Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Luke 15:11–31

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky was twenty-eight when he was arrested for his vocal opposition of Tsarist Russia.

Sentenced to death by firing squad, Dostoyevsky was on the scaffold, soldiers with muskets at shoulder, when the execution was stayed. Tsar Nicolas I had commuted his sentence to ten years of exile, four of them in the prison camp in Omsk, Siberia.

At a way station en route to Omsk, a woman slipped a small New Testament into his hand. During his exile, “he studied the precious volume from cover to cover, pondered every word; learned much of it by heart,” said his daughter. “Throughout his life, he could never be without his old prison Testament, the faithful friend that had consoled him in the darkest hours of his life. He always took it with him on his travels and kept it in a drawer in his writing-table, within reach of his hand.”

The Parable of the Prodigal Son touched him deeply. That story, above all others, revealed to him the heart of the Father. Even in the dismal environment of Siberian exile, he wrote: “God gives me moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and know that I am loved.”

The prison was unimaginably depressing. “In the summer it is unbearably hot,” he said; “in the winter unbearably cold. All the boards are rotten. On the ground filth lies an inch thick . . . The small windows are so frozen over . . . the ice on the panes is three inches thick. We are packed like herrings in a barrel. The atmosphere is intolerable: the prisoners stink like pigs: there are vermin by the bushel: we sleep upon bare boards.”

No wonder the Parable of the Prodigal Son impressed him: Siberia was his far country; the prison his pig pen. “It was amidst those stern and awful solitudes that he, a homesick and penitent Prodigal, found the road that leads to the Father’s house,” wrote F.W. Boreham.

In all of Dostoyevsky’s books, there are references to the words of that worn New Testament in which he discovered the Father’s love for his wayward children.

In her book about her father, Aimee Dostoyevsky told how his wife, Anna, knew when he was near death. The children gathered. “Taking our hands in his,” she wrote, “he had my mother read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.” With faltering voice, she read the story from the faded and tattered Testament that had been his constant comfort and companion.

“My children,” he said, “never forget what you have just heard. Have absolute faith in God and never despair of His pardon. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing compared with the love of God. Even if you should commit some dreadful crime, never despair of God. You are His children; humble yourselves before Him, implore His pardon, and He will rejoice over your repentance, as the father rejoiced over that of the Prodigal Son.”

A few minutes later, at 8:38, he died quietly, holding Anna’s hand.

Author Susan Hill noted the time of his death—8:38—and said, “Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Romans 8:38 says: ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

Ralph Connor, in Sky Pilot, tells of a young man who deserted his Christian home in Scotland and beat a path to a far country of sin and shame. As he lay dying an early death due to his debauchery, he read a letter from his mother that had come to him that day. It ended: “And oh! Davie laddie, if ever your heart should turn homeward, remember the door stands widely open.”

That is the touching message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son: the loving Father keeps the door widely open, and the angels of God gather to joyfully welcome the prodigal who repents and returns.

Where Is the Lamb?

Jun
2017
03

William Cowper had a miserable childhood. His mother, his sole source of comfort, died when he was six, and he was hustled off to a boarding school where he was mercilessly bullied.

Cowper felt the guilt of sin more than most. By the time he reached his mid-twenties, he was so conscience-stricken that he twice attempted suicide. “My sin! My sin! Oh, for some fountain open for my cleansing!” he cried. He had heard of such a fountain, but couldn’t find it. He had heard of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but couldn’t find him.

One morning he picked up a Bible from his table, randomly opened it and read: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins . . .” (Rom 3:24–25).

“If the love of God be so great as to provide the lamb in the person of his son,” Cowper reasoned, “how could he be eager for the condemnation of sinners?”

His long-sought fountain was found. The Word had led him to the Lamb. Thus he wrote:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Destination: Mount Moriah. Abraham carried the fire and the knife. Isaac carried the wood, but saw something was missing: “Father . . . The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

“Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him . . . ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy . . . Do not do anything to him’” (Gn 22:9–12).

