SEASONS – GOD SENDS THEM ALL.

In the English language, we use the word “seasons” with reference to many different things.

For example, we talk about the season of childhood, when new things are learned and experienced every moment of every day.  Sometimes those lessons are hard and painful, other times they are fun and silly.

2008 - 12 Mom and Dad 071
The child wanting to be like the big boys!

Then there is the adolescent season, when lessons are a bit more difficult and the consequences are more far-reaching but also where we have unbounded energy and dreams of exciting days ahead.

Baseball - batter up
When learning skills that will enrich them long after adolescent years have passed.

We later arrive at the season of adulthood where we are still challenged with new problems and adventures [I am thinking about adjusting to technology here!].  Disappointments may arise when we are downsized from a long-held job.  Hardships may come when physical disabilities are hampering living life to the fullest.  Tears may fall as the child has to become the parent as dementia takes over the mind of a loved mother or father.

No matter what season of life we are in, God is there with us.  David writes:

“He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.”

Psalm 21:4

There is the season for work and accumulation of wealth.  But when we think we have arrived, we must take a second look at the situation:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”

Luke 12:19-20

Many are the souls that work hard, care for their family, accumulate goods and money in the bank, without regard to caring for their soul.  It is paramount that we remember this world is not the end … as wonderful as it is, we will all perish and spend eternity somewhere.  Bank accounts won’t matter there – what matters is the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

We use the word “seasons” to talk about various holidays and celebrations.  In the United States, for example, we have the season of Thanksgiving, a day when we recall those first settlers from Europe who endured hardships and forged the basis for our country to grow. We give thanks to God for His providence in preserving and sustaining those early settlers.  Often the meal centers around the Thanksgiving turkey!  (Of course, every day should be a day of thanksgiving, not just one time per year!)

Thanksgiving turkey ready to consume (C)
Mouths are watering, getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast!

On the heals of Thanksgiving we have the season of Christmas, the time we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a time to focus on the advent of our Lord, the ultimate gift of God to us.  The Christmas tree and representations of the nativity scene are found in many homes across the country.

USED Christmas tree and decorations
The decorations are ready, the nativity scene is set — praise the Lord for His Advent!

A sweet description of the season of the blessed life is found in the very first psalm in Scripture.  David, in speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God, says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 1:1-3  

God is in all our seasons.  He is the one who gives us life and breath.  He gives us security when we follow Him and walk in His Ways.  This verse does not mean that God promises that we will have material wealth here and now.  This is not the prosperity gospel from the Old Testament. 

Rather, God is speaking of prospering us in spirit, the ultimate evidence of this is the gift of Christ as our atoning sacrifice so that we can approach God in prayer and so that we will be accepted into heaven because we have been adopted by God into the family of the Lord.  Adoption as a child of God is true prosperity and security.

Father, thank You for giving me the security of being a child in Your family.  I love You and praise my Lord and Savior for all that He has done.  Help me to see Your Hand in all the seasons of my life and may I live each day You give to me to the honor and glory of Your name.  I can only do that through the power of Your Son, and my Savior.

 

VISIONS OF GLORY HERE ON EARTH

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8 KJV

There are times in our lives that we encounter something that is just too wonderful to fully appreciate at the time.

Consider some of the places that God has provided us on the planet – places that exhibit His power, beauty, majesty, omnipotence, just to name a few of His attributes that are represented in His created order. 

Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
Yosemite overlook at King’s Canyon

Towering mountains.    “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” – Psalm 90:2 ESV

Consider the thundering waterfalls.    “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”  Psalm 42:7 ESV

Oregon 2009 066 (C) Multnomah Waterfalls
Multnomah Waterfalls, Oregon

Consider beauty and destruction combined, such as with volcanoes.  When we were on Maui, in Hawaii, we traveled to the crater of Haleakala and watched the sun come up over the horizon.  The crest of the volcano is over 10,000 feet high, so it was windy and the clouds were constantly changing as they flew over and passed the crater.  While volcanoes can be deadly and can cause widespread destruction, they also provide silent witness to the power of God’s creative hand and the beauty of His majesty.

