“Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.” Psalm 123:1 (NKJV)
Say what?!?! No, that’s not some new sort of language used for this post’s title. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s “my way of thinking” literally turned upside down. After all, when you’re in a relationship with Jesus, the One who has come to set captives like you and me free, our priorities and perspectives, our very way of thinking, are going to be shaken up.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;” Luke 4:18 (NKJV) (note: see also Isaiah 61:1)
Sam Cooke may not have been singing about Jesus in his old song, “A Change Gonna Come,” but the lyrics are spot-on in this case because change is guaranteed when He is involved in your life. It’s inescapable given the vast differences between a holy, just, loving, and infinite God, our Creator, and ourselves, His created, His children.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)
If you’re at all like me, then more times than I’d like to admit, I need to be reminded I do not always see things as clearly as I think I do. In short, I am wholly unqualified to be a measuring stick, and that most notably so when I’m the one in need of measurement. That True North Measuring Yardstick position thankfully lies solely and rightfully with the Lord, who is holy qualified.
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2 (NKJV)
A case in point about our eyes being fallible is this post’s photo. There’s more going on with this picture than you might first guess. All is not as it initially appears. Why would I say that? Well, that’s because both this post’s title and the photo are upside down.
You may be surprised to learn that this photograph captures a reflection in the water. I flipped the image around so it would look right-side-up for this post. Those of you who took a second look at the snapshot before you started reading might have already figured that out. Suddenly those strange, concentric rings in the sky begin to make a lot more sense once you realize they’re not some freak weather phenomenon but instead are ripples on the water’s surface.
All this to say the obvious: we are prone to make snap, incorrect analyses and judgments. Why? Because we unreasonably trust ourselves to a fault, which often leads us to unknowingly not seeing things as they are. Now that’s a scary thought when you stop and think about it. So, what are we to do? Where is hope to be found for our blurry, and at times all-together blind understanding?
“We must rely on the mercy of the only One who is able to turn all that is upside down right side up.” Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
When my wayward reasoning sails headlong into the incalculably higher and perfectly pure ways and thoughts of the Rock of Ages, Jesus, a transformative change in my way of thinking occurs.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)
Growing up, we quickly learn to avoid collisions with rocks as much as possible. However, colliding with Jesus is the most significant, life-changing impact with a Rock that we will ever experience in our lives. This remarkable journey begins when we first believe and claim Him as our Savior transporting us from being spiritually dead to alive. Having welcomed us into His Kingdom, He then continuously refines us throughout our lifetimes. Knowing and being known by Jesus guarantees we will undergo much-needed changes in our understanding and thus in our actions. We are, after all, as followers of Jesus, His ongoing works in progress in this life. Can I get a joyful hallelujah?
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NKJV)
Let me share a story that turned my thinking on its head and, in doing so, revealed the unobstructed, breathtaking view that exists far above the treeline of my limited understanding.
A couple of years ago, a vacationing family lost their dog not far from where I live. Somehow the dog managed to escape from the house they were renting, and he was gone before they knew what had happened. They and a good number of newly met neighbors spent the remainder of their vacation week desperately searching for him. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the dog remained on the loose, and at the end of the week, the owners reluctantly and tearfully had no choice but to make the long drive back home a few states away without their beloved pet.
About a month after the fact, I spotted one of their “lost dog” flyers at a local store that told their sad story about what had happened. Animal lover that I am, I immediately empathized with their painful circumstances. What did I do about it? Well, I got in my car and searched through the area where the dog had last been spotted, of course. I did that several times over the next week, all to no avail.
It turns out that, like the upside-down photo, there was more to this adventure than I ever first imagined or understood. As a child of God, why would one expect anything else?
“Notice that in the tales told in Scripture, whenever God gets hold of a man he takes that man into an adventure of the first order.” John Eldredge, Fathered By God
Although I didn’t find the lost dog I was searching for, I did discover something else was also missing. Or, rephrased, what was initially lost was not found, but something else of great importance was found to be lost along the way.
During what turned out to be my last drive-around looking for the off-course dog, I was interrupted by a profound thought that welled up seemingly out of nowhere. Like a late September gust of wind, it stripped the leaves of my wayward point of view from their branches, saying, “It’s good that your compassion compelled you to search for this family’s lost pet. If only you were as passionate about sharing Jesus with people.” And in that instant, I knew that, like the lost dog, I was also wandering far from home.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (NKJV)
Indeed, when was the last time I’d been sincerely concerned enough about a person’s spiritual condition that I jumped into action as I did for this lost pet? Sadly, I couldn’t remember such a time. Confronted by such an indisputable truth, how do you respond? My reply then, as it still is today in the midst of sharing this story with you, is one with bowed head in humble silence.
Please understand I’m not saying that my feelings for this lost dog were wrong because they weren’t. That is not the reason I’m telling you all of this. Like I’ve already said, searching for the dog was about so much more than what it appeared to be. Instead, I’m relaying this story to highlight a change that I needed to make. In short, my eyes were opened to truths about myself that I’d been blind to for far too long.
“A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin
Throughout the majority of my life, I was reclusive when it came to sharing my faith. My search for the dog aimed a spotlight directly into that dark and all-too silent corner of myself. I searched for the lost dog by myself, involved no one else, and frankly was comfortable keeping it that way. Upon hearing that declaration, my former overly-reserved spiritual self would assuredly observe, “If it’s true that no man is an island, then I am a peninsula.”
