It’s all about perspective

I sat down earlier this week to write in my journal, my mind racing on a few things that I had let get under my skin.  I was ready to let it all out, analyze all the circumstances, and try to process why I was letting myself feel so defeated.  As I picked up my pen and put it to paper, however, this is what came out:

 

Don’t look at the circumstances.

Look at Jesus.

 

I stopped, actually a little bit surprised at what I had just written.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was exactly the line of thinking that I needed to follow.

 

I didn’t need to spend any more time dwelling on my circumstances.  As a matter of fact, overthinking and letting small annoyances take up too much mental and emotional space is one of my greatest flaws (#recoveringperfectionist).

 

It’s too easy to look at my circumstances and, from my limited perspective, feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  I need to spend less time looking at things from the wrong perspective.  Instead, I need to get the perspective of Jesus.

 

I remember a time several years ago sitting up by Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest.  As I watched the early morning mist roll off the lake, the only sound was the small ripples of water washing up on shore.  I got up from my chair and walked until my toes were right at the edge of the lake.  The tiny ripples of water just barely splashed over the soles of my sandals.  As the chilly mountain lake tickled my toes, I looked down and saw a small ant scurrying along the edge of the water.

 

In that moment, I thought about how important perspective can be.  To that tiny ant scurrying along, the ripples from the lake were giant-sized.  To me, the ripples were barely enough to splash over the edge of my sandal.

 

A few weeks later, I was back to my sunny southern California beaches learning how to surf.  I watched my friend from the shore for a little bit and the waves looked small and friendly enough so I grabbed my board and started to paddle out.  In case you’ve never surfed before, you should be forewarned that the hardest part is paddling out past the breaking waves.  All of a sudden, as I was laying on my stomach paddling out, those small and friendly waves towered over me and threatened to knock me off my board.  What looked small and friendly from the shore became overwhelming when I was in the midst of it.

 

For the ant by the lake, a small perspective made small things feel giant.  For me on my surfboard, a too-close perspective made things feel giant too.

 

When it comes to circumstances, it’s no different.  If our perspective is too narrow and we only look at a problem from our limited point of view, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Or if we’re wrapped up and too close to a situation, we can easily start freaking out.  It’s not that the circumstances are all that bad; it’s that our perspective is bad.

 

I needed that reminder again this week, and maybe you do too.  I’d let myself get wrapped up in my circumstances instead of getting wrapped up in the love of God.

 

I flipped over to Colossians 1:15-20 and decided that instead of spending the morning thinking about my problems, I wanted to think about Jesus.  Here’s what I read:

 

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created:  things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 

All things are created in Jesus.  Created through him and for him.

 

Our new puppy (that refuses to be potty trained)?  Created by and for Jesus.

My friends and family? Created by and for Jesus

The home that we live in? Created by and for Jesus.

The people that sometimes drive me crazy?  Created by and for Jesus.

My circumstances in life? Created by and for Jesus.

 

Even the circumstances I was in that were causing me grief that morning?

Created by and for Jesus.

 

If everything is made in Jesus, created through him and for him, there is NOTHING in my life or yours that Jesus isn’t present in.  Those circumstances you wish were different?  If you get the right perspective you might just find that Jesus is trying to get your attention.  Maybe there’s something he wants you to learn.  Or maybe he just wants you to know that he’s holding you and you can stop freaking out because he’s with you and he’s got it under control.  I’m not saying there’s no such thing as bad circumstances.  Believe me, I know there are.  What I am saying is that no matter the circumstance, it will always look better if you can look at it from God’s perspective.

 

Sometimes we don’t need to change our circumstances.  In fact, it might be better for some of us if for a while we stopped asking God to change our circumstances and instead started asking him to change our perspective.

 

Don’t look at the circumstances.

Look at Jesus.

 

And then look at your circumstances from Jesus’ perspective.  I promise it will all look a lot better.

