As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"
Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-34
When I was six years old I went to an eye doctor and discovered that I needed glasses. In fact I needed glasses so bad that when I finally walked outside with them on for the first time I exclaimed "Is that what our car really looks like?". Face it, a 1980 baby blue Honda Civic was not the coolest car on the road to a first grader. Shortly after though I also walked out of the eye doctor with another piece of news. I would likely be blind by age 20. I had been diagnosed with Glaucoma, a degenerative disease of the eye characterized by increased pressure which, in general terms, slowly suffocates the eye. In my case, the pressure was so high that I was already, by age 10, experiencing a high level of peripheral vision loss. Thus began a quest to preserve my vision as long as possible. Tests, medicine, specialists, etc all ensured for the next 2 years. All leading up to a referral to the University of Illinois-Chicago's eye specialists to see if there was anything cutting edge or experimental I might qualify for because no one wanted to watch a teenager go blind.
The night before the big appointment my Dad and I prayed asking God to heal me. The next morning I endured five hours of testing from a battery of specialists. Then they repeated the tests - twice more. Finally, they all gathered around me and dad and I remember this day crystal clear - with a big stack of folders in his hand - this old doctor looked at us and said - "There is no question you had Glaucoma. We have years worth of tests to show that. We know your eye doctor; she is one of the most respected professors in the area. But, we've run every test we have and we can not find a trace of your Glaucoma." Dad and I were already grinning when they finally pronounced "You had Glaucoma", they said, "but not anymore... and we don't understand it". Dad and I knew why and gave great thanks to God! My eye doctor refused to believe it and despite 5 more years worth of tests, she could find no trace of the disease! I'll even do one better, 2 weeks ago at my last eye doctor visit - now decades years later - the doc sat back afterward and he said "your eyes are in remarkable shape for anyone - no trace of even a hint of damage".
The truth is, if I just stopped right there this would be a great blog post. God, yet again, poured out His healing mercy in an 'incurable' situation! Praise God! I am eternally grateful! But, let me take the story further to illustrate my point. Taking nothing away from God's amazing miracle of healing I want to look at this from a different perspective.
Ever since then, I love going to the eye doctor. Here's why. On that form they give you it asks you to check any history of medical problems of the eye that you or your family members may have had "Cataracts, Macular Degeneration, etc) and "Glaucoma is always listed. I love checking that box... then I wait.
At some point the doctor comes in, looks at the paperwork and goes... "Oh, you have Glaucoma". Nope. "Really, you checked the box?" And then I tell them I had Glaucoma but no longer do. "Impossible... there is no cure" they all say. Since I was healed I have probably been to half a dozen different eye doctors and it always goes the exact same way. At this point I tell them my story and how God has healed me and they listen in rapt fascination.
Here's the part that always gets me though. At the end when they shake their head and say "Amazing" or "Fascinating" or "Marvelous" - whichever adjective happens to jump out of their mouth - I always segue into a discussion about God. And this is where my amazement comes in. I'll say something like "Not to preach at you, but I serve a God who heals. As a Christian I know that God can heal me and that's what He so graciously did. I don't know if you're a Christian..." and this is where I ALWAYS get interrupted with "Actually, I am a Christian too". They usually go on to tell me about their church, their Bible study, small group, missions trips, etc. And then when they finish I gently say, "Well then you shouldn't be so surprised by my story. Where in the Bible does it say that God stopped healing people?".
Here's my point. I'm not picking on my eye doctors... I've gotten to know some of them over the years and they are really great guys. But there is a tendency to put our occupation, training or "common" sense ahead of our faith. What I mean by that is that these doctors looked at me as a doctor first, a Christian second. So, a story of God doing the impossible was not something their "doctor" persona could not absorb. They had to slip back into their "Christian" persona to process what I was telling them.
