Look Up! Perspective and Purpose

You were created with purpose and that purpose was to worship through work.

(Republished with permission from Bruce Strom, Executive Director of Administer Justice, a faith-based legal aid organization providing the help of a lawyer, the hope of God’s love and the home of the church.)

“Look up on high and thank the God of all.”

Geoffrey Chaucer

There is one God, and you are not Him!

Power of Perspective: There is a story of a man who worked at an aviary in a bird park. He was at an outdoor wedding and kept looking up. A friend finally asked him why. The man simply replied, “Sorry, I’m used to looking up to avoid falling bird poop.” If you want to avoid a lot of life’s poop – look up!

Perspective matters. Go outside and look up. You cannot see yourself, but you can see the vastness of space. Look down. You mostly see yourself and not much else. Circumstances cause us to look down and magnify our thoughts, feelings, and fears. Look up. Set your mind on things above. Don’t make you or your circumstance bigger than God.

Power of Purpose: The Westminster Catechism recites our purpose is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is true but can be misunderstood. If not careful, I think it can distort our purpose in the same way viewing Heaven as fluffy clouds where we play harps and sing praises forever can. Honestly heaven is a place of rewards given for work done on Earth. Work continues in Heaven. Work is a healthier view of worship – what it means to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

You were created with purpose and that purpose was to worship through work. The Hebrew word for work is avodah which means work, worship, and service. True worship is rooted in work that serves God and others.

God has work for you in his family business. When you come to faith in Christ you are adopted as his son or daughter and join the business of advancing God’s Kingdom. Jesus came to establish this work – the Kingdom of God on earth. Like any family business, God’s business has a vision, mission, values, guidelines, and positions.

Your job title is vassal, a servant of the King. Your job description is vessel as you allow him to fill you for your work. God’s vision is that none should perish but all should come to faith. In other words, he wants to grow the business by expanding the Kingdom. His mission is to go into all the world making disciples by demonstrating what it means to love God and love others (Great Commission and Commandments).

God has an employee manual with guidelines for living – the Bible. Don’t just skim and sign off on it – read it, memorize it. It is your guide for finding purpose. Then talk to your boss. Can you imagine taking a job and never talking to your boss? I don’t think you’d last long. You will similarly wear out in the work of the Kingdom if you are not regularly communicating with God through prayer.

Finally, live the core values of the Kingdom. He has told you what is required of you: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him (Mic. 6:8). You will discover and live God’s purpose for your life if you see yourself working in the family business.


Consider: What strikes you in this first key: look up through perspective and purpose?

Pray:   Lord, forgive me when I make much of my circumstance and little of you. Help me to find joy in working in your family business of advancing your kingdom of justice and righteousness. Amen.

Lift Up Your Eyes for Perspective and Purpose

Though God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, God invites us into his perspective and purpose.

We live “under the sun”, as the writer of Ecclesiastes describes our existence, filled with existential angst.  We live year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, and moment by moment. The inertia of our lives is focused on the here and now, with our dying always looming in the near distance like a great mountain range rising up to the clouds we cannot conquer.

Our perspective is limited. It is finite. We stand at any given time on a small planet in a small solar system in one of billions of galaxies that exist in a universe. We stand “under the sun”, and our perspective, therefore, limited.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:9)

That verse from Isaiah is a way of saying that God has a different perspective than we do. God has a purpose, and he invites us to consider the difference between His perspective and ours. He desires for us to seek to understand His perspective and to align with His purpose.

When Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, I believe he was encouraging us, at least in part, to understand and to adopt his perspective and his purpose. Our momentary lives include existential angst, dread, suffering and pain, but God has a purpose and a plan for us that is greater than what we see and experience under the sun, and it is liberating!

I see three concrete examples in scripture of the difference between God’s perspective and purpose and ours. (I am sure there are many more.) As God invites us to consider that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, I think it is appropriate to consider and meditate on these three examples.

Continue reading “Lift Up Your Eyes for Perspective and Purpose”

Perspective: As the Heavens Are Higher than the Earth

We can perceive and feel our way to understand that time had a beginning at the point of a quantum vacuum, but we can go no further even to perceive, but for speculation, what lies beyond. We are left to grasp by pure faith that God initiated the universe into being.

