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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 8)

Jesus is in the business of helping blind people see. And this miracle, the most extensively reported miracle in the entire Bible, gives us dramatic testimony of a man who was born blind.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

Meet the Parents: The Pharisees were locked into their logic which produced no small amount of cognitive dissonance with them! They had already concluded that Jesus couldn’t be from God (He has broken the Sabbath). But they still had a man claiming to have received his sight standing in front of them. So they move to Plan “B.” Plan B involves denying that a miracle took place which necessitated interviewing the parents. They sent for the parents and grilled them with two questions: (1) “Is this your son — the one you say was born blind?” and (2) “How is it that now he can see?”

Fear Answers: This mother and father had every reason to deny that this man was their son or to say that he had not been born blind. But they tell the truth. “We know he is our son. And we know he was born blind.” They tell what they know for sure. They then respond to the second question: “But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know.” So they destroy the assumption of the Pharisees that the man was not born blind and that a miracle had not occurred.

Passing the Buck: This mother and father were not interested in tangling with the Pharisees, so they send them back to their son: “He is of age — ask him!” We’re not sure how old the man born blind was, but he was old enough to defend himself. We learn of the motive of the parents in verse 22, for they feared the Jewish leaders. They knew that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

Today’s Challenge: Do you and I tell the truth, even when we are afraid of the consequences? Fearing the Lord is a good thing. Fearing human beings (more than we fear God) is a trap of the Evil One. We are to speak the truth in love. Will you do that today if the Lord gives you a chance to do so?

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2021 in focus

 

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“Allergies Don’t Have to Be Scary!” Commercial

I don’t have allergies, but this commercial scared me enough to make me stock up on Flonase! (just kidding)

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2021 in fear

 

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Dealing with DOUBT . . . and DOUBTERS! (A Study of Jude 22-23)

I. Show them mercy!

We don’t always treat doubters with kindness. We seem to resent their questions and can become angry at their unbelief. Os Guinness wrote a great book a few years ago entitled Doubt. It has been re-issued as In Two Minds. He’s also written an excellent article entitled “I Believe in Doubt” which may be found here.

We must give room for seekers to express their doubts and ask their questions. And that calls for MERCY!

II. Don’t lose the urgency of the gospel — “snatching them from the fire”

How close is your unsaved friend to eternity? One breath. One heartbeat. It’s not surprising that we Jesus-followers are sometimes over-zealous in presenting the gospel. Eternity is at stake! If I truly believe the gospel, sometimes I will feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak about eternal lostness. And so should you.

III. Have a godly fear yourself!

“mixed with fear”  — of what? Perhaps that doubt might begin to erode your own confidence in God. We are to show mercy mixed with fear. If this is a reference to the fear of the evangelist, then it might be a holy terror of what will happen to those who reject God’s mercy.

[I’m reminded of Galatians 6:1 which says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” There is risk involved in ministry . . . and in evangelism.]

IV. Don’t lose your hatred of sin!

‘“hating even their clothing stained by corrupted flesh”! What an expression! There is such a thing as godly hatred. And here that godly hatred is expressed hyperbolically as directed at the lost person’s clothing! That’s how much we should HATE SIN!

Today’s Challenge: Do you really care about lost people? Do their questions irritate you — or cause you to respond in mercy and love? Does their continual refusal to believe the gospel discourage you (me, too!)? May God renew you and me in a passion for the gospel, a love for the lost, and a clarity about the truth!

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2020 in Jude

 

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A Great 8-Minute Challenge on Faith & Fear from Andy Stanley

You’ll need to click on the link below for this very helpful, short sermon from Andy Stanley:

https://store.northpoint.org/pages/calm-in-the-storm-by-andy-stanley?utm_campaign=Andy%20Video%20Devotion%20-%20Calm%20In%20The%20Storm%20%28W7SCDL%29&utm_medium=email&utm_source=FOR%20Book%20Join%20the%20Discussion&_ke=eyJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJqc3Nzc3NzQGFvbC5jb20iLCAia2xfY29tcGFueV9pZCI6ICJMcVAyRGcifQ%3D%3D

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2020 in fear

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (23:1-6) Revelation, Fear, and Victory!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could inquire of the Lord — and He would answer you directly? David learns of the Philistine’s attacking the people of Keilah and looting their threshing floors. David asks the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord clearly responds, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (vv. 1-2).