The fact is that when someone comes up to you and say "I'm healed" or "God did _____" the first reaction should not be our human or professional skepticism. We believe in a God who heals. We believe in a God who raised His Son from the dead. We believe in a God who created the world from nothing. We believe in a God who is in control of every second of every day. We believe in a God who does the impossible on a daily basis. As Paul said to King Agrippa in Acts "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" Acts 26:8. If we really believe the Bible as fact, if we really embrace Christ and all He said as reality then why do we allow so much human disbelief, so much human skepticism to belay what we claim as truth? What in fact is Truth. We need to remember to keep what we know as Truth, as expressed in Christ, ahead of our personal or professions feelings, predictions or assumptions. Praise God we serve a God who is not bound only to the humanly possible. And if we truly believe He is Who He claimed to be, they we will look for the impossible everyday and be unsurprised when He does it!
'til next time... God bless!
Art: Blind Bartimaeus by Ron DiCianni
Posted on August 8, 2011 9:03 AM
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Posted on August 5, 2011 11:55 AM
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."
He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away."
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)
I read this today as part of my devotionals and was struck by the same old thought that always hits me when I read this passage. Now I could be wrong, but I think it's only the most mature and the most naïve Christians who read this verse without thinking that we'd have succeeded where Peter failed.
The most mature Christians recognize that absent Christ, the spiritual depravity of man - themselves included - is so great as to be boundless and there's a good chance they'd deny Christ. The most naïve think denying Christ is no big deal and that "God will forgive us". The rest of us somewhere in the vast middle of the Christian maturity bell curve probably can sympathize with Peter - I mean he was in a life and death situation and panicked - but we think we'd have hung in there heroically and said "Yes, I was with Jesus".
As a quick aside, lest you think it overstated, that life or death choice is actually the reality for millions of Christians today who are continually forced to choose between their life, health, family, job or physical safety and Jesus. Their sacrifice is testimony to the fact that they do choose Christ where Peter failed. In fact statistics tell us that more Christians were killed for their faith in the last few decades then in all of history. Sobering thought for those us of here living in the comparative "lap of luxury" that is the USA.
For this week's blog devotional, let's spend some more time though in looking at Peter's choice versus our own because in 21st century America as I think we are presented with the same choice Peter faced but in much more subtitle ways. And, from what I can see, we're failing the test.
Each year I have the privilege of speaking with and even counseling dozens of pastors. Usually its because God brings them across my path, rather then a formal function of my ministry here at Tapestry. In several of those conservations, the subject turns to the genuineness and depth of the churches they pastor. I always ask the age old question "If next Sunday terrorists burst into your services with automatic weapons and said 'We're here to kill all the Christians... if you're not a Christian leave now', how many people would be left in your service?". Over the years I have heard several pastors hang their heads and give soberingly honest answers. One or two however with keen insight have said "I don't know but I hope that I would still be there - but I can't say that for sure".
Let me quickly offer another aside comment before I go on. I genuinely hope that no one ever puts a gun to my head (or my wife, child, etc) and says "Are you a Christian?". But as that is a very real reality for Christians in this world I strongly encourage you to decide now what you are willing to die for. Are you so firmly convinced that Christ is who He said He is that you'd be willing to eat a bullet - or worse 30 years in some 3rd World hellhole dungeon? Of the 12 apostles, 11 were martyred for their faith (They tried to kill John plenty of times, they just never were successful!). Of today's 2.2 Billion Christians, 600 million (that's 27%) of them are under continual pressure to renounce Christ. Through persecution, oppression, humiliation, deprivation or threat of death, they are forced time again to choose between Christ and themselves. Most choose Christ.
Again, not hoping to actually see this in my life, I have to say one thing about their situation verses my own - I wish the choice were that clear each day. That cut and dry. Pick Christ or Deny Christ. See, no one in a uniform has ever come up and said "Are you a Christian" while pointing a gun at me. Never has my boss called me in and said "pick between Christ and your job".
Instead, a friend will ask me to go see a morally questionable movie and then afterward say - "You know, I'm surprised you came - aren't you supposed to be Christian?". Or I'll make it to the truck only to find out that the cashier charged me for one loaf of bread but there's two loaves in the bag. I mean... do I really have to inconvenience myself by going back in the store and standing in line again? It was her mistake after all... not mine! Here's another one, my son's t-ball team loves to schedule events right during church on Sunday. I mean, church is there every week but T-ball only has a few more games. Right?
