Stoplights and Country Drivers

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If the Cloud stayed above the Tabernacle two days, a month, or a year, that is how long the people of Israel stayed; but as soon as it moved, they moved. –Numbers 9:22 (TLB)

I’ve been driving for almost 50 years, and I confess I’ve turned into a country driver.

I prefer sharing the road with just a few vehicles, preferably not slow pokes or those prone to road rage or who are clueless about using turn signals and turning on their headlights in certain conditions. I tolerate the occasional horse and buggy in my lane and watch for country critters crossing unexpectedly in front of me at night. When I’m driving the interstate, I set my cruise control to 10 miles under the speed limit so all the other traffic will breeze right by me.

I like having the road to myself, and, living in the country a dozen miles from the nearest town, most of the time I do.

I don’t do city driving. One time coming home from the Pittsburgh airport, I drove more than an hour out of my way, taking the long way around rather than drive through the city.

Back when one of my children was young, I had to take him to regular appointments with a doctor whose office was in Oakland. Those were the days before GPS, but I knew my exit, which wasn’t very far into the metropolis, and the doctor’s office was just a few blocks from there. I knew my way out, too.

One time, however, I got lost. Apparently I made a wrong turn and ended up by the University of Pittsburgh campus. When I recognized the Cathedral of Learning, I knew I was in trouble. My son, who heard the quiver in my voice, said, “Mom, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to! Instead I stopped and asked someone on the street for directions. The way back to my regular route wasn’t far, and the directions were thankfully simple. We made it home without me having a meltdown.

At Bible study last week, we were discussing driving in city traffic. Carla, the hostess, told us about a time when she was stopped at a red light in the city, and her Aunt Alice, noticing her angst, said, “When you get to a red light, it’s time to get your bearings.”

What wisdom! And not only for driving in city traffic but also for navigating life’s roads.

There are times the Good Lord puts a red light in front of us so we can get our bearings. But instead of being thankful, we grumble and whine and complain. We don’t like being slowed down or stopped on the way to where we’re going. And we’re always in such a hurry.

God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When it moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped—no matter how long the stop was.

Although He doesn’t use the cloud-and-fire method these days, God still does direct us—if we’re paying attention and if we’re willing to follow His leading. Sometimes the stop is longer than we want—indeed sometimes we don’t even want to stop.

Are you stopped at a red light today? Thank God and remember: He knows the way and He knows when to move forward and when we need time to get our bearings.

Thank you, Father, for the stoplights of life that help me to get my bearings. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Exodus 13:21–22Numbers 9:15–23

The Deathbed Perspective, Part 3: Keeping the Faith

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.               – 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

Today we look at the final phrase of Paul’s deathbed words to the young pastor Timothy: I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. faith

What does it mean “to keep the faith”?

When I hear the word “keeper,” I think of a zookeeper, someone who’s charged with guarding and caring for the animals. I also think of God Almighty, who is my keeper. He protects me, guards me, helps me, watches over me, and preserves me (Psalm 121).

Another definition of “keeper” is “someone or something you want to hang on to, keep, not throw away or lose” (my definition). I knew my husband was a keeper the night I met him.

No matter the meaning, though, it takes work—time and effort—to be a keeper, to consistently guard, properly care for, hang on to something or someone for a lifetime.

Now let’s look at the word “faith.” According to the Bible, “faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it” (Hebrews 11:1 NCV). “Faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses” (Amplified).

Faith, to a Christian, is not just believing that God exists, but believing God is everything His Word says He is. It’s believing the promises we read in His Word and taking them personally. It’s believing God without a doubt—or in spite of it—when the world around us believes only in tangible things.

Now put those two words together: “keep” plus “faith.” Keep the faith. How, exactly, do we keep the faith?

By clinging to it in the storms, the silence, and the successes of life.

Let’s look at those times:

First, keep the faith through the storm. The Gospels record the times Jesus calmed the storm—and His disciples in the process.

But He doesn’t always calm your storms, does He? What do you do then? Lose your faith? Shake your fist in Heaven’s face? Stop believing He cares for you or that He even exists?

God knows there are times you must go through the storm—to grow, to learn, to become the person He’s molding you into. Like the words of the song, “sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms me.” Faith is believing, during the deep, dark times when the storms are raging all around, that He’ll never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), that He’s with you always (Matthew 28:20), even if you don’t sense His presence. Faith is not feelings.

Second, keep the faith in the silence—God’s silence, that is. When your prayers go unanswered, when you feel alone and abandoned. Believe that God will answer in His time, His way, and always for the best. God’s silence doesn’t mean He’s not with you. Keep a journal of your prayers and when and how God answers. You’ll be amazed when you look back and see He was there all the time.

And finally, keep the faith in success—when things are going your way. We tend to forget God then, don’t we? We spit up a quick “thank you” and then enjoy our success as if it were all our doing.

Fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith, Pilgrim, for “a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8) with your name awaits you at the finish line.

Dear God, help me to guard, protect, and preserve my faith. Help me to both keep and be a keeper of the faith. Amen.

Remember Zephaniah 3:16–17 –Do not fear . . . let not your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives great victory. He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on the day of a festival.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 4:6–8; Psalm 121; Hebrews 11

 

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May you be the keepers of the faith for your children and grandchildren.