But David’s men are fearful. They say, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (v. 3). Apparently they had not heard the Lord’s voice in telling them to attack the Philistines.

David condescends to his men and inquires a second time of the Lord. The Lord repeats His command: “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (v. 4).

David and his men obey, fight the Philistines, inflict heavy losses on them, and save the people of Keilah (v. 5). Obeying the Lord is always the right choice!

But how did David know what to do?  [I’ve used several commentaries to help with the rest of this post]. We are  told parenthetically: “Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.” (v. 6). One commentator says that in his fright and flight Abiathar came down with the ephod in his hand. Not the linen ephod on his back which the priests in common wore, but the ephod with the Urim and Thummim in his hand. It is likely that this wasn’t just any ephod; this was the ephod of the High Priest, which had the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:15) attached to it (Exodus 28:28). The breastplate had in it a pouch with two stones, known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). When David inquired of the LORD, he probably asked Abiathar to use the Urim and Thummim.

How did the priest use the Urim and Thummim to inquire of the LORD? The names Urim and Thummim mean “Lights and Perfections.” We aren’t sure what they were or how they were used. Most think they were a pair of stones, one light and another dark, and each stone indicated a “yes” or “no” from God. The idea is that High Priest would ask God a question that could be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” reach into the breastplate, and pull out the stone indicating God’s answer. This ephod, with the Urim and Thummim, was more helpful to David than a thousand soldiers, because it helped him discern the will of God.

Many Christians today would consider the Urim and Thummim as crude tools of discernment — sort of an Old Testament “Magic 8-Ball.” In fact, using the Urim and Thummim was superior to the tools many Christians today use: relying purely on feeling, or on outward appearances, or simply using no discernment at all. The key to the effectiveness of the Urim and Thummim was that God’s Word gave them. In seeking God through the Urim and Thummim, one was really going back to God’s Word for guidance, because it was the word of God that commanded their place and allowed their use. Today, if we have the same focus on God’s Word, He will guide us also. One old preacher was asked to explain the Urim and Thummim. He said, “Well, this is how I understand it. When I need to know God’s will, I get out my Bible and I do a lot of usin’ and thummin’ through my Bible, and God always speaks to me.” More Christians would know God’s will if they did more usin’ and thummin’!

“Go, and attack the Philistines, and save Keliah!” By all outward appearance, this was a crazy thing to do. First, David had 400 men whose had thin resumes and bad credit reports (everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him, 1 Samuel 22:2); not exactly a regular army! Second, David had enough trouble with Saul, and he didn’t need to add trouble from the Philistines – one enemy is usually enough! Third, this would bring David wide open out before King Saul, and expose him to that enemy also. This was a dangerous course of action!

Then why do it at all? David had two great reasons: the command of God, and the need of the people. David was willing to spend himself, to endanger himself, so that he obey the command of God, and meet the need of the people.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2018 in I Samuel 23

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 21) Lies and Insanity!

David goes to Ahimelek the priest who asks him why he is alone. David lies and says he is on a mission for the king. He asks for five loaves of bread or “what you can find.” (vv. 1-3).

Ahimelek has only consecrated bread which he offers if the soldiers have kept themselves from women. David says they have and that his men keep their bodies “holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” (v. 5). Ahimelek gives David the consecrated bread.

One of Saul’s servants (Doeg) was there that day, “detained before the Lord” (v. 7). David lies a second time, saying he had no weapon “because the king’s mission was urgent” (v. 8). David winds up taking the sword of Goliath with him (vv. 8-9).

Amazingly, David flees from Saul to Gath — the birthplace of Goliath! He goes to the king of Gath, Achish, whose servants say, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land, the one they sing about?” (v. 11).

