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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Journey is the Destination! Part 1 Which Brings Him the Greatest Glory... Easy or Hard?

When everything falls into place we are instantly filled with elation and inspiration and quickly proclaim, without reservation, "Obviously, this was God's will!" "Everything, just fell right into place!" Incredible!" 

...has come to pass, with little or no human effort, and we equate that with being God's will...without a second thought. 

But what of the path that is filled with constant struggles, trials, detours, which seemingly never ends, where there is much human effort and for an extended amount of time?  What then?  Is this route as much "God's will" as when everything falls into place?

If we experience a rough ride we are constantly second guessing our decisions, or God's plan, or both, as do others.  Wondering why me is not an uncommon thought.  Thoughts of doubt swirl around in our heads, carelessly.

The path could be challenging and dangerous!
Will it bring Him greater glory?

Some of us are fully aware of the Enemy's schemes and know full well the promises of God, but there are times when we succumb to the Enemy's ploys, at least for a time. He delights in causing us to doubt and is a master at doing so.  And for some reason his most successful plan of attack comes when God allows us, leads us, to walk the rough path.  

Why do we view these two scenarios so vastly different?  Everything falling into place vs. the road of long-suffering.  Is the first greater cause for bringing glory to God?  Or are the stories of endurance, when all odds are stacked against us, what bring Him the greatest glory?

According to the stories God shares in His Word, rarely does He choose to grant His children the easy way out for accomplishing His will in their lives.  Instead, it is most often through the tough times that must be endured, day-by-day, putting one foot in front of the other--all the while being forced to rely on Him since we are helpless within ourselves and can do nothing without Him.  Funny thing is, Jesus tell us in John 15...apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

So which of these scenarios, bring God the most glory? Or should they be considered equal in their glory of Him?

As we think of the examples God gives us, Noah comes to mind, first.  This is a man, obedient to God's call, who labored more than 100 years to build a gigantic boat, no doubt enduring continual ridicule day after day.  Noah was in his late 400's - early 500's (vs. late 40's - early 50's) while he was constructing the ark, not a spring chicken.  The rain began when he was 600 years old.  Noah's sons were born when he was 500 years old, so they spent their childhood watching their father build the ark, exactly as God commanded.  According to Peter, God waited patiently as Noah built the ark (1 Peter 3:20).  Okay, let me get this straight...God was ready to wipe-out His people because their hearts were evil all the time, but He waited patiently while Noah built the ark to do so?  Huh?  So many things to learn about our God from the life of Noah! 

Rain was not in man's vocabulary at that point in time.  No one had seen rain; much less a flood caused by rain.  Noah had to have lost his mind!  Poor man and pity on his family.  Noah never convinced any converts (except his family) to follow him into the ark, not in 100 years.  But God had already prophesied it would only be Noah's family that would board that boat along with the animals. He had also prophesied Noah's sons would bring wives with them.  Noah's obedience to God persevered day-in and day-out, working tirelessly for over 100 years.  Can you imagine faith like Noah's, today?  No doubt, you and I would certainly join in his ridicule and drown when the rain came.

100 years with not one convert...nada, zero, zilch! 
Would we, could we...persevere?

Next, comes Joseph.  His life was filled with trials, discouragement, betrayal, which started early, within his own family, at the age of 12.  This was in the midst of his knowing God's hand was on him, but it sure did not seem like it, from our perspective anyway, for a very long time.  After his brothers schemed to kill him, threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, Joseph finds himself being falsely accused by his Egyptian master's wife.  He spends many years in prison for something he never did and was forgotten by two cellmates when they were freed because of his gift of dream interpretation, which he shared freely with each of them.  However, while in prison, Joseph allows God to use him, in spite of the rough road, and he is placed in charge of all the prisoners and all that was done there.  This had been his experience in his master's house, as well. 

