Do you ever have those early morning moments when you’re not really wide awake, but not really asleep either? Those are special times, aren’t they? Sometimes we find one of them in a recovery room after a surgical event when the effects of anesthesia are wearing off. It’s a comfortable, dreamy state. We’re sort of awake, but not totally there yet. It’s like being mentally and emotionally weightless, a state where life’s burdens and pressures have temporarily lost their power to pull us down.
I was in the midst of enjoying one of those utopian episodes not long ago and was startled into unwelcome consciousness by a loud and continuous, “Beep, Beep, Beep…” The driver of some large construction truck on the street outside our house decided that he needed to back up and his mechanical megaphone announced it to the entire neighborhood. I could not have been less interested in which way the truck was going, or why the driver found it necessary to change direction. But admittedly, under different circumstances, my opinion about backup beepers would have changed.
A Grim Reminder ~
Reflecting on it reminded me of what happened to my father when he was just 30 years old. He worked for a company that delivered ice to its customers, and the truck they used had a mechanical arm attached to the back to offload the heavy blocks of ice. Unaware of my father’s position behind him, the driver of the truck shifted into reverse and began to back up. My dad was stabbed through the chest with the lifting device. A simple warning could have saved his life. Unexpected beeping can be annoying, but unannounced changes of direction can be dangerous, and in some cases, even deadly.
Speaking of things that unexpectedly change direction, people do that, too. Sometimes those directional changes have no significant impact on anything or anyone. Shifts of direction are made all the time that leave the world around us largely unaffected. But sometimes our changes aren’t so benign. It occurred to me that when God was designing us, it might have been really helpful if He would have installed beepers.
Changing Directions Has Implications ~
From a spiritual perspective, when we start going backwards, it’s always a dangerous change of direction. When the spiritual movement of an individual, a family, or a nation starts moving in the opposite direction, it represents potential outcomes that can be lethal in many ways. The danger is multiplied when those at risk aren’t aware that the gears have been shifted. They may not know how precarious their situation is until disaster is imminent and they find themselves trapped. The Prophet, Jeremiah, addressed the national impact of just such a change of direction:
But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:23–24 NKJV)
The hearts of God’s people didn’t become evil instantaneously. An entire nation didn’t collectively wake up one morning and decide to abandon God and embrace Satanic ideas and practices. The most threatening reversals of direction for individuals or nations are those that slip in quietly, unexpected, unannounced. The spiritual gear shifting that begins in small ways is often loaded with the most devastating implications.
Small Changes–Radical Possibilities ~
Small changes like avoiding regular exposure to the Word of God and sacrificing prayer time on the altar of a burdensome schedule can be easily overlooked. They don’t seem alarming, but they can be a first step toward moving in a radically different direction. In that regard, the Apostle Paul made a comment in his last letter to Timothy that we mustn’t overlook. Paul reveals what seems to be an abrupt and shocking change in the spiritual direction of one of his co-workers:
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved [agape] this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:9–10 NKJV)
As mentioned earlier in reference to the Jews in Jeremiah’s day, Demas didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to turn his back on Paul and abandon Jesus’ teaching. That his decision was not a spontaneous impulse is suggested by the word translated love in describing his motivation for leaving. It’s the same word used to define the deep, sacrificial commitment shared between the Lord and His followers. That kind of love doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Somewhere along the way, Demas began to shift the attention of his heart and mind in a dangerous direction and no one noticed. Eventually, his growing attraction for this present world and what it offered dominated everything.
Clearly, God didn’t install a spiritual beeper in Demas, or any of the rest of us. He did something better. Instead of an irritating noise, God equipped us with a common spiritual connection and a command to be sensitive to one another, continuously working to ensure that we’re all going in the same direction:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1–4 NKJV)
A Different Approach ~
A common family characteristic throughout history is that they tend to look out for and protect one another. We sinful human beings, left to our own devices, are never perfect in that regard, but faith in Jesus Christ adds an additional asset to the equation. The Holy Spirit activates a sensitivity to behaviors and conditions that are spiritually significant and alerts us to them. That sensitivity is not given to enable us to be self-appointed moral judges of one another and arbiters of righteous conduct. It’s given as a protective mechanism to help us prevent one another from becoming another Demas. Our job is to look out for one another, to exhort and encourage, to lovingly and prayerfully connect and guide, not to condemn and reject.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12–13 NKJV)
In light of our present moral and spiritual status, we might say of our country on God’s behalf, “America has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where killing inconvenient babies is a “right,” where government bureaucrats have usurped parents’ rights to determine what’s best for their children, where the simple act of questioning those in authority can be considered a criminal act, and where people are condemned or exalted because of the color of their skin.
