I have been posting devotional material from my out-of-print book (2006), “When God Gives a Time Out.” Today’s post contains chapter 8, but you can read chapter 1 here: “An Introduction to Time Outs” and then catch up on the other chapters. Today’s chapter focuses on our compulsion to keep up whatever image our sub-culture most highly prizes. In so doing, we present a “false self” that inhibits our relationship with God.
Image is Everything
What we do for esteem depends on what subgroup or culture we belong to. This truth became clear when I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension center outside of Boston. I was required to go to the main campus in Louisville about once a year. At the main campus I noticed many people always took up the most conservative position. They took pride in being esteemed as the most conservative. Many of my peers didn’t realize that what they were saying and doing was a knee jerk reaction to keep up their image. For a time, I looked down on my peers for seeking the esteem of men. I wasn’t so haughty when God convicted me of engaging in the same esteem seeking in a different way. Being from New England I live in a bastion of liberalism and many of my neighbors consider me a conservative. Down South, however, and especially in Seminary I took pride in being on the “cutting edge.” I thought these hicks from the Bible belt were stuck in their unbiblical traditions while I was living in a cutting edge mission area. I always spoke up for considering people who aren’t from a Christian culture and for reaching the lost. I made sure everyone knew that is what I had to do in ministry. Whether I was right or wrong was not the issue. The issue was I acted a certain way to keep up an image. I liked advertising myself as a cutting edge church planter in a mission field. This image brought me esteem from the subculture that I valued most. I realized that some of the classes I took, and the ministry tasks I chose, were based on keeping the cutting edge image that brought me the rush of esteem from my peers. Continue reading
Be Careful Where You Are Headed – You May Actually Get There.
I am a doer. When I first met my wife, Wendi, I was in college at the University of Maryland in the Washington D.C. area and I had a seven year plan. This plan spelled out what I was going to achieve over the next several years. I planned to complete my undergraduate degree with a 4.0 GPA, while interning in the nation’s capitol. I was in a Military Intelligence Army reserve unit next to the National Security Agency (NSA) and was looking into some part time work for the NSA. This scenario would have set me up nicely to be accepted into an ivy-league law school to specialize in international law. After law school the seven years would be completed and after taking stock, I could make a new plan. To me, relationships were secondary to accomplishing goals. I let Wendi know that my plan was in place and that where our relationship was going (to marriage or elsewhere) depended on the status of my plan.
I followed my plan for about a year and a half with quite a bit of success. My plan changed, however, when God brought me to my first “time out.” God gave me a sneak peak into what would happen if I actually achieved everything in my plan. I asked myself, “If my wildest dreams came true, if I become a high level advisor on the national level, or if I am elected to the legislature, then so what?” Even if I achieved all those goals, they would be gone – forgotten within a generation. If I achieved my wildest dreams I would have achieved nothingness. This revelation didn’t come about subtly. It was driven home by a Bible cult that I had started hanging around with. (I describe this association more in subsequent chapters.) God knew that I needed a LOUD wake up call. After a short time of looking at things through an eternal perspective I knew that God was the only thing of any permanence and the only thing worth devoting my life to. I soon realized that I wanted to devote my life to God but not this cult. In the cult’s eyes you couldn’t do one without the other. Rather confused and feeling that I didn’t want to follow my plan or this cult anymore, I left. I went back home to live with my parents. For the next couple of months I was in time out. God took away everything I was doing. I no longer had a plan except to abandon my old plan because it was worthless. I didn’t have a clear grasp of what the Bible really said or what God wanted me to do next. Away from college and all I had lived for, I spent the subsequent few months pouring over the Bible for myself. I really focused on the voice of the Father and my relationship with Him grew. This was my first time out and it felt like the hardest time of my life while I was going through it. But in hindsight, I am so thankful for that time out. I was so focused on doing, on achieving, on following the American dream that I was actually throwing my life and relationship with the Father away. God was trying to tell me this truth for some time, but I couldn’t hear him. I was too busy doing stuff. I needed a time out and that is exactly what I received. Continue reading
Last week I departed from this blog’s usual focus of applying the academic discipline of biblical studies to the church. Instead, I posted devotional material from my out-of-print book (2006), “When God Gives a Time Out.” I shared chapter 1, “An Introduction to Time Outs” and over the next several weeks I will post additional chapters. I pray they will be an encouragement and guide in our current circumstances.
Chapter 2: What Do You Mean “Time Out?”
I use the term “time out” because God does in concept what we see so many parents literally doing to their children. It all boils down to the fact that the child is not listening. They may be doing something they are not supposed to do or just doing something other than listening. The parent makes the child cease all activity. The child must now sit on the stairs, or in a special chair, with nothing to do except listen.
I will speak about the specific time outs God has given me in subsequent chapters. In general though, a time out is when God so controls the situation that you have no choice but to stop doing a certain thing, or stop doing everything. Something is getting in the way of hearing God’s voice and He is making you sit quietly until you are ready to listen. Are you in a relationship and suddenly circumstances cause you to cease contact with that person? Perhaps it is a time out. Have you ever had a job that kept you real busy and you either can’t do that job for a time or get permanently laid off? Perhaps a time out. Can you remember any period in your life when you were stuck or just unable to do a certain thing? Again, God may have been giving you a time out. This feeling of being stuck reminds me of how my wife would give a time out to our kids when they were toddlers. On occasion, Wendi would tell one of our children to go sit on the stair, but they wouldn’t go. She would then take that child to the stair and hold them very firmly. Of course they would struggle to break free, but they were stuck. Eventually, they calmed down and were ready to listen. God will hold us on the stair until we stop squirming. We want to quickly get out of the time out, but God must talk to us about the situation so that we are better able to deal with it the next time. God can bring you to a place where you are stuck financially. Is He holding you in a time out so that you will listen to Him concerning how you manage your money? God can bring single people to a place where they just can’t seem to get a date. He may be trying to get that single person to listen to what He was to say about relationships. Whether it is a specific area of your life, as in these examples, or your entire life, God gives time outs so that He can lovingly parent you to a place of maturity. Continue reading