In reality, those choices are no less weightily then the one Peter faced... they are merely less clearly stated. The choice is still to claim Christ at the expense of yourself or to deny Him at the benefit of our immediate circumstances or pressures.
Whenever I consider these choices, I am reminded of two stories, the first is a story from a pastor here in California. We were sitting in his office before a service and he was telling me about the movie he saw last night. He told me that he had run into a couple of families from the church at the theatre and was glad to see them fellowshipping together outside of church. But when he asked them what movie they we're seeing the answer was "Harry Potter". Personally I'd rather they stay home and stare at a wall.
Here's another one... this is a powerful true story. A pastor was transferred by his denomination to a small town in Texas. He did want to go there and on his first day in town he decided to ride the local bus to acquaint himself with the area. As he paid the fare, he noticed that the driver game him 25 cents too much change. As the pastor sat there on the bus clenching the change, he tried to rationalize it "It's a blessing from God" "This town owes me more then 25 cents for making me live in this pathetic town", etc, etc, etc. As the pastor walked off the bus he turned stopped and looked at the driver... "I think you gave me too much change". The driver's response was "I know... you're the new pastor right? I wanted to find out if it was worth coming to church this Sunday". In hearing the pastor recount the story he said that he walked off the bus as straight as could and then literally collapsed against the first bench he could find. His statement: "I almost sold out the Son of God for a quarter".
That's what is at stake even in our seemingly simple "daily" choices. We're confronted 100 times a day with the choice between choosing Christ or selling Him out. For a TV show, for a quick thrill, for a few bucks, for a little relaxation, for a quarter. The choice is no less weightily then Peter's, it's just less clear.
Being a Christian is an "all-in" commitment. You can't be "kinda pregnant", you can't be "sort of a virgin" - you are or you aren't. And your choices and priorities need to reflect that. Today, tomorrow, in the big choices and the seemingly "little" ones... pick Christ.
'til next time... God bless!
Art: Peter's Denial by Ron DiCianni
Posted on July 31, 2011 8:22 PM
I'm constantly amazed at God. Every time He shows just a glimmer of Himself the awe is almost overwhelming. I'm constantly amazed at just Who God is and how He reveals Himself. As I was doing my morning devotional, I started today in Ezra (I just finished Nehemiah last week - yes, I read them out of order). Ezra talks about the challenges of serving God in a climate that is hostile to Him. I'd encourage you to take an hour or so tonight and walk down some passages with me.
In Ezra, we find the start of an incredible journey that ends in Revelation. As you read Ezra you see some familiar names, Nehemiah (we mentioned him earlier), Haggai (a prophet with the book by the same name) and Zechariah (ditto). In Ezra there comes a time when Ezra records that the building of the temple had stopped and that after a prophetic word from the Lord, spoken through Haggai, the work resumed. Honestly, I've read my Bible cover to cover more times then I can remember but I don't ever think I saw that detail. Just goes to show that as you diligently study God's Word He reveals new things - we're never "done" studying the Bible!
So, for this week's Devotional Blog, you're going to need to pull out your Bibles and do a little reading. Starting with Ezra Chapter 1 - 4
Now, a little background here. The Jews had been sent back to Israel from their land of exile and captivity with the mandate from the Persian king Darius to start rebuilding the Temple of God. This they did until some local bigwigs that had been transplanted into Jewish territory started making a fuss. So, the returning exiles gave into the pressures around them and stopped building God's Temple and instead built their own houses. This would be akin to, in a sense, being sent out by God to the mission field and once you get there taking a job at Mickey D's and forgetting about your call. I'm stretching to make a point but it's a parallel. Now, in response to this egregious breech of trust (elsewhere God says that because of this failure to finish the temple the Jews were literally being punished by God) God calls the people to account through handpicked servants.