For centuries, the question that must have bewildered believers was, “Where is the lamb?”

Multiplied thousands of animal sacrifices were offered, but worshipers knew they weren’t enough, for if they had been, there would have been a cessation of sacrifices. But there was no cessation; sacrifices had to be repeatedly offered, for the blood of animals could never permanently take away sin.

Then one day, a man sent from God appeared proclaiming the coming of Christ. When he saw Jesus he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

Three years after that, soldiers tramped the Via Dolorosa with spears and swords, mallets and nails, an altar . . . and the Lamb. On the very mountain of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of his only son, God’s total-sacrifice of his only son was underway.

Where is the Lamb?

There! Stretched out on that cross-shaped altar.

No last-minute angelic intervention; no stay of execution.

We—you and I—are in the execution-chamber witness gallery. We see him as he looks at us and mouths the words, “This is how much I love you—I am doing this for you.” The Lamb is sacrificed for sin—our sin—once for all.

Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

Matthew 5:13-16

You—yes, you—are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Jesus did not say become the salt of the earth; he said you are the salt of the earth. He did not say become the light of the world; he said you are the light of the world.

Salt of the Earth

Salt adds flavor; without it food is bland. Our lives—as salt—should present Christianity as delightful, not distasteful; desirable, not disagreeable.

Before refrigeration, salt was used primarily as a preservative—rubbed into meat and fish to prevent decay and rottenness. We—as salt—should be antitoxins in a world gone rotten; having a purifying and curative influence.

Light of the World

Light dispels darkness. John introduced Jesus to the world as “The light [that] shines in the darkness” (Jn 1:5). Jesus commissioned his disciples to reflect his light: to be the light of the world.

Christians not only carry the light, they are the light. It’s sobering to realize that those living in darkness judge Christianity, not by the gospel, but by Christians.

Paul described Christians as those who “shine like stars in the dark world” (Phil 2:15). Bible commentator John Stott wrote, “I sometimes think how splendid it would be if non-Christians, curious to discover the secret and source of our light, were to enquire:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

The Rest of the Story

Jesus said if salt loses its saltiness it is useless; if light is hidden, it is worthless.

We are the salt of the earth. But whether we give favorable flavor and leave people with a pleasant taste in their mouth about Christianity is a choice we make. Whether we are a preservative to stanch the decay of society is a choice we make.

Salt can lose its saltiness; can become contaminated by mixture with impure ingredients so that it becomes useless. When Christians become tainted by the impurities of the world they lose their saltiness, their influence; when they become indistinguishable from the world, they become useless.

We are the light of the world. But whether we shine the light or hide the light is a choice we make.

“[P]eople don’t hide a light under a bowl,” Jesus said; “They put it on a lampstand so the light shines . . .” (NCV). Light hidden under a bowl (bushel) is worthless. If we hide our light, we simply become part of the darkness.

We would do well to revisit the Bible School days of our youth . . .

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine . . .
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine.

We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. Those are Jesus-stated facts. What we do as salt and light is the rest of the story . . . those are the chapters we’re writing.

My song leader and I were perched on the front pew, prepared to lead the congregation in song and sermon after communion, which was being served from the platform seven steps up.

Beginning his descent with trays of filled cups, our server tripped and launched into a headfirst dive, zeroing in on two petrified parsons and a cluster of die-hard down-fronters.

Nothing damages dignity like taking a tumble. Just ask someone who’s doused a half-dozen communicants with grape juice with two thousand pairs of eyes watching.

Stumbles of a more serious sort aren’t uncommon among God’s chosen: think King David, or the apostle Peter.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of David? His character collapsing blunder with Bathsheba? Did that end his story? By no means! There are 150 psalms in your Bible; David wrote half of them. God said of him: “I have found David . . . a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Peter? His weak-kneed, triple denial of Jesus? Did that end his story? By no means! He was the keynote speaker on Pentecost, was chosen by God to open the door of the kingdom to Gentiles, and wrote two of the letters in your New Testament. Peter refused to live out his life in the shadow of shame.

