Monday, June 30, 2014

A Christian's Time

Job 14:1-2 Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue.

Time has always been a problem for mankind, because we only are allowed a limited amount of it.  This makes time a precious commodity…  If not the most precious commodity!  Since time is so scarce and so very precious, we must strive to make the most of what we are given.

In this lesson we will discuss several topics concerning time: the limit of our time, the prolonging of our time, and the waste of our time.

Life’s Frailty and the Measure of our Days

We must recognize just how short and fragile life is.

Psalm 39:4  Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.

Benjamin Franklin once lamented, “Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”  Ain't that the truth!  There are so many instances in my own life that I look back on and say, "If only I knew then what I know now...".

Psalm 90:12  So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

It seems that many people waste their time, especially their youth, fleeing responsibility and wisdom.

1 Timothy 4:12  Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

The sooner we recognize the just how short and fragile life is, the sooner we can make the most of our time on Earth.

Taking Care of our Mortal Bodies

Our health is a blessing from God and just like other blessings that we receive from God; we must handle our health with care.

Psalm 90:10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

It's interesting to notice that even in our modern age with all of our medical advances that the "seventy years" mentioned in this verse is still the around average life expectancy.  But, getting back to the point at hand, “by reason of strength” seem to indicate that man’s years may be increased.  We need to take care of ourselves; we have a responsibility to eat nutritious foods, exercise our bodies, and get adequate rest.

I’m not saying that we need to make our health our primary objective in this life, prolonging it just for the sake of prolonging it.

1 Timothy 4:7-9 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.

Obviously, we need not become over concerned with our physical health, but if we may live longer to continue our work for the Lord, we do need to be conscious of our health.

Redeeming Time

When one decides to make a change with their life and become a Christian, they may realize and come to regret just how much of their time has been wasted on sin before deciding to serve God.  Christians must commit to using their time wisely!

In the business world, there is a concept called “time theft”.  Basically, if you are "on the clock" using your time for something other than work, you are stealing time from your company.  We Christians must realize that we are never “off the clock”, every minute that we don’t spend devoted to or working for God is like another wasted minute on our time sheet.

Ephesians 5:15-16  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Christians cannot allow themselves to become idle with their time.

1 Timothy 5:13  And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.

A common saying is that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.”  We know from experience that there is a great deal of truth to this saying; idleness often leads to sin!


“I’ll stop procrastinating…  Tomorrow!” pretty much describes my attitude much of the time.  I’m always putting things off until the last minute.  But as Christians, we are commended to not procrastinate and put things off until tomorrow!

Proverbs 27:1  Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Tomorrow is the realm of the unknown.  We never know what tomorrow will bring until we’re living it.

Shakespeare, in his play Macbeth, wrote the following about “Tomorrow”:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to death.

So often, we let time get away with us when we procrastinate.  We let tomorrow get in the way of today.

Are we guilty of procrastination in situations similar to the following scenarios?

I was going to call my old friend from high school to check in on him tomorrow, but now it’s been so long that I am ashamed to call at all.

I was going to write a thank you note for the kindness of my aunt tomorrow, but now it’s been six months.
What ever happened to that tomorrow I was going to begin reading the Bible every day?

And what about that tomorrow I was going to visit my grandmother?  She will not be with us long.

What my saying that I would visit my friend in the hospital tomorrow?  He is well now, but when he needed me, I let tomorrow stand between us.

And what about that tomorrow I was going to apologize for the wrong I had done to my sister?  Now what was once no more than an ant hill has become a towering mountain between us.

That bad habit was going to be broken tomorrow, but that tomorrow has never come and now the habit is stronger than ever.

Edgar Albert Guest's poem, "Tomorrow" sums up the regret of putting things off: 

He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who'd be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do

Each morning he stacked up the letters he'd write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn't a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he'd say

The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do

James 4:14 Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow, therefore we need to make the most of today!

Wasting Time

One way that we can save time is by not wasting it.

Another quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love live?  Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

We waste time on so many things.  Think about what we could do with all of that wasted time!

Let us briefly examine four ways we can keep from wasting time on...

1.  Do Not Waste Time on Frustration and Bitterness  

We cannot allow ourselves to have resentment against others to the point that we dwell on it constantly.  It is unhealthy and sinful to harbor such grudges that we spend every waking moment thinking about what we would do if only there were no repercussions for taking vengeance on someone else.

Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

2.  Do Not Waste Time Pondering Past Mistakes  

No one is perfect and everyone has weaknesses.  We cannot change the past; we shouldn't dwell on it as if we could.  As Christians we should realize that God has forgiven our trespasses if we have repented and prayed for forgiveness.

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

Why should we continue to waste time on regret if God has already forgiven us?  If God offers to forgive and forget, we must do the same for ourselves!

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead

If we get bogged down in the past, we can never go forward.  "The blind cannot lead the blind, lest they fall into a ditch", likewise how can we press forward while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror?

3.  Do Not Waste Time Dwelling on Past Sin

Sometimes we do not just ponder past mistakes, but we long to make the same mistakes again!  I know of many people that I have overheard talking about their life prior to becoming a Christian as if they were talking about "the good old days".  We must not waste time looking back fondly on our sinful life before we were a Christian!

Colossians 3:4-6 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.  Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience…

We who have been sanctified of sin and now have such a glorious hope have no business viewing our past sinful lives with rose-tinted glasses.  We were lost, but now we are found!

4.  Do Not Waste Time on Worry 

Jesus said the following concerning worry.

Matthew 6:25-34 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Make Time to Prepare

Even though we are commended to not waste time on worry, we must make time to prepare.

I've noticed that my degree of worry lessens significantly when I am prepared.

