Thursday, July 2, 2015

Escaping the Country of the Blind

My pastor, Craig Luttrell, brought this devotion to our staff meeting this past week and I thought I'd post it for all the world to see - starting with you!  Enjoy!

Escaping the Country of the Blind
by Kyle Idleman from his book"40 Days"

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.
Psalm 119:18

The British author H. G. Wells is most famous for his science fiction novels such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine. But he also wrote short stories, including one called "The Country of the Blind."

It's a story about a fictional village in Ecuador, nestled high within the Andes. This village had been cut off from the rest of the world and long forgotten. And in this place, everyone in the village was blind.

The blindness had begun long ago due to a disease that caused all the children to be born blind, and it had continued through more than fifteen generations.

One day a lost mountain climber stumbled into the village. He had fallen down a remote peak and miraculously survived without major injury.

It didn't take the climber long to discover that he was the only one in the valley who had sight. No one even understood the concept of sight or had any idea of what seeing meant. These people had long forgotten what it was like to see the majestic mountains around them or the sun washing the clouds with color overhead. There was no descriptions passed along through the ages of what it might be to see. It was not something they understood. The people had no explanation for what their shriveled eyes were or why they were there.

Initially the foreigner tried to describe sight to them and help them understand the concept of sight. But every effort was futile. They didn't understand. In fact, they thought he was crazy and defective. If this man wanted to stay in this land, something had to be done.

And the man wanted to stay. There was a young lady there who had stolen his heart. But a marriage to this insane foreigner was unacceptable to her father and the rest of the village - unless…

A doctor there felt confident he could cure the man with a simple surgery to remove the man's eyes. It was his eyes, after all, that were affecting this man's brain, the doctor declared.  And everyone in the village said, "Thank heaven for science."  The surgery was scheduled.

On the day of his surgery, the man went for a walk. He simply planned to go to a lonely place where the meadows were beautiful and wait until the hour of his procedure. "But as he walked he lifted up his eyes and saw the morning, the morning like an angel in golden armor, marching down the steeps," Wells wrote. "It seemed to him that before this splendor he and this blind world in the valley, and his love and all, were no more than a pit of sin."

So the man kept walking, and he looked up at the mountains with renewed vision and began to see gullies and chimneys where he could climb back through the towering gorge. And soon the man who could see escaped the country of the blind.

We live in the country of the blind. We experience awakening. God opens our eyes. We're able to see, but it doesn't take long to realize that there are people all around us who think we really need to be cured of our sight.  

We come to church on weekends, and our eyes are opened and conviction comes in our hearts. We know God has spoken to us, but Monday comes and we find ourselves back in the country of the blind.  Everyone thinks we're a little bit crazy; we've taken this too far; and what would really be best is if we would go back to being blind.

Or you come back from church camp after a spiritual awakening. Things are going to be different. But you find yourself in the country of the blind, and the people all round want to cure you of your sight.

This is where we live. And we must continually open our eyes. We must focus on the heights above and press toward the beauty where God wants to draw us.

We must continue to pray David's prayer, that God would open our eyes - each day - so that we might see what God wants us to see even in this country of the blind.

To do
Change your perspective. Plan a retreat. Block off a weekend on your calendar. Or a day. Or an hour, if that's all you can do. The key is to break out of your routine. The goal is to go somewhere to look and to listen, to see the Scripture, to open your eye s and refocus on your heavenly Father. Start now with a walk around your block and pray as you go.

Do you live in the country of the blind?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Communion Faux Pas

So…  Today is Maundy Thursday or as it's also called, Holy Thursday.   I looked up the word Maundy and found it comes from the Latin word mandatum which means commands.  For those of us who celebrate Maundy Thursday, we are reminded that Jesus washed his disciples' feet and commanded them (us) to do likewise which means, in modern terms, our lives are to be full of putting others before ourselves in loving service to them.  Very little foot-washing happens in our society, but there surely is plenty of other things we can do for others that is an expression of love.  This blog today isn't really about that topic, though it probably should be…

Another event that is celebrated on Maundy Thursday is the Last Supper.  This is when Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them to share in His body and blood.  Jesus passed bread (His body) for them to share.  He also passed a cup of wine (His blood) for them to pass and from which to drink.  They (we) were commanded to remember what Jesus did for each of us as He gave His life,  paying the price for our sin, so we can be with Him forever.  Praise God!  My whole life (?) is focused on this fact.

