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Keeping the Balance of Now and Forever

Over the years, my side hustle has always been construction. I have worked on several construction crews and most of them kept a specialized tool on hand called an attitude adjuster. This tool is employed whenever a piece of material is stuck. The application of the tool is usually enough to get the material unstuck. I love that simplicity. The technical name for this tool is the sledgehammer. The word sledge is derived from the Anglo-Saxon slaegan, which means to strike violently. Most of the crews kept eight pound sledgehammers on hand, but I remember one crazy bunch that had a twenty pounder. I’m telling you, if you could swing that brute accurately, you could get anything to move.

I assume that the big hammers got the nickname attitude adjuster for that very reason. When we say someone has an attitude, we are usually referring to being stuck in a negative mental state. Not long ago, I developed an attitude about some sketchy internet/cable/cell phone lines and connections at our house. All that techno stuff really gets under my skin. Nothing seemed to work right and I was having an awful time chasing down the problem. After listening to me whine and complain like a spoiled child for a couple of days, my wife finally put her foot down and gave me an attitude adjustment. No, she didn’t use a sledgehammer, though she probably had every right to. Rather, she gave me a taste of my own medicine. In short order, she got me unstuck from my attitude. I married a patient and wise woman.

Generally speaking, attitude, whether good or bad, develops out of our perspective. The words perspective and attitude are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Perspective refers to how we see things — and attitude refers to how we react to the things we see. To improve attitude, you have to start by gaining a new or different perspective. Doing so is not always easy. Our perspective can be affected by various factors. Here’s an example: I normally have an attitude about winter because the way I see it, the cold weather keeps us stuck inside for months on end. Well this year, with all the rain and humidity, I’m actually looking forward to cold weather so we can get rid of our current plague of gnats and mosquitoes. Archery season is going to be unbearable until we get some cold weather. The bugs have me seeing cold weather from a different perspective, and my attitude about winter is changing dramatically. I’m ready for the cold! (I can’t believe I just typed that last sentence.) That’s the power of perspective.

For the Christian, if we want to gain and sustain a positive attitude, we must view life from a Kingdom perspective. In other words, we must discipline ourselves to see the way God sees. Is this important? Well, consider that nearly everything Jesus taught was intended to adjust our perspective, and ultimately our attitude. Paul the Apostle was able declare, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.” How? By seeing everything from God’s perspective. That discipline worked so well that he also wrote, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” It was all about perspective.

This past week I spoke on the Parable of the Ten Maidens found in Matthew 25:1-13. Jesus used this parable as a way of illustrating what He had just taught in chapter 24 about the end of time and His imminent return. The point of the parable is this: Jesus is coming back, so keep watch, because you don’t know when He is going to return — and you want to be ready. He didn’t let us know when that momentous occasion would occur. He simply instructed us to stay alert because it could happen at any moment.

Actually, this perspective is important for two reasons. Yes, Jesus may return at any moment, but it is also possible that we could leave this world at any moment. People will die today — many of them completely unaware that this will be their last day on earth. For these two reasons, we must keep now and forever in balance.

The maidens in Matthew 25 were taking part in a special wedding tradition. Much like our flower girls, these young ladies had a special role to play in the celebration. All ten of them did everything right for the here and now. They dressed for the celebration and arrived at the right place and time with their lamps ready and burning bright.

But five of the maidens went one step further: they took along an extra flask of oil. They wanted to be ready in case the groom was delayed. And that’s exactly what happened. The groom didn’t arrive until midnight. By that time, they had all fallen asleep. As they slept, the oil in their lamps ran low. When the call finally came that the groom had arrived, they discovered that their lamps were about out of oil. The girls who had not planned ahead quickly realized their mistake. In distress, they asked the other girls for oil, but there wasn’t enough. They ran to purchase more oil, but their return was too late — the doors to the celebration had already been closed.

It’s a sad story. Actually, it’s a sledgehammer story. Jesus used it as a tool to get us unstuck from our short-sighted here-and-now perspectives and attitudes. He wanted us to gain a Kingdom perspective, one that is able to keep the needs of the here-and-now in balance with the imminent nature of forever.

Are you ready for His return? Have you trusted in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin? Are you living each day surrendered to the infilling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, driven by love and overflowing with grace? Are you being responsible with today, while at the same time preparing for eternity? Are you ready for His return?

Friend, at any moment, it could be too late. Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it today. Is there someone you have hurt? Make your confession and restitution today. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have another hour. Our Groom could arrive today or a stroke, heart attack or car accident could take you out of this world at any moment. It’s time to keep the balance of now and forever — an important Kingdom perspective.

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