All of the above, was God's hand on Joseph.  When Joseph is finally freed from prison, 13 years later, following his interpretation of the Pharaoh's dream, he is placed in charge of all of the land of Egypt.   During a famine, his brothers come face-to-face with Joseph while searching for food.  When they realize it is their long-gone and forgotten brother, they are terrified and fearful of his retribution.  Instead, Joseph forgives their hate and abuse of him and gives one of the most powerful, empowering reasons of forgiveness known.  "But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."   

Joseph had plenty of human reasons for retribution against his brothers, his master's wife, and his ungrateful cell mates?  However, Joseph recognized God's hand on him throughout his life, even on that rough path that seemed so unfair and never-ending.  Through it all, Joseph never stopped being who God called Him to be.  Wherever God allowed Joseph to be, despite his circumstances...Joseph was God's...he was all matter what!

How many of us grant Joseph's level of forgiveness for a simple insult or mistreatment by a family member or co-worker?  Suppose we looked at those actions against us through Joseph's eyes?  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Our perspective of our daily circumstances would certainly be much different, as would our level of stress and drama.  Our relationship with that one who had misused us would not be broken and God could continue to use us in that relationship in ways He might never could had our response been human

God receives great glory when our lives demonstrate His character.  The lush fruit of His Spirit, abundantly alive, and permeating through our lives to others, despite the unfair circumstances surrounding us, shout He is alive to the world!

Joseph embraces his youngest brother, Benjamin!

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25

Additional Old Testament stories which share the same requirements of human perseverance clothed in God-filled character include Abraham, Job, Daniel, Jacob and Esther, just to name a few.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Will They Hear?

The issues surrounding the Cochlear Implant (CI) are vast, as is the Deaf Culture.  This post will only cover a miniscule portion of the CI controversy.  Expect additional posts in the future.

Oddly enough, even though I have multiple Deaf family members I had never heard about the CI controversy until I went back to school in 2000.  In fact, my knowledge of the CI was almost nil; the amazing device nicknamed "The Bionic Ear" that allows some deaf people to hear. I began to learn about the Cochlear Implant (CI) and the debate that surrounds it, almost from the first day of class.

Research for the CI had begun in the 1950's with the FDA approving them for adults, in the US by 1985.  In 1990, the FDA approved them for children and in 2000 one CI was approved for children, as young as, 12 months of age.  Today more than 220,000 people have received CI surgery world-wide.  In the US alone, more than 43,000 adults and more than 30,000 children have received CI surgery. 

I have come to one conclusion, after 11 years of researching the CI, intentionally and through life-experiences, there will always be a debate surrounding the CI.  I will devote this post to only four of the reasons why I believe this is so.

1) The CI success is not always fully experienced by all CI recipients; often success- or the ability to function normally in a hearing world-is based on each unique individual.

Allow me to stop and explain the diverse meanings for that word success as it relates to the CI. Success used by the CI medical community most often is talking about the surgery itself being a success, not whether or not the recipient is eventually granted the ability to function and communicate normally (hearing and speaking with ease) in the hearing world.  Success can simply mean the recipient can hear sound, but not necessarily interpret its meaning accurately.  Honestly, the word success can take on many different meanings when talking about the CI.  Make sure you know which one is being used when.

Many variables are related to the success of a CI.  Those variables include, but are not limited to, the recipients own unique form of deafness (see the blog post "The Uniqueness of Deafness") and the recipients drive from within to please and master speech.  Another defining factor is whether or not the recipient is post-lingual or hearing and speaking prior to the implantation.  The amount of parental involvement, or lack thereof, can also greatly impact the CI recipients success.  The quality of the CI recipients post auditory/oral therapy (training for speech) will impact the level of success attained, as will, how these two interact with each other. Sometimes speech may develop greatly for the recipient, but the ability to hear clearly may not, and vice versa, and the list goes on. 

2)  This is related to number 1, in result.  Number 1 deals with the individual, while number 2 deals with the CI device. 

