Perspective Changes Everything

perspective is everything

Today is one of my bad back days.  It’s days like today that remind me: perspective is everything.  You see, thirteen years-ago this coming May me and my family were in a car accident.  I was traveling on a highway in Iowa where we were living at the time, and a small car on a gravel road blew right through the stop sign without even slowing down.  There was nothing I could do.  I plowed into the rear quarter panel of the oncoming car, and it literally spun like a top off the highway and came to a stop.  Both the driver and his girlfriend passenger were not injured.

Two of my daughters were in the very back seat of our mini-van (which I had just bought only a month before), with my wife and dog as front seat passengers.  The car was totaled.  My girls were not harmed.  But my wife tore her shoulder’s rotator cuff protecting the dog and had to have an agonizing surgery to repair it.  My lower back was injured, but not in a way which surgery could repair.  To this day I live with chronic pain.  Some days it’s not bad, maybe a one or two on the pain scale.  But on my bad days I can barely walk across the room, and I need cane to get around.  Today is one of those days.

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I have played the scene of the accident in my mind hundreds of times.  I have thought time and again about what I could have done to prevent the accident.  But there was no way to avoid it.  I thought about the fact that if we just would have left a minute earlier or a minute later from my parents’ house from where we were visiting, all would be fine.  Yet, I know that kind of thinking is a fool’s errand.  I have pondered every possible scenario in my head and have gotten nowhere.

It also took me awhile to forgive the young man who was driving the other car.  He changed my life, and not in a good way.  Although his insurance took care of everything and he was very repentant about the whole thing, I was understandably mad for a long time.  I did, over time, come to the point of forgiving him.

Through the years I have learned to live with my limitations.  I have now accepted the pain as part of my life.  But, on occasion, I sometimes I can’t help but think of how my life would be today if I hadn’t been in that stupid accident.

About three years ago I was praying alone in the church for which I was a pastor.  And God brought the accident to my mind.  I said to God, “Lord, we’ve been through this accident hundreds of times together.  I don’t want to think about it anymore.  Why are you bringing this up now?”

I’m not sure I really wanted an answer, but God brought it up because he knew I was finally ready to get his perspective on the accident.  Out of the hundreds of times I went over that accident in my mind, the one perspective I never took was that of the young man – the other driver.  God invited me to take a different view, from the other driver.  So, I did.  I know that intersection like the back of my hand, so it wasn’t a hard exercise.

I put myself in the driver’s seat of his car.  I’m driving down the gravel road not paying attention to the fact that a stop sign is coming up.  I blow through the sign onto the highway and right in front of a minivan who slams on the brakes just enough to crush the rear quarter panel.  I spin out like a top and come to rest only a few feet from a huge Iowa grain elevator.

For the first time in my life I finally understood.  God had a divine appointment for me that day.  You see, if I had not come along just when I did, that young man and his girlfriend would have blown through the stop sign and struck that grain elevator.  It would have killed them both instantly.

perspective changes everything

Suddenly, my perspective changed 180 degrees.  Previously, I had always thought about myself and my family.  I always considered my hardship and my change of life.  But now I saw that God sent his servant to save two lives that day.  Had I not struck his car, causing him to spin and come to a rest unharmed, two people would have died.

Now, every time my back acts up, like today, and it effects how my life is lived, I’m reminded that it is a very small price to pay for the lives of two human beings.  Perspective is everything.

The biblical meaning of “repentance” is literally to have a change of mind – to see a different perspective.

The Bible invites us to view our lives with new lenses.  Our hurts and our pains, our sorrows and our sufferings, our changes and our limitations, are all part of something much bigger that God is doing in the world.  We are not always privy to his plans and purposes.  But his Word challenges us to take a perspective of the world, of humanity, and of ourselves that is counter to how we often think only about ourselves.

The thread of God’s moral perspective, his view of human ethics, runs through the entirety of the Bible.  The psalmist reminds us that this Word is good, sweet, and more precious than gold (Psalm 19).  The Apostle Paul reminds us that this Word is our wisdom to live by (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  And Jesus, as the Word made flesh among us, lived that loving and gracious Word with perfect moral and ethical goodness.  The temple, as the place where God’s Word was read and observed, was not to be adulterated with the view of making a profit – which was why Jesus drove out the money-changers (John 2:13-22).  Later, after Jesus died and rose from death, his disciples gained a new perspective.  They remembered their master’s words and affirmed them as being the Word of God.  They believed.  Their repentance and faith changed the world.

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God is inviting us to take up his Word and see our lives, the lives of others, and every event and situation through that lens.  We are to see Jesus, not only as a great teacher, a moral and good person, and a loving healer – but also as Lord and Savior.  In a very small way I suffered so that someone else could live.  But Jesus suffered sin, death, and hell in our place so that you and I could live – so that we might have the eternal life of enjoyment with God forever.

