Monday, April 4, 2011

Time Lines Mess Up Perspective!

     Art Linkletter used to host one of my favorite TV shows.  He had a segment on the show when he would ask school children questions that garnered some of the funniest and interesting answers.  I would sit there, watching the segment, laughing my head off.  He would ask little boys questions about girlfriends and vice versa.  Sometimes their unrehearsed answers would amaze you at the raw understanding of the subject matter.  "Out of the mouths of babes" come some profound statements.  One particular episode Mr. Linkletter asked the kids, "What does God look like?"  Everything from a big man with a long white beard, a strong man with lightning bolts in his hands,  a strong man holding the world over his head (Atlas), a man with children always hanging all over him (obviously a Sunday School product), a man with a big stick ready to hit the bad guys, a man with a long beard with his hands out wanting to hug you and the list went on and on.  A lot of different ideas, some with  some degree of accuracy, but most pretty far off from the true nature of God.
     Picture yourself sitting in one of those desks on Art's show and he asked the same question of you.  What would you answer?  What does God look like to you?  How do we begin to answer that question?  Does the way you live your life match what you say God looks like?  Craig Groeschel's book, The Christian Athiest, addresses the fact that a lot of us have correct answers about God, but live as though those answers aren't really what we believe.
     Don't you think we all fall into that category to some degree or another.  I can preach a heck of a sermon on faith, but the truth is  I am struggling with believing God is ever going to get me out of this financial downward spiral I have been experiencing.  I can teach about God's faithfulness in response to a "cheerful giver", but wonder if God sees my giving, because I see such little return.  Life has a way of keeping tension between belief and experience.  Which is the most important?  Does experience trump doctrine or belief?  That is a good, honest question.
     Let me give one word of caution about something that causes us to shift from trusting what we believe about God to defining Him by our personal experience.  We must remember that God's timing is not our timing.  We have a tendency to draw a "time line" in the sand and say, "if God doesn't answer by such and such a time, then we assume He is not going to answer.  We then chock one up to the unfaithfulness of God and our belief in God drops a notch or two.  That is almost like giving God an ultimatum.  "You answer by then or we are going to write you off."  We may not say that, but in our mind His reputation is certainly tarnished.  Two of three things develop out of this kind of approach; putting a time line on God's answers. 
  • There is a tendency for that time line to shrink with each different circumstance, until we develop a vending machine mentality.  I inserted the prayer, where's my answer?
  • We develop a demanding attitude toward God, as though He owes us, after all, He is lucky to have us as believers.  This destroys any intimacy we have developed with God and causes us to view Him as our supply only.  
  • Instead of looking for the answers to come, we start looking for the deadline to come so we can say, "I knew He would come through for me!"  Time lines foster doubt instead of building faith.
  • We simply become impatient with God, with faith and hope.
     These are all very subtle tendencies, but if we are honest, most of us have had these thoughts from time to time.  One valuable thing to do is go to the Scriptures and read the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Moses, Caleb, Joseph, Job and look at their time lines.  God wasn't so "hoppy do" with them, yet He was faithful to His promises.   It will give you a better perspective than in the middle of the battle.  Remember: Time lines cause a distorted view of God and if you are not careful, your "God" will change instead of your character and your circumstances.
     This is a tough journey we are on.  We must have a firm belief in an unchanging God that is not subject to our time frame.  Let's help each keep things in perspective.  Let's JOIN THE JOURNEY together.


  1. You've done it again Keith! Thanks for the rich and transparent insight. I must admit when I read your title, I suspected some cheezy church speak...but then you smacked me with "The Christian Atheist" much for cheezy. BTW..How many of us can be best described as "Chritian Atheist" when we are confronted with a circumstance that may cause some opportunity for WORRY?? OUCH!

  2. I must say it is much easier to talk than walk. My talk is bold, my walk is often very crippled. Your comments always cuts to heart of the matter. Your willingness to be brutally honest with yourself and me make your input valuable. It is good to be on the journey with you.

  3. time is an oxymoron to God. Though just at the right time He sent his son, yet so often He works outside of time constraints. I love your word "tension". That is a favorite of Ken Boa. For me its not so much a time line as a "Christlike character" line. I know He wants to kill my ego like love and change it to an agape love. When I look at 80 years, I figure I will have maybe taken on .001 of His Agape Love. Gosh, I gonna need an eternity to at least get up to, say, 20% Agape Love????!!!!

  4. I like the phrase, "time is an oxymoron to God. I don't guess you worry about time when you can do anything anytime. When the character lines up with His purpose, then maybe it is time. His purpose is character as well as His greater cause. Great comments.