The Mystery of the Moment (Beverly Hills Faith) 05May2020

The Mystery of the Moment (A Beverly Hillbilly Faith)

I recently watched a video of Buddy Ebsen dressed in a tuxedo and dancing like a Fred Astaire. It struck me as bizarre; my mind struggled to comprehend it because I always visualize him as Jeb Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies. I didn’t recognize him because He looked out of character in a tuxedo! You remember that show, right? Jeb struck it rich and moved the family to Beverly Hills. Every one of the main characters; Jeb, Jethro, Elly Mae, Granny, made us delirious with laughter. The sitcom was hilarious but the ironic thing that we didn’t realize at the time; we were actually laughing at ourselves! Most modern day Christians are just like the poor backwoods family from the Ozarks of Arkansas who moved to posh Beverly Hills, California, yet they still lived like hillbillies in their new mansion. (Remember the episode when Granny brewed a batch of moonshine outside by the swimming pool?) Their location changed but their mindset remained the same. This dichotomy is funny to watch in others but tragic when played out in our lives.

Unfortunately, so many Christians are like the Beverly Hillbillies and their spiritual ancestors the Israelites who left the slavery of Egypt but carried Egypt deeply embedded in their heart. You know the old saying; “you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Sadly, that is more than a saying for too many Christians; saved out of the world but still have the world in their heart. A “Beverly Hillbilly” type Christian reads Ephesians with difficulty, as they struggle to comprehend Paul’s claim of unsearchable, unfathomable riches in Christ because in their mind they are still poor. They sing the songs of Zion while dressed in the attire of a homeless stray. They feel like a slave bound, not with chains but with unbroken ties to the past. So they walk through life in a meandering path and with a hesitant gait.

This dual nature as exposed in the Israelites proved to be deadly. Because Egypt was tucked secretly and securely in their heart, they failed every test in the wilderness as God trained and prepared them to win the battles they would face marching toward Canaan. As we looked at a map that revealed the serpentine path the Israelites trod in the wilderness, a man asked me, “Why didn’t they take the most direct and shortest path to Canaan?” I think he was a surveyor, I don’t remember but it was a good question. I answered, “Because when you are always looking backwards it is difficult to walk in a straight line.” Remember the words of Jesus, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) The man was pleased with my answer and I stand behind it, however, primarily it was God using the pillar of fire and the cloud of His presence to direct them on a crooked path. He did it for a purpose. It was a part of the discipline to turn slaves into warriors because He knew they would face opposition on their journey. Also, He had to cut their ties with their past. Even though Egypt was viewed in the rearview mirror, God knew it would be difficult for them to focus their look ahead through the windshield (or as my African friends say, “windscreen”). A change in geography doesn’t necessarily mean a change in perspective, or affections.

And, that thought brings us to a relevant application. No one, especially me, is capable of standing in the now and clearly declaring, this is the “meaning of the moment.” A common colloquialism boasts, “Hindsight is always 20/20.” Not Always! We don’t always learn the lessons from the past as God intended, in fact, we are more prone to misunderstand the past and misinterpret its meaning. And, prophets are hard to find these days, unless, of course, they are there for the profit! We can’t always foretell the future through the eyes of the present. I think it was Yogi Berra, the baseball philosopher, who once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” I hear people predicting, “The church will come forth from COVID-19 like a mighty marching army.” I hope so. We will see. Some most definitely will move forward to the frontline of battle with renewed vigor. Others, I am afraid, will rush from their foxhole and run to the rear line, the church building, where the supplies are located.

There is uncertainty, and with it come insecurity, about what will happen tomorrow, but I am certain about one thing. At this moment in time, we must stop talking about faith and become people who “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) This walk involves trusting Him in the mystery of the moment, cutting ties to the past and following His leadership as we walk in uncertainty. I understand! We don’t feel comfortable with mystery but this walk is a part of a plan to change our affections and “set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2) Hide yourself in Christ and you will forget about the mystery of the moment!

I will close with lyrics from Willian Cowper. He wasn’t a prophet and he lived in a different era but his words give us comfort and insight as we walk with God in the mystery of the moment and allow God to be His own interpreter:

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread, Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings upon your head. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace. Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face. His purpose will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r. Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain. God is His own interpreter; And He will make it plain.” (Hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” 1774)

Ldw 05May2020