But, if keeping Jesus to myself was acceptable, why was I being encouraged to be passionate about sharing Him? The heat from the friction between these two opposite positions demanded an answer to this question. The Bible has something to say about this issue, of course.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
Matthew 28:19-20 made me feel incredibly uncomfortable for practically as long as I can remember. Why? Well, because instead of enthusiastically pursuing Jesus’s clearly stated mission, I found myself wanting to run away and hide.
The truth is my detached attitude existed because I was afraid. The fear that gripped me found its roots in thoughts and feelings I instinctively knew were wrong, yet it still bound and restrained me in its chains. Yes, you can call them strongholds over me if you like.
I can relate to Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus just before His crucifixion. As undeniably awful as Peter’s failure was, at least his actions occurred because he believed his life was in jeopardy. Sadly, my withdrawal was the product of much lesser reasoning and motivation than that.
Embarrassingly, the first reason I was afraid to share Jesus was for no more cause other than what others might think or say. My upbringing resulted in my thinking that personal faith in Christ was indeed precisely that, private, meaning I’m to keep it to myself, period. Growing up and for a long time afterward, I made it a point to avoid becoming one of “those” people who injected themselves and their faith into situations and onto people without a personal invitation to do so. And if you would please make that a written invitation, so much the better. Silence in this matter was considered a golden virtue.
Secondly, I had bought into the mistaken notion that I should remain silent because I lacked the necessary qualifications to voice my faith. Perhaps a sample of some of my reasoning will sound familiar to you: I have no formal Christian education; I don’t know the Bible as well as I should; I don’t know how to present the Gospel smoothly and clearly; I have no business sharing Jesus with anybody because I’ve made lots of my own mistakes along the way; What if I mess up and get it wrong?
When combined, these misconceptions successfully kept me locked away in the dark. I accepted these lies as truth for years and saw myself as someone who had no business sharing my faith. Thinking like this, I was held captive on an endless merry-go-round of self-fulfilling prophecy going nowhere.
But then an unexpected rescue happened in the middle of my search for the lost dog. Abruptly awakened from the hypnotic trance of the lies, I was finally ready to get off this spinning ride that had kept me dizzy and off-balance for far too long. But, how?
“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
The author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, says, “instead of focusing on a goal you want to achieve, focus on the identity you want to have.” Hmmmm. My goal is to share my faith. What if I were to readjust my focus from what I want to accomplish to who I want to be? Better still, let’s take that thought a significant step further: What if I began to see myself as He sees me?
The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity. Neil T. Anderson
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (NKJV)
He says I am His child. And so are you, my brother and sister in Christ!
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. “ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
Studying His Word qualifies me as His approved worker. And you as well!
“So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (NKJV)
He sees me as a voice, a herald, for Him. And you likewise!
“Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6 (NKJV)
“Christ is mine, and I am His” is the one essential attribute I must have that empowers me to share Him with others. And you are no different!
“that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3b (ESV)
He has firmly planted me in Christ’s righteousness for His glory. And you, too!
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
I am to have Christ’s mind that is concerned about others as well as myself. And so are you!
It is Jesus’s remarkable healing touch, strength, and purpose that graciously calls and enables us to travel roads that were previously unfamiliar to us. Gone are the dead-end streets of our choosing, and wide-open are the roads unlike any others with an extraordinary view of life in all directions of His choosing.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27 (NKJV)
As we walk these roads, we are to share His life with others we meet along the way who are lost as we, too, once were lost.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (NKJV)
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
No doubt all you pet lovers are probably wondering whatever became of the lost dog. Six months after he first went missing, a full-page article in the local newspaper happily reported a most unlikely reunion between the dog and his family thanks to the tireless efforts of concerned neighbors who refused to give up hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)
I’m humbly and gratefully overwhelmed as I reflect on this entire story’s most unlikely unfolding. What began as a seemingly “no-big-deal” decision to search for a lost dog turned into an extraordinary adventure of significance concerning a missing, critical aspect of my walk with Jesus that I never saw coming.
Jesus turned my thinking on its head thanks to a stunning, unanticipated plot twist. Never in a million years did I think when I began looking for the lost dog that Jesus was simultaneously looking for a lost part of me. Like those neighbors who never gave up on finding the missing dog, He never gave up on that missing piece of me, a rescue that was years in the making. And friend, He’s not given up on you either, no matter how far from home you’ve wandered, no matter what part of you is missing. Even now Jesus is calling out to you. Do you hear Him?
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 (NKJV)
Pray with me, please…
Lord, encourage and lead us to ask You to do the impossible, the unlikely, the unanticipated, the out-of-the-ordinary in the ordinary of our lives, even in areas where we are blind or only dimly see. Turn our world, our thinking, upside down with Your truth so that we rightly see according to Your ways and not ours. May we always know that Your plans and intentions for us are good, and our future is full of hope because of Your loving presence and sovereignty. Let the life-transforming ripples of Your love and kindness cause us to walk in the newness of life that only You can provide and, in turn, lovingly share Your good news with others so that they, too, can experience Your life-giving freedom. We humbly thank You and praise You for Your longsuffering, Your mercy, Your grace, Your unwillingness to leave us as You found us. Oh Lord, we were indeed lost, and we knew it not, but now we are found, safe and secure in Your strong and loving arms. Thank You for calling us to experience and to share all Your higher ground has to offer. We ask all of this in Your Son’s name, our precious Savior, Jesus. Amen.”
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
Yes indeed, You most certainly have, Lord! And we are grateful!
Todd Agnew, “Grace Like Rain” from the album “Grace Like Rain.”