Haleakala sunrise 4
Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, Sunrise over the crater.

While God’s creation is majestic in scope, it is also awesome in its beautiful detail. 

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” – Luke 12:27-28 ESV

flowers - lilies

Or, consider the birth of a child – we know the biological process that takes place.  Some of us even know all the details of human anatomy and physiology that work together in the creation of that little one you hold in your arms.  But, just describing the biological process of childbirth does not even touch the full impact of the birth of a little baby.  The joy that the child brings to the parents; the marvel in the expression of the young sibling who now is the older child; the tears in the grandparents’ eyes as they look at the personification of their living heritage. 

Grandparents holding baby
The infant is comforted by grandparents who just want to look adoringly at the child’s face!

I am not so Pollyanna to think that this is the lot granted to each child born on this planet – far from it.  Some children are born into a house that is far less than supportive and can even be abusive. But Scripture tells us that mankind was created in the image of God. 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 ESV

Each person, even the smallest infant, is a creation of God the Almighty Creator and Sustainer who imprints His image onto the heart and soul of each one.  The reason we cannot see God’s image in others is not because of a problem with the image of God, but rather it is a problem that we have because of Adam’s fall and the interjection of sin into the world.

Scripture tells us of God’s majesty like this:

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”

Psalm 65:5-8 ESV

What a marvelous God we serve.  What a powerful and majestic God we serve.  What a loving God we serve. 

“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.”

Habakkuk 2:20 KJV

Today take the time to contemplate (or ruminate) on being silent before God.  Think about His majesty and glory.  Think about His intimate love for you and of the salvation that He has provided.  Read the love letter that He has given us, His Word, the Holy Bible.  Then, love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.  Matthew 22:37. 

Father, I thank You for showing us Your power, beauty and majesty through the natural creation you spoke into existence.  I thank You for giving us Your Word and Your Spirit.  that tells us what you want us to do, how we should live in Christ, and what your Spirit

VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

In recognition of the 2 year anniversary of The Ruminant Scribe, I am reposting the first blog post dated April 15, 2015:  VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS posted April 15, 2015

Sometimes we plan one thing only to find that God’s plan is a bit different than what we had intended. That was our experience when we, and another couple from church, flew to Anchorage, Alaska for an Alaskan train tour!

Day one of the tour was a train trip to Healy, Alaska where, the next day, we would board a bus for a 13-hour tour of the Denali National Park.

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. McKinley from train on the way to Denali National Park.

This is a view of Mt. McKinley [now known as Mt. Denali] from the train on the way to the national park. God’s handiwork was on display with mountains, streams, lakes, and wild animals that were everywhere to be seen. At lunch, we visited with a family traveling on a mission trip to an Eskimo village. We talked about our faith, churches, missions, and our tour day transformed into a personal time of worship and praise as we thanked the Lord for His goodness and power.

Then it happened – as we were preparing to get back on the bus for the return trip along the 92.5 mile road to exit the park (there is only 1 road in/out) – I fell down three steps onto a wooden deck. Not a long way, but it was far enough to severely break my left ankle. This ended our participation in the tour and it marked the beginning of a marvelous adventure with the Lord and an outpouring of love from Christians we did not know and who, even now, we cannot identify.

Fellow-travelers came up to me as I sat with ice bags on my ankle, and they simply touched my shoulder and said “we’re praying for you”.   The mission family repeatedly said they were praying during the balance of the trip. One man who saw me fall said he was praying for healing and for my back and head, due to the severity of the fall.

The park ranger/EMT arrived and tended to my ankle, getting me into the first of three ambulances I would ride to the Park exit. He was a tender, caring young man, notwithstanding his bulletproof vest and sidearm (the ranger also is the law enforcement officer in the park). We spoke of God’s intervention and protection as it appeared that my back and head were not injured.

Over 5 hours after I fell, we exited the Park only to find that the clinic in Healy had a doctor but no x-ray available for treatment so clinic personnel called for a taxi to take us to the hospital in Anchorage (it was either that or Fairbanks as the closest x-ray facilities), and the office assistant promised to pray for healing.