David becomes very afraid of Achish so he pretended to be insane! Achish’s response is classic: “Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (v. 15).

Achish’s quota of madmen is full!

Some takeaways for me:
1. Even the closest to God’s heart sometimes resort to lying (as David does — three times! — in this passage). That, of course, does not make lying right.
2. God has His plan. He detains one of Saul’s servants so that Doeg can report David’s whereabouts to Saul.
3. David’s decision to flee to Gath — the home of Goliath — defies explanation. But that was the choice that he made.
4. Sometimes God blesses human ingenuity. David’s acting skills are put to the test when he has to pretend to be crazy!

David is imperfect. And the Bible describes him, warts and all. Thank the Lord for the unvarnished truth of His Word!

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in I Samuel 21

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (18:1-19) Friendship, Fear, and Success!

The friendship of Saul’s son Jonathan and David is a beautiful truth in this text (a story greatly perverted by those with a homosexual agenda). Jonathan “became one in spirit with David”, we are told, for “he loved him as himself” (v. 1). Jonathan makes a covenant with David “because he loved him as himself (v. 3). He gave David his robe and tunic and his weapons!

The Lord gave David success on whatever mission assigned to him by Saul. It’s not easy to please “all the troops and the officers” of the army, but David did!

Military success is one thing. But adulation is quite another. The women of the towns sing to David, emphasizing his slaying “tens of thousands” versus Saul’s slaying only “thousands.” This makes Saul very angry and he asks, “What more can David get but the kingdom?” (v. 8).

“An evil spirit from God” comes forcefully on Saul while he is prophesying. While David is playing his lyre, Saul hurls a spear at David. Twice. We are told that “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul” (v. 12).

Saul sends David away to command the troops and we are told that “in everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.” (v. 14). Saul is overcome by a fear of David and his successes, but David is loved by all Israel and Judah (v. 16).

Saul plans David’s demise, promising his older daughter Merab to him if he will “only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord” (v. 17).  Saul says to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” [This certainly foreshadows what David himself will do when he has to get rid of Uriah!].

David’s response to King Saul’s offer of his daughter is one of humility: “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” (v. 18). But Saul did not keep his word — and subsequently gives his daughter Merab to someone else!

Some takeaways for me:
1. Jealousy is a very real danger — and can be born in any believer’s heart. I must be careful when it comes to others’ receiving praise. I am to rejoice with those who rejoice!
2. I want to long for the Lord to be “with” me. “With” here in this context means much more than a kind of physical presence. The Lord’s being “with” David produces fear in Saul (v. 12), leading him to try to kill David.
3. Any of us can use religious language to justify our agenda! Saul speaks of David’s fighting “the battles of the Lord” — and he wants him dead!
4. Disappointments will come to us. They may not be the reneging of a daughter’s hand in marriage, but people don’t always keep their word.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2018 in I Samuel 18

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (17:1-20) A Giant Challenge!

David, serving in King Saul’s court, would play his lyre to minister to Saul’s moods. The scene dramatically shifts to Israel’s present military circumstance — and David will get quite involved!

The armies of the Philistines and Israel are lined up in battle formation, one army on one hill, and the other army on another. The story focuses on “a champion named Goliath” who was nine feet nine inches tall! (v. 4). His armor weighed 125 pounds. He was covered in bronze armor and the iron point of his spear weighed 15 pounds. He also had a shield-bearer in front of him (vv. 5-7).

And he could speak! Goliath challenges Israel to a mano-a-mano fight— winner take all! Saul and all Israel heard this challenge and “lost their courage and were terrified” (v. 11).

Jesse’s three sons were at the battlefront (Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah). David was going back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock in Bethlehem (vv. 12-15).

The challenge from Goliath happened every day for forty days! Jesse has David take food to his three brothers, as well as cheese to the field commander. He is to check on their well-being. Jesse says of the brothers that they are “with Saul . . . fighting with the Philistines” (v. 19).

