Stopping Time (Traffic Light part 3)

Have you ever been in a huge, harried hurry? Frantically trying to beat the clock that you think is profusely ticking against you? Do you ever find you’re able to complete the tasks at hand, only to subsequently realize that all of the effort and energy you expended in worrying about doing whatever it is you had to do turned into a half-baked anxiety upon completing the tasks? The tasks or errands that you were so sure were going to put you into overtime? I have and I hate it.

As time goes on and one becomes more and more accustomed to a routine or schedule, I find that—at least in my case—I seek to streamline the time it takes to do the things. A minute here, a moment there. Shave off some time to (theoretically) use elsewhere. But I sometimes forget about one thing:

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23)

Point is, not that I’m a “good man”, I’m not seeking to be unctuously or falsely humble. I will point out, however, that the connotation for “good man” is warrior in Hebrew. Interesting. Let’s take a moment and look at it from that angle.

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4) Soldier on is what Paul is saying. But he’s also telling Timothy here, to not get caught up in the minutiae of life as a means of escaping or forgetting the larger reality of God’s timetable. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) God does expect us to make the most of our time here on this plane, by the same token, we do need to be open to His leading and not squeeze the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit out of our schedule. It’s a fine balance.

There’s a story in the Book of Joshua where he and his men were fighting against the Amorites and Joshua spoke to the sun and commanded it to stay where it was. Essentially stopping time: “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” (Joshua 10:13) And speaking of angles, if you look at a sundial, the raised part on the face of the dial is called a gnomon. Its shadow is what shows the time. Imagine the shadow staying where it was for twenty-four hours. It might sound laughably impossible. I did, however read an article many years ago where someone at NASA (as an aside, “nasa” in Hebrew means to “lift up”) had calculated time with reference to the earth’s rotation, back thousands of years. Around the time of Joshua’s story, there was a day’s discrepancy in their calculations.

Referring again to the verse from Psalm 37, when it says that our steps are “ordered of the Lord”, we need to believe this. Our schedule is not a god. I find it hard sometimes to retain my peace when I’m so busy. And we’re all busy, I think that can be safely stated. In no way though does this mean that we can’t work with God and acknowledge Him as we go about our daily tasks. And if time seems to be going too fast, make an effort to slow down–stop even–and turn your attention to God. You’ll find in the simplest of acts, whatever you perform with God present, that He can change the flow of time, at least your perception of it. Sure, the next verse in Joshua says “And there was no day like that before it or after it…”, but it doesn’t mean that God can’t slow it down and let you catch up. It’s amazing to see God wipe away the pace leading up to where you met with Him and start you out afresh, ready to take on the world. Soldier on, ladies and gentlemen.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis mine)

Refusing to Yield (Traffic Light part 2)

Technically, a yellow light means stop. The practicality of obeying that law hinges on how fast we’re traveling. Don’t wanna stop in the middle of an intersection so, you gun the engine to make it through. Just make sure there are no traffic cameras to snap a picture of you as you run the red light. I’ve done this. I think most people have. Thankfully, there were no cameras at that intersection–might have gotten a ticket. And it wasn’t just that particular intersection… I did get pulled over once for going (what I thought was) all the way through the intersection at a yellow light. The officer saw (and said) otherwise. All that aside, what do we do–what should we do–when God tells us to slow down?

It’s only for our benefit, you know. When God says “I know the plans I have for you…” (Jeremiah 29:11) and that His “thoughts are higher” than ours (Isaiah 55:9), we’d do well to believe that He knows better for us when we feel His Spirit begin to lead us in a way we may not have thought about before.

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” (Psalm 119:59)

Now you’re driving along, having barely escaped the flash of the camera at the intersection and you see a sign on the right shoulder that says, in big black letters: YIELD. What does this mean? Hopefully by now you’ve slowed down to the speed limit, by the way. It means that there’s the possibility of someone coming alongside and merging into your lane or it means that you must stop and let the other traffic go thru. There’s a strange intersection thing locally, where the exact scenario happens, or is supposed to. But does infrequently. People on the main road rarely slow down to stop at the white line to let the cars on the feeder road enter the traffic flow. This is frustrating as it shows that they have no respect for the other driver (!). Granted, you want to believe the best of them and suppress any road rage, but sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally. Forgive, don’t cuss at them. Slow down. Applying this scenario to our Christian walk, even if you’ve lost sight of who it is that has the right-of-way. Be willing to slow down–and stop even–if you’re not sure about the rights of the people involved. When you’re driving, obey the traffic laws, obviously. But in life, be the one who is vulnerable. Be the one who is willing to take the blow for Jesus. Not like a spiritual masochist, mind you. (All these qualifiers!) But one who is willing to suffer for Him.