The taxi driver was a wonderful Christian lady who had moved from San Antonio to Anchorage with her mother and sibling when she was very young. We had an incredible time speaking of the Lord’s hand in her life and in ours. We said we would pray for her children and grandchildren and she said she would pray for healing and successful treatment of my ankle. The 6-hour trip through the night was transformed from a mere taxi ride to a time of praise for our Sovereign God.

We reached the Emergency Room at Anchorage Regional Hospital 12 hours after my fall. The ER was empty and we were met at the door by a nurse with a wheel chair.   They expertly treated my ankle, contacted a trauma orthopedic surgeon and made a doctor’s appointment for Thursday with surgery the following day. There, too, various persons gave encouragement and promised to pray for us during our time in Alaska. The flight home was scheduled for Sunday.

For various reasons we needed much more than merely medical assistance. For example, we had hotel reservations for that evening in Anchorage, but since we were on a train tour, we had reservations at different hotels at the various stops along the tour. It was obvious that our tour was over. Thus, we had no hotel room for the rest of the week before our flight home, and no rooms could be found in the Anchorage hotels since we were there at the height of tourist season. But God was in control.

The nursing supervisor saw us sitting in the hallway and asked if she could help us. She was able to arrange for us to stay at the Alaska House, the 7th floor of the hospital which was available for families of patients who could not get home due to the long distances involved in getting medical care in Alaska. (Remember, 6 hours away from the national park!) When we checked into the Alaska House on August 6, we found out that the program was being eliminated on August 30. God was in control, even over the contractor’s schedule so that the room was available when we needed it!

Multiple people we met offered assistance and said they would pray – the family on a mission trip, a minister friend of our son-in-law’s brother who lived in Anchorage, a young server at a neighborhood restaurant who gave my name to her mother’s prayer circle and then asked permission to do so, the counter clerk at the Subway in the hospital cafeteria, to name just a few.   In short, what started out as a simple vacation turned into a series of “Divine Appointments.”

On Saturday, before our Sunday flight, we drove along the Seward Highway in an attempt to salvage some sightseeing during our visit to the state. The sky was overcast and there had been rain along the way. As we rounded a curve, we saw a beautiful landscape rainbow. The clouds were above the rainbow and the ground was beneath: it appeared to be hovering over the ground. Bill stopped the car and grabbed the camera, as we looked out the window in awe at the beautiful display of God’s handiwork. He took the picture and it appeared that the rainbow was around the next curve as well. We drove to that spot but it was not visible; when we returned to the place of this picture, it was gone.

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska
Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

When I saw the rainbow, my spirit soared. It was as if God had sent that bow in the sky to remind me that there is no place that escapes His presence and to also remind me that He was present in my accident, pain and confusion. Further, He was providing an illustration through His creation of His protection for me. Yes, I had fallen and broken my ankle; that is the rain cloud. But, He was between me and the cloud – His protection was covering me so that I did not receive significant back or head injuries. It was yet again further confirmation that He is in control and I am in His care, no matter how the circumstances may appear.

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus said: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” David says: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” In Psalms 139:4. If you want to know whether God cares about you, just ruminate on these statements from Scripture! (Even I don’t know every word before it is on my tongue! Oh for the times that I have spoken without thinking of the words I was saying …, but I digress!)

When the rainbow disappeared, it was a reminder that God’s presence is always with us, even though it is not always obvious to us at the time. The rainbow did not need to be stationary for a long time to accomplish God’s purpose – it just needed to be visible when we rounded the corner.

Often we tend to look at our situation in our microcosm of life and our focus is limited to that which we see here and now. We work and are active in our assigned tasks but we do not see what God is doing elsewhere. Praise the Lord – He is alive and well and His church can be found all over the place, even in the “wilds” of Alaska.   Praise the Lord that we had our eyes open to see His visible promise of protection. If we had been drowning in self-pity, we would have missed His beautiful presence. He knows where we are and what we are doing, and He will send His messengers to give comfort and reassurance to us, even if that comes in the form of a rainbow.

What my husband and I saw of Alaska was beautiful; but what we experienced through God’s Divine Appointments was enriching beyond measure. Praise the Lord!

