Blind Believers

I’ve believed a lie all my life. Or maybe it’s a self-made myth. Or maybe an unexplained misunderstanding. Whichever, enough already.

It’s embedded in the lyrics of one of the Church’s most famous hymns. I’ve heard it, sang it, and played it a gazillion times in 51 years, but only recently realized I’ve missed something. Maybe we all have.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.

Christian friend, before you lose your mind, take your hand off your heart. I’m not saying this hymn is a lie. What I’m saying is we’ve believed an implied principle that isn’t truth.

The lie/myth/misunderstanding is found in the word once. Of course there is a before and after at the moment where grace and faith embrace, what we call salvation. Before lost, after found. Before blind, after see. The lie we tend to believe is this: “I’m 100% healed from my spiritual blindness. It’s one and done. I shouldn’t feel susceptible to sinful blindspots ever again.”

Newsflash: That’s a Lie. Acknowledging a general blindness to sin resulting in repentance rarely goes deeper than the surface. New vision is received. But only through growth and maturity are we able to see our deepest need of grace.

I’m 51. I’m still “seeing” for the first time, finding blindspots I didn’t know I had. Envy, prejudice, anger, judgment…on and on. Why? Tons of reasons. Does it matter? Of course, but what I have to admit is pride can keep me from acknowledging they exist. I am still in need of grace to release me from being a blind believer. I will never not need it. Is it available more than once, every time I need it? According to Paul, yes. And that’s why we can call it amazing. It’s there every time we see for the first time.

“When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.” Romans 5:20 MSG

“Where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.” Romans 5:20 CSB

Serving Frank

Two weeks ago I received an email from a stranger. It was Thursday after a rather trying Wednesday. The email was from a daughter who had an urgent request. Her 86-year-old father was dying from liver cancer, living alone in Bradenton while she and her brother lived in other states. A few weeks earlier she and her husband had visited her dad and had brought him to church that Sunday.  I had spoken that Sunday; therefore her reason to reach out to a stranger with her request.

It was a simple request…Go visit her dad and talk to him about spiritual things. Truthfully, my first thought was, “I’m doing my best to keep up with what’s already on my to do list. I’m drained, but I’ll try to go by.” As it turned out, her dad Frank lived less than two miles from me. I told myself, “There’s no excuse to not go by on your way home.” 

Today, four visits later, I’m so glad I did. What a genuine, rich spirit! We could have visited for hours each time, but his strength required short visits. Thursday we said goodbye. His children came to take him with them for his final earthly trip before his eternal trip.

This interaction is on my mind for many reasons, but one has to do with the reading plan I started this week on @youversion. Author Brittany Rust penned a seven-day plan entitled Pouring Into Others When You Feel Empty. Day two’s devotional included this thought:

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are stronger than you know. Helping others isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to stretch the limits of your capacity to discover the limitless strength found in God. God has made you capable of bearing the burdens of others–will you open yourself up to be used by Him to do so?

The verse she connected to her devotional was from Romans:

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There are days we don’t feel strong. On those days, God often gives us an opportunity to meet a “Frank.” My prayer is that I don’t miss anymore Holy Spirit moments, that I choose to bear the weaknesses of those who need to be served, and that I reject to please myself in order to serve future “Franks.”

Fruity Fridays: Level-Headed Transitioning

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

entry by Eric Vorhies 
I spent the last month thinking about how to define patience. Here’s what I came up with: The ability to transition from expectation to reality while remaining level-headed. 

  • Expectation: Drive home from work in a timely manner…and on a good day, hit only green lights

Reality: Stuck in traffic because there is an accident on the other side of the interstate that people are slowing down to see

  • Expectation: Go to bed at a decent hour

Reality: Three kids

  • Expectation: Living a long and healthy life

Reality: Getting diagnosed with cancer

  • Expectation: To be trusted by people in your workplace

Reality: The boss micromanages your every move in the most obnoxious way possible

Last one, 

  • Expectation: The person closest to you should understand you the best

Reality: The closer someone is to you the more monumental small misunderstandings will be

Patience isn’t always about just waiting for external forces to align properly. Most of the time it is about internally disassembling our expectations so that we can pick up the pieces and deal with reality. 
The more we lean on God, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, the quicker we can go through this process -whether it is a seemingly small thing such as trying to understand what your two-year-old is saying through his tears of frustration, or a rather large thing such as waiting to hear back about medical test results which will be delivered at the rapid pace of six weeks.

