Perspective

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Does your perspective prevent you from seeing things accurately?
A while back, Connie and I were eating at our favorite lunch spot—Europa Bakery—and I noticed that the painting on the wall was intentionally slanted as part of the ‘artistic expression.’ (I included part of the ceiling fixture and the thermostat so as to have reference points in the photo.) Connie was sitting with her back to the wall—the same wall that the painting was on—and I grew curious. “From her perspective,” I thought to myself, “would Connie be able to notice that this painting is completely un-level?”
I asked her to look at the painting and tell me if it was level. She couldn’t really tell from her perspective; a fact that I found to be very surprising considering how obvious it was from just an extra foot or two away from the wall. A few weeks ago at church, our pastor noted that, if close enough to your face, a dime could block your entire vision. Back off just a couple inches and you can clearly see past the dime. A similar phenomenon had happened with this painting. Connie was so close that she couldn’t see how slanted the painting was.
Which got me wondering how often I am blinded by my proximity to an issue. Are there things in my life that are “skewed” that I can’t even see because of how close I am to the issue? Perhaps I see everything clearly, but my perspective is the problem. Or perhaps there are things going on that seem big but really aren’t as big of a deal as I feel.
I think this is exactly why it’s so important for us to be connected to a good group of believers who will challenge us. Everyone quotes Proverbs 27:17 and acts as though they hope to find someone to help “sharpen” them. But have you ever stopped and thought about what that actually looks like? Consider the fact that there has to be collision and friction between the two pieces of iron. Any rough edges have to be smoothed out and undesirable materials have to be removed—almost violently!

I pray that I will be able to openly accept loving correction from others. I pray that God will give me the wisdom and insight to examine my life as objectively as I can for His glory. I also pray that I will have the humility to listen to my fellow Christians when they hold me accountable.

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“I’m just a realist.”

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“I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist!”

“Realists” have a skewed view of reality.

Has anyone ever told you they’re not negative; they’re just realists? That they just see the world for how it really is? I found this great quote by a “realist” on a forum: “others are floating on top of pink clouds with rainbows and unicorns expecting gold to drop down from heaven. People are being naively optimistic never anticipating the danger luring beneath the horizon.” I couldn’t help but smile at his description of other people. According to Dictionary.com, a realist is “a person who tends to view or represent things as they really are.” Princeton defines a realist as “a person who accepts the world as it literally is and deals with it accordingly.”
But here’s a question that popped into my head Sunday: do “realists” actually accept the world for how it really is?

Perhaps you’ve even claimed to be a realist before, eh? I know I have from time to time; it’s easy to begin to think that you’ve got things figured out. But Sunday I realized something about “realists.” They aren’t realists. In fact, “realists” have a skewed view of reality.
Consider the supernatural reality behind the situation.

According to God’s word nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39). Do you truly believe Matthew 19:26 which says that with God all things are possible? Do you take God at His Word and trust in His faithfulness? Or do you get scared at the first sign that things might get a little rough? Whiners are not realists.
In reality, God is all-powerful! And He’s on your side.
In reality, our hope is in God (Rom 5:3-5). Our hope is not in this world (1 Jn 2:17, NIV).
In reality, we know that God will overcome. And through Him, so will we (Rev 12:11).
So I encourage you, when things aren’t looking so good, to consider the supernatural reality behind the situation. Consider the powerful testimony that God is building through your situations; and consider the reality that God is big enough to use anything for His glory (Eph 3:20-21).
God is the ultimate reality, place your hope in Him.

The Storms of Life (pt 2) – Mark 4:37-40

(This is an unplanned follow-up to a post I did about this passage earlier this week.)

“I was in that boat.”
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Don’t you hate when that happens? I usually try not to think about anything when I wake up so as not to get my mind going because then I have trouble falling back asleep. I checked the time: 2:30. I realized I was thirsty so I poured myself a glass of water and suddenly a realization dawned on me about the storms of life and specifically about this passage.
I felt God gently whisper something to me: “I was in that boat.”
Think about it for a minute! The disciples were never actually alone; Jesus was with them in the boat. Similarly, don’t I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me? So am I ever actually alone when the storms come? Never!
Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior!
Jesus promised that He will be with us. One of my favorite Bible verses (Heb 4:15) says that Jesus, because He has experienced being human, is able to sympathize with us! But that verse doesn’t say that Jesus is able to sympathize with just the good parts of human life; it’s talking specifically about suffering. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness. Earlier, in Hebrews 2:18, the author states that Jesus is able to help us when we suffer because He has suffered Himself.
In fact, it’s doubtful that anyone has suffered to the degree that Jesus has. On the cross, Jesus absorbed God’s full wrath for the sins of all mankind (Mt 27:46). Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior! He is infinitely more familiar with suffering than we are.
And that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel. It means that, no matter how dark the storm clouds, Jesus is always able to help us walk through. This is because, as Jesus promised in John 16:7, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. We have God dwelling inside us!
So my encouragement to you is the same as that of the author of Hebrews: look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured more suffering than we can ever hope to imagine on the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2, paraphrase). Look to Jesus not only for an example, but also for hope and empathy!

The Storms of Life – Mark 4:37-40

We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like? How does God most often seem to demonstrate His power? Perhaps for the same reason people tell us to be careful what we wish for…

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was traveling with His disciples in a boat at night. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself! During the day before, Jesus had spent some time teaching on the shore in this boat (Mk 4:1). At the end of the day, for whatever reason, He decided to go to the other side of the sea (Mk 4:35). (By the way, I have my suspicions that Jesus knew what He was doing.) All seemed well until “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mk 4:37). It’s at this point that the disciples get scared. Wouldn’t you? Mark 4:38 says that they woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Isn’t that an easy question to ask? When the storms of this life come, and they will, don’t we sometimes feel as though God doesn’t care? Don’t we wonder if He sees what we’re going through? I can make you one sure promise in this life: Troubles will come (Jn 16:33). Ask anyone who has been around longer than… a week! You’ll find that this life does bring storms. Storms may look different from person-to-person; for some it may be a bounced check, for others it may be a broken leg! But Jesus promised us that the storms will come (Mt 7:24-27).

Don’t you care that I’m drowning?

And don’t we find it easy to wonder why it seems as though God does nothing? Doesn’t it sometimes feel as though God is just watching from afar; as though He’s sitting up in Heaven on His throne watching us as the storm sweeps over us, the waves crash into us, and it’s all we can do to keep our head above water?
“Teacher, don’t you care that my life is falling apart? Don’t you care that I don’t think I can make it? Don’t you care that I’m hurting, I’m alone? Don’t you care that I’m drowning?”
“Don’t you care?”
But isn’t this what gives our lives their meaning? Doesn’t God demonstrate His peace through our storms? Doesn’t God demonstrate His power through our weakness? What would happen if we didn’t have any storms? I know I would become arrogant and self-reliant. Wouldn’t we start to think that we deserved all the credit for all our great accomplishments? I know I would.

Are we really that different?

After the disciples cry out to Jesus, He simply commands the wind and waves to “be still” and they obey (Mk 4:39). Just like that the storm simply stopped. It’s almost like He was God. It’s almost like He was in charge the whole time. It’s almost like the disciples were worrying for no reason… But we already knew that didn’t we?
It’s easy for us to read this story and wonder why the disciples were so terrified. I mean, they had Jesus with them. Surely they knew that God was all-powerful and could stop the storm at any time. How could the disciples be so foolish? But are we really that different? Is our storm really that much bigger? Are our circumstances the special exception where God has no power to act on our behalf?
Look at how Jesus responds to His disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s almost as though Jesus is disappointed. I can’t help but read this with my name in front of it: “Daniel, why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? After all that we’ve been through, after all that you’ve seen, have you still no faith?”
Have you still no faith?
So here’s how the conversation goes:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing,” we ask as soon as the storm starts getting rough.
Jesus answers our question with a question: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So why are we still afraid? Could it be that we lose perspective? Could it be that we forget that, just as Jesus had power over the storm in Mark 4:37-40, He also has power of the storms in 2011? Could it be that we believe the storm has more power than God? I ask God to show Himself to me, but as soon as that takes me out of my comfort zone, I become afraid. Jesus simply asks us to trust Him even in the midst of the storm.
Which brings us to the original question: We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like?
I firmly believe that it will look like cloudy skies more often than clear skies.

The main character: God

This is part five of a multi-entry blog series titled “Lessons I Learned in the Desert.”

One of the things that struck me as I went through the “Read the Bible in 90 Days” challenge was how quickly the Bible narrative seemed to move along after someone died. Abraham, for instance, is a pretty big deal in Genesis, but when he dies in Gen 25:8 the story doesn’t come to a screeching halt. Instead, after briefly giving the details of Abraham’s burial, the story nonchalantly picks right up and continues.
 
Another great example is Moses. Moses was the man! He lead God’s people out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, lead the Hebrew’s through the desert, saw God face to face (Ex 33:11), and was the mediator of the Mosaic Law. In short, if anyone was a big deal in the Old Testament, it would’ve been Moses, right? In fact, he was central in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. However, in Joshua 1:1-2 we see that as soon as Moses dies the story just keeps on going!

It almost seems odd. What gives? Were these guys unimportant? Did they not matter? I think the answer is not that they were unimportant; it’s not that they didn’t matter. It’s just that they weren’t the point. The story isn’t about Abraham. The story isn’t about Moses.
 
The story is about God.
 
God is the central character of the Bible. It’s all about Him. He’s the main character. Supporting actors and actresses may come on stage for a moment, but they never, ever take center stage. The spot light always has been, and always will be, rightfully aimed at God. History truly is, as the cliche goes, His story.
 
I’ve talked to a lot of people who have problems with the Old Testament. They wonder how God could kill people, which He does a lot of in the Old Testament. They wonder why God would order His people to kill other people, which He does a lot of in the Old Testament. They ask questions like, “What right does God have to take human life?” Read that question again, does that even sound logical? People who ask questions like that, whether they realize it or not, have decided that man is sovereign and God is secondary.
 
Who are we to question what “rights” God has? God is God and has any and every right to do whatever He wants. When we, the created being, question the rights of our Creator, we unwittingly assume that God has to answer to us, as though we are a higher authority than Him. History is about Him, not us.
 
Once accepted, this realization is actually quite freeing. It means that my life isn’t even about me in the first place, it’s about God. As Rick Warren puts it in the beginning of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Life is much simpler and much less stressful when viewed against the backdrop of all human history!
 
The most amazing fact is that, although history is all about God, He still loves us enough to die for us. God, the main character and hero of the story, sent Jesus to rescue us from the mess we’d gotten ourselves into. I can’t even imagine such love. It’s beyond us! It blows my mind that the central character of all history knows me and loves me. It should blow your mind, too!
 

I Am Not But I Know I AM: Welcome to the Story of God