I pray that no matter what you are going through at this moment, you will be encouraged by the knowledge that He will be your strength through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Open your eyes, you might just see a rainbow sheltering you from the storm clouds of life!

Father, two years after this was originally written, this is still my prayer.  Thank You for loving us and for sending Your Son so He could prepare the way for us to live with You eternally, through faith in Him alone.

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

 

By now, at this time in the Christmas season, I suspect that most of us have seen some form of the Nativity pageant in our church, or at a school performance, or on television. 

a-wise-man-from-childrens-pagent
A wise man at our children’s Christmas nativity scene.

We have been told about the events that first Christmas Day over 2,000 years ago when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the lowly shepherds who were tending their sheep in the field.  The angels’ announcement is found in Luke 2:13-14 where we read:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The King James Version of verse 14 says “and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”.  

The Jews wanted a prince to restore a peaceful kingdom to Israel, so this angelic hymn was, quite literally, music to their ears!  Even today, many people believe that true religion must bring peace. And, this proposition would be true if the message of Jesus Christ was universally received.  It cannot be argued that any system of laws could be more suited to living peacefully in human society than the Gospel of Christ. 

And he [the man] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Luke 10:27-28 [See also Matthew 22:37-41] 

But, even a superficial glance at the daily newspaper shows, such love does not reign in our society or our world, and sometimes not even in our churches.  Indeed, the fact of the matter is that love is all too often missing from our interactions with others. Road rage, murders, massacres, vehicles plowing down pedestrians, infants being shot while in a car seat in the family vehicle, people shot while praying in their church, wars and conflicts … and the list goes on.  Hatred is everywhere and peace is hard to find.

Were the angels wrong when they said that this Babe would bring peace to our world?  Absolutely not.

But, Jesus said that He did not come to bring “peace on earth”:

 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matthew 10:34 and again,

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

Luke 12:51

In these verses, Jesus is saying that He did not bring peace to the earth!  This seems to be inconsistent with the angels’ message when He was born!  But, the angels were not wrong or misinformed and Jesus was not ignorant of His mission.  Quite the contrary.  He did bring peace, just not the kind of peace that the people expected.  The fact is that civil peace was not the purpose of the Babe’s birth.

In Matthew 10 and Luke 12, Jesus is talking about the dedication that following Him requires.  It is not a shallow “liking” nor is it simply a willingness to do good things. He is also forewarning His followers that there would be persecution and that they needed to remain strong in their faith and dedication to Him.  Indeed, following Him requires whole-hearted devotion, no matter what the cost, even if it involves persecution, even if it separates us from our family, even if it separates us from this life.

Matthew Poole, in his Commentary on the Bible, says this about Matthew 10:34-37:

Accidentally, through the corruption of men’s hearts, the consequent [result] of Christ’s coming into the world, and of his gospel coming into and prevailing in any part of the world, is (as Luke phrases it) “rather division”, which is here called a sword. Through men’s fondness of their idolatry, superstition, and lusts, and madness on them, their impatience of being outdone in religion and righteousness of conversation, the event [result] of Christ’s coming was division, wars, variances, … men taking up arms to compel all others to their idolatries and superstitions. And that natural antipathy [hatred] which men have to holiness, setting them at variance with [in opposition to] those who, embracing the gospel, live a life as becometh the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,… 

Jesus did bring peace.  It was His heavenly peace for those who accept Him as their Savior. 

Here are just a few of Jesus words giving His peace to His followers:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

What does this have to do with Christmas?  A great deal!  Civil peace is almost a fiction. Rather, the peace that our Lord brought was His peace, heavenly peace. It is the peace that allowed Jesus to willingly go to the cross, to experience excruciating pain and torture without retaliation, and even to forgive those who were mocking Him while they nailed Him to the cross.

For the believer, His peace is real … it is part of the fabric of our faith and it covers the believer even in times of great distress.  It may appear that Satan and his forces are winning the cosmic battle over the earth.  But this is only an illusion that Satan wants us to believe.  (Remember Job?  Satan had to get God’s permission to hurt him, all for God’s purposes of which Job was unaware.)