The CI is not a perfect replacement for natural hearing.  It does not  duplicate the sound of God's own creation nor does it provide clear communication in speech and hearing for all recipients. 

The sound a CI recipient hears is much different from the sounds one hears with natural hearing.   Sometimes those sounds can eventually be determined with clarity by the recipient's brain and sometimes they cannot.  Often those who had the ability to hear before implanting the CI have an increased ability to acquire this skill.  However, this ability varies greatly from one individual to the next.  There used to be sample audio tapes on the Internet of how a CI sounds to the natural ear, but those have now been removed.

3) Not all deaf people are candidates or qualify for a CI.

This article explains the criteria necessary to be considered a candidate for a CI.  This fact ensures the world will always have deaf people who will use sign language as their mode of communication.

4) Those we associate with most will greatly impact our perspective of the CI and its controversy.  If we associate with those who are in the Deaf Community or have Deaf family members our perspective will be influenced by that more intimate association.  But if someone (hearing or deaf) is never exposed to the Deaf Community they will obviously be influenced by them very little, if at all.  And if we only associate with those in the medical community we tend to hold only to their view.

For those of you who do not know, many times when a child receives a CI their parents are told not to allow them to sign for fear they will not learn to speak.  Research proves otherwise.  Some parents are deciding on their own to go ahead with both. 

I am fully aware of the many reasons given for why hearing parents-and yes, some deaf parents-want their deaf children to learn to speak and to hear.  I know they want them to be like them and to be able to communicate with them freely.  I know they live in a hearing world and they must therefore function in a hearing world.  I know hearing and speaking will give them a better chance at a better job.  I know they would have unlimited access to everything out there.  I know.  I know.  I know.  But, what if....?

What if...we the hearing people are missing His plan as to how we should relate to people who are deaf and/or Deaf?  What if...the Deaf Community is missing His plan as it relates to the hearing world that surrounds them? 

We have so much to gain from knowing and getting to know each other better.  We need the Deaf and they need us. 

Do you know that the US percentages fall grossly behind the rest of the world in bilingualism?  Most countries utilize an educational system of bilingualism, but not the US?  The majority of the world's population speak at least two languages and some three or more.
So how can hearing people improve their ability to relate to those who are deaf and use sign language to communicate?  Is this a valid question?  Or should we just stay in opposition to each other, divided by mode of communication and culture?

What if it wasn't the ASL team against the CI team? What if we all became the Bilingual and Bicultural team?  All of us fluent in English and ASL simultaneously!  I can't begin to comprehend the impact this would have on our world, can you?

If God had wanted hearing people and deaf people to be totally separated from each other He would have allowed a much greater percent of Deaf parents to give birth to deaf children.  He has not done that.  95% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents. 

The vast majority of the hearing world never identifies with the deaf world or even realizes there is such a thing.  However, almost all deaf people are exposed to the hearing world-first by their own hearing parents and family members-and then on a daily basis for the rest of their lives.

Obviously, God's plan allows for some deaf people to remain deaf since no technology has been developed to eradicate all deafness in the world and since He has never chosen to heal all people who are deaf and since there those deaf people whose CI success is limited and since there are those Deaf people who like being deaf just fine.

The Deaf are an unreached people group, meaning less than 2% know about and follow Christ, here in America and world-wide.  Who's going to tell them if we don't allow our deaf children to learn sign language?  If none of the CI children ever learn sign language nor their parents or siblings, will there be anyone God can call to those fields that are ripe unto harvest?

We jump at the opportunity to teach our hearing babies sign language; why is it that we forbid our deaf babies to sign?

Maybe, just maybe, God has a plan to use some of the deaf children born to hearing parents or adopted by hearing parents to reach the more than 2 million Deaf people (those who identify with the Deaf Culture) living in America who do not know Jesus.  Maybe He plans to call them overseas to share the gospel in sign with millions of other Deaf peoples around the world.

