Tunnel Vision

TunnelI recently saw a video used in police officer training. In it the officer was directing a suspect to put down the rifle he had in his left hand. The suspect was compliant but the officer was so fixated on the rifle that he didn’t see the suspect reach with his right hand for the handgun that was in the small of his back. It is called tunnel vision as the field of vision narrows and the individual is blinded to all distractions and other threats.

Tunnel vision is what a wide receiver has, not thinking about crowd noise only the football as it spirals toward him. Or the batter as he concentrates on the baseball hurling toward the plate. Even the Anheiser Bush Clydesdales wear blinders to block out distractions.

In 1994, Tom Amberly set a world record by making 2,750 free throws in a row. Some important facts about this record are:

  • He was not a professional basketball player, he was a foot doctor.
  • He was 71 at the time.
  • He did not miss number 2,751. The building manager shut off the lights and closed the gym.
  • According to Amberly, “The only thing limiting you is yourself….we are more limited by our beliefs than our ability.”

Tunnel vision on the right things can be good, on the wrong things it is a disaster, because what I focus on gets bigger in my life. A man is so focused on getting ahead in his career that he neglects his family. A mother is devoted to her children at the expense of her relationship with her husband. A teenager emphasizes sports and lets the grades slip. We get so busy with the cares of life that we lose sight of what is of eternal value. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Samson (Judges 13-16) could have been one of the greatest leaders of Jewish history, but his focus was in the wrong place. He allowed the anointing of testosterone to overpower the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A man who could not be defeated from without was trapped by what was within.

Naomi (Ruth 1) returned to Israel after the death of her husband and sons and said God has dealt bitterly with me. She lost sight of the bigger picture that led to Obed, Jessie and David, the beginning of the generational line that would lead to Jesus. Tunnel vision gets us to focus on the pain and disappointment of today.

In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus is approached by a young man who asks, “What must I do to have eternal life?” “Obey the commandments.” “I’ve done that all my life.” Jesus then hits at the heart issue for the young man, “One thing you lack. Sell what you have, give it to the poor so you will have treasure in heaven then come, follow Me.” The young man couldn’t do it. His focus was on possessions, not on following Jesus.

Matthew 13:22 warns that the thorns of power, fame or wealth will choke out the seed if we don’t have the right focus. Life is a race to be run. An athlete is focused on the finish line. In Paul’s day, the prize was a crown of olive branches, a perishable crown that soon wilted. Our prize is eternal life. We must live life with a sense of urgency. That requires ignoring the distractions of the world.

In Luke 10, Martha complains to Jesus because she is doing all the work and Mary had tunnel vision on Jesus. His reply in verse 42 (NKJV, emphasis added) is, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The Garden of Eden was beautiful with all of the trees and all of the animals. God would walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. But Eve focused on only one tree and therefore lost sight of God’s plan.

Peter walked on water as long as he had tunnel vision on Jesus, but as soon as he allowed the wind and waves to distract him and took his eyes of Jesus, he went down. (Matthew 14:39)

In Psalm 27:4 (NKJV, emphasis added) King David declared, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Tunnel vision.

In Luke 9:51 we read that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. He knew his purpose; He knew His Father’s plan and He would keep His focus on fulfilling that despite the suffering and shame involved. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We can read Paul’s take on tunnel vision in Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV, emphasis added), “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“I do not count myself to have apprehended”

Picture a police office in pursuit of a suspect running down the street. “Officer Jones, what is your status?” “I have not yet apprehended, but I am in pursuit.”

Paul was a Jew of Jews, a teacher of teachers yet he counted all that as rubbish. He was imprisoned, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger of death throughout his travels. He had given it all yet he says “I do not count myself to have apprehended.” Paul spent much of his life in prison, but he did not sit there feeling sorry for himself or thinking about what he would do when he got out. Much of the New Testament was written while he was in prison.

How often do we get wrapped up in the “little” picture: a focus on today, how we feel, the present circumstances and forget tomorrow’s hopes.