God, the Creator and Sustainer, the Almighty Immortal Sovereign Ruler is in control. Make no mistake — God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is in control.  He was in control when Satan had to get permission to act and He has not changed.  He sent Christ into this world to exhibit peace and to bring that peace to His people. 

The Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” expresses the despair that the conflict in our world brings but God is neither dead nor sleeping.  He did bring His peace into the world on Christmas Day, and He is still in control even 2,000 years later.  Listen to the carol as sung by the group Casting Crowns on their album Peace on Earth.

Christian, take heart.  Rely on Jesus Christ and His peace this Christmas and all year long.  He will give you grace to endure that which comes your way.  His grace was sufficient for the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9) and it is sufficient for us today.

Father, I bow at this time of the year and thank You for the Gift brought to us through Your grace and mercy in the birth of Jesus Christ.  When the sorrows of the world beset me, grant me the grace to rely on You in the sure confidence that even in times of difficulty, You are in control and I am in Your hand!

NEEDS AND WANTS!

I think that we, in the Western culture, have been lured by media and peer pressure to confuse and combine Needs and Wants.   You know what I mean … we tell ourselves we neeeeed something because we want it but if we just say that “I want that!” we sound childish, immature and demanding.  So instead, we come up with adult sounding reasons to illustrate the need for the particular thing while ignoring the abject desire for it that actually began this psychological discussion with ourselves.  We have created a “nee-ant” … a combination of need and want … and we do whatever we need to do to satisfy that desire.

Recently, our needs and wants were brought into focus when did our laundry during a trip to the beach with the family.  We had a plastic garbage bag as well as two laundry baskets that were heaped full of dirty clothes. 

Laundry baskets
Two laundry baskets, now empty, but formerly loaded with dirty clothes!

The campground laundry was very busy, it being extremely hot and humid thus requiring multiple changes of clothes, etc.  So, we searched the internet and found a laundry not too far from our location. 

The building itself had seen better days, but there were multiple open washers and dryers so it was fine with me if the ceiling fan was rattling and the floor was less than sterile.  

There was an old bicycle sitting inside the laundromat, up near the front window, and there was one gentleman loading his clothes from a washing machine into the coin-operated dryer. 

Some small talk ensued, mostly about politics and sports teams, and then quite suddenly he turned and looked at us and asked “Are ya’ll Christians?”  Our statement that we were Christians prompted him to apologize for some expletives that he had used earlier.  We continued speaking.

Ultimately, he suggested which dryers worked best, noting that he came to this laundry every week, did his clothes, and then went to work his night job,.  He had a plastic box with a lid, somewhat (but not much) larger than a banker’s box, and a small sack. 

When the dryer was done, he neatly folded his clothes and put them in the box and sack.  Before he left the laundry, he offered us a roll of plastic bags in case we needed them.  He wished us well and we returned the blessing. He went to the front of the laundry and got on the bicycle, taking his box and sack with his clean clothes home.

What a comparison – two laundry baskets and a garbage bag with an air conditioned car to transport us compared to a man on a bicycle with his clean clothes for the week in a box and a sack.

Needs and wants.  Praise the Lord for the material blessings that He has bestowed upon you, including the blessings above and beyond your needs.  Don’t assume that you have accomplished all this by yourself!  But also, don’t get your needs confused with your wants!

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had been blessed by God with many material goods, but he lacked thankfulness toward God:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

Luke 12:16-20.

People resist following Christ because they don’t want to give up control of their lives, without realizing that the spiritual blessings available through Christ far outweigh the material things of this world.  This world is temporary and the treasures laid up here will be gone in the blink of an eye … life after death is eternal, non-ending, forever. 

While we should thank God for blessing materially, much more important is our thankfulness for the spiritual blessings that we have received through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

For in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses …, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:9-14.  These are just some of the spiritual blessings we receive through Christ.

In recounting his conversion from a persecutor of Christians to a follower of Jesus Christ, Paul told King Agrippa:

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Acts 26:15-18.

Forgiveness of sins.  Acceptance by God the Father.  Everlasting life through the life, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Sanctification through the Holy Spirit — spiritual blessings for which we should be praising our God continually, in word, deed, countenance, and in our heart’s spiritual praise.

The end of Acts 26 says:

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”  And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”

Acts 26:28-29.

There is no record of King Agrippa coming to know the Lord.  Don’t let that be your story … Don’t let your “nee-ants” get in the way of your life in Christ. 

 

Father, I pray that these words honor You and your Son.  I pray that your Word would be effective for your purposes, and I pray that my “nee-ants” don’t interfere with the witness and the work that You want me to do.

THERE IS ALWAYS TIME, RIGHT?

We measure time all the time. Here, Bill is using a lawn sun dial which we came across at Blenheim Palace in England. The pointer (human) stands on the right spot for the month and day, and then you extend your arm straight up revealing the time. He was doing this shortly after 1:00 p.m. and the shadow on the ground is just clearing the 1 o’clock dial. That is one way to tell time! No electricity or battery backup needed – of course it must be sunny! [Apparently there was no need to tell time at night! J ]

 

Human sundial at Blenheim Palace (C)
Blenheim Palace lawn sundial — telling time without electricity or batteries!

 

For us, however, we feel that time is of critical importance, whether day or night. We react to events, plans and situations as they come our way, and we constantly run out of time to do all that we have on our calendars or that we want to accomplish. But unless it is our birthday, we rarely think about the amount of time we have already lived ‐‐ or, more to the point, the length of time we have left to live.

 

Just this morning we read in our local newspaper about a 39 year old businessman who died in a skiing accident in Colorado.  I have no idea if this gentleman was  believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While I don’t know if he was a Christian, I feel certain that he did not know that yesterday would be his last on this earth. He did not know that all the dreams and plans that he was working on would be stopped on a dime when he drew his last breath. He did not know that his life would be cut short, or that he would not celebrate his 40th birthday, or that there was no more time allotted to him, here.

 

Over and over in Scripture, writers tell us of the short life span we humans have, warning us that there is no guarantee of one more second, let alone one more day, week, year, decade! An example of this theme is seen in Psalm 39:4-5 where King David writes:

 

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. [NIV]

 

This theme is repeated in the New Testament teachings of Jesus in a parable recorded at Luke 12:16-21:

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [NIV]

 

This theme is again repeated in James 1:11 where James speaks of the man who goes about his business unaware that his life soon will end:

 

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  [NIV]

 

James continues to say in chapter 4:13-14:

 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” [NIV]

 

 

Big Ben (C)
Big Ben in London — the quintessential example of a powerful clock!

 

Scripture repeatedly warns us not to assume that we will be here tomorrow, in other words,  we are told that our life’s end may come when we least expect it.

 

Our Sovereign God has all this in His power. For this reason, we should focus on seeking the Kingdom of God rather than seeking worldly things. Matthew 6:28-34.

 

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:

 

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he [God] says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” [Quoting Isaiah 49:8] Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [NIV]

 

I saw a series of television advertisements, most likely by a pharmaceutical company but I don’t recall which one, that say that you will not get an invitation or a bulletin warning that tomorrow you will have a fatal heart attack.   Whether or not you use their medicine, the point is one worth consideration because it has eternal consequences.

 

In our human arrogance we think that there is always time to seek salvation.  I’ll do it later.  There is always time, right?

 

While there are many questions for which I have no answer, I do know the answer to this one. No!

 

One of these days time will run out and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come. The Apostle Paul was right – act now, while there is still time. Today is the day of salvation!

 

Father, we pray for the family of the young man who died in the skiing accident yesterday.  We pray that he was a believer in Jesus Christ and that our Lord will be near and provide comfort to the grieving family. We also pray for those reading this post, that if they do not know the wondrous love of the Lord Jesus, that they would look to your Word and that your Spirit would touch their hearts so that saving grace would be made real to them this day. And, Father, we pray that you would remind each of us, daily, that our time is limited, and that we should make the most of each day you grant to us for the furtherance of your Kingdom, to your honor, glory and praise.

BE PREPARED!

