Psalm 37:12-22 – Get Some Perspective

Merciless people make plots
against good people
    and snarl like animals,
but the Lord laughs and knows
    their time is coming soon.
The wicked kill with swords
and shoot arrows
to murder
    the poor and the needy
    and all who do right.
But they will be killed
    by their own swords,
    and their arrows
    will be broken.

It is better to live right
and be poor
    than to be sinful and rich.
The wicked will lose all
    of their power,
but the Lord gives strength
    to everyone who is good.

Those who obey the Lord
    are daily in his care,
    and what he has given them
    will be theirs forever.
They won’t be in trouble
    when times are bad,
    and they will have plenty
    when food is scarce.

Wicked people are enemies
    of the Lord
    and will vanish like smoke
    from a field on fire.

An evil person borrows
    and never pays back;
    a good person is generous
    and never stops giving.
Everyone the Lord blesses
    will receive the land;
    everyone the Lord curses
    will be destroyed.
(Contemporary English Version)

The angle from which we view things is really important.

Perspective is everything. 

Whenever some ornery cuss swears at us, or a group of people think the worst of us, or an organization takes advantage of us, we might feel like crumbling underneath the weight of stress.

Throw into the mix the state of world affairs: pandemic, natural disasters, war, poverty, human trafficking, and a legion of unjust victimization and oppression around the globe.

And add our own personal issues, whatever they are, of dealing with mental and physical health, and/or difficult relationships with family, co-workers, or neighbors.

Put it all together and it would be rather easy to believe evil is winning. Can we even begin to make a dent in the wickedness of injustice, abuse, and maltreatment?

When we infuse God to the menacing challenges of our world, it changes everything.

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
    The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the creator of the ends of the earth.
    He doesn’t grow tired or weary.
His understanding is beyond human reach.

Isaiah 40:28, CEB

The vantage of the psalmist is that all this immense malevolent plotting which exists cannot even begin to stand up to the even larger sovereign and benevolent God. 

It’s almost as if the Lord looks down from heaven at wicked people and says, “Well, now, isn’t that something, those tiny little yippee dogs thinking they can take on the big dog!” Truth is, the Lord laughs at the wicked, for God sees that their day is coming – and it won’t be pretty for them. 

Or we might picture 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 pathetic business to look up and see what is coming. The bugs are totally powerless in the face of such an awesome presence.

So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn’t play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18, MSG)

We humans who try our best to be good, do right, and live a spiritual life can become much too discouraged, far too easily. 

The remedy to the malady of such disillusionment is to be filled with a robust theology which wisely discerns God as far above all our problems and situations. 

“I am the Lord, the God of all people. Nothing is too difficult for me.”

Jeremiah 32:27, GNT

No matter how ominous the machinations of malicious corruption array against us, the spiritual believer is assured that God is in control, and, in the end, the wicked will get their comeuppance. 

And if we will have the spiritual eyes to see, that fearsome lion who scares the baloney out of us with his loud roar, is really an old toothless cat with no bite. Malicious and malevolent people typically make all kinds of noise and talk a big line, but all they really have is their belligerent bullying and ballyhoo.

No earthly power, no clever person, no loudmouth tormentor, 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.

Deuteronomy 34:1-7 – Take the Long View

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak, nor his strength gone. (New International Version)

A signpost stands at a fork in the road.

Pointing in one direction, the sign says “Victory.”

Pointing in another direction, the sign says, “Fulfillment.”

We must pick a direction.

Which one will we choose?

If we choose the path to Victory,

the goal is to win!

We will experience the thrill of competition,

as we rush toward the finish line.

Crowds gather to cheer for us!

And then it’s over.

And everyone goes home.

If we choose the path to Fulfillment,

The journey will be long.

There will be times in which we must watch our step.

There will be times we can stop to enjoy the view.

We keep going.

We keep going.

Crowds gather to join us on the journey.

And when our lives are over,

those who joined us on the path to Fulfillment,

will keep going without us and

inspire others to join them, too.

–Simon Sinek

Fulfillment

It wasn’t all about Moses. The dream and vision of entering the Promised Land didn’t die with Moses. He was just one character, albeit an especially important character, along generations of Israelites who anticipated the fulfillment of God’s promises to the people.

In Christianity, the victory has already been won. In Christ, every good promise of God is and will be fulfilled. Therefore, we can choose fulfillment. We can live into Christ’s victory over sin, death, and hell by choosing to be fulfilled in our Christian lives and our Christian service.

Fulfillment of our godly dreams, good vision, and compassionate ministry requires looking beyond the short term. Long term sustainable thriving in Christian mission and flourishing as a Christian community requires an eternal perspective.

Change

To have the end in mind, a future far ahead of us, demands systemic change. This alternative system will be inspirational, not fear-based. Rather than afraid of what might happen, a long term view is for the next generation – not the next budget crisis due to the next building need.

Maybe because I have been a pastor for so long and know my tenure in each place is only temporary, I know that my vision needs to look further down the road than my own time with a group of people. And a vision of any faith community needs to outlast our own mortal existence. If such a perspective and vision appear as if it will take the energy and will you do not have, then there is no shame in saying so and planning for a good death.

