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The Backwards Clock

Looking back at over 46 years of pastoral ministry, it has been an honor to work with so many wonderful people. There are warm memories of congregants who exhibited incredible generosity, humility, and service. It never ceased to amaze me to see the creativity they exhibited when they let the Holy Spirit influence their thinking.

As an example, I remember the day that Jim came to my office. He said that he had been praying and “messin’ around in his shop,” and created a backwards clock. Sure enough, he handed me my very first backwards clock. It was round, and about 18 inches across. As I watched it operate, it did, indeed, go backwards.

He probably saw the blank look on my face as I wondered, “what do you do with a backwards clock?” Then Jim said, “Pastor, I have no idea about what to do with this thing. But I know you will figure something out.” With that, Jim left.

I stared at the clock for a long time hoping that a brilliant idea would come to mind. But nothing happened, so I went lunch. When Jim visited my office, I was praying about our upcoming New Years’ Eve service. What should be the theme of this important gathering? TIME! Yes, we could talk about time. But what about the backwards clock?

Time consists of the past, present, and future (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9). The past is history, and the future is unknown. We live in the present. But in a second, the present becomes the past (James 4:14). The past and future are eternal, and the present is almost too brief to calculate. But what about the backwards clock? Ugh!

The next day, an old college buddy called to chat. In the course of the conversation he asked me, “If you could go back in time, what time of life would you like to revisit?” That’s it! The use for the backwards clock was born.

In the New Year’s Eve service, we had the backwards clock running on the platform. The theme of the service was “time,” and we discussed its’ value as taught in the Bible. And we asked the question that had been posed to me, “If you could go back in time, what time of life would you like to revisit?”

Some wanted to go back to a good memory. Others wanted to revisit a difficult situation, and try to achieve a better outcome. Some wanted to return to school and study for a different occupation. The discussion was lively and passionate.

We know that we cannot turn back the clock. There are no “do-overs” in parenting, behavioral outbursts, or commitment of crimes. What we are in the present is a result of choices we have made in the past. Many people live with scars from bad decisions and uncontrolled passions (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:16). Like the old adage says, “Time will tell,” and it sometimes shouts!

We have this moment to live. We must ask God for wisdom and favor as we make decisions. The year ahead offers no promises. But based on the past, we will face major difficulties, and enjoy wonderful pleasures. But in between those two prospects, we must endure the present. Since we cannot turn back the clock, make every moment count for Christ. C. T. Studd wrote: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. And only what’s done for Christ will last.”

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