Notice Leah’s Eyes, [Handicaps]

Portait of woman wearing scarf with eyes closed Stuck in the wonderful convolutions of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. These two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives.

Now, we may question this polygamy when all we know is monogamy. These kind of decisions may be criticized and even outright challenged, but we will change nothing (and does it really matter)?

Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he is so much in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who. Laban’s deception really creates a crisis. But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad, I suppose).

Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel. But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,

“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” 

Genesis 29:17

I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she in very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.

In the long view, Leah would birth four patriarchs for Israel. But she would struggle with jealousy over her younger sister’s beauty and favor. Her pain was real, and she would hurt deeply over this.

I think I may understand Leah. She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She sticks out as a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.

I so love Leah and I do understand her. Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She reminds me of being a struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.

I suppose its “Leah’s eyes” that catch me. I have no idea what the issue was. But I know that she was weak, and challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through way too much. It doesn’t seem fair. But than again, we are the ones who must drink our adversity straight; and the ones who get to know special comfort.

For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero.

Those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce. Leah speaks to us. For she is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our “set-backs” and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.

We may have “Leah’s eyes,” but we also have His grace.

One more thought that might be relevant:

“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”

–Francis de Sales

 

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Led Aside by Jesus, [Consideration]

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

–Mark 8:23, NIV

Here I can imagine the gentleness and the kindness of Jesus–we see Him leading this man out of town to a quieter place. Showmanship?  Not on your life.  Jesus has made the decision to avoid the theatrics of a blind man given sight, and ducked the paparazzi for a moment to touch this man.

In a way, we are all like this blind man.  We stumble around and try to make our way.  But it is raucous confusion– the fields of philosophy, religion, psychology, politics and art are not much more than a blind men tapping with his cane, trying to find their way into the light.  This may be rather simplistic, but I believe it’s more true then we care to admit.  The entire social history of humans is based on confusion and conflict.

We grope in the gloom, and there is none to take our hand and lead us out of the darkness.  We stumble and fall, and come no closer to understanding then when we first started.  It is hopeless.  Our striving borders on madness and insanity.

The blind man in Mark 8 entrusted himself to Jesus’ care.  He willingly went with Jesus, following down the path and out of the village.  Jesus carefully leads him by the hand, which is quite remarkable.  (I guess I’m envious.)  Jesus would have led this man past every obstacle.

Each of us have to encounter Jesus for ourselves.

We are born blind, having no awareness (zero, zilch, nada) of spiritual truth.  We must be taught to see.  At the airport in Salt Lake City recently, I saw a young blind man being led through large crowd.  I was fascinated by his trust in his guide as people jostled to try to make their connections.  There was a quiet composure in him.  (In his place, I would be terrified.)

We must trust Jesus, with that same composure and grace.  When we cannot see, we must trust.

“I do not try to see my way,
Before, behind, or left, or right;
I cannot tell what dangers gray
Do haunt my steps, nor at what height
Above the sea my path doth wind:
For I am blind. 

“Yet not without a guide I wend
My unseen way, by day, by night;
Close by my side there walks a Friend,——
Strong, tender, true: I trust His sight;
He sees my way before, behind,
Though I am blind.”

by an Unknown Author

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The Gift of Sight, [Our Blindness]

“Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”

Mark 8:23

What an amazing and gentle thing for Jesus to do.  He offers his hand in order to guide this one to a better environment for that which he is about to do.  Jesus really is quite considerate, and very aware of the “circus” he causes in the town.

In many ways, we are so like this blind man.  We have no spiritual sight, we stumble and bumble through life.  We are doomed to live this way, blind to anything of significance.  But along comes Jesus, he takes us by our hand.  We walk through the streets, with him leading us.  Little do we know, that in just a moment we are going to see.

This blind man is being led by a stranger, who is leading him down dusty streets to an undisclosed location.  Yet, for some reason, he trusts Jesus, and allows himself to be led.  As he walked holding the hand of Jesus, his faith grows.  By the time they arrive at the spot outside the walls, we just know what is going to happen next.

