A Dimmed Vision

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the reasons that I gave.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God. (Part 1)

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves. (Part 3 – tbd)

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Today, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population has myopia, or nearsightedness, and it’s only expected to grow. By 2050, 50 percent of the world’s population, a total of nearly 5 billion, will be myopic, according to a new review study published in the journal Opthalmology.

I fall into this category of humanity. Thankfully, there are remedies to assist those with myopia. Some choose the more radical approach like Lasik surgery, while others simply go to a local eye doctor and obtain a prescription for glasses. Personally, I have worn glasses since I was about three or four. Today, if I take my glasses off, I cannot even read the computer screen on my laptop from more than about 8-9” away.

Our family has been blessed to see and enjoy some of the beautiful places in America. Some we have lived in and others were simply enjoyed on a trip for vacation or for ministry purposes. We are blessed in that we have literally been from sea to shining sea. We have touched the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and have traveled from the Gulf of Mexico up north to the Dakotas near Canada and walked on frozen lakes.

It would be sad to have visited all those places though and not been able to see them clearly. Now that we live in Wyoming, we are close to some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Alpine lakes dot the Rockies, and there is a feeling of sereneness that comes from standing at 10-12,000 feet (3050-3700 meters) above sea level. It feels like you can see into tomorrow.

But ONLY with my glasses.

Over the years, my eyesight has grown worse though and every so often I have to get a stronger prescription. If I did not, my ability to see long-distances would grow exceptionally dim. Yet, the warning signs do show up to remind me that it is time for another check-up. These can include: blinking to try and clear the vision, headaches, and tiredness.

I will be one of the first to admit that I hate wearing glasses. For a time, I tried contact lenses but the high winds in Wyoming make them quickly uncomfortable. So, until it is time for me to go to my eternal home, I have to keep wearing a weight on my nose and ears.

The only other alternative would be to stop wear glasses. Would such an action stop me from living? No, it would not. Many around the world live without glasses, especially in poor Third World countries. However, it would keep me from doing a lot of things. I could not drive. Visiting the beautiful mountains and lakes would mean nothing for I would not be able to see them.

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Years ago while living in England, I remember seeing a poster advertising for help to get glasses to Nepal and Bhutan. This charitable organization was requesting old or second-hand glasses that they could take to help out those less fortunate. The top picture showed a blurry picture of the Himalayas with a question like: “What if this was how you saw the Himalayas?” It was followed by a second picture from the same perspective but was crystal clear with the words “Instead of like this!”

Every day that I am able to leave my home, I always look across the plains to see the mountains. However, some people are so focused on what is immediately around them that the far-off objects tend to lose their value. People know the mountains are there just like they know the sun rises and sets every day. However, many fail to see the beautiful myriad of colors that grace the skies every single day.

They live their lives in such a way that the majesty of God’s creation has become dulled. Whether it is the humdrum of everyday life, or job, or family commitments, something keeps them enjoying seeing those things that are in the distance.

And this is what brings us to the second point for true believers. Let me repeat it here.

Our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Every true believer should remember that this world is NOT our home. The writer of Hebrews and the apostle Peter put it quite succinctly.

Hebrews 11:13-14 – These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

1 Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Reread the words from Hebrews in this perspective. “These who are true believers died in their faith in Jesus Christ. They had not received the heavenly blessings and inheritance which was promised to them with the Holy Spirit given as a downpayment. However, they kept looking into eternity realizing it was coming. However, because of that FAR-sight, they had to recognize that they were but strangers AND exiles while living on earth. And by the way, people who know how to talk in this kind of language are really telling everyone around them that they are looking for the heaven which is to come. The reason is simply because HEAVEN IS THEIR HOMELAND!”

Peter was just as straightforward when he addressed the true believers who had been forced out of Judea during the Diaspora.

Here are Peter’s words again from an expanded perspective. “Beloved, dear ones, those whom I love with all my heart, family, I beg you to remember that you are sojourners AND exiles. This world is NOT your home, you are just passing through. That which is of heaven should be your focus instead of what is in the world. Therefore, be so heavenly minded that the passions of the flesh will lose their appeal. The passions the world has to offer only wages mortal combat against every part of your being.”

