Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Looking through the pane of PAIN... And seeing: Jesus

I wrote to a friend. A new one. Because of something he said. He has Muscular Sclerosis and was sharing just a tad of his story in an effort to let others see a bit of what the journey is like at the very beginning of this disease. I liked him immediately. He was humorous. Sweet. Honest. He didn't sugar-coat, glamorize, what He was going through. He called it his " journey to that dark." He's legally blind now, because of MS. He wrote, "Even though it might be a path to no more light in the world around me, I really have to thank God for somehow allowing me to keep a sense of humor about it."


You like him too?

I think that what he called "a path to no more light in the world around me" is actually the very road that takes us to the real light inside another world that's more real than this one will ever be. Most of us can relate how going through the darkness of anything often brings us to the Greater Light on the other side of it. We see God more clearly when done. We learn to prioritize. Perspectives. What's most important. What life is really all about. What really matters. What doesn't............ yada yada yada.... Mostly and foremost, when we see God there, know Him in that place, show Him to others, and bask in the warmth of His pleasure even in the turmoil, that's a Light that can't be explained or defined. His beauty radiates brilliantly in darkness. But only if we let it.

I was drawn to this new friend for lots of reasons. I'll list two:

One) A favorite teacher of my children's, a sister of ours in Christ, and a fellow church family member also has MS. She recently retired from her teaching job, but still goes to the school to assist. She's precious! She loves much! And thus, is much loved! We've watched her suffer through this disease, and we've seen Jesus shine magnificently through her in it.

Two) My uncle had Muscular Dystrophy. Though these two diseases are different, in some ways they are very similar. Neither one pleasant. Both hard. Both frustrating. Both unfair and cruel and mean. One thing about my uncle though, he touched so many people's lives in the chair where he sat. And then, he touched even more in the iron lung that his body was put to lie in - in order to help keep him breathing for as long as it did. He lived with my grandparents until the day he died. Every day the milk-man (yes, it was a LONG time ago) would come by to bring the milk and Uncle Joe would talk to him about Jesus (just as he did every person that visited!). One day, the milk man came, and didn't see Uncle Joe in the iron bed, so he looked at my grandmother and asked, "Where's little Joe?" Grandmother simply said, "He's gone." The man shook his head and turned to go with tears (that he had no control over and couldn't stop no matter the will power) streaming down his face... not even being able to vocalize a word to them as he walked out the door. My uncle made a difference (a HUGE one!) to SO MANY in the skin that he lived in for as long as he did; for he didn't live there long or alone, Jesus lived inside his skin with him. And it showed so brightly that people couldn't fail to miss Him there.

My new friend ended his note saying this, "... loosing one's sight tends to have a few bumps in the road. Next time you see me smile, because I might be a little grumpy but I can tell you I'm smiling a little myself. NO matter how bad it gets just remember everyone has something they are trying to hide, and for once I don't have to pretend I'm not seeing it."

It's that "everyone has something they are trying to hide" that got me.

He's right, you know? We all have things that we try to hide. Handicaps of some sort that we're trying to overcome. We all have things that cripple us, frustrate us, aggravate us, embarrass us, and that leaves us feeling as if we're lacking. Sometimes things that we deem reason enough to give us seasonal permission to "shake our fists" at God in fits of anger from time to time from our pure dislike of it. Things that we would change and get over if God would only choose to let us! We don't have the power to, but we know He does! And we don't have a clue why He won't do it. Our feelings are hurt because He doesn't.

For some reason, God loves us despite our acts of ugly. And when we allow Him to (though He might not heal us from the thing that we've begged Him for) He goes and changes us in it (when we cooperate with Him and let Him)... He grows us, strengthens us, gives our eyes sight to see things that we hadn't seen before, He helps our ears to hear, and He heals our hearts and our deeper hurts. And then, God will go and use that very thing (that we think such a burden) to help others to see Jesus through us as well. It's amazing how He does it. It's in our weakness, that He makes us strong.