Photo from the James Webb Telescope

Perspective can make all the difference in the way we perceive and understand anything. Our view from a position under the canopy of a dense forest will be different than our view from a drone in the same location flying over the same forest canopy. The higher we fly that drone, the more our perspective expands and understanding of our location grows.

From a great height, we see the expanse and contours of the forest, the streams and rivers that run through and beyond it, the mountains in and the oceans in the distance where the forest transitions into the hills, the foothills, the mountains slopes and the peaks in one direction, and the openings, meadow, plains, and coastlands in another direction.

The higher we go and farther out we see, the more we see and understand the forest in relation to other geographical features that surround it and the savannas, valleys, deserts, and coastlands and oceans in the grater world beyond the forest.


“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9


This verse has become so often quoted that it might seem trite to us. “Yea, yea!” we say. “We need to trust God. I get it.”

It’s hard to grasp and trust in the perspective God has from our place where light filters sparingly through the forest canopy. Our perspective is not much better in the barren expanse of a vast desert or on the waves of a vast ocean as far as the human eye can see. Knowing that the forest canopy, barren desert or vast ocean gives way to a different reality can seem like a small consolation from where we stand.

We have a harder time grasping and appreciating that God sees out over the universe where our planet sits tucked among other planets circling the sun in an opportune place in the Milky Way solar system where we peer out, however tentatively, into an expanse of other solar systems stretching out in all directions beyond our capabilities even to observe.

Ninety five percent of the universe we can see is comprised of dark matter and dark energy that we know exists, but we cannot even observe. Mystery surrounds us in every direction and beyond our capability to go or even to glimpse.

We can perceive and feel our way to understand that time had a beginning at the point of a quantum vacuum, but we can go no further even to perceive, but for speculation, what lies beyond. We are left to grasp by pure faith that God initiated the universe into being by His very Word and expends still into some unknown future and “void”.

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God’s Plans Are Bigger than We Often Perceive, and He is Working Them Out Sometimes Despite Us

God promised Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”.

In the service this morning, the message was about Joseph. As often happens, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. The depth and nuance and intricate tapestry that is Scripture often works that way.

I will get to the point, but first, I need to build the backstory. Most readers know of Joseph, so I will be brief. Joseph was the youngest of the 12 sons of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac, the famous son of Abraham. Abraham was the man of faith to whom God gave the following promise:

Go from your country [land] and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3 ESV)

I added the emphasis and will come back to it. In the meantime, we need to recall that Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, who were jealous of him. They plotted to kill him and left him for dead in the bottom of a well.  He was “rescued” by a passing caravan that sold him into slavery in Egypt.

We could say much about the story of Joseph, but I want to fast forward. Joseph’s life teetered on the edge of utter desperation. He experienced a series of very high highs and very low lows. God ultimately blessed Joseph and elevated him to the second most powerful position in Egypt because of Joseph’s faithful use of the gifts and wisdom God gave him.

Many years after his brothers left him for dead, Joseph superintended a massive grain storage plan for Egypt that positioned his “adoptive” country to weather a long, severe famine and provide food for all its people and other nations besides. That same famine prompted his brothers to travel to Egypt when they were on the verge starvation and desperation.

When they arrived and got inline to buy grain, they had no idea they were appearing before their brother, Joseph, but Joseph recognized them and asked them to go back to Canaan and bring his father, Jacob, back down to Egypt with them.

Joseph’s brothers, his father and the whole tribe returned to Egypt. When they returned and finally realized the powerful man who sent them for their father was Joseph, they were ashamed. They also feared retribution against them for their betrayal, but Joseph was gracious and gave them favorable living conditions until Jacob died.

This is the point of the story that was addressed in the service today. Joseph’s brothers were fearful, still, that he held a grudge after Jacob died and would pay them back for their betrayal. (Gen. 50: 15) They didn’t immediately go to Joseph. Instead, they sent a message to Joseph containing instructions their father, Jacob, gave them to say to Joseph: “’I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’” (Gen. 50: 17)

Much could be said about the fact that they sent their father’s instructions to them, rather than their own, delivering own, heartfelt message to their brother, Joseph, but this story isn’t about them. It’s about Joseph.

