14 year old Scheindel’s father wanted her to attend a new advanced girls school that was opening in her city but she wanted no part of it.
Disappointed, her father asked her to write the principal, who was also a rabbi, for advice
She did write a letter…but not one asking for advice but giving her opinion…she concluded it with “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.”
She received a response back from the Rabbi, it was her own letter with one thing changed… the term “guinea pig” was crossed out and it was replaced with a Hebrew word that means “pioneer” “Adventurer”
It touched her/inspired her and she went to the new school…today, years later, she is the principal of that school.
So was she a “guinea pig”…yes?
That term means test case (but often in a negative sense)…bad things can happen to rodents in labs.
Was she a pioneer…yes?
She was the inaugural class of the school…the definition fit.
But the way the Rabbi re-framed it…changing a single word…negative to positive…set her on a trajectory that changed her life.
I wonder how many trajectories could be changed today in our country…by reframing?
Esther was a Jewish woman who lived in Persia (Iran) during the time that many Jews had been allowed to return from exile to Jerusalem.
We are not told why she remained in Persia, but through a series of events she was chosen to be the queen for the Persian King.
I won’t tell the whole story…but the bottom line…a situation arose where all of Esther’s people would be wiped out unless she intervened.
Esther’s adopted father, Mordecai, urged her to go to the king and plead on behalf of her people.
She replied that she had not been summed by the king for 30 days…if she went without being asked, she could be executed.
Mordecia reframed the situation with these points:
- Don’t think you alone of all the Jews will escape.
- If you remain silent, deliverance will come from another place.
- Who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this.
She replied… “Pray for me, I will go…and if I die, I die”
Esther told Mordecai things that were true.
Mordecai in return told Esther things that were also true…but she was not currently focused on them…she saw only the “threat
He added the “opportunity” to her perspective
Her reframed her perspective with a warning…you won’t escape if you remain silent.
And then of potential missed opportunity…God will raise up a deliverer from another place…it could have been you.
Then…the big “reframe”…purpose…the opportunity to get in on what God is really up to in the world and your life.
“This may be the very reason you are where you are.”
He pushed her to think of opportunity not just threat in the situation.
Esther moved into a life-threatening situation and seized the opportunity to be used by God to save her people.
In our own lives the question is often…Is this a threat or is this opportunity?
Often…the answer is “yes”…but whether or not we experience a situation as opportunity is often tied to how we think about it…how we frame it…or allow it to be framed for us.
Going to someone to express love, or to ask for forgiveness, or to mend a relationship…can feel like a threat…and in some ways it is…but it is, of course, an opportunity.
Sharing the gospel with a friend or family member can feel like a threat (what if they become angry, reject me, ask questions I can’t answer)…but of course it is opportunity.
Leading a small group can feel like a threat…what if I fail, what if people don’t follow me…but it is an opportunity to grow, to see God move, to bless others.
Sharing a weakness, an addiction, asking for help can feel like a threat…they will know me, my failure will be obvious…but it is opportunity…to become free, to grow, to humble yourself.
COVID is a threat…but how many opportunities are embedded in this time of national crisis?
I wish I had kept a list; I’ve seen a ton.
I’ve said out loud many times…sometimes to myself…sometimes to others… “There’s a Covid plus”
Like last Friday night…our college ministry had a retreat at our place…because the annual student conference in Salina was cancelled.
As I watched students (more than we have ever sent to the annual conference)….worshipping…laughing (outdoors, plenty of space).
I said to myself…
“COVID loses again”
How many opportunites are present right now…that would not be, had COVID not happened?
Are we to be happy about a pandemic…of course not!
Esther was not encouraged to rejoice in an existential threat to the Jewish people…but she was to have vision for what her choices might mean during her time.
The threat was real…but the opportunity was as well…in fact the result was not only were the Jewish people not wiped out…but they thrived, their condition improved.
Social unrest, pandemic, political division…none of this is “good”…but all of it is opportunity.
The “threat centric person” thinks the “opportunity centeric person” is a fool.
They believe the opportunity focus is naïve and uninformed.
This would be true…and sometime is true…except for THE key factor in all of it…God is alive and involved.
Seeing opportunity, not just threat…is framing life with God in all of it.
Remember last week: Fast Brain, Slow Brain
Our reactions, our fast brains…are trained for threat
We must train ourselves for faith…to see opportunity…this is slow brain, hard work.
It is not naïve or foolish…to look for opportunity during times of threat…if you believe that God is at work in all of the details of our lives.
Wisdom sees the threat clearly and makes strategies to mitigate it.
But wisdom also sees opportunity…and makes strategies to capitalize on it.
