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Sermon 7/27/08
Isaiah 59:1-2 - Spiritual Shorts

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Spiritual Shorts

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Pastor Timothy Burdick and I talk together on the telephone several times a week. He is called the “Minister of Abilities” of Friday Study Ministries because of his outreach to the disabled community. Timothy’s ministry recognizes that the disabled are gifted by the Holy Spirit just like other Christians everywhere. Instead of merely being served by others, Timothy believes they have much to give, in the power and love of God. And he should know, for he’s been blind since birth, and his wife, who has MS, is blind also. His computer talks to him, by the way, which is a good thing, and it happens because of the JAWS interface on his computer. He has done commentary on the Book of James for our Church on the Net, he is completing a commentary on the Gospel of Luke, and he provides an excellent devotional to us each week. His wife, Susan, comments about Timothy: “He’s on the computer all day!

The other day he was sharing some of the many frustrations that a blind person encounters on an internet designed for sighted people. His JAWS interface was not working right, which is often the case, and when he tried to send the weekly devotional, it disappeared and he had to write it again! Timothy has had it happen with whole Chapters in the Book of James and the Gospel of Luke – too many times he’s had to write it again; sometimes three times before it actually goes. I am learning patience anew by listening to Timothy.

He comes up with creative ideas and he is often right about what is wrong with his computer, though sometimes it takes days before a sighted computer person can come over to his house and fix it. This time he thought it was a short in the power cord that connects JAWS to his computer, and at that point we began to talk about “spiritual shorts,” that interfere with our relationship to God. It turned out, by the way, that all his computer needed was for a sighted person to look and see that a little green light was not lit as it should be, and with the press of a button, everything began to work as it should!

Think for a moment what it would be like for you if you suddenly went blind. I pray, and you no doubt do, too, that you will ALWAYS have all of your faculties, but just for a moment, think about using your computer if you could not SEE what you are doing. We can only dimly imagine it, but to the extent that we can, it helps us understand what goes wrong when we pray. We don’t see the answer we want and think there’s a short in our system.

Over a century ago, the Rev. William Jay spoke of “an event near Inverness.” He told of “a yacht (that) had been sailing in the Moray Firth,” a large inlet in northern Scotland. He said, “Two young men landed at Inverness to take a walking tour through the Highlands. But they lost their way, and they wandered aimlessly in a very desolate spot. After midnight they came upon a little cottage and they knocked loudly and long for admittance. But they were told to go elsewhere and ‘make no more disturbance.’ They found shelter in another house some distance away. Next day, the inhospitable people learned that the two young men were Prince George and his brother, the Duke of Clarence,” two famous men of the time. Jay continued, “You can imagine what those people must have felt to have been inhospitable to those considered the noblest persons in the land.” And then Rev. Jay asked, “But are we any better? And do we not, indeed, tend to shut Jesus Christ, the greatest of all Kings, out of our hearts?” Do we subtly keep Him out of our lives?

Our Scripture for today says this: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Because we are all to some extent blind to the things of the Spirit, we often think the power cord on our prayer life is broken. We decide that God cannot hear us or see us; otherwise our prayers would work and we would get what we want – all the time. But the Lord’s hand is always strong and He is able to save us. He is not blind like we are; He hears EVERYTHING, and He is knocking on the doors of our lives, seeking admission. If we feel left out, the problem is on our end, not His.

I like to view our interface with the Lord this way: It’s like we are a little child who wants a two-wheel bicycle for our birthday, and not one with training wheels, either! We want to ride right out into the street with the big boys and girls. And so we pray with our parent at bedtime: “Dear God, please bring me a two-wheeled bicycle for my birthday!” But our birthday comes and we find – no bicycle! And if we get a three-wheeled tricycle it’s not enough, and to add insult to injury, our parents won’t let us take it out of the back yard because they say we’re too little to ride in the street. We’re furious and don’t talk to God for a long time, and when we do, we no longer believe we’ll actually get what we want!

Let’s look at prayer, our interface with God. Like the blind user of a computer, we often don’t get the picture. The work that the Lord does in humanity is larger than we think and it is not just about us. When two adjoining farmers pray to God, one of them asks for more rain and the other, because of the needs of his crop, asks for less rain – who will God bless? Almighty God has both needs in mind, and it’s personal for everyone on earth, but the needs are bigger and more complex than we can see, and here’s how it works:

Like the child prays for that bicycle, we ask for what we do not understand. As it says in Romans 8:27, “we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” A few verses later, we find that Jesus “intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34). And here it is: We pray, which is good; and then the Holy Spirit conforms, changes our prayer to the will of God. The modified request goes to the Son of God, who intercedes by presenting it to the Father, and that prayer is ANSWERED by God. And when you pray to God, it’s not just you talking to Him; HE is reaching out to you. Just like the royal young men knocked on doors in northern Scotland, as related by Rev. William Jay, when we open our hearts to the Lord, the King enters in and blesses us – forever. He hears your need and if the answer is not what you expect, you’re going to LIKE the long term results of HIS decisions for your life. Let’s ask Him in right now:

Father, we need Your blessings, Your love. It’s our sins that have separated us from God, and we confess them to You now. Thank You for sending Jesus, who enters into our lives and answers our need. We trust in Him now. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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