Please don't limit God's plan for these deaf children or for yourselves; His plan for reaching the Deaf with the love of Christ is much greater than any of us can ever imagine.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

The American Christian's Obsession with God's Protection!

God's protection--rather praying for it--has become an American "Christian" obsession.  I must confess that I, too, participated in this obsession for a time...when my children were young.  In the early years, daily praying God's protection over them felt like some magical guarantee He would protect them from all harm, no matter what. 

My perspective and expectation of God's protection and the definition of safety has evolved for me over the years, as has my understanding of God's greater purpose and plan to use pain and suffering for His glory and our good.  Since this did not come through my own experiences with my children, I have learned this through others' personal experiences and by gaining a better understanding of the scriptures depicting God's full perspective on His choosing to provide safety in any given situation or not. 

As Rachel and Joseph grew older, began to drive and to travel on educational and mission trips around the world, people would often ask if Charles and I were terrified something awful would happen to them.  How could we stand to let them go?  

Why is it that they were, suddenly, more likely to be harmed or injured just because their distance from us would be greater than ever before?   Was there some increased ability I personally had to protect them, myself, if they were in close proximity to me? 

The better question.  What ability do I really have in truly protecting my children, from anything, whatever their age or geographical location?  The best question.  Do I really want to limit God's working in my children's lives by asking Him to protect them when that is not His perfect plan for their lives or will not produce increased spiritual maturity?

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The quote, "The center of God's will is the safest place to be!" is a misnomer.  Once again, our definition of safe and God's definition of safe is often on opposite ends of the spectrum of this earthly life.  Does it mean if we are in the center of God's will then we will be safe from all harm?  I wonder if the Nate Saint and Jim Elliott families would agree with that analogy?  What would Jesus think?

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The Enemy delights in setting Christians up where it will look like God has failed them.   Doubt is the root cause for our faith to wither and even die, if we let it.  When we place un-scriptural expectations on our God we are giving the Enemy an open invitation to walk right in and deceive us.  Once deceived into mistakenly thinking "Thus saith the Lord", we become as vulnerable as an infant simply lying on our backs waiting for him to devour us.  Be careful when taking verses out of context and trying to force them to fit your situation, especially where safety is concerned.  We often do this without even realizing it. 

1 Peter 5:8-10
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Apparently, suffering in this world is not only very probable, but inevitable.  If we or our children are not currently suffering some kind of trial, get ready...there is one on its way!  Don't dread or be afraid of it, instead...welcome it.  Yes, I said...welcome it!

I have, on occasion, prayed with a sister granting God permission to do whatever it took--including physical, emotional, or mental pain and suffering--for a wayward child to be brought back to His fold.  This is a huge leap of faith when a mother is willing to pray this kind of prayer.  The heartache a mother feels as she watches her own child suffer is extreme, but for some the thought of them rebelling against their Savior is even more heart wrenching.   

When we can embrace God's perfect love for us and for our children, then we will be able to trust God with our children's safety and with His help, embrace His decision to not always grant them safety from this world's "evils".  If the choice is safety or His will, I will choose the latter.

1 John 4:16b-18
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When I pray for my children, these days, I ask God to protect them from the evil one as Jesus prayed for us (whatever that means, John 17) and ask Him to allow whatever will bring Him the most glory to be done in their lives.  If He chooses to allow them to suffer pain, will I be able to embrace it as His best, for their good?  I pray that I will. 

I was so tempted to post Romans 8:28 here.  Remember?   Don't use scripture out of context.  As I re-read the entire chapter it makes so much more sense to post the entire chapter.  This is a monumental part of God's love letter to us.  Taking it out of context minimizes its impact on our lives.  Ask His Spirit to envelope you in this passages' intent as you read through the 8th chapter of Romans allowing your mind and your heart to experience, once again, the immense love God has for you and all that entails.  All the while, in the back of your mind, think of how this scripture applies to our obsession of praying for God's protection. 



Romans 8

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  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.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.