Friday, March 08, 2019

Whose Time Is It?

I can hear the clock on the wall ticking away, marking the passing of time.  I look down on my desk, and I can see the calendar, which is also marking the passing of time.  The calendar has several labels, including Valentines Day, President's Day, and Saint Patrick's Day, among others.  I am reminded of this reflection on time in Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

This reflection reminds me of the various ways we use time.  But what is the significance of it all?  I understandably am sometimes demoralized when something happens to undo what I have done with my time.  I, like so many others, wonder what I do matters. 

The text goes on to declare in verse 11:

"He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." 

We have eternity in our heart.  We have the ages in our heart.  We want to see the big picture and know how everything fits together.  How does what we do matter?  Will something render our time in this life as insignificant?

I remember how my grandmother, in her later years, used to declare when we were worked up over something, "Oh well.  Who is going to care 100 years from now?"  She understood something about not seeing past the horizon even though we have eternity in our hearts.  For much of my early life, I did not know who my great-great grandfather was, much less my great grandfather.  I will probably not know who my great-great grandchildren are, and perhaps not know my great grandchildren.  My perspective is very, very limited in the overall scheme of things. 

However, I am reminded that I do not see the time line the way God does.  God also has eternity in his heart, but unlike myself, he can see from beginning to end.  He saw the cross while man was still in the garden.  He could see even further, past the cross, to the end of Satan, sin, and death in the lake of fire.  He even saw me long before I was born and how I fit into his overall plan.

Even though I cannot see time the way God does, I accept by faith that somehow what is beyond the horizon in front and behind me somehow all fits together in some grand scheme that is moving toward a consummation that will magnificently be worth it all. 

There is truly a time for everything.  I am reminded of this when Jesus, several times during his earthly ministry said, "My time has not yet come."  But as his time drew near, Jesus began to prepare his disciples for what was to come.  Here is what he said about those who will persecute his followers: "I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them" (Jn 16:4).  Yes, they will have their time.  However, when their time came, he also said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified."  The enemy's is brief and temporary because it was also the time for the Son of God to be glorified by defeating the enemy on the cross.  Unlike the enemy's time, Christ's time is permanent!  Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). 

All time is ultimately God's time.  It fits together as part of God's plan.  I need to keep this in mind when facing hardships.  I may not be able to see what is beyond the seasonal horizon, so I remember that God uses his time to bring about his plan from beginning to end.  Inserted into the middle of his timeline is myself, who works within the times and seasons to bring about the goal of God's time.  Thank you Lord for this perspective.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Snow Day Reflection

I was visiting with my youngest son, William, who told me that church had been cancelled up where he lives.  We also had to cancel where we live as well.  I told him that it seemed like some kind of conspiracy.  Several of the winter storms we have had in the last month have come during church times and have at times caused us to have to cancel.

We are going to miss out yet again on seeing our brethren, reading the Bible together, singing together, sharing communion, praying together, encouraging and hugging one another.

As I sit here quietly considering circumstances beyond my control, I am reminded that nothing is out of God’s control.  Even the snow is not beyond God’s control…

Psalm 147:15-19 says,
   He sends forth His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
   He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
   He casts forth His ice as fragments;
Who can stand before His cold?
   He sends forth His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.
   He declares His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.

Did this just happen randomly, or is this by God’s design?  Is he using this for his purpose in some way, or is everything just happening by blind chance?  Is the snow just a cold nuisance, or is there more to the ice and snow that just this?  The Psalmist also says this...

Ps 148:7-8
   Praise the LORD from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
   Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;

All creation is praising God without using words.  Concerning all this snow, I hadn’t really given this much thought until now.  Yes, this snow and ice is even praising God.  So, this morning I am meditating on the snow.   Here are something that scripture, along with the snow, reminds me of:

Isaiah 55:10-12
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
 “For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

The snow, like so many other things, is doing something on the earth by God’s design.  It may not look like anything good in the moment, but in the larger picture, it is for good.  God’s word is like this snow that has quietly covered the earth.  The snow is here, and it contributes toward the springtime that is coming with the green of springtime.  God is doing something, even on a quiet day such as this where we are not venturing out.  Even though we are not able to come together to worship, sing, and encourage one another in person, God is still doing something.

Take this quiet time of snow to reflect on the ways God is helping you to bear fruit not only now, but potentially in the future as well.  What seeds are being planted and covered by snow right now?   Take this time while you are apart from your brethren to consider the blessing of fellowship and church family.  Meditate on God’s word, bury it in your heart so that it will bear fruit, even on days like today.  Praise God with the fruit of your lips. 

Yes, it is a snow day and we are not together this morning as Christ’s body.  But I am thinking of all of you this morning.  My heart is with you.  Perhaps as we all think about these things, God can still hear the music of our hearts blending together as we meditate, reflect, and offer thanks to God.  As the steam rises from the vents and chimneys on our houses, so our praises and thanksgivings rise to God.  Physically we are apart, but our hearts are together.

Thank you Lord, even for the snow.  Thank you Lord, for your redemption and reformation of our lives and hearts.  You make us whiter than the snow through Christ.  May we continue to be faithful and joyful so that you can bear fruit after the snow. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Can Anything Good Come From There?

"Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  That is what popped into my head when I saw this picture of my brother and sister in Christ, Larry and Peggy at Nazareth.  What a wonderful opportunity to be in Jesus' hometown!  This is where Jesus grew up!  This was Jesus' home town.  

Evidently, it was an insignificant city according to Nathaniel in John 1:46.  I wonder if people at the time did not think of Nazareth the way people around here think of some of the small, out-of-the-way towns in my area.  If it hadn't been for Jesus, Nazareth would have remained an obscure place.  Who would stop to see Nazareth in their travels if it had not been for Jesus of Nazareth?  Jesus put the Nazareth on the map for thousands of years!  The answer to Nathaniel's question is, "YES!  Something good did come out of Nazareth! - -  Jesus of Nazareth!"

I suppose you could have asked the same questions of many other places.  There are place names that we remember, or at least have heard of simply because of what Christ did through his people in those places.

Can anything good come out of Nicaea?  Can anything good come out of Wittenburg? Northampton? Cane Ridge? Bethany? Searcy? Can anything good come out of ___________?  Many places would be lost to obscurity were it not for what Christ did through people struggling to be faithful to his calling in those places. 

If Jesus is there, then yes, something good can come from there.  The significance is not in the place, but in the person.  The significance ultimately is Jesus of Nazareth.

In Christ, no one is obscure.  In Matthew 10:29-30, Jesus said that the God who sees each sparrow fall to the grown knows the number of hairs on my head.  In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom are the least.  In 1 Corinthians 12:23, Paul wrote that in the church, the least are the ones with the greatest honor.

Something good always comes from wherever Jesus is raised up and people follow him.  Thank you Lord for coming to our humble world to save us and lift us up to the Father.