David obeys — and sets out as Jesse had charged him (v. 20). We will see tomorrow what will happen!

What are the Goliaths in your life? Those challenges that seem overwhelming, massive, and digging for your immediate attention? True, none of us has a nine-foot-nine-inch-tall NBA warrior standing outside our door inviting us to fight. But challenges come in many forms.

Are you tempted to lose your courage and become terrified? So am I.

But our God is taller than 9’9” — and He has His plan of taking care of our Goliaths. What giant are you facing today? Are you asking the Lord to give you courage and wisdom in facing that challenge?

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Goliath, I Samuel 17

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (13:1-15) The Price of Disobedience!

What is the price of disobedience? In this first section of chapter 13 we see King Saul go through a process of reasoning in his mind and he does something that forfeits his kingdom! Human rationalism will take us only so far in this life. And when it flies in the face of keeping God’s commands, it can be lethal.

The situation is a war-time catastrophe. The Philistine army gears up to fight the Israelites because the latter had become “obnoxious” to the former (v. 4). And the Philistines muster all their forces (including 3000 chariots) to attack Israel. It is a desperate military situation!

They see their situation as “critical” and their army is “hard pressed” and these soldiers hide in caves and thickets, among the rocks and in pits and cisterns (v. 6). Israel’s troops become understandably fearful (“quaking with fear”) (v. 7).

Saul endures this panic among his troops for seven days, waiting for Samuel to come and make offerings to Israel’s God. But his patience comes to an end, Samuel has not arrived, and the troops begin to scatter (v. 8). So Saul does the unthinkable — he takes Samuel’s place and offers up the burnt offering (v. 10).

Of course Samuel arrives at that moment and asks Saul who comes out to greet him, “What have you done?” (v. 11).

Saul gives his reasons for his action: (1) I saw the men were scattering; (2) you did not come at the set time; (3) and the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash (v. 11). “And,” says Saul, “I have not sought the Lord’s favor” (v. 12).

Those reasons sound pretty good to me. But Samuel says, “You have done a foolish thing. You have not kept the Lord’s command. As a result, your kingdom will not endure. Moreover, the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler over His people.” (v. 14).

Samuel leaves Saul and Saul counts his men who number 600. It appears that Saul’s action did not solve the problem of his men scattering, did it?

There is much I don’t understand here. But I know a bit about panic. I can understand in a military context the terror that would overcome a leader when his soldiers begin to desert, when defeat seems imminent, when things haven’t worked out as one assumed they would.

All those are good reasons to take drastic action, aren’t they? But Saul’s taking Samuel’s place and offering the burnt offering to get the Lord’s blessing on the upcoming battle was too much. And it cost him his kingdom.

My takeaways from this event:
(1) I too am in a battle, against spiritual forces!
(2) I too want the Lord’s favor in my life and in my ministry.
(3) But there are never enough good reasons to disobey the Lord! Where was Saul’s faith? Yes, Samuel was delayed in arriving. Yes, Saul’s troops are hiding or leaving. But this was the LORD’s army, right?
(4) Relying on my own reason and rationalizations is not the same as simple, faith-driven obedience and trust in the sovereign God!

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2018 in I Samuel 13

 

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Ritual into Manhood — A Cherokee Story . . .

The Cherokee Night Ritual Into Manhood

For a Cherokee Indian youth to be considered a man, he must endure the ‘Rite of Passage.’

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.  He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the morning sun shines through it.  He cannot cry out for help to anyone.  Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.  He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified.  He can hear all kinds of noises.  Wild beasts must surely be all around him.  Maybe even some human who might do him harm.  The wind blows the grass and earth, and shakes his stump but he must sit stoically, never uncovering his eyes.  Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removes his blindfold.

It is then he discovers he is not alone.  His father is sitting on the stump next to him, having been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

We too, are never alone, not matter how frightening our circumstances.  Even when we aren’t aware, God is watching over us, always protecting us.  When we are afraid and feel alone all we have to do is reach out to Him.  He may not always give us the answer we want, but He is present!

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in manhood

 

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