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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Don't Lose Your Vision

I had to get new glasses recently. For some time now, I have only had to have reading glasses. I didn't pay too much attention to the fact that my poor vision made reading without glasses nearly impossible. I just put them on when I needed to and took them off when I didn't. However, a couple of months ago, I noticed that I was having trouble with seeing things clearly from a distance. While standing at the foot of a patient's bed, I could no longer make out the numbers on the heart monitor. I would have to get really close to read the display without squinting. So, I went to the eye doctor and my vision had changed dramatically in two years. He gave me a new prescription for bi-focals and now my vision is perfect. Hmmm, a simple correction in my vision has made all the difference in how I see things.
I believe our spiritual vision can suffer dramatic changes as well. When we begin our walk with the Lord, all is right with the world. We look at life through the lens of His spirit and we see all the good things that surround us. We realize we are blessed with life, health, family, friends, and many of the things we love that make life so rich and full. We look forward to the possibilities of each new day and revel in the blessedness of what God has done for us.
As we go along, though, and times of testing enter into our lives, we suffer a marked change of vision and perspective. Our focus becomes the awful agony we are enduring. Our despair becomes our way of life and our faith seems insignificant in the face of it all. We seek God, but feel He does not answer. We yearn for someone to understand and, seemingly, there is no one. Our sense of aloneness amplifies our already hurting spirit and we plunge deeper into the depth of hopelessness. We cannot have hope because we cannot see God in this situation.
As I write this, I am reminded of Peter. Though he was given the keys to the kingdom, he still did not understand what having faith was all about. That is, until he was trapped in a boat---in a storm---with no help available. As he and the other disciples cried out for help, the vision changed. They saw Jesus. They didn't just see Jesus, though, they saw Him walking ON the water. Thinking they were seeing a "ghost", they now cried from fear. Their vision and trust in Jesus had become so poor, they could not even recognize Jesus when He came to them. Oh, but Peter, the Rock of the disciples, stepped out by faith. At the the Lord's invitation, he walked on water to go to Jesus. He had gone from despair, to faith, and, alas, back to despair. The scriptures teach us that when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the storm, he was so overcome with fear that he began to sink into the stormy waters surrounding him. Jesus immediately reached out His hand and lifted Peter out of the raging storm. How like Jesus is that?!
How difficult it is to see Jesus sometimes. Life is not easy and, sometimes, my spiritual vision is dimmed by the hardship I am enduring. I need a change of vision. I recall a story I was told as a young Christian: A young newspaper editor began to suffer difficulties with his vision. Even with corrective lenses, his eyes began to fail. Since his occupation depended on his vision, he was devastated to think that he might be losing his sight. While seeking a second opinion, the doctor asked him what he did for a living. He then inquired of him where the young man lived. Upon discovering that the young editor lived in a house high above the foothills of Appalachia, he gave him very strange instructions, "Your vision is poor because you are constantly looking at things up close. Your ability to see distance has almost disappeared as a result. When you go home, you must do nothing that requires close vision. I want you to sit and look into the distance. Look at the grandeur of the mountains on the horizon. Look at the sky above. Look at the beauty that surrounds you and your vision will correct itself.". What wonderful advice!
How awful it makes us feel to consistently look at nothing but our problems. How depressing that is. But, somehow, when we look to Jesus, our vision changes. We see Him standing near, ready to come to us at a moment's notice. He stands ever so closely and is ready to reach out His hand and lift us from the storms of life. When we look ahead to the glorious promise that awaits us, the promise of Heaven and eternal rest with Jesus, our Lord, oh, how the vision corrects itself. Things of this life pale in comparison to what we see in our spiritual sight. The blessings of our lives become visible again as the problems become bearable when we see Jesus. Look to Him, today. He is near, He is present, He is waiting. Look to Him.

In Grace,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When Jesus Passed By

Traveling with my Daddy could sometimes turn into an ordeal. Having traveled extensively in the early days of his ministry, he was familiar with many of the major highways across the eastern United States. Being a native of the mid-south, he was also familiar with many southern routes as well. I remember many times, as we were traveling, that Daddy could tell a story pertaining to his previous journeys on the same road we were now traveling on. He knew so many people and could tell so many wonderful tales about them all. Consequently, he would want to stop and say hello to many of his friends and ministerial colleagues as we traveled along. He would often say, "I can't come this close and not stop to visit for just a while. I cannot drive on and just pass by the good friends God has given me.". So, we would pause long enough to enjoy some wonderful fellowship and prayer together and it seemed that the journey was sweeter after each visit. Such a change sweet fellowship in the family of God can make in your life.
As I read and study the precious Word of God, I find that many changes occurred in the lives of people each time that Jesus passed by. His fame and reputation preceded Him and many would come to where He was, hoping that He would choose them to receive His healing touch. No one who came in contact with Jesus was ever the same afterward. Those who received healing, deliverance, or forgiveness, would be willing to follow Him to the ends of the earth if need be. He was, indeed, the manifested Word of God, living and breathing among us. Possessing the same Divine nature as well as the same righteous character as His Father in Heaven, Jesus never turned His back on any one. Rather, He gave until His natural body was weary and, even then, continued to meet the needs of those to whom the Father had sent Him.
Wherever Jesus went, something changed. A life was restored, demons made to flee, blind were made to see, lame were made to walk, deaf ears opened to the sound of His voice, and little children were held in His arms. Oh, how glorious that must have been---to be physically present when Jesus passed by. I am reminded of the words to a very, very old gospel hymn:

"When Jesus passed by,
When Jesus passed by.
Gone were all the heartaches,
The trouble and strife.
Just reach out and touch Him,
He'll hear your cry,
All things were possible
When Jesus passed by."

I am so very grateful that Jesus passed by my broken, shattered life one day. He came to me when I was not strong enough, or well enough, to go to Him. He came to where I was, He passed by the dark place where I was hiding from life, and He lifted me. He picked me up, gave me a new purpose, changed my vision of life, and filled that life with possibility. He added hope where there was none, joy where there was only sadness, and gave me laughter for my tears of pain. He has not been easy to follow, but I dare not lose my vision of Him. "Where He leads me I will follow, I'll go with Him, with Him, all the way."
The presence of Jesus, my loving Savior, makes life an adventure. It is a journey I make gladly, regardless of what tomorrow may bring. I smile when I read the Biblical accounts of those who were touched by His loving hand. Sometimes, I don't realize that I am smiling as I read. My little grandson, Gabriel, once asked me what I was smiling about when I was reading my Bible. I told Him that it made me happy to read about others whose lives were changed when Jesus passed by. He then looked up at me and said, "Jesus makes us happy." Hmmm, even a child can tell the difference when Jesus has passed by.

In Grace,