Perpetual Motion

There has been a quest over the centuries by some of the great philosophical and engineering minds to come up with a perpetual motion machine. Something that once started, is powered by the energy it produces itself and would never have to stop because it is completely self sustaining.

No degradation of power, a leak proof passage of energy from one motion to the next. image
An automated marvel that would have the potential to change with world by meeting global energy needs for virtually no cost.

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

Wish I could help there, but I did find a bit of that logic in a passage I studied this morning, which I visualize as a spiritual perpetual motion machine.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

So, step one: suffering produces endurance. This is kind of a no brainier, because suffering that doesn’t produce endurance produces death. I mean, if you don’t endure, you die. In this case, we can suffer on many fronts, and you can either persevere, or you can die. The death of a dream. The death of a calling. The death of a relationship. Or, in that very same suffering you can endure, persevere, overcome. 1 John 5:4 sets every believer up for this kind of victory: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Step two: endurance produces character. Think about it, when we say someone has character we aren’t actually saying very much. Everyone has character. But, what we mean, is we see character quality traits that are worth holding on to: faithfulness, determination, optimism, hard work, etc. It’s in the process of clinging to God in the middle of suffering, enduring through it that these qualities rise to the top. Those who don’t endure often succumb to a different list: doubt, negativity, weariness, etc. So a person who endured suffering truly becomes a person of character.

Step three: Character produces hope. Let me supply my own definition of hope here (feel free to argue, but I’m not changing it). Hope is a confident expectation of the not quite yet, just out of reach, but already a fact to me! A person with all those positive character traits listed above will find themselves clinging to hope like it’s already in the bag. What others call a wish, they call tomorrow. When others are on a wing and prayer, they are guarded by angel wings praying thanks to a God who has ‘already’ answered their prayers.
Now, here is where it gets weird, because it looks like “hope” is the last stop on this train from the passage I’ve quoted above, but there actually is a step four.

Step four: Hope fuels faith to make it through suffering. Yes, in an amazing twist of reciprocity, the very thing that suffering produces, is also the fuel needed to overcome it. From the very same passage, just one verse later:

Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The hope streaming from Godly character, forged by enduring, that’s heated by the fires of suffering is the same hope that will help get you through!

God poured into you in the beginning creates the opportunity for God to be poured out of you in the end… a spiritual perpetual motion a machine. That’s why the very beginning of the passage says one of the craziest things in the Bible: “But we rejoice in our sufferings.”

It makes no sense until we understand that as we walk through, suffer, lean more into our God, and feel the presence of His spirit more and more, we are given what we need to make it through.

Everyone suffers, but not everyone overcomes. We can rejoice, because we have a God who is not overwhelmed, discouraged, or out of His depth.

If you’re going though something right now, remember, you can’t do it.

But, God in you can do anything.

Arise and shine

My wife and I both have college degrees in communication. They usually don’t help.

Kathy is emotional and intuitive, feelings-based with high levels of relational energy invested in every conversation. I’m trapped in a perpetual viewing of Dragnet… I just want the facts, ma’am.

This has lead to more than one episode of, hmmm, how shall we put it… marital imperfection?

And, it’s too bad, because when we fight we usually have no reason to be even upset. The problem is that we just don’t communicate as clearly as we should.

When my wife wants something, I wish she’d just ask. But, instead, she wants me just to get it, figure it out, or perceive it because that would mean so much to her.

Honestly, I’m just not that smart.

So, in this playful bantering of communication mishaps, Kathy has tried to train me by asking leading questions to see if I can figure out what I should apparently understand:

  • Kathy: “What do you want to eat tonight?” Me: “I don’t care.” Problem: the answer was right, but I didn’t understand the question. She wasn’t looking for information; she was looking for me to help… strike one.
  • Kathy: “Can you believe she said that to me?” Me: “Yeah, it makes sense.” Problem: Whoa, danger zone. She didn’t want an answer; she wanted support. Not bright there big guy… strike two.
  • Kathy: “Are these your underwear in the middle of the floor?” Me: Well, they better be.” Problem: It may have been funny, but… well if I have to explain this one to you, you are not trainable. Strike three.

The prophet Jonah did not have this problem. When he heard from the Lord, it was clear, distinct and undeniable.
“Arise, go to Nineveh,” said the Lord.

Jonah’s response was also clear, distinct and undeniable: “But Jonah rose to flee.”

The next time we see the word arise or rose is when everything has gone critical, and even a pagan sailor (can you even imagine the language on that boat) wakes Jonah up in the middle of a life-ending tempest and screams, “Arise, call out to your god!”

This was no three-hour tour where the weather started getting rough, and a tiny ship was tossed… this storm was God’s wrath in undeniable technicolor.

Well, we know what happens. Jonah becomes fish bait (or for you wealthy folks, sushi), suddenly has a change of heart from the belly of the beast and agrees to deliver God’s message.

Don’t give him too much credit. Most of us would agree to do about anything from the belly of a whale.
And after the most disgusting disembarkation in history, we see a rerun: the same word (arise or rose) is used three more times.

“Arise, go to Nineveh,” said the Lord. His message had not changed.

Jonah’s response was slightly different this time: “So Jonah arose and went.”

This time, the third use of ‘rise’ concerned the King of Nineveh, “And he arose from his throne.”

There is a huge difference in a “But Jonah rose” and “So Jonah arose.” The first brought a killer storm into his life, and the latter moved a king off his throne.

One risked the lives of sailors, and the other saved a nation.

One was the result of disobedience and the other the natural outcome of obeying the Lord.

Thanks be to God His word is clear. No guessing, figuring out or trying to understand.

God has given us promises, commands, rules, laws, guidance, and direction. The only thing that remains is our response.

Will we obey?

You’re probably thinking about something very specific. Something you know God has communicated, without a doubt.

That’s a word from the Lord my friend… it’s time for you to rise up.