Monday, October 22, 2018

Seeing with Unclouded Eyes

Jesus has the ability to open eyes. When His disciples were concerned about only having one loaf of bread, they began to discuss how they had no bread. Just before this event in Mark chapter 8, Jesus had just fed 4,000 men plus women and children with seven loaves. Earlier He did the same feeding about 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves. The disciples could even tell Him how much was left over each time. Yet they had no concept that with Jesus their one loaf could be more than enough. While they were discussing bread, Jesus was talking about something much more serious to which they were totally tuned out. Seeing this He rebuked them for their hardness of heart leading to them not having eyes to see.

Immediately upon reaching shore, a man born blind was brought to Him. In response Jesus was moved to heal him, but only part-way. The man was enabled to see only part way with men appearing as trees. There was no clarity as if he were seeing in a fog or with cataracts. It was after the man saw this way that Jesus then took the additional step to restore him to full sight. This was most likely not done for the man’s benefit, but His disciples’ who were not putting the pieces together. They had been seeing Jesus as in a fog with hearts that were closed to who He really was. Later, after His resurrection, Jesus would speak to His disciples again in Luke 24:41 opening their minds to clearly see and understand.

As it was then, so it is now. God always sees clearly, and we can trust Him to give us the sight we need. This is true whether it is in coming to salvation or even to trust Him when we are walking through tough times where our sight is dim.

(Written on 10/16/18 for Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters)

Jesus Is Life Giving Bread

In the book of Mark twice Jesus fed thousands of people at one time by taking a small number of loaves and fish and dividing them. In the second of those encounters, as they were ready to begin their journey home, Jesus said, “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.” (Mark 8:2–3, NASB)

These people had been with Him for three days, so intent of Him that they ignored their own need for food. When it was time for them to leave Jesus in a great show of compassion for them undertook meeting their physical need for food so that they would have the strength to make it home, and not pass out on the way. We go on to read in the following verses and in Matthew 15:38 that after the thousands were fully satisfied that there was still some left over. We are not told what happened to the leftovers, but it would not surprise me if it was given to sustain those with the greatest distance on their way home.

In John 6:35 and 40 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” … “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”” (John 6:35,40, NASB)

Jesus not only has compassion on our physical need in coming to Him, but for our deepest spiritual need as well which is the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. He will see us home.

(Written on 10/8/18 for Sherman Country eNews Spiritual Matters)

Our Reasonable Spiritual Response

In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul describes in detail what God has done for us because of His mercy and love. He wrote of man’s rebellion, his great need to be rescued from his sinful condition, and what Jesus did to accomplish this on the cross and afterward. Then with chapter 12 he turned his attention to how we are then to respond.

We read in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [reasonable or logical] service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB)

For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation we no longer live in fear of judgment for sin because Jesus took care of that at the cross. In response to what He has done we are to lives that reflect who He has made us to be. Specifically, we are to present our bodies, which means the entirety of who we are, back to Him as living sacrifices. It’s the reasonable [Greek: logikos] or spiritual thing to do as we put off living as we once were and put on living as we now are according to what His Word declares to be true of both. Paul describes the path of this new way of responsive living as doing that which is good and acceptable as we remember that our God is perfect and His ways for us could never be any less.

God knows that we all stumble, but His grace is sufficient even for this as we get back up and follow Him.

(Written on 9/12/18 for Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters)

Peace of Mind

"I recently saw an interview with an NBA player who had suddenly left the court and the game as the result of an extreme anxiety attack. He went through two years of healing before deciding to make his story public in the hopes of helping others. Then two weeks ago the suicide of a pastor in California brought widespread attention to the issue of depression. Seeing the coverage brought me back to a particularly troubling time in my life as a teen and to a poem that I wrote in the midst when I had no answer for the struggle.

Clutching, grasping trying to find that everlasting peace of mind.
Thinking, groping always hoping there to find
That everlasting peace of mind.
Giving, taking, flying free. Never catching you or me.
In one ear; out the other, there to find always another
Of that kind of [n]everlasting peace of mind.

My struggle was significantly resolved when I was shown that my help and my hope was not found in my performance but in my perception. Prior I assumed that one would lead to the other, but it only resulted in increased striving and anxiety. Then one day I was introduced to God through Psalm 139 who knows absolutely everything about me, including my greatest fears and failures. I was told that He through His Son would totally accept and approve of me. In Christ I was made at peace with God and I learned that I could then live in peace before God, with myself and with others.

There are many reasons that people struggle so intensely.  Anxiety and depression are very real, and they can become very debilitating, but there is hope and help. Please don’t fight the battle alone. Get connected with others, and if you or anyone else is struggling, the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) is a potentially life-saving resource.

(written 9/4/18 for Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters)

Ready for the Rescue

(This post was written from Grass Valley, Oregon at mile marker 28 on Highway 97 where there is no public gas station between Biggs Junction on I-84 and Madras 94 miles away.)

Every week there are more incidents of people traveling our highway unprepared to go the distance. A few days before writing this I was stopped and asked if there was any gas around. After figuring out that his likelihood of making it to the next station was not very good I invited him home where I had a filled can waiting. Many of you have done the same as I learned this from others who have been helping people reach their destinations for years. Sometimes they were reimbursed by the traveler and sometimes not.

Whether they are leaving Madras or Biggs there is a sign saying no gas for 94 miles. The signs aren’t big, but they are there and prominently placed nonetheless. Yet every day people head either north of south driving past the warning signs intent solely on reaching their destination, assuming they will find what they need along the way when in reality they come up short.

My wife, Robin, commented on this and compared it to 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (ESV). Just as we make the extra effort to have that extra full can sitting around, she expressed how we as believers in Christ should prepare ourselves not only with a few gallons of fuel but also with an answer as to why we give it so freely. In thinking about the opportunities that we have to rescue people and send them on their way, we are reminded that there is no greater gift than what Jesus has done to rescue us and give us new life.