Tag Archive | Spiritual blindness

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Ginny Owens, a Dove Award-winning Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, began losing her sight at age two from a congenital eye disease. While physically blind, she has beautifully expressed the message of the above verses in both her testimony and her songs.

As I thought about an effective way to get across the message God had put on my heart for this week’s Teach Me Tuesday post, I could think of no better example of what it means to fix our eyes on Jesus and willingly run with endurance the race God has set before us. Ginny shared this testimony on her website after the release of her album Love Be The Loudest.

“Most people think my greatest life challenge is blindness; I’ve been blind since age three. But that simply isn’t true. My greatest challenge is doing battle with the critical voices in my head that distract me from what’s most important. It’s the whispers of those who feel sorry for me because of my physical challenge and don’t think I hear their comments. It’s the shouts of my own doubts and insecurities, asking, ‘Do you have anything valuable to contribute to society?’ It’s the mindless chatter of our culture, inviting me to believe that any voice, as long as it’s loud, is fine. Every song on this album is an invitation to my heart, and the heart of the listener, to allow God’s perfect voice of love and truth to be irresistible to our hearts, drowning out all other voices, and moving us to action.”

Where we fix our spiritual eyes – and where we tune in our spiritual ears – determines how we run the race God has set before us! This is never more true than when we are facing difficult circumstances, an unexpected “detour” from our intended route to our destination.

This has been one of the main lessons God has been teaching me during the past week. Some days have been encouraging and my heart has been at peace. Others have been just the opposite. And when I asked God what was causing this, He reminded me of the above Scripture. The only way to run with endurance the race God has currently set before me is to fix my eyes on Jesus.

The Greek word translated “fix our eyes” in Hebrews 12:2, aphorao, comes from apo meaning “away from something near” and horao meaning “to look away from all else and to look steadfastly, intently toward a distant object.” The idea is to direct our attention without distraction as we choose a forward-gaze. This verse is talking about inner, spiritual vision that overcomes all distractions and looks ahead with confidence in the lovingkindness and faithfulness of our God.

DISTRACTIONS FROM A SINGLE FOCUS

On the surface, this may not seem like a challenging assignment, but this past week it was the biggest struggle I faced. I learned that fixing my eyes on the Lord in the midst of my current circumstances wasn’t going to be an effortless task. Ongoing pain in my left knee, fears about the possible complications if I move forward with the surgery, a delay in getting a referral to a orthopedic surgeon, then a further delay in getting an appointment once the referral finally came joined together to make it a difficult week.

The distractions from fixing our eyes on Jesus fit in four main areas:

  1. Our circumstances – When we are in the midst of circumstances causing physical pain or emotional stress, it’s easy to fix our eyes on our problems. This is the first distraction we need to overcome.
  2. Our emotions – Fear and anxiety about the future, dread of what lies ahead, doubts about our ability to do what we believe God is calling us to do for His Kingdom – all of these have the potential of paralyzing us spiritually and keeping us from continuing the race God has called us to run.
  3. The voices of those around us – What Ginny called “the mindless chatter of our culture,” or closer to home the discouraging words of family members and friends, can become major distractions from finishing the race. But we need to keep in mind that other people are not our real enemy.
  4. The lies of the enemy – Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We have a spiritual foe whose greatest desire is to cause us to doubt God and turn out back on Him. He uses such tactics as saying “did God say?” as he did with Eve and by planting thoughts in our minds that cause deception, discouragement and doubt to take root. To finish the race successfully, we need to put on the full armor of God and stand against his attacks. We need to learn to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. When we submit to God and resist the devil, James 4:7 says he will flee.

Jesus gave us an example to follow when He faced the Cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew‬ ‭26:39‬‬‬) Jesus didn’t want to face the suffering of the Cross, but without the shedding of His blood we would all still be lost in our sin. So He submitted to the will of His Father. Hebrews 12:2 gives us some insight into how He endured the suffering – by focusing on the joy set before Him. This is also one way we are strengthened to face the hardships that are a part of life of this sin-stained earth.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we are setting our inward gaze on One who understands suffering. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And He invites us to “draw near” to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” https://www.bible.OverDcom/100/heb.4.15-16.nasb

Thankless or Thankful: Which Will You Be?

Today we are looking at chapter three in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

My heart broke as I read the true story Nancy uses to introduce the theme of this chapter. The story begins on September 7, 1860, a little over seven months before the beginning of the American Civil War, and focuses on the heroic actions of Edward Spencer, a young seminary student who risked his life to rescue the victims of the doomed steamship Lady Elgin.

The Lady Elgin was carrying more than 300 passengers and crew on a sightseeing tour from Milwaukee to Chicago when it was struck by the schooner Augusta. Most of those aboard the Lady Elgin perished wheny the ship broke apart in the waters of Lake Michigan. But seventeen people were saved that night by Edward Spencer, who battled the breakers for six hours. An experienced swimmer, he had a rope tied to his body, and swam through the waves to grab exhausted passengers.