Mordecai did not promise Esther that she would not die…he simply cast a compelling vision for her… “Who knows but that you have come to this place for this very time?”
The implication is… “God is involved, his purposes will stand…do you want to be involved or on the sideline?”
“You can’t save your life, Ester…and you will die(now or later)…but you can, if you choose…spend your life on what matters…you can be a part of what God is doing to save his people.”
Clearly her response was not “I’m good, no sweat, I got this.”
This was no movie…this was her life; this was deadly serious…literally.
So she said…
“Go gather all the Jews in the city. Don’t eat or drink for three days…night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When it is done, I will go the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
This is not a flippant response to threat…to not eat or drink for three days…that is serious business.
I don’t mean to suggest any flippant attitudes in my response to COVID…I know it has cost people…health, lives, businessnes.”
I am aware of some of the relational and mental health costs of this past 6 months.
But it doesn’t matter to me if you blame the government for doing too much or for doing too little…our Governor is being sued for both.
What matters most for the follower of Christ…must be…
“Will you believe that God is alive and involved in all of life…then when you go think, speak, and live in line with that belief?”
Will you live in a world that is opportunity or just threat?
If you read the book of Proverbs with this “Reframing” construct you will see that the entire book is built that way.
Compare and contrast are the favorite verbal tools of the wise teacher…and the goal is to “reframe” folly and wisdom to clearly demonstrate that the wise path is the good path.
Read any chapter in the book of Proverbs and look for this reframing perspective.
It is written like a father to a son (or daughter)…wise fathers continually reframe life to move the child toward wisdom.
The young son is seeing one aspect of life…often from the perspective of emotions, desires, temporary pleasure and comfort…or from the perspective of mockers and fools…who are impressive to him.
The father is reframing the world to help the son see it differently…a world where God is involved…where wisdom is good and folly is bad.
Where righteous pays and sin does not.
Try it…look for how the wisdom of Proverbs reframes our thinking and living.
I opened Proverbs and just picked a chapter…chapter 10 it turns out.
I started reading and didn’t get far before I saw this…
10:1 “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is sorrow to his mother.”
Do you see the framing going on in that first verse?
Let me add some extra thoughts to the scenario.
“My dad is an idiot, and my mom doesn’t have a clue…they love to tell me how to live my life, they don’t understand anything about how the world has changed…I know what it takes to make me happy, they don’t…look at my friends…look at that famous dude…they are really living life.”
In comes the wise teacher attempting to reframe the son’s perspective…
“Be wise and your father will be glad…now what kinds of things do you suppose will make your father glad?”
“Things like…Your success, your health, your freedom…you enjoying life and people…”
*Sounds like things you want for your life?
“And in regards to your mom (which sons almost always love)…you do know if you turn out to be a fool not only will you miss out on your father’s joy, but you will break her heart.”
Try it yourself…read a chapter in Proverbs and look for how the author is reframing life…two paths, two perspectives…folly and wisdom.
You are seeing things this way…now look here.
Or read the gospels…watch Jesus do the same, over and over.
“You have heard it said…I say”
Today we are NOT going to land in Proverbs…we are going to go to the book of Acts.
To see how God turned threat into worldwide opportunity
The rest of the month we will look at some ways Proverbs reframes the world to see God involved in all of it.
Acts is a letter written by a doctor named Luke
His first book was the gospel of Luke…the story of Jesus…here is how he begins.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke was a man of scientific mind, a researcher of truth…with access to eyewitnesses of all that Jesus had said and done.
He gives a thorough examination of the gospel…the life, death, resurrection of Jesus…then puts it in a letter to a person named “Theophilus” (Lover of God)
This is either a real friend, or Luke uses the name as a representative of his larger audience.
Now jump to his second book, Acts…it is a continuation of the spread of the good news.
It outlines the movement of the gospel…empowered by the Holy Spirit from Jerusalem out to the wider world…and from Jewish people only to all people.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The remainder of the book of Acts is just that…the gospel spreading out from Jerusalem, to Judea (the surrounding area) then to Samaria the region to the North…then to the entire known world.
Let’s see how this spread of the gospel happened:
There is the exciting day of Pentecost, where the church is born and thousands come to faith.
But the opportunity for the spread of the gospel out of Jerusalem came in the form of a threat.
Stephen, was a kind and faithful man, whose primary ministry was providing for the physical needs of widows in the church.
He was also known for the Spirit’s work in and through him…so he taken before the local religious authorities to account for his ministry.
He preaches a powerful sermon that is not well received…actually that is an understatement.
