Thursday, April 29, 2021

Embracing the Offensive God

Have you ever had a day that seemed like it had a "theme"; like it was an episode of a sitcom and you were trying to learn the overall lesson that was blanketed over it? That was my day yesterday and I felt like everything else that was not part of the dive into the rabbit hole just faded into the background like the typical clutter of ordinary days. 

The things that God revealed to my heart are so numerous that it's hard to even determine the origin of how I began my plunge into the depths. Though, I suppose it began as I was praying in the Spirit (as has been becoming my regular habit in the mornings). As I continued to do this on my commute to work, I remembered that I had just a few minutes left on the audio book that I had been listening to on the Hoopla app and decided to resume listening (by the way, this app is such a gift! You use your library card to check out free e-books and audio books!). 

To give you a little background, this book is "Jesus and the Disinherited" by Howard Thurman. This book was recommended by Ashley Siri; who recently shared about it in her message at church. It's unlike anything I expected. In fact, I don't think I knew what to expect at all. There is so much to unpack and contemplate in such a short book! I don't know how he got so many layers into it, but I think I'm going to have to go through it again (probably in e-book or physical book form) because the depth of the content is so stirring that you have to slow down. I had no idea what I was diving into; only that the title and subject matter was enough to draw me in. I'll try to untangle some of the web of wisdom from it, but I don't know if I can yet. I found myself thinking so much about what was said that I couldn't catch up to the next thing that was being described. 

As I went into work, my mind and heart was once again turning over the things I had heard; which seemed to be parallel with what I was already meditating on from this past week. If I were to attempt to summarize it in one word, I guess all I can really say is that maybe it all boils down to this one thing: offense. 

Offense comes in many forms and is experienced on all sorts of levels. When we are offended, we typically feel threatened and/or attacked. These threats and attacks are seen through the lenses of our culture, wounding, experiences, faith background, gender, skin color, you name it! All the facets that make up our identity contribute to how we see, experience, and perceive things. Howard Thurman did an excellent job of presenting the perspectives from all the various angles and stirs up the empathy and curiosity needed to stop, think, and truly take the time to understand. I wonder if he ever could have imagined the kind of "cancel culture" that currently exists which is all based around offense? If more people would read this book, we might actually stop this madness and begin the process of healing and unifying together! It just might help us tear down the walls of pride and protection that get built up as a result of the pain, anger, and unforgiveness that offense ushers in.

It's no coincidence that one of the many stories that he mentioned was a story that I was wanting to revisit and go deeper into ever since last weekend. It's the story in Matthew 15:21-28 where the Canaanite woman pursues Jesus for her daughter's healing. Fady, one of the IHOP students that I met last weekend, was talking about it with me as we were discussing persistence and contention for Casey's healing to come for his ears. He mentioned that on the surface, Jesus' encounter with the woman seemed so cold and offensive (I'm not going to go into all my deep digging, but here's a helpful explanation to get you started), but that we have to learn to embrace the "offensive God"; being relentless in our belief and pursuit of Him. No matter no matter how hard it is, we need to know and believe that He is GOOD! We'll receive our reward; just like the Canaanite woman and the persistent widow. We must keep contending!

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that Howard Thurman goes to great lengths to explain in the book because we have to reconcile the offenses if we're to embrace Jesus and others. Breakthrough and healing can't come otherwise! It can be a hard thing; just read John 6:60-71! This is the part where many disciples desert Jesus. He outright asked "Does this offend you?" and asked His apostles if they too wanted to leave. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

Oh, if we all could respond like Peter! Lord, we BELIEVE and KNOW who you are! There is no other that we can run to! If we cannot accept your words, which are words of eternal life, what words can we accept?! If your words offend us to the point where we become prideful, hardened, and unaccepting, we are bankrupt! Help us to work through every offense; whether it's offense at you or others. Help us to USE our offenses to run diagnostics on our soul so that we can discover our wounds and ask you to heal them (wow, it just dawned on me that this stuff is what we learned about in Vine school regarding healing prayer)!

As I continued to explore the depths of "offense", verse 71 jumped out at me because it mentioned Judas. So, I started exploring Judas. I found that it was after one of Jesus' anointings at Bethany (oh man, there's another side trail I won't go into but wow....check this out!) that Judas went to the Pharisees to discuss handing over Jesus. Why? It was more than just his selfishness and love of money. Judas, like the Pharisees, was offended at Jesus. His teachings, healings, and His display of mercy and compassion (even to "sinners"), were offensive to them. The hate and offenses that they had in their heart for "that" kind of woman, or for a tax collector, a gentile, a Roman, etc....was just too much to contend with. They could not accept it and rather than open their hardened hearts to the words of life and make it a WAY of life, their pride and hatred determined that it was too hard to embrace. 

As I kept digging in and praying over all of this, I brought my "offenses" to Jesus about Casey's healing. I know that he/we have to contend for it; and that realization is "offensive." Fady was also the one that talked about the story of the blind man, which contains the verse that God pointed out to me when Casey was a baby and we found out he couldn't hear: 

Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. - John 9:3. 

I have always believed that God's glory would be displayed in Casey. Up until recently, I thought that that was all that it meant (God definitely displays His glory through Casey in many ways!). It's not that I didn't want or ask for Casey to be healed and for THAT kind of glory to be displayed, but I had embraced Job's words of "shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" Now, I have regrets regarding how infrequently we contended for healing in 18 years and how hard we have to contend for it now. Yet, I know God's timing and wisdom is infinitely greater than anything I can understand. God's grace covers all of this! I believe in who He is and His words of life and healing over Casey; and that it will happen for HIS glory and benefit when HE decides it's the most beneficial. I release the offense of not seeing it "yet" and believe that I WILL see it at some point. 

After releasing so much to the Lord, I felt like He was telling me to get my notebook from my purse. I write in it when He gives me insight. There is also a note tucked inside it. It's a page of prophetic words that were given to me by a very precious and dear friend of mine. I have read this note many times, and I felt Him saying "read it again." It wasn't until I reached the last part of it that I just stopped and started tearing up: "....walk out your calling - you are doing it! - even if it feels like it's slow & steady. Rest in the ordinary - in the gradual unfolding - He's got you!"  

Whoomp, there it is, folks!! Yet another confirmation that God is going to heal Casey's ears because these are the words that Casey heard himself! I don't know WHY it has to be "slow & steady" or WHEN it will happen, but it WILL! Waiting is hard because we don't know how long we are waiting (ask Abraham and Sarah!). Dear Lord, help me with this "gradual unfolding" and this "slow & steady" pace! It's like our outgoing Vineyard leader, Phil Strout, has said: we live in a "microwave culture" but with God, it's a "crockpot Kingdom."

It only gets more intense from here, folks! After that moment, I was due for an appointment to take Casey's hearing aids to the audiologist for repairs because they recently stopped functioning. Well, most specifically, the hearing aid for his "good ear" is acting up again; and we were JUST at the audiologist on April 1st and everything was fine! I thought maybe it was a sign; that God is taking them away because He won't be needing them (I sure hope so!). Of course, as of this moment, that isn't the case; still waiting for him to not need them to hear. In the meantime, Casey has to rely on lip-reading and sign language to communicate (which makes everything harder for him, his teachers, and all of us who interact with him). If there's anything I'm still struggling with, it's that. It's bad enough that Casey isn't healed yet, but to be without his hearing aids on top of it? Though, I just got a call before posting this that I can pick them up already and that they're good to go (thank you, Jesus!). 

When I left the audiologist yesterday, I started playing the remainder of the book on my Hoopla app while driving to the pharmacy drive-thru at Meijer. As I pulled up, I saw a blind man with his seeing eye dog. I know this man, so I stopped to talk with him and congratulate him on his new friend. As we were conversing, I asked him how long he'd been blind. He said his whole life; since like 18 months and that he couldn't see at all. He said his eyes were like glass. I told him I would love to pray for him and that I had a hearing impaired son whom I am currently contending for for healing. Then, he said the most heartbreaking thing ever: "I don't have the faith for that....I don't share your faith...I have seen too much, like with that girl running down those three kids at the bus stop, that I don't think anyone is in charge." He apologized a couple different times and said that was just how he felt. I just never would have thought this about him. He wasn't even angry when he said it and I have observed nothing but a kind spirit from this guy in all the time I've known him. I never would have guessed that this was where his heart was. I told him that I have seen the opposite; that even at my lowest when I was going through my divorce and feeling numb, God brought me back. I told him I had experienced so much that I knew He had to be real. "I'm sorry. I just don't share your faith," he said. I was at a loss for words, but one of the last things I said before we parted ways was that I hoped God would meet him where he was at. 

After I picked up my prescription and started the drive home, I prayed out loud: "Lord, he may not have the faith for it, but I do. Open his eyes, in the name of Jesus." I felt the Lord say, "I can't." Wait, what? "I can't. He's blind." Uh, yeah...obviously! Then, I remembered the book I was listening to and all I had learned that day. He's BLIND! He's blind like the Pharisees! Until his spiritual eyes see first, he can't comprehend the things of God or have the faith to accept and receive healing for his physical eyes:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. 

Later on in the evening, I was telling my husband about this encounter; that I first needed to pray for the veil to be lifted and this man's spiritual eyes to be opened first (not coincidentally, I recently read all about this in "Intercessory Prayer" by Dutch Sheets). What we both have seen in life has been very different. He cannot see what I see because he doesn't have the lens of faith. I told Chris, "He has to have an encounter with Jesus first before He can see...." That's when I heard my own words and I stopped. That's what Victor had told me the night we were all praying for Casey! It's not like Casey doesn't already know and encounter Jesus, but this is obviously going to be something bigger and more powerful than anything he's ever experienced. It also dawned on me as I was praying this morning that just like the blind man has to "see" Jesus, Casey needs to "hear" Him. Casey often takes the voice of God literally; saying that he doesn't think he can hear Him because God's voice is a gentle whisper and "still small voice" and he says "I can't hear that because He's too quiet." I've been trying to encourage Casey to listen for God's voice with his heart/mind, but he's having a hard time comprehending what that means. Maybe that's the encounter and revelation we need to be praying for; that Casey will understand how to hear God's voice with his spiritual ears so the healing can come for his physical ears! We all know that this breakthrough is close and Gianna has shared with me a vision she had about him getting healed. I started to type it out here, but then felt like I wasn't supposed to publicly reveal the details. I'll hold onto it for now. All I know is that Jesus is the unveiler, revealer, and healer! We'll keep contending and pressing in, but it's all up to HIM! He does the work. He determines, the when, where, and how of it. 

One more thing that happened as I cried and prayed on my way to work was when I was asking God WHY He would even tell us about Casey being healed when it hasn't happened yet. Why even let us know it was coming and have us impatiently waiting for it? Why not just surprise us with it? I know He can do whatever and whenever; and I have learned to expect it. That's when He reminded me that up until a few months ago, Casey did not. He didn't think miracles like this still happened today. He thought it was only "back then" and he didn't have the faith for it anymore than the blind man does for his. God had to create that expectation for him and tell him it was coming. It was for Casey's sake, not mine, that we had to be told that it is on the way. Last Fall, we thought Casey was losing hearing and started going after his healing. Casey started taking it seriously and he had many powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit since then where we've been praying for him and he felt the presence of God. How kind of God to prep Casey; knowing that with his autism, it is helpful for him to have an awareness of what to expect. He had to lift that veil and show him that healing IS possible and still happens! Ever since then, he has been believing and asking for it! As a mom, it's hard to step back, but this is primarily between Casey and the Lord. These are his ears and his testimony. I want it so badly for him, but Fady's testimony of how his mom stepped back and let go (regarding his sister's healing) has been speaking to me too. As soon as she let go, God did His work in his sister. Alright, Lord, he's all yours! Work it out with him. You're in charge of this!

I feel so incredibly blessed by all the Lord showed me. Praying and digging into His Word really does bring about answers! Another book that I need to read or listen to again is "The Bait of Satan" by John Bevere. That's probably the most insightful book I've ever read regarding overcoming offense and learning to forgive! I strongly encourage you to check it out if you've read this long post of mine and find yourself wanting to know more! ;) My thanks to everyone who has been with Casey on this journey and those that have ministered to me as well. We're going to see a victory! Contend with me for Casey's healing and pray for that encounter that is going to bring it and for him to have his spiritual ears fully opened! Thank you, and amen!