OK, so some guys decide to get together in like a Bible study group. They get really interested in ‘the neat stuff’ in The Revelation and start to drift towards adding a lot of ‘what if’s’ to what they are reading. One day one of them says, “Hey, there’s this really neat verse where Jesus tells his disciples to buy swords!” “Oh, wow! How cool is that!” is the general response. Next thing you know, guys are out in the woods training with assault rifles and planning to instigate the Second Coming all by themselves. Where to begin; how about this, ‘Christian militia’ is an oxymoron, at least in terms of how we understand militia in the United States today; trust me, as an evangelical Christian, that’s not who we are or who we should be. Here’s another thought; reading the Bible to justify my pet peeves, defend my favorite ‘ism’ or simply to prove I’m right and everyone else is wrong is dangerous, self deceiving, and, dare we say, sinful.
When we read the Bible, we begin with prayer, and how we pray is critical. We should not pray, “Lord help me use your Word to make my point.” Rather, we should pray, “Lord open Your Word to me and show me Your way, truth, and life.” To put this as concisely as I am able, pulling a verse from its larger context is simply a pretext to justify my predetermined intent. The Bible is not a designer book, to be packaged to appeal to my whims; it is the Word of the Living God, given to us for His purposes, not ours.
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:8-17 (ESV)
Have you ever taken a time management course? Did you learn how to speed time up? Or slow it down? Or produce more of it? If you know me well you will know that the concept of ‘time management’ is a pet peeve; yet the text above does make a salient point concerning time. Essentially, we are instructed to make the best use of the time we are allowed to have; be that time at home, work, recreation, relational, whatever pursuits we undertake. This idea was driven home as I sat in a Dentist’s waiting room while a friend I had driven there was undergoing oral surgery. The first hour had been spent out in the truck reading a book I’ve been trying to finish; then, as the procedure was to be done in an hour, I went inside. On entering, the little ‘no weapons’ sign was noted, probably not a bad idea, given the history of dentistry. Then, as I sat for another hour and a half, it seemed the weapons ban was aimed at preserving the overhead speakers, as ’70’s music droned on in an unbroken stream (no offense intended, if you are a disco fan). Being exposed to pop music of any period for an extended time is an education in culture, and the lesson is that our days are sometimes as shallow as the lyrics we listen to on FM music loops. The challenge of making the best use of our time, indeed of our times, is to face each 24 hour period with eternity in mind. Once we manage to do that, then we are ready to face weeks, months, lifetimes, with our eternal time-print in mind. Let’s close with a cliché worth repeating. Only one life, t’will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last!