But I don’t need to go on about moments in life that may or may not cause some of you to become impatient. I want to share the best way that I know how to deal with potential impatience, or even active impatience.

“In the meantime” – this is the process of doing something different than what you had specifically planned to do. For instance, stuck in traffic? You planned on cruising right home, but you can’t. So, in the meantime, listen to some great podcasts…and learn a ton of stuff that you wouldn’t have made time for otherwise. Can’t land that dream job? In the meantime, land any job in the same field. Waiting with a four-year-old to get your tires aligned? In the meantime, get off your phone and play with him rather than expect him to stay entertained (that one was for me).

The thing that is really happening in these situations is that we are shifting our goals in the gap between our expectations and our reality. Your goal isn’t to get home as quickly as possible. Netflix isn’t going anywhere. Just get home safely and when you can, and if possible enjoy the ride. Dream job – maybe your goal should be to find a job that will lead you to the job that will lead you to the job that you really want. And while at Tires Plus, my goal shouldn’t be to kill time as much as it should be how to make the most of my time. 

One last story to drive this point home. Many couples have the goal to get pregnant and have kids. Some couples struggle to achieve this. I have some friends that had that exact problem. But at some point in the process, they took advantage of the “in the meantime” moments. They were able to use their struggle as part of their testimony, to grow more intimate with God, to lead other people through the same problem. Then one day, in glorious fashion, they became parents. But in order to do this, they had to shift their goal…or maybe, they figured out what their goal really was. That glorious fashion wasn’t due to a pregnancy ending in a delivery room experience. It was before a judge in a small courtroom in a small town. In the meantime, they changed their approach. They still became the best parents ever, but it just wasn’t how most couples do it. Because of their dependence on and trust in God, they were able to transition from expectation to reality. 

The greatest example of this that I see in the Bible is written in Romans 5.8, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  • Expectation: To live in relationship with God.

Reality: We couldn’t do it. 

  • Expectation: Sinners pay for their sins.

Reality: God’s patience paved the way for the sacrifice of Christ.

Fruity Fridays: Inside Out Joy

by Jeremy Nixon, a nobody fireman trying to do it right, but mostly getting it wrong. 

With Thanksgiving being this week, we have a lot to be thankful for. We have a lot to be joyful about. The Lord is good, even through our heartaches and our losses. One thing remains: God is on the throne and He is in control. That gives me hope and joy. 

In John 15, Jesus says that the Lord is glorified in us bearing much fruit. He calls us to abide in Him and his love. The reason behind this is so his Joy can be in us and to make our Joy full. 
Have you seen the movie Inside Out? If you have not, then you should stop reading this and watch immediately! If you don’t know me then you’re probably better off. Lol. I am a firefighter, a husband and dad to 3 gorgeous little girls. That’s right. GIRLS. I watch Disney movies and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so much that I sing their tunes in my sleep. 

In the movie Inside Out, there are 5 distinct personifications of emotions that guide this little girl’s life: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Joy makes everything happy. At least she tries her hardest. Spoiler alert: In the end she finds out that they all 5 have to work together to make life memorable and full of unique experiences. 

When Paul writes about joy in Galations 5 he is talking about fruits of the Spirit, not emotions. I believe he is talking about a set of attributes that encompass every believer and, just like the movie, I believe they work together for God’s purpose! 

Joy as defined by Webster’s is a feeling of great happiness. But I like the second part even better: a SOURCE or cause of great happiness. PEOPLE!!! That source is JESUS! Can I get an Amen!?! That is JOY. He is JOY. 

If you don’t know Jesus you can’t experience pure joy. But with Jesus you CAN display JOY and you CAN give JOY to others. God is doing great things around this world, and it’s because believers are growing and getting dirty, shoveling out fresh fruit to the world. If you want to see it, then get out and get dirty. Love Jesus. Love others. Be joyful. Be happy. 

I just love what Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39…

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That should give you JOY. 

Love and Joy work hand in hand. You can’t just be one or the other. You’ve got to be all in, and you have to let God use you and your experiences to show others this marvelous love and joy that we have. 

How are you going to be joyful this week?