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:16) It applies to women, too.

Be willing to yield to others. “Let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

All this aside, don’t forget to yield to God however He chooses to merge into your life. It may come at a time or in a way that you’d least expect. But if God was not able to surprise you, then He wouldn’t be God. Does this make sense?

There’s another way to look at this: ‘Refusing to yield’ applies to crops and harvests, too.

Jesus asks: “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” He continues: “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-17) Turning back to the Psalmist’s declaration in 119, he says that he “thought on his ways and turned [his] feet to [God’s] testimonies.” He showed that He was willing to change direction. This is us, too. And if we’re not producing fruit, or producing fruit that’s not helping God’s cause, He’ll help us to change.

“Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:5)

“And they shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth their fruit in their season; their leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever they do shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)

If we’ll yield, we’ll yield. Simple as that!

Passing Go (Traffic Light part 1)

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord…” (Hosea 6:3, emphasis mine)

I find it interesting to reflect on the inherent loneliness in the world. It’s understandable how social media and social interaction of all shapes and sizes is so prized. I may not be a gadfly and I’m certainly not an inveterate loner and while those may be the opposite ends of the social spectrum (in my opinion), I see shades of those personality types in me and I seem to fluctuate. And to situate myself in the middle is too simplistic a classification. Solitude is wonderful but so is the company of friends whom I trust. Where am I going with this?

When one accepts Jesus, the prevailing attitude is two-fold: “But we see Jesus…” (Hebrews 2:9). Firstly, we see that He’s real, for the first time in our life, the scales have fallen from our eyes and all we want to do is build upon the foundation that He laid for us. This is the difficult work of “working out our own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). Conversely, secondly, the impetus to go out in the world and do work for Him is a burden and a responsibility that is not immediately explained by anything you’d encounter in the world. The world that has now become a halfway house on our way to Heaven. We also have developed this insatiable appetite for His Word. We can never get enough. And while all these are good and admirable and essential, I would issue a word of caution before launching out on our grand life before the Lord: make sure that whatever foot you put forward is in the direction that He wants you to walk. And walk with Him. I’ll try to word this as plainly and as un-symbolically as I can. To a great degree, Jesus doesn’t care what we do for Him or where we go or how it’s done—as long as we take the time to stop before doing anything and get to know Him.

(I didn’t mention “love” one time in the preceding paragraph. That’s not right.)

“That I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10)

Paul expressed the greatest desire of his life was to know Jesus. This is truly the point of existence. As audacious and fanatical and overzealous as that might sound, once you know Jesus, everything and everyone else pales in comparison. And every other aspect of life begins to glow with a beauty that you weren’t privy to prior to knowing Him. But I digress. The point of this page is slowing down and not running off to do whatever it is we feel after accepting Jesus. But to stay where we are (if that’s what He wants) of our own volition and soak in His love for us. And to reflect that back to Him in a thousand different ways.

I wonder the motive for much of the Christian work in the world today. Why is it that we have missions and meetings and work in whatever capacity? These aren’t rhetorical questions and the answers in many cases are self-evident. When a local church decides to send a team of workers overseas or down to Central America to open a dental clinic and build houses and found a satellite church, the physical benefits go hand in hand with the spiritual. This is good, this is essential. Inter-church work is much the same. A meeting held regarding finances is necessary as it’s impossible to work in many spheres without monetary support. I’m not downplaying the importance of any of these projects. But consider the spirit in which all of these actions are performed.

Jesus says “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19) I know that much of what I do stems from the desire to discover the depths that I feel resonant within me. Some sort of spiritual echolocation tells me that there is more to me that I haven’t seen. It’s part of what keeps me going. Part of what makes me turn up my collar against the loneliness in the world and press on. But as Jesus says, it’s a process. One that requires patience. Sure, Paul says “ye are complete in Him…” (Colossians 2:10) and I believe this. But it doesn’t mean that I see all of me yet. And how does Jesus’ command to “possess” your soul with “patience” mesh with His strict command to “deny [myself] and take up [my] cross daily” (Luke 9:23)? Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here? I will say this. That if Jesus is the one who created me, then He knows how to unlock the deep chambers of my soul and spirit. This, I think, is what much of the heart-less busywork in the church today is aiming toward. I know I’m guilty of this.

The truth is, if we land on “Go” and go no further, we still collect the $200.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”–love. Jesus. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)