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Just dropping by... Line upon line

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 11 September 2019
Praying

In a science class in college, I watched a video depicting rock formation and movement. The film hypothesized that rocks gradually change shape over time, not just with erosion but a kind of stretching.

The film showed a clump of silly putty set on a flat surface. If you stretch or smash the putty, you can mold it gradually into shapes, but I was surprised that when the ball of silly putty was hit with a sledgehammer, it shattered in shards much like broken glass or pieces of rocks.

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The lesson I took away from the film was not about rocks. It was about the way the Lord and Satan deal with us in our lives. The Lord gradually shapes our lives line upon line, precept on precept. We learn a little at a time how to change our lives for the better. Satan, on the other hand, tries to overwhelm us with the thoughts of our imperfections, our lack of time and our appetite to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. He blurs our vision by having us try to focus on too many things at one time.

We can see this clearly as we stroll through social media or listen to the news. We are inundated with problems. We want to help, but we don’t know where to turn to focus our attention to help solve the problems. There are simply too many. The news media would have us believe everything is in shambles and America, as we know it, is nearly extinct. The Constitution is hanging by a thread, socialism marches to take its place, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Governors sign bills to legalize infanticide while an immigration crisis mounts at the border. Issues of voting security loom in the background of impeachment chatter. Gender and women’s rights are raging with real or fictitious racial tensions. Human trafficking and Christian genocide collide with the fight for free speech and religious freedom. There are simply too many good causes that need fighting for, so we do nothing.

While Satan clutters our minds with troubles in the world, we work two jobs to keep up with the bills we have created, keeping up with the Joneses and our think-we-must-have-it-all lifestyle. Our children are no different. We want them to be successful, so we put them in every good thing we can find: music lessons, sports teams, dance, tumbling, art classes – and expect academic excellence in every class. The list goes on. Of course, there are parents who don’t put their children in any self-improvement classes because they feel overwhelmed and can’t be bothered with anything when they get off work. They are so tired of dealing with the clutter of the day, they click mindlessly through the channels on the television in a stupor. So they can grab a few minutes of much-needed peace and quiet, they hand their children a tablet or a cellphone to keep them occupied.

The Lord, on the other hand, promotes a gradual process of line upon line. He works with us on our own timetable and our own ability. I think of Peter in the New Testament, when he was left with the task of building the kingdom and spreading the gospel after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. It would have been easy to see all the problems in one big lump. New followers of Jesus were being hunted and killed. His life was in danger for sedition against the Jewish religion, and he was supposed to spread the gospel to all the world. I am sure he wondered a bit about how he was going to accomplish such a monumental task. Thankfully the Lord led him line upon line. In Acts 10 (KJV), there is a good example of how the Lord dealt with Peter, and how he will deal with us if we pray and have a desire to do his will (direct quotes from this chapter are in italics):

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band. He was Gentile, and the Jews considered all Gentiles unclean. Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. The Lord did not consider him unclean. In the Lord’s sight he was a righteous man. In fact, the Lord sent him a vision and told him to send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter. Note, the Lord did not tell Cornelius that Peter would baptize him and help him learn about Jesus. He simply gave him one step in his journey. Send the men, and he obeyed.

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Now Peter simultaneously was having his own experience. Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat (verses 9-13).

Peter was a Jew and was taught a specific code of what was clean and unclean. Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common (v. 14-15).

Peter had the same vision three times and wondered what it could mean. Was he to change the eating code? What was the message here? He didn’t wait long for an answer, for the men that Cornelius had sent stood before the gate. The Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them (v. 19-20).

Peter met with the men and found out their reason for coming. They didn’t have any more information than Peter did, only that their master was a good man. Peter, trusting in the Spirit, went with them.

And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.

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And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean (v. 26-28).

Peter taught Cornelius about Jesus and baptized him. The Lord showed Peter that changes in the kingdom were coming. He had to accept many things that would have been hard to swallow if the Lord had given him the whole plan in one lump sum. Consider how Peter would have reacted to the conversion of Saul, who had been instrumental in exterminating the Christians and the law of circumcision being changed for the Gentiles if he had not received one-step-at-a-time direction from the Lord. The Lord didn’t give him the entire package at once, though he could have. He doesn’t give us everything we will need to know in one heartfelt prayer. He gives it one step at a time and only when we are ready.

I was tutored in this type of thinking when I taught first grade. I had previously taught seventh grade, where I could give the students a list of instructions, and they would understand and complete the task. When I started to give my first graders those kinds of instructions, they looked at me as if I came from another planet. I had to tone it down to one step at a time. “Look at me.” Wait for response. “Pick up your pencil.” Wait for response. “Write your name.” Wait for response. It was tedious but much more successful than giving a paragraph of instruction.

In our cluttered lives, we need to take time to pray and ponder the purposes of the Lord in our lives. As we do, we can expect one-step-at-a-time answers. He will give us light for the way. We might be surprised at some of the directions our lives take and how peaceful our lives will become as we learn line upon line.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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