In the process, this young seminary student received numerous injuries from floating wreckage which changed his life forever. Never able to fully recover from the physical toll on his body from his act of bravery, he had to give up his dream of being a pastor and spent much of his life confined to a wheelchair. Yet, the most important thing to Spencer, according to his brother, was not whether he should have risked his life and livelihood to rescue these seventeen people. His biggest concern was whether he had done his best for Jesus.

Nancy gives a sad postscript to this heroic story. When later asked by a reporter what stood out to him the most about this life-changing experience, Edward Spencer replied, “Only this: of the seventeen people I saved, not one of them ever thanked me.” Those words brought tears to my eyes.

A similar story is told in Luke 17:11-19. I especially like the Message paraphrase of this story about ten lepers whose lives were transformed by Jesus.

“It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

“Taking a good look at them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

“Jesus said, ‘Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.'”

These two stories, one a part of American history, the other told by Jesus, teach us an important lesson. When we are in difficult, life-changing circumstances, it is easy to become so focused on what we are personally going through that we forget to express gratefulness to those who have reached out to us to help us through our trials. In both of these stories, the people who failed to say “Thank you” were probably feeling a bit over-whelmed by what they had just been through. As Nancy says, “ingratitude is not always a calloused, who-cares shrugging of the shoulders. Sometimes it’s just fourth or fifth on a list we never get around to following through on.”

As I read these words earlier this week, my heart was convicted. Most of you know that my husband and I lost our special-needs son David last October. Since his memorial service in December, we have been extremely busy trying to complete a long list of things that were needed to bring closure to this difficult season of our lives. One of those items was writing thank you notes to many who had ministered to us in various ways during this time. Some were sent almost immediately, others after Christmas, but as I read this chapter I was reminded that there were still some important notes that needed to be written and mailed. So this week, my husband Mitch and I have completed another task on the still lengthy list of things needing to be done by writing and sending these last few thank you notes to some special people in the church where we are members. Our church has a theme which I love: Being living proof of a loving God to a watching world. As we have walked through one of the most difficult seasons of our lives, our church has demonstrated this theme to us in real life, and that meant our gratitude needed to be expressed in a concrete way.

Nancy concludes this chapter with five gratitude robbers that we need to beware of and cautious not to give place to.

Unrealistic expectations.We can start to expect a lot – from life, from work, from others in general – until no matter what we’re receiving in terms of blessings, it’s never as much as we were hoping for.”

Forgetfulness. When we remember all God and others have done for us, gratitude is a natural response. “Forgetfulness and ingratitude go hand in hand.

Entitlement. “When we take simple blessings for granted as if they were owed to us, or conversely, when we start to think that our house, our car, our wardrobe, or our general station in life is beneath what we deserve, ingratitude finds all the oxygen it needs to thrive.

Comparison. “Any time our focus is on ourselves – even if it’s on the good things we’re doing – it keeps us from being grateful for what others are contributing.”

Blindness to God’s grace. We need to remember that God’s mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) “are not blessings we deserve but graces given by God’s loving hand to fallen creatures, those whom He has redeemed by His good pleasure.”

Remembering to thank God is very important, but today’s lesson is a reminder that people also deserve our gratitude whenever that do something that makes our load a little lighter or simply do something that blesses us. Saying “thank you” costs us nothing, and it’s an easy way to spread encouragement to those around us.

Jesus, Head of the Church

When Hurricane Harvey stalled out over Houston, Texas, and our part of the city was deluged with over forty inches of rain, our church campus received major flooding, leaving several of our buildings unusable. But the Church was not damaged. How is that possible? Simply because the Church is not a building or group of buildings.

While most churches meet in physical structures, the Church itself is made up of people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who meet together in a locality to worship their Lord, study His Word, be trained to do the work God has called His people to do and have fellowship with one another. And this week, we will be examining several names of Jesus that relate to the church, beginning with His headship over the church.

The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ Jesus is its head. The word translated church in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly or called-out ones.”

The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church in a certain locality.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that He Himself would build His church, and the “gates of hell” would not prevail against it. Acts 2:47 explains that Jesus was the One who was building His church, and that it was being made up of “those who were being saved.”

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus is its governing, ruling authority. According to Matthew 28:18, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by God the Father to Jesus, and one area where His authority is exercised is in the church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus nourishes and cherishes His body.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus desires to see His nature and character expressed through His body. Ephesians 5:25-27, using His love for the church as an example of how husbands are to love their wives, explains His plan for this to happen. Christ gave Himself up for the church, He is the Sanctifier of the church, cleansing her by washing her with the word, and His end goal for the church is that He might present her to Himself without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus continues His work and ministry on earth through His body. What Jesus did while He was on earth, His church is now called and empowered to do.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke‬ ‭4:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While each church will have its own local leaders, the ultimate leader of any church is to be the Lord Jesus. The church belongs to Him. He is the head and the only One equipped to adequately lead the church. He is to be given the preeminence, the highest place in rank and influence. And that’s a good thing, because Who better knows how to lead the church than the One Who laid down His own life for her members.

As 2017 comes to an end, our church campus still hasn’t fully recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. But our Church is thriving, under the Headship of Jesus Christ and the skilled leadership of its local leaders. And that is something which fills my heart with gratitude.