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Réveille… (Part 12)
STANDIN' AT THE CROSSROAD…
Standin' at the crossroad, baby,…, risin' sun goin' down
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin' down
We could sing the blues all day about our predicament… so many hopeless tales and tragic final chapters… lives of barred windows and dark basements… shriveling pettiness, slavery to self and assigning blame.
Looking back , the reason for some of my own problems has been fairly obvious…
So maybe that’s why I shouldn’t wait too long before I start listening to God…?
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,” (Hebrews 3:7, ESV)
Seeking God early is better than waiting until later. Later we might feel like it will be harder to get untangled from the complications we’ve created for ourselves. Later we might not see the dream as clearly as we do today.
I’m convinced the dream is there whenever we’re ready to grab ahold and go with it. But life and ministry experience breed a warning: Too often, we get stuck at a crossroad or take a wrong turn when we get there.
If we’re not paying attention to God now, time is not on our side. Chronic cynicism does to our soul what cataracts do to our eyes. Life is a continuum of unanticipated circumstances and 90° turns. Later, we will need to hear God’s voice at least as clearly as we do today. If we let the dream die, hope will die with it. And, there we’ll be: “Standin’ at the crossroad…sinkin’ down.”
If we’re dreaming about an active role in the kingdom of God, it’s not a whim or a mere natural progression in our thinking… it’s Holy Spirit given. It’s not something we conjure up on our own. In our natural state, we were oblivious to our own wretchedness, clueless about our inability to find God or even to know for sure he existed. How then could we have seen the plight of others or felt the urgency to show them a road to salvation we hadn’t even found for ourselves?
If the dream is there, it came from God. God is talking to us. We should probably pay attention.
Now is better than later…
It’s the reason we’re careful to urge people to repent and believe before it’s too late. Lots of people die before they get around to it. Plus, “accepting Christ” is not a consumer-friendly proposition. We can pop around the corner for coffee and a biscotti anytime we want… but we won’t find the Holy Spirit anytime we want; he finds us whenever he wants. And we can’t be saved without him. So it’s better to answer his call when we hear it. No one should risk getting stuck at that crossroad.
It’s also the reason we’re careful with how we treat people who are new arrivals to the kingdom. The first weeks and months are critical for a new believer. Healthy patterns are easier to establish early on. Initial enthusiasm matures into a sustaining alignment with the “living hope” into which we have been born. It’s a dynamic, interactive, spirit-nourishing intimacy only experienced where the Spirit of God has made alive and taken up residence.
Remember the innocent enthusiasm of childhood? Is there a way to bottle it and save some for later? Is it impossible to recover after life has beaten it out of us?
Jesus had an attitude about it.
One time, when the disciples tried to keep kids away from him, he was indignant. He immediately embraced the kids and blessed them. Then he finished with a few choice words for anyone who would cause a child to sin… something about millstones and the bottom of the deep blue sea. (Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 18:1-6)
But he wasn’t just talking about letting children come to him: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, ESV)
It was a warning, but it’s the corollary that counts: Turn and become like children and you will enter the kingdom of heaven. Even though we think our childlikeness is dead and buried, he knows it can be resurrected and made useful to us again.
How did we lose it? Was it a catastrophic event or was it a gradual grinding down of the spirit? Trauma cripples. An abusive, repressive environment crushes a spirit. Ungodliness is contagious. Cynical suffocates hopeful… and fear strangles an inquisitive, adventurous spirit.
In ministry, it’s a perennial cause of sadness. We can almost mark the date on a calendar when the lights go out… attention is diverted from the glories of kingdom living to the hollow thrills of worldly living. Too many end up singing the Cross Road Blues. “I believe to my soul, now, [I’m] sinkin' down.” We missed our window… something got lost…
I cannot put my finger on it now The child is grown The dream is gone I have become comfortably numb Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
Gut-wrenchingly sad… because it doesn’t have to end that way. Jesus means to instill hope. Lost innocence can be rediscovered. We can start enjoying life in God’s kingdom even before we die.
Childlikeness is an underlying characteristic of life in the kingdom of God. It includes innocence, trust, wonder, faith, eagerness, excitement, and gaiety.
One of the many blessings of entering the kingdom like a child is the point of this essay. We enter it humbled, unaware of what to expect. But we’re loving it… this is God’s new adventure for us. Like children, we automatically know we can trust him with our lives. We know he will never abuse our trust. His glory and our eternal well-being predominate in the eternal unfolding of his design.
Recovering our childlike trust will stand us in good stead at whatever crossroad we come to later… especially if the Lord is preparing us for the Roman coliseum… or for pioneering with the Gospel in a strange, new place. When the Spirit starts dealing with us personally about our going—whether near or far—our wide-eyed, eager childlikeness will respond in one second flat… Yes. I’ll go…!
Next: How should we then PRAY?