Sunday, February 2, 2014

point of view

If you don’t know the story, see:

Blind men “see” the elephant differently as each one only learns a part of the whole truth.  What they know is true, but it’s not the whole story. 

There are many other stories and sayings of wise men over the ages that teach a similar message: what we believe is based on our point of view or “perspective.” 

Perspective is also an important part of the work of artists.  Da Vinci used it to make his “Last Supper” appear to have depth.  Disneyland’s Main Street has upper stories of buildings much smaller in scale to make them appear taller.  And when I was young I watched them make the TV show Wild Wild West.  Robert Conrad was often shot from the chest-up, because he was a teeny little man and had to stand on a box to be as tall as the bad guy.  From the audience’ perspective he looked to be a normal sized man, but he was barely bigger than us kids. 

Perspective is a theme throughout the bible, too.  The prophets and wise men of scripture have this theme throughout; from the first book of the bible to the last.  Moses wrote of the first sin:
“God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…. 
Genesis 3:5-7

Jesus often spoke of people having “ears to hear” and/or “eyes to see;” and John’s Revelation to the seven churches each encourages them who have “ears to hear.” 

Our Choice, Our Challenge

The bible messages about perspective are different than most of the stories from the world. 

In the world’s messages, the elephant examiners are blind.  Those in Plato’s cave can only see shadows.  Or to put it another way, the world’s version of the story is about people who have no choice – they are limited or “disabled.” People who only saw James West on TV never knew he was tiny. 

But God’s message is different.  In scripture, blindness is a choice.  Sometimes, like Eve, we choose to listen to Satan rather than God.  But for all who want to know the truth, even if it may hurt, God said:

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares Yahweh….” Jeremiah 29:13-14
If you will receive my words & treasure my commandments within you;
make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding;For …
If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;If you seek her as silver & search for her as for hidden treasures;Then you will discern the fear of Yahweh & discover the knowledge of God. For Yahweh gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.Proverbs 2:1-6
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, & apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in Yahweh, I have taught you today, even you. Haven’t I written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you?Proverbs 22:17-21

Of course there are many more like those, but the point is made: if you TRY, you will succeed.  If you want to know God and your want is nothing more than a wish, then you might as well be blind.  And then, as the saying goes, “a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse.” 

Today is “Super Bowl Sunday,” and homes all across the US will fill with people to watch the spectacle.  Many watching – even those who claim to be Christians and Jews – will know more about Peyton Manning than they do about Joshua, Isaiah, Jacob, Elijah or other great men of God.  That’s because they have spent more time watching Sports Center than searching the scriptures for the wisdom of God.  Others will know more about the halftime characters and commercials than they do about Naomi, Abigail or Esther.  Why?  Because that’s the sweet fruit that enchants their eyes. 

Read this carefully and let it soak in deep into your heart:

Those who are spiritually blind or dumb – are often the last to know.  Fools don’t know they are fools, but rather think they have answers.  They think they are “basically good.”  Consider Paul’s advice:
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
1 Corinthians 10:12

If you are spiritually deaf or blind, it is because you chose it – it’s not a birth defect.  If you lack wisdom, it isn't because you have a learning disability – it was your choice.  You choose to seek God and His kingdom first or not. 

If you are a fool, it’s because you chose it. 

We slip into this dysfunction for several reasons.  Sometimes we just “forget,” like a teenager who forgets to do his chores.  We get caught up in daily life and become lazy and negligent – this is what happened to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12.5).  Sometimes we join with others and rationalize or justify our struggles as if it’s OK to sin just a little, lie just a little, cheat just a bit.  After all, who really studies the bible like they should? 

The only thing that really matters is your condition.  If you’re not starving for God’s justice (Matthew 5.6), if you’re not seeking His kingdom like a man looking for buried treasure or the world’s most valuable pearl (Matthew 13.44-46) … why?  You know better, you know you should, so what’s keeping you from it? 

If you won’t challenge yourself, neither I nor even God can say or do anything to challenge you. 

Consider the man named Job 

What made him unique?  He was a man who “knew” God.  It wasn’t because he was a rule follower or because he was highly moral or smart or a good investor or a hard worker … it was because he took time to get to know God.  He knew what God liked and what God could do, and who God is.  He knew the personality of God.  And because he knew this, he was able to resist all the horrors Satan could throw at him without failure.  David, Moses, Elijah, Joshua and (of course) Jesus – were who they were, and did what they did because they took time to seek God and know Him. 

We have so little power to choose most things.  We were born to a physical world with people we didn't choose, DNA that determines much of our ‘nature,’ and circumstances of wealth or poverty, color and nationality that determine our ‘nurture.’  We will be lucky sometimes, and sometimes we’ll just happen to be in the path of the lava or tornado.  But we can all choose how we will handle these “facts of life.”  We can gripe, we can fight it, we can endure it, or run away from it.  Some will pretend it’s all OK, and others will live as victims – content to collect sympathy. 

I hope you’ll learn to see things from God’s perspective.  Learn to see your life from the viewpoint of eternity.  When you see it that way, almost nothing matters – but the stuff that does matter, REALLY matters!  When viewed from eternity, how important is your life – your personality – your friends?  That depends on you – your choice.  You can be popular and rich now, and eternally meaningless, or you can choose the narrow path that will take you and your friends through temporary struggles and sacrifice to eternal glory.  

“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:37-39
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
Matthew 16:25-27
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
John 12:24-26


As you work on the parts of the SOM that are difficult for you this year, expect it to be hard.  Know that distractions will come, and sometimes it’ll be boring.  But if you persevere, you will be blessed beyond imagination.  What kind of God would express Himself as He did through Jesus and Matthew?  What must He be like? 

Remember who you are: a servant of God – one who sold yourself into slavery to God.  Now will you seek to be good at it?  Will you try?  Will you exert yourself in service to One who loves you so much He sent His Son to live, serve, die and be raised?  Will you miss any sleep, or a vacation or a TV show … just to learn about God or serve Him? 

All who read this can choose to be better tomorrow or not.  YOU can choose to be stronger, wiser and more loving – or not.  You will choose, either deliberately or by default.  You will seek to invest God’s talents, or you’ll bury them in the ground. 

All those who choose to put God first will find the eyes of their heart opened.  Your perspective will change.  You’ll learn to see the whole elephant! 

And when your eyes are opened wide, you’ll change.  You’ll learn to see the world the way God does, and as Job and Jesus did.  You’ll learn to fear, worship, love and trust God more.  And you’ll care for your fellowman better.  Your priorities will be better – your wisdom will be greater – your prayer life richer – and your service more meaningful. 

But you must choose to see! 

“Thus has Yahweh of hosts said,
‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’
 “But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.  They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the Torah and the words which Yahweh of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from Yahweh of hosts.  ‘And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,’says Yahweh of hosts;
‘But I scattered them with a storm wind among all the nations whom they have not known. Thus the land is desolated behind them so that no one went back and forth, for they made the pleasant land desolate.’”
 Zechariah 7:9-14

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