Sunday, October 31, 2010

50-20 Vision

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21, NIV)


I've needed my vision corrected for most of my life. I've done glasses, contacts, had corrective surgery, and now am back in glasses again (no, the laser surgery is not permanent for most of us). There were times my correction actually took my vision to 20-15, meaning slightly sharper than the standard we all strive for. My optometrist told me that the people working on the upcoming rounds of laser surgery are seeking for the "perfect" curve which would allow eyes to achieve 20-10 correction. I believe that's the very bottom line on the chart which says "If you can read this you probably got up out of the chair and are squinting anyway."

Then there is the vision we all look for that we like to call "hindsight". It's always perfect, or at least we pretend it is. We look back and declare "if I only did this or that, then I would be in a different situation now." But how many times do we look back and try to find what God was doing that lead us to this current time and place. Oh, we all claim to have seen His handiwork from time to time, but it is probably pretty rare in our lives that we actually take rest after the most difficult times to say that God was right there all the time and had a plan to use us in a mighty way ... a way beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

And that leads us to the passage above and the thought of "50-20 vision" that I'm writing about. Thanks to one of my cyber-friends, Gary, for posting this on a social network site. It immediately prompted me to look to Genesis and find out just what type of 50-20 vision Joseph had. It was a familiar account, but in light of the way God has prompted me to think about His Bigger Story, I knew it meant so much more.

Jacob was dead. He had at least died happy in his old age, having been restored to his precious son, Joseph. The ten conniving brothers had been provided for in the middle of their own crisis by the very brother they had shipped off for the most meager price, all while concocting a lie to tell dear old dad that would impress the best fiction writers. And with dad gone, the boys were deathly afraid that Joseph would give them what they truly deserved. The human conscience will do that to you, even if you ignore it for most of your life. And so they craft one more little story to try and safeguard their future. Though the text doesn't explicitly say it, I think Joseph saw right through this ruse, just like he saw through most of what his brothers said and did. And he quickly turns the tables, based on his 50-20 vision (as in verse 20 from chapter 50).

"You meant to harm me, but God intended it for good." The words had to seer like a hot iron through their hearts. They stood guilty, judged, and convicted of their own deceit. And without bragging, Joseph almost thanks them, because it allowed him to be God's agent to save not only them, but multitudes in that region of the world. Then he went one step further and spoke "kindly" to them, reassuring them he would make sure they continued to live in peace and prosperity for the rest of their days. Joseph's acute vision saw God's hand in the past and trusted in God's plan for the future.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I can rest in complete confidence that God is at work through me and around me. He has a master plan that will be fulfilled and He invites me to be a part of it. He alone will correct my vision so that I can see Him and His work. 50-20 vision like Joseph had is achievable, but only when I turn the work over to God and look through His eyes. Thinking about it, it brings me a great sense of peace.


  1. How's your vision right now? Are you having trouble seeing what is right in front of you, or perhaps what lead to you being where you are?
  2. Is it possible for you to get the same visual acuity that Joseph had, allowing you to see God working in you and through you?
  3. Are you ready to be God's hands, feet, and eyes in your world? Are you ready to have an impact on others even if your life seems to be headed places you never intended to go?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who Am I Really?

For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better.

For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Galatians 2:19-21; Philippians 1:20-22; Romans 8:16-18, NLT)


I've never had amnesia, nor have I known somebody who has suffered with it. I can only imagine the frustrating and debilitating nature of the disorder. In its deepest (and most rare) form, the person loses almost all links to the past and is left continually asking, "Who am I really?" It's the stuff of fiction mostly, but I think you'll agree it portrays the ultimate identity crisis and none of us would willingly wish it on another person.

I have recently finished a book about person who sought all her brief adult life to answer that golden question, "Who am I really?" Richard Schmidt compiled what must have been reams of information and spent countless hours putting together the biography he titled Little Girl Blue. The story is familiar to many, though I'd never heard all the details Schmidt brings out. The book's cover is a picture done in a shaded blue tone of pop icon Karen Carpenter. A friend of mine (thanks Mike) and fellow Carpenters fan pointed me to the book and I knew I had to read this unvarnished account of her life.

As I finished reading it, I was struck by Karen's constant search for an identity other than the one thrust upon her by her family and the music industry. She finally exerted control over one thing in her life ... and it cost her dearly. She died from heart failure brought on by her own unintentional poisoning with ipecac. Her anorexia and bulimia, which she had once used to help structure her life, had claimed the very thing she sought to preserve. Her search for her own identity had been cut short - very short in deed.

Yet control and identity are things we often seek for ourselves. Though most of us don't go to the extreme that Karen Carpenter did, we still pursue our own answers to the question of "Who am I really?" We'll try most anything, or at least consider it, and then somehow be shocked when our feeble efforts fail and we end up right back where we started. You see, the search for self-reliance must always end this way. God never intended for us to be self-reliant at all. He wants us to find our identity in His provision of Christ and the finished work on the Cross. In fact, as Paul noted, we are to consider ourselves crucified with Christ and loudly proclaim that He is the only reason for living, as it is He who truly give Life.

What an excellent promise we can claim because our identity is bound up in Christ! We have been granted the position of joint heirs ... legally declared equal in status with our Divine Brother and inheritors that Divine Treasure without any reservation. In the mystery that is His vicarious death for us, we are afforded the opportunity to cast away our own sense of self-identification and take full stock in His identity as sons and daughters of the Holy One. Never again need we puzzle at the question "Who am I really?" The Answer was shouted out at Calvary and is ours for the asking.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I know that to have true identity and individuality means to give up my own ideal and cast everything I have and am in with Christ. In doing that, I can confidently say that I am an image-bearer of God and an eternal brother of the One who gave it all up for me. No more searching; no more uncertainty. My steps quicken and my heart fills with those thoughts. I am God's child ... pure and simple!


  1. Do you find yourself suffering an identity crisis? Have you somehow lost sight of the One in whom you will find your true self?
  2. Have you grown tired of the constant struggle to prove yourself, the battle to assert your own will upon a difficult and cruel world? What would it feel like to rest from all that?
  3. Does the concept of being the brother or sister of Christ somehow seem unreachable or foreign to you? What is it going to take for you to stop searching on your own and give it all over to your Divine Big Brother? He is more than capable of handling it, you know.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Searching for Help in All the Wrong Places

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, ESV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. (Isaiah 31:1, NIV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, NASV)

What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 31:1, NLT)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1, NKJV)

Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking that horses can help them, impressed by military mathematics, awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders - and to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God. (Isaiah 31:1, The Message)

How terrible it will be for those people who go down to Egypt for help. They think horses will save them. They think their many chariots and strong horsemen will save them. But they don't trust God, the Holy One of Israel, or ask the Lord for help. (Isaiah 31:1, NCV)


Several years ago, when traveling home from a family trip, we had an incident with our camping trailer that sticks with me to this day. We were in the middle lane of the Interstate with a significant amount of traffic on either side of us. The lug studs on one trailer tire all sheared at once, causing the wheel and our vehicle/trailer tandem to go their separate ways. I can only attribute it to God that we were able to get over to the right lane, up an exit ramp, and stopped safely with no injury to us, no significant damage to the trailer, and no reports of the "dearly departed wheel" hitting anyone else. Oh, and it was a single-axle trailer, which made things all the more interesting.

Once we had regained whatever composure we could and tried to think about what to do next. We were due to stop soon, but without the trailer available to us, we'd need to make alternate plans. Part of what we did involved calling the insurance company who provided our trailer and road hazard insurance. After a series of calls, the representative arranged with a local towing company to come get our trailer - and it took two trucks to get the job done. Here, God also provided what I can only term a pair of "angels" in a couple who had the trailer deposited in their driveway, saw we found our way to a motel for the night, and repaired the wheel with the spare the next morning. Considering I never saw a bill from the towing company, we were only out the cost of the motel and a little more time than we planned on taking for that brief overnight stop.

This story came to mind as I thought of the single verse quoted in this entry. The verse was brought to my attention by someone who noted he had read it as the first verse of a daily passage and never gotten any further. The words had a huge impact on Tim, and he just couldn't continue. He shared the verse on a social media site and I began looking it up in multiple translations.

The meaning of the words - the near heart-breaking statement from God - hit home. Unlike the incident I described where I called the "appropriate" agency for assistance, we too often face life's trials without turning to God at the very first. Just like Israel when the Assyrians were knocking on their door, we look to Egypt because they appear strong, sleek, and well-positioned to help. And God weeps over His children who don't seek him, don't even give him a glance or a prayer.

As I travel this Crooked Path, I need to constantly remind myself that God wants to be my first resource. He has provided in so many ways at so many times and He is always ready to hear my plea for help. As I noted a few entries back, we have a Tireless Advocate. Our God never tires of us and will never turn us away. That's a comforting thought and very reassuring.


  1. Who or what do you turn to when you see trouble approaching? Or, in a more basic question that might require a deeper answer, who do you trust to provide for you?
  2. Have you found yourself trying to work out your life by yourself, or planning some route of escape without consulting God? Can you imagine how God feels when you do that?
  3. Will you make a fresh commitment now to seek God first, to give Him far more than just a passing glance? Can you trust Him to provide the rescue or relief you so desperately need?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The "In" Crowd

You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that — count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — give a cheer, even! — for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. (Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, The Message)


I would wager there was a time in your life when you really wanted to be part of a certain group. Whatever they did, whoever they were was something appealing to you, if only for the briefest of times. In the end, it may have even been the exclusivity that drew you far more than any other element of that group. You just wanted to be part of the "in" crowd. Nothing else would do.

I've been part of groups where admittance was only by audition or invitation. If the groups were "legitimate" ones (meaning not in existence just for the sake of their own exclusivity and the demeaning of others who were not a part of their special circle), there is a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with being "in". The call from the choir director asking you to bring your voice to the group. The letter from that particular school announcing your admission. The call from across the room leading to a conversation telling you that you are now part of some fraternity or group.

