Tag Archives: visions

Doing For Us What We Can’t Do for Ourselves

by Gary Babcock

When I think about Lent, I think about giving something up or setting something aside in order to connect with God on a deeper level. I’ve NEVER done this! I’m not good at giving up anything, honestly. Besides, isn’t Lent a Catholic thing? I’m a Protestant. Self-flagellation is not in my genes!

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” I’m certain this is true, but I’m discovering another truth that seems more common to my life experience – God is always trying to draw near to me, even when I’m not trying to draw near to him. I suppose this is grace. It’s God doing for me what I am unable and often unwilling to do for myself.

Many years ago, easily 20, a friend of mine told me she had had a vision about me and asked if I wanted to hear it. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to mystical kinds of things. Not only am I a Protestant, I was raised Baptist. Baptists don’t do Lent and they certainly don’t do visions. Catholics and Charismatics freak us out!

My friend said she wanted to make sure I wanted to hear the vision because it was not altogether pleasant. I assumed this meant it wasn’t a vision about winning the lottery. Dang it! (Please excuse my Baptist cursing). It sounded a little apocalyptic, but now my curiosity was piqued. It also made me a bit nervous, but I trusted the kindness and motives of my friend. I was impressed that she gave me the choice and didn’t just blurt it out in public as she shook an angry finger in my face. That’s the kind of vision I really hate! “Woe unto you, sinner…”

Here’s the vision my friend shared:

I see you all bound up in chains; big, heavy, iron chains. They are wrapped tightly around you from head to toe and you are bending under their weight. You are struggling to get free but there are too many chains, so many in fact, that you can barely see out. You can hardly move. And…(I’m thinking, “are u kidding me? There’s an “and”?) And the chains aren’t only on you, they are in you – running through you, coming out of you, growing out of you. (Are you sure there’s not a, “winning the lottery” vision, somewhere in your file?) The good news (Finally!) is that you are not alone. Jesus is there with you and he’s removing the chains. This is a painful process because your flesh has adhered to the chains. You are writhing in pain because as Jesus removes the chains, he has to tear away the tissue. (This is good news? I should have asked for the bad news first!) Now, the point of the vision isn’t that you are in pain. The point of the vision is that you are not alone. Jesus is with you and he is doing the work.

Yikes! Now that’s what I call a vision!

So, you may ask, “Where are you now, 20 years later?” I wish I could say that the vision inspired me to completely surrender to the process so that I could get it over with. But I’m more stubborn than smart, more sinner than saint. Still determined to do things my way, I shed a few chains here and there and pick up a few new ones along the way. I’m hesitant to let some chains go. I want to hold onto them just a little longer. Sometimes I even pick up discarded chains and try them on again, deceiving myself into thinking there will be a different outcome this time. I’ve learned that most chains look beautiful, until you put them on.

The funny thing about visions sometimes, is that they seem to be “in time” and “out of time” all at the same time. Truth is always operational even when we aren’t aware of it…or paying attention to it…or even when we’re in denial about it. Life is a Lenten journey. It’s not just a little holiday we take a few weeks out of the year. God takes us on that life-long journey and our bags, my bags, are often packed with apathy, ambivalence, mixed motives…and chains.

Perhaps there’s growth in coming to realize that grace flows even through our messy baggage; that God is able and willing to sift through all our junk to find that small seed of our desire for wholeness. Perhaps he uses the pain and struggle of freeing us, to help us truly see that Jesus is with us and he is graciously doing for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Gary Babcock attends The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. For Lent, various people from their community are contributing to a daily Lenton e-devotional. On Mondays for the rest of Lent, we’re going to share with you some of their thoughts and insights.


Filed under Uncategorized

Having Trouble Seeing Life the Way God Does? Join the Crowd.

More fun than humans should be allowed to have?

Prophecy, like God, can be terribly confusing. It seems life would be much easier if we could get a better handle on God. Yet, even Daniel, after having the angel Gabriel explain the meaning of his vision, says, “I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.”