 

Galatians 3: 1-5

GALATIANS 3: 1-5

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?  4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

 

Before starting this passage in Galatians 3, take a quick look at how Paul ended chapter 2.

Galatians 2: 20-21 >>>  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

And now take a look at the opening of Galatians 3.

Galatians 3:1 >>> You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

The crucifixion of Jesus is central here.  As followers of Jesus, we share in the death of Jesus.  Forgiveness of sins did not come cheaply for Jesus, and neither can we cheaply accept it.

Paul wants his reader to understand the magnitude and visibility of what Christ went through.  When Jesus offered himself up to be nailed to the cross on our behalf, the effects were far reaching.  Only through death could the payment for our sins be fully satisfied.  Only through the blood of Jesus could our lives truly be changed.  We are foolish to think our human effort will accomplish what Christ’s death did for us.

Both salvation and sanctification — the process of growing to be more like Christ — are a work of the Spirit.  And the way for both was opened through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Look at Paul’s rhetorical questions to make his point in this passage, and circle all the places where Paul talks about the Spirit.

Galatians 3: 2-3, 5 >>>  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? … So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

 

>>>Here’s a few questions to think about:

Do you need to stop trying so hard?  When you start to worry that you don’t measure up, or you’ve done something (or too many things) wrong, remind yourself of this truth:

God is WITH YOU and WORKING IN YOU not because of anything you do or don’t do, but because he has promised!

God’s presence and activity in your life depend on him, and not on you!

In which of the following areas of your life do you struggle with feeling like you’re not enough?  Check any that apply, or write your own in the space provided.

__ Job/career

__ Finances

__ Friendships

__ Family

__ Dating/Marriage

__ Parenting

__ Body image

__ Social media

__ Possessions

__ Other 

 

What would it look like to walk in the truth that you don’t have to strive to be good enough in these areas — God is with you anyway?

 
What are 3 ways you can remind yourself this week of the truth that your worth and God’s work in you are dependent on the Spirit, and not in how well you perform?

Galatians 2:11-21

GALATIANS 2:11-21

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

As the early church was learning to integrate Jews and Gentiles into one new multi-ethnic family of God, one of the problem areas was sharing meals.  One of the distinctives of what it meant to be Jewish, much like the mark of circumcision, was a strict dietary code.  To Jews, sharing a meal with a non-Jew was viewed as potentially problematic because in doing so they could compromise their own dietary laws.  This is why, out of Peter’s fear of judgment from other Jews, he compromised the truth of the gospel when he went back to living under the law by refusing to share a meal with Gentiles.  Peter’s compromise then led others astray, so Paul confronts Peter in front of the the group.  Paul wants Peter and all of those refusing to share life around the table with their new Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ to repent.  In this instance, Peter’s influence led people in the wrong direction as he folded under peer pressure.

Paul continues to emphasize what it takes to be justified before God.

Galatians 2:16 >>>  [We] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Bible study tip >>> Look for repeated words and phrases. Circle all the times when “justified” and “faith” appear in the passage

To be justified is to be declared righteous before God.  It means we are put into right standing and right relationship with God.  Paul clearly emphasizes that no amount of following the law will fix us or bring us into right standing before God.  Only faith in Jesus Christ can do that.

However, if our works can’t save us, does that mean we can do whatever we want?  Paul answers that question next.

Galatians 2:17-19 >>> 17 But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.  19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Justification by faith does not mean we just don’t worry about the law and keep sinning.  Christ’s death fulfilled the law.  If anything, Christ’s life on earth gives us a perfect model of how to live and love the way God intended.  Christ simply freed us from having to rely on the law in order to earn God’s approval.  If we still want to hold up the law as essential to earn our righteousness, all we will end up proving in the end is that we can’t live up to those standards.  Christ presents us a new option: we can say goodbye to our old way of life and learn a new way of life in him!

