Oooohh! I SEE it now!
Several weeks ago I was asked to join a team that was writing a Daily Devotional for the newly formed Highlands College, a School of Ministry located at Church of The Highlands, here in Birmingham. I was so excited that my initial reaction was to attempt a back flip while giving a high-five to Pastor Keith, who had recruited me to be a part of the team! Better yet, I was humbled by the invitation, and honored to be given the opportunity to write about the Bible for our church. Of course I’d be willing to contribute my thoughts to a Devotional. Why wouldn’t I?
My excitement quickly turned to doubt as reality set in. Look, I just began reading the Bible four years ago. There are passages in the Old Testament that I’d never even read; how could I possibly write about them? The same question could be posed for many parts of the New Testament that I’d read but really didn’t understand. I was overwhelmed by the mere prospect of being on a timetable to submit two devotionals per week for the next few months.
After much consideration, I made the decision to withdraw my name, based on the determination that I just had too much on my plate. Of course, I knew the real reason: I was afraid that my interpretation of Scripture wouldn’t measure up. That fear was something that had followed me from elementary school, when I had totally misinterpreted the meaning of a passage that I had been assigned to study. Quite obviously, it was a memory that I hadn’t forgotten…
I changed my mind.
Then I made the decision not to withdraw my name. You see, I believe that God opened this door for me to be a part of this writing team because I need to learn the Bible. I’ve recognized the fact for some time now that my lack of Scripture knowledge, of not knowing God’s Word, is a liability for me in many ways. Thing is, I didn’t really know what to do about it. I almost enrolled in a part-time ministry program at church, but I didn’t think that it was a really good fit for me, or vice versa. I’d even considered on-line classes through an accredited university, but I never really felt the urge to act on it.
To make matters worse, I was recently reading Sun Stand Still, a book written by Steven Furtick, the Pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina. In his book, Pastor Furtick states in no uncertain terms that you can’t truly live by audacious faith or consider growing a ministry without not only knowing the Bible, but speaking it! It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t have God’s word in my mouth if I didn’t have it in my mind and in my heart.
That being said, I decided that I was gonna be a part of that writing team, and I was gonna learn Scripture, and as with everything that I do, I was gonna seek God’s help in doing it.
Last Sunday marked the beginning of a three week period of a morning prayer service at Highlands, which is fittingly and simply called Twenty-One Days of Prayer. I always look forward to this time of personal and corporate prayer; in some ways it feels as if the heat of the summer has dried me up spiritually! Actually, it’s probably vacations, time at our lake house, and the lack of a set schedule in the summertime that disrupts my time for prayer and worship in the morning. To be quite honest, I lose the discipline to go after God each day with all that’s in me.
By the time that Thursday rolled around I was back in the groove, rolling out of bed at 5:15, grabbing a cup of coffee, making it to church by 6:00, and gettin’ my prayer on. I love praying with a few hundred hungry-for-Jesus Christians in the morning!
While in prayer that morning, I was reflecting on the two devotionals that I’d already submitted to Pastor Keith, and on the one that I was going to write later that day. I could choose to write about a passage from Isaiah, Corinthians, Psalms, or Proverbs. I’d read each of the four, and share my thoughts about whatever jumped out at me.
The truth is that there are some days when I read Scripture and nothing jumps out at me! And that would definitely pose a problem. You see, when I write for The Seed of Hope, I get to pick the topic, which is usually the thing that’s weighing on my heart that day. The notion of being assigned something to write about was totally different for me, and it was planting seeds of doubt in my mind.
I offered a prayer…
Lord, when I read Your Word today, let me see something that I’ve never seen before. Let me see it with a new set of eyes. Give me a revelation. Let it be impactful for me, and for those that I may share it with.
When the service was over, I headed back home to have coffee with my wife Jackie, and to read that day’s suggested passages from the One Year Bible with her. Actually, Jackie doesn’t like to read early in the morning, so I read the Bible out loud for both of us. It’s a blessing for me to do it.
As soon as I turned to 1 Corinthians 7 I felt that old, familiar sting. Chapter 7 is a letter from Paul to the Corinthians about marriage. And divorce. And it has always been one of my least favorite passages from the Bible.
Jackie is my second wife, and I’m her second husband. We’ve been married for twenty-two years. Yes, I truly believe that God has forgiven both of us for divorcing our respective spouses. And I believe that God’s blessings and favor are on our marriage, or we wouldn’t be doing the things in our business, in our home, and in our church that we do for Him. I am truly blessed, and grateful that God saw fit to use me to serve His Kingdom, in spite of who I was.
Still, every time that I’ve read Paul’s thoughts on divorce, and the mark it leaves on children, and the condemnation that comes with it, I’ve felt the sting of the barb that’s apparently still lodged in my skin. And every time that I’ve read it aloud, I’ve wondered if my sweet wife was feeling the same thing. Of course, I didn’t have the courage to ask her. I didn’t want her to know that it bothered me, and I didn’t want to know if it bothered her.
Fighting the urge to close the Book, and pressing on, I read something that I’d read several times before. But for the first time my eyes saw something that I’d never seen before…
17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.
Oooohh! I see it now….
Jackie and I had been married for seventeen years when I was born again, and it was another year and a half before God laid this ministry on my heart. I’m firmly planted right where I was when God called me to serve Him. And that’s where I’ll remain.
Look, I’m not trying to make a case for myself to you, because I’ll be judged only by God. The point I’m trying to make here is that while the pain of the divorce itself will never go away, that barb of shame that pricked my flesh every time that I read 1 Corinthians 7 is gone. For good.
God forgave me a long time ago for my divorce. I had to find forgiveness for myself, and I found it in what I thought would be the least likely of places: The Bible.
Sometimes, you just have to ask God to restore your sight.