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some special glasses–like 3D glasses, except they would look better on you and not be made out of cheap cardboard–that helped us understand these strange parts of Scripture, our lives, and even God better?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Daniel 8:1-27

1 John 2:1-17

Psalm 120:1-7

Proverbs 28:25-26


Daniel 8:1-27: Notice how different Daniel’s visions are from Ezekiel’s. Daniel is far less descriptive. For example, Daniel give us no real description of the ram and goat, he uses no colors, no similes. His prose is sparse and declarative. “There before me was a ram with two horns . . . and the horns were long.”

Meanwhile Ezekiel tells us in elaborate language he saw, “A figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire [and] . . . was as bright as glowing metal.” Ezekiel’s sentences too are long and complicated.

Further, Daniel more often anchors his vision to concrete places (“beside the canal”) and mentions himself more so than does Ezekiel. This gives Ezekiel’s visions a much more other-worldly feel.

I am amazed at how comfortable God is in communicating his truth through very different and completely human vessels. Rather than strive for a safer–and possibly clearer–more uniform communication, God uses Daniel and Ezekiel’s different personalities and ways of seeing and describing the world. God does not dictate to them and overpower or invalidate them but instead lets them tell what they saw filtered through their very human eyes and words. This is remarkable because, though we may not completely understand these mysterious visions, we know that God can and will use us no matter how weird or quirky we are.

1 John 2:1-17: According to John all obedience and disobedience to God can be summed up in love. Love is an act of obedience. Lack of love is sin. We spend so much time trying to define good and bad in our lives and world. We wrestle endlessly with questions like, should I see R rated movies, drink a beer, tell a joke, or drive 5mph over the speed limit? Yet, it seems to me, John wants us to wrestle with a far harder question. Is my life a response of love to God? Are my actions ones of love?

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


It’s disconcerting, that Daniel himself, and those of us who follow, can’t definitively know what these God-given visions mean. Yes, there are parts we get: the four horns were the four Greek kingdoms that grew out of the one. But what does that have to do with our lives? What are we supposed to do with that information? Obviously, God wants us to see or do something differently based on his word and even these wacky visions. There always seems to be more to understand. Maybe that is why Daniel fell ill for several days. Some 3G (God Vision) glasses might help.

It seems to me, if we understood these visions, like a correctly diagnosed disease, we could better administer treatment. We could better navigate life. Yet God doesn’t seem to see it that way. So, God’s lack of clarity remains a thorn in our sides, sometimes a source of doubt. Like a person blind, we stumble; we fall; we make wrong turns.

Maybe, however, complete clarity is not the best thing either. Think about it. We are talking about how an eternal Being sees and cares for the world. His vision had better be longer, deeper, and more complicated than mine. And of course, maybe God’s point is not for us to avoid mistakes, pain, and disease at all costs. Maybe us not seeing is part of the plan. Maybe God views these tragedies–for that matter our very lives–in slightly different light than we do.

Ultimately this means God is bigger, smarter, and in all ways more than we are. Thank God for that.

One of my professors said that understanding prophecy is often like looking at a mountain range. From a distance the peaks appear stacked up against each other–one-dimensional like a paper landscape. But once you drive in among them, you see they are separated by many miles. Just the same, prophecy can both be immediate and long-term, multidimensional.

God also is not one-dimensional, a paper landscape. God is not even three-dimensional; sorry 3D glasses won’t help. God is infinitely dimensional. God can see it all, past, present, and future all at once. That truth makes God very confusing but also comforting. Unlike me, God is not held captive by time or circumstances.

I’m glad I can’t wrap my mind around God. It would be a sparse covering for him.

I don’t understand all that God is or often what God is doing. I can’t quite see it the way God does. But late at night, when my worried mind turns like a pin wheel, I’m comforted that God is powerful rather than predictable. Then I am reminded that my job is not to understand it all but like Daniel to “get up and go about the King’s business.”

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized