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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (Introduction)

Introduction:  In high school, for some inexplicable reason, I memorized the lines on the eye chart! I don’t know why. And I passed each year’s eye exam with flying colors. I actually sabotaged my own eyesight.

How’s your vision? Would you say that your eyes are focused on the Lord Jesus and all that He has planned for you? Or, like me, would you admit you get distracted and turn your gaze away from Him? Would you say that the things of this world are pretty and shiny and tend to draw away your attention like small metal beads to a powerful magnet?

In this series of blog posts 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.

For this morning let’s think about our primary text for a few moments: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). The author is quite candid about his need to have his eyes “fixed.” The term “fixing” here is ἀφορῶντες from the verb ἀφοράω (aphoraō). It means “to view with undivided attention, by looking away from every other object; to regard fixedly and earnestly.”

It is used only twice in the New Testament, here in Hebrews 12:2 and also in Philippians 2:23 where Paul is talking about sending Timothy to help those believers. (“Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me”). The verb is composed of a prepostion (apó) which means “away from” and a regular verb meaning to see (horáō). The implication is properly, “looking away from all else, to fix one’s gaze upon” (Abbott-Smith).

Today’s Challenge:  Someone has said that the devil’s primary tools are destruction and distraction. What seems to distract you from focusing upon the Lord Jesus and all He has done — and plans to do — in your life? Some repair work is needed, don’t you think? Today ask the Lord to “fix” your attention on His Son — and fix your distractedness.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2021 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 10)

It was a perfect move. I’ve been playing online chess for several years and most of my opponents have been kind and friendly and, well, encouraging me in my growing expertise in the game.

Until Bill. Bill had a very high ranking and severely criticized me for bringing out my queen way too early. [If you’re not a chess player, cheer up. My illustration will be done soon]. I knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so snarky about it!

When all of a sudden, I took my next move — and checkmated him! It was purely by accident. No foresight had gone into my move. To charge me with well-thought-out strategy would be a gross overstatement. One move. And I had him. Snarkiness and all.

He texted me something like, “Of all the dumb luck!” with a few &%*$’s thrown in for good measure! And he never played me again.

I just stared at the board, cerebral pride growing in my head. I had success. Against a much more worthy opponent! And I couldn’t stop looking at the board. I wanted to take a picture of it, have it canvassed, and mounted on our living room wall among all the pictures of the grandchildren (the wife said “No!” to my idea). I was successful. I had won!

In our post this morning we want to think about SUCCESS. We’ve considered how SUFFERING (both self-inflicted as well as others-inflicted) can get our eyes off Jesus. But what about when things are going well? When we’ve closed that big deal, hit that home run, remembered our anniversary (trust me, guys — you’ll only forget your wedding anniversary once).

There are many aspects of SUCCESS that we could think about, but the one that gets our eyes off Jesus is . . . PRIDE. Many biblical texts warn against ungodly PRIDE (there is a godly kind), a focusing on self and one’s SUCCESSES. For example, we read —

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

2 Chronicles 26:16 – “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”

Psalm 10:4 tells us that “In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

When we exalt ourselves instead of the Lord, Isaiah 2:11 tells us, there are consequences: “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

James 4:6 warns us of opposition from God Himself: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

In a sense, ungodly pride is robbing God. We read in Psalm 31:23 “Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.”

When we find ourselves in what some have called “the terrible squirrel cage of self,” we would do well to remember Proverbs 16:19 which says, “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”

We read of Lucifer’s (the devil’s) fall in Ezekiel 28 – “In your heart you became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” (v. 17).

But we must also remember that there is a godly pride which we should cultivate. Romans 11:13 has Paul testifying, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” It is right to speak or write words of encouragement to others, as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4 – “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” And there is even a text that tells us we can take pride in ourselves! We read in Galatians 6:4 that “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Any SUCCESSES that we experience — if they are honorable ones before the Lord — ought to drive us to thank Him. We do not, nor should we, strive to be failures, but we must refuse to let SUCCESS turn our vision from the Lord to ourselves.

It’s easy to criticize a quote like the following from Bob Dylan: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” But if “what I want to do” is to become more like Jesus . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2020 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 8)

“A needle in my eye?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“No,” said the specialist. “You have the beginning of macular degeneration in your right eye.”

“So what does that mean, Doc?”

“It means that there are small capillaries developing in your eye that are leaking blood. Wet macular degeneration is a chronic eye disorder that causes blurred vision or a blind spot in your visual field. It’s generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula (MAK-u-luh). The macula is in the part of the retina responsible for central vision.”

“So, what’s the treatment?”, I asked.

“We give you an injection every four to eight weeks directly into your eye.”

And he did. As you can imagine, the first injection was terrifying, but they numbed my eye and all I felt was a bit of “pressure.” The injections are working and I won’t need another one for about three months.

Now whenever my wife and I talk about an unpleasant situation and we say, “Just stab me in the eye,” it takes on a whole new meaning.

Temporary suffering will keep me from losing my vision in my right eye.

We are thinking about the challenge to FOCUS our eyes on Jesus. And there are distractions that keep us from doing so. Distractions from the world, ourselves, and our archenemy, the devil.

Let’s think this morning (and in a later second post) about a major source which can blind us in our keeping our eyes on Jesus — suffering. In his excellent book, Why a Suffering World Makes Sense, Chris Tiegreen helps us who suffer from a poor view of suffering.

The blurb for Tiegreen’s book is helpful: “Did you know that the number one objection among skeptics and the number one reason for doubt among believers is the problem of suffering? Why did an all-powerful, all-loving God create a world that he knew was destined to fall? What’s in it for him? Why does he let us struggle? Christians and skeptics alike share these concerns. This unique book reveals that there is a point to suffering–and it isn’t about us, our pain, or our confusion. Though they are hard to bear, pain and suffering make sense when we consider what they reveal about God–his mercy, forgiveness, and healing can only be known in an imperfect world. Filling a void in Christian literature, Why a Suffering World Makes Sense encourages readers to let God’s hidden attributes be revealed in their pain, thereby helping them unravel the mystery of who God really is.”

In a sense, there are two kinds of suffering — self-inflicted suffering and suffering given to us by outside forces (Satan, God, the world). This morning let’s think about self-inflicted suffering. Is it not the case that much of our pain in life is caused by . . . ourselves? We overeat, we choose to worry, we take unnecessary risks, we perpetuate conflicts with others, we live with unconfessed sin, we determine not to forgive those who have offended us . . . you get the picture. We cause much of our own suffering. And these choices cause us to focus on our pain and not on the Savior.

If you are experiencing pain right now, may I ask you — Is it self-inflicted? Would you pray with me? “Lord, this pain that I’ve caused myself — would you let it direct my attention to you? I need Your help, Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2020 in suffering

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 4)

I just can’t do it! It’s impossible for me. I just cave in — and break out laughing.

I’m talking about having a staring contest with my eight-year-old grandson Isaac. He is a child of great humor, contagious laughter, and — that’s the problem. I never win in a staring contest with him. Within a few seconds of gazing into his blue eyes, seeing his determined-not-to-laugh expression on his face, I collapse in laughter. And he is, once again, victorious.

Staring — sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s creepy. But it’s a use of our eyes that can show us that our FOCUS is very important.

What are you staring at? If we “fix” our eyes on Jesus, we discover that He too was a man of laughter. But He was — and is — so much more . . .

Let us think one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We have learned from this passage that we are in a race. A race which has been “marked out for us.” And we are to run that race, stripped down from everything that hinders us and turning down every sin that so easily entangles us. We are to run with perseverance, for we are running towards our Savior who is also the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

How did He run His race? We read that “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2). JOY?! Yes, this One “born to die” did so willingly, with joy. The cross was not His joy. He “endured” the cross. He “scorned its shame.” His dying for sinners was not His joy. Although the text does not specifically say so, I would argue that the joy that was “set before Him” was His pleasing His Father by providing a righteous forgiveness for all who would put their faith in Him.

Then the writer to the Hebrews challenges us to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinners . . .” This One who “endured the cross” also “endured” human opposition in His mission to save sinners.

If you and I “consider” Him as we should, what ought to be the result? The result will be that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3). Weariness and discouragement wait to invade the life and heart of the Jesus-follower who gets his or her eyes off Jesus. And that’s why we need FOCUS. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 3, 2020 in focus

 

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Time for a Great Video: Brian Regan on the Eye Exam!


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I’m working on a new book entitled Focus: Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World. So, the issue of VISION is very important to me. Hope you enjoyed this video. Have a great day!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2020 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 3)

“Teacher eyes.” That’s what you call them. A concentrated stare that will melt the face of any pre-teen or teenager who dares to look into those laser-focused eyes.

My wife has “teacher eyes.” They have come in very handy during her years of being a high school teacher. And, sometimes, when I’ve done something bad, she turns those eyes on me and . . .

There are a variety of words we use when we are talking about our eyes’ doing what they are supposed to do: stare, bore into, glance, dart, peek, gaze, etc.

We are thinking one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

By faith we see this “great cloud of witnesses” who have predeceased us. We observe ourselves and “throw off everything that hinders” us in this race which is “marked out for us.” We focus our eyes on the life-track before us and we determine to “run with perseverance” that race. And we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

But wait! Are we talking about real objects, real people that can be seen with our physical eyes? No. That “great cloud of witnesses” is presently with the Lord Jesus. But, by faith, we recognize their example in walking by faith and not by sight! We don’t physically remove clothing (strip down) to run our race. This is a metaphor for getting serious about living out the Christian life God has purposed for us. And we don’t literally see a race track with lines and other racers. And, sadly, we don’t actually see our Savior at the end of the track urging us on.

Unless we understand that “fixing our eyes on Jesus” means living by faith. It means seeing those things that are eternal but are not presently visible to our human eyes. It means turning our gaze from the many enticing sights of the world to consciously directing our attention to the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

It is certainly counter-intuitive to speak of fixing our eyes on something or Someone we cannot actually see. But the term “see” is often used, not of physical vision, but of careful consideration, determined concentration, focused attention. And that’s what we are to give to the Lord Jesus.

And our looking to and at Him reminds us of His great sacrifice for us. Amazingly the writer to the Hebrews describes Christ’s atoning mission as “the JOY set before him.” We will think about that JOY in our next post. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 1, 2020 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 2)

When I was in high school my best friend Ronnie had a pair of Buddy Holly black horn rim glasses. They looked so cool. I asked him one day if I could wear his glasses at school and he said yes.

I’m not sure how to describe the effect those glasses had on me that day, but “babe magnet” would not be an exaggeration. I got more attention from the ladies that day than all my years of tricks on the elementary school’s jungle gym combined.

So, I went home (after giving Ronnie his glasses back) and said, “Mom, I think I need glasses!” She said, “Let’s go get your eyes examined this afternoon.”

I knew I was going to be in big trouble. I knew the eye doctor would do his exam (with an eye chart I hadn’t memorized) and say to my Mom, “Mrs. Dixon. Your son’s eyes are perfect. I suspect he wants glasses as a kind of, how should I say this?, babe magnet.”

Instead, he comes out of the exam room and says, “Mrs. Dixon, I’ve completed your son’s examination — and he not only needs glasses. He needs to wear them all the time.”

I immediately drew the conclusion: There is a God in heaven and He loves me!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

Let’s think a bit more about the passage we quoted in our first post — Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We are in a race. We are to run that race unhindered, throwing off everything that will slow us down or entangle us. We are to run that race with perseverance. And that race is not some haphazard dash through the woods. It is a race that has been “marked out for us” (v. 1).

But what are we do with our eyes? We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (v. 2). Fixing one’s eyes is the idea of looking away from one thing and at another. We are to concentrate our gaze on Jesus.

Our FOCUS is to be on the Lord Jesus. We are not tourists who are admiring the passing scenery as we run. Nor are we to look behind us at the other runners. We are to “fix” our eyes on Jesus who has gone before us. Who waits for us.

Today’s Challenge: Ask yourself, “Am I fixing my eyes on Jesus as I seek to run the race He has marked out for me? Or is my attention on the passing scenery or on other runners? In our next post we ask how we might sharpen our FOCUS on the Savior. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 1)

When I was in elementary school, I remember getting an eye exam once a year. For some inexplicable reason, I decided to memorize the eye-chart! So I passed the eye test with flying colors and didn’t find out until high school that I really needed glasses!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

The Word of God has much to say about sight and vision and blindness. For example, we read in Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

“Fix” in this passage comes from a word meaning “to look away from one thing and at another,” “to look away from one thing so as to see another,” or “to concentrate one’s gaze upon.” The same verb is used in Philippians 2 where Paul writes: “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.”

In the South we use the word “fix” in a strange way. We might say, “I’m fixing to go to town” Or, “I’m fixing to fix the fix I’m in” (just kidding about that second example). “Fix” in Southern English means “about to.” That’s not the meaning here in Hebrews 12.

Usually the word “fix” means to repair something. Our vision, our spiritual eyesight, certainly stands in need of repair, does it not? But that’s also not the meaning of “fix” in Hebrews 12.

The meaning in Hebrews 12 is FOCUS. We take account of that “great cloud of witnesses” that has come before us, we recognize everything that hinders us in wholeheartedly following Christ, and we are start running in the race He has set out for us!

In our next post we will unpack a bit more of what Hebrews 12 calls us to. But for today, may I ask you, are you FOCUSING on the Lord Jesus, longing to see Him as He really is, and to obey Him in the race of life? (to be continued).

 


 


 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in focus

 

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Developing a 2020 Vision for the Lord (Part 4)

Friends: We are thinking about the incredible possibility that awaits us as we anticipate a brand new year — 2020. The expression “2020” reminds me of my first eye exam in high school — when I memorized the eye chart before going to the doctor’s! (I don’t know why). As we face this new year, we have the opportunity to focus on several priorities for our lives.

First, we can commit ourselves to becoming more like the Lord Jesus, Second, we want to focus on the truth that we are not to be conformed to this world. Third, we need to have a deep desire to get into God’s holy Word!

May I suggest a fourth priority for each of us in 2020? And it is that we would deeply care about the salvation of those around us. If we believe the gospel is true, then every person is headed either to heaven or to hell. Do we think about that truth as we meet people, engage with our co-workers and neighbors, and come in contact with total strangers?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this issue. It’s the reason I recently wrote Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. In that book I make the case that we are to be friends of sinners like Jesus was. And I challenge each excuse that many of us give for having only Christian friends, listening only to Christian music, and eating only Christian casseroles. [I’d be glad to send you a copy for around my cost, about $10 with shipping. Just let me know.]

Would you pray the following prayer with me? “Lord, I want this new year, 2020, to be different as I engage with lost people around me. Open my eyes, Father, to opportunities to share You with them, beginning with a bit of explanation about how I was lost. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in New Year's Resolutions

 

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Developing a 2020 Vision for the Lord (Part 3)

Friends: We are thinking about the incredible possibility that awaits us as we anticipate a brand new year — 2020. The expression “2020” reminds me of my first eye exam in high school — when I memorized the eye chart before going to the doctor’s! (I don’t know why). As we face this new year, we have the opportunity to use our EYES to become more like the Lord Jesus. We can study His life in the Scriptures. And, by God’s grace, become more conformed to His image.

Secondly, I want to focus on the truth that I am not to be conformed to the world! The expression “the world” is used in three ways in the Word: the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. It is in this third sense that the Jesus-follower should determine, “I will NOT let the world around me determine my life, set my priorities, rule my heart!”

The classic passage on this issue, of course, is Romans 12:1-2 where we read —

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The third priority that should shape my vision for 2020 is a deep desire to get into God’s Holy Word! I’ve been recently going through the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. It extols God’s Word in many ways. As the apologist Francis Schaeffer put it, “God is there — and He is not silent!” He has communicated a great deal of information in His Word — and we neglect it to our peril!

Would you pray this prayer with me for 2020? “Lord, help me to love Your Word, to read Your Word, and to study Your Word much more intensely this year. Forgive my laziness and lack of discipline, Father. Guide me in setting specific goals for getting into Your Holy Word this year. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2019 in vision

 

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