Well, I'm wondering how that Last Supper went.  Was it as smooth as our verses in the Bible make it sound?  How full was the cup?  Did the disciples slosh it about?

The act of taking communion offers an unusual array of experiences in our current times.  It seems every church has its own way of celebrating the Last Supper or Lord's Supper.  Some experiences even have a bit of 'slosh' factor.

My husband John, our son Jack and I attended a different local church one Sunday for no special reason… just because.  I had a Sunday with no responsibilities and as this is rare, we jumped at the chance to see what another church here in town is doing for worship.  I call it continuing ed.

The music was really really good and really contemporary and the message was really inspired.  The pastor is  obviously an excellent teaching pastor and walked the congregation through a description of the temple and how this is foreshadowing of Jesus.  It was terrific!

Next came communion.

This particular church served communion by passing trays of crackers and tiny thimbles of juice in the pews.  Easy, right?  Right out of the chute, I saw this was going to be a problem because the two trays were passed at the same time.  The tray of tiny bits of cracker was handed to the end pew-sitter, followed quickly by a huge tray of thimbles of juice. This meant I would have to juggle the bread tray in one hand and take the next tray of little tiny sipping thimble cups with the other, then take a thimble cup and pass the trays on.  Three hands were needed and I only have two.  I watched other seasoned veterans around me nimbly handle all of this and followed their lead.  John, however had a major problem.

When John took hold of a tiny little sipping thimble, it it didn't budge from the tray holder.  He tried another which also didn't move.  Determined on his third try,  he grasped the tiny little sipping thimble firmly… too firmly... and exploded it right then and there… between his fingers…  in the tray…  in the pew. Displaced juice flew onto Jack, onto the kid in front of Jack and onto the person two rows to the north. They were all sprinkled by the exploding juice.  We saw spots of it on shirts, jackets, and purses and wooden pews.  How such a tiny bit of juice could make such a splash defies logic.

And… of course... we got the giggles right then and there as we were visiting another church here in town… pew-shaking scene-making giggles happened right when we were supposed to be respectful and reverent and remembering.

Much explaining and many apologies were exchanged after the service concluded to those splashed upon with juice sprinkles.  The chances of long-term stains were slim and all were graciously received.  Thank you, gracious church members, for making this communion faux pas a bit easier to live with.

(As a side note, John has trouble with spilling red liquids as written in The Great Spill. 

The next day, during my Bible reading time (something I'm trying to do more often) I came across a verse in Hebrews that describes the juice sprinkles perfectly:

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He (Jesus) who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:22-23

Those juice sprinkles are such a visual!  My heart is sprinkled clean - I experienced it!

Communion juice stands for the blood of Jesus and to be a bit graphic, when He was on the cross, His blood fell out of him and splashed and sprinkled onto those around Him.  Literally.  This verse from Hebrews says that as we are believers in Jesus and confess our sins and trust Him for forgiveness, our hearts are sprinkled clean with His blood.

His blood cleanses my sin.  I need this and I welcome this and the clean conscience that results. Bring on the sprinkling!

Now, dear readers, on a serious note, we all need this blood, for without it, things will not go well for us.  Seriously, there is nothing you and I can do to get rid of sin in our lives.  Nothing.  No amount of right-doing will erase the wrong-doing. You cannot earn it or buy it or use someone else's life or hope enough to be rid of sin and the guilty conscience left in our life because of sin.  It's only through Jesus and His sprinkles of blood that you and I are rid of sin - yes, I know… this defies logic.

 Heap your (my) sin on Him and let Him pay the penalty which He did when He died on the cross.  Pray for this and believe.

So tonight, as you celebrate the Last Supper, remember what Jesus has done - that is our mandatum.  See Jesus' act of service in the washing of feet and do likewise (perhaps don't exactly chase someone with a basin of water - but do something in love) - that is our madatum.

The spilling and giggling?  That's not such a good idea….