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FLASH BACK: Half-Full or Half-Empty

On this Halloween 2016, a FLASH BACK to one of my classic posts: “Half-Full or Half-Empty from October 2006… and the essence of last week’s Sunday morning sermon…

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waterFor this week’s sermon, I started with an object in hand: Half a glass of water. My question to the congregation was simply, “Is it half-full or half-empty?”

The answer of course, depends on your perspective… the way you choose to view the glass.

Are you an optimist? Then it looks half-full to you, doesn’t it?

Are you a pessimist? Then it looks half-empty, doesn’t it?

It all depends on your perspective!

There is only one glass, only one quantity of water, yet there are two different views you could have regarding that glass and that water. You could believe it to be half-full or you could believe it to be half-empty. And both answers seem to be acceptable answers and both seem to be right. It all depends on your perspective.

During this next couple of weeks, everyone around us will be focusing on the fun and festivities of Halloween, and many of us here in this sanctuary right now have already made plans for what our family will be doing that evening.

Halloween can be a lot of fun. If you are allowing your children to go trick or treating or to a Halloween party or whatever, I hope it is a fun event. It ought to be.

Throughout my adult life I have run the gammet on what I believe with Halloween as a Christian. When I worked at the Olean General Hospital as an orderly, I guess I still didn’t think about it too much. Somehow I would always end up working on October 31st, and the tradition was to dress up as a character of some sort. The only one I remember was that I spent one Halloween night (3:00 to 11:00) dressed as a modern prince. You know, three piece suit, cape, sash, crown, rings, dress shoes. Trying to do my job in that get up was a royal pain, to say the least. Especially when a patient died and, as the orderly, I had to take her to the morgue… dressed up in a suit… on Halloween night… and there was a full moon to boot.

Other years, as I’ve come to understand some of the realities of what all happens on Halloween night, like the razor blades, the drugs, the occult practices, I’ve refused to participate in the day at all. I had more of a fear of all the occultic stuff I guess.

Bit by bit, though, I have come to understand that it’s my perspective that makes the difference. Just like that glass of water… half-full or half-empty… it depends on your perspective.

I COULD look at Halloween as an evil holiday, originally instituted as a druid festival with heavy emphasis on the occult. I COULD focus on the druid “Lord Of Death” that supposedly sent evil spirits out on the night before ALL HALLOW’S DAY to roam the earth in search of food which, if not given, would cast an evil spell on the person who would not help. I COULD focus on the masks and costumes the Celts wore to try and convince the Lord of Death that they were just one of his spirits, so he should leave them alone.

And all of those things are true. They are the reason behind our “give us a treat or we’ll play a trick on you” attitude of trick or treat and our dressing up in costumes. But I think that just might be the wrong perspective. That’s fear speaking.

We have been taught as Christians that we are in the world but not of it. We have to be a part of the world. We’ve been called to be in the world… rubbing shoulders with the everyday people, with sinners, with mean people, and yes, even with those who don’t understand us or our Lord. We, as Christians, will continue to encounter those people every day, because we are IN the world. But we don’t have to be LIKE the world. Because we’re the ones who know the HOPE that there is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, that we are to be salt. (Matthew 5:13) Salt is never very good on its own, but it always changes the taste of the food it is put on. And the salt itself never gets to really choose what food it will affect…it has the same effect on every piece of food it touches… it makes it more salty. It gives it a new taste.

I guess that’s where I am now with my understanding of my responsibility as a Christian when it comes to Halloween. I must be salt and help change its flavor. I need to help redeem this holiday like Christians in the past helped to redeem midwinter pagan rituals and gave rise to our current birthday celebration for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

What does that mean, in practical terms, for me as a Christian then? I have discovered two practical ways that I can help redeem this holiday as a salty Christian. I’ll take the good of this holiday and focus on that and draw people’s attention to the truth.

First of all, I can emphasize the good things, while taking a stand against the evil. As our children have grown, we have deliberately allowed them to dress up for the Halloween parties at school, and let them go to select neighbors’ houses for trick or treat… but never were they allowed to hide their faces behind a Freddy mask or dress as a goblin, a witch, or a vampire. We reject that part of the ancient traditions of Halloween of trying to convince the evil one that we are just another demon spirit so that hopefully he’ll leave us alone. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is greater than any other spirit. And followers of Christ have nothing to fear.

