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Living in the In-Between
Living our lives as a Christian goes something like this. God gives us a vision, plan, purpose and calling for our lives, but He doesn’t give us all the details at the same time. These we receive along the way as we look to Him.
And I think God planned it this way because He knows how we hate to call home, that is, we really don’t like to pray. But as any parent God wants to talk with us, and so He withholds the details and gives them along the way in this journey of faith we’ve been called upon.
But I think there’s more. Far too often, more often that we’d like to admit, we miss out on what life has to offer because we mistakenly believe that life happens when reach our goals and fulfill our purpose in life. But what we fail to understand is that life is what happens in-between now and then.
This is why so many find themselves empty and disillusioned when they reach their goal, and that’s because they’ve missed the whole point as to why God gave that goal or purpose in the first place, and that is so we could experience the life that God has in store for us.
This is what I’d like to talk about today, and that is the life we miss in the in-between. What we miss is that God’s purpose is not always the same as our goals, in fact, God’s purpose is found along the way. And so if we miss this, we might just miss out on all that God has in store. We miss out on the abundant life that Jesus tells us is ours as one of His followers.
And our value system is all messed up. It’s where we’re at our jobs and other events more than we are with our children, grandchildren, and those special people God has put in our lives.
We mistakenly think that once we get established and settled then we’ll have the time, but in truth, by that time our kids have moved out of the house and have families of their own, and have little if any time for us.
Back in mid 70’s Harry Chapin wrote and sang a song that had become the rallying cry for this very thing. It is called, “Cat’s In The Cradle.” I’d like to look at the first and last verses of the song and I think you’ll be able to see what I am talking about.
• My child arrived just the other day – He came to the world in the usual way – But there were planes to catch and bills to pay – He learned to walk while I was away – And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew – He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad – You know I’m gonna be like you”
• I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away – I called him up just the other day – I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind” – He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time – You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu – But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad – It’s been sure nice talking to you”
• And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me – He’d grown up just like me – My boy was just like me
Recently I got a text from one of my sons, by the way, I don’t call them sons or daughters in law, they become part of the family and therefore are also my sons and daughters. Well in this text he said that he remembered how everyone was kind of on me because I was always carrying Ilona, our oldest granddaughter, at the San Diego Zoo, which is what she wanted. It was those arms held out signs that say, “Pick me up.”
And he remembered that I had said that I will hold my grandchildren every chance I get, because there will come a time when they won’t want to be held. He is now holding his children as much as he can.
In a world where work seems to be the end all of our existence, we’ve learned to become real efficient, the problem is that we haven’t become all that effective. What’s the difference? Being efficient is all about doing things right, where being effective is all about doing right things. And the difference is found in that while we can do things right, are they the right things to be doing?
As a society we’ve become extremely efficient. We have smart phones and smart watches that can not only connect us to one another, but also to the Internet where we can get see the latest happenings around the world. We also have smaller and smaller laptop computers and tablets that let us take our computers everywhere we go, and with Wi-Fi we can get connected almost anywhere.
And so we have become extremely efficient, but are we effective? You see with all these efficiencies our families are falling apart, marriages are eroding, our kids are running amuck and we have all lost valuable communication skills.
And so as a society are we so efficient that we’re no longer effective?
A man came running into his doctor’s office saying, “Quick, give me what you’ve got for chronic hiccups.”
The doctor said, “Do you want the best thing?” to which the man said, “Yes.”
And then the doctor said, “Do you want it now?” and again the answer was “Yes.” So the doctor hits the man as hard as he could.
The man staggered back and coughs and gives the doctor and incredulous look and said, “What did you do that for?”
And the doctor said, “You wanted the best thing for chronic hiccups. So, are you hiccupping any more?” and the man said, “No, but my wife who is waiting in the car still is!”
The doctor was efficient but not effective. So we have to start re-evaluating life, or can I say we need to start re-valuing life, because that is what re-evaluating is, it’s to re-value.
It’s moving our value statements to where they ought to be, because what we may think is valuable today, may not be as important or valuable as we thought tomorrow, in fact, it might be empty.
What should our value statements be, well let me say they all start and end with God, along with biblical values, because in the end these are what is going to make a lasting impression, not only in our lives and in the lives around us, like our kids and our grandkids. Worldly values are here today and gone tomorrow, but not the values of the Bible.
I like what John Wesley said about our need to re-value.