Jesus stressed the importance of being prepared in Matthew 25:1-13  “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. 

Let's not be like the foolish virgins who were unprepared for the wedding feast.  Let's be prepared for Jesus' return!

Time for Salvation

Felix demonstrates the attitude of a procrastinator in Acts 24:25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

While Felix was moved by Paul's teachings, he put off becoming a Christian.  Felix pledged to call on Paul when he had a more "convenient time".  Unfortunately, there appears to be no account of that "convenient time" ever arriving for Felix.  Perhaps he continued to put off salvation and never got around to it, thinking that he would get around to it eventually.

Perhaps you are in the same position as Felix and have not yet became a Christian.  I encourage you to not wait for a "convenient time" to be saved, for that day may never come.  I don't mean to frighten you, but as we have learned from this lesson, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

James 4:14 Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Notice the immediacy and urgency of the language used in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For He says:  “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

(This lesson is adapted from “The Christian’s Everyday Problems” by Leroy Brownlow with the inclusion of some of my own additional thoughts.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Living Righteously in an Unrighteous World

As a Christian, I often feel that I am swimming against the current.  The world is going in one direction while I go the opposite way.  There's so many times that I wish I didn't have to put up with it all and could just be transported away from this sinful world and be one with our Heavenly Father.

I'm sure that many Christians feel the same way. While it is indeed discouraging at times, we must remember that this is part of are calling.  To be in the world, but not conformed to the ways of the world.

Philippians 2:15 ...That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world...

Christians are constantly bombarded with evil will, temptation, and false doctrine!  How are we to live righteously in a world that is anything but?  How could God possibly expect us to follow Him when we are surrounded by sin?

The Bible is full of examples of righteous people seeking to serve God while living in a world that is unrighteous.

Obeying God (even when the rest of the world isn't)

Noah lived at a time when the world was so sinful that God resolved to destroy the Earth with a great flood.  The only person who remained faithful to God was Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

I think that it’s safe to say that we live in a society much like that found in Noah’s time.

However, just like Noah, we should seek to serve God and remain faithful regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.

Psalm 119:1-3 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!  Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with their whole heart!  They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.

We should strive to be spiritually minded instead of carnally minded.

Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Not Giving in to Temptation

Recall that Joseph was trusted by Potiphar to oversee the business of his household.  But Potipher’s wife was attracted to Joseph and enticed him several times to lay with her and engage in an adulterous affair.  Joseph refused.

Genesis 39:9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? 

Even though we are surrounded by temptation, we much rise above it and seek the higher path that God intends for us.  Sometimes this isn't easy!  Sometimes temptations come from our friends and families, and, let’s face it, the things we are being tempted by are enticing (otherwise they would not be temptations)!

As Jesus told the disciples in Mark 14:38 - Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We should overcome temptations and seek the higher path of God!

1 John 2:16, 4:4 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. ; You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Remembering that God Loves Us (even when the world tells us otherwise)

We are familiar with the account of Job.  In the early part of Job, God and the devil are having a conversation about Job’s righteousness.  The devil thinks that Job is so faithful because God had blessed him so much and that if His blessings were taken away that Job would turn away.  Job loses everything.

Job 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job remembered that God’s love always prevails, even through adversity.  This remains an encouragement to all who follow God!

What could possibly separate us from the great love of Christ?

Romans 8 :35-38 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:“ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come...

Praying for Encouragement

You can imagine David writing his most famous psalm during a time of intense stress in his life.

Psalm 23  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;  He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me  All the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD Forever.

It’s so easy to get discouraged living in a world full of non-believers.  Praying for encouragement is necessary for peace of mind!  No wonder we are encouraged to “pray without ceasing!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Surrounding Yourself with Believers

Together, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego all refused to obey legislation to bow down to a false god.

Daniel 3:18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.

Something that can make the life of a Christian easier is surrounding yourself with Christian friends who are focused on serving God as well.

I think it’s fairly obvious that just as it’s much easier to do the wrong thing when your friends are doing it, it’s also easier to do right thing when your friends are doing it too!  (A little leaven leavens the whole lump! - 1 Cor 5:6)

Obviously, the best way to surround yourself with Christians is to join the Church, which is God’s family!  This is what God intends for us as Christians: To meet with one other, to study, to encourage, and to work and grow together as Christians.

Ephesians 4:16 ...From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

So many try to walk this path alone when God didn’t intend us to.  We are surrounded by so many discouraging attitudes and events in this world of sin and we need all the encouragement we can get.  I think that is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on prayer (Again:  Pray without ceasing!) and assembling with the saints!

Psalm 122:1  I was glad when they said to me,“Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Preaching to the Lost

While it is indeed helpful to surround ourselves with Godly people seeking to do right, we can’t live in a bubble our whole lives.  We can’t separate ourselves from the sinful world we live in.

Even though he was criticized for it, Jesus recognized that His work took Him among the sinful.

Mark 2:16-17  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  

The majority of our work as Christians should be done among the sinful.

However, notice that Jesus did not allow the world to corrupt Him.  As in all things, Christians must strive to follow His example.

Being Steadfast!

We must be careful.  Christianity loses credibility when Christians are indistinguishable from the rest of the world!

Proverbs 25:26 A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well...

Therefore:  As Christians, we must do our best to set a good example!

Matthew 5:13-16  You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Do Not Judge!  Avoid hypocrisy!  It’s easy for Christians to come off as being hypocritical.  We must be careful to live as God would have us to live and avoid judging others!

Above all: We must study the Bible!  We must exhibit a Godly attitude!  We must emulate Christ in all things!

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Jesus Calms the Storm

Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. 

The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”