Chapter Four: The Opposites of Yes and No

  Chapter Four:  The Opposites of Yes and No

 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”       Luke 16:13

 When last we met, we were under the Opposite Tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It was the tree that split Eve’s world in two and our history in two.  Before she ate, Eve walked with God; after she ate, Eve walked from God.  Before Adam ate, the world was upright; after Adam ate, the world was upside-down.  As believers, we refer to this event as The Fall.  So many things in our lives, in our world, are traced back to The Fall, the time when sin entered through the door of choice.  Not only did Adam and Eve receive parting gifts of difficult labor and physical death as they were escorted out of the garden, but the earth also received some baggage of its own.  From this time on, new words were added to those which Adam had compiled for the first dictionary; words like weeds and thorns, drought and famine, poisonous and carnivorous, malignant and inoperable…sin and judgment.  When we look around at our world today, we trace every hurtful, harmful, hell-bent event back to The Fall.  It is one of our turning points in history.  And, because its hinges swing two ways, it too reveals the Law of Opposites.

As stated in the last chapter, (what we will now refer to as) The Fall came about because God created a world in which man could choose Him.  When God created Adam and Eve, He also created choice.  He did not desire programmed but preferential praise…and for that man would need a free will.  It was a daring move, but we serve a dauntless God…and a sovereign God, for He already knew the outcome of such an offer so that before Eve said, “Yes,” to the produce, His Son had said, “Yes,” to the plan.  It is in these yeses that we continue (or should I say continuum?) our look at the Law of Opposites, for where there is a yes, there is also a no.

In Matthew 5:37, Jesus said to let our yes be yes and our no be no.  The context is that of keeping one’s word; we are to mean what we say and to say what we mean.  But there is another application we can surmise from Jesus’ advice about our yeses and our nos, and it’s found in the Law of Opposites.

Surely we would all agree that yes and no are opposites.   They lie as direct contradictions to one another.  I can say yes or no to something, but I cannot say yes and no to the same thing.  If I were to place yes and no on a ‘decision line’, then one would lie to the extreme right and the other would lie to the extreme left; they would be opposite one another.  With this image of a yes/no line of continuum, it is easy to visualize this next statement:  every move toward one end is a move away from the other end.  If I take a step toward yes, I move away from no, and if I take a step toward no, I move away from yes.  That’s a simple presentation…with a compound application.

When Eve said yes to the serpent, she said no to God; when Adam said yes to Eve, he said no to Elohim.  And since that day, since that yes, we’ve been following in their footsteps…right out of the garden and right into the gulley.  With every yes we emit to the world, we utter a no to The Way (John 14:6); with every choice we make for, we make a decision against.  We say yes to a promotion, we say no to Saturdays at home; we say yes to a new boat, we say no to Sundays at church; we say yes to every activity, we say no to suppers at home.  It’s the truth of the yes/no continuum; we can’t move in two directions at the same time, though we often feel pulled in two directions!  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other,” (Luke 16:13); we cannot please both God and the flesh, we cannot go left and right at the same time.

So how do we “walk the line”?  How do we let our yes, or our no, move us in the right direction?  We take one step at a time, we make one decision at a time.  The good news is, being opposites, the same principle applies to both ends of the continuum.  Therefore, for every no we reply to the world, there is a yes we release to The Way.  This seems so elementary, but it can be enlightening when it comes to the decisions we make.  If I can keep my mental eye on both ends of the yes/no continuum, then I can look to see not only what I am moving toward but also what I am moving from.  It’s a valuable perspective because, without it, I lose my peripheral vision; without it, I become myopic and see all movement as productive.  But, when I step back far enough to see what lies in each direction, then I can “let my yes be yes, and my no be no” for I know not only what I am moving toward, but also what I am moving from.