“I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” (John Wesley)
If we want something, but have to cheat and lie to get it, what is the price tag in eternity?
We need to revalue life as God sees it. If we don’t then much of what we do won’t really matter in the end, and we’ll miss out on the abundant life God has in store right now.
Consider if you would Jesus. Much of His life and ministry happened in the in-between. In-between He stopped and spoke to the people. In-between He healed people of their sicknesses and diseases. In-between Jesus made a difference in peoples lives.
One day He was on His way to a Pharisee’s house to heal this guy’s daughter. As He was on his way a woman, who had an ever-flowing issue of blood, touched the hem of Jesus’s garment. When He realized what had happened, Jesus stopped the whole entourage and looked around to see who touched Him, because the power to heal had been released.
Jesus’s goal was to get to the Pharisee’s house to heal his daughter, but God had an additional plan along the way, and that we to heal this woman. Notice Jesus didn’t say, “I’m on a mission, so make a appointment.” Instead, Jesus realized that God had a plan and purpose in the in-between, and He said to the woman, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34 NKJV)
Far too often we are reaching for our goals, but missing life in-between. Linda Ellis has written a very profound poem that I think speaks volumes about this, it’s called, “The Dash”
• I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
• He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
• For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth, and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
• For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
• So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
• To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more, and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
• If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
• So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
Now, as we look at this life and understand how much more of this life is lived in the in-between, there are two things we have to be careful of.
Living in the In-Between We Need to be Careful
1. Not To Miss What God’s Doing
This came as I was thinking about Elijah when he reached Mount Horeb. God had sustained him for forty days and nights, but still Elijah didn’t know what God was doing through it all. While in a cave violent winds came and tore at the mountain, and then came an earthquake followed by a fire, but Elijah sensed that God wasn’t in any of that. And it was then that He heard the still small voice of God telling him of his mission.
If Elijah was preoccupied with his circumstances and what was going on around him, he would have missed God’s call and what God wanted to do in anointing the next king of Aram, and then the call of Elisha as the next prophet of Israel (1Kings 19).
We need to be careful to hear God’s word so we don’t miss what God desires to do.
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 NKJV)
In other words, it is when we’re on our way, going here and there; that is when we hear God giving us directions for our lives.
Have you ever been rushing around trying to get everything done when the urge comes to talk with someone? Most of the time we dismiss it because we just don’t have the time? But that may very well be God’s still small voice saying, “Be My voice, and be My hands.”
God has a purpose in the in-between. It’s to let others know of how much God loves them through the giving His Son, Jesus. It’s also to help care for them, because, “People don’t care how much you know; rather they just want to know that you care.”
So let’s be careful not to miss out on God’s purpose by going head long after our goals, because what we think is our goal may not be; instead it just might be God using it to accomplish His purpose in the in-between.
2. Not To Negate What God’s Doing
We can kill what God is doing if we are not living for those in-between moments. We can see this in the mission outreach of Paul and Barnabas.
Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work (Acts 15:37-38 NLT)
The Apostle Paul’s goal was to go and reinforce and encourage the churches they had already established and move forward in evangelism and missionary work. And so was Barnabas, his partner. But Paul was more interested in the goal than God’s in-between purpose. Why take Mark again, he just caused confusion and more work for Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey when he left them.
Yet, Barnabas heard God’s voice that this was an in-between moment. Unfortunately, it caused a split, with Barnabas taking Mark, and Paul taking Silas, each going their own direction. And while we can say that it increased God’s outreach, both going to different areas of the world, there was a chance to speak into this young man’s life.
Now catch the ending. Because Barnabas was living life in the in-between, Mark became a valued member of Paul’s team. In his last letter to Timothy, Paul not only requested Luke to join him, but Mark as well (2 Timothy 4:11).
We negate what God wants to do in our lives and in the lives of others in the in-between. Mainly this is done through a sucky attitude. Yes, I can say sucky, because sucky is a theological term. And so if we have sucky attitudes during the week, like Paul in our story, we may be negating what God is doing in our time on Sunday.
We negate what God wants to do in our home and with our families. We might call it image management. It’s where we treat our children like little princes or princesses in public, but yell and emotionally abuse them in private. Or we treat our spouses like gold in public or at church, but then ignore them or worse berate them at home.