Galatians 2:20 >>> I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We have died to our old way of life and have been invited to live under a new law — the law of a Savior who loves us so much he would give his life for ours.

 

>>>Here’s a few questions to think about:

In this passage, Peter’s influence led others astray and needed to be called out.

Where do I have influence?  Where is my influence leading people?

 

Faith is trust in what we have reason to believe is true.  It’s taking what we believe and then living as if it’s really true.  Faith in something should show up in our actions.  Our faith is not in the law.  We don’t need to act as if we are dependent on the law.  The law isn’t bad — it’s just not what determines our worth or our salvation.  We live out the truth that Christ has already completed our work of salvation.

Is there an area of your life where you feel anxiety over not being good enough?  What would it look like to claim and live out the truth that Christ has already declared you loved and redeemed in that area of your life?

 

We have been crucified with Christ and our old habits and harmful patters have been put to death — but sometimes we live as if they still run our lives.  Sin no longer has any hold on us except what we choose to give it.

Is there an area of your life God might be asking you to continue putting to death?

 

 

 

Galatians 1:13-24

GALATIANS 1:13-24

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

 

In writing this letter to the Galatians, Paul is trying to counter the false teaching of those who came after him and preached a different gospel.  Let’s take a look at what Paul has said already about the origin of the gospel he shared with the Galatians:

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

The true gospel is the gospel that comes from God and not from human origins.  Paul is concerned the Galatians have been deceived by a false, human-made gospel.  He’s writing to persuade the Galatians to return to the true gospel that is revealed from God.

Paul continues on to share the story of how his own life was radically transformed by the true gospel.  He continues developing the idea that the gospel he preaches is revelation from God alone, and not something he learned from another human:

15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

Paul was not dependent on anyone else to learn and grow in his faith.  He didn’t have the faith someone else handed to him.  He didn’t wait around for someone to tell him what he should believe.  He had a life-changing encounter with Jesus, and then he devoted himself to searching and studying the Scriptures to learn more!

 

>>>Here’s a few questions to think about:

Go back to Galatians 1:11-12 and 1:15-16 and look for the words “revelation” and “reveal” in how the gospel came to Paul.  Look how the gospel is similarly talked about in Romans:

Romans 1:16 >>> For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Receiving the gospel is categorically different than learning a history lesson.  As the gospel acts on your life, it comes with the power of God to bring about life  change!  It’s not something to be learned; it’s something to be received and responded to.

How did you first receive the gospel?  Can you relate to the idea that the gospel is supernatural and not just another idea man came up with?

 

Read Acts 9:1-31.  When Paul received the gospel, he spent some time away studying.  He wanted to be sure the gospel he believed and the gospel he preached were not influenced or led astray from another human, but purely the revelation of the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Is there anything you believe that might be from a human source in regards to the gospel?

What would it look like for you take time to get to know God better for yourself instead of relying on what someone else has told you about God?Have you come to know God yourself

The Most Valuable Thing I Learned in 2015

A couple months ago, a really wise person in my life introduced the importance of moving what we know in our heads down to our hearts, practicing it with our hands, and then once that cycle is complete we are ready to share it with others.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown puts it this way: “We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being. The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: ‘Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.’”

  
When I write, or talk with others, I’m so often tempted to short-circuit this cycle and move from my head straight to my mouth, parroting out words without having tested them myself.   

I set out to write this blog about a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in 2015, but then I asked myself which of the lessons I wanted to write about was fully integrated into my heart and working its way out through my hands…and I came up as a still-very-messy-work-in-progress.

And so this, instead, is my biggest lesson from 2015: That I need to do more than just learn something in my head and repeat it back as a hollow echo.

A few weeks ago I was finishing one of the best books I read in 2015, Rising Strong by Brene Brown. And while I was reading this book about finding the courage to live authentically and vulnerably, I was going over a scenario in my head that I was really frustrated by. I’m naturally conflict-avoidant so rather than do the right thing of getting in touch with a friend to talk out how I’d been hurt, I just sat there, feeling more and more frustrated as I read a chapter about compassion, whole-hearted living, and being brave enough to tell others how we really feel.

