Our Time Opportunity

God gives each of us something I would characterize as “time opportunity.” It’s a window of time from the moment we are born until we die.

Time is one of the few things in life that cannot be restored or replenished. Once a minute passes by, it’s gone forever. We can never get it back. No amount of effort on our part can restore time that has been consumed.

In 1932, Robert H. Smith, penned the following poem entitled “Clock Of Life.” (1)

The clock of life is wound but once,

And no man has the power.

To say just when the hands will stop;

At late, or early hour.

Now is the only time we own to do His precious will,

Do not wait until tomorrow;

For the clock may then be still.

The time set for each of us is known only by the Master Time Keeper. In all cases, God gives us a pre-ordained and finite gift of time; from conception until we pass from this life into eternity.

The Psalmist captured this concept beautifully when he wrote:

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16, NIV)

This much we also know; life is uncertain, and we don’t know at which hour we will breath our last.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12, NIV)

As the author of Ecclesiastes observed, we experience death because of evil. And we know from the balance of the scriptures, that we experience evil because of humanity’s choice to have rejected God’s original plan for us.

It is the wise person who values and cherishes the time they have now. This same person understands that none of us can afford to waste our gift of time frivolously, rather they should invest their gift of time in the things of life that count.

Moses wrote:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV)

It’s important that we should take a moment now and again and assess how we are using our time. Are we using it wisely or foolishly? Are we using our God given gift of time in ways that please our Lord?

These are important questions. In the end, when our time has run out, each of us will be individually accountable for how we used the time opportunity God gave us.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12, NIV)

In life, how we use our limited and non-renewable time reflects our priorities. When we use our time in ways that bring honor to God, we store up treasures in Heaven. Our rewards and treasures that God will shower us with in Heaven will be waiting for us when our time comes.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV)

“Herman Wouk, in his novel, “The Caine Mutiny”, (2) told about Willie Keigh, a character who was aboard a minesweeper in World War II, when he received word from his father that he had an incurable disease that would soon claim his life. In this letter, the father offered his son the following advice:

“There is nothing, nothing more precious than time.… Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end.…”

When we’re young, we often foolishly think we have all the time in the world…but that’s pride speaking. In reality, we don’t know how much time God has gifted us in this life. I’m sure many of you reading this, have experienced the death of someone for which it seemed unfair, that their life was taken all too early. I suppose all of us are at risk in this regard, as we simply don’t know when our time will be.

I recently attended the memorial service of a friend that died seemingly too early. He was a soft-spoken man of few words, and yet he had a profound impact on the lives of many people. At his memorial service, the church that we were in was packed. The main floor and the balcony were full, and people were standing in the aisles to honor him.

Person after person shared how this man always made himself available to help others, he served in quiet ways, seemingly in the background. Young and old alike were served by him.

As my family and I left the memorial service that day, I thought about this person, I thought about how wisely he had used his time. I thought of the huge impact he had on so many lives. While his death was unexpected for us, it was not for God. Like most of us, my friend had plans for the years ahead, yet he lived in the moment, in the now, to honor the Lord he served and loved. God has no doubt richly rewarded him for the manner and in the priorities in which he chose to live out his life.

The apostle Paul shared insights on how we as God’s people should live out our lives. He spoke of a framework of virtues from which we might bring to life by our actions.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”(Colossians 3:12, NIV)

Notice that Paul tells us to “clothe” ourselves in the virtues that God cherishes. These virtues speak of an expectation of actions on our part. They are to become the very fabric of who we are as Christ followers. Think of some of the actions that might come about from these virtues that Paul shared:
Compassion: Seeing a need and taking time to perhaps fill that need, or perhaps to talk to a person that is struggling with the weight of something significant in their heart.
Kindness: Offering your time to provide a meal, do a chore, or help a person in some other way.
Humility: Lending an ear to listen and while not offering unsolicited advice.
Gentleness: Visiting someone in the hospital and praying for them.
Patience: Investing time in a young person or family member, mentoring them and understanding that life is challenging, and that we need to be patient as we help them to uncover God’s plan for their lives.

Before we engage in our day, we should take a moment at it’s start to pause and consider how we are planning on using the time God has given us. As you look ahead, what are the actions that you plan to put in place to connect to the virtues that Paul spoke of?

Will you use your gift of time to honor God; to improve yourself so that you may serve Him more wisely, or will you consume your time to primarily serve self and passion?

In His wisdom, God has given each of us the time opportunity needed to fulfill His purposes, however long or short it might be. In the end, the question is not; do I need more time? Rather, it’s how will I use the time opportunity I’ve already been given?

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(1) Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1481.

(2) G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 350.

Ambassadors for Christ

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Corinthians 5:20 (1)

Paul used the idea of an ambassador, to remind the early church that God works through each of us as an extension of Himself to others. Therefore, it’s important that we recognize this vital role in our relationship with God and with those around us.

