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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Spiritual Myopia"

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).

I began to wear glasses when I was about ten years old. I was near-sighted, meaning that I saw OK closely but distant views were blurry. Near-sightedness is also called myopia. (In my forties I started needing bifocals, meaning I now need correction both for close-up and distance.)

Let me illustrate today's message with a wonderful Creator-designed capability we all have and probably take for granted. I am sitting at my desk in my home office with a clear view of my computer screen and close-up items on the desk. My eyes are automatically focused to this view.

I can raise my head and look out to a distant farm field view. Automatically, without any conscience effort on my part, my eyes refocus when I move from the close-up to the distant view.  As David wrote three thousand years ago, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Psalm 139:14).

I can purposefully try not to refocus when I move from a close-up view to a distant one.  Stare at your hand and see how blurry and out of focus the distance is at the periphery. Try to move your hand and keep your eyes focused the same as the close-up, although you are looking at a distance. For me it's next to impossible.

Today I want to consider a condition that many of us have which I'll call "spiritual myopia".  We may have a close up view but have trouble seeing and focusing on the bigger picture spiritually; that which is at a distance.  It seems that spiritually speaking having a distant "faith" focus does not come automatically.  I have to very purposefully refocus.

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith Chapter and is a great commendation of men and women who lived by faith.  "This is what the ancients were commended for" (v.2).  Verses 13-16 are an incredible interjection by the divinely inspired author of Hebrews. Both prior to this section and after it Abraham is the focus, but this section broadens the scope using the phrase, "all these people", which may mean those who were with Abraham, or it may be referring to all the people of faith mentioned in this chapter.  But this powerful portion is certainly true of all people of faith.

But today the part that grips my heart is the phrase concerning the "things promised" they had not received at the time they died.  "They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance."  They did not have spiritual myopia. 

But I am so aware of how I can have spiritual myopia. This happens when I am not focusing on God's promises that are yet to come.   I am not seeing them and welcoming them from a distance. In fact the spiritual distance may be blurry.

Like the people who long ago lived by faith I need to regularly admit, "I am an alien and stranger on earth."  Like them I want to be "longing for a better country—a heavenly one."  May the Lord give all of us a distant heavenward focus!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, so much of what I need to do today and in the near future consumes my mind and energy.  The commitments and problems I face can easily crowd out the solemn moments that helps redirect my attention and focus upon the future You have planned for me. My soul is refreshed when I consider that all of heaven, incomparable to this sinful world, with its splendor, majesty, and absence of sin is mine to receive.  You prepared it all and promised it as an inheritance for all who live by faith.  Though our eyes cannot presently see, our hearts can believe by faith all that You have in store for us.

At a future date we will join with all the saints who've gone before and those who come alongside and after us proclaiming to Him who sits on the throne, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

As I prepare today's message I consider a song that reinforces our need for spiritual focus and consider the song "Open the Eyes Of My Heart"   Audio   Video

Personal note: This message was on my heart all through the night as well as at least two follow-up messages I want to share in the next several days.

Yesterday I had intended to show a photo of friends we had over for dinner on Monday evening but I had created the link incorrectly. Here's that photo

I can also illustrate today's message with a camera. Here are two identical photos taken in front of my home this morning just seconds apart. The only difference is that in one the camera was set to focus close-up prior to taking the picture, while the other is focused on the distance.

Focused to close-up view

Focus to distant view

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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