Biblical portraits of its characters are painted just as they were: no stumble, scar, or sin—however distasteful or disappointing—is airbrushed out. There they are, failing and falling in full view of their peers and all future generations.

But their get-up-and-get-back-on-track deeds are there too. Their flubs are mid-story, not end-story.

Spiritual stumbles can be devastating. But stumbling is a stubborn fact of life. It happens. Have you ever tripped and taken a tumble? Sure you have. You wish like crazy you hadn’t done what you did. But you did . . . and now you have to deal with it.

How?

Deal with it like David did: regret it, repent of it, and confess it.

When David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord,” the immediate response of God’s prophet was, “The Lord has taken away your sin” (2 Sm 12:13). God fast tracks forgiveness of the penitent.

If you need a prayer-starter after a mess up, David left this one for you:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (Ps 51:1–2, 9).

Deal with your sin like Peter did: face your failure, repent of it, and devote the rest of your life to uncompromising faith in the Savior.

When many of Jesus’ disciples began deserting him, he asked the twelve, “Do you want to leave, too?” Peter said, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One from God” (Jn 6:68–69 NCV).

The Lord honors your faith, notwithstanding your failings. Never forget that. When you trip up, rush back in resolute faith, leaning full weight on this promise of Jesus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (Jn 6:47 NKJV).

God has never used anyone who hasn’t stumbled, for “We all stumble in many ways” (Jas 3:2).

Nor has God ever used anyone who, after stumbling, didn’t get up and give it another go.

You are living well when . . .

. . . You let go of the past, enjoy the present, and face the future with faith.

. . . You focus on your responsibilities instead of your rights.

. . . You map your course thoughtfully, knowing that reputation is easier retained than recovered.

. . . You don’t do it if you feel a need to hide it.

. . . You cultivate conscience, certain that there is no right way to do a wrong thing.

. . . You “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prv 3:5).

. . . You remember that nothing big ever results from being little.

. . . You “treat others as you want them to treat you” (Lk 6:31).

. . . You “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).

. . . You nourish your faith, confident that when you feed faith, fear starves.

. . . You avoid procrastination, aware that you never finish what you never start.

. . . You embrace today as a new beginning, mindful that yesterday died last night.

. . . You control your emotions, understanding that your mood is not determined by circumstances, but by how you react to circumstances.

. . . You realize that something needs to be done that won’t be done unless you do it.

. . . You live optimistically, assured that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all [you] ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within [you]” (Eph 3:20).

. . . You affirm that God has made you good at something, and live in confidence “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil 1:6).

. . . You comprehend that happiness comes not from the goods you have, but from the good you do.

. . . You know that the greatest is not the one who is served, but the one who serves (Mt 20:26–27).

. . . You cultivate the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

. . . You understand that you can’t change everything you face, but that you can’t change anything until you face it.

. . . You jettison pessimism, realizing that negative thoughts never produce positive results.

. . . You don’t let a failure define you, refusing to allow “I failed” (an event) to become “I’m a failure” (an identity).

. . . You reject the impulse to let your attitudes and actions be dictated by the attitudes and actions of others.

. . . You don’t get so wrapped up in what you are against that no one knows what you are for.

. . . You refuse to poison today by worrying about tomorrow.

. . . You “cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7).

. . . You learn from the past, but turn thumbs down on letting it define your future.

Live well, my friend.

All Alone

Feb
2017
04

It was a beautifully manicured patch of green in Llano Cemetery, where the county buried its unknown dead.

Who was “Infant Lara” I wondered, and why did she die alone?

And why did he whose bones were beneath the stone that said “Unknown” die alone?

