Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

The older you get…

I used to hear people say this years ago when I was a child, and I never quite understood it.  Now, I think I do.

The older you get, the faster time seems to move.

I am astounded that tomorrow is the last day of April, 2016.  That will bring to completion the first third of the year.  Last Christmas seems like yesterday – but it wasn’t!  Perhaps it comes with busyness, perhaps with age, but either way, the clock seems to tick faster these days.

So I’m led to ask myself, and you:  What are you doing with this time?

We all know each day is a gift; this is especially true for those who have lost loved ones.  The value of keeping short accounts is magnified when we come to realize that the time we have with others may be limited.

Likewise, we do well to be good stewards of our time.  Often, when we think about stewardship as followers of Jesus, it’s in the context of the wise use of the material wealth with which the Lord has blessed us, or maybe the care and conservation of the environment, the world God made.

But time?  That’s a gift to be stewarded as well.  Think about the number of hours we have in each week:  168.  If we spend 56 of them sleeping, 10 of them eating, 7 of them in the Necessary Room, 45 of them working, and 10 of them driving to and from work, that leaves us with 40 waking hours to do other things.  How can we be good stewards of those 40 hours?  Here are a few ideas.

Build your spiritual life.  As has been famously said, in 100 years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus, so prioritize those 40 hours (and maybe some of the others, while you’re at it) building your spiritual life.  Make worship with the church and personal or family worship a priority.  Take time each Sunday to worship in community and spend time in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.  Be part of a small group of some sort that deepens that fellowship and involves some less formal study time.  Read Scripture, pray, and engage in other spiritual disciplines daily.  Use the time you’ve been given to enrich your relationship with the Giver of time.

Build your family life.  If you’re married and/or have children, prioritizing your spiritual life is the biggest favour you can do for your family, but the next thing you should do is deepen the relationships you share with those closest to you.  If you’re single, that can involve spending time with close friends.  Do things together.  Talk together, without competition from technology or television.

Rest.  In a world where the addiction to work (or even play) is not yet seen as a problem, rest is often frowned upon, but we all need it.  God set the example in creation where he looked at all he had made in 6 days, pronounced it good, and set aside the other day for rest.  Rest isn’t something we do just when we’re sleeping.  Remember, the word ‘recreation’ can be hyphenated to ‘re-creation’.  When we rest, we are re-created, rejuvenated, made ready for the week that is ahead of us; that’s why having a day of rest at the beginning of the week is so wise.  (Ever wonder why Sunday is on the left side of most calendars?)  Work from your rest, not toward it.

Of course, there can be overlap in all of these, can’t there?  We can build our spiritual lives and our family lives as part of our rest – but we should set aside some of that rest for personal renewal.  There’s no single formula for all this, so I encourage you pray about how the Lord would have you be a good steward of the time he has given you.  Hold your calendar before God as an offering.  Let the Lord speak to you as you seek to make priorities in your life.  After all, we think our time is our own, but in reality, time is in his hands.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3.1, NLT).

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Raw Anger

Psalm 137, perhaps more pointedly than other laments in the Psalter, proves to us that expressing all our emotions before God is okay; the Lord can handle them!  Have a listen:

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Be Still

I’ll bet you’ve had a busy week.  So have I.  So here’s what I’ve prescribed for myself, and I hope it’s of encouragement to you, too.

Just take five minutes – five whole minutes – to sit in God’s presence.  Pay attention to your breathing, and read these two small verses several times:

Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be honoured by every nation.

I will be honoured throughout the world.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

The God is Israel is our fortress.

   – Psalm 46.10-11, NLT

Just let that sink in.  It’s worth your time.

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

What if…?

Last night, I caught part of the Players’ Championship curling bonspiel on television.  (It’s one of the last “cash spiels” of the season, held this year in Toronto.)  I was astounded to see a game between Rachel Homan’s team and Chelsea Carey’s team that ended with a 10-to-nothing score after only four ends played.  In this tournament, games normally are completed in 8 ends.

What was particularly surprising about this scenario is that both teams are outstanding competitors, and Carey was the winner of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women’s curling championship, this year.  Rarely, at this level of play, does a team get “skunked” – but that’s what happened to the Scotties champion!

I suppose Carey’s team exercised its option to concede the game after 4 ends because the players had lost their momentum and had the wind knocked out of them, so to speak.  But might they not be wondering what would have happened had they chosen to play the rest of the game?  “What if…?”