The radical changes in behavior we’re seeing didn’t happen overnight, but we can begin to change things back in the right direction if we return to being the warning mechanisms God ordained us to be. The dangers of going backward can be devastating, but the rewards of being God’s “beeper” can be incredible:
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20 NKJV)
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The most threatening reversals of direction for individuals or nations are those that slip in quietly, unexpected, unannounced. The spiritual gear-shifting that begins in small ways is often loaded with the most devastating implications.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Small changes like avoiding regular exposure to the Word of God and sacrificing prayer time on the altar of a burdensome schedule can be a first step in moving to a radically different direction.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God didn’t install a spiritual beeper in us. Instead, He did something better. Instead of an irritating noise, God equipped us with a common spiritual connection and a command to be sensitive to one another, continuously work to ensure that we’re all going in the same direction.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “In light of our present moral and spiritual status, we might say of our country on God’s behalf, “America has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We can begin to change radical reversals back in the right direction if we return to being the warning mechanisms God ordained us to be. The dangers of going backward can be devastating, but the rewards of being God’s “beeper” can be incredible.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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There is much wisdom in your message, Ron. I think the question is, as children of God, what are we going to do about it? Not only do we need to be the “beepers,” a warning to alert others of the danger, we need to be the catalyst, the example, the leaders in spreading the Good News of Jesus to a barren nation and world. What is going to be our first step in the right direction? How are we going to lead the way in a loving manner?
Thank you for your insightful comment, Katherine. It’s both encouraging and challenging. When we see someone we love begin to show signs of a dangerous shift in spiritual direction, figuring out how to intervene in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the entire relationship is one of the hardest things to do. If we work together among our spiritual family to develop the kinds of relationships that facilitate personal interventions that can prevent spiritual and relational catastrophes, it becomes a lot easier. May God help us not to get drawn into those gossipy cliques that talk about those who look like they’re changing direction with so-called “prayer requests.” Instead, if we see a problem, let’s love them enough to feel the hurt before it happens and do all we can to get in the way. God bless you for having.a heart willing to move out of the shallows and get into the difficult territory, and for putting up signposts to guide others away from the dangerous roads.
As Christians, we do carry the obligation to be the loving, respectful beepers for others who are headed away from the Lord instead of toward Him. I know I’ve needed direction multiple times in my life in order not to stray from the path God has set before me. And with our country the way it’s going? I think Christian folk with common sense need to speak up louder than ever before.
Sorry to be slow getting back to you, Martha–been a bit more hectic than usual for the past few days. I always appreciate your personal touch and, like you, I’ve been the one shifting gears when I shouldn’t have and headed in a dangerous direction. It’s a tough time for all involved when that kind of thing happens, but thank God for those who recognize the problem and are willing to respond. Thank you for your faithful work, and for helping to keep so many going in the right direction. We desperately need each other in these awful days, and it’s encouraging to have friends like you standing strong.
Once again, I find myself standing in full agreement with you sir. Heartbreakingly so sometimes, but the truth of God’s word is often meant to break our hearts so that we surrender our sinful human pride and allow ourselves to focus on God’s truth! What you described so eloquently, I refer to as “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” It’s a long-process of killing a body by inflicting what seems to be small little wounds that by themselves emit but a few drops of blood and momentary pain. It seems to happen to me every time I get near one of my barbed wire fences (I now understand why its long been called “devil’s wire”). As you point out, we often overlook those small wounds or transgressions against God’s natural law. However, as more of these small cuts are made, the result becomes the same as if you had slit someone’s throat. You. Bleed. To. Death! I see that happening in this world today. Not just our beloved nation, but the world as a whole. We’ve been self-inflicting these wounds upon ourselves for many decades now. Oh, we call them nice words like “social justice”, “new consciousness”, “woke”, and “equality”, but each one is a wound upon the moral fabric of our world. If we ignore them long enough and never stop the bleeding, even though “it’s just a small wound. let us concede this to them to placate their demands”, the result is inevitable death. And when we fail to speak up and speak out about what is happening, we are adding to the problem and should be judged as an accessory to murder. Well said my sage friend. Well said!
Thanks, my friend, as always, your responses are full of powerful insights, and like Diane says so often, your comments are better than the piece itself. And I am, indeed, glad to stand in total agreement with you in so many ways, and always encouraged by the powerful way you work to counter the increasing attacks against our God given rights and freedoms. I love your reference to the barbed wire–as some of my pastor friends would say, “That there’ll preach, Brother.” I’m glad to know that you’re out there “beeping” your head off and working to keep others from being run over by an out of control political and academic machine that has shifted into reverse and is pushing our beloved backward. May God continue to inspire and strengthen you as the battles come and may He keep the CrossW a haven for truth and a fortress against evil in all its forms.