Now listen to the words of the apostle John as he wrote some of the last words in his book “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Dear reader, this precious book is NOT about the revelation about John or to John or even from John. The aged apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes it clear in the very first verse that this “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This book is ALL about revealing more of Jesus Christ to us.

Read these beautiful words from Revelation 21:1-4.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Maybe like the Jews of the Old Testament, it would benefit us to have these words written and carried on our arms and on our foreheads. What if we printed these off and pasted them on every wall of our homes and doors and work cubicles? I believe the reminder of these verses every day would give us the prescription we need to refocus on that which cannot be seen with human eyes.

ALL that the world can offer only brings dullness to the heart, the mind, and the soul of every true believer. It may bring pleasure for a short time, but those pleasures will dry up and blow away like dry leaves on an autumn wind.

Yes, it will be wonderful to live in a new heaven and a new earth. What an incredible experience it will be to see the New Jerusalem radiating like a bride adorned for her husband. But oh, the words that really amaze me are these –

The dwelling place of God is WITH MAN! God will dwell WITH THEM! They will be HIS PEOPLE! God Himself will be WITH THEM as their God.

Dear readers, there is NO religion in the world that can offer such a promise. NO denomination with all of its traditions, creeds, and man-made teachings can offer such an inheritance. This can only come from the One who loved us and gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice so that we can know we have eternal life.

And the next words are no less a blessing and an encouragement.

NO more tears. NO more death. NO more mourning. NO more crying. NO more pain. The poignancy of these words though to me is not because there will be no more tears. This God of all creation will personally WIPE the tears from our eyes. We will know Him in all His glory and we will sing His praises from fully glorified bodies.

What an amazing day that will never end!

If the wonder of eternity remains dulled to us because we prefer to believe that the world holds more allure to us, then we will become a miserable failure because of a dimmed vision.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

A Miserable Failure

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

Sadly, for some believers, the change has been so gradual that they missed the warning signs. Now that their balance is off or their lives have become disorientated, they have become like the person born with sight in just one eye or with hearing in just one ear. Such individuals do not know what they are missing because they have never known the privilege of seeing with two eyes or hearing with two ears.

Many believers now live thinking that their view of God, eternity, or sound Biblical doctrine is crystal clear. Life continues each day as though that focus is on that which is heavenly, but they have become partially mute and blind to the wonders of the One whose name we claim as our own before the world.

Sometimes, true believers do not know why they are worshipping, but they make the effort. While the prophet Jeremiah reminded his listeners that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, we still refer to our heart as the seat of our emotions and particularly where we say we have our love for God. It is our heart that gets us in trouble and what we actually need is to follow the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah 29:13. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew record His words as He addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes. These were individuals who seemed to have all the answers, but something was missing.

Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the three reasons that I gave, and in the balance of this post, it is my intention to focus just on the first point. Lord willing, in the near future, I will address the other two in greater length.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

In my previous post, I gave a few quotes and I continue with three of those now.

A.W. Pink – Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King David – Psalm 93:1, The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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Almost thirty-five years ago, I was touring London, England with a group of USAF servicemen. I had my film camera at the ready and we were making the rounds of the locations all tourists stop. One of the stops included Buckingham Palace. Walking ahead of the group, I noticed that the Royal Standard was being lowered, but gave it no more thought. Approaching a side gate, I stood alone and watched as a few very expensive cars pulled out of an archway and headed directly toward the gate that was in front of me.

To my amazement, the gate swung open and I watched dumbfounded as the entire Royal family passed no more than three feet from where I stood on the curbside. A couple of them waved as they passed. I was too shocked to remember that my camera was around my neck until they swept quickly out of view.

Yes, I can say that in that moment, I had not just seen the Royal family, but I had also seen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She had no idea who I was, but I had seen her and she had seen me. It was a thrilling moment as we looked at each other ever so briefly through the tinted windows of her luxury vehicle.

A couple of years later, I have a Scottish uncle who had a career working on submarines in conjunction with the Royal Navy. For his work, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a special medal and be knighted. The ceremony took place with great pomp and fanfare. Each recipient of an award had to be dressed in very formal attire and each person invited was expected to behave in a very dignified manner. I was privileged to see some of the pictures of the event in which my uncle had the privilege of being recognized for his work by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the person receives their award, Her Majesty takes a few moments to interact with the recipient on a personal basis and by name. Many have commented that this personal touch often means more than the award itself.