Which leads to Ezra Chapter 5 where God speaks through Haggai. Literally all Ezra records is that "Now Haggai... prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them...then [they] set to rebuild the temple." As I was reading this I went "huh?". It must have been one heck of a prophesy to get these guys back in line but why wouldn't it have been recorded? Let's see if it's in the book of Haggai. So flip with me to Haggai (2nd to last book of the Old Testament) and read Chapters 1 & 2.
There is so much I can go into here but the three very clear things are: 1) The Jews were essentially under a curse for having failed to diligently complete the temple while instead perusing their own gain. 2) That Evil is contagious (See chapter 2 verses 10-14) 3) The Lord's signet ring. Just ignore # 3 for a second, we'll get there later.
So, back to Ezra 5, the Jews get this prophesy and start building diligently then we get to Chapter 6 of Ezra and we see two things. The first is how incredibly God used adversity as a blessing. To sum up, the local rulers complain again - this time to the new king - that the Jews are rebuilding and ask him to make them stop (reminds me of some long car trips growing up... Mom he's TOUCHING me... make him stop!!!). Instead, God reveals a long buried scroll that shows that the Jews were acting under the previous king's permission and so now the current king writes a letter telling the local rulers they not only need to shut up but they are, under pain of death, required to help complete the temple! Praise God! I love it when God does that. Take some time and really study that today and how it might apply to where you are. As I have preached several times before, things are rarely as they appear at this moment to our human eyes. God's ways are much bigger and more incredible then we can fathom.
So then as we complete Ezra 6 we see the name Zechariah who is merely listed "a descendent of Iddo" being a preacher along with Haggai. Who is Zechariah? Well, let's now turn to the book that bears his name (next to last book of the Old Testament). If you read the first 6 chapters you'll start to say "Hmm... some of this looks familiar". Yep, let's go and read Revelation 1, 6, 11, 17 & 18. I'll let you explore all the parallels on your own but let me just give a list of what to look for: The 2 olive branches and what they stand for, the gold lampstand with 7 branches, the clean white garments, the four horses, the woman in the basket and on the dragon, the location at which she is dropped off, the measuring of the temple, the scroll, etc. I'm not going to presume to get into each detailed symbolism, that would take days but this is a chance for your read and study a little bit.
After you've done that, head back to one last point for me. In Ezra you see listed as the governor of the Jerusalem Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel. Who was he? Well he was the third descendent from the last king of Israel. The one who was king when the Lord rejected Jerusalem and sent His people into exile for their sins declaring that even if the king were a signet ring, God would pull it off his finger. Now we see in the last few verse of Haggai that God is restoring his covenant and fellowship to the line of David declaring:
" The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: "Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. "'On that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,' declares the LORD Almighty."
And then in Matthew Chapter 1 we see Zerubbabel listed in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. Pretty incredible huh?
So, what's the goal of this week's study? Threefold: 1) To remind you that God is always in control, whatever you may feel, think or experience. 2) To encourage you to study Scripture and let God open to you His incredible truths. The fact is that just a few chapters in Scripture took us on an incredible journey through the Bible. 3) To reveal just a glimpse into God's incredible way of working. It is not humanly possible to weave together events and symbolisms and truth and facts across 5 different cultures, at least 3 languages and 600 years! But that's because the Bible is not a human endeavor. Christianity is not a human endeavor. It's all God and He proves it every step of the way if we will just open our eyes and let him.
'Til next time, God bless!
Art: Forever with the Lord by Ron DiCianni
Posted on July 18, 2011 1:50 PM
Here at Tapestry we're very excited to announce a new feature on our blog - "You've got Questions... We've Got Answers!"
Do you have a question for Ron DiCianni? Maybe it's about something he painted or about how to get trained in the arts?
Any questions about how to display, hang or light the prints you bought?
Questions about the Arts and Christianity or the Church?
Ask away! Every week we will select one question to answer!
How do you submit your questions? Just send an email to Blog @ Tapprod.com .
So we're upfront here are the questions we won't be answering: Unfortunately we can not appraise your past art purchases, critique your personal artwork, answer "who painted this ______" (unless its one of our own artists). And we really can't answer the question "Can God make a rock so heavy He can't lift it".
Posted on July 14, 2011 3:10 PM
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