East or West?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  C.S.Lewis

North PoleAn interesting consideration is how far can one travel travel north or south versus traveling east and west.  When you travel north from any point of the globe, you are limited in distance by the North Pole.  Eventually you cannot go any further north; every direction you turn will be south.  The same is true for the south-bounder; arrive near the center of Antarctica and every direction you turn will be north!

But God said He would remove our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.”  (Psalm 103:12)  So how far is THAT?  Well, face the rising sun.  Take a couple steps forward.  Then turn around.  You will have just gone from east to west!

Now what makes this interesting is the difference between the north-south traveler and the east-west wanderer.  While the north-south traveler can only go approximately 12,500 miles (20,000km) and no further, the east-west wanderer can go on forever and never reach an end in his direction.  Think of it!  One can travel the entire 24,000 mile (40,000km) circumference of the earth going east and keep going east forever!

East or WestAll the east wanderer needs to do is to turn around and suddenly become a west-bound traveler.  And therein is the difficulty with going from east to west.  YOU have to change direction.  Someone once  said, “As long as you continue on the path you are on, you will get to where you are going.”  Sounds profound, but it’s really quite plain to even a child.  And the wisest man who finds himself going the wrong way will be the first to turn around.  Again from C.S.Lewis, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” 

There are two dangers to continuing east when you are supposed to be going west.
1) The first danger is that God might intervene; this is the possibility of an encounter with the supernatural that intends for you to stay on the right road.  The Bible is replete with such interaction when God wants to direct his children.  Jonah is the most prominent that comes to mind.  He was headed for Tarshish, the opposite direction from Nineveh where he had been told to go.  God sent a storm to prevent him from going there, prepared a great fish to swallow him, and provided time for him to repent (change his mind) of the direction he was going.

Such encounters can be harrowing and damaging.  Think of the lost time and goods for the other men on his ship.  And if he had not instructed them about his disobedience, most of them probably would have died.  When we persist in sin, going east instead of west, there are always costs.  Though I do not agree with much of what Kay Arthur teaches, even a stopped clock is right twice a day: “Sin will take you farther than you ever intended to go, it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay, and it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay.”   Jonah was three days in a dark, dank, and most uncomfortable and smelly situation.  And he was getting off easy, because God had a specific assignment for him, and he changed his mind.

2) The second and greater danger to continuing east when you are supposed to be going west is that God might not intervene!  Suppose Jonah had persisted in his Tarshish-bound ship.  Suppose once in the belly of the fish, he had refused to repent.  In either case, Jonah would have died a washed-up preacher without a message and we would have read about a different prophet that Yahweh directed to Nineveh.  He always has His man ready to do His will, and if you choose not to be that man, He will find another.

John writes in his first letter, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life — to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (1 John 5:16)  At times God may not intervene even if faithful Christ-followers are praying earnestly.  The reason is that God has released that one to follow his eastward journey into eternity.  He has removed His hands from that life and said, “Do what you want to do for as long as you can do it.”

Choose Your Ruts Carefully.jpgSo you see why this is the greater danger.  In the old west, when Kansas City was the “western frontier” there was a sign for the wagoneers to read on the west side of Kansas City, Kansas, as they headed across the river and into the far west and to the coast.  It read “Choose Your Ruts Carefully.”  Wagons going to Los Angeles could wind up in the Oregon Territories if they chose the wrong rut.  Such ruts became “unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

And in the same way the wagons developed “habits” that would keep them in the same ruts for a thousand miles, we develop habits that will keep us in the same rut for the rest of our lives . . . unless we respond quickly to the voice of His Spirit and turn back to the way we should go.

There is no joy in telling you this, but fearful longing that you will listen to the warning of Hebrews 12:25: See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven.”  Consider if you are being disciplined by the Holy Spirit, and be thankful that He counts you as a son, willing to cause you pain to bring you to the right path.  But if He is not disciplining you when you rebel against His word and His instruction, take care or your “ruts” may become too deep for turning around.

It is your choice: East or West?

Opportunism and the Audience

“Opportunity does not knock.  It leans on the doorbell.”  Steve Elliott

Opportunism is the practice of adapting actions or decisions to make something work regardless of the sacrifice of ethics or morals.

  • The opportunist would never kill anyone, but if someone else commits murder, he will simply look the other way and walk away, thinking to himself, “At least I am not as bad as a murderer.”
  • The opportunist would never commit rape, but if he can coax, deceive or take advantage of a girl’s naivete, he will excuse his immorality by claiming, “I allowed them to make up their own minds and never forced anyone.”
  • He will never use a weapon to rob anyone; too risky and could get messy.  But if a banker or clerk makes a mistake in his favor, he walks away with the windfall, justifying his theft by claiming it is not his responsibility to keep those books.
  • An opportunist will rarely lie; he might get caught!  But if someone else assumes something untrue to his advantage he will keep quiet, claiming he always tells the truth.

The opportunist is most concerned with what others think of him/her.  And therein lies his problem: he is playing to the wrong audience.  Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)

The steady heart will not belong to an opportunist.  A steady heart is one that is committed to obedience to what he believes.  Even Sigmund Freud said, “He does not really believe, who does not live according to his beliefs.”  And we have addressed this in earlier blogs (, , ).

Tom Landry 2Tom Landry, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, was an innovator who became one of the first coaches to use video camcorders to record his own team’s performance on the field.  This was likely one of the ideas that took his team from a 0-11 loss record of the team’s first year (1960) to 10 wins in 1966, and on to multiple Super Bowls.  The issue was who the players were playing for.  Whatever the crowd saw, whether they cheered or jeered, each player on the team knew that after the game, he would get to watch his actions again on a small screen with his coach standing at his side.  So every team member recognized that he was not playing for the crowd; he was playing for the eyes of his coach and the detailed review he would get at the end.

So the obvious question to each of us is, “Who are we playing for?”  Will we play for the crowd and make ourselves look good in the eyes of men, or will we play for “the crown” and wonder how we will look in the only Eyes that really matter?  Will we take the opportunity that is leaning on our doorbell and concentrate on living by convenience and appealing to the eyes of men, or will we focus on living by conviction and please our Father’s eyes?  Who is your audience?