Looking at the Bigger Picture (Lane)
Looking at the Bigger Picture
by Lonnie Lane
My daughter sent out an email today asking for prayer for a situation in which my granddaughter, who is in high school, is experiencing some anti-Semitism in her Christian school. Part of the email said, “She just called me sobbing from the office over yet another incident…It hurts her and God, and it is entertaining an anti-Semitic spirit…. It was heartbreaking to hear her say through her tears that she doesn’t even want to be Jewish anymore. I went to a Christian private school too where I was the only Jew and had to deal with ignorance a few times but at this point she is now having to deal with it even more than I did. I know that worldwide anti-Semitism is on the rise but at a Christian school?!?!”
Pretty distressing. Thankfully, the pastor over the school is knowingly pro-Israel and a “one new man” pastor, so this will be dealt with. It happened once before several years ago there and the culprits were suspended from the school. Oh, that it would be so easily dealt with world-wide. But as for this incident, I’m thinking that God is up to doing something more here than just ending these few incidents. This is a matter of the mind-set of an entire Christian community (there are a few thousand families in the school and in the church connected with it, though not all the student’s families attend that church.) As people who see themselves as God’s people, true Christians will love whom God loves and that certainly would include Israel.
An hour before I learned of this, I was praying with a friend who is going through a long-standing uphill battle in her family. The Lord has told her it’s an uphill battle but there is a top to the hill and she is to keep going. As we prayed I saw a picture of said hill. It’s very high and steep. There was a path upon which she and her family were sometimes more like climbing than walking. The path was narrow and rock strewn so that they had to be careful not to stumble and fall. They were all very focused on being able to just keep walking. But I also saw beyond them a great and grand vista, a view that reached for hundreds of miles. There were lush hills and valleys, and majestic mountain tops that could be seen from this place on this hill where they were. Even the air was clear and easy to breathe. They were closer to the top than they were aware because they were only focused on what they were doing, step by step. They weren’t seeing the bigger picture. The view was spectacular, glorious, breath-taking. There was so much more than what they were immediately focused on. I was given to understand that there is a far greater picture to be aware of than what we personally go through. God is at work and doing so much more than our immediate perspective allows us to see if we’re only focused on our direct concerns.
The pathway for the family in this vision was strewn with rocks and stones. Scripture talks about “a rock of offense,” something to be careful of so it will not cause you to stumble and fall. “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense…” (Rom 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8) is a prophecy that Yeshua Himself, but also the word of God, can cause us to “fall” if we are offended by Yeshua Himself or by being identified with Him, or for adhering to the Word of God when others are not, so that we suffer persecution as a result. To “fall” is always a picture of falling away from God and His righteousness. Hard times may make us want to go hide somewhere we think is safer. Abraham did it and Israel after him had a habit of heading for Egypt when trouble came. God warned, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Is 31:1-3). We may want to head for Egypt or for where we think there will be no “offense,” but ultimately there is no safety other than in the Lord really.
We must keep an awareness of the vast picture of God’s intentions in our minds, our hearts and our spirits. The above verse about laying in Zion a stone of stumbling ends with, “and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Never disappointed when we are trusting in the Lord! If we’re experiencing disappointment, we’re being short-sighted; we’re focused on the rocky path only just below our feet and not on all that God has promised to us. He is always at work and it is always redemptive. We see what He’s doing by faith. Psalm 34:5 tells us that if we look to Him we will never be ashamed but radiant instead. It’s all in the perspective. We get to choose how to look at things, and what we’ll focus on. Life happens. Sometimes critical issues come up that we have to deal with. But the Lord has made us a promise we “know” we can depend on: “We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God will use whatever is happening in our lives as sculpting tools to carve us into a vessel worthy of honor. We give Him praise and it is He that keeps us on the trail in the midst of our trials while we’re trying not to tread on any rocks of offense. Offenses also, as we know, can come from people whom the devil is trying to use to get us to be oblivious to the bigger picture of what God is doing and to get us to focus inwardly at our own painful rock-induced injuries or at what the devil is stirring up (secretly — he never tells us its coming from him.) He wants us to think we are each other’s enemies. But that’s a lie. We’re really one in Yeshua with a common enemy — the devil.
But we are not subject to the devil’s plans for us, nor are trials or “rocks of offense” going to derail us from getting to the top of our mountain. Yeshua is Lord of our lives and He is watching over us. So our perspective for the here and now and for the future is to fully trust in “…Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24). To that I say a resounding….Yyyyesss!
Before praying with my friend and learning about my granddaughter, I was reading in Acts 9 about Tabitha (:36-43). I felt impressed to re-read it. Hmmm. Nothing I didn’t already know. But I felt the Lord was saying to read it again. I had to read it several times before I began to get “the bigger picture.” If you don’t know the story, please go read it so I don’t have to recount it here. Here’s what I began to see and the notes (in italics) that I wrote in my Bible (I’ve added some commentary.) Now keep in mind this was before the day unfolded with the other two events. God does prepare us sometimes for what’s coming.