Allow the Word of God to shape your lives and form your thinking today and every day.  You might not always know what God is doing, but you can be assured that everything he does is just, right, and good.

May you know Christ better in this season as you reflect upon our Lord’s great sacrifice on our behalf.  May you know the love of God the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Job 7:1-21


            Few people have ever suffered such agonizing loss as the Old Testament character of Job.  He literally lost everything but his life.  All his kids were killed, and he was so racked with physical pain and ill health that even his closest friends barely recognized him.  Yet the most severe suffering of all came from the grinding silence of God about the whole affair.  Job felt the spiritual pain of a seemingly distant God:  “Why have you made me your mark?  Why have I become a burden to you?”
             Indeed, when one is in the throes of grief, and God does not respond, the suffering seems pathetically senseless.  As I write this, another spate of shootings have this week rocked American towns in the West and Mid-West.  Where is God in all this?  As families grieve and communities reel in shock, how can the loss of life and safety square with a God who is Sovereign over all creation?
             It’s the silence that often hurts so badly.  Groans, laments, and anguish seem to fly up and away with no easy answers and no immediate relief.  Yet, God hears.  God sees.  And God knows.  We have a big picture perspective of the book of Job.  We know the end of the story.  We even know why Job suffered, even when he himself never knew.  But even with such an understanding, there is still a large mystery to the ways and the silence of God.
             It is a great temptation for many Christians to give neatly wrapped answers to life’s most difficult realities.  But the book of Job does not allow for it.  What we have is a man who never understood all that happened in his life, yet held onto his integrity and his faith in the God he never fully understood.  After all, if we understood all there is to understand about God, he would not be God at all.
             Invisible God, you are not only unseen physically, but many times spiritually and emotionally unseen, as well.  Open the eyes of my heart so that I might catch but a glimpse of your working.  Even though I am but a child and know so little, yet I trust in your steadfast love even in the most difficult experiences of life.  Amen.

Psalm 37:12-22

            Perspective is everything.  When an ornery cuss swears at us, a group of people think the worst of us, or an organization takes advantage of us, not to mention wars, poverty, human trafficking, and a host of victimization around the globe in which evil seems to be winning, we might feel like crumbling under the weight of evil in the world.  But when we add God to the mix, it changes everything.
 
            The vantage of the psalmist is that all this malevolent plotting that exists can’t even begin to stand up to the large sovereignty of God.  “The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.”  It is almost as if we get the picture of some puny bugs on the ground making nefarious plans, completely oblivious to the hugeness of God that towers over them.  They are about to be squished but are too busy going about their puny business to look up and see what is coming.  The bugs are totally powerless in the face of such an awesome presence.
 
            We as human beings become much too discouraged far too easily.  The remedy is to be filled with a robust theology that discerns God as far above all our problems and situations.  No matter how ominous the machinations of sin array against us, the believer is assured that God is in control and that, in the end, the wicked will get their comeuppance.  No earthly power, no clever person, and no human organization can ever go toe to toe with the gargantuan God we serve.  Put all your circumstances beside this God and see if it changes your perspective.
            Mighty God, you bless those who are dedicated to you, and you put down those who rage against you.  Fortify my spirit and let me see just the train of your robe, and I will glimpse the large grandeur of your glory.  Let me know Jesus Christ risen and ascended far above all principalities and powers of this earth.  Amen.

Hebrews 11:23-26

            The Lectionary readings for today draw our attention to the life of Moses.  The unique circumstances of his birth turned into a distinctive adult life.  By faith, Moses, when he was a grown man, chose to be mistreated with God’s people rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Instead of looking for a temporary reward or immediate comfort and satisfaction, Moses saw the end in sight and ordered his life’s trajectory accordingly.
            Because Moses had his priorities arranged in light of the future eternal inheritance, he was able to influence others appropriately in the present.  It would be easy for us to simply live for the day, to get lost in the daily demands of deadlines and duties.  But keeping the end in view is both helpful and necessary to having peace of mind, faith in heart, and purpose through action for today.
            The kind of reward we are looking forward to will determine what we set our affections upon.  If, like the Pharisees of old, we want an immediate recognition of our work and spiritual effort now, we may get it – but nothing more.  However, if we look ahead to an eternal reward, considering the reproach of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of this world, then we will receive it, even though our present situations may not be pleasant.  It is the wise person who works today for a reward that will come another day.
            Eternal God, since you see all of history from beginning to end, help me to have a proper perspective of my circumstances, my relationships, and myself so that I might rightly order my loves and point them in the direction of Christ.  Amen.