Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is Your Affliction Your Identity?

On Thursday night of our mission trip to the Dream Center, we attended a worship service at Angelus Temple. We had spent two days cleaning and preparing Angelus Temple for this service. This building holds a special place in my heart because my husband's family had been there many years ago when Kathryn Kuhlman led healing services there. I've heard many stories about the miraculous healings they witnessed there.

That Thursday night, we heard a sermon by Pastor Dan Vera that impacted us all. He spoke on  Mark 10:46-52.

What is the heading in your Bible for this section? “Blind Bartemaeus,” right? Not, “Faithful Bartemaeus,” or “Full of Grace Bartemaeus,” not even "Persistent Bartemaeus" but “Blind Bartemaeus. Blind Bartemaeus even wore a “beggar’s cloak” which identified him and gave him the right to sit at the gate and beg. According to Dan Vera, you know you’re in trouble when your affliction becomes your identity. Bart’s affliction definitely became his identity. Does anyone have an affliction that has wiggled into your life, wrapped its tentacles around you, and attempted to consume you and become your identity?

I can think of a few in my life, but I’ve chosen just one as an example today. It’s how I felt shortly after my daughter's death. I felt like I had GRIEVING stenciled across my forehead. Everywhere I went, I felt like people were staring at me because of that label. I couldn’t escape it. 

I remember meeting other moms who had lost children, and thinking, “Wow, they’ve had a hard life.” But I didn’t want people thinking about me like that. I started a Grief Share Group, but I quit teaching it because I felt like I was becoming known as the “Grief Lady.” I’m thankful that someone has picked up that slack! But, as Pastor Dan Vera said, “It may or may not be your fault that you’re where you are right now, but it is your fault if you stay there.” Back then I knew God was drawing me out of my grief. It has changed me and shaped me so I keep talking and writing about it, but it does not consume me anymore. When it comes to our afflictions, Pastor Dan said we’ve got to “Learn to live with it but don’t settle for it.” That is something I’ve been trying to put into words for years, but I just couldn’t quite get a handle on it. When he said that, it was like a light bulb went off over my head—“That’s it! That’s what I’ve been trying to do! Learn to live with it, but don’t settle for it!”

That means so much to me as I pray about issues in my life and in the lives of my loved ones… as I strive to be still and know that He is God… as I wait for God’s answer to my prayers. I’m kind of an all-or-nothing person. I’m either all in or I’m all out. I’m either consumed by something or I’m in complete denial of it. But I’m growing, and I’m learning to live with some issues, but I refuse to settle for them! I will NOT be consumed by them, but I will not deny that they exist either.

Here are some ways Pastor Dan says we can learn to live with our afflictions without settling for them:

1)   Use what you have. Yes, Blind Bartemaeus was, well, blind. But he could certainly hear. Instead of complaining about not being able to see, Bartemaeus HEARD. He used what he had—his ears.

2)   Seize the opportunity. Bartemaeus also used his mouth, and he seized this opportunity. He cried out. But Bart didn’t voice his complaints. He wasn’t having a pity party. He had learned to live with his blindness. Jesus is not moved by your complaining, He’s moved by your faith! You’ve got to see what no one else can see—even if you’re blind!

3)   Press through opposition. Says Pastor Dan, “It took a blind man to see what the rest of this huge crowd could not. The blind man was the only one who knew who Jesus was. ‘Jesus, Son of David’ was a Messianic term. He was saying ‘Jesus, you are the only hope we have.’ The Pharisees were fine with Jesus being a good teacher and even a healer, but they had a major problem with him being called Messiah. So they wanted to shut Bart up!

4)   Don’t get rid of your enemies. What?! Your haters will push you to your dream. When they tried shut him down, Bart cried even louder. That seemed like an odd point to me. I had never heard anyone say anything like that before. I’ve heard, “love your enemies,” and I’ve definitely tried to avoid my enemies, but never this. When we got back to the Dream Center after hearing this sermon, I got back to my perch on my cozy bunk-bed-without-a-ladder and read this paragraph from an unrelated book I had brought with me: “The gospel is so arranged and the gift of God so great that you may take the very enemies that fight you and the forces that are arrayed against you and make them steps up to the very gates of heaven and into the presence of God… God wants of every one of His children, to beMORE THAN A CONQUEROR.” (--Beth Moore) More Then Conquerors was the title of the sermon series our church was doing at the time. God was coming at me from all angles!

5)   Stop the procession. As Bart continues to cry out over his haters, the one man not in the procession stops. Jesus stops. He realizes that “Someone knows who I am.” When we know who God is and see our issues and circumstances through that filter of faith, God stops. I want to be that someone. I want to be one who knows who God is. I want to be one that stops God in His tracks.

6)   Leave your place. Jesus said, “Bring him to me.” So, does Jesus know that Bart is blind? Wouldn’t it be easier for Jesus to walk over to him through the heavy throng than for the disciples to lead a blind man weaving in and out through all these dirty, smelly, sweaty people? Yes, but Jesus wanted Bart to leave his place. Jesus said, if you want what I have you’ve got to leave your place. Joyce Meyer says, if you want the beauty God offers, you’ve got to give Him your ashes. You can’t keep your ashes and still get the beauty God offers.  You have to leave the place you’re in to get to Jesus. Bart didn’t just get up and blindly feel his way through the crowd. He threw his cloak, his beggar’s jacket, his label aside and jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. He didn’t let his handicap, his affliction, his worldly identity keep him from Jesus.

7)   You may have every right to be a beggar. I may have every right to be a griever, a broken-hearted mom. At least two of my friends may have the right to be grieving widows, but God says, NO! You can’t receive from God until you let go of your beggars jacket.  You can’t receive His beauty until you let go of your ashes.

So, what’s your affliction? What’s your label? What’s your worldly identity? “Cheer up, on your feet! He’s calling you!”

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I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!