My friend Sophia is a lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts. I love spending time with her because she tells the best stories. She says there's something that happens when money, family, and death are involved that causes people to lose perspective and behave in wild ways.
She recently shared a story of four daughters. With the last living parent passed away, these women turned on each other. Everyone lawyered up. The fight got ugly. They spoke words to each other that they could never take back.
And it all came down to one item, a desk. Not a special desk, not an expensive desk. An old desk that sat in their parents’ entry way. The lawyers battled it out month after month until Sophia had an idea. She hired a carpenter to build three identical desks. Then the lawyers and family members came together and they drew numbers to see who got to pick first. And all four sisters left with a desk. Who had the original? No one knows.
I've thought of this story so often because it illustrates how easy it is to lose perspective, to lose sight of that which is valuable in exchange for that which is insignificant. Sometimes it happens in the wake of great loss or suffering or pain. Sometimes it's because of relational dysfunction, unhealthy boundaries, or miscommunication. Sometimes it's because of money or power or greed or lust. It's easy to look at those four sisters and think, man, they lost perspective.
But how often do we do it, too? I know I have. Early in my career, I lost perspective. I kept listening to people who said you have to do whatever it takes to build a larger platform, to hustle no matter what it costs you, which by the way, is not the message of the gospel or grace. I ended up pouring myself so deeply into ministry and my career, I neglected my marriage to my best friend, Leif.
I used to say, we're like lobsters. We're going to mate for life. But it turns out, lobsters don't mate for life, no matter what Phoebe on Friends told us. Now, I say we're like seahorses, who do mate for life.
But I was pouring so much of myself into my work, I have little to give Leif at the end of the day. I mean, we started arguing over the things that didn't really even matter. It was my fault because I lost perspective.
Finally, I remember, he sat me down and he said, “Something has to change.”
And I realized that the thing that needed to change was me. I'd been neglecting that which was most valuable for that which was temporary. I had to repent, meaning to change my mind, my actions, my attitudes, my priorities. And sooner or later, this happens to all of us.
And so the question for you today is, how do you know when you've lost perspective? And when you lose it, how do you find it again? If anyone had reason to lose perspective, it's our friend, John. Imprisoned on the island of Patmos, he's pastoring fledgling churches while living under a dictator who butchers Christians for fun. Of the 12 disciples, church history tells us that John was the winner, winner chicken dinner, the only disciple who wasn't stabbed to death, stoned to death, beaten to death, clubbed to death, crucified upside down, or died by suicide. And so when you're rotting your remaining years out on a remote island and you're the best case scenario, I think it's hard not to lose perspective.
Now, some of you are thinking, I may not be in John's shoes. But maybe there is an area where I've lost perspective, too.
I believe that there are two telltale signs that reveal when you've lost perspective. Number one, you overvalue what's less important. Number two, you undervalue what's truly important. Let me say that again. You overvalue what's less important, or you undervalue what's truly important.
I want to ask, where are you doing that right now? Like me, is it work or your marriage or with your kids or grandkids? With your friendships, with your faith, with your spiritual health and vitality? The good news in this great unveiling of Jesus Christ is God always has perspective, even when we don't.
John teaches us how to access God's perspective. In Revelation 2 and 3 and through the homework and participant's guide, we examine churches who had both lost perspective and kept a clear perspective.
Now, let's turn to Revelation 4, beginning in verse 1.
After this, I looked. There before me was the door standing open in Heaven. And the voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. At once, I was in the Spirit. And there before me was a throne in Heaven and someone sitting on it.
Do you see the callback to Revelation 1? Once again, John is in the spirit. Once again, John hears a trumpet like voice. Once again, John makes the crucial decision to turn and see, to look and respond. And it all begins with a door. John could have passed by this door, but he chooses to pass through this door. And that changes everything.
What does John see first? The throne. Do you know what I learned? That word throne appears 14 times in this one chapter, and I love that. Why? Because it reveals God's authority, His power. It speaks to God's supremacy and sufficiency as the centerpiece of all. I don't know about you, but I desperately need that. In those areas of our lives where we lose perspective, or we feel stuck and start spinning out, God invites us to come to the throne, to exchange our distorted perspective for a healthy and holy perspective, as we recenter ourselves before Him.
