Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Power of Perspective

Nothing brings perspective like the truth. And though the truth is hard to hear, and even harder to say at times, it is the best way to gain perspective on any issue.

The truth is how God brought Jonah to the correct perspective. Sure, it was delivered in the form of a question in Jonah 4:10-11, but it is a rhetorical question, so the answer is assumed. And the answer? "You bet I shoud be concerned!" (That's my loose interpreation of God's implied answer to Jonah in the original Hebrew.)

That helped Jonah start seeeing the situation correctly instead of selfishly; that helped him start viewing people as primary, his own comfort as secondary (at best); that helpped him gain God's perspetive about others: they matter!

Yep, nothing like to truth to help us see things correctly. Check out the way this young college girl used it to help her dad have the right perspective:

“Dear Dad,
Sorry I haven’t written sooner. My arm was dramatically broken. Seriously, I broke it, and my left leg, when I jumped from the second floor of my dormitory. Oh yeah, we had a fire. But we were lucky. A young service station attendant saw the blaze and called the fire department. Fortunately, they were there in minutes. But I was in the hospital for a few days for smoke issues and the broken bones. However, Paul, the service station attendant who originally called the firefighters, came to see me every day. And because it was taking so long to get our dormitory livable again, I moved in with him. He has been so nice! I must admit, though, I was surprised when I discovered I am expecting a baby, and even more surprised when the doctor said I have something he calls a “social disease.” But don’t worry, Dad, the shots are working, and we have an abortion clinic nearby as well. Of course, Paul and I plan to get married, but he needs to get his divorce processed first. We're not sure how the custody battle will go, so for now his five kids will probably live with us. Anyway, I hope things are fine at home. I’m actually doing fine now that things have settled down a bit, and will write more when I get the chance.
Your daughter

P.S. None of the above is true. But I did get a “C” in Sociology and I flunked a Chemistry test. I just wanted you to receive the news in its proper perspective.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Justly Angry or Just Angry?

God asks 3 questions in Jonah 4, and 2 of them are somewhat similar because they both involve the issue of anger. Essentially, God asked Jonah, "Do you have a right [just casue] to be angry?" Sure, he was referring to Jonah's anger towards God the first time, and then to the vine the second time. But the fundamental issue of anger is still present.

So was God actually implying there can be just causes for anger? You bet! Don't misunderstand me -- Jonah didn't have one. But that doesn't mean there can't be one ever.

For instance, Jesus was righteously angry with the misuse of his Father's house, and he threw out the abusers (Matthew 21:12-13). And Paul said “in your anger don’t sin” (Eph. 4:26). James even instructed us to be "slow to become angry" (James 1:19). Notice he didn't say never become angry, just be slow to get angry. Why? Because quick anger is usually the wrong kind of anger; it is a man-type of anger, not a God-type of anger.

Now back to Jonah...Basically, God wanted to know if Jonah was justly angry or just angry? What's the difference? The focus of the anger! In Jonah's case, he was hoping for an end to his enemies when he should have been hoping for an end to their wickedness. He was fixated on the end result from man’s perspective when he should have been hoping for an end to their sin from God's perspective.

What's at the end of your anger -- sin or sinners? When wickedness is the focus of our anger, it's a rightoues indignation; we are justly angry. (Check out Duet. 9 for an example of God's just anger against sin, not sinners.) But when people are at the end of our anger, then we're just angry; we're selfishly upset, not righteously indignant.

Bottom line? "Love the sinner, hate the sin." (Props to the old-time preachers I grew up on!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

chanCe and chanGe

One of the intriging things I find in Jonah occurs obscurely in the beginning of chapter three. As Jonah hears the word of the Lord a second time (another chanCe), he is expected to do things differently (a chanGe). And I can't help but think that these two concepts are linked! In fact, only one letter separates them!

Jonah's story helps me understand "chanCes" and "chanGes" better -- they come packaged together! The second chance I want is probably -- and rightly -- connected to the change I need. There must be a personal understanding that another opportunity (a second chanCe) should mean a different outcome (a chanGe).

When I keep those two linked, I'm much more likely to make good use of the second chanCes God gives me to chanGe my disobedience to obedience. And isn't that the point of a second chanCe -- to chanGe what I did the first time? You bet!

Ah, chanCe and chanGe...a powerful pair indeed!