So we could allow our girls to play dressup, and still take a stand against the false belief that we must fear the evil spirit lord. In fact, for this next weekend’s costume party out at the church camp, thrown by the youth group for ALL of the church, my kids will have the option to be dressed up if they want, without a mask, without the evil disguises. And without the fear.

One year one of the girls decided to be an angel and the other was Sleeping Beauty. One time Michele was Pocahontas and Sarah was a skunk. They dressed up and had fun. And they can again this year as well.

And yes, if kids come to our door this year for trick or treating, we’ll have a treat for them… not because we’re scared of the repercussions if we don’t, but because my Bible speaks of generosity, and “suffering the little children.”

The other aspect of what I need to be doing as a Christian when it comes to Halloween is to recognize the underlying spiritual message of this holiday.

The message of today’s modern Halloween is still spiritual, and I don’t just mean the occultic influences…. it is a pre-occupation with death… and what comes after we die. Just take a look at the decorations in the stores, on homes, and on the TV… We have ghosts and skeletons and gravestones and the un-dead (whatever that’s supposed to be). We hear of evil spirits and witches and “bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble.” And Hollywood always seems to have a new thriller/horror movie out that packs the movie theatres.

Halloween, and the time leading up to it, is the one time of year that our society says it’s OK to deal with death. And seemingly everyone becomes fascinated with it. My responsibility as a Christian, trying to be salt and redeem some of this holiday, is to recognize the spiritual hunger that I see during this Halloween season.

Because we all hunger for a reality in the spiritual world. We long for there to be forces at work on our behalf in the spiritual dimension. We have a society that literally cries out in abandon at Halloween for there to be an answer to death… to spiritual life. And they fall back on “ancient wisdoms”. They try to control the spirit world on demand, they try to conjur and channel and image. They look for spiritual truth.

And so often, we Christians deny there’s any spiritual dimension to the day (or we go the other extreme and refuse to even acknowledge it). I believe we have a responsibility to acknowledge the spiritual hunger… because we are the ones who have the bread of life… Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior.

And we are the ones who know the most about death… because Jesus came back from there and said,

 

I am the resurrection and I am life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and I hold the keys of hell and death.
Because I live, you shall live also.

We have nothing to fear from death, because Jesus defeated death. All death has left, is fear.

Knowing that we would have trouble understanding this, Jesus, just before he went to Calvary, took the disciples aside and spent some time with them explaining what was on the other side of death and how to face it on this side during our lives. He didn’t say we had to wear evil disguises and hide our faces. No treats or offerings to demon spirits were needed. He simply said that we shouldn’t be afraid… and then went on to tell us about the other side of death, for those who allow Jesus to be both their Lord and their Savior. He simply said:

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
Because I live, you also will live.
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

When Jesus spoke of us as salt, he never expected us Christians to just act like Christians when we are at church. He spoke of us as salt so that we would get a clear picture of our role in this world. We help even the bad stuff seem better. Not by sugar coating evil nor by compromising our standards, but by recognizing spiritual hunger and offering spiritual bread… a life with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Because, when all is said and done, and the final analysis is in, it is JESUS that this Halloween minded society is looking for. The questions concerning spiritual forces are answered when Jesus proclaims I AM THE WAY. And in all our uncertainty, Jesus answers even our unspoken, unuttered questions, by declaring I AM THE TRUTH. And our questions concerning death and the afterlife are answered when Jesus reveals: I AM THE LIFE.

I have a mission this Halloween… to redeem what I can of the good, take a stand against that which is evil, and to lift up the truth of Jesus Christ.

Because you see… the glass really is… half-full.

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Ask In My Name

Chambers COMPLETE WORKSYesterday I came across The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, a book I picked up back in 2002. One section is the book of prayers published after Chambers’ death under the title Knocking at God’s Door. Chambers’ wife created this book by pulling some of her husband’s personal, spiritual prayers he had written out at the beginning of each day into his diaries.

The prayer she assigned to today picks up its theme from John 14:14 (Revised Version 1885):

“If ye shall ask Me anything in My Name, that will I do” (RV). It is all so mysterious, O Lord, and all so simple — I pray, and believe that Thou dost create something in answer to and by the very means of my prayer, that was not in existence before.”