While this yes/no principle succumbs to the Law of Opposites and, therefore, stands true, God has provided many examples for our benefit…for our encouragement.  Let’s start with Noah; he gave God a resounding yes that lasted for 120 years as he committed to the task of building an ark…at a time when the earth had yet to know rain, much less a flood.  That yes to building a boat resulted in a no to building an admirable reputation…at least until the rain came.  Then, there’s Abraham; he said yes to a new land and no to an established homestead.  His yes led to the formation of a nation, which, by and large, is bigger and larger than a homestead.  Want another one?  How about Rahab?  She said yes to hiding some spies and no to those who were looking for them.  In doing this, she said yes to Jehovah and no to Jericho; yes to a scarlet line out her window, yes to a bloodline with her Savior.  Then, there are some infamous no-givers.  How about Joseph who said no to Potiphar’s wife?  It was a costly no at first, but its dividends paid off in the end as Joseph went from working in the palace to leading from the palace.  Ruth serves as an example of one whose no landed her in a new land…and yielded her a new husband.  When told by her mother-in-law to stay in Moab following the death of her husband, Ruth said no and followed Naomi to Bethlehem.  There, she met Boaz…and from their lineage the second king of Israel would arise; he too would say no.  David was his name; waiting was his game.  He’d been anointed as Israel’s future king in his youth, but waiting for God’s plans to unfold kept him walking the fine line of yeses and nos.  While he waited for a yes on God’s timing, David had to say a few nos to man’s timing.  No to killing Saul when he came into David’s cave and no to killing Saul when David came into his camp.  David’s no to taking matters into his own hands led him toward the yes of waiting for God to take matters into His own hands…and He did, and David, in time, became Israel’s second king.  The list goes on…Andrew and Peter, James and John, Paul and Silas, (John) Newton and (Charles) Wesley, (Charles) Spurgeon and (D.L.) Moody.  Each of these individuals said no to their plans and yes to God’s purpose; each of them had to turn their back to some things that they might turn their heart to one thing, and with each directional step, they let their no be no and their yes be yes.

It’s the Law of Opposites.  While practically we can only move in one direction at a time, positionally we can move in two directions as we realize each step toward is also a step from; with each pronounced yes, we are also proclaiming a no.  So let’s rightly position ourselves on the yes/no continuum.  Let’s look to see where our next step lands us; will we be closer to God or further from Him?  Will we say yes to our goals or yes to God’s glory?  Will we say no to our plans or no to God’s perfection?  We cannot serve two masters; we cannot walk in two directions; we cannot say yes without also saying no.


You Are Here

                                          You Are Here:   you are here red icon

 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.”  Philippians 1:12-13

               Have you ever felt lost in your surroundings, knowing that you didn’t need to stay where you were but uncertain as to which way to go lest it take you further from where you need to be?  In times like these, it’s nice to find a map with an indicator that proclaims:  You Are Here!  Suddenly, there is an aerial view of all that surrounds you and you can tell where everything is in relation to your location.  It’s quite enlightening, this “view from above”.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have that same experience in our daily lives?  Just think, each morning, while we prepared for the day, we could check our map and locate our new position; we’d scan the screen until we found the “You Are Here” icon.  Then, all we’d have to do is look at what surrounds us and we’d be able to plan our maneuvers accordingly.  We’d be able to see what’s to our left and to our right, what’s around the corner, and just how far we are from our favorite coffee shop!  (Are maps made for any loftier purpose?)  There’d be no time lost due to wrong turns and their counterpart…backtracking.  We’d move with precision and speed and we’d never, not even once, make a wrongful turn!  Oh my, in this technologically savvy world that we live in, why hasn’t someone thought of this?

Perhaps someone has.  Correction, perhaps Someone has.  As I was reading in Philippians, I came across a verse that, quite literally, is the equivalent of a “You Are Here” sign.  It’s found in verse 13 where Paul writes, “…so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.”  It’s as if Paul were circling over his situation, where he was in prison…and chains, and was able to see the surrounding landscape that enabled him to know:  I Am Here.  At such an altitude, Paul was able to not only see where he was, but why he was there. Now he could see the purpose, now he could see the profits, now he could see the pathway.  And for Paul, it projected the small picture onto a larger screen.

It’s evident in the undercurrents his writing, “The whole imperial guard knows I am in chains for Christ!  I have been placed in the epicenter of the Roman government where I am able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise!”  Paul is ecstatic!  He’s enthusiastic!  He’s…he’s…exuberant about his placement and about his bondage because in it, because of it, he is able to fulfill the assignment God had given him to do.  Up close, it might have looked hopeless, but from a distance it was heaven-sent.  All he had to do was lift his eyes upward and take a step backward and scan the map for his “You Are Here” symbol; and he found it, and he rejoiced in it.

I don’t know about you, but I need God’s directory services just as Paul did.  I too need to take a look upward and take a step backward and find out where I am in relation to what lies around me.  It’s not enough to know where I am standing; I can look down and surmise my current location.  But what’s important is how that location ties in to the surrounding landscape.  Wherever I go, I only see in part and that can cause me to walk in circles.  But, when I am allowed an aerial view…and locate my current status somewhere on the grid, that’s when I am able to see that everything is part of a greater picture and just as there was a pathway in, so too is there a pathway out.