I had been called to say words over another unknown. It was just me, a mortuary employee, and the deceased. Nothing was known about him. Not even his name. No known family or friend. He died all alone.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In Gethsemane Jesus “began to be filled with horror and deep distress” (Mk 14:33). “My soul is crushed with grief,” he said to his three closest friends.

Was it because he knew that Judas, having sold out to his enemies, was on his way to deliver him to them? Or because he knew that all his disciples would soon forsake him? Or because he knew that Peter would deny him before the night was over? Or because he knew that the Sanhedrin would condemn him, Pilate would sentence him, and soldiers would flog, taunt, and crucify him?

Perhaps.

But Bible scholar R.C.H. Lenski demurs: “We should not think that the rapid approach of physical suffering and death brought on this agony in Jesus’ soul. . . . the battle that Jesus fights in this hour he must of necessity fight alone.”

The Savior was being driven into isolation.

In times of fear and anxiety, we want someone to share the burden. When awaiting the surgeon’s verdict, we need company.

Jesus wanted—needed—companionship in these final hours. He asked Peter, James, and John, to stay close and keep vigil with him as he withdrew deeper into the garden to pray. When he returned, “They did not know what to say to him” (Mk 14:40), for they had neither watched nor prayed—they had slept.

“I have trodden the winepress alone . . . I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support” (Is 63:3, 5).

Betrayed by one disciple, forsaken by ten, and publicly renounced by another, he was all alone when he was led away to trials, floggings, and death.

Peter had reminded Jesus that they had left everything to follow him (Mk 10:28). Now they had left him. Maybe this was his deepest distress; when he needed them most they deserted him.

“You will leave me all alone,” he had told them. “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Soon he would lose even this, culminating in his agonizing shriek, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

His separation from God can be fathomed only by awareness of the nature of sin. Sin cuts the sinner off from God: “Your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you” (Is 59:2).

It was our iniquities that caused Jesus’ separation from God, for he took our sins upon himself (Is 53:6). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). “He changed places with us and put himself under that curse” (Gal 3:13 NCV).

The overwhelming grief of the Savior was the agony of being abandoned by those he loved; bearing the burden alone.

Alone he faced his enemies. Alone he faced his trials. Alone he faced flogging. Alone he faced taunting. Alone he faced suffering. Alone he faced death.

He faced it all alone, so that in life and in death we don’t have to.

Pause Points

Jan
2017
07

A Pause Point is where you deliberately call a time out to think about what you are about to say or do before you say it or do it.

OK, here we go—seven Pause Point questions to ask before you speak and seven to ask before you act.

Pause Point Questions Before You Speak

Mom told you to think before you speak, right?

Digital media has added another layer to speech. James said the tongue is like a fire. Today so is the keyboard. There are no do-overs; once you’ve said it or written it you can’t reel in back in. So before you text, tweet, post on Facebook, or fire off that email, take a Pause Point break.

You’ve been hurt, offended, mistreated, and you’re hotter’n a microwave. You’re not going to take it anymore; you’re going to give the jerk a piece of your mind.

Before you do, punch the pause button and measure what you’re about to say by one or more of the following Pause Point questions.

•  Is this a loving thing to say?
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14).

•  Is this a godly thing to say?
“May the words of my mouth . . . be pleasing in your sight, O Lord” (Ps 19:14).

•  Is this an honest thing to say?
“Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly, and don’t let your lips talk deviously” (Prv 4:24).

•  Is this a kind thing to say?
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue . . . your religion is worthless” (Jas 1:26).

•  Is this a helpful thing to say?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Eph 4:29).

•  Is this a gracious thing to say?
“Let your speech always be gracious” (Eph 4:6).

•  Is this a timely thing to say?
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jas 1:19).

Pause Point Questions Before You Act

You’re facing a “Do I?” or “Don’t I?” decision. It may be about spending, temptation, habit, gratification, or dealing with another person.

Put your finger on the pause button—take a breather and ask the appropriate Pause Point question or questions from the list below before pulling the trigger.

