You can get very creative if you are bored enough. Observe: When I was a kid, binoculars could be used for all sorts of things – watching the road while driving in the car (guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 12 carsick), spying on the neighbors (an oldie but a goodie), and of course, you could always look through them the wrong way and walk through the house feeling 10 feet tall! That one was always good for a few laughs and a new perspective.
We all understand the importance of perspective (at least when ours is untainted). We understand that things that are truly important today will matter in five years, 10 years, and 50 years. Some of us who are visionaries believe that very important things will matter in 100 and 500 years – just as historical events are important to us today. But the lens of history is not “far-sighted” enough.
Secular historians view King Omri as a “good” ruler? God disagrees. “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him.” – 1 Kings 16:25
Authorities on the subject have dubbed King Jeroboam II a successful king. God says otherwise – He declared that that Jeroboam did evil and failed to repent of the sins of his predecessors (2 Kings 12:24).
Current experts look back on Manassah’s rule and approve. God doesn’t. He said that he shed “very much” innocent blood and seduced the people to do evil (2 Kings 21).
It didn’t matter that these three men expanded their country’s impact, improved their economic standing, kept peaceful relations with their powerful neighbors, or made ground breaking treaties and trade agreements. Regardless of the opinions of historians, these kings were weighed and found wanting. Eternal God said their life choices were blind and short sighted (2 Peter 1:9). And His opinion is the only one that matters today and tomorrow, a decade and a millennia from now, and for eternity.
Perhaps I am not as far sighted as I had thought.
Are you sitting down? If not, prepare yourself for a shock. I found myself last night thinking of a career politician (that shall remain unnamed) and the harm “he” had done to our children, our families, and our country. He is doubtless in the later years of his life. He is closer to hell than he has ever been. And still I cringed inside thinking that he could trust in Jesus, repent of his sins, and die and go to heaven.
In my mind and heart – it should be too late for him. The children he has killed will never live again. The women he has scarred will never be made whole again. The marriages he threw away and the futures he squandered are never going to be restored. He will never be able to pay for great evil he has brought to our people and our land. Never.
That attitude is precisely why Jonah ended up at Nineveh against his will and by way of a whale of a taxi. Have you ever heard a sermon that empathized with Jonah? I didn’t think so. And have you read his book and thought, “O, poor Jonah.” No. We are very hard on Jonah.
But the truth is: Get the right sinner in my crosshairs and I cry out with Jonah when he looked on that sinful city and literally yelled at God, “I knew You would do this! You would have mercy on them! And if you are going to spare them, what good is it to live? Just kill me now!”
The Divine answer? God never said they were worthy of grace. Because they weren’t. He never said they would be able to provide reparations for their sins. Because they couldn’t. He merely said, “You pity the plant that I gave you for a day. Why don’t you pity these people who are so ignorant they get lost between their right and left hands?”
And that is where the book of Jonah ends. It doesn’t say how Jonah responded – because that doesn’t matter. What matters is our response. Will I let my Jonah heart be broken and remade before the God Who has been so gracious to me?
You probably are not an “Amazing Book” fan (the children’s cartoon that explores the Bible), but the title comes from one of its songs. The song speaks of how people use and read the Bible for different purposes. The lonely find comfort in it. The bored have a diversion. The believer is ushered into the presence of God. And the scholar achieves knowledge.
I am currently reading a book written by a Biblical scholar who is not a Christ-follower. Somehow the words of this Book, which have brought me alive and given me peace with God, seem to be only a fascinating academic exercise for him.
He is me without Christ.
What he learns stays in his head rather than taking root in his heart. What he reads remains on the paper – and changes nothing. What he discovers goes no deeper than the ink instead of infiltrating every aspect of his life.
The author has clearly made the Bible his life’s work but not his life’s book. He has found knowledge of facts and figures but not knowledge of the Truth. He benefits from the principles of wisdom in the pages of Scripture but not from the wisdom of the fear of God. He is stunted spiritually – and mature in cynicism – because even though these Words of Life are before him every day, he has rejected them. And as I realized this, I was distraught for him. For where else can he go (John 6:68)? And then my eyes turned inward. These Words of Life are before me every day, which ones have I rejected in my heart? In my mind? And in my life?
That author is indeed me…but for the grace of God.
The first Sunday in February should be an American holiday. Not only would it celebrate an American invention and tradition but it would highlight our shared belief that grown men should basically kill each other over an inflated pigskin. Now, of course, this year (as a Bills fan through and through) the best outcome of the game would be a double loss but I have found the silver lining: As you watch this game – notice what the guys on one side of the field have in common.
Underneath the uniforms, not much; they are from different parts of the country, went to different schools, have different goals in life, and different opinions on life in general. One thing keeps them together on that sideline. They are one the same football team. They may not agree about anything else -- but on that field they live and die for each other and for the game they love. The game is the main thing.
Now, before you watch the game – notice what the people sitting around you in church have in common. Underneath their faith, not much; they are from different walks of life, different backgrounds, their education is different, and they have different opinions on the church carpet and the pastor. One thing keeps us together in that church. We are on the same spiritual team. We may not agree about much -- but we love Jesus, our Savior and our God, and want others to love Him too. The King in the main thing.
As much as I love it, football is not forever and the unity a team once had is always left back in the glory days. This weekend two teams will come together with great determination and unity of purpose. They will play their hearts and souls out to win a game that – ultimately – doesn’t matter. But our faith in Jesus Christ is eternal and our glory days are ahead of us. The “game” we are playing for the souls of men and women matters forever – why can’t we come together with unyielding fortitude and unity of spirit?
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.