Blind Spots

Let me start by defining my term then applying it to leadership in our lives. By definition a blind spot is something we cannot see. It is similar to deception, the very nature of deception is that we are unaware of something or we would not be deceived. In driving we refer to blind spots where we may have a pillar or something else blocking our view as we drive. The point of blind spots is not that we cannot see, it is that we cannot see from certain perspectives or see certain aspects of things.

We generally view blind spots as something negative, and they usually are. On the other hand, trainers put blinders on race horses to avoid distractions and keep them focused on the task at hand. At times we may need to be blind to some things to accomplish our purpose. So while I acknowledge that, my focus is on how blind spots can hinder our walk with Jesus and how we can overcome them.

The classical example of blind spots in scripture is Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

This is probably the most frequently quoted passage of scripture by a certain group of people, those who are not Christians! It is also a great example of taking scripture out of context. The irony is that those who tell others they have no right to judge are simply demonstrating their own blind spot! In this passage is Jesus really telling us to never pass judgement on others? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of Jesus since in verse 5 He accuses His hearers of hypocrisy? Isn’t that passing judgment? If Jesus could do it why can’t we? The answer is that we can. There are however some qualifiers. Prior to looking at them let me share some other scriptures to demonstrate the issue requires more than a surface look.

43  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Luke 7:43 (NKJV) 24  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24 (NKJV) 3  For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 1 Corinthians 5:3 (NKJV) 12  For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 1 Corinthians 5:12 (NKJV)

These passages, using the same Greek word as in Matthew 7:1, reinforce judging. So how do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements? We reconcile them by understanding what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 7 as there are other similar passages in the New Testament that warn us against passing judgment.

One of the ways we judge others wrongly is criticizing things we ourselves do. Paul addressed this in Romans as noted below. However I like the way I once heard Mike Bickle put it, “Our sins look terrible on other people.” His point was highlighting blind spots. We tend to find it easy to criticize others for the very things we practice while not seeing them in ourselves.

1  Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 (NKJV)

So how do we recognize and overcome blind spots? We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us, and He will, though frequently He will use other people. I recently had an experience where some colleagues at work pointed out that I regularly used the phrase ‘ya no.’ I was surprised by this on two fronts. One I was unaware that I had been using the phrase, and two, to reinforce Bickle’s point, I found it annoying when others did it! Once I became aware of this I stopped doing it, though I did catch myself a couple of times. The other aspect is why do I find this phrase annoying? I think it is because it reflects a lack of confidence or certainty in what we are saying and I don’t like seeing that in myself or others. Paul did say that we should let our yes be yes and our no be no.

So, back to the Matthew passage for a more in depth review to lead us into how to judge rightly.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

In context this passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaching on how to live a right life with right heart attitudes. His point is similar to that of Paul in Romans 2:1, we tend to judge others without first examining our own heart. If our heart is wrong it distorts how we see. After all another part of this sermon says,

22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22 (NKJV)

Having a right heart attitude allows us to see clearly. Jesus other point in this passage is that in most cases when we remove the plank from our eyes what see in others tends to shrink. In the middle of writing this I read Rick Joyner’s new book, “Living Dangerously” where he addresses the factors behind the climate change debate. I highly recommend it. However what struck me as I was reading it was he also wrote about blind spots, yet was very gracious to those he disagreed with. He truly sought to practice the love described in 1 Corinthians.

4  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

He wrote the book out of an experience of being part of the recent documentary James Cameron did on climate change. He provides a number of examples of those who simply could not see what was clearly in front of them because at a heart level they were already committed to another perspective. Without using the language he describes the function of our brain known as the Reticular Activating System. This function teaches us to pay attention to what we already believe and value because to pay attention we must filter the thousands of bits of information coming at us all of the time.