Even as I write this post, winter storm Jonas is still pummeling the New England coast with rain, sleet, heavy snow and pelting winds although it has now pretty much finished its work in the southern United States. We knew it was coming … all week long we were told by the weather forecasters that a monster storm was brewing and it would bring drenching rains for days on end in the south and snow that could be measured in feet, not inches, farther north and along the eastern coastline.

People were warned to be prepared. Of course, in our area, we are told that there is a 10% chance of snow and, within an hour, the stores are out of bread and milk. So, with a 100% chance of snow predicted, my husband went to a convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk, fully expecting that there would be none. However, he found that there was a healthy supply of both milk and bread. He expressed his surprise to the cashier and was told “you need to look at the shelves where the beer is usually found!” Apparently, for some folks, beer is more important to have on hand during a snow storm than milk and bread, if you are expecting to be in the house for a number of days.

Wood for stove
Wood sitting by the fireplace ready to be used when needed.

 

Preparation is important. At the house, we have firewood stacked outside and an immediate supply next to the fireplace.

Wood stove fire
The fire in the wood stove insert in the fireplace. The ceramic cow is for added humidity and the fans on each side start spinning when the heat from the fire is built up.

 

The fireplace has an insert that makes it a wood burning stove, so when the temperature started falling, my husband built a fire and we were toasty warm … hot in fact, the room was 82 degrees at one point! But we were prepared.   If power goes out, we can cook on the top of the stove.  We had the food we needed, the heat we needed, everyone was inside, and all was well.

Snow - Bird feeder
Backyard bird feeder covered in snow.

 

Although the snow did not materialize in any significant amount at our house, it did in surrounding areas. For us, it was just enough to make the neighborhood pretty. There is something so serene and still when snow is falling.

 

Snow - front yard
Front yard with snow blanket, serene and white.

 

Even the canine members of the family were prepared. We put their yellow slickers on them and turned them loose in the backyard. They loved to run and sniff the snow, in fact, Snickers tried to catch the flakes with her mouth.

The video is of the two of them in the back yard – wait for the first 8 seconds and then you will see the two yellow streaks pass by the field of view! I hope it brings a smile to your face.

 

Preparation. People prepared for several days to be ready to withstand any difficulties that may arise in this storm. We prepare for a great many things … academic tests, surprise celebrations for loved ones, the potential of a new baby, transfer to a new job, moving to a new community, company coming for dinner … yes, we prepare for many things.

 

The question is whether we have prepared for the ultimately important thing … where we will spend eternity.

 

In the Old Testament, King Belshazzar decided to give a feast for one thousand of his lords and officials. You can read about this extravaganza in Daniel chapter 5. While they were reveling and using the vessels from the Lord’s House to drink their wine, the king was rightly disturbed when he saw a hand writing on the wall of the palace. Ultimately, the Lord’s prophet Daniel was called to interpret the writing.

 

“And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Daniel 5:25-31 [ESV]

 

Belshazzar believed himself to be above reproach – he was king and nothing could harm him. Certainly not anything that would arise during his festival! He forgot that God was responsible for his position and that God could snuff out his life, literally, in a heartbeat. In short, he ran out of time to prepare to meet God.

 

In the New Testament, Jesus tells a parable of the rich man who had so much bounty from his farm that he didn’t know what to do. So he built larger barns to store his grain and his goods. Then he said:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”

Luke 12:19-20 [ESV]

 

The man in Jesus’ parable ran out of time to prepare to meet God and, based on God’s referring to him as “Fool,” it would appear that he was not ready. He had placed so much emphasis on his personal abilities that he gave himself all credit and left nothing to God. In this case, his eternal destiny was decided by his own foolish refusal to acknowledge his need for God. In short, he ran out of time to prepare to meet God.

 

Preparation. Scripture says that preparation for our eternal salvation is simple and yet profound.

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10 [ESV]

 

Are you prepared? Where will you spend eternity?  Now is the time of salvation!

 

Father, thank you for your provision of salvation and for the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the indwelling Holy Spirit and for the work of the Spirit in prompting your children to come to you. I pray that you would use my life as a witness for you, and that these few words would be used by your Spirit to prompt people to search your word and so come to a realization of the saving work of our Lord on their behalf.