Pendulum Swings

If left untouched, the pendulum naturally rests on a fixed point. If it is a part of the works of a clock, it is worthless if it doesn’t move back and forth off this fixed point. Ideally, it is swinging smoothly back and forth from that point, but never too far.  A wildly swinging pendulum is as worthless as one that doesn’t swing at all, as in either case the clock will fail to work properly. There are spiritual lessons in this.

In the olden days, the clockmaker designed the clock to work in a certain way. In the case of the pendulum clock, the pendulum was designed to move an exact distance from a fixed point, which if we were looking at it, would be exactly in the middle. It powered the clock to keep accurate time; that is, if it moved. If it didn’t, then the hands of the clock didn’t move either. A steady swing of an equal distance side to side enabled the clock to perform as it was designed. Now imagine a small child who was curious about the pendulum opened the case and began pushing the pendulum wildly from side to side. Even though, through the force of the child’s hand, the pendulum continued to swing, it would not keep accurate time because the child had altered the arc of the swing. Or suppose he just grabbed it and held it. Either way, whether there is no movement or too much, the clock would fail to work as designed.

Let’s envision ourselves similar to a clock. We are crafted by God to work in a certain way. Our pendulum is to move steadily. These last two words are crucial. Our pendulums are to move. In other words, our lives are to be focused on a fixed point, but moving. And they are to be moving, not in a wild, uncontrolled manner, but rather a steady one. The fixed point is Jesus and his Word. That is what we constantly return to, but there is freedom within certain parameters for us to move, as long as we do it steadily and our arcs remain constant. This movement is demonstrated in the freedom to use our gifts in many ways for the sake of the Kingdom. There are a variety of ways to serve. Some do it by cooking meals for others. Others will use their wealth to meet the needs of poorer members of the Body. Some who have the gift of teaching can instruct others. Our lives in the Lord will all be unique to a point. 

Now imagine an interloper comes into the house of God and seeks to disrupt the working of the clocks. He has two ways of doing it—stop the pendulum from swinging at all, or push it far beyond its natural arc so that it swings wildly. Both will be equally disruptive to the intended functioning. He stops it by getting people to live for themselves. They are, in essence, still moving, but their movement is not to serve God’s purposes. It has stopped. There are many in the local church who may attend services, but basically are living for themselves. 

The other way this interloper seeks to disrupt our pendulum swings is to push them far out of their intended arc. Here are a few examples: I mentioned in my last post that the “preachers” were back on campus. They are folks who preach what is commonly known as “hellfire and brimstone.” They are like shotguns that fire a broad array of buckshot hoping they will hit their target without considering first how many innocent folks they may injure or kill in the process. I remember asking a fellow called, “Brother Jed,” why he preached the way he did. He replied that the Lord had used someone preaching the same way to convince him to repent and follow Jesus. Their pendulums have swung widely out of their intended arc, and rather than leading many to Jesus, instead they stoke hatred and mockery.

Another example is what is often called, “the prosperity gospel.” Those who embrace it believe that the Lord’s blessings are entirely material. He blesses us with wealth, mansions, expensive cars, etc. Again, the truth is that God does bless his children, but our pendulums are swinging wildly when we think the Lord wants to make everyone rich in money and things. In fact, Jesus spoke much about the spiritual danger of wealth.

The pendulum in the Church is also swinging wildly in the area of politics. We live in a democracy and have the right to vote, which we should exercise. However, the interloper is getting us to rage at one another because we belong to a different political party or support a certain candidate for office. I had a person recently tell me that they could not participate in a church where there were many supporters of one party. They had become enemies, with whom one shouldn’t associate. This is a pendulum way out of its intended arc. 

There are many more that I could cite, but the point is we must each be aware of the arc of our pendulum. Is it swinging as intended? Or is swinging wildly or not at all?

My wife and I are big fans of the British show, Downton Abbey. The clocks sometimes were part of the story. They required consistent winding and other maintenance, and there was always someone responsible to check and wind the clocks of the house so they kept accurate time. In a similar way, we need the same attention, and probably the best way is to pray as David prayed:

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

The interloper wants to disrupt our functioning in whatever way he can find. Our job is to make sure he is unable to do that, so that we can serve the Lord in a way that brings glory to him with a pendulum centered on the fixed point and swinging with the designed arc.

© Jim Musser 2020. All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.

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