Amazingly to me, He will even use our very wickedness of sin and rebellion that grieved Him so (after we've repented and turned from it) to help others! To encourage them, give them hope, and draw them to Him! Why not sweep it under the rug and hide it and be told never to mention it again (as He throws as far as the East is from the West and washes it whiter than snow)? Why does God use that old-evil-bleached-white-detestable-sin as the very thing to build our testimonies around? There we go - showing the ugly of what we've done and where we've been while God uses it to show Himself to others in! What kind of God would let us show Him through the skin of our sin - and be able to show it in such a way that the only thing left to be seen is Beautiful? Him! Just Him.

Why does He do that? Do you know what I mean? Show up out loud to others through the ugly He's redeemed?

He uses the "foolish things" and the "weak things" instead of the wise and the mighty! Oh, how I love it and how I am awed by it when I see Him doing that in others! Yet all the while often fighting His want to do that in me.

He uses "the foolish things of this world to confound the wise" and "the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." What man would choose to use "foolish" things, "weak" things, like that to show his glory in? No man would. But God does.

Thinking of the passages that contain that verse I can't help but put it here. Look very carefully at what He is saying while you read this, for it says much more than I've ever realized that it did before.

".. the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men,
and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men.
For [simply] consider your own call, brethren;
not many [of you were considered to be] wise
according to human estimates and standards,
not many influential and powerful,
not many of high and noble birth.
[No] for God selected (deliberately chose)
what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame,
and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.
And God also selected (deliberately chose)
what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt,
even the things that are nothing,
that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,
So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God."
1 Corinthians 1:25-... (Amplified Version)

He "deliberately chose" to do it that way! To me that is our Lord's way of letting
us share with Him in His sufferings... and Jesus' way of allowing us to be a glimpse (or some sort of a mild reflection) of the same picture of Who He was when He walked this earth... and who He still is today as He continues to walk. To me it's His way of Him showing up again in the picture that He shows us of Himself in Isaiah 53. It's Him living it out again in our bodies through our lives. Watch and see Jesus in these Scriptures. But as you see Jesus, also see Jesus again in the picture lived out in you. See if you can see a picture of Jesus' body (as described in this picture) again in yours. In other words, does your skin (in some ways) look like the skin that He describes here?

"For He shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
He hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He was despised
and rejected
and forsaken by men
a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness;
and like One from Whom men hide their faces.
He was despised,
and we did not appreciate His worth
or have any esteem for Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses)
and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment],
yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].
..... and by His wounds we were healed."
[These verses quoted are from both the KJV and The Amplified Version]"we live in Him and He (lives) in us because He has given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:13). And just as Jesus once was born as a baby and lived in the skin of a man named Jesus, He still lives in human skins... this time in me! this time in you! this time in us! Jesus lived then and NOW lives still having: "no form nor comeliness," "no beauty that we should desire Him," "a man of sorrows and pains, acquainted with grief and sickness" "one whom men hide their faces" from, His "worth" not appreciated nor esteemed,.... "yet we [ignorantly] consider Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God," BUT "by His wounds we are healed."

I don't know that I know how to say what seems so obvious for me to see. But now, as Christians, as children reborn again of God and His Spirit; we're told that

Can you see what I see? Can you see what I'm trying to say? That Jesus Himself shows up again in our skins! Again - having no "beauty" that would draw all eyes and men to us. Again - "a man of sorrows and pains".. sometimes in such forms that men "hide their faces" and won't look at us. Again - His worth not being appreciated nor esteemed. Again - with people ignorantly considering us "stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God." WHILE it is often through those very "wounds" that others are healed when finally their eyes are unveiled to see the beauty beneath the disguise of its grief-stricken uncomely skin!

Finally, we are at a place when others aren't falsely drawn to our "wisdom according to human standards, nor our "influential and powerful" positions, nor our "high and noble births", nor our "beauty"......

NO! Instead, He uses the "foolish things" of this world in order to show the world Jesus!

The chapter continues (in the NTL), and remember that as you see Jesus, see Jesus again put to live inside the case of your skin.

