Friday, November 26, 2010

Taking the Highway. . .

Deuteronomy 2:27
. . .I will go along by the high way,
I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left.

A few years ago the community where I live, built a new highway that looped around the southern edge of the 3 largest cities in the area. Running from east to west, this new road greatly enhanced travel in the area. Today it is so much easier to go from one town to another by hopping on the by-pass. For many the construction of such a road through a countryside of beautiful small farms was quite painful, required great personal sacrifice. My step-mother’s family farm, on which she and her siblings were raised, was bisected by this 4 lane concrete intruder. Many many other farms and little rural communities were similarly disrupted, but the community as a whole was well served by this road. Uncountable thousands were benefited by the sacrifice of a few..

At the time of its construction, the highest legal speed limit for this type of road was 55 mph. Not satisfied with travel times already cut nearly in half by taking the new road, people quickly began significantly exceeding the posted speed limit and the Indiana State Police and other local law enforcement agencies began patrolling the road with radar units in order to keep some semblance of enforcing the law.

A few years later the speed limit was raised from 55 to 65 mph. The naive might have thought that the new posted limit would have reduced the numbers of people exceeding the maximum speed for the road, but that surely was not the case. If anything my impression is that a greater percentage of people than ever significantly exceed the posted limit. . .

Having a posted speed limit is clearly for the common good. When I was in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany, I rode on the no speed limit Autobahn several times. Every single trip I took on that road, I witnessed the aftermath of terrible accidents. In a comparable stretch of highway here in the U.S. which I’ve driven regularly for decades, I’ve not seen the vehicular carnage that I saw in a mere 2 or 3 trips on the Autobahn. To allow people to drive at any speed they like, is clearly a recipe for disaster.

We clearly need limits to the speed of cars traveling on the highways, but no one wants to adhere to the limits. Most rationalize and find one reason or another to exceed what ever limit is posted for a road. I’m convinced that if the limit was raised to 85 mph, it would not be long before the average speed upon the highway would surely exceed 90 mph. It’s not the number specified in the limit that people object to, it’s the limit itself that people resist. We rationalize and justify what ever speed we choose to drive at. Nearly everyone recognizes that in principle a speed limit is a good thing, but no one seems to believe that it is a particularly good idea for them. We resist and we refuse to submit to the law of the land.

Very similarly I see parallels with the speed limit on a highway and submitting to the holiness standards of churches. The Bible is all about setting limits, division and separation. From beginning to end God divides and sets apart.

Genesis 1:4
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

The light was created and immediately afterward, it was divided from the darkness. The light is never to mix with the darkness. There must be a distinction between the two. Light was created. Dark was inevitably divided from the light. . . .All shades of Gray are abhorred. . .

Revelation 3:15-16
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

The lukewarm is a mixture of hot and cold. . .Neither purely one or the other. God will better tolerate blackness than any shade of gray. Blackness is known for what it is and can be worked with. Blackness is very able to be repented of, but against intuitive thought, to be a mixture of white and black is a condition nearly impossible to overcome. The measure of righteousness that you do have will convince you that it outweighs the small contaminating bit of darkness within you. A person not familiar with the white purity of holiness, can be self-deceived into thinking any shade of gray as being white.

It is clear from the Word of God, that He desires us to live disciplined lives, within set limits of behavior, speech, and dress. It is also clear that one of the duties of a Pastor is to set the limits for his flock. While there are certain behaviors which are clearly prohibited, there are equally areas of holiness not distinctively set forth, which are judgement calls left up to the determination of the Man of God for his church.

It is in these areas that each pastor must arbitrarily make a decision for his congregation. Skirt lengths for women. . . ankle length, mid-calf, or knee high??? Each can be considered to be modestly attired. For men, are ties required, long sleeves, or merely to have shirts with collars. There are countless such areas such as this where there are no cut and dried Biblical instructions, but a line must be drawn and adhered to.

And that is where the problem begins for many people. Most everyone will agree that standards and limits are in theory a good idea, but for many, any proscribed limitation by their Pastor will eventually become a stumbling block for them. To the submissive spirit, it is not a problem, a second thought is not given. What the Pastor says goes. . . but for the rebellious endless arguing and rationalization arises. . . the continual chafing against the yoke grows and grows until eventually either, the person submits their will and the knee is bent, the requirement is accepted or rebellious spirit reigns and the yoke is cast off.

This is a life long battle. Our submission or lack or it, to our Pastor a definite miniature image of the submissiveness in our relationship to God. Our pride and our flesh are strong willed. They will exert themselves in a multitude of ways. Submission means to completely and fundamentally accept Christ’s spoken words: not my will, but thy will be done. . .If you agree with it, it’s not submission.

Dear God. . .I pray let me always. . . go along by the high way, centered in your will. . .I pray let me. . .neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left. Let me not take detours. Let me not vary in my walk with You. I don’t always succeed, but I desire always for it to be not my will, but thy will be done. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Dave Stokely

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