God is Real–Part Five

How do I know God is real?  It simple: I’ve experienced Him in amazing ways.  Today’s example is pretty zany and funny.  I was in the Dominican Republic with my friend, Mindy, to introduce her to her sponsored child (I had already met him on a previous trip, and Mindy had become his sponsor).  We were headed to the Haitian border the next day but on this particular day we were returning from a trip by van into the country.  During a rest stop I went to get back on the bus, not knowing that they were hosing it down on the opposite side.  With a great whoosh! all the mud, grease and grime came flying up from under the van and splattered all over my khaki pants.  They were blackened from the grease and mud.

In the morning, after my shower, I said to Mindy, “I’m going to wear the same pants that got splattered yesterday, because I’ll just get them dirty again today,” and put them on.  She said, “Those aren’t the same pants; they’re perfectly clean.”  I looked down and she was right.  She didn’t believe they were the same pants, and we argued while I let her look through my luggage because I didn’t have any other khakis.  But they were now spotless.  She exclaimed, “Jesus did the laundry while we were sleeping!”  Now, I know that seems ridiculous, but think about it:  as we discussed, we were heading to child development centers to visit precious Compassion kids near the Haitian border.  Perhaps it was important that we appear clean and spotless, representing our Lord, and also give honor to the children, by giving them our best.  That was the only reason we could think of for the little “miracle” that day.  Our God is real!  But the next story is going to be amazing–watch for it on Friday!

For previous posts in my “God is Real” series, click below:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Four (pain)

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God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

Heart

Here is the “heart” of Andrew Murray’s thoughts that spoke so clearly to me last week in his book, Waiting On God.  This is really special; don’t miss what He has to say here:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the Lord. –Psalm 31:24 (RV)

“Let your heart take courage.”  All our waiting depends on the state of the heart.  As a man’s heart is, so is he before God.  We can advance no further or deeper into the holy place of God’s presence to wait on Him there, than our heart is prepared for it by the Holy Spirit.  –pg. 35

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Prov. 3:5)  In all faith, we have to use these two powers.  The mind has to gather knowledge from God’s Word and prepare the food by which the heart with the inner life is to be nourished.  But here is the terrible danger of our leaning to our own understanding and trusting in our own comprehension of divine things.  People imagine that if they are occupied with the truth, the spiritual life will, as a matter of course, be strengthened.  And this is by no means the case.  The understanding deals with concepts and images of divine things, but it cannot reach the real life of the soul.  Hence the command:  “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding.”  Man believes with the heart and comes into touch with God.  God has given His Spirit in the heart to be the presence and the power of God working in us.  In all our faith, the heart must trust and love and worship and obey.  My mind is utterly unable to create or maintain the spiritual life within me.  The heart must wait on God for Him to work it in me.  –pg. 36-37

Murray likens this to physical nourishment:

My reason may tell me what to eat and drink, and how the food nourishes me.  But in the eating and feeding, my reasons can do nothing–the body has its organs for that special purpose.  Just so, reason may tell me what God’s Word says, but it can do nothing to the feeding of the soul on the bread of life–this the heart alone can do by its faith and trust in God. –pg. 37

Then he compares this spiritual process to physical sleep:

A man may be studying the nature and effects of food or sleep.  When he wants to eat or sleep, he sets aside his thoughts and study, and uses the power of eating or sleeping.  And so, the Christian always needs, when he has studied or heard God’s Word, to cease from his thoughts, to put no trust in them [his own thoughts], to awaken his heart to open itself before God, and seek the living fellowship with Him.  –pg. 37

Let the heart wait at times in perfect silence and quiet; in its hidden depths.  God will work.  Be sure of this, and just wait on Him.  Give your whole heart, with its secret workings, into God’s hands continually.  He wants the heart.  He takes it and, as God, dwells in it.  –pg. 38

I love these thoughts:  Let Your Heart take courage!  Sometimes we’re unwilling to rest or trust.  Sometimes we’d rather worry and fret about something.  Or we’d like to try something in our own strength. And yet, here in His Word, He encourages us:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the LORD.”

Strength and Courage

Here are more quotes from Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting On God.