I had one of those ridiculous inner-monologue moments where I knew I could either keep reading a book about the kind of life that I want to live, or I could actually go do the thing that would put into practice the kind of life that I want to live. And so, with a lot of eye-rolling and “Are you kidding me, God?” self-pity, I got over myself, put the book down, took the initiative, and reached out to repair a relationship.

There are a lot of lessons that I learned in 2015, but a lot of them are still in my head. A few are working their way down to my heart, and even fewer are working their way out through my hands. But when I think about the kind of person I could be at the end of 2016 if even two or three of these lessons actually became fully integrated into my life, I feel hopeful and excited.

As a follower of Jesus, I have the most incredible resource for wise living found in the Bible. I’ve got so much of it rattling around inside my head, and in 2016 I’m hopeful to see how God continues to use the everyday moments and lessons to establish these ideas more deeply in my heart and help me live them out in my day-to-day interactions with others.

And hopefully, this time next year, I’ll have a few more hard-earned lessons that I can share with you.

Finding What I’m Made For

For a few months while I was in college, my friends and I were engaged in a full scale (yet friendly) prank war.  It was guys versus girls in a game of who could out-do who, and it escalated to a point where, to preserve our friendships, we actually drafted and signed a “Prank War Manifesto” to make sure we didn’t go too far.

One of the girls had this 3 foot tall wooden fork and spoon set that hung on the wall in her kitchen, and the guys managed to smuggle them out of the house one night.  To get even, the girls rallied a few days later and went over to the guys’ house when we knew they would all be in class.  We shimmied in through the bathroom window and ransacked their kitchen, making out with all of their silverware—even grabbing the dirty ones from the sink and dishwasher—to hold as ransom until the other items were returned.  For a day or two the guys got by eating their cereal with large serving spoons before they finally agreed to make the trade.

These prank war episodes were punctuated by midterms, football games, camping trips, and coffee addictions.  But in the midst of all of the fun and frivolity of life at Oregon State, we also were trying to sort out what exactly it was we wanted our lives to be about.  We had made our Prank War Manifesto, but the guidelines of how we would live the rest of our life seemed a bit murky at times.

Even now as I launch into my thirties, I sometimes feel like I could use a clear manifesto on just what exactly I’m supposed to be pursuing with my life.

As I make decisions about how I use my time, what habits and patterns I establish, the people I surround myself with, and the education and careers I pursue, do I ever pause long enough to ask what it is I’m hoping to accomplish when all is said and done?

Life can be about a lot of things.  At the end of the day, when I look back, I want to know that my life, my days, and my decisions were being used for the right things.

One of the verses I keep coming back to is Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act Justly.

Love Mercy.

Walk Humbly.

3 things.  I can try and do those three things.  I think the world would be a little bit better if all of us learned how to do these three things a little bit better together.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your life?  What do you need to say no to, in order to be able to say yes to the right things?

Micah 6 8

We > Me

I’ve found that when I ask “What can I possibly do?”, the answer is usually very small and discouraging. But when I start thinking about what WE can do, I can’t think of any problem that can’t be tackled.

The USA Women’s soccer team just won their 3rd World Cup ending a 16 year drought since their last time as World Cup champions in 1999, and becoming the first women’s team in history to win that many titles.

As I watched the trophy presentation, the commentators remarked on the amazing teamwork that led these women to victory.  When Abby Wambach came on as a sub late in the second half, Carli Lloyd handed off her captain’s armband to the former star and team captain in a show of respect to Wambach as she played her last match on the World Cup stage.  When it came time to accept the trophy, Wambach and Christine Rampone both accepted the trophy and then counted to three before hoisting it up together.  Rampone was the oldest member on the team at 40, and also came on as a late sub to play in her last match ever in the World Cup.  She was the only member of the 2015 team who had also played for the 1999 team, the last US women’s team to win the World Cup.