•  Is this the right thing to do?
“Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27).

•  Is this a wise use of my time and resources?
“Teach us to use wisely all the time we have” (Ps 90:12).

•  Is this going to move me in the wrong direction?
“Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thes 5:22).

•  Is this going to be something I will regret?
“Say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions . . . live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Ti 2:12).

•  Is this going to damage my reputation?
“A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold” (Prv 22:1).

•  Is this going to affect anyone else?
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom 13:10).

•  Is this something my Father will approve?
“Live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord in every way” (Col 1:10).

Asking Pause Point questions will help you decide whether to act, react, or refrain.

No Room for Gloom

Dec
2016
03

The bigwigs huddled in secret, hatching a plan to arrest and kill Jesus. But they had a problem: pilgrims were pouring into Jerusalem by the tens of thousands to observe Passover, and they were in a frenzy of excitement about Jesus.

Jesus had to be eliminated. “‘But not during the Feast,’ they whispered, ‘or there may be a riot.’” They would wait until the pilgrims went home; then do their dirty work.

Not so fast! Jesus told his disciples that he would be handed over to be crucified during the Feast of Passover.

“Not during the Feast,” said the schemers.

“During the Feast,” said the Lord.

So it happened during the Feast, for what the Lord decrees is certain to occur.

Sometimes we’re on pins and needles because God’s way doesn’t appear to be the winning way. When Eve fell for Satan’s lie it seemed that Old Scratch had won. But God decreed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head . . . ” (Gen. 3:15). God decreed it; the cross and the empty tomb fulfilled it.

Spear in hand, Saul said, “I’ll pin David to the wall” (1 Sam. 18:10). But God decreed that Saul was to be dethroned and David enthroned: “Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam.7:16). Jesus, as David’s descendent, was to reign on his throne forever (Isa. 9:7). The angel said to Mary: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . . his kingdom will never end” (Lk. 1:32–33).

Oops! On a fateful Friday Jesus was hanging on a cross instead of sitting on a throne. Satan had won. But no! God disarmed the powers and authorities, “triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15); routing the Prince of Darkness “by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:10, 11).

All power and authority in both heaven and earth is his.

Mortals ascend to high office, flex their muscles and brandish their power—but only briefly. Before long their term ends and they are swept out of office and into the dumpster of history. As J.B. Phillips advised, “Remember that the powers-that-be will soon be the powers-that-were.”

God brings down rulers and turns them into nothing. They are like flowers freshly sprung up and starting to grow. But when God blows on them, they wilt and are carried off like straw in a storm (Isa. 40:23–24).

He determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne (Dan. 2:21).

Hand-wringing gloom-and-doom in kingdom people is unbecoming and off-base. We are citizens of the only kingdom that doesn’t have an end date. “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful . . . ” (Heb. 12:28).

Kingdom citizens make only one move—from kingdom here to kingdom there.

If Paul was right, God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

That leaves no room for gloom.

It had been a rough day for Jesus in the temple.

First, the Pharisees tag teamed with the Herodians to snag him in a trap about paying taxes to Caesar.

Then it was the Sadducees, with a cockamamie story about seven brothers dying one after another, each marrying the left-behind widow. Their “gotcha” question was, “At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Before leaving the temple he sat down and watched people tossing their offerings into the treasury. “Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny” (Mk. 12:41, 42).

We have no coinage as small as her two coppers; the closest we could come would be to drop two pennies in the plate.

“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others,” he said. “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Her gift has inspired more generosity than all those other gifts combined. The late Burton Coffman noted that her influence “has constructed many a church house and subscribed many a budget.”

R.C.H. Lenski wrote: “As he sat and watched over against the treasury chest in the Temple court, so he now looks down on every giver and every gift offered in his church.”

Dr. John Broadus, renowned preacher of the last half of the 19th century, came down from his pulpit one Sunday as the collection was being taken and joined those who were passing the plates. He watched people as they gave. Some were upset, some were ashamed, all were surprised.

