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.

Spiritual Vertigo

Vertigo is defined as “a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness. It can cause loss of balance, ringing in the ears, nausea, and disorientation.”

Two weeks ago, I woke up and began what seemed like a normal day. Less than an hour later, something went pear-shaped in my head. Extreme dizziness and violent retching overtook my body. By the fifth day, I paid a visit to a local Urgent Care.

After a preliminary check by a nurse, then another staff member, a doctor entered the room. They ran some additional tests for various flus and viruses. All came back negative, and the result was that I had vertigo.

There is a first time for everything. Despite having had malaria and typhoid twice while we served in Liberia, this was completely different. Every day that I wake up, my world whirls and spins as I try to recalibrate. I can now sit in my chair, but again each move has to be calculated or my stomach starts to churn and the world constantly spins.

I am disorientated. To use the medical definition for disorientation, I have a condition that causes me to feel as though I have lost my sense of direction.

As I have been pondering this new condition, it has made me think more about spiritual matters. Sometimes, the only thing I can do is close my eyes and pray for others while waiting for the world to stop spinning.

This diagnosis makes me realize that there is a spiritual connection, in that, there are some within the church who have spiritual vertigo.

They have lost their balance, or something is making them sick, or it may be that they have become disorientated. Some within evangelical churches have lost their sense of direction.

But, why or how does this happen?

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

Listen to the words of those whose sight was not dimmed when they wrote the following thoughts.

C.S. LewisA man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

John PiperIf you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.

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

King DavidPsalm 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.

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

My dear readers, there is absolutely NOTHING the world offers that will compare with the riches that await us in Christ and in heaven. It is easy for those who are seated with Christ in the heavenlies to become dizzy and disorientated when they gaze longingly down to the mud and muck offered by the world.

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliott wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

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.

This third point is a sad fact in far too many churches that claim the name of Christ today. Instead of being focused on preaching, teaching, and prayer, we have become centers for socialization or programs.

Pastors and teachers, if our time dissolves each week because of all the things we think we have to do instead of what God requires, then we cannot be surprised when our churches begin to look more like a worldly business.

True believers need to come together for worship remembering that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Every aspect is to be about Him. Church is not meant to be a well-oiled piece of machinery at the expense of seeing Him who is above all.

Every Sunday, across our land, true believers gather. They need encouragement, exhortation, and edification. They come hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Like soldiers on the battlefield, they are bruised and broken from fighting the evil one and his minions. There should be one inviolable focus and goal for every person who preaches or teaches.

“The goal for every true believer is to be more like Jesus Christ today than we were yesterday, and more like Him tomorrow than we are today.”

Anything more or less than this is a disservice to the hearts and minds of true believers. When we ponder the state of the persecuted church, it becomes easier to see how far we have slipped. People in our western bastions of evangelicalism are not ready for persecution. We refuse to see it coming because the world has disorientated us to the point where we think they walk the road of life with us hand-in-hand.

May we be encouraged to stand fast and once again follow the command of the apostle Paul to the church in Colosse.

“Set your affections on things above, and not things of the earth.”

King of Kings, Majesty

As we prepare for times of worship through the weekend, may our focus be solely on our King of Kings, He who alone is our Majesty. If you are attending somewhere that Christ and Him crucified is not where the attention of each person is directed, then you are in the wrong place.