Redeeming the Time

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:15-17)

I recently told the story of how God redeemed me from a drugged life into a meaningful one.

Just two days after that I gave that testimony at Gather Church [May 30 podcast] , I was at a Memorial Day celebration that honored the military men and women who have died in our country’s service. During the keynote speech, I was remembering Jesus’ words: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). I wonder: Was He equating those men and women’s sacrifice to His own?

I consider it an honor to have served in the uniform of my country. However, I did not honor that uniform very well while I wore it.

For most of my three-year Army career — during the Cold War — I was positioned with thousands of other NATO troops against East German and Russian forces just across the border. As supply sergeant for a maintenance unit, I played a somewhat important role in the readiness of front-line forces.

A noble place to be, yes, but instead of devoting myself to my service, I devoted myself half the time to getting high.

As I listened to that Memorial Day speaker, I was humbled. I realized that my unit deserved better. My Army deserved better. You deserved better. I am ashamed of my behavior.

But I’ll not wallow in my guilt. God is abundant in mercy to all who call upon Him (Psalm 86:5). He does not hold grudges. It is safe to come to Him in repentance.

I thank God He did forgive me and heal me, and He restored my brain! On drugs, I had become unable to complete a sentence without forgetting where I had started. But after His touch, I went back to college on the GI Bill and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, of all things. My work in newspaper journalism is one way I felt I could somehow redeem both God’s touch and my country’s investment in me.

Perspective on pot

In a brief Q&A session after my message to Gather, I tried to explain my thoughts about marijuana nowadays. Didn’t do very well.

Back in that previous life, I often wrote down all sorts of profound thoughts that occurred to me when I was high. Now when I read them, I realize how foolish I was.

To my embarrassment, here’s an example:

I am a universe, unique unto myself.

But if I am a universe, my volume is infinite.

But everything in my universe is me, so everything which enters my universe must be made to be me — or part of me.

Me — a universe — infinite.

I — an empty volume — lonely?

Really. And that actually made perfect sense to me.

Pot didn’t make me wise, it made me stupid.

Several states, including Washington, where I now live, have given their residents the right to purchase and use marijuana for recreational use. But God has given us the right — and the responsibility — to make wise choices.

Legally, under man’s law, we have all sorts of rights that conflict with God’s will: We can squirrel away our wealth and avoid paying taxes. We can ridicule others’ beliefs. We can gossip for profit. We can arm ourselves to the teeth. We can marry someone of our own gender. We can kill our unborn children.

I am not equating abortion with smoking a joint. I’m just saying that having the right doesn’t make it right. Man’s laws are not God’s laws. Man’s wisdom is not God’s wisdom.

For some people, pot is fun. For others, it’s a nightmare. Do not look there for wisdom.

Getting high or getting drunk, even when it doesn’t hurt anybody other than ourselves, is a waste of time. Instead we are called to redeem the time.

Marching orders

Once my life was converted from Hell-bound to God-bound, I faced the big question: What should I do with my life? What is my big calling?

After several false starts, it began to dawn on me: God didn’t make His will hard to understand. Matter of fact, He has made it rather simple:

Don’t sweat the big stuff.

Once we place our lives in His trust, He is in charge of our destiny. We are in charge of being obedient to what He has already told us — one step at a time, one day at a time.

We are not called to change the world. Instead, in our communities, we are called to:

Feed the hungry,

Preach the Good News (with words and actions both),

Love our neighbors,

Love our enemies,

Seek wise counsel,

Learn His voice.

“Small” things like these are plenty enough to challenge and occupy us. “Small” things done in Jesus’ name are not small things in the Kingdom.

He directs our steps as we walk following Him. That’s what disciples are — followers.

We are called to live by His standards and “bring forth our fruit in our season.”

“Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, who bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)