Wait on the LORD:  be strong, and let thine heart take courage; yea, wait thou on the LORD.  –Psalm 27:14 (RV)

One of the chief needs in our waiting upon God, one of the deepest secrets of its blessedness and blessing, is a quiet, confident persuasion that it is not in vain.  –pg. 31

“Be strong, and of good courage.”  These words are frequently found in connection with some great and difficult enterprise, in prospect of the combat with the power of strong enemies, and the utter insufficiency of all human strength.  Is waiting on God a work so difficult that such words are needed:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage?”  Yes, indeed.  The deliverance for which we often have to wait is from enemies, in whose presence we are so weak.  The blessings for which we plead are spiritual and unseen–things impossible with men–heavenly, supernatural, divine realities.  Our heart may well faint and fail.  –pg. 32

You are going to wait on God, to know first what He is, and then after that, what He will do…Come, and however feeble you feel, just wait in His presence.  As a feeble, sickly invalid is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through him, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God’s holy omnipotent love.  Sit and wait there, with the one thought:  Here I am, in the sunshine of His love.  As the sun does its work in the weak, one who seeks its rays, God will do His work in you.  Oh, do trust Him fully!  –pg. 33-34

It takes strength and  courage to wait for an answer from God, and He gives it to you (both strength and courage) as you determine to wait.  I can’t tell how often I have needed an answer to a problem or situation, and have gone somewhere to sit before Him and await His answer.  When I open His Word, or even the newspaper or some book in the morning, there is my answer — specific, personal, final.  It’s truly amazing how clearly He speaks to those who will sit quietly before Him and wait.

And yes–sometimes the wait is longer, but it will come, always, if you wait.

Wait

Lately I’ve been reading a great devotional from Andrew Murray (1828-1917).  This week I’m sharing quotes from that book.  The topic (as can be seen by the title) is waiting on God.  These words are so meaningful and true:

Show me thy ways, O LORD: teach me thy paths.  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:  for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Psalm 25:4-5 (KJV)

A soul cannot seek close fellowship with God, or attain the abiding consciousness of waiting on Him all the day, without a very honest and entire surrender to all His will.  –Andrew Murray, Waiting On God, Whitaker House Publishers, pg. 28

It must be clear to us what we are waiting for.  There may be very different things.  It may be waiting for God in our times of prayer to take His place as God and to work in us the sense of His holy presence and nearness.  It may be a special petition to which we are expecting an answer.  It may be our whole inner life, in which we are on the lookout for God’s putting forth of His power.  It may be the whole state of His church and saints, or some part of His work, for which our eyes are ever toward Him.  It is good that we remember and keep track of the things we are waiting for on God.  — pg. 29

It must also be clear to us on whom we are waiting.  Not an idol, a god of whom we have made an image by our concepts of what he is.  No, but the living God, such as He really is in His great glory, His infinite holiness, His power, wisdom, and goodness, in His love and nearness.  The presence of a beloved or a dreaded master awakens the whole attention of the servant who waits on him.  The presence of God, as He can in Christ by His Holy Spirit make Himself known, and keep the soul under its covering and shadow, will awaken and strengthen the true waiting spirit.  Let us be still and wait and worship until we know how near He is…   — pg. 29

It doesn’t seem to me that many people are willing to wait for anything any more, even regarding spiritual matters.  We seem to have much strength in our own wills, plans and ways.  But God tells us to wait on Him; wait and see what He will do!  There are things only He can do, and they are certainly worth waiting for.

Firmly Nailed

In honor of our Easter celebration this weekend, today I share another wonderful devotion from Beth Moore.  How beautifully the Old Testament prophesies the coming of Christ!  There are numerous pictures and stories that prefigure the coming of our Savior.  Here’s one:

I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him.  He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.  I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.  –Isaiah 22:21-23

Now here is what Beth says about this passage:

If you study the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus, you will find that they come in a dazzling variety of forms.  In some places the predictions were clear.  They obviously pointed to the coming Messiah.  In other instances they were veiled.  Join me now as we look at an absolutely fascinating passage–these words that apply so beautifully to Christ at this moment.  In their immediate sense, they were written about Eliakim, the palace superintendent during the Assyrian invasion of Israel, but you can see their ultimate significance in terms of the cross of our Christ.

Note how God said He would give His servant the key to the house of David, opening a door no one can shut.  He said He would “drive him like a peg into a firm place.”  As unfathomable as the process is to you and me, the cross was the means by which God chose to position Christ in the seat of honor for the house of His Father.  The cross is the open door no man can shut.

Isaiah 22:23 says, “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place” (KJV).  The original word for “firm” in the NIV and “sure” in the KJV is aman: “in a transitive sense to make firm, to confirm…to stand firm; to be enduring; to trust.”

Nothing was accidental about the cross of Christ.  The Son of God was not suddenly overcome by the wickedness of man and nailed to a cross.  Quite the contrary, the cross was the means by which the Son of God overcame the wickedness of man.  To secure the keys to the house of David and open the door of salvation to all who would enter, God drove His Son like a nail in a sure place.  A firm place.  An enduring place.

When God drove His Son like a nail in a firm place, He took the written code, finally fulfilled in His Son, and canceled our debt to it.  With every pound of the hammer, God was nailing down redemption.  — Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, pg. 270