These small acts of deference were a small symbol of just how well these women worked together as a team, always looking out for the good of each other and eager to share the glory.  The victory accomplished was done as a team.

The first goal of the game came from Carli Lloyd—her first of 3 goals that would lead her team to victory—was off of a cornerkick from Megan Rapinoe.  That cornerkick was earned by Morgan Brian, the youngest member of the team.  Without Brian earning the corner, and Rapinoe setting it up perfectly, Lloyd doesn’t get her goal.  The point?  It was all about the team.


2 weeks ago, I was in the midst of my whirlwind tour through Thailand and Cambodia learning about the incredible work that Destiny Rescue is doing to rescue and restore children out of sex trafficking.  Confronted with an issue as big and evil as sex trafficking, I frequently feel overwhelmed and find myself asking, “What can I possibly do?”

What can I possibly do?

I’ve asked this question many times, and maybe you have too.  Maybe it’s about the same issue, or maybe there is another issue that you are passionate about.  You want to do something to help, but don’t know how you, one small tiny individual, could possibly make a difference.

But something shifted for me while I was on this trip.  I realized that maybe I was asking the wrong question.  When I ask “What can I do?”, I frequently feel small and overwhelmed.  But I started to change just one little word in that question, and I realized it made all the difference in the world.

What if, instead of asking “What can I do?”, we started asking “What can WE do?”

What can WE do?

I am only one person with limited time, ideas, and resources.  WE are a group with unlimited time, ideas, and resources.

I am only one small voice.  WE can raise a shout that will be heard around the world.

I am only one perspective and one piece of a puzzle.  WE are all perspectives and backgrounds and together can see the whole picture.

I am only two hands and two feet.  WE are a family with hands to reach out to all in need, and feet to go to every corner of our world.

I am only one part.  WE are a body with every part working together in harmony to accomplish great things.

I’ve found that when I ask “What can I possibly do?”, the answer is usually very small and discouraging.  But when I start thinking about what WE can do, I can’t think of any problem that can’t be tackled.

I have some good news to share with you, friends.

The needs in the world are great, but the power of God is greater (Genesis 18:14; Job 42:2; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26).

Christ has built his church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).

Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 2:23, 4:4).

Christ has already won the victory over sin and death (John 16:33; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

We are the body of Christ, HIS hands and HIS feet, empowered by HIS Spirit (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

We ALL have a role to play (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 2:10, 4:7).

Sometimes I think we miss the point of verses like this, or we jump on the wrong bandwagon and then wonder why God isn’t doing anything.  Let me be clear:  I am convinced that there is no injustice in the world today that can stand against the power of the people of God who are being led by and dependent upon His Spirit.  I am convinced that if all the followers of Jesus decided to work together to end something like child sex trafficking, all of our resources and efforts combined could end this awful injustice within a few short years.  Or apply the same idea to orphan care, clean drinking water, or people dying of preventable diseases.  I’m not talking about political agendas and passing legislation; I’m talking about you and me being the hands and feet of Jesus to love people in practical and tangible ways.  No one is going to argue against us if we want to feed the poor, and we might even win some people over to seeing Jesus a little bit more clearly if we started doing things like this a little bit better.

So let’s learn how to play together as a team.

Let’s build one another up, and encourage one another.

Let’s learn each other’s strengths, and celebrate each other’s gifts.

Let’s get on our knees and pray together and seek how God is moving and how we can play a part.

It’s time to ask, “What can WE do together as the people of God?”.  And I think the answer is going to be pretty exciting.

It’s not just up to you.  So grab your closest friends, choose a cause you care about, and see how much greater of an impact you can have when you work together than you ever could on your own.

And leave a comment below with your thoughts, or your cause that you want to make a difference in!

WE > ME