Resilience

The church is resilient. It has lasted two millennia. She has weathered a lot of challenge and adversity.

Metaphors matter. The word pictures we use are important. I choose not to view the church as the first bite of the apple, which I believe is the best bite. Instead, I see the church as a fine cigar. It’s the last puff of a cigar which to me is the best of all. Christ’s Church is far from its last puff. Rather, I’m saying that the best is yet to come.

Perseverance

Your best years are not in the past; they are in the future. And that is exactly what the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews wanted his readers to see. Yes, it is difficult in the present. You might be tired and weary, feeling as if you cannot keep going with this whole church thing. Maybe you’ve even dropped out altogether. So, according to Hebrews, this is what we do:

You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn. (Hebrews 3:13, CEV)

Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance of faith…. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:22-24, 35-36, NIV)

So then, with endurance, let’s run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up,and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won’t be discouraged, and you won’t give up. (Hebrews 12:1-3, CEB)

So, through Jesus we should never stop offering our sacrifice to God. That sacrifice is our praise, coming from lips that speak his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with others, because sacrifices like these are very pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15-16, ERV)

Community

If we are united in a common cause; choose to collaborate with others; then, even if there is no clear end in sight; we will be on a road of contributing to something bigger than ourselves; something with value that will last well beyond our own lifetimes.

We can anticipate fulfillment.

This is a hard road. It requires counting the cost of discipleship. More important than our doing, is our way of being together, how we are with one another.

For, in the end, relationships bring fulfillment because relationships are the only things we will take with us.

Exodus 20:1-17 – Perspective Changes Everything

Welcome, friends! Sometimes in our lives we can get lost in our thinking – only seeing things from one perspective. God’s Word invites us to see differently – to view ourselves, others, and the world in ways that can change our lives. Click the videos below and let us explore that perspective…

Pastor Tim Ehrhardt
Words written and sung by Michael W. Smith

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
    reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
    bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
    giving insight for living.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
    lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
    each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold,
    even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
    even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to your servant,
    a great reward for those who obey them.

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt

    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Amen. (Psalm 19:7-14, NLT)

Perspective Changes Everything

Perspective is everything. Nearly sixteen years-ago, me and my family were in a car accident. I was traveling on a highway in rural Iowa 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 slammed into the rear quarter panel of his car, and he 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 minivan, with my wife and dog as front seat passengers.  The girls were not harmed. However, my wife tore her shoulder’s rotator cuff trying to protect the dog and had to have surgery to repair it. My lower back was injured, but not in a way which surgery could repair. To this day I live with low-level chronic pain. Most days it’s not bad, maybe a one or two on the pain scale. But on a bad day I can barely walk across the room and need a cane to get around.

I have played the scene of the accident in my mind hundreds of times. I have thought over-and-over again about what I could have done to prevent the accident. Yet 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. But 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 eventually did come to the point of forgiving him.

Over the years I have learned to live with my limitations. I have now accepted the sometimes-irritating pain as part of my life. Still, on occasion, I cannot help but think of what my life would be like today if I hadn’t been in that stupid senseless accident. 

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

carl jung

About six years ago I was praying alone in the church for which I was a pastor, at the time. 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?”

Even though I wasn’t really looking for an answer to my question, God brought it up because the Lord knew I was finally ready to get a divine perspective on the accident. Out of the hundreds of times I went over that accident, the one perspective I never took was that of the young man – the other driver. God invited me to take the young driver’s view of what happened that day. 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 plow into 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.

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”

Irving Berlin

Suddenly, my perspective changed 180 degrees. I always thought about me 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 and it effects how my life is lived, I’m reminded that it is a small price to pay for the lives of two human beings. Perspective changes everything.

The Bible invites us to view our lives from a different perspective. Our hurts and our pains, our sorrows and our sufferings, our changes, and our limitations, are all part of something much bigger God is doing in the world.  We are not always privy to God’s plans and purposes. Yet God’s Word challenges us to take a perspective of the world, of humanity, and of ourselves which is counter to how we often think.

In this season of Lent, we are invited to read God’s Word and practice repentance – literally, a change of mind.  We are invited to see the Ten Words (Commandments) as the glasses through which we are to view our relationship with God and our relationships with others (Exodus 20:1-17). Jesus, summarizing those Ten Words, put it this way: All the Law hangs on loving God and loving our neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

The thread of those moral words, those ethical commands, runs through the entirety of God’s Word, the Bible. The psalmist reminds us that this Word is good, sweet, and more precious than gold (Psalm 19:7-14). 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 making a profit – which was why Jesus drove out the moneychangers.  And he did it with flavor! (John 2:13-22) Later, after Jesus died and rose from death, the disciples remembered their master’s words and affirmed them as being the Word of God. They believed. Their faith and repentance changed the world.

God is inviting us to take up the Divine 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 small way, I suffered so that someone else could live. Yet 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 God does is just, right, and good. 

May you know God’s peace today. May you know Christ better in this season as you reflect upon our Lord’s great sacrifice on our behalf.