I’ve known this verse for years… but never thought about it quite like this. My prayer is the impetus for God to create an answer for whatever it is I prayed about! My prayer is the spark that gets the answer started! NO WONDER the book of James (4:2) says that the reason we don’t get what we most desire or need is because we don’t ask for it! The engine doesn’t do much until it is started!

I also am aware that there is that disclaimer in there that says we don’t get just anything we ask for… but rather, when we ask in Jesus’ name, the Father will do whatever we ask. I take it that means that if I know something is clearly NOT in God’s will, then I can expect no result from praying for that thing. Asking in His name implies I come alongside Jesus and ask for the very things he’s offered… the very things that carry out his will on earth… and I get to be a part of what He’s doing!

–Chambers, Oswald. The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. Discovery House Publishers, associated with RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan. copyright 2000. (Complete Works

–Chambers, Oswald. Knocking at God’s Door: A Little Book of Prayers. 1957. in Complete Works pages 635-652. August 19th entry found on page 646.

 

 

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What Is Truth?

SCRIPTURE TEXT: John 18:28-38

 Pilate’s question: What is truth?

 That’s a question that haunts us even today, doesn’t it?

Our entire legal system is based on people telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Yet we know that often, people in a trial are not given fair hearings because of someone who does know the truth and yet does not tell the truth.

You know, I believe that was Pilate’s real struggle that night so long ago.  Not that he didn’t know the truth.

Matthew 27 tells us that Pilate “knew that it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.” Pilate knew the truth.

Just a little later in this narrative, Pilate hands down his judgment against Jesus and says “I find no basis for a charge against him.” Pilate knew the truth.

But knowing the truth, and responding to the truth are different. Pilate knew the truth, but chose not to respond to the truth. And handed Jesus over to be crucified.

You know, we are the same way today aren’t we? We know the truth.  One of the more popular examples of this that I’ve seen lately is a book that came out a while ago by Robert Fuldrom called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. It was a best seller for quite a while.

In that book Fuldrom wrote…..

Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything…
  • Play fair…
  • Don’t hit people…
  • Put things back where you found them…
  • Clean up your own mess…
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours…
  • Say your sorry when you hurt somebody….
  • Wash your hands before you eat…
  • Flush….
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you…
  • Live a balanced life…
  • Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day…
  • Take a nap every afternoon…
  • When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together…
  • Be aware of wonder.

Great truths for life aren’t they? Yet even though we know these things as “truths” for our lives, we often don’t do them do we?

That’s just ONE example of how our problem is NOT a matter of knowing the truth… but rather it is whether or not we RESPOND to the truth.

That was what Pilate was facing back then as well.

Lest you think this was just Pilate’s problem, think back to some of the others in the passion of Jesus… the Jewish leaders like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea who knew the truth of who Jesus was. The Bible even says they were followers of Jesus…. but secretly.

They were afraid of letting others know that they knew the truth and had responded to the truth.

Peter had a similar problem didn’t he?  He alone of all had first spoken the truth of Jesus when he declared “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  And he was one of only three that had gotten to see Jesus transfigured and heard God the Father Almighty declare “This is my Son…”

Yet, on the night of Jesus’ trial, in those early morning hours, three different times this one who intimately and publicly knew the truth, responded to others by pretending to not know.

How about us?

I firmly believe that the words of Scripture have value for us today; they can be applied to our lives now.

So what is there in here for us today?

We, like those in the last few hours before Jesus’ death, know what the truth is.  Jesus himself said that HE. Was. The. Truth.”

But, like those back then, knowing is not enough. We too must respond to the truth.

And the truth is that we face a God who loves us so much, that He would rather die than spend eternity without us.  So he did…. He died on that cross, faced all of the shame, the persecution, the pain, that would have been ours, so that we would not have to spend eternity separated from God.

And all we have to do, is respond….. accepting him as our Lord, our Savoir.

We know the truth.

So do so many around us.

But will we respond to that truth?

Will we be like Pilate, knowing the truth and then give up and walk away?

Will we be like Nicodemus and Joseph, knowing the truth and responding, but never be bold enough to take a stand for the truth of Jesus Christ, because of our fear?

Will we be like Peter, knowing the truth, responding to the truth, but then distancing ourselves from it when we face uncomfortable circumstances?

What is truth? Jesus.   Now, how will we respond?

What will YOU do with The Truth?

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Do Not Quarrel Along The Way

After Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and they are all reconciled with one another, he sends them with his blessing to go home and get their families, and their father Jacob. But in Genesis 45:24 we read:

“Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’”

My district superintendent used this passage about Joseph (Genesis 39-45) as the core of a pastor’s retreat I attended earlier this month. And I kid you not, I did not know that verse was in there! (I toyed with maybe God had just recently done an update, but I probably just missed it).

Even after all the reconciliation and reunion, the forgiveness and the blessings, and the hope of the future, Joseph still knew what his brothers were like and what they’d probably do once they headed home. And he reminded them not to get into the blaming and “I told you so” kinds of quarrelling. Am I reading more into it than is there? I don’t think so, because clear back in Genesis 42:22, Reuben, the oldest brother, had already headed down that path. He just didn’t know that Joseph could understand what he said. (“Then Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen…’”)

There are some people who think we Christians are supposed to be perfect all the time or else we’re not really Christians. Being a Christian means we’re forgiven of our past, but not necessarily immune from ever sinning again. Even after Jesus is Lord in our life and we claim to be his followers, we still mess up sometimes. That’s why Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery (after her accusers had all made themselves scarce) are so hopeful to me: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:11b)

Joseph knew his brothers would be tempted to fall back into the quarrelling. Jesus knows that we are likely to be tempted to fall back into our old ways. And Joseph, and Jesus, give that encouraging reminder that we don’t have to fall back into the old ways.

The thing is, the brothers had to rely on each other, while Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to help us when we’re tempted. We can call on him for help!

In fact, that’s where another of my favorite passages comes in:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (First Corinthians 10:13)

After the forgiveness and reconciliation, with God, with our brothers and sisters, with family members, or whomever, there will still be an easy way to slide back into the old ways… the ways that broke relationship to start with. Sometimes, another person will be the one that re-breaks the relationship… but it doesn’t have to be us!

And when it comes to our spiritual relationship with our God, he ALWAYS makes sure that there is some way out of the temptation or the testing. IF we choose to take it!

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MUST NOT!

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. 

— 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NLT)

In our Tuesday Bible Study recently, we spent some time looking at a couple of the cults that we’ve encountered in our area from time to time. And while we discussed specifics about what they believed, and how it differed from True Christianity, another topic also arose: That of how do we treat people who are not like us… whether they are in a group we consider so different from our beliefs that we call them a cult, or perhaps just from another one of the Christian churches, or even an entirely different religion, or race, or political persuasion, or even sexual orientation… whatever.

As I’ve taught this class on and off in six churches over 19 years I’ve been a pastor, I’ve been inundated with different folks’ beliefs on how to best ‘get rid of’ a cult member who’s coming to your door: hiding in the closet till they go away, putting all the shades down, yelling at them to go away, standing there and belittling them with the fallacy in their belief, or deliberately showing up dressed in nothing more than a single undergarment.

I’ve also been at annual conference 18 of those 19 years (and to one of our General Conferences) when every time something legislative was brought up trying to sway the United Methodist Church to change our condemnation of homosexual behavior. (By the way, it is ALWAYS brought up and it has ALWAYS been voted down.)

My concern as a pastor relates to the passage up above. The way we talk to each other in the church, and to those outside of the church, is commanded that we never stoop down and quarrel in anger and bicker and fight like the non-believers do in the public forum. As Christians, regardless of how wrong we are convinced someone else is, we do not have the right to parley with our tongues like weapons and using our words like ammunition. Read that passage again: catch the words “gently” and “kind” and “patient” and the command to “not quarrel.” And the language used is not like these are suggestions. The emphasis is laid out in the very first phrase: “must not.”

And to top it all off, Jesus Himself is quoted as saying: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:35 (NRSV)

If we are to be his disciples, then the world around us will see it and hear it in through the love we show them. Because that’s what a Christian is like… at least according to Jesus. If we are just making a point and zeroing in for the kill by scoring a win over another person’s point, or argument, r discussion point, then we are JUST AS WRONG AS they are… in fact, we are MORE wrong, because we are Christians and are given CLEAR instructions in these two passages (as well as others) as to what the expectation is for a Christian.

In closing this month, my prayer is the prayer embedded in Psalm 19:

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord…”                             — Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

 

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Going Fishing!

In the Aldersgate 2013 pre-conference worship service, the Rev. Ric  Wright shared the biblical story of the resurrected Jesus and his encounter with his disciples in John 21:1-14. It starts off in verse two with Peter, who is so wounded by his failure during Holy Week he decides he’s going back to what he knew before he met Christ: “I am going fishing.”

Some of the other disciples have even less idea what to do next, and in an unconscious nod to Peter’s leadership, they decide to go with him fishing. After all, it sure beats the pain and disappointment of their failed venture in the ‘Christian’ life.

But Jesus shows up to thwart their plan to leave this ministry stuff behind them and start over in a different life. Like the hound of heaven, he goes after them before they give it all up. He wants to restore them and renew them in their true calling.

In some divine way, he ensures that they fail at the fishing gig. All night long and they catch nothing. But then, divinely, he helps them remember some of the miracles they had witnessed and participated in while following Him. He tells them to throw their nets over onto the other side of the boat and they are overwhelmed by the catch. Peter catches on right there and eagerly jumps into the water and heads for the shore. Jesus reenacts the multiplication of the fish and the bread (he’s cooking fish before they get there with their newly caught fish). He reenacts the breaking of the bread, the very thing that they had seen Him do on the night in which He was betrayed. In the midst of their confusion about what is next for each of these men, Jesus is restoring their memories as His disciples. He is restoring them as His disciples for the next part of their lives as Christians.

Between Peter jumping into the water and yet before he gets to Jesus, Peter apparently remembered how he had betrayed Jesus. His shame and remorse is overwhelming. He goes back to the boat and starts hauling in the fish and, literally, counting the fish. (There were 153 fish in that net, by the way.) Anything to keep busy enough to not have to face Jesus face-to-face again after failing Him so miserably.

In Wilson’s challenge to each of us, he commented that many of us, like Peter, have memories that still are filled with our pain, our shame, our failures, our hurts, our fears, our jealousies, and our unforgiveness. Those things become barriers that keep us from Jesus, and keep us from stepping into what God wants for our lives.

Jesus directly calls on Peter, and Peter comes, pain and shame and all. Then Jesus, with the fire, the smells, the reenacted miracles, and the three questions about Peter loving Him, takes Peter back to that night of failure and redeems it. He gives Peter another opportunity to face that night, and Peter gets it right this time. Peter is restored as the past is released. He can’t carry his past with him anymore.

So many of us, when we’ve been hurt in the church, opt to retreat back to the ‘easier’ days before we started following Jesus just like Peter here.

If we are hurt in the church, and we successfully avoid the temptation to return to our earlier ‘before-Christ’ activities, many of us still fall by following someone into their escape from the pain of Christian life, like the other disciples in John 21 did.

How many of us carry hurts and pain and shame that keep us from Jesus? And keep Jesus from being able to work in us and through us? He wants to heal us and restore us… but we have to go to Him with our pain and face Jesus as we really are. We have to let go of the things that have separated us from the pain of facing God with our past. Confess it to Him. Ask Him to forgive you. And allow Him to heal, redeem, and restore you in the process.

Aldersgate 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lexington Convention Center, Lexington, KY

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Do You Want To Get Well?

This morning I picked up the Freedom in Christ Bible as I sat down to spend some quiet time with the Lord. When I went to open it, I stumbled upon Jesus’ question to the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to get well?

That verse comes from the passage in John’s gospel where Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for a Jewish feast and Jesus saw this man lying there and learned that he had been lying there for the past 38 years. (John 5:1-15) In response to Jesus’ question, he never did say “yes” or “no.” Rather, he gave an excuse why he could not get to the healing pool in those rare moments when it had been “stirred” by an angel, and thus be healed.

In the devotional on the next page, titled: “Do you want to get well?” the author says:
“People who cannot be helped fall into three categories.”

  1. “people who will not acknowledge they have a problem…”
  2. “people who know they are in trouble but their pride won’t let them ask for the help they need.”
  3. “people who really don’t want to get well.”

The first group reminds me of passages throughout the Bible which refer to forgiveness starting with a confession of sin… and then God can forgive. Even Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs, have long taught that step one of recovery is to admit you have a problem. To not do so, is to live in denial. 
Much of the weight I carry continues to be with me, because I, through many years, have denied I really had a weight problem. Until I acknowledged (and confessed) that I had a weight problem, I could not be helped.
The second group reminds me of Scriptural passages like “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) A lot of people (especially us men), who are obviously suffering with an ailment or injury are like that. They know they’re sick or injured, and yet cannot bring themselves to go see a doctor. there’s a heart attitude there that says ‘I can take care of this all by myself… I am all sufficient to meet my own needs.’ In truth, however, we can never meet all of our own needs. To refuse to look to others for help, we essentially make ourselves into a substitute god. After all, only God is “all sufficient.” 
When I was 11, I lived this out as well. I decided to go sled riding on a late Saturday morning after cartoons at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Walking up the hill across the road from their place, I walked up beside the tractor path that we all rode on coming down the hill. I crunched my way up the hill. At the top of the hill you slid down and turned into the field off to the right of the tractor path.
It had been icy and snowy the night before and, unbeknownst to me, the tractor path was a sheet of ice with a little bit of snow cover over the ice. On to the sled I went and raced toward the turn off below. I turned the sled at the appropriate time and at the appropriate place, but the sled just kept going… the ice prevented the sled from being able to turn off the path.
Now, my grandparents lived one farm short of being at the top of a hollow on a dirt road in Potter County. I quickly looked ahead and to the sides and saw there were no cars coming. There seldom were any cars. So, in my 11 year old thinking I thought: ‘oh well, the road is cindered, that will stop me.’ It didn’t.
So I found myself in the yard plunging forward rapidly. So, in my 11 year old thinking, I thought: ‘OK, I’ll just turn the sled to the left and have all of that big yard to slide to a stop in.’ The sled (for the same reasons noted above) would not turn and I slammed into the cement porch of their house.  My grandfather, upstairs in the house and not the side near the porch, heard the thud and came to investigate. what he found was me unable to catch my breath, bleeding profusely from where my front teeth had been sheered off and cutting through my lower lip, and me holding my back because of the pain. (Years later, I would have to have surgery on my lip where teeth fragments had been lodged and eventually blocked off a salivary gland. Likewise, my back continues to hurt often decades later.) 
Looking back, I recognize that while I could have easily rolled off the sled long before the proch, I didn’t because i was convinced that I was actually in control. I could turn that sled, get stopped by the road, or turn the sled into the yard. I thought I was completely able and sufficient to care for myself. I was not. I continue to pay for my 11 year old pride. I wish I could say I don’t find myself in similar situations any more, but that would not be honest.
That third group, those who really do not want to get better, is where this paralyzed man is. All he has in response to Jesus’ question about wanting to get well is an excuse. And I think it’s pretty significant that the gospel clarifies that he had been in this situation for 38 years! Just lying there and begging for food or money or clothing is natural now. That was this man’s source of income and way of life.

Despite this, Jesus decides to heal the man. “To show his gratitude, the man turned Jesus in to the authorities for healing him on the Sabbath.”

The devotional goes on with a challenge for all of us who find ourselves in a place where we need healing or another chance in life. “If we really want to get well, we will make whatever commitment is necessary to overcome our infirmities or live productive lives through them. We won’t get mad at God or blame anybody else. We will choose to believe that we are overcomers in Christ and that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.”

“We will do whatever it takes to become the person God created us to be because Jesus did what it took for us to be alive and free in Him.”

Denial, pride, or an attitude of not wanting to change a way of life; these are all signs of one who cannot be helped except by a Sovereign God.

O God, I personally have had times in all three of these categories. Times when I couldn’t believe I had a problem and so denied it. Times when I knew something was amiss, yet thought I could “take care of things” on my own. Times when i was so comfortable with the way things were in the status quo, that I couldn’t bring myself to face the uncertainty that change might bring and so opted to stay longer in whatever situation I found myself. Forgive me. Clarify my thinking. Help me to see my own life as you do. And when I need your healing in my mind, in my heart, in my body, help me to quickly recognize when I’m in denial, feeling self-sufficient, or becoming too comfortable in the status quo. AMEN!

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The Freedom in Christ Bible, Neil T. Anderson, general editor (Zondervan: 2001) pp. 1204-1205.

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