My uncle was a gutsy guy, and thus the one saddled with the task of teaching me how to drive when I was 15. While I admit that it was a challenging episode for both of us, suggestions that the experience may have influenced his alleged association with local bootleggers about that time is only hearsay. Some things are just coincidence. What I can affirm is that we managed to get through it without serious personal injury or jail time, and apparently both of us were spared any lasting medical issues from random exposure to excess levels of adrenalin.
Anyhow, I was the reluctant recipient of multitudes of my uncle’s admonitions in those days, most having to do with driving his 1955 Ford in such a way so as not to include death. I was warned and instructed and evaluated about more things than I care to recall. Some were vital points, and not to be forgotten, but others, not so much. For instance, I was grilled repeatedly about all that right-of-way stuff, when to shift gears, about how to handle the clutch if I had to stop on a steep incline, and when to be most keenly on the lookout for deer. But I was also sternly informed that you don’t drive on dirt roads with the windows down, at least not with his car. Keeping a car even reasonably clean in those days ranked somewhere between difficult and impossible, because of where we lived. There weren’t any hard-surfaced roads for miles in either direction, and you couldn’t get to town without driving on roads that were just dirt and gravel. Driving on those dirt roads with the windows down would cause clouds of dust that were swirling up from the wheels to be pulled into the car. All of those admonitions played a key role in ensuring my protection and the preservation of others at that point, but as life moved on, other challenges arose, and other admonitions became more vital.
My point is this. Sometimes the value and significance of God’s admonitions are highlighted, and sometimes even defined, by the circumstances and conditions that prompted them. That does not mean that God’s directives are only valid for the particular set of circumstances that existed when they were given, but some are more prominent in some conditions than others. Not every admonition God ever gave His people is necessarily applicable with equal relevance or equal pertinence to every situation or circumstance that followed after them. That doesn’t mean they are to be discarded when circumstances change, though, only that it’s important to know where and when to apply them. We have a persistent habit of repeating our past failures, and re-creating the same kinds of situations that plagued us at other points in our past, at which time the value of those earlier admonitions once again emerges with renewed significance.
For instance, my uncle’s little caveat about the car windows and dirt roads has moved into the realm of nostalgic trivia as I spent decade after decade driving on hard-surfaced roads, with no concern about windows being up or down unless someone had recently run over a skunk. And then … God led us in an unexpected direction, and we found ourselves living in a small rural village in Alaska. We had about seven total miles of roads, all of which were gravel and dust, except in the winter, or when it rained at which point they became gravel and mud – and potholes. The closest place to us that had hard-surfaced roads was hundreds of miles away, and I had numerous occasions to recall my uncle’s instruction about the windows. The Word of God does not change, but the circumstances calling for its application do, and our safety and preservation depend on knowing what to apply when.
The journey of men and nations through their time on this earth has shown recurrent sets of conditions. Some are more challenging than others, and in the midst of those challenges, some of God’s directives seem to emerge as being particularly significant. I believe we’re living in one of those times. Many of the basic moral and ethical values that have been embraced by the popular culture in America are reflective of a mindset that is abhorrent to almost everything that God has revealed about His own nature and character. That disturbing reality is further exacerbated by the fact that the policies and practices generated by that mindset are supported and promoted by governmental authorities, public media, most of the entertainment industry, and by those in public education and upper level academia. In the face of that, the one counteractive force that God designed to confront destructive onslaught, the Church of Jesus Christ, appears to be growing weaker in its influence with every passing day. The ‘institutional’ Church in America has so camouflaged itself in the garb and trappings of its secular environment, that it is virtually indistinguishable from the moral trash that surrounds it. The pressure to compromise and accommodate has driven a majority of the mainline denominational congregations in this country to a behavioral desertion of the very foundations upon which they claim to have been built. Accommodation can reach a point where it can no longer even be called accommodation. There is a point at which the drive to appease can result in such a distortion of identity and purpose that meaningful distinctions disappear altogether. Whatever constituted the difference between ‘we’ and ‘they’ is lost, and each simply becomes a different version of the other.
We are facing conditions and circumstances today that seem in many ways unique to anything we have faced in our lifetime, but they are not unique to God. There is no question that He has had much to say, and that He has spoken to every generation and addressed every circumstance that His followers have faced. But the question at this point is not just, ‘What did God say to them?’ The question is, ‘What is He saying to us right now?’ Of all the admonitions the Father has given, which are most vital to us in this hour? We don’t live in the realm of ‘there’ and ‘then’. We live ‘here’ and ‘now’. The enemy doesn’t confront us ‘there’ and ‘then’. He confronts us ‘here’ and ‘now’. Times change. Circumstances change. Cultures evolve. May God help us not to find ourselves surrounded by asphalt and air conditioning, but still spouting admonitions about dusty roads and open windows.
I hope you’ll join me for more to come next week …
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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