Tag Archives: perspective

Heart and Mind

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3:1-2).

Notice something about the text I underlined? Looks like silly ol’ Paul accidentally repeated himself, right? Not quite. These are two completely different Greek words with similar but subtly differing meanings. In the context of this passage, the term used for “seek” (zeteo) means to want or yearn for something. In other words, we are to desire or yearn for the things that are above. We are to want them with our hearts. The reason why we are to want them is simple: that’s where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Why are we to yearn for the things above? Because they are worth wanting! They are naturally desirable; in fact, they are more desirable than anything else in existence!

If the first verse tells us what to want, the second verse tells us how to want. The term used for “set your minds on” (phroneo) means to maintain a sustained, intentional focus upon the things that are above. Paul is calling his readers to radically focus upon the things above, casting aside all the concerns and cares of this world; to ignore the things of this world so as to better see an eternal reality. The best way to grow in your desire for something is to think about it. If you’re craving pizza, the more you think about it the more you want it. If you want to go see a new movie, the more you watch trailers for it and talk to people about it, the more excited you get about the movie. The word in vs. 2 is used to denote a relentless focus upon a singular goal or purpose.

In simple but profound language, Col. 3:1-2 calls us to set our hearts and our minds upon the things above. In the same way that a compass always points North, our hearts and our minds are to be unwaveringly directed upwards, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.

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.

“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

Hebrews 12:1-3

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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It was a Saturday during the summer of 2006. Some friends and I were stretching before a run and I was feeling really good. It was a gorgeous Alaska morning and we were about to do our long run for the week; I think I was going to run 5 miles. This run served as a decompression for me from the stress of the week. It was the perfect way to start a weekend. We said a prayer and then started. I took off at a quick pace and was thankful for my health. Once I got about 3/4 of a mile out, I decided that I wanted to pray a little bit while I ran. So I took a side-trail that went up a hill to better see the mountains and sunrise. As I topped the hill, I said the words, “Thank you for this beautiful view, God.” It was at that moment, while I was fixated on the mountain and the far-off scenery that I stepped on a rock. I blew my ankle out (my 4th sprain for the season) and fell to the ground. Hard.

My run was over. I limped back to the car and waited for my friends to finish their runs.

During runs, and in life, I think it’s important to remember what awaits us at the finish line. I think we need to visualize our ultimate goal. We must look to Jesus. He waits for us at our finish line. However, Jesus also said that we must take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). There is a daily, moment by moment element to our walk with Christ that must not be ignored either. If we look too far ahead, we will not pay attention to the path right in front of us.

When I’m running, I keep the finish line in my head, but I keep my eyes focused on the path directly before me. As you’ve read, I learned this lesson the hard way. I took my eyes off the path and looked at something far off in the distance. I paid for my carelessness by spraining my ankle.

In life, we must constantly keep Christ in the back of our mind as our ultimate goal. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, the beginning and the end, the starting line and the finish line. However, we must keep our focus on the daily opportunities we have to serve God.

Jesus endured the temporary pain of the cross for the joy set before Him. He kept His eyes on the finish line, but also completed the task immediately in front of Him. I hope to imitate Jesus by keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25) daily, but also always remembering the eternal promise of life everlasting.

Zacchaues

Does it ever feel like no matter what, you can’t see the face of Jesus? It’s like there’s a physical wall around you that’s blocking your vision? Or maybe others around you are dragging you down spiritually and preventing you from seeing Jesus?

I want to tell you about a man who, despite his physical limitations, did all he could to see Jesus.

Luke 19:1-6:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that Jesus could sense Zacchaeus’ yearning to see him. It may even be that Jesus was rewarding Zacchaeus for his zeal by having dinner at his house that night. I certainly know I’d love to have Jesus spend the night at my place!

But the question is, when we feel like there’s nothing we can do to see Jesus, when we feel spiritually exhausted or burnt out, what do you do? Do you simply let yourself stay that way, or do you put effort into having that relationship—that closeness with Jesus?

Zacchaeus could have simply let his chance slip past him. He could have decided that the crowd around him was too large and there was no way he would be able to see Jesus. He could have even felt sorry for himself and blamed God for making him so short in the first place.

The point is, when we want to see Jesus, we can; all that’s required of us is to put some effort into it! God may have made me short, but he also gave me the sycamore-fig tree to climb. Never let those around you stop you from seeing your Maker’s face!

So how can we apply this practically? I think Jesus helps us in Luke 13:24 when He tells us to “make every effort…”

Make every effort to be close to Jesus.

The sad thing is this puts a lot of responsibility on me to be close to Jesus. Ultimately, the question isn’t whether or not I can have a close relationship with God, but whether or not I’m willing to work for it. Am I willing to make every effort? Am I willing to be inventive and see the tree that I can climb?

And when I do get in a good spot, am I willing to keep looking? Am I willing to build up my endurance? I know for me, it’s easy to feel like I’ve arrived and I don’t have to keep on trying anymore. I feel like I’m finished earning my “Jesus points” and now I can just sit back and relax, but I have to keep on working. A fisherman doesn’t catch fish once and then think he’s finished. A farmer doesn’t have one successful harvest and then think his farm will just run itself.

Galatians 6:9 says:

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I think another area where many people fall short is not making time for God. It’s easy for us to make excuses about how busy we are, how unfair life is, how we’ll get to it “someday.” But that “someday I’ll be good enough” attitude is self-destructive because it destroys hope for today. Check out 1 Peter 2:9-10:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I remember how it felt the first time I read this. What I quickly realized was that it’s written in the present-tense. It doesn’t say ‘someday you will be a chosen people,” “someday you will be the people of God.”

No!

It says “you are a chosen people.” It says “but now you are the people of God.” Not someday far from now, but today…right now! The fact that God looks at us as royalty right this very moment motivates me to live up that that.

Live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted by God.

Read that again to make sure it sinks in…

Live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted by God.

If God considers you a royal priesthood, perhaps it’s time to make sure you’re living like one. So how do we do that? Well in the same passage it tells us to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness.” Praise Him. Let your whole life praise Him. Live your life in a way that praises Him to all who are around you.

I know you’ve met someone whose light just radiates. The moment you’re around them you know they’re a believer. I know a few people like this. After being around them for just a few minutes, I’m already in a great mood. I long to be one of these people—to have such a positive impact on those around me.

But for now, it helps to know that I’m one of God’s chosen; it helps to know that I’m part of a royal priesthood; that I’m part of His holy nation; that I belong to God.

So do you!

You’re chosen by God. You’re part of a royal priesthood. You’re a citizen of the same holy nation. You, too, belong to God.

I encourage you to live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted.