Holy Spectacles

untitled“One…” *click* “…or two?”

“Ummm…”

*click*

“One…” *click* “…or two?”

“Two… I guess—maybe just a little.”

*click* *click* *swivel* *click*

“One…” *click* “…or two?”

And so it went. My optometrist would click a lens in place—“one”—then click a different lens in place—“two”—and ask me which one made the little teeny-tiny row of letters I was looking at more clear. Sometimes it was pretty obvious, but most of the time it was more like a Moe’s burrito vs. a Chipotle burrito—it’s a tortilla with beans, meat, and cheese. Bueno.

While the whole optometrical once-over—including the air rifle blast in the eye and the blinding dilation drops—is kind of a chore, it’s worth it to get a new pair of glasses every year.

Interestingly (or not) I’m a shameless thrift store shopper, so any old pair of jeans and the next available, least-smelliest t-shirt in the stack in the closet are more than sufficient for me. But I’m quite particular about my eyewear. I’m not going to be able to get away with trying to look cool and trendy much longer without being one of those guys who appears to be in the throes of a perpetual mid-life crisis (You know the type: shiny new red convertible, pony tail, Gold’s Gym t-shirt unable to hide the never-done-a-sit-up-in-his-life gut.); but until the day comes when I throw in the towel and start wearing suspenders to keep my pleated “dad” jeans from sliding off my flat, non-existent tookus, I aim to be stylin’ in some smart specs—and preferably, a pair with frames thick enough to hide my crow’s feet.

That being said, while my visual impairment is definitely not 20/20, it’s still relatively minor. However, I would never venture out of the house on any sort of major jaunt without my glasses. While I can drive without them and have absolutely no problem seeing the road or the other cars, when it comes time to read the directional or street signs, I’m just as apt to end up in Tempe as I am in Tampa.

I do, however, take them off when I’m exercise walking, since, even without the added lubrication of a few beads of sweat, they tend to slide off my nose. Going visually commando does bring with it some interesting results, though.

On one such day, I rounded a curve on the walking trail and, about fifty yards or so ahead, I saw what appeared to be a large polar bear wearing shorts lying on a bench. While that would be statistically unlikely, especially in Florida, it still piqued my curiosity. As I got closer, I could tell it was just a hairy, husky, Santa Clause-ish fellow trying to get a little much-needed sun.

I was quite relieved. And a little queasy.

So while I’m pretty good with the big-picture, broad-strokes kind of vision, when I need to read the fine print, some “one or two,” perfectly ground, prescription lenses provide the perfect dose of visual clarity.

I think that’s probably true for most of us—at least when it comes to clarity in our spiritual vision. I’m frequently in need of help with mine (and to provide a clear picture on far more important issues than polar bears vs. pale males in shorts).

But exactly where does that spiritual clarity come from? From the often mysterious #3 member of the divine trinity, of course—the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit—most of us have no idea what He does, kind of like the Vice President. However, J. D. Greear, author and pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, NC and one of my favorite preachers to stalk online, aptly refers to the Holy Spirit as “Jesus Continued” (also the title of his book, an excellent read—buy it here). Here’s what he means by that…

Jesus only had 33 years to carry out His ministry. While He definitely accomplished all He came for—that work was finished at the cross—there had to be a way for His ministry to continue without Him being here physically to train the sales force, manage the message, and oversee the marketing department.

In a perfect world, after Jesus died we would have all had the good news of the gospel flash-baked on our brains so we would just know why it was such an amazing deal; instead, God chose humans to communicate that powerful message. And as Shakespeare said, “There’s the rub,” as we beans are the most unreliable communicators on the planet.

For example…

Have you ever played the party game called “Gossip”? Everyone sits in a circle around the room and the person designated to be “it” whispers some phrase or message into the ear of the person beside them. “It” can’t repeat what he or she said—the person listening has to get it right the first time. That person then whispers what he heard into the ear of his neighbor—one time only—and that person whispers it into the ear of her neighbor… yadda, yadda, yadda.

The last person in the circle has to announce to the group the message he or she received, then “It” tells everyone what the original message was. Hilarity ensues, as it’s never anywhere close.

Maybe the original message was “Susie drives a blue Camaro,” but the last person heard, “So she fried her bloomers in the camper.”

Everyone tried to make sense of what they heard, but people were laughing and talking and passing around the chips and dip, and the person whispering the message was giggling, because midway through it sounded like, “Sushi is dried beluga caviar.”

Imagine the gospel being spread like that—by people with nothing but their human senses to assist them. With all the laughing and talking and passing around the chips and dip, “I am the way and the truth and the life” becomes “Anne Hathaway and the troops sang ‘Delilah’;” and suddenly, instead of going to heaven, everyone is going to the karaoke bar in Camp Pendleton for the next performance of “Anne and the Corps Cabaret in ‘An Evening with Tom Jones’.”

Of course, God knew this about us; He created us. Even Eve—who walked and talked with God—didn’t get the message right when she was talking to the serpent. She told him:

“God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Genesis 3:3 NIV

Ummm, no—the part in bold she just made up.

So instead of flash-baking it on our brains, God did something even better—He sent the Holy Spirit… “Jesus continued.” The Holy Spirit is the continuation of Jesus. Or, as J. D. says in the subtitle for his book, “Why the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.”

You see, while Jesus could personally preach to and teach great numbers of people during His ministry on earth, they had to be sitting there paying attention—no distractions—and remember what He taught them and be able to regurgitate it when the need arose. Otherwise, “Anne Hathaway and the troops sang ‘Delilah’.”

Plus, He had to think 2,000 years ahead, when He was gone and all those He taught personally were gone and there were new issues they didn’t have to deal with in the 1st century—issues like internet porn and gay marriage. Who was going to provide the “thou shalt nots” for those things when He wasn’t around?

As He was about to die, He prepared His disciples for how they were going to continue His ministry without Him. He told them about the Holy Spirit, reassuring them that He—Jesus—would still be providing direction by way of the Spirit:

“… the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:15  NIV

That’s a sure-fire, error-free, 4G LTE connection—from Jesus directly to you and me via an equal member of the Godhead.

And the best part is, every believer would have the Holy Spirit—Jesus continued—living within them. John confirms this:

He lives with you and will be in you. John 14:17 NIV

That’s how He provides guidance, reminds us of the way He expects us to live, and reassures us of His love and grace…

The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 NIV

(That connection is also in place for the non-believer, as well; and every now and then, when the time is right, the Spirit will IM or send a text or leave a message that the offer for salvation still stands. Those bits of targeted communication can be ignored and eventually blocked, but beware of doing that too much—you don’t want to be on that particular “Do Not Call” list…)

So God provides clarity regarding His “one or two,” perfectly ground, spiritual vision for each of us through the Holy Spirit.

How does He do that?

A friend and blog reader asked me recently how I know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to me—in particular, how did I know He wanted me to create this blog and focus my writing ability on testifying about what He’s done for me?

My answer was inspired by Henry Blackaby from his workbook, “Experiencing God,” where he writes that…

God speaks by the Holy Spirit through 1) the Bible, 2) prayer, 3) circumstances, and 4) the Church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways. (I added the numbers.)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily speak to us in all four of those ways—at least not at once—but, in my experience, I’ll get some spiritual clarity from Him via one or the other at some point in the process; maybe not as soon as I want to, but definitely when He knows I need to.

So, in response to my reader’s question, how did that play out in my starting this blog?

1) The Bible

While my weak spot in sharing the gospel has always been in my ability to do so verbally, I still wanted desperately to share what God had done for me and to, hopefully, have some small part in transforming someone’s life. Is there Biblical support for that?

Is there ever…

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14 NIV

Somebody needs to make sure they’ve heard. That could very well be me—even internationally…

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples! Psalm 96:3 NIV

…because, apparently, my little backwater blog has somehow managed to reach the nations. According to my blog stats, this year alone, I’ve had people visit my blog from the U.S., Argentina, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, China, Ireland, and Australia.

G’day, mate!

2) Prayer

I started praying about it and asked the Lord to open a door or help me know in some way if creating this blog would be His will—because there was no way I could do this without Him. But with Him?

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 1 Corinthians 2:13 NIV

Given my past, there was no way I could explain the reality of God’s saving grace—even though I had experienced it—with any authority save by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I wrote quite often about God answering prayers and providing guidance. But without those “Spirit-taught words”…Anne Hathaway and the troops…

3) Circumstances

I certainly had the desire and the passion to start this blog. I also had previous blogging experience and my regular job affords me the opportunity to write. The circumstances were all in place.

4) The Church

Mr. Blackaby clarifies that, by the Church, he means other believers. This is actually one that took a while for me to see. Back in the beginning, there may have been a stray comment or two on a blog post, but not enough to keep my jets fueled—which was OK, because I had the power source to end all power sources keeping me going.

But as time went by, more people discovered what I was doing, and I discovered how to get the word out there. The stories people have shared about a post coming just when they needed it or how they forwarded it to a friend and what their reaction was have been amazing. All I ever needed was for the Lord to say “Go,” but He’s graciously spoken through others to keep me encouraged.

But how about you…?

What is God’s vision for your life? He has one for all of us. You’re never too old or too shy or too poor or too anything (or too nothing) not to let God’s will for you play out. And don’t think God is only interested in the lofty and transcendent things—you can seek spiritual clarity for anything: a new job, a new relationship, a life change, a ministry opportunity.

God is interested and wants what’s best for you…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… Romans 8:28 NIV

Ask for a little “one or two,” perfectly ground, prescription spiritual clarity. The Spirit will let you know through the…

  1. Bible: Proverbs and Psalms are great books for Biblical, practical life advice.
  2. Prayer: Ask God to speak to you and patiently listen for that “still, small voice” when you pray.
  3. Circumstances: Do you have the ability to be a viable part of that mission team or that ministry? Do you have a desire, a passion? If the circumstances present themselves, double-check #1 and #2 and do it.
  4. The Church: Do fellow believers seem to be coming out of the woodwork with the same word of spiritual advice for you? They can’t all be wrong.

Whether through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, or other Christians, the Holy Spirit will make God’s will known to you; simply be open to what He has in store for you. (Actually, it’s not always that simple, but the rewards are worth every inconvenience, every penny, every step outside your comfort zone.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go… Psalm 32:8

And that instruction and teaching?

20/20.

• • •

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5 thoughts on “Holy Spectacles

  1. Keep up the great work, brother! I live in the Raleigh/Durham area now. I’ll have to check his church out. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Once again dear brother your words have been used by the Holy Spirit Himself to encourage and enrich me…as I am certain (and even more so after reading this post!) He does with many (if not all!) of your readers! So….how’s the book coming along???😬

    • The book is going slowly but steadily. You will hear me shouting all the way up in N. AL when it finally comes out! Thank you for your ongoing encouragement!

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