“One thing I do”

Not 10 rules, not 5 steps, not 3 points, one thing. God keeps it simple: one thing. Tunnel vision. Another word is intensity. There was a time we were intense in pursuit of the devil’s plan for our lives. Are we now just going to be bench warmers? Someone does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures or reading books or cheering from the sidelines. We must get in the game.

Paul did not say, “One thing I will do…” or “One thing I’m going to do…” He was living and acting in the present. What is the busiest day in the world? It’s not Christmas. It’s not Super Bowl Sunday. It’s not even Black Friday. It’s tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll start that diet. Tomorrow I’ll put in that job application. Tomorrow I’ll start that Bible reading plan. Tomorrow I’ll really get my act together! Tomorrow, tomorrow.

“Forgetting those things which are behind”

There are times when I just want to feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I want to have a nice little pity party, sing a little “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” and just pout. Joseph in the Old Testament was sold into slavery and then spent years in prison. He could have been bitter but instead he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20a NLT)

Is it easy to “forget the things behind”? Of course not, but if I wallow in the sorrows of the past, I hinder my outlook on the future. Paul could have walked around all his life with a tremendous burden of guilt for his persecution of the church, but instead he used it to motivate himself to press forward.

“Reaching forward to those things which are ahead”

I don’t want to stay the same. I refuse to become satisfied or complacent. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1Corinthians 15:19 NIV) Joy does not come from external circumstances; it comes from the assurance of what I have in Christ and who I am in Christ.

“I press toward the goal”

When our son Paul was in grade school, he was active in competitive swimming. He was pretty good at it but he had one fault: when he was ahead he would look to the right or look to the left to see who was there and as a result lose time. We can’t be worried about what somebody else is doing. Like an athlete in the 100 yard dash, I don’t have time to look around comparing myself to others. I need to keep my eyes fixed on the finish line.

“For the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

This is a call to a higher way of living. I cannot stay the same. I cannot become satisfied or complacent. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 NLT) The things that sidetrack me now are trivial compared to eternity.

Press toward the goal:

  • “I just don’t feel it.” – Faith is not about feelings; it’s about choice. Press!
  • “I don’t think I can do it.” – With God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27) Press!
  • “I’ve failed so many times.” – His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) Press!
  • “The devil has such a grip on my life.” – Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. (1John 4:4) Press!

Finally I ask that we reflect on the old hymn:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full into His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

Intensity in our calling. Tunnel vision on Jesus.

My Name Is

Hello My Name Is2Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV) tells us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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.” “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” Our Spanish-speaking brothers will pick up on that right away. Carnal means fleshly, e.g. chili con carne – beans with meat. Many translation say “are not of the world.” In other words we are not fighting a physical battle but a spiritual one. It is a battle in our thoughts, a battle for our mind. 

The devil is like a computer hacker trying to plant a virus in our mind. He is looking for the right password to gain access. What is the password for you? Sex, party, meth, pride, stuff? 1Peter 1:17 commands us to gird up the loins of our mind. In Biblical times, men wore long robes and when they entered battle, they would tie them up so they would not interfere with movement. Left alone, our mind will be going in all directions, all kinds of thoughts. We need to gird our mind to keep it on the right path. We take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. It’s called focus. 

In our western culture today little emphasis is given to the meaning of a name give a child. My name is Gill, the organ fish use to breath under water. What’s with that?! In Biblical times a name was considered a predictor of character and destiny: Samuel (Heard by God when God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child.), Elijah (My God is Yahweh.), and Jesus (The Lord is Salvation.). 

Many times names were changed in the Bible showing a new destiny.

  • Abram (Noble Father) becomes Abraham (Father of Many Nations)
  • Sarai (Princess) becomes Sarah (Mother of Nations)
  • Jacob (Deceiver/supplanter) became Israel (Prince of God)
  • Simon (Like a reed) became Peter (The Rock) perhaps as a reminder of the strength he would need to lead the early church and that we are all stones in the new temple. 

Perhaps God wanted people to rise to new heights of effectiveness as a result of such name changes. For us today, our name – that of “Christians” – means “to be like Christ.” We are called to live like Christ, to demonstrate His love, grace, peace, joy and forgiveness to a world that has lost its way and has no vision of its destiny. 

Who am I? Some would describe themselves as, “I am a failure.”, “I am a mistake.”, “I am an addict.” or “I am rejected.” Maybe the devil is more subtle and has convinced us, “I am a carpenter/ nurse/ engineer/ homemaker.” But that is not where my value lies. Matthew West recently released a very powerful song entitled, “Hello My Name Is.” Here are the first few verses: 

Hello, my name is regret 
I’m pretty sure we have met
Every single day of your life
I’m the whisper inside that won’t let you forget

Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
Till you’ve lost all belief

These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them for the very last time

Hello, my is my name is child of the One True King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed
I have been set free
Amazing Grace is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the One True King

I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind
The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true
Just take a look at my life

Hello, my name is child of the One True King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed
I have been set free
Amazing Grace is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the One True King 

In Isaiah 14:12-17, we learn that the devil’s downfall was his pride, his desire to be equal to God, a “high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God”. Let’s not let the same thing happen to us. We combat it by knowing who we are in Christ: 

  • I am loved. Romans 8:14 I am a son of God. Colossians 1:13-14 I am rescued from Satan’s kingdom. Romans 8:35-39 Now nothing can separate me from God’s love. 
  • I am forgiven. Romans 5:1 I have been justified and have peace with God. Romans 8:1 I am free of condemnation in Christ. Ephesians 4:32 In Christ God has forgiven me. 
  • I am valuable. Romans 8:17 I am an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. 1Corinthians 3:16 I am the temple of God. Ephesians 2:10 I am His handiwork.  
  • I am victorious. Romans 8:37 I am more than a conqueror. 1John 5:4-5 In Christ I have overcome the world. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. John 8:32 I know the truth and the truth makes me free. 
  • I am complete. 2Corinthians 5:17 I am a new creation in Christ. The old things have passed away. All things have become new. Ephesians 1:3 I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 2Corinthians 5:21 In Christ I have the righteousness of God.
  • I am chosen. 2Timothy 1:9 I have a holy calling. 2Corinthians 5:18-19 I am a minister of reconciliation between God and those I contact. 1Peter 2:9 I am a member of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.

Jesus knew who He was. He declared, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) He walked this earth with a confidence and strength that come from that knowledge. We can have the same confidence when we have learned what the Bible tells us of who we are and we walk in it. The Message Bible puts it this way, “The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2Corinthians 10:4-5)

In Revelations 2:17, Jesus promises each of us a white stone with a name change, a new destiny. What name is on your stone? Redeemed. New Creation. Forgiven. In Christ. Child of the One True King.

Bloodline of a Champion

Did you have a pet growing up? I remember Butch, half German shepherd, half whatever climbed over the fence one night, but he was a great dog for a boy growing up. He would wrestle, swim and fetch. Our daughter’s family has Edgar, a pug. He is unbelievably ugly, still he is a purebred, and therefore expensive.

I was speaking with a friend recently and he related an experience he had as a young man. He had worked at a ranch one summer and as the summer was drawing to a close, the owners told him they might not have the cash to pay him but instead were considering giving him a colt that had recently been born. He thought, “What am I going to do with a horse?” He was relieved when they were able to come up with the cash instead, but he came back to the ranch a couple of years later and learned the colt they were going to give him was now was worth over $1 million. Why? He was in the bloodline of a champion.

In Numbers 13, the Israelites sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Ten of the spies forgot God’s covenant; they forgot their bloodline. Joshua and Caleb kept focus. They were ready to follow God to victory. Christ died once for all. In doing so He established a new covenant. Hebrews 10:4 explains that all other sacrifices fall short, only the blood of Jesus can take away sin. Colossians 1:13 promises the God “delivered Gill out of the power of darkness, and translated him into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” My life is different because of what Jesus did. 1Peter 2:9 says, “Gill is a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that Gill may show forth the excellencies of Him who called him out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Does that sound like we are second class citizens?

We give the devil far too much credit. Our biggest battle is not outside but rather on the inside; it is the battle for our mind. Remember, the devil was defeated 2,000 years ago. It is not the devil’s goal to get me to sin. I will just repent and get back on track. Rather he wants to change the way I think. If he can control my thoughts, he can control my destiny. You see thoughts produce actions. Actions form habits. Habits establish character. Character determines destiny.

Phil 4:6-7 tells us, “Gill is not to be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, Gill is to let his requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard Gill’s heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.” God’s peace comes as I allow His Word to direct my thoughts. 2Corinthians 5:17 promises that the old has passed away. I can live in the victory of a life made new. I am in the line of a champion.
1Peter 1:18-19 tells us we were redeemed by the blood. Today that has become little more than a religious cliché but to Paul’s readers it meant much more. Redeemed was a term from the slave market. They knew it meant rescued from a life of misery and certain death and set free to live the life God meant for them.

According to Revelations 12:10, the devil is the accuser. What about God? We are told in Romans 8:33-34, “Who could bring a charge against Gill, because he is one of God’s elect? It is God who justifies Gill. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and more than that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God and makes intercession for Gill.” Because of Jesus’s blood, we are free from condemnation. Colossians 1:19-20 tells us we have peace through the blood. When I need peace, I need to remember the blood. Rev. 12:1 says, “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” We need both parts: what Jesus did on the cross and what we do by our words.

Being in the bloodline does not guarantee a champion. We must grow into a champion.
Whether it be in sports, apprentice for a trade or any skill, we must be trained and practice. It is the process of Tell/Show/ Do. We recently hired a new employee and had to take her through an extensive training process to learn all of the details of our business.
1. Tell – Training starts by telling the person what is expected, what must be done. In our spiritual walk, the Bible is our training manual. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” God provides the direction and wisdom that we need.
2. Show – After telling what is needed, we need to demonstrate the actions. We need pastors, leaders and godly friends in our lives to live out the Christian walk for us to follow. In 1Corinthians 13:1 Paul makes a remarkable declaration, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” He understood the need for not just preaching the Gospel, but also living it out in front of those he taught.
3. Do – Before a new skill is really ours, we must practice, we must “do it”. That means incorporating it into daily living. Daily living Philippians 4:9 says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
4. Coach – The final step is we need correction and accountability. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs us to ‘make disciples’. He isn’t just looking for numbers; He wants dedicated followers who are learning and growing. We must be teachable as well as accountable not only to God but to whomever He establishes over us.

To reach a goal takes focus. I recently read “No Easy Day” about Seal Team 6 and the killing of Osama ben Laden. That operation took planning, training, and focus. What I focus on becomes magnified in my life. If I focus on the negative, it will get bigger. If I focus on God’s blessings, they will be also be magnified.

Did you know that I can foretell the future? There is nothing magical about it. If you don’t change, if you don’t focus, your future will look a lot like your past. The important question is does that give you a warm, contented feeling or does it strike terror?

Where should I have my focus?
1. Focus on Christ: Heb 12:2 commands us to “look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. If I focus on sin, it gets bigger, if I focus on Jesus, He gets bigger.
2. Focus on others: Luke 19:10 tells us Jesus came to seek and save the lost. If my focus is on me, “I want, I need, I feel”, how can I be a positive influence in the world?
3. Focus on the power of God: When David faced Goliath, he needed that focus. In the natural, he would have said, “Who am I kidding? This rock isn’t big enough!” (1Sam 17) But he knew it wasn’t about his slingshot but the power of God working in and through him.

Let me leave you today with one last Scripture. The doormat in front of our house proclaims Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When you were born again, you were born into a new bloodline, that of a champion. Are you going to live like the world and become a plow horse or will you choose to serve the Lord, live by His leading and experience His victory?