Returning to his pulpit Broadus said, “My people, if you take to heart that I have seen your offerings this day and know just what sacrifices you have made and what sacrifices you have not made, remember that the Son of God your Savior, goes about the aisles with every usher and sees with his sleepless eye every cent put into the collection by His people.”

Then he read them the story of the “widow’s mite.”

This widow was an anonymous giver who had neither affluence nor influence. No one knows her name, but everyone knows her story.

It isn’t the amount of the gift that matters, but the cost of the gift to the giver; not the size, but the sacrifice; not the bigness of the gift, but the bigness of the heart. Some are rich in money; some are rich in love and faith. Measured by love and faith this poor widow was the richest person in the room.

It’s difficult to read this story without stabs of guilt.

But don’t read more into it than is there …

Jesus didn’t condemn the rich, or even criticize them; he just compared them and said by comparison the poor widow gave the greatest gift.
He didn’t imply that the large gifts were unimportant. They were very important; essential to the upkeep of the temple.
Nor did he say, “Give like this widow.” He just made an observation about her—just as he does about each of us.

He occasionally warned about the dangers of wealth, but only once did he tell a person to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor (Mk. 10:21). And he did that because he knew in that case the man’s money meant more to him than the man’s Lord.

This was Jesus’ last visit to the temple; his last observation in the temple; and his last word in the temple: “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others … she … put in everything.”

Maybe he was touched by what she gave—all she had—because three days from now he would do the same.

Jazz pianist George Shearing was born blind, but crafted a remarkably successful career. Self-pity wasn’t in his DNA.

He fearlessly navigated crowded downtown sidewalks with his dark glasses and white cane. At a busy London intersection during rush hour one day he was hoping some compassionate soul would help him across. Someone tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me sir, would you mind helping a blind man cross the street?”

He started to tell the stranger that he too was blind. Instead he said, “Be glad to, my friend. Here, take my arm.” And off they went. Tires screeched, horns blared, cabbies cursed. But they made it safely across.

George often told the story, laughing uproariously. “I’ll never do it again” he said, “but I’m glad I did it once. It was one of the biggest thrills of my life!”

The name Helen Keller conjures up an image of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Author, political activist, lecturer, she was a woman of uncommon intelligence, unrelenting ambition, and unsurpassed accomplishment who devoted her life to helping others.

Leonard Burford was born with retinitis pigmentosa. At 14 he was reading Braille; at 28 he was totally blind. Even so, he graduated college with honors, studied at the renowned Juilliard School, and received his doctorate from Columbia University. He was head of the Music Department at Abilene Christian University for 24 years. His countenance was always cheerful, his stride always confident.

A disproportionate percentage of Jesus’ healing miracles were those of giving or restoring sight to the blind.

Why?

Was it because of the assertive, get-it-done spirit in many of the visually impaired? Like George Shearing, Helen Keller, and Leonard Burford?

Or because of the extraordinary faith of the sightless?

Or both?

The entourage of Mark 10:46-52 was boisterous. A blind beggar asked what the commotion was about and was told that Jesus was walking by. He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Told to put a sock in it, he cranked up the volume: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“Teacher, I want to see.”

“Go, you are healed because you believed,” Jesus said.

Similar persistence and faith are on display in Matthew 9:27-29, where two blind men followed Jesus, shouting “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

“Do you believe that I can do this?” Jesus asked.

“Yes, Lord.”

“Let it be done for you according to your faith,” he said. Or as J.B. Phillips has it: “You have believed and you will not be disappointed.”

Spiritual blindness in those with 20/20 physical vision is not uncommon. Jeremiah chided “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). God told Ezekiel: “You are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear” (Eze. 12:2).

Jesus needled his closest disciples: “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear” (Mk. 8:17, 18).

What is it you’re facing? Pray for his intervention.

But be prepared for his question: “Do you believe that I can do this?”