To overcome this requires a teachable spirit and a love of the truth. Have you ever helped a blind person across the street or through a difficult area? If so you helped them overcome their blind spot! In the same way to overcome our blind spots we generally need someone else to help us see. This is one role of the body of Christ. We need to be teachable and need others to be lovingly honesty in giving us feedback. Feedback about blind spots is usually hard to hear. I realized a number of years ago that the vast majority of people who request feedback are really asking for affirmation, and often reject or become offended by true honest feedback. So if we want to move beyond our blind spots we need humble hearts.

Where do You Dwell?

John is to me the most interesting of the four gospels and has the most unique material about Jesus life. A good example of interesting material in John is the verse below that took place right as Jesus began His public ministry.

38  Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:38 (NKJV)

How would we respond if Jesus appeared and said, “What do you seek?” The Greek meaning is below and what Jesus was really asking is, “What do you desire? What is important to you?”

  1. ζητω zēteō verb

Seek, look for, wish for, desire, inquire into or about.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.

Hopefully we would respond like these two, one of which was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist when he asked this question so he was obviously looking for spiritual truth and reality, something beyond the normal synagogue routine. Their response, ‘Where are You staying?’ highlights their heart desire. The meaning of the Greek word is below.

  1. μνω menō verb

Remain, stay, stand fast, dwell, abide, continue, wait, last, endure, be permanent.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.

They saw something in Jesus and simply wanted to be where Jesus was, they wanted to dwell with Jesus. To better understand this let me go back to a key section on His dwelling presence in the Old Testament.

Over the years I have many times shared my thoughts on Exodus 33-34 and I have taught on it a couple of times. It is also about a mountaintop experience but I think one where most times the main message is missed. The real message, which I will lay out in more detail, is that His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal. Let me say that again, His presence is the gateway to intimacy! Think back to Andrew and the unknown disciple from above. They wanted to be in Jesus presence to intentionally interact with Him. Being in His presence was not their end goal; it was the beginning of developing a relationship with Him.

In our present church life we need the manifest presence of Yahweh in our midst, and need to seek His face. The surrounding culture has gotten into the church far more than we as the church have transformed the culture. We need more of Him to see this change. At the same time we need to avoid the presumption that experiencing His presence and seeing Him move in our midst means we know His ways!

Let’s examine the scriptures. In Exodus 33:14 the Israelites were confronted with the reality that in spite of His desire to dwell among them (Ex. 25:8), Yahweh had refused to go up in their midst because in their rebellious condition His presence in their midst would have destroyed them. Prior to the building of the Tabernacle His presence went before them or behind them as a nation, as the pillar of fire by night or the cloud by day. He was never in their midst. Even when Moses met with Him in the tent it was outside of the camp. At this point they had rebelled against Him by building the golden calf to lead them back to Egypt (Ex. 32:1-6), the land He had just delivered them from when they cried out to Him (Ex. 3:7-10). As a result of Moses’ intercession Yahweh agreed to send His “Angel” before them (Ex. 32:11-14, 32:30-33:3) even though He would not go in their midst. A key piece here is the exchange between Moses and Yahweh in Exodus 33:12-23. Of particular importance are verses 13-18.

13  Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14  And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15  Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17  So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18  And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:13-18 (NKJV)

At first glance it may seem that what Moses was asking for was Yahweh’s presence to go with them as they continued their journey, however, as a nation Israel had witnessed His presence with them ever since they left Egypt. Moses recognized the need for His presence but at this point asked to know His way that he might know Yahweh. Moses realized that in spite of all the time he had spent in Yahweh’s presence these encounters had not produced needed change in his own life and he did not really know this powerful One that he served. This may seem strange but let me back up a bit to lay the groundwork.

At this point in their journey the Israelites had been brought out of Egypt, which typifies sin, and brought into a dessert with only the promise of a better place. They did not know when they left Egypt that Yahweh was going to lead them into the wilderness to remove Egypt from them! When Moses disappeared for forty days and nights (Ex. 24:18) they grew restless, and had Aaron build the golden calf to be their god to lead them back to Egypt.