The difference between my encounter with the Queen and that of my uncle was worlds apart.

I stood OUTSIDE the gates of the palace. The queen never knew who I was. And, I was dressed in jeans and wearing a dark brown leather jacket. There was nothing significant that took place that day. I had done nothing to warrant a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

On my uncle’s part, he went INSIDE the palace. He was part of a garden party after. He personally met and spoke with the Queen and she spoke with him. My uncle was dressed in formal attire and his wife was dressed like a proper lady complete with fancy hat. It was a significant event because his work had warranted the personal meeting. He was there because his presence was requested by the government and the Palace.

Everything about the meeting is choreographed except for the personal interaction with the Queen who maintains the prerogative to say or ask whatever she wishes to each individual recipient. However, the invitation, the travel to and into the Palace, the meeting with the General Lord Chamberlain as he gives final directions, and even the walk through the halls of the Palace – there is nothing flippant or untoward as each person prepares (and is prepared) to come face to face with the monarch of the United Kingdom.

What an amazing honor it would be to receive an invitation!

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Yet, as a true believer, we have been granted a much higher honor.

No longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own self-importance and failed attempts in attaining righteousness, the holy God of all creation has brought us into the Palace and counts us as His children. We are no longer children of the evil one. Taking away the stench of our wickedness, He has clothed us with the impeccable, white garments of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ invites us to dine with Him as He supplies all of our needs, and at times, He even gives us some of the desires of our heart.

Like the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, our Heavenly Father also outfits us with all the trappings that reflect our parentage. Weapons and armor are freely provided in order to protect us against the attacks of the evil one. This includes the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.

My uncle received an invitation one time, but our King has written the most beautiful love letter to us. Through this love letter, the Bible, He converses with us at any time we come before His presence. Even when we take the time to memorize portions of this letter, His Word promises that He is there.

A trip to Buckingham Palace is normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor and experience. Yet, dear readers, our King has NOT left us comfortless. The Holy Spirit remains with us forever as a down-payment on our inheritance. Further, we need no appointments or invitations to visit the throne room of heaven. It is ours to go to anytime, any day, and for any reason.

When we arrive, we get to walk right by the angels who can never know the joy of salvation. Approaching the throne itself, we have the right and the privilege of walking up and addressing the King as “Abba” or “Father.”

And, He takes the time and deigns to hear our petitions!

How was all of this possible? Because He gave His only begotten Son.

To whom is this available? That whosoever believes in Him may come and drink freely.

Investiture is defined as the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

What is the investiture to those who believe? We shall not perish. We now have eternal life. The justice and wrath we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. Because of His blood that He shed, we have been granted all of these wonders.

This and more should cause us to rejoice that our names have been written for time and eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Why?

Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now ask yourself this –

1. Does our worship retain this kind of sight of the Almighty God?
2. What has caused our vision to fail?
3. Is our collective worship a reflection of this kind of God?
4. Is our worship dulled because of man-made traditions that take the focus off of Christ and put it on self-centered man?
5. Does every aspect of our worship point to this kind of God?
6. Pastors and teachers, do those who hear us have this view of God when they leave? Or, do they only remember the illustrations, pithy little stories, and the lightheartedness designed to make the world feel better about themselves?
7. When we come before the Communion Table, what is our attitude and focus?

It does not take much for our sight to become dull and our lives to become disorientated. When this occurs, our delight is no longer in God, but in what we think we must have in order for life to work for us. Even what we consider collective worship can leave us disorientated if we are not vigilant and striving to constantly be reminded of Who we serve.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

An Encouraging Thanksgiving

Dear Reader,

With all the hubbub about the recent US Presidential election still not over, I felt it would be appropriate to go a different direction with this post. May it be an encouragement to you as we enter a very special season.

In the UK, a special day reminds us to be thankful and is often called Harvest Sunday or Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday. Many churches gather together and have a large display of crops from the surrounding farming lands. They give thanks to God that stomachs are not empty, pantries are stocked, and another year of working in the fields has come to a productive end.

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In the USA, schoolchildren are taught that Thanksgiving came about as a way to thank the Lord for bringing the Pilgrims through a bleak winter where many of them died. Proclamations were made for a Thanksgiving remembrance by various officials until,

“As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, ‘as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.’”

