husband, Bill, is a stickler for keeping the windscreen of our cars clean, not
only to ensure better visibility, but also to prevent scratches on the glass
when the wipers need to be turned on. Recently, the day before we were to leave
on a trip, he went out to the garage to take care of the chore. He came in,
very pleased with himself for a job well done.
the next morning as we headed out in the bright sunshine it was very evident
that in the dim light of the garage, his cleaning had not been as efficient as
he had assumed. There were a number of missed places, streaks and spots that
were quite evident in the light.
incident got me to pondering about how frequently we think our lives have been
wiped clean of our sins. A quick perusal of our hearts in the light of our
human estimation can lead us to believe that we've done a good job.
when we examine our lives in the light of God's Word or under the leadership of
God, the Spirit, we are brought up short. Suddenly the streaks of selfishness,
the preponderance of pride, the injustice of our judgments, and the
insidiousness of our other iniquities are glaring proof that we have fallen far
short of where we stand and how pitiful our self-righteous pronouncements
ourselves in the bright Son-light of God's holiness should bring us to our
knees to confess, repent and renew our journey, our walk with God, with a fresh,
''If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only
fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if
we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be
true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.'' (I John 1:8-9, The Message)
Riding down the road one day, we passed a store with a sign outside that read, "Your turkey needs are here, stop by." Now I suppose there are a lot of folks to whom that sign made perfect sense, but as we drove along the road, I didn't have the vaguest notion of the sense of that sign. I don't even have a turkey, much less one with unmet needs, and I am pretty sure that the owner of the store wasn't implying that I was a 'turkey' who needed to stop in. I thought perhaps the sign might have to do with hunting for wild turkeys or even somehow with raising turkeys, but to this day, I have no idea as to the exact meaning of that sign.
There are people all around us with unmet needs of one kind or another. Some of those needs are physical, some spiritual, some psychological. Some are easily met; others are thorny problems that tear at our hearts. Putting up a sign outside our church or home that says, "Your ______ needs met here," will probably elicit about as much meaningful response as that store's sign did for me. We are instructed to be "doers of the Word" (James [KJ]). I think that instruction means we are to be demonstrating the love of God to those with needs, not just talking (or making signs), especially in esoteric terms, about that love and its ability to meet needs.
A CAR IS A CAR, UNLESS…
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians (NIV)
Have you ever noticed the different ways people treat their cars? To some folks, a car is just an appliance for getting them from one place to another. Service and such is done only when absolutely necessary and a wash and polish less often than that. Others see their cars almost as an extension of themselves—to be cared for with love and affection. Then there are those who are car nuts, owning cars that are only for show or occasional spins on sunny days. Most of us probably fall somewhere between those extremes. We use our cars and appreciate their style and function, keep them, or have someone keep them, regularly serviced and cleaned, and they respond by serving us well.
It occurred to me that many of us treat our faith in much the same way. Some of us pay almost no attention to our faith unless we are in a crisis situation, when we are stranded on the side of life's road and have to send an SOS. Others of us spend so much time on the outer trappings of our faith that the true purpose of it gets lost in the glare and we never get out of the garage onto the highway of life. The Lord intends for our faith to be an integral part of our everyday lives, constantly nurtured by worship, study, prayer and service to others.
BACK SEAT DRIVING
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Proverbs 3:5(KJ)
Back-seat-driving is perhaps one of the greatest spectator sports in America. Any driver who is riding in the passenger seat tends to second-guess the person at the wheel. At a stop sign, all heads turn as if the passenger's responsibility is to double-check the driver.
In my case, if the driver, usually my husband, who is an excellent driver, has not done what I would have done, I'll speak up. Occasionally I prevent a wrong turn, and I think once, in more than thirty years, I prevented an accident; generally, I just manage to irritate him.
Recently I realized that most of us spend our Christian lives back-seat-driving the Lord. When I get in the car with my husband, I am literally putting my life in his hands. That is what we do as Christians, too: we entrust our lives to the Lord. Then we proceed to tell God where to turn, how fast to go, what to look out for and how to get where we want to go. I expect the Lord gets just as weary of my back-seat-driving as my husband does and desires our trust as we follow in the pathway laid out before us.
CLEANING THE ‘SCREEN'
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Psalm 51:2(NAS)
My husband is a stickler for keeping the windscreens clean on our cars; well, actually, he is that way about the whole car, but particularly about the windscreen and the headlights. In the trunks of our cars he keeps a cache of glass cleaning supplies and equipment so that no matter where we are, he can clean the ‘screen.' Now it is very nice, esthetically, to always have a clean car to ride in or drive, but more importantly, especially as regards the windscreen and headlights, there is a safety factor involved: being able to see clearly out of the windscreen and for the headlights to give forth as much light as possible.