I bet the children of Israel would have liked to have had this visual depiction.  Then again, it might have made for an even grumpier group.  Just think if they had been able to see on a map their “You Are Here” symbol and note their close proximity to Canaan. Surely they would have thought they’d arrive in a few weeks.  But, after nearly a month of travel, they’d check their status again and find that not only were they not any closer, but they were actually further away!  Now that could cause some dissension within the group.  I can hear it now:

“Who’s in charge of directions?  I knew I’d seen that rock before…see, I even wrote my name on it:  Mur-Mur Ur was here!  Two weeks of walking wasted; not only do we have to retrace our steps back, but once we get there we’ll just be back where we started…and that’s if we retrace our steps correctly!  And…this is the fourth time this has happened in four months.  At this rate, it’ll take us 4 years to get to the Promised Land!”

“I told them we should have gone left at the sign that read “Promised Land, Left Exit”, but I was told we didn’t need any back-hump drivers.  Well, who’s looking at the backside of a camel now?  Well, we all are except those out in front, but you know what I mean.”

The thing is, we can all get off course.  We can all forget that where we are isn’t always as important as why we’re there.  And, while a map icon can be helpful for giving us a big picture view of our general location, it can also be helpful in giving us an up-close picture of our specific location.  Sometimes, like the children of Israel, we get turned around…and around…and around…and when we finally stop spinning, we’re miles…and months… from where we need to be.  At times like these, it’s important to first check our “You Are Here” local position before taking a step back and a look up at our “You Are Here” aerial position.  It’s foolish at best and fatal at worst to try to make our way through this life without checking both these positions on a continual basis.  We need to know where we are and why we’re there so we don’t waste time going in the wrong direction or fail to find the joy in our current location.  Sometimes, we need a “You Are Here” check to get us back on track.

So, how do we check these insightful yet invisible maps?  After all, unless we live inside a mall, we don’t have one readily available to check each day.  Well, it’s up to us to do the first scan.  Before we can delight in the purpose of where we are, we first have to delve into the position of where we are.  First, we’ll need to see how close our location indicator is to those places we always need to have in close proximity, no matter where we travel.  Does our location find us close to the place where we have a quiet time with God?  Are we within walking distance of godly friends who reprove and refresh us?  Is our church, with its fellowship of believers, just around the corner?  Can we get to each of these places in a matter of steps or are we blocks…or even miles…away?  If we’ve drifted from these, then we’ll have to move in their direction before we can take a step back and a look up for our aerial view.  The truth is, we need to align the where on our map before God will reveal the why of our map.

It’s all mapped out for us if we’ll simply stop long enough…and look high enough…to see beyond the bricks beneath our feet.  Looking down doesn’t bring forth a revelation (though it might bring forth a penny), but looking up and out will do just that.  It will enable us to get a clearer perspective of where we are and of what’s around us.  Just as Paul saw his location in light of his destination and rejoiced in his situation, so we too can not only find solace but satisfaction right where we are.  God has promised that He will complete that which He has begun (Phil. 1:6), so we needn’t be concerned when our “You Are Here” icon places us in the midst of a difficult area but delight in knowing that the very God who mapped out the universe is the very same God who mapped out our life!

So, where am I?  Well, when I look around I see my open Bible, my godly friends, and my Spirit-filled church; when I step back and look up I see my placement according to God’s plan for the benefit of others and for the furtherance of His gospel.  I see my location indicator:  “You Are Here”…and it not only shows me where I am but it reminds me of Who is with me.  For wherever I am, I can say with assurance, “God…You Are Here.”

you are here with bear





Paradox – Paradigm – Paraclete

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.”  Philippians 1:29

                Have you ever heard something that, in your lobe of reasoning, you knew couldn’t be true?  For example, perhaps your parents preceded a disciplinary act with the statement, “This is going to hurt us more than it hurts you.”  Or, maybe you’ve been told, “It may not feel like it now, but in the long run this decision is for your own good.”  We’ve all experienced situations in which we only saw one side of the proverbial two-sided coin…and it was definitely the tail and not the head.  It wasn’t what we wanted.  It wasn’t what we expected.  It wasn’t what we prayed for.  But there it stood, and it seemed impossible to move around it, over it, or through it.  It was a paradox, and we felt paralyzed in the face of such a parapet(By the way, this writing is being brought to you by the letter P.  It was a toss-up between P and Q, as I was minding them both, and P prevailed.  It’s a very persistent and persuasive letter!  Q never stood a chance…just stood there quivering and quaking.)      