"And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for His own sins
He was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed...
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
He did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, He was led away.
No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream.
But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.
But He was buried like a criminal;...
But it was the Lord's good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief.
when His life is made an offering for sin,
He will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord's good plan will prosper in His hands.
When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish,
He will be satisfied.
And because His experience, My righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous,
for He will bear all their sins.
I will give Him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because He exposed Himself to death.
He was counted among rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels."

Have you ever felt your "troubles" some sort of "punishment" from God? Have you ever felt "pierced," "crushed," "beaten," "whipped," "oppressed and treated harshly"? Have you ever felt you were "unjustly condemned," like "no one really cared," that your "life was cut short in midstream," "struck down," and felt like you were "buried like a criminal" in your suffering skin? Have you ever really considered that it could possibly be "the Lord's good plan to crush and cause you grief" giving you an opportunity to give your life as "an offering for sin" for Him so that others might "be made whole"? so that others might "be healed"? and so that others living in their "rebellion" might see Jesus again (this time in your skin) and turn from their sin and be saved because of the Jesus that they saw in you?

Could it be that it was "the Lord's good plan" to give you "many [spiritual] descendants" through your "anguish", and that because of your "experience" you - God's "righteous servant"- will make it possible for "many to be counted righteous" because Jesus lived His story again in a man with your name and because you "interceded for rebels" on account of offering Him your life (laying your life down for His) and letting Him live again in yours?

We are told to:
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,
Consider Him
who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:2,3

Shall we not "fix" our eyes on Jesus and consider Him and what He has done so that we won't grow weary and loose heart in our own sufferings when we're plagued with it too? And in our realizing that because of the joy set before Jesus He was able to endure the cross and the shame, and so He lay His life down in order to save, can not we do the same? We're told that we too are called to "share" in those sufferings as He did, so that we could also share in His glory.

"Now if we are children
then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in His sufferings
in order that
we may also share in His glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Romans 8:17,18

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you,
which comes upon you for your testing,
as though some strange thing were happening to you;
but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ,
keep on rejoicing,
so that
also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation."
1 Peter 4:12,13

"Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for His sake,
but [(join) with me (and)] take your share of the suffering
[to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God." -
2 Timothy 1:8,9 (AMP)

"join with me in suffering for the gospel,
by the power of God, Who has saved us and called us to a holy life -
not because of anything that we've done BUT BECAUSE OF HIS OWN PURPOSE and grace.
... And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher
2 Timothy 1:8-12a. (NIV)

Paul said that he was a prisoner for our Lord's sake. Could you maybe (in a sense) say the same? Would you be willing to be? Paul tells us to
join him in that. He encourages us to take our own share of the suffering, because we were called to a holy life as well. Annd because we, too, were called to a purpose. Paul said that he "was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher;" but do we realize that it was mostly from that place in his prison cell that he heralded and apostled and taught the most? He said that that was WHY he was suffering! He was arrested and beaten and put in prison for who he represented and for teaching the good news. Could it be that your "skin prisons" (of whatever particular issues you have) is the very place that God wants you?.... Could it be that it is from that very "cell" that God plans to use you to herald His message? to disciple others? and to teach about Him? What those people that put Paul into prison and meant as an evil thing, God meant for good! Just as Joseph said about his imprisonment in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."" And it was such as so all over again in Paul's life. Paul went on to say this about his imprisonment:

"Now I want you to know, brothers,
that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel."
Philippians 1:12

Has "what has happened to" you "served to advance" the gospel in your life? Could it - if you'd let it? God not only can, but He wants to do the same thing with us in our lives. He wants to use whatever kind of suffering that has fallen upon us to "serve to advance the gospel"- just as it did for Paul and Joseph and even more so for His Son Jesus. And in all those "foolish things" or "weak things" of the world He shows Himself strong, He displays His splendor, and He Alone gets all of the glory!