Are we like that? We long to be out of our present situation and circumstances, and then when the Yahweh delivers us we do not like where He has brought us to and long to go back! Many of us came out of Egypt (sin) because we were promised something much better. We found ourselves free from our previous circumstances but in a place where we did not enjoy our freedom, the wilderness. If we are to walk in anything significant at all there is always a dessert between the promises of God and their fulfillment. To survive the wilderness we need to have a heart like Job.

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James. 5:11 (NKJV)

We need this same focus to make it through the wilderness that we are likely to encounter. He brings us out into the wilderness for one purpose,

“The LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)

This is the issue we face, and generally our response is conditioned by our trust in Him. I know in my own life, more so in the past, I often stumbled and fell in the wilderness through complaining about my situation rather than trusting that He would see me through. He always has thus far.

So back to what led to Moses realization of His need to know Yahweh’s ways. Leading up to this request there is a dialogue between Yahweh and Moses that has an underlying argument between the two of them. Yahweh kept referring to the nation as Moses’ people (Ex. 32:7-10, 33:1) but Moses refused this identification. He was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the nation and the purposes of Yahweh but kept referring to the people as Yahweh’s (Ex. 32:11-12, 33:13, 16). This may seem inconsequential but all scripture is of consequence. Moses had spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh, had interceded for the people and desired to lay down his life on their behalf, yet he refused to see himself as one of them. When he asked to know Yahweh’s way He said He would show Moses His glory, which when we see it unveiled in Exodus 34:6-8, we realize is His character.

In this encounter described in Exodus 34 Moses returned to the mountain and spent another 40 days and nights with Yahweh (Ex. 34:23). This time there are two notable differences in what happened to this great leader of God’s people. He returned from the mountain radiant with the glory of God (Ex. 34:29-35), because once he saw Yahweh’s character he finally came to the place Yahweh desired. Moses, as any true leader, finally identified himself with the people and said,

O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance. Exodus 34:9 (NKJV)

Moses prayed for Yahweh to go among them, not just with them, and said we are “stiff-necked” (proud). Moses had finally identified with the people and saw the iniquity of his own heart, that he was one of these rebellious Israelites. Yahweh answered Moses’ heart cry, and from then on dwelt among them in the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies (Ex. 40:34-38).

So to reiterate, what brought about this change is Moses? Why did this mountain top experience transform him? The answer lies in his discernment. Moses had many powerful encounters with Yahweh as He spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:11). However, Moses finally discerned that he did not really know Him, and desired to have Yahweh’s way revealed that he might truly know Him (Ex. 33:13). He longed to see Yahweh’s glory (Ex. 33:13). He had finally realized that in spite of all His wonderful experiences he really did not know Yahweh in the way he needed to know Him. This revelation of Who and what He was (Ex. 34:5-7) was what changed Moses and brought about his identification with Israel (Ex. 34:9) and visibly imprinted His glory on Moses face (Ex. 34:29-35). When Moses saw and acknowledged his own need and lack of true knowledge of Yahweh it removed the veil from his face so that he could see Yahweh and be changed by His glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

The commentary of scripture on this event it very telling.

7  He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. Psalm 103:7 (NKJV)

My point in all of this is that I think many of us in the modern church have encounters with His presence but unless we are intentional about responding in the moment and seek to know His heart and character all we will have are encounters without knowing His ways. As I said at the beginning of this article, ‘His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal.’ We need to be like the Greeks in John 12:21.

21  Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21 (NKJV)

The key word here is the Greek word translated as see. The definition is below.

Greek Word: εἴδω Transliteration: eidō

a primary verb; used only in certain past tenses, the others being borrowed from the equivalent <G3700> (optanomai) and <G3708> (horao); properly to see (literal or figurative); by implication (in the perf. only) to know :- be aware, behold, × can (+ not tell), consider, (have) know (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand, wish, wot. Compare <G3700> (optanomai).

