED BY ME." (Matthew 11:4-6)  In other words, John, you are blessed if you are not disappointed in me.  (Wow. . It's not just about me.)


Isaiah 55:8-9


For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways, my ways

For as the heavens are higher than the earth

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts than your thoughts.


When we come to a place like John's, we come to a crossroads.


My mother was the youngest of nine living children.  Her mother had five others who did not live to adulthood--not unusual for those times.  My mother had five brothers--all of whom, as she would say, were cursed with alcoholism.  Her response was not to drink, EVER!  She prayed.  She would make different choices and would save her family from this curse.  Yet my brother did not escape.


A neighbor of mine confessed to being an unbeliever after his son was born with cerebral palsy.  His anger expressed itself in saying, "How could a loving God curse an innocent baby to go through life like that?"


All of us come to similar crossroads.


Even in secular literature, we see the same principle operating.  In Greek drama, Oedipus is prophesized over at birth that he will kill his father and marry his mother.  So, he is sent away.  Later, unbeknownst to him, he kills who he thinks is a beggar and marries the queen, his mother.  So in trying to escape, he fulfills the prophecy.  In fantasy, we read about Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, who at birth is given many gifts except for an evil prophecy which foretells her death in the prime of her life when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel.  Unfortunately, getting rid of all the spinning wheels does not protect her from her FATE.  Even unbelievers are aware of their inability to escape the human condition.  They tried to make sense of it by calling it Fate.


We Christians do not have to wonder.  We know it as original sin.  If that were the full measure of our knowledge, we would be no better than unbelievers.  We would be aware of the harshness of life, and our inability to escape from it.  So God, in His mercy and great love for all He has made, revealed Himself to us.  The law made us aware of our sin; the blood sacrifices made us aware of our continual propensity to sin, and our inability to not sin.  We realized our need for a Savior.  At this moment in our own lives, we have a choice: Will we be the seed on rocky places with no root that falls away and says, "Live for today, for tomorrow we die," or will we be the seed that seeks God and the richness of His love?


So this is the time in which Jesus must enter our lives as a person, not an idea, not a law.  However, God has to prepare our hearts.  He must get us ready.


Jesus, after relating the parable of the seeds to his disciples, explains his reasons for speaking in parables:


Though seeing, they do not see;

Though hearing, they do not understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

You will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 

For this people's heart has become calloused;

They hardly hear with their ears,

And they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears.

Understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

(Matthew 13:13-15)


So, we are in a state of blindness and deafness, and we are not aware that we are.  Like newborn animals, we are born with our eyes shut.  Our problem is worse than we know, and it cannot be remedied by any worldly means.  For it is a spiritual problem.  Proverbs 4:19: "The way of the wicked is like deep darkness. They do not know over which they stumble."  Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8, "At one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."


Today, many of us would equate depression with darkness.  Yet this is not a new experience.  Even Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-6) experiences the hopelessness that accompanies a great downturn in his life: "I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."  The Lord does not strike him dead or remove His presence from him.  He allows him to sleep and sends an angel to feed him. God knows our needs.  Perhaps this is an experience we all need so that God can reveal himself to us. Elijah arrived at his crossroad.  David expresses his feelings more emotionally: "For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me, the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.  In my distress, I called upon the Lord; to my God I called.  From the temple He heard my voice, and my cry came to His ears." (2Samuel 22:5-7)


When my grandparents were dying and my mother was driving from Baltimore up to Cumberland, Maryland every weekend to nurse them, she reached the end of herself and cried out, "Lord if you don't stop this, I'll never go to church again!"  Her mother died that night.  Later, in telling me this story, she said she was filled with dread.  But she knew God had heard her.  I believe, when we are honest with God, He acknowledges our heartfelt cry because it is a cry of utter pain and true hopelessness in our own abilities.  David says again in Psalm 51, "Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart."


So what is this personal truth God wants to impart to us?  Jesus tells Nicodemus we must be born again, because without it we cannot see the kingdom of God.  Without it, we cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-8.)  The water, we know, is Baptism.  So we must know, believe, feel, and experience God's forgiveness.  It is a state of being, not only knowing.  For ten years I worked with a woman who had been severely abused as a child.  She enjoyed coming to therapy; she was a member of a church; she sent her kids to Christian school.  Yet she could not experience God's forgivenss because in some way, she would not admit that the person who had abused her was evil in his actions.  Conversely, another person who had also been abused very early in her life did admit that what happened to her was evil and was able to process it emotionally, confront those responsible and experience freedom from shame.  She believed that God had a purpose for her, and it was not to be cast aside.  So, as John (1:5) writes, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  He also states that some people prefer darkness to light becuase their deeds are evil (John 3:19).  Then again, (lest we exclude ourselves from this population), Paul says "For at one time, you were all in darkness, but now you are the light of the Lord."  So, we need the Baptism of water.  Jesus, very emotionally cries out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture (Isaish 58:11) has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water!" (John 7:38)


So what are these rivers of living water if not continual conviction, confession, forgiveness, and cleansing.  We may know they flow out of Jesus, BUT DO THEY FLOW OUT OF YOU AND ME?


D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book, Studies in The Sermon on the Mount describes the Christian as always a person who walks in the fear of the Lord, always aware of her own limitations.  He says there are always two sides to the Gospel: there is the pulling down and the rising up.  You remember the words of the ancient Simeon, concerning the infant Jesus as He was presented in the temple: "The child is set for the fall and the rising again of many."  The one who is poor in Spirit is the one who is emptying self. Conviction must always precede conversion.  (One's attitude toward oneself.)  Martyn says Jesus is speaking of humility.  This is not a natural state.  It comes from a sense of one's own sinfulness.  Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."  The way to become poor in Spirit is to look at God.  Those who are to be converted, and who wish to be truly happy and blessed, are those who first of all mourn.  As I confront God and His holiness, and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself in utter helplessness and hopelessness.  A person who truly faces oneself, and examines onself and his/her life is a person who must of necessity mourn for his/her sins also for the things he/she does. {paraphrased} 


We need the Holy Spirit.  Who is this Holy Spirit?  Jesus says, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).


It sounds like a wild ride to me!  What we can't be, if we are to allow the Holy Spirit in us, is controlling or bossy or unforgiving or lazy or self-righteous or stingy or critical.  When you give God full reign, He will sprinkle water on you, and you will be clean.  "And I will give you a new heart."  (He will bind up our broken hearts.  He heals us while we seek His face.) And He will put a right Spirit within us.  (Ezekiel 36:25-27)  He will DO IT.  We just need to ask Him for His Spirit, and He will give it to us, and He will enter our hearts and have an intimate meal with each one of us.


We don't need to search for a person filled with His Spirit.  One of our Messiah family who recently went to be with the Lord said:


"I am beyond all limits.  God has opened up my eyes to all the limitations I have 

previously perceived.  There is a hidden place in Christ of protection, of provision,
every good and perfect gift from God.  We don't have to seek it. It seeks us.  We 

step out on it, and it is there, waiting for us.  God's love is eternal, everlasting.

Although fear might try to rear its ugly head, God's might overcomes.  I would

encourage each of you to find a place to look for Him; do not fear Him."

Karen Brockman


Paul, in Romans 6, writes:


"Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. . .   Offer yourself to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness.  For sin shall not be your master, for you are not under the law, but under grace."


We can live a victorious life because Jesus lives in us.  Our relationships with others must reflect His relationship with us, characterized by forgiveness and change, becoming more like Jesus every day.



Bette Lawrence


October 10, 2015



  • All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version

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