I think He often just looks at us with longing eyes that asks, "Will you just let Me use this here? Will you trust Me and let Me use this thing? Will you let Me be encased in this suffering of yours and let Me use this "prison cell" to shine the Light of my glory?....., in order to advance the gospel? in order to save others? Of course, the enemy wants to bring evil to you by causing you to suffer. His whole being is bent toward finding ways to "steal, kill, and destroy" you. And you're blaming Me. But what he means for evil, I intend to use it for good! Will you let Me? Will you just let Me? Will you give Me this thing here and let Me do something with it? And will you let Me bring Life and meaning to it..... for you? and for others? For SO MANY OTHERS - that still don't know Me yet? For all the lost souls.... so that I can show them Jesus... not in the form of some great "beauty" or "nobility" or "wise" or "strong" thing.... I want to show them Me through your weakness. I CAN be your strength there and show My beauty in you and through you --- if only you'll let Me. I can bring and show beauty through these ashes. Will you let this pain be the window pane to frame and show Jesus?"

Paul continues to say:

that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME WILL turn out for my deliverance.
I will eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Philippians 1:19-21

Will we let "what has happened to" us turn out for our own deliverance? And then turn out to be the very thing that God uses to help deliver others? Basically, it all boils down to what Jesus said to us in Matthew 16:25,

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for Me will find it."

As His sanctuaries, as the temples for Christ, our bodies are the dwelling place for God in the physical world that we live in. He is the designer of each temple. He constructs and molds and makes and shapes them each in order to display His glory alone to the utmost. He constructs our temples (the vehicles He uses to carry Himself in) and constitutes our missions, giving us a purpose and an audience to take and show to Him to. So why do we often strike to fight the hand that makes Beautiful and then takes Beautiful to a dark world that doesn't know Him to show it? We're all guilty of it at times.... until we can see that Jesus has need of me. Jesus has need of you! He has need of us both. Very different. But much alike. Both wearing the skin of our Savior.... in all the different sorts and ways that He comes in.

I have seen Jesus shining His Light in so many vases... in so many different cases of skins. I've seen Him in the sick and in the dying and in so many with poor health and disabilities. I've seen Him in the paralytics, the blind man, the deaf, the mute, the man with Parkinson's, the woman with Muscular Sclerosis, my uncle with Muscular Dystrophy, the child with cancer, and the heart diseased. I've seen Him in the addicts that have overcome alcohol, drugs, obesity, shopping, tobacco, pornography, adultery, abuse, gossip, mad, mean, bitterness, hatred, rage, vengeance and lying. I've seen Him in the loved ones left broken after destruction of storms, tornados, hurricanes, bombs, guns, wrecks, and all sorts of accidents have swallowed their loved ones in death. And I've seen Him in men who's gone to prison for things that they chose to do wrong and also in men who went to prison for things that they didn't mean to. I call every bit of that: God using the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and then to change the world. For it's often through those very things (sickness... hurts... sorrows) that helps people to finally see past the skin and see only the IN (that contains Jesus). Though it might have been there before, the wonder of Him was hidden until then.... people just couldn't see past the package He was contained in to see Him before tragedy happened. But when the package loses it's worldly appeal by it's beauty... the IN shines out and the Light shines through and the form of Jesus is seen in me... and in you...... and in all of the other vases containing His Light that have been broken in order to see it.

I hope that any who read this is able to read my heart in what I've said. Mostly I pray that you could hear God's... because what I say doesn't even really matter, but what He says does. He really is able to take our broken and shatter lives... and if we let Him work in it, one day others will be looking through our "stained glass" to see only Jesus. Broken made beautiful and displayed for the world to see! A foolish thing made Right... and used for Glory!

May you live your life shining the Bright of His Glory through every vessel and vein of your skin!... and may you allow others to look through the pane of your pain and see Jesus!

I leave you with a question: Is He knocking on the door of your pain... asking to use this as a pane to show Him to someone else that hasn't seen Him before? Will you let Him make something beautiful from something that man deems useless? Will you let Him use this as a window that reveals and shines Him? A Light from the dark? A Display of His Splendor? As a way for others to look inside you and see the resurrected Savior looking back at them? Jesus wants to use it... will you allow Him to?

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