Jesus spits!  Right into each eye. He puts his thumbs into them and brings a complete reconstruction of each eye.  Jesus is standing right in front of him. He asks, “Now can you see?”  I can see him blinking, and rolling his eyes, squinting and trying very hard to see.  And he does– but only limitedly.  Things are still blurry.

Jesus doesn’t berate the man, or belittle him for not getting a complete healing.  He just repeats this process, and within a minute the blind man now sees the world that before he only staggered through a moment ago..

If you must know, I am that blind man, I walked in spiritual darkness.  Things have not ever been easy.  I have stumbled and tripped through life.  I have been the butt of schoolboy pranks, and I have begged for crusts.  I have gone hungry a lot of the time.

But this man, Jesus found me.  He healed me. And my ugly, pathetic life was changed.  I am now a witness to what he can do–and does!  I added nothing to my healing, it was a miracle. I just opened my eyes.

“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”

–Helen Keller

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The Ransom Note

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“We collapse in the dust,
    lying face down in the dirt.
26 Rise up! Help us!
    Ransom us because of your unfailing love.”

Psalm 44:25-26, NLT

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

“God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.”

1 Peter 1:20

I think that God has more or less ransacked the human language in His effort to get through to us the critical nature of what exactly has been done just for us. When it comes to our salvation and what that means to the universe, the word, “ransom” is used.

The connection for us, as we consider the implications, has mainly a connection with the crime of “kidnapping.” This is when someone is captured by other men, and held in captivity until certain terms are met. When the kidnapper feels his needs are fully met, then the hostage is released.

In the Bible sense, we should work through several verses. There are at least three Hebrew words. In the N.T. Greek just a single word to explain “ransom” is seen. And yet we can say, each word is linked back to the idea of being “helpless.” And helpless is far more than a definition, rather it is a description of a “state of being.”

We come to understand that helplessness is the natural state of human beings. We each have been captured, taken away and are being held, until terms are met for our release. I suppose that some see this helplessness easier than others. (And I’m sure a few will never acknowledge it at all). But nevertheless, it is real and it describes every single person that has ever lived.

Being completely helpless is hardly a situation we would ever choose. Having ransom demands being made to set us free is mostly awkward. And it’s an affront. Perhaps, we feel we are worth more? But the issues here are eternal, and currency concepts are never the consideration.

But there is a present need, to purchase back those who are being held as captives. The absolute clear position is that the Lord Jesus Christ, died in our place. Choosing to die for us, he was essentially tortured before his cruel death. In this decision, he himself paid my ransom. In doing this, I was set free and fully able to return home.

There are many who have been free. But there is a thing called “the Stockholm Syndrome.” This refers to those in captivity who somehow “connect” with their kidnappers through a prolonged captivity. This is to the point where they begin to act less than the victims, and more like the captor. It is confusing. They seem to go out of their way to act “pro-kidnapper”. This can get very disturbing.

We must look to our children, and closest family and our friends. They are toiling for Satan, the captor of our souls (past-tense). Many different tactics are being used– depression, addictions, lust, greed, anger, gluttony, pride, guilt and many other deceitful things. They are being held, until faith (the key) “springs” them out of their prison.

Thank you Jesus, for coming to free us. Thank you for forgiving us. We have been released, and now walk away free. You died, so we might live. We desperately want to see the others we love set free.

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ybic, Bryan

 

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Meeting Samson

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The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is painful. It ranks as one of the saddest tales in Biblical history, and reading it through again only frustrates me. Have you ever seen a piece of fraying cloth. Threads have worked loose and the edges no longer hold together. The mid section maybe fine, but hem is coming apart. The issue is one of integrity.