It’s all about maintaining an image, like trying to look and sound like a Christian, all the while missing God’s purpose in the in-between. It’s like when we’re on the phone praising God while making threatening faces and gestures to the kids.
It is those in-between moments that make or break our Christian witness, and then we wonder why our kids don’t want to come to church, they see our hypocrisy first hand.
And so we negate what God wants to do in the lives of our friends and family because we’re not living for these in-between moments.
What Can “Living in the In-Between” Do?
1. Change our Lives
The Apostle Paul was on his way to Damascus to put the Christians who lived there in chains and then bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and even death. That was his goal, but on the way, in the in-between, God met him and changed his life.
“I saw on the way a light from heaven.” (Acts 26:13a NAS)
Underline, “On the way.” God changes our lives in the in-between moments. Yes, it happens in our time together at church, but it also happens in the in-between.
For the Apostle Paul it was in this in-between moment as he was on his way to accomplish his mission that he had a personal encounter with our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But besides changing our lives, these in-between moments can heal us as well.
2. Heal our Lives
A lot of healing happens when we follow God’s path and purpose for life. When were living life in the in-between, we can either miss or negate what God is doing, or we can have our lives changed and healed.
Consider what happened to 10 lepers. In Luke 17:11 it says, “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.” Again, Jesus was in the in-between, He was “on His way.” It says that he entered a village and ten lepers cried out for a healing. And Jesus said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
The reason Jesus said this is because only the priest could pronounce them clean and able to reenter the general population. Now look at what it says.
“And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:14b NKJV)
In-between Jesus and the priests they were healed. But it goes on to say that only one of them came back to give glory to God. And Jesus asked where the rest were, why didn’t they realize what God really wanted to do in the healing.
You see, their goal was the physical healing; God’s purpose was that they would be healed spiritually, and so the nine, while they were physically healed, missed and negated what God wanted to do. And so to the one who returned Jesus said “Go your way. Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19 NKJV).
As we live on purpose for these in-between moments, here we are three challenges.
Three Challenges of Living in the In-Between
1. Wherever We Are, Be There
Now, I know that this sounds a little new agey, but this has got its roots in the Bible. That is, wherever God has placed us, that is where we need to stay, and stop trying to get out of it. And so, wherever we are, that is where God wants us to be until He moves us.
“Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20 NKJV)
If God has you here, then be here for God, and if God takes you someplace else, then be there for God.
I wonder how many miracles and how much of God’s purpose I have missed, not only because of my sucky attitude sometimes, but because in my mind I was somewhere else?
2. Remove Hurry From Life
Yes, we are all busy, but what I’m talking about being hurried to the point of being harried. When we are hurried and harried, then it affects our souls, because we end up missing what God has in store for us.
There’s a story of a country doctor who always had a full waiting room, but no one minded. That’s because he would take time with each of them, seeing how they are doing, how the family is doing, and talk to them about their problems. He would talk to them not at them. Yes he was busy; but he never allowed it to hurry his soul.
I know I can be really busy, and a lot of times when I am in a hurry, I have hurt my soul, and the souls of others, by not hearing what God was saying to me, but worse, not listening to what others might be saying. And I do apologize. I am trying to change, and God has placed my wife, Michaela, in my life to constantly remind me of that.
Now, the Bible has a great remedy for hurry.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV)
Most accidents happen because we are in a hurry? Car accidents happen a lot because somebody was in a hurry. But this also happens in relationships. We are so much in a hurry that we hurt and abuse the ones we love.
So we need to slow down and give a more time for God so that we can give more time to those that we love.
3. Balance Life Between People and Tasks
Most of us are either one or the other. We are either task oriented, and love people as long as they don’t get in our way or conflict with our schedule. Or we’re people oriented, and just hang with others, rather than getting our jobs done.
This balance between task and people can be seen in what Paul says to the church in Ephesus.
“Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (the task), with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love (the people).” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NKJV)
Paul was encouraging them to fulfill their ministry, but not to forget the people along the way, but to understand that the people are the reason for whatever our ministry might be.
Let me repeat that: “The people are the reason for whatever our ministry might be.”
God’s purposes are found in the in-betweens of life. Whatever area you may have realized you need some work on, ask God for His help. The writer of Hebrews let’s us know that we can boldly come before God’s throne of grace to obtain mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
And so, if we want to live effective lives, lives on purpose for God, then we need His help and guidance, and that can only come through time spent with Him, in His word, and in our times of prayer.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study