While paradoxes are prevalent in everyone’s life, they are especially pronounced in the life a Christian.  And why shouldn’t they be?  After all, they are prolific within the paragraphs of Scripture.  While Jesus was a pro at offering up a parable for His listeners to chew on, He was equally adept at producing a paradox for the same purpose.  Just think about some of the seemingly illogical instructions He presented to those who pondered following him:

  • “He who wishes to be first, must be last.” (Matt. 20:16)
  • “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
  • “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.”  (Matt. 10:34,39)
  • And finally, for those who are still standing in the “I’ll Follow You, Lord” line, here’s a final punch…”For it has been granted to you…to not only believe, but to suffer…”

What kind of reasoning is this?  Every one of these statements presents opposing views within itself.  The last one to cross the finish line wins the Golden Sneaker medal, the weakest contestant wins the Strong Man trophy, the dead seed takes home the Most Fruitful award, and the one who wants to serve must also be prepared to suffer.  Illogical remarks?  Contradictory instructions?  Heads and Tails…at the same time?  In a word…in God’s Word…they are simply a paradox:  statements with seemingly illogical conclusions.  But remember, for now, we only see in part.  When we see God face to face, then we’ll see the whole (1 Cor. 13:12) and the paradox will be fully seen in the light of paradise.   But, until then, we’ll need a new paradigm.

Paradigms, as the road maps for decision-making, tend to get stuffed into compartments until the paramount moment when the precipice is reached…and the needed directions are not only precautionary…they are pertinent!  A paradigm is a pattern we tend to follow either because it represents a path we’ve taken before or it’s one we’ve watched others traverse.  Either way, we follow it because we think we know where it will lead us.  But, when we encounter a paradox and we don’t know which way to go, our tried and true GPS (Global Paradigm System) simply won’t do!  In these situations, we need to expect the unexpected…and those pathways can be hard to navigate.  How do you go right by turning left?  How does the downward slope lead you to the uphill observatory?  When it comes to paradoxes, you find that you literally “can’t get there from here”!  At such times, however, we do have a map, a paradigm, to follow…and His name is Jesus Christ.

Jesus caused quite a few paradigm shifts in His day.  He did it as a baby when angels heralded the birth of a King… in a manger.  He did it as an adolescent when the Word of God studied the words of God with the temple teachers.  He did it at Jacob’s well in Samaria when He said He was the living water.  And, He did it near the end of His earthly ministry when He, the Son of God, washed the feet of the sons of men.  Everything about Jesus, from God’s announcement of His birth to His pronouncement of His death, caused a paradigm shift in the minds of those around Him.  The coming Messiah…in a manager; the Word made flesh…studying the scrolls; the Creator of man…washing His creations’ feet.  Who expected any of that?  Who would have expected such unexpectedness?  But therein lies our pattern; therein lies the template we are to place over our lives so that we may trim away what lies outside its borders.  Jesus, Himself, is a paradox that demands a paradigm adjustment.  He is fully God yet fully Man; He is the Sinless One who died for sinful man; He is Omniscient yet unable to say when He will return (Matt. 24:36).  Jesus is a paradox; but He left us with a pattern to follow so that, by it, we could realign our thinking, reconstruct our mindset, and recalculate our direction.  When we don’t know which way to turn, we can always examine the life of Jesus and follow the pattern He outlined for us.

But we all know there is a gap between knowing and doing.  Actually, it’s more like a gorge than a gap!  We all too often know the right thing to do and yet do not do it (and yes, to him who does not do this, it is sin; James 4:17).  So, if we struggle under normal circumstances, what do we do when we encounter paradoxical pitfalls?  We update our GPS and exchange our Global Paradigm System for God’s Paraclete Service.

In Greek, paraclete means advocate or helper; in the New Testament it is the name given to the Holy Spirit who is our Helper and the One who comes alongside us…and dwells within us.  The Holy Spirit, as our Paraclete, also serves as our Great Connector.  He takes what appears to be contradictory situations and merges them so that they are now conjoined through Him.  For example, when Nicodemus asked Jesus about salvation, Jesus told him one must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus was stunned; how could one be born again?  Jesus presented him with a paradox that Nicodemus’ present paradigm couldn’t compute…his current GPS couldn’t calculate this route.  In his own way, Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How do I get there from here?”  To which Jesus replied (and I paraphrase), “You can’t get there without a Driver…but the Spirit…He can take you.”  And in that illustration, Jesus let it be known that, in Him, even a paradox comes full circle.

Paradoxes, paradigms, and paracletes; one perplexes us, one patterns us, and one positions us.  We can plan on plunging into the unplanned; we can set our mind on knowing we’ll have to reset our mindset; and we can calculate that wherever we’re going…we’re not going to get there from here!  But, as children who are never to be tossed to and fro, we do have our paradigm shifter in the person of Jesus Christ and we do have our paraclete positioner in the power of the Holy Spirit…and there’s nothing paradoxical about that!

paradox cartoon paradox parcel