Oh, how is it that we have fallen so far from such a proclamation about what we should be doing. This year though there will be no prayer to Almighty God. Our nation has become a nation where the vast majority prefers to live in a way that emulates the Book of Judges. “Every man (and woman) does that which is right in their own eyes.”

The apostle Paul could have easily been seeing the future when he wrote Romans 3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This once great nation, established as one nation under God, has crumbled. It has gone from being a moral and upright democracy to a nation that has no morals. We are not an immoral society but have gone far beyond that point.

Even a vast majority of those who claim the name of Christ have determined that, in the words of Doris Day, “Que sera, sera.” Whatever will be, will be. The world and the church glibly sings, “The future is not ours to see. Live for the moment. Eat, drink, and be merry.”

Yet, the future is there to behold to the eye of the saint who is watching, waiting, and working for the return of her Beloved Bridegroom. The future holds so much hope and promise knowing that one day we will no longer have to remain living in a human shell that still craves at times what was paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

One day, we will no longer have to deal with even a single vestige of the old man. We will no longer have to cry bitterly with Paul as we both proclaim, “O wretched man, who will deliver us from the body of this death?”

This last week, I read more than one person who thinks a large percentage of Americans are true Christians. Several have expressed hope in the new US President-Elect, yet within days of having won the election is already waffling on his promises.

Many think that we should just wear safety pins to show everybody they are loved and accepted just as they are with no change required. What a travesty that all of this has so permeated the church to the point that believers look almost identical to the world.

The church-at-large has failed. Let me reiterate that – THE CHURCH-AT-LARGE HAS FAILED. Miserably. Conclusively. Totally.

However….

Elijah was reminded that there were 7,000 who had still not bowed the knee to Baal. In like manner, I want to remind those who are true believers that there are others who have not bowed their knees to the Baals of this world. My hope is not found in politics. It is not found in a bank account. It is not built on failed promises that will never be kept by mortal men.

This Thanksgiving season is one that I choose to remember the glory of the Risen Christ. It is a season that I choose to remember the price that was paid so that I can reign with Him on high. This year, I will again bow the knee and heart and give thanks with a grateful heart. A true heart of Thanksgiving will not be destroyed by the depravity of the world around us. We will and MUST remain grateful and keep our eyes looking up to the prize that is set before us.

Our Lord went to the cross and despised the shame. It is from that Cross that He calls us to TAKE UP our cross and follow Him. As strangers and pilgrims, we are not called to bind ourselves to this world that C.S. Lewis rightly called, “The Shadowlands.”

Lord willing, a few of us will be writing and sharing words of Biblical encouragement during this season. Yes, there will still be a depraved world to live in, but we can encourage one other with these words as Paul was eager to remind the Thessalonian believers.

My desire is not to point out the fallacy of all that is transpiring in the world. I do not want to get to the point where I say, “See, I told you so.” My heart is to share with you and encourage you to such a point of thankfulness that when we close our eyes on this earth and wake up in the arms of our Blessed Redeemer that we will be able to say, “The half has never been told!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

His Robes For Mine

The glorious work of what Christ has done for me can overwhelm the heart and soul. That God was estranged from God cannot be truly comprehended. Just as great is the truth that this beggar had Somebody to die in my stead so that I would be able to stand faultless before the Father.

All because of Christ and Christ alone!

 

“Homeschooling From a Biblical Worldview” with Israel Wayne

20130829-084823.jpgOn August 25, 2013, I had the privilege to interview noted homeschool speaker and author, Israel Wayne. He is an outspoken proponent for the homeschool movement and teaches Christians that home education should be considered an extension of our God given parental duties. Mr. Wayne also states that homeschooling should not be done so that we can produce smarter and more conservative minded children than their government school counterparts. Rather, homeschooling should be done for the express purpose of cultivating a biblical worldview in our children, leading them to the blood stained cross of Jesus Christ and bringing God the glory He is due. Our interview was aired during the Cross Encounters Radio program and can also be heard at Sermon Audio by clicking on the link below. I pray you take the time to listen to this interview. Whether you are just considering homeschooling or you are an experienced pro, I believe Israel Wayne’s insights will be a blessing to you.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=827131237287