Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Loss to Victory - Part 3


            Reading the April 7th and May 5th posts will give you background to understand this one better.  This post continues with more specific concerns and personal experiences on the topic.   
            In Part 2 I discussed the devaluation to human life and lowering of quality of life as evidenced by the acceptance of abortion in the past few decades. The trial last month of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell brings to the light some of the darkness surrounding the abortion industry. The formal charges centered around the deaths of four babies who were born and  could have survived had they been given medical attention and the death of a mother who overdosed on drugs administered by an untrained assistant. Emergency personnel trying to save the mother's life were barricaded from entry, at least in part to hide the evil proceedings going on inside the building.   Many say these types of conditions are the norm, not the exception, for abortion facilities.  If death is intended as the outcome for the baby, why should we be surprised of the unsanitary and illegal practices of abortuaries? 
            In a similar line of thinking, if our hearts become callous toward the plight of preborn children being treated unjustly, abused, and killed in their mother's womb, why would it surprise us that injustice, abuse, and social ills  in general would be occurring in greater numbers than ever in our society?   Three thousand years later, the truth of Psalm 41 still commands our attention: "Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble" (v1).   The strength of a community is known by its weakest link.  There is a direct connection between genuinely helping the poor and needy and God's blessing and favor resting on a community.  I believe God calls his people (in our nation) to confess and repent for not taking this truth seriously enough (see previous posts).
Acceptance of abortion has led to the slippery slope of devaluing life and other things like euthanasia, infanticide, respect for gender of birth, and even the sacredness of marriage. Some people groups have been affected more than others. It is commonly recognized that  70% of abortion facilities are located in so-called 'minority neighborhoods.'  Certain ethnicities have been targeted more that others.
The casualness of abortion has also contributed greatly to a decline in love and respect for post-birth persons with disabilities.  Lives not worth saving in the womb has translated into lives not esteemed merely for their humanness. 
Pre-born children fit the category of persons with disabilities as well since their abilities to survive outside the womb are not developed.  In God's sight, worthfulness has nothing to do with ability  Romams 12 1-2  reminds us that offering our body to God is a spiritual act of worship.  All we have to offer is what God gave us to offer.  Psalm 139 tells us that He created us and formed us as he wills.  Therefore, our body as He created it should be respected and valued.   This view of our body is in contrast to a world view with emphasis being placed on performance and productivity.
            As a person with a visual impairment I am particularly aware of, and identify closely with, people in underprivileged classes. Society’s attitude towards people with disabilities is generally demeaning and lacking inclusively.  People with disabilities are generally viewed as “needy” only, instead of valuable contributors who possess a piece of what is needed for the community as a whole to thrive. Unfortunately, the Church seems to be as guilty as the society at large in the failure to provide people with disabilities dignity, opportunity, equality and empowerment. If the civil rights struggle to improve conditions for people with disability is compared to the civil rights movement of the ’60s—Rosa Parks being asked to give up her seat on the bus for a white person— might be compared to a person with a disability being told they shouldn’t be trying to board the bus. Lack of employment opportunities, poverty, and social isolation are common place and at much higher rates among this group than the public at large. There are some wonderful people doing some great things to address these problems. I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge and thank these persons. On the other hand, much of the assistance offered is patronizing because it fails to include the participation and contributions of persons with disabilities themselves.
            By default, as a member of the “disability community,” I have become an advocate forced to take occasionally unpopular positions on matters in the community at large. This is not a position I would choose, but by God’s grace I can help others bear their burden, to some degree at least.  For example, it took about three years for the process of installing an Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) at a dangerous traffic intersection in our local town.  Safety concerns; in general seem to receive more favorable attention for correction when they do not involve specific  concerns for the safety of persons with disabilities. Many communities flat out refuse to cooperate with accommodations for persons with disabilities.  I mention all this because participation in society as part of an “oppressed class” creates even more opportunities to understand and practice the grace of forgiveness and other topics of Refuge and healing.
            Jesus’ teachings consistently contrasted the physical realm with the spiritual. Most of the physical healings recorded in the gospels were performed with a direct message of spiritual healing. Jesus healed peoples’ eyesight to demonstrate the spiritual blindness of people of the day (particularly the religious). Our generation is no less “blind.” We are blind to the bitterness, resentment and blame in our hearts. Even God’s people are often blind to the power of forgiveness, and the world of freedom waiting outside the walls of the prison of darkness. “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision” (Helen Keller).
            Most profoundly, Jesus communicates this in the story of the man born blind that is healed in John chapter nine. I think many miss the main point of the story explained in the last few verses.
Jesus said ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’  Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’  Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:39-41)

Blindness is the spiritual condition of those unable to surrender to God the right to judge the guilt of offense. Jesus opens spiritual eyes. Jesus only frees those from debtor’s prison who first see their captive condition. Those who think they see well enough without Christ’s intervention, are doomed to a life characterized by blindness. The parts of our heart not yet surrendered to Christ for His judgment will grow like a cataract gradually creating greater degrees of blindness. There is no neutral territory. We allow the eyes of our heart to be opened wider to God’s message of forgiveness, overtaking the darkness, or we choose to close the eyes of our heart (being content in unforgiveness), surrendering to darkness.
            In the story mentioned above the physically blind man was accused by religious people of both having some sort of sin in his life, and not having enough faith to be healed (physically). They became trapped into thinking their physical sight qualified them to judge the “blind” man’s spiritual condition.  Hence Jesus warned, “now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”  Jesus was interested in healing the “whole person.” Understanding and practicing forgiveness is the centerpiece of spiritual vision and peoples’ freedom in Christ. I have experienced an incredible amount of healing in my own life. As I have allowed God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to change my heart from the inside out, my responses to life circumstances improve; past, present and future. Triggers from past hurts no longer have the intensity they once did. Fellowship with God is more intimate because many blocks have been removed. The future looks brighter as God multiplies the seeds of my repentance (from ungodly judgments) to yield an increased harvest of good fruit.
I hope that something I may write serves to equip, challenge and motivate you to take the next step deeper in your commitment to restoring justice for those losing their lives to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.  And I pray, that the church will strengthen its resolve in the areas of teaching our children moral responsibility, cultivating family relationships, responding to people with disease, injury, or  disability, and helping the many emotionally and spiritually malnourished people whose needs can only be met through the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
            Luke 19:10 says that Jesus, "came to seek and to save that which was lost" (NASB).  Everyone experiences losses in life.  Losses are painful and keep us mindful of our need for a Savior who has sought us out, and given us the ability to be restored.  The pain of physical loss is nothing in comparison to the eternal loss of separation from God. All are born into a condition of spiritual disability.  We choose to live in darkness (dis-ability), or we choose God's grace (his-ability).   I pray that you may know the enabling power of Christ to meet you at your point of spiritual, physical, or emotional disability.  "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:16-17).

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at  http://bluerockbnb.com 

 by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

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