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Gen. 50:19-21 ESV) (Emphasis added)

Continue reading “God’s Plans Are Bigger than We Often Perceive, and He is Working Them Out Sometimes Despite Us”

Opening Our Eyes and Ears to the Global Church to Gain Perspective

American evangelicals can gain perspective from other believers

I recently read an article by Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald, Waking Up After QAnon: How Can the Church Respond, posted by Christianity Today. The secondary headline is: Evangelicals disproportionately believed conspiracy theories in 2020. How do we recover?

I do not agree completely with everything in this article, but I think it is more “right” than wrong. The following assertion, for instance, certainly rings true to me:

“For years a segment of Christianity has sought to reclaim the United States of America as a Christian nation—or at the very least a nation founded upon Judeo-Christian values. However, they have, at the same time, witnessed the American culture (and, yes, what they see as American elites—media giants, big tech, politicians, and Hollywood) adopt a more secular and progressive agenda.”

I am familiar with the thinking of patriotic Christians because I “grew up” in Christianity in an atmosphere influenced by the Moral Majority and efforts to reclaim the Christian heritage of this country. It was a patriotic movement made “sacred” with Christian reference and fervor.

The community in which I was engaged out of college joined the effort. It seemed that some momentum was being generated in the direction of reclaiming the United States as a Christian nation…. at least while I remained in that community. When I left to go to law school, my perspective changed.

Looking back, I see that patriotic Christianity appeals to a certain narrative of faith and a desire to protect what is familiar and comfortable. It affirms a sense of place in the world as an American Christian who believes fully that the United States was blessed by God more than other nations in the world and stands like a city set on a hill for the world to see.

While I think there may be some truth to that blessing from God, we shouldn’t confuse His blessing for a time (and for His greater purpose) with our own desires for prosperity, influence, protection of lifestyle, culture and familiar life. God raises kings, and he takes them down.

The patriotic movement in the church going back in time was influenced, in part, by the “prosperity gospel”. The focus was on faith. A certain exhilaration accompanies the thinking that we are part of a sacred movement of God’s people uniquely blessed with faith. It was a kind of manifest destiny for the church.

I imagine the 1st Century Jews saw the world similarly, though they didn’t have the prosperity or power of American Christians in 21st Century. Their sense of being God’s people and being culturally “right”, however, made it difficult for them to accept that God loved Gentiles. That tribalism caused the first schism in the early church.

The American exceptionalism that is part of the allure of this politically-charged faith embraces modern Israel and the Jewish state. They see a kinship there, and I believe we are prone to the same kind of error that the early church fell into.

Moving on from that community of my early walk in Christ and seeing faith and the world from different angles changed my perspective. I loved my time in the community of my early Christian years. They did many things right, and they were eager and earnest in their faith in refreshing ways, but I have come to see that patriotic element differently. God is bigger than our patriotic ideas of Him.

(Not that all the people in the church I attended wandered down that road. I know many of them still, and many of them did not get swept up in the patriotic fervor. They have adjusted and adapted, and their perspectives have changed also.)

The real point here is that God has a global and universal purpose. We are as much a part of that purpose as our brothers and sisters in China, or India or in the African American churches in the US.

That is not to say that everyone is right about the way they view the world. We all have our own unique vantage points and perspectives, and for that reason I need to listen to others because they offer perspective that I have trouble seeing from my own, limited position.

Perhaps, if we can all come together in the shared experience of Christ who died for all mankind and learn to set aside the things that divide us, we can catch a more global and universal glimpse of what God is doing in the world. The Stetzer and MacDonald article makes the following statement regarding the headlong embrace of Donald Trump:

“Christians need to understand how this foolishness not only hurts relationships in the local church and community but diminishes our witness. In such situations, our gospel witness is at stake and we cannot afford to be passive.”

This is a major concern. We may have trouble seeing the ways in which we have wandered off the narrow path unless we take time to listen to what other believes are saying.

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