Many of us have asked ourselves that question from time to time in our lives, haven’t we?

What if I had married Y instead of X?

What if I had taken that job?

What if I had finished that degree?

And so on.  You get the idea.

Our decisions impact us, and others, every day.  What sort of discernment process to we undertake when we make decisions?  I’m not necessarily suggesting we need to overthink which sock to put on first in the morning, but I am suggesting that we should involve God in significant decisions.

See, often we make decisions based on what we think will make us, or another, happy.  “If it feels good, do it”, as the old saying goes, or, “If it’s not hurting anybody…”.  If we are followers of Jesus, though, our first goal shouldn’t be our own happiness, but God’s.  I fear we can lean toward making decisions based on feeling, or sentimentality, rather than on the clear decrees of God.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that our chief end in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

When we make our decisions with a desire to glorify and enjoy God, there is no need for “what ifs” in the future.

It’s rare for a team to come back from a ten-point deficit in four ends, so it may be that Chelsea Carey’s team decided to throw in the towel for good reason.  In fact, that team is out of the running in the spiel, now, with an 0-4 record.  But if I’d been skip of that team, I think I would have seen that game through. Then I’d never have to ask, “What if?”

It’s not like decisions about a game are necessarily life-changing decisions, but we all are faced with life-changing decisions, and we who follow Jesus should know that the name of the game is the glory of God, not the glory of self.

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10.31, NLT).

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: 2. How Long?

No, this isn’t a sermon about sermon length…it’s about the cry of God’s people.  Lament is not a popular subject in the church, but it is part of the stuff of life.  Today, we looked at community lament from the perspective of Asaph, the writer of Psalm 79.  Listen here:

At the end of the message, I showed this video.

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

More than meets the eye

Several years ago, I was on a tour of model railroads, and the bus stopped at the home of an ingenious microferroequinologist (we use fancy terms to make it seem more complex than it is, you know!).  He modelled G, as in “Garden”, scale trains.  His back yard was replete with all the typical workings of a G-scale railroad: houses, stations, hills, tunnels, and the like.

This ingenious model railroader, though, had added a little twist to his layout.  If you looked carefully in the back yard of one of the G-scale houses, there was…a model railroad!

Yes, this fellow had placed within his 1:22 scale world a model train of the 1:160 variety.  Within G-scale was an N-scale layout.  The size difference made it look like there was a garden railroad inside a garden railroad. There was more to it than initially met the eye.

Our lives are like that, aren’t they?  There’s more to them than meets the eye.  I’m mindful of that most interesting video called “Get Service” (which you can watch here).  When an annoyed man puts on a special pair of glasses, he can see footnotes, as it were, of what is going on in the life of each person who annoys him as he seeks to get his morning coffee.  It helps him see each person from a different perspective – not as an annoyance, but as a human being, made in the image of God, in need of love and care and respect.

Each of us has more going on in life than meets the eye.  As a follower of Jesus, you can live out your faith by treating others not as annoyances, but as people in need of your care and your respect.  You don’t know what’s going on that has made them ‘extra grace required’ people crossing your path, but if you will treat them with the care the Lord would treat them with, imagine what a difference you could make!

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.  See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people” (1 Thessalonians 5.14-15, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

No foolin’!

I’ve never been a fan of pranks, whether on April 1 or any other day.  I enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone else does, but not at the expense of others’ dignity.  Good, creative April Fool jokes can be most enjoyable.  I read Model Railroader magazine each month, and the creative staff at Kalmbach Publishing do an outstanding job of finding new ways to trick readers.  (This year, it was a product review of a tower and depot kit from “Seed Scale Models”.  In the box was a pine cone and some acorns!  I wonder how long people were strung along by that one?)

Our culture suggests that anybody who falls for a prank on April 1 is a fool.  But the Bible defines a fool differently.  It says:

Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14.1a, NLT).

Richard Dawkins and company may work tirelessly in an attempt to discredit Christian notions of God, but atheists come and go as they have come and gone for centuries.  The Word of the Lord stands forever, and ultimately, we will find out in eternity who “wins”.

I’m putting my bets on God, made known in his Son Jesus Christ, and in his Word in Scripture.  If I’m wrong, I’ve lost nothing.  But if I’m right, I will gain eternity.  With that in mind, I’d rather be a fool for Christ in this life than a fool who says there’s no God.

How about you?