Now, John tells us more. It's so cool, the way he does it. It's almost like he's flying a drone. He tells us what surrounding the throne, what comes from the throne, what's in front of the throne, and most importantly, Who sits on the throne. This multi-dimensional view embodies the truth.
- God always has perspective, even when you don't.
Years ago, my uncle Walt was an avid birder. And he introduced me to the Himalayan Black Bulbuls. Now, this bird baffled scientists for years because both males and females looked identical. It wasn't until they placed the birds under ultraviolet light that different colors appeared. And these vibrant colors distinguish the males from the females.
God hand designed these birds so they have this much wider color perception range than humans. They see colors that we can't. They see things that we don't. And I think about those birds every time I read this passage because as humans, our perception of sight and sound, taste, touch, and fragrance are narrow compared to all that's around. We are limited, finite beings. And there's so much more happening than meets the eye.
The scene that John describes is one we will never fully comprehend until we see God face-to-face. This is ultimate sensory overload. From the throne, God radiates unspeakable beauty, sights and sounds beyond description, crackles of thunder, flashes of lightning, colors and hues that leave us wonder struck.
Now, we get into a little number fun. And I love numbers in the Bible, because they speak of God's tender care and His attention to detail. Surrounding the throne are 24 elders on 24 thrones. That number matters because it's considered a double 12, or 12 times 2. And the number traces back to the 12 tribes of Israel.
Now, some believe that the two sets of 12 refer to the 12 Hebrew tribes and the 12 Christian apostles brought together, Israel and the church unified. How cool is that? In front of the throne sits a sea of glass, bright and clear as crystal, believed to represent a kind of baptism font. This is so rich because it's a callback to the Red Sea and Jordan River, the place that when you pass through, you leave your old life behind. In the crossing, you are cleansed and healed and set free in the presence of God.
Now, in the center around the throne are four mysterious creatures covered in eyes. Continuing, chapter 4:7.
The first living creature was like a lion. The second was like an ox. And the third had a face like a man. The fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.
Maybe you're thinking like me: weird! But would it truly be God's throne room if the mysterious Creator was separated from His mysterious creation? It would be like walking into an artist's studio and there there's no art, or walking into an optometrist office and there is no equipment or eye chart. You'd think, “What is going on here”
These four creatures represent the breadth of creation. These creatures soar and see everything, just like their Creator who sits on the throne. All those eyes, they watch and observe and perceive from every angle and vantage point, without limitation. Like those Himalayan birds, they see things that are beyond our comprehension, affirming that God sees all things. That's why you can trust Jesus always has perspective, even when you don't.
The response of these creatures is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. They declare,
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is to come.
This is Heaven with the music cranked, the dial turned all the way up to 11, worshiping the One who was and who is and is about to arrive.
Those 24 elders, they double over and place their crowns before God. And these are no rusty or worn crowns of earthly kings. These are victors' crowns, given to those who overcome. Together, they join the chorus.
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.
Revelation 4 teaches that though we lose perspective, God never does. Every day, we have a choice to make. Like those elders, will we lay all that we have, all that we are before Him and ask God, who are You in this? What is Your perspective? How can I come alongside the work that You are already doing?
And when we lay flat, arms and hands wide open before God, we rise up with this extravagant, hope-filled perspective, based on the character and competency of God, not on what we see or what we don't see.
- You see, a holy perspective is a hopeful perspective. And a hopeful perspective is a holy perspective.
When you lay yourself before the One who holds all things together, you discover that He holds you together. When you lay yourself before the One who is in control, you can trust Him when everything feels out of control. When you lay yourself before the One who sits on the throne, you discover that the divine cannot be confined. And there is nothing in your life God cannot redeem. Unlike us who have limited perspective, God sees all things. God knows all things. And He is in the business of renewing all things, redeeming all things, reconciling all things, and making all things right.
From Revelation by Margaret Feinberg, copyright Margaret Feinberg.
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