Acts 7:57-8:4. At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Don’t miss that key sentence “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”
This great threat of persecution was the way God fulfilled his purpose and his promise that the gospel would spread out from Jerusalem.
Look at the next verses…
“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
This was a terrible time for the church…a tremendous threat.
This was a powerful time for the church…a tremendous opportunity.
God using evil human agency (people persecuting Christians)
God using faithful human agency (Christians continuing to share in spite of the threat)
People Empowered by God Spirit (Acts 1:8,9…you will receive power)
To accomplish God’s purposes (Acts 1:8,9…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth)
I am not advocating for seeing what is not there (made up optimism)
Or not seeing what is really there (denial of real threats)
I am advocating that we live with a biblical wisdom that sees God in everything, with the result being a reframing of every potential threat as opportunity for what matters the most to rise to the surface.
I’m not saying any of this is easy…it’s all very hard…but it’s all possible and very good.
The most famous verse along these lines is Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have called according to his purpose.”
That is one of the greatest of all reframing sentences ever written.
But the Bible as a whole is about reframing how we see and live in the world.
Listen to Jesus reframing the fundamental human approach to the world…
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
He is reframing greatness…what it means to “win”…to be a successful human.
He is reframing God’s purpose for the world…what the Messiah would come to do.
How Do We Life Live This Way
We must continually make sure our thoughts, words, and actions…are framed by the reality of God and the gospel.
-Take them captive, make them obey Christ.
-Our minds are like puppies:
-they must be trained
-they can be trained.
-The more bad habits, the harder to train.
If your mind is “off the leash”…it responds to all of life as a threat and very little of it as opportunity.
Anxiety, fear, negativity, judgement.
You must let God’s word train your mind:
-Learn a couple of verses
-Think about them a lot
You cannot let things that only produce fear, anxiety, and angst easily into your minds.
*Paul said “all things are lawful but not all things are helpful…and I don’t want to let certain things have mastery over me.”
What you “could” watch and read and allow into your mind…is not neccesarily what you “should”
-Ephesian 4:29 “Don’t let any unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”
Not everything you feel like saying needs to be said.
And some things that need to be said you may not feel like saying.
You may not feel like there is opportunity…but do you believe God is alive and involved?
Then speak what is true.
Don’t let the emotional tail wag the faith dog.
Just because many people in authority and online and your friends around you…are spouting off any and everything…it doesn’t mean you should join them…you shouldn’t.
-Will I move through the world avoiding threats or pursuing opportunities.
That simple sentence describes two very different ways of life.
We must manage risk but we cannot live a risk adverse life and expect to have joy and impact.
I don’t mean extreme sports…I don’t care if you jump off mountains or out of planes…I’m not impressed.
I also don’t mean wear or don’t wear masks at all times…this is not about that either.
This about continually movement to pursue relationship with Christ and others…that requires continual risk to move into challenge, continual pursuit of opportunity embedded in threat.
*TODAY WE ARE GOING TO CELEBRATE COMMUNION:
The celebration of communion or the Lord’s Supper…is a simple ceremony with mind and heart shaping possibilities
There are two ordinances that Christ initiated and commanded for the church:
Baptism: Matthew 28:19,20
-Symbol of the gospel: death, resurrection…his and ours.
Communion: Lord’s supper
-Remembering the Lord’s death until he returns
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[ you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
We call them ordinances versus sacraments.
Because rather than transmitting grace or serving as means of grace, the ordinances are opportunities for us to publicly and tangibly express our allegiance to Christ.
An ordinance is a visible symbol of an invisible reality.
Symbols have powerful shaping value in our lives…this is especially true when they represent a powerful reality…like the gospel.
A wedding ring is a symbol of the reality of a marriage covenant…Baptism is a visible symbol of the New Covenant…Jesus saving work received into a person’s life.
Communion is a way for us to touch, taste, feel, smell…and through all this to remember the reality of Christ’s death on the cross and that his death has brought us life.
So…IF YOU HAVE NOT COMMITTED YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST…PLEASE JUST WATCH AND DON’T PARTAKE…this is a ceremony, a symbol for followers of Christ…
IF YOU HAVE…PARTAKE…BUT DO MORE THAN CONSUME THE JUICE AND BREAD…REMEMBER, REJOICE…BE SHAPED IN YOUR HEART BY THE MEMORY AND THE GRATTITUDE.
Remember, reflect on the threat that was the cross…the Son of God was crucified there.
Reflect on the opportunity…his death paid our debt.
His resurrection life holds promise for that our death will not have the final word.
We remember, and celebrate in order to be shaped in our minds and lives into people who see gospel opportunities in every aspect of our lives.