That is what I think the judge Samson was like. Incredibly gifted, but irrevocably flawed, he was ordained to be a deliverer. Think of him as a “freedom fighter,” called and equipped to set his people free. He was a man of intense contrasts:

  1. uncommonly gifted, yet strangely unconsecrated,
  2. incredibly strong, yet spiritually weak,
  3. called to deliver, but yet died as a captive

You might say he could never conquer himself. Forbidden things became permissible. He never could really say the most important word– No! Lust drove him as often as the Spirit of God did. Samson became a tragic figure in the history of Israel, known more for his failures than his victories.

“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20, NIV).

This is perhaps the most tragic verse in Scripture. Samson had compromised to the point of being released from his gift. His attitude was that it would always be there for him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They would gouge out his eyes, and chain him to a millstone to grind out grain.

Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:32 Samson is mentioned as an example of faith. But how much pain was afflicted on him, and how more brightly would’ve been if he would’ve learned to resist his appetites.

I have a tendency to fray at the edges myself, leaving me with an unsettled feeling. The hems don’t always hold. They come apart. The story of Samson reminds me of my need to watch myself closely. The lesson is loud and clear. Perhaps there is a Samson in everyone of us.

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A Pastor’s Transformation

Pastor-homeless-peoplePastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured left) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.

The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited– Matthew 25:31-46.

 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

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Bryan’s Note: Some have made this account to be nothing more than a “urban myth,” kind of a good piece of  Christian “schlock” that never happened. I personally can’t say for sure. I simply can’t vouch for its veracity. But all I really know is that it speaks to me in many ways about following Jesus. For that alone, I am thankful.

More of Jesus, less of Bryan.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Words of Hope for a Baby Born Blind

Anophthalmia–the condition of being born with no eye tissue–affects about 30 out of 100,000 babies, leaving them irrevocably blind. This is the letter that a pastor wrote to a Christian couple confronted with this tragic reality.

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 Dear John and Diane,baby-with-no-eyes

Last night, as I prayed with Noel, you were heavy on my mind. I said, “Lord, O Lord, please let me be a pastor who preaches and leads and loves in a way that makes the impossibilities of life possible for your people by a miracle of sustaining grace. Help me to know the weight and pain of this life and not to be breezy when the mountains have fallen into the sea. Help me to have the aroma of Christ’s sufferings about me. Prevent shallowness and callousness to pain. O Lord make me and my people a burden bearing people.”

O John and Diane, I am so heavy with your child’s sightlessness! God is visiting Bethlehem Church with such pain these days in the birth of broken children. Randy and Ann Erickson with their baby’s broken heart; Jan and Rob Barrett with their baby’s liver outside the body; and your precious little one! Is the Lord saying, “I have a gift for your community.” This is not one or two or three couples’ burden. This is a gift and call to the whole church.

This is a word concerning the brokenness of this fallen age of futility. This is an invitation for you all to believe that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). This is an invitation for you to “count every gain as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). This is a shocking test to see if you will “lose heart” when in fact God’s purpose is to show that his grace is sufficient to renew our inner person every day to deal with the “slight momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

O Lord, open our eyes to your love in this pain. Open our eyes. “Then Elisha prayed, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

John and Diane, the mountains surrounding your lives are filled with the horses and chariots of God. Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand here. God is at work in ways and for years and generations and millions of people that we cannot now imagine. This is ours to believe and to bear, no matter the cost. This is ours for this short life.

It seems to me that this life is a proving ground for the kingdom to come. Some are asked to devote forty or fifty years to caring for a handicapped child instead of breezing through life without pain. Others are asked to be blind all their lives…

But only in this life – ONLY in this life. I want to be the kind of person who makes that “ONLY” what it really is – very short. Prelude to the infinity of joy, joy, joy. But not yet. Not entirely.

How will we ever cope with the burdens of this life if we believe this is all there is, or even the main act in this drama of reality? O Lord, give us your view of things.

May God fill you with anticipated joy.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

I love you,

Pastor John

Source: http://theworksofgod.com/2009/09/24/helpful-things-pastors-who-love-their-people/

Pastor John Piper site:  http://www.desiringgod.org/