Keeping our lives clean before the Lord is even more important. The Lord has promised to forgive us, cleanse us from sin, if we confess and repent, but we tend to let unconfessed sin accumulate on the windscreens of our lives, blocking our fellowship with the Lord and coming between our relationships with others. It is interesting that when you get used to having a clean windscreen on your car, you notice the small streaks and blobs more quickly, and I think the same thing applies to our spiritual lives as well. When we continually ask the Lord for forgiveness, we become more sensitive to conviction when the things we do or say displease our God. Keep the ‘screen' clean!
My husband and I were driving a car with a broken cruise control and we were in for a rude awakening that day, especially when it was my turn to drive (as he is a much steadier driver than I). I would over-compensate going up the hills and then have to slow down as we crested the hill. To complicate things, we were driving a diesel, so the anticipation of additional speed needed to climb the hills came into play even more so.
Our lives are much like the interstate we were driving that day. There are hills and valleys, turns, unexpected construction and heavy traffic. When we are in control, we speed up, slow down, over-compensate for this and that. But when the Lord is in control those same hills and valleys don't cause us nearly as much concern. The ups and downs, twists and turns of life will still be a part of our lives, but the Lord has promised to go with us, to lead and to guide us as we travel the road of our lives, carrying out the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:20b)
FOLLOW THE LEADER
By NanPowell Doljac
Have you ever been driving down the road and realized you were lost? Maybe no one was around to ask for directions, or maybe you were too proud to stop for help. My natural instinct is usually to speed up. I think that even if I'm going the wrong way, if I get there sooner, I'll be able to figure out where I am, and find my way back on track. To contrast, isn't it nice when you're following someone who knows where they're going?
One weekend during high school, I went with my boyfriend and his family up to the mountains of North Georgia. I was driving, my boyfriend was with me, and we followed along behind his family in the car ahead. We got off the main interstate and drove through gorgeous scenery, up and down winding roads, and then along the lake. The whole time we were riding, my boyfriend and I laughed and talked. We admired the scenery, but didn't pay that much attention to where we were going. When we arrived, we weren't even sure how we had come, and would have been hard pressed to retrace our steps.
I have often thought of that pretty drive. Following along behind his parents, my boyfriend and I were safe as long as we kept our eyes on them. Without a road map, or even much of a sense of where we were going, we enjoyed the drive worry free. There have been many days since then when I haven't been sure which way to turn, and I quit looking ahead to the Lord to show me the way. Sometimes I just disagreed with the Lord's path, and stubbornly went my own way. How much easier it would have been to trust God's directions and follow!
Driving through the country without a guide isn't very smart, but if you keep your eyes ahead and follow the Leader, you will reach your destination safely. Even if the drive isn't always easy, at least you'll be going in the right direction.
"…always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." I Peter (NIV)
Some of us are better at giving directions than others. One day my husband overheard a stranger in a middle-Georgia town ask an old gentleman for directions to such and such a place. The older man scratched his chin for a while and then said, "Well, son, it's kinda hard to say. See that road there? Go down there a ways and you'll just happen up on it."
We would all be lost in a hurry if we had to follow those kinds of directions and we chuckle at the story. But when someone asks us how to find peace or happiness or eternal life, I expect our instructions would amount to little more than, "you'll just happen up on it." Most of us would be hard pressed to give clear, concise answers to such questions. First we need to be sure we ourselves know the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), and then we need to be able to share that knowledge with others.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matt. ,15(KJ)
As we drive along the rural roads of Georgia, particularly during hunting season, we see signs, one after another, which read, NO TRESPASSING. In other words, keep out, stay away, don't intrude, LEAVE ME ALONE. Sometimes the signs indicate a private preserve that may be used only by a select few who have, perhaps, paid for the privilege of using the property involved. There are occasions when these signs, and the feelings which prompt them, are appropriate for safety, privacy or various other reasons, but other times the words indicate an attitude which needs to be changed.
In our personal lives, we need to be very careful when we put up NO TRESPASSING signs. Sometimes they are directed at God's attempts to make us into what we ought to be, and then we are stifling what God's Holy Spirit is trying to do in our lives. Other times our personal NO TRESPASSING signs are barriers, even subconscious ones, that keep others from knowing God's love. And, additionally we may be using those attitudes to keep those who need our attention, our forgiveness or our love from intruding into our lives. We need to be open to what God has for us, and for what God would have us to be doing for others.
REAR VIEW MIRROR
"…I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." Philippians 3:11-13(The Message)
Not too long ago, driving down a two-lane highway, I was distracted by a tractor-trailer barreling down on me after he ran a red light. As I watched him in the rear view mirror, I was late in realizing that the vehicle in front of me had slowed to make a left-hand turn. Fortunately I was able to stop in time and also able to put on my flashers to warn the trucker behind me, so that a disaster was averted.
In thinking about my close call, I realized that we sometimes concentrate so intently on what has gone on in our past that we miss the opportunities to be effective in what lies ahead of us. Sometimes we are resting on our laurels because of past achievements; other times we are agonizing over our guilt about failures or mistakes. The lessons of the past are valuable in instructing us for the future, but our attention should not be so focused on the rear view mirror that we miss what is before us.
"Avoid the talk show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith." I Timothy (The Message)
The town leaders of Nottingham, England, decided that all the taxis should be Sherwood green, so they approached the manufacturer of London taxis with their request. When the marketing director asked what color of green they wanted, he found out that no one knew what color Sherwood green was. The marketing director chose several shades of dark green, took them to the Nottingham council members, they selected one, the color was then dubbed Sherwood green, and now all the taxis that are manufactured for Nottinghamare painted that color.
This true, amusing story reminds me of how often Christians have an idea, then go to the Scriptures to find a verse to prove that their idea is Biblical. I have often heard it said that you can prove anything from the Bible if you take verses out of context, and I think we often get things turned around by doing just that. We take our own preferences, even our own prejudices or inclinations and try to make them God's by finding a verse to support our idea, and if the first one we find doesn't quite work, well, then, we'll just see if we can't find another. Just as the Nottinghamcouncil members created a color to fit their desires, we can easily go off on a tangent spiritually because we didn't wait for the leading of the Lord.
When my husband and I travel to areas with which we are not familiar, I am generally the navigator. Although I make mistakes occasionally, I am an excellent map-reader and my husband trusts my direction-giving. If I say, "Turn," he does, without question or quibble, saying, "I trust your judgment." I've always said that if I have a good map, I can get you anywhere you want to go.
How unlike my husband most of us are in our spiritual lives. Although the Lord doesn't give us directions that are quite as concise as, "Turn left at the Stop," God does lead us along the pathways of our lives. And we are to follow the leadership we are given. Sometimes the directions are from the Scripture, sometimes they are in the form of ‘open' or ‘closed' doors, sometimes they are feelings or ‘nudgings' from the Holy Spirit, sometimes they are from the words of friends, loved ones or other trusted messengers, sometimes they take other forms. Our responsibility is to "trust in the Lord with all [our] hearts and lean not on [our] own understanding; in all [our] ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct [our] paths." Proverbs 3:5,6(KJ)
THE ROAD AHEAD
"What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it." Psalm (The Message)
We drive frequently over a stretch of road that comes up a hill, and, above the brow of that hill, we can see a road going straight up another hill. It is not until we crest the first incline that we can see that the road we are to follow curves off in another direction altogether. The road that looked as if it were the one we were to take is actually an offshoot that goes in an entirely different direction. If we followed that road, we would end up in a different place than we intended to go.
Often in our lives we think we know just the way we are supposed to go; apparently the road of life is going to continue on straight ahead and we make our plans accordingly. But often, when we get to that point, we find that God has another direction for us to pursue. Although the road God has for us appears to veer off in an unexpected direction, it is God's way, and so even though it does not appear to us to be the correct way to go, it will lead us to the Lord. What seems to us to be curving away from where we want to go will actually take us straight to where God would have us to be—in the center of the Lord's will.
"The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121:8 (NIV)
Sitting impatiently at a red light, I began thinking about the purpose of traffic lights—to make me stop so someone else can go, either across my path, or into my lane of traffic. Some of those cars that pull into my lane will accelerate and move off; others will become obstacles to be overtaken and passed. Some of them will simply cross my path and vanish from sight; others will turn and move in the opposite direction. Most will ask nothing of me other than to obey the law and allow them to proceed. Occasionally one might need my assistance; rarely one might have the purpose of harming me.
Sometimes the people on those side streets are on urgent, life-changing business; sometimes they are on trivial or even nefarious pursuits. Most of the time, the occupants of those cars are ordinary people, on ordinary business, just waiting for their light to turn green so they can proceed on their way.
When the light where I was waiting changed, I thought about how many times in our lives there are traffic lights: people or events that interrupt the flow of what we are doing or stop us from continuing the process in which we are involved. Our usual reaction is impatience, or even anger. Sometimes we notice what or who is sharing the intersection with us, but generally we fume and simmer until the light eventually changes and we can be on our way.
Rarely do we give any thought to those who may have been sitting at their light for a long time, waiting for an opportunity to enter the main thoroughfare or to go across it to be about the business that the Lord has put in their hands to do—whether trivial or vital. How often we get caught up in getting from point A to point B in the quickest, most efficient way possible without regard to others and their concerns. Is my right to go down that road more important, pressing or urgent than theirs?
Could it be that as I drive down the highways and byways of my life, the Lord places traffic lights along the way to get me to do what I needed to be doing all along—STOP—and have tolerance, patience and appreciation for others of the Lord's children who are waiting for their lights to turn green.