God also has an "in" crowd, though most of us might not think of it that way. Both Matthew and Paul, in writing the passages here, speak of it very specific terms. This last grouping from the Beatitudes in Matthew tells us of the blessing that is to come because we are persecuted for our participation in what God calls "right". It draws us deeper into the Kingdom life and way of thinking, calling us to speak up even when it makes others uncomfortable. It calls us into the company of great saints from ages past who have "always gotten into this kind of trouble" and tells us that the very hosts of Heaven cry out in rejoicing when it happens. In fact, we should be expecting persecution to be the "baseline" of our existence. After all, if we are projecting God's light into a dark world, they most likely won't be very happy about it. Much to the contrary, they will fight us and even curse us because of what we represent.

And then there is Paul's perspective on it as he writes to the Corinthian church. He notes that God, in His generosity, has included us in His plan and supports us in a way that we don't have to worry about growing faint of body or heart. We are invited to be open, honest, and sincere as we call out God's message of love that leads others to Kingdom living. We don't lose heart or threaten to "walk off the job" either. Instead, we drop our masks, cease playing games, and represent God as He truly is! We reflect the Truth without twisting the message.

There is a catch, however. Living this kind of life consistently will put us in a position to be persecuted. And, while that really doesn't sound appealing to my human side, God has promised both in these verses and throughout His story that living that kind of life is the one that leads to His blessing ... both now and forever. The Crooked Path is just that ... crooked! And it is crooked by design so that I will stop worrying about it and look to the One who sustains me and orders my steps. He has included me with His "in" crowd and I should do everything I can to show others just how great that experience really is. In doing so, I don't respond in fear of possible persecution; I respond in love and service to God and those around me.


  1. So, what have you done in your life lately that might be worthy of bringing you persecution? And odd question, but isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?
  2. Are you longing to belong "somewhere"? Have you considered that God has an "in" crowd made up of some pretty spectacular servants?
  3. Are you willing to drop your mask, stop playing games, and be an honest reflection of the Savior you claim to serve? Wouldn't life be far less stressful if that's the way we lived it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Tireless Advocate

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (Psalm 121:1-4; 1 John 2:1-2, ESV)


A few times in my younger years, I attended parties that lasted all night long. They were the typical thing where we were "locked in" one of the buildings at church (though we all knew anybody could have sneaked off if he or she really wanted to do so). There would be games, competitions, food and, most importantly, no sleeping of any kind. He who was caught napping somewhere was to be awakened with a bath of ice-cold water. All great fun, but I also recall it took the entire next day or so to recover and feel "normal" once again.

I've also taken a few of those all-night drives where you press on to a destination stopping only briefly for food or gas ... and you'd better take care of any other necessary stuff on one of those stops as well. No cell phones back in the dark ages and tape decks in the car if we were lucky, so you had to keep each other awake and only take your turn napping when you were in the back seat shift of the rotation. Looking back, those kind of trips hardly seem worth missing the sleep just to get somewhere a couple of hours earlier. Let's face it, we just can't go without sleep for very long.

In my recent quest to enter into God's grander story, I began thinking about this and the two passages quoted here came to mind. I know I often rail against taking short passages and proof-texting ideas, but I think the marriage here is warranted. The Psalmist is writing a passage of great comfort for Israel. He is telling them in no uncertain terms that God, the Creator, is the source of all their health, help, and strength. And they can rely on Him not to fall down on the job or go off napping and forget about them even for a little while. It even brings another story to mind where Elijah is taunting the Baal prophets about their god going on a trip or being asleep. But the idea is very clear - the God of the Universe is active and watchful at all times.

Skipping ahead to the passage by John, we find the Beloved Apostle writing comforting words to his people just like the Psalmist. He's encouraging them to live a pure life, one committed to Christ. He wants them to live in such a way as to work against sin in their own lives. And then he gives them the great hope of an Advocate who will not hold anything against them because of the provision He made at the Cross. Our Divine Brother is ever an Advocate for us, reminding, as it were, the Just Father that He has already paid the price for everything we did or will ever do. He is our Mediator and Intercessor, the Completer of our justification. And, as God Himself, He never sleeps or slumbers either.

Think of it! A Tireless Advocate who is always working on our behalf. Never sleeping, never missing a beat, never absent even for a fraction of a second! As I began letting these thoughts sink in, I felt the rush of God's love once again, falling fresh on me. In a world where so much is missed or overlooked, Jesus has promised to be a ready Advocate at every moment. It almost makes my brain hurt to think about it.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I will stumble and fall ... quite often, in fact. That's the very nature of being human and living in a fallen world. But as I get back up, I feel the supportive hand on my shoulder of my Savior who loved me enough to die for me, and I hear Him gently say, "Forget about it. It's all been taken care of. I already spoke with the Father and We agree it's covered." Then, hand in hand, we continue the journey He has planned. Me and my Tireless Advocate - together to the end.


  1. Do you somehow think God has fallen asleep at the wheel based on what you see going on around you? How does that make you react when you feel hemmed in?
  2. Taking that a little farther, do you really buy into the idea of God watching over you every minute of every day? What about Jesus standing simultaneously by your side and God's being your Advocate?
  3. Do you really see Jesus as your Divine Brother, one who has gone through everything you are experiencing, and one who is always on your side? Can you imagine the freedom if you did?