Point 1: It was one person who first suggested going to get Peter, one person with the vision and faith that Tabitha could be resurrected. It only took that one person of faith to start the ball rolling. We don’t know who that person was, but God does. Was she (probably “she” since the story involves a group of widows) later surprised to find out (either on earth or in heaven) that what happened as a result of her faith-suggestion wound up in the New Testament for the world to see?
Point 2: Don’t look at any situation that seems hopeless, even death, without resurrection expectations. Don’t stop short of praying for the miraculous and expecting God to do what the Bible says is possible even if you’ve never experienced it before, or yet!
Point 3: The faith of one person can affect for good those around them and change entire situations to impact a whole city or even the world. We have no idea how far God will take what happens in our own little circle of loved ones to change the lives of other people when we step out in faith, both those who are affected directly (Tabitha) or those who hear the testimony. Which leads to…
Point 4: Look for the bigger picture always. Expand your focus. Expect God to do more than you’ve already experienced. He may just be looking for the one person with faith to open the door to something incredible he wants to do right where you are.
So having all this in my spirit today when I learned of my granddaughter’s experience in school, my expectation is that God is doing something bigger than solving this with a few kids in this particular Christian school. There’s a bigger picture. It’s beginning to take on some meaning of its own several hours later and some significant people are rallying to the cause to deal with this.
This whole episode brings up some important issues that we would be wise to consider now. How will we respond if things like this increase as they seem to be elsewhere in the world? And what if they become anti-Christian and not just anti-Jewish? Or anti-Biblical regarding something we’re involved with. What will we do? Perhaps we need to prepare ourselves and our children now for such possibilities. How will we do that and not frighten them but inspire them to be strong and faithful to the Lord? We will have to model it for our children. There are some threatening things on the horizon. Now is the time to begin to prepare. Better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not be prepared. It’s something to consider. Pastors and leaders would do well to ask the Lord how to equip their people should persecution really raise its ugly head in our midst. Yeshua did already tell us to be prepared. (See Matthew 10 and 24.)
I forwarded my daughter’s email to several of my friend to pray. I got back a few responses that you might find of interest. Here’s one:
I went through similar persecution when I was 14 because I accepted Yeshua. My friends used to laugh and call me a Jesus freak and throw spit balls at me…. Some of the students admired me for being brave enough to boldly proclaim my relationship with Yeshua, but some persecuted me. My cousin also loved God and was thrown down the steps for it. Incidentally, all 3 students who persecuted my cousin were killed. Two drowned and one OD’d. They don’t realize that they curse themselves when they touch God’s anointed.
Consider that a word-study translation of Genesis 12:3 could read, “For those who lightly esteem you (or think little of you so as not to respect you), I will bitterly curse.” Those who perpetrate anti-Semitism are incurring the disfavor of God. These are not just behaviors to have to discipline. In order to save those who act in ignorance and prejudice, anti-Semitism must be seen for what it is — to God! It’s against Him first and foremost; we come next. He’s the one who made the Jews His! The same would apply to coming against Believers. There is no difference to God. Act against God’s chosen persons and there are consequences. The Lord takes it personally: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4).
Another friend lives in Israel but spent some years in the States. He writes with some suggestions perhaps even some of you might put into practice:
Well, living in Israel where we have experienced many forms of persecution for being believers in Yeshua, we have found every attack an OPPORTUNITY! I would certainly encourage you to take this opportunity to straighten out 2000 years of crookedness in the church, even in a ‘Christian’ school. Ask to speak to the student body (and teaching staff) on the subject of the Jews. I once spoke to a Christian school in Colorado, beginning with the statement, “Everybody knows the Jews rejected Jesus, right? True or false?” Of course I immediately had them in my hand when they agreed “True”, and I replied with the question, “Then who ACCEPTED Jesus?” All Jews- Matthew, Mark, John, Mary, Peter, Paul, James, Andrew. Jude, etc etc.- and Jesus Himself. Then I proceeded to give them their Jewish names. Yes, that’s only the beginning. The school shortly after changed their whole curriculum to a more Jewish friendly study of their roots. Maybe this is Providential.
Providence is taking the immediate situation and finding what God is doing in the bigger picture as He works all things together for good, and cooperating with Him in acting to bring it to pass. We have, by God’s grace, the power to choose to be on God’s side for His good purposes, no matter what the issue is. We can be agents of change for Kingdom purposes and hope as we keep our eyes on the bigger picture. If you find yourself focusing only on your problems, look up. Look out. The most threatened people are those who are the most self-protective. Yeshua’s way is to live (or die) for the good of others. Live in such a way that you are always aware you are part of a much bigger picture. God’s picture. How big is that?