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

The Greek word eido, is frequently translated as “know,” rather than see. The context suggests the Greeks didn’t want to just look at Jesus, they wanted to meet with Him and get to know Him. Similarly it is not enough for us to see just see miracles or feel an anointing, on those occasions and others we need to become intimate with Him!

How do we do that? Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do.

14  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. John 16:14 (NKJV) 

And what Jesus said He would do.

26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would glorify and reveal Him and He would reveal the father. When His presence draws near we have an opportunity like Moses to know His character and be changed by His glory, to stay where Jesus is staying, with His Father.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV).

Mountains to Valleys

January 7, 2015

As we enter a new year, and as we reflect back on the previous one, here is a question. Over the years how many of us have had an uplifting or deeply emotional spiritual experience that we would like to replicate? These are often referred to as ‘mountaintop’ experiences. Many of us, myself included, seek spiritual encounters and experiences with Jesus, which I think is a good thing. What we need to look at is the purpose. These experiences or encounters are generally meant to teach or reveal something so we need to discern the message to receive the teaching. Take for example the event we refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a revelation of something to prepare the recipients for something else.

1  And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” 2  Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3  His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4  And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – 6  because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7  And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 8  Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. 9  Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10  So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. 11  And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12  Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13  But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.” Mark 9:1-13 (NKJV)

When we look at the passage above there are a number of things to be learned. First, the general teaching is that the problem in the passage is that Peter sought to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus, which is of course a problem since Jesus was God incarnate while Moses and Elijah were servants of Yahweh. This is obviously a correct interpretation given the context and the Father’s rebuke. Peter, like most of us, wanted to stay and camp at his experience. This was behind the idea of building tabernacles. They were tents or booths, and while they were meant to be temporary they were still meant to be lived in for a period of time.

So, while it is easy to see what not to do, what should we do? First we can ask why Jesus took them there in the first place. The passage tells us, Jesus wanted them to see the transforming reality of the kingdom present with power and wanted the experience to prepare them for ministry after His death and resurrection. A key aspect of this event was in verse 7 where Yahweh’s glory overshadowed them. The Greek word used here is only used 5 times in the NT, here and in the parallel accounts of the Transfiguration in Matthew and Luke then in the two other places below.

35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 (NKJV) 15  so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Acts 5:15 (NKJV)

The message is that when He comes in power and overshadows us it produces change, it releases life and healing. So while we may not find ourselves praying for the transfiguration to be revealed to us, we can pray that His presence would so rest upon us that it would release life and healing to others around us. The key point in this passage is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but in addition to the message of His overshadowing presence what else can we learn from this passage?

  • The righteous live on in His presence after death
  • The unveiling of the kingdom brings transformation
  • Those in the spirit realm can communicate with this realm if directed by Yahweh
  • Those who have gone before are aware of what is happening in our world (Heb. 12:1, the great cloud of witnesses)
  • We are not to build idols
  • In appearing Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets (the common term in Jesus day for what we refer to as the Old Testament), showing that the entire OT points to Jesus, everything is summed up in Him!

There may be other things to learn from this passage yet I think a key general message is that mountaintop experiences, while wonderful, are meant to prepare us for something else. Having been on top of quite a few actual mountains I can tell you that in general if you want to survive you need to pack in your food. There is little at the top of mountains, particularly above the treeline. You do not plant, sow, and reap crops on the top of mountains. The experience is a reward for the journey but fruitfulness is found in the valley.

Rich soil and gentle streams are at the bottom of mountains, often far away. This is the place where we need to live out what we have experienced on the mountain. The place of needy people, diapers that need to be changed, people to be supported and ministered to, and a hundred other things. We all need some degree of mountaintops to sustain what we do in the valleys, and we can have encounters when we daily sit with Him or worship Him, yet these encounters are meant to point us to the valley, the place of fruitful ministry.

So in conclusion, there is usually much we can learn and draw from our experiences on the mountain, and most of the lessons are meant to be applied in the valley, the place of fruitfulness. So may you encounter Him often and find strength to give much to others in the building up of His body, the church.