Proper Vision

I must have eaten a lot of carrots as a kid because I have always had good eyesight. My 20/20 vision has always been something I’ve been proud of. Many of the people I know have glasses or use contact lenses. Not me. I have never needed them. The only glasses I use are the sun-kind. That bright ball in the sky is quite harsh on my baby blues so I try my best to protect them.

But with that said, as I am writing this, I am wearing glasses.

Let me explain.

Recently I purchased a pair of “blue light” glasses. The claim of these glasses if that they will cut down on the harmful blue light that screens give off. I spend a tremendous amount of time looking at my computer or phone screens and I was finding myself getting a ton of headaches as a result. So now, I wear them when I am looking at a computer screen for an extended period of time. It has only been a few days, so it’s still to be determined if they will actually be a help.

So, as I fiddle with new glasses on my face, I have been finding myself thinking more and more about vision. And boy, do we need to see clearly at this time.

I can’t help but think of the irony that just a few months ago many pastors, including myself, were turning phrases such as, “2020 is the year of clear vision for our church.” Little did we expect that we would be hit with something none of us could see coming.

But we still need vision. We still need to keep looking forward. We still need to pray that God would give us clear eyes.

Because we need His vision moving forward as we move to figure out how and when to reopen our churches, how to celebrate birthday parties, how to do weddings and funerals, and how to connect and love our neighbors well.

Just as I am trying to use these new glasses in order to take away the harmful “blue light” we need to pray and ask God to help us see things through His lenses. When we allow God to take away the things that might causes us harm (our pride, presuppositions, political bent, fear, etc.) that is when we can see clearly and then act with discernment.

As we walk into these next few weeks and months let’s consider the following;

  • Is what I am about to post on social media honoring to God?
  • Is what I am about to post on social media going to help or harm the cause of sharing the Gospel?
  • Do my words and actions reflect the heart of Christ?
  • Am I willing to extend grace to people who view things differently than me?
  • Am I willing to admit if I am wrong?
  • Will I help where needed, or will I just point and blame?
  • Will I complain about my circumstances, or will I allow God to use me in spite of them.

The road up ahead is anything but clear.

We need to pray for God to guide us, to give us wisdom, and to see things the way He wants us to see them.

Not So Smooth Seas

The sway of the ship was slowly but steadily growing. Passenger’s faces were painted with a mixture of discomfort and concern. The storm was approaching.

My companions groaned and quickly prayed for smooth sailing and calm stomachs. Me? Well, I was up out of my seat powerwalking to the deck. I wanted to feel the power of the sea.

Open water, especially when it is windy and wild, has always been an odd mix of calming and exhilarating for me. Hearing the waves crash violently against the rocks can both soothe and motivate me.

Standing there on the deck in the middle of the Aegean Sea surrounded by white-capped waves helped me to process the horrors I had just seen in a refugee camp. But it also motivated me and encouraged me to press on and to make a difference in my own corner of the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Both of these quotes are appropriate for our current troubled times. Many of us may be feeling the stresses of life crash around us. Both on a macro and micro level we all are being impacted by this pandemic and all the implications following lockdown.

But how we act and react is crucial.

We must realize that in the midst of any circumstance God remains good. Our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. We cannot be tossed back and forth by the situations that we face on a day to day basis.

Our circumstances change, but the object of our faith does not.

And so, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can endure the storms that come. In fact, we can joyfully embrace the trials that we face because we know, as the Bible tells us, that these trials will deepen our faith and ultimately produce steadfastness in us.

We can also realize that when, not if, but when God sees us through these rocky waters, we will be better prepared for the next set of waves when they come. Troubled times come and go. This set of unfortunate circumstances is not the first that we have faced, and it will not be the last. In fact, Jesus tells us that, “in this world, you will have troubles…” But, thankfully, He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just leave us with the bad news that we will face trials and troubles, no, He gives us hope. He continues on and says, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Understand that in this time God is looking to develop you into the man or woman that He created you to be. As He molds you, don’t forget to be joyful in the midst of every circumstance. And ultimately, rest in the fact that Jesus has already overcome this world.

After the storm died down a bit, I snapped the picture shown above. It is a nice reminder that even when the wind and the waves rage, the sun is still shining.

Even when the wind and the waves of our lives rage, the Son is still shining. Trust in Him today.

Easter Is Not Cancelled. Jesus Is Still Alive.

Easter is going to be…. different this year.

Typically, churches gather together and pack out their buildings in order to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Typically, my own church will have a Sunrise Service, followed by a full breakfast, followed by another bigger Worship Service.

Typically, I will stand in front and loudly proclaim, “He is risen” and that is always met by an even louder response from the congregation of, “He is risen indeed!”

Typically, between services families will gather in front of one of the big trees outside and take fun family pictures.

Typically, kids will be given some sort of goody at children’s church.

Typically, we all will dress just a little bit nicer and I’ll say, “I wore a tie because, ya know, its Easter after all.”

Typically, we will see new visitors, family members from out of town, or people who normally only come to church twice a year.

Typically, families will gather with extended family for a big lunch or dinner that is just a tad too stressful to put together.

Typically, Easter Sunday is full of fun, loads of smiles, hugs and handshakes, and plenty of “Amens!”

But this isn’t a typical Easter. Most, if not all of those things will not happen for millions of believers this coming Sunday. Our typical Easter celebrations are no longer reality.

So, let me tell you about a few things that do remain reality.

Jesus is alive.

The tomb is empty.

Death has lost its victory.

Sin is defeated.

The free gift of eternal life is available.

God is in control.

The harvest is still plentiful.

The workers, unfortunately, are still few.

The Gospel is still the best news ever.

This Easter may not be typical, but Jesus is still alive. And that profound truth changes everything about today! My prayer is that in the midst of losing all of our typical traditions we will be able to see Jesus even more clearly. And as we see Him clearly, we will clearly make Him known!

Answers?

Why Is This Happening?

I don’t know.

Those three words are really scary words to admit out loud. When we say those words, we are admitting that there are things that we do not understand. By saying that phrase we are accepting that there are questions that we do not have the answers to. We confess that we are not in control. We show weakness. We are humbled. We defer to someone wiser than we are.

And that is OK.

Christians, do not be afraid to say those frightening words. Yes, when we say those words we may look like fools. Yes, when we say those words, we may look small and insignificant. Yes, when we say those words, we will probably be scoffed at by those who seek to poke holes in our worldview. Yes, when we say those words, we will surely bring no glory to ourselves.

And that is why we need to say them.

Because when we admit that we are low, we raise Him up. When we confess that we do not have all the answers, we point to the One who does. When we look small and insignificant, we magnify our Lord. When we show weakness, we elevate His strength. When we look foolish, we show God to be wise. When we are scoffed at, we share in His suffering. When we take no glory for ourselves, we give it all to Him.

So why is all this chaos and crisis surrounding us? Why are people dying? Why are our lives being disrupted?

I don’t know.

But I do know who does.

He reminds me that His ways are not my ways and that His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He reminds me that when we are searching for a way or seeking truth, that He is that Way and He is that Truth. (John 14:6) He tells us that He holds everything together (Colossians 1:7) He commands us to trust in Him and to not fear because nature itself obeys Him. (Matthew 8:23-27) He even loudly proclaims His victory over death itself. (John 11:25)

I don’t know, but Jesus does.

As much as we may not know all the answers, we do have an opportunity to get to know the one who does know everything.

If you don’t know Him, open up a Bible or download a Bible app and start reading the book of John. If you don’t know Him, I pray that you would get to know Him and understand just how much He loves you.

If you do know Him then there are two things that you need to do.

Get to know Him more. And make Him known.