An ambassador in today’s world is a diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to another country. An ambassador will take up residence in a host country, and while there, they must be conscience of how they conduct themselves at all times. What they say, and how they respond to various situations are all reflections of their home country. In all they do, they seek to represent their country to the highest standards possible.

To follow Paul’s analogy, that we as believers are Christ’s ambassadors, simply means that we as believers, are in a way extensions of God’s ministry here on Earth. In simple terms, what we say and do in everyday life matters. Why? Because our actions might be the only positive testimony about how much God loves us, that other people see. Not everyone will step foot in a church to learn of God’s love and grace. In a way, you are the church to the world around us.

Being an ambassador is a tough job. As believers we are not called to take the easy path, but to take the sure path of Truth.(2) The gate that opens to the path of Truth is a narrow one, and it’s not always an easy one. Yet the Lord calls us to a life that reflects His character and nature.

All of this raises a question: As ambassadors, what type of traits should we be living out each day that best represents our Heavenly Father?

Fortunately, the Bible provides many examples. In one example; the Apostle Paul identified a number of these Godly character traits in a letter he penned to the early churches in the region of Galatia.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (3)

Paul wanted the early church to be known for these qualities, to live them out in their everyday lives.

On a personal life application level, the implications for me is that when someone wrongs me, or slights me, or even puts my character in question, I no longer have the liberty to respond in like manner. Rather, I need to consider how Jesus would respond and take the higher road. In such cases, He would no doubt trust his Heavenly Father for the outcome; and He would extend love and grace towards the one who offended me.

In fact, more often than not, I should be praying for those that have offended me and at the same time praying for myself, allowing the Lord to humble me and bring compassion and forgiveness to my heart, instead of coldness and blame. I need to seek His ways to love the very person that’s wronged me.

In this way, we become “Christ’s ambassadors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

 


References:
(1)The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Co 5:20.

(2)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 5:22–23.

(3)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 7:13–14.

Notes:
Currently the U.S. has 180 Ambassadors in service, only the president with approval of the senate can nominate an ambassador, six have died due to acts of terror, most recently Chris Stevens Libya Benghazi, Libya September 12, 2012. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador)

Defined: an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. (https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ambassador)

For God has chosen to extend his work in Christ through “Christ’s ambassadors,” making his appeal through them to those who do not yet participate in the new creation to be reconciled to God (v. 20).
Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 2 Co 5:11.

 

Do You See Anything?

“‘…Do you see anything?’ …Then his eyes were opened…he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:23-25)

In my dentist’s office there used to be this really large picture that hung on the wall in her waiting room. It had the appearance of some sort of modern abstract art. It never did anything for me. I had glanced at it on numerous occasions but never really paid it much mind.

That changed one day.

On that particular occasion, a little girl accompanied by her mom, came in to the dentist office and took the seats nearest me. I overheard the child saying to her mom, as she gazed at the picture with a smile; “Do you see anything?” The mom looked up briefly from her smartphone, smiled, and then returned to whatever it was she was looking at. The little girl continued to gaze at the picture until it was her turn to see the dentist.

After they left the room, I wondered what it was that was so interesting about this picture that had engaged a child’s attention for so long. The picture itself, though large, in my opinion was nothing to really look at…in fact, it was rather plain looking. I was thinking this while I was still looking at the simple colors and the seemingly random patterns that made up the picture, when suddenly an entire scene of various forest animals materialized! What to the uneducated eye appeared as simple abstract art, was actually, a carefully crafted picture that required the viewer to spend time gazing at it before the true objects became evident to the viewer.

Now, whenever I happen to see that picture, I can’t help but really “see” the images that the creator intended for me to discover. The images no longer remained hidden from view.

Some years ago, while serving at a start-up church, I found myself in the position of having to teach children; kindergarten through six grade. It was never my intention to teach kids, I was much more comfortable with teaching adults. But there was no one else, and so I took the role with the idea that this was only a temporary assignment. I had never taught kids before, and I judged my first few weeks as a disaster.

To complicate matters, we served a community in which many families where skating on the edge of homelessness. Many single moms and dads from a low income housing project nearby would visit our church on Sundays. Some of these families were transitory, they would come a few Sundays and I’d never see them again. For those families in particular, I was not able to see how anything that I was doing with them in class would ever matter or make a difference in their little lives.

Over time my teaching skills improved as I learned that kids learn differently than adults. The kids and I were having much more fun, as evidenced by a lot of laughter and even some random learning happening. Yet I still wondered…did my miniscule contribution really make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Shouldn’t I be doing something bigger and more important? I pondered those questions, and concluded that what I was doing really didn’t make a difference, there was simply too much hurt and impossible circumstances with many of these kids. Nothing I was doing really mattered.

A few weeks after coming to that conclusion, a young mom and her little kindergarten aged son came and visited our church.

Her son was a joy, a great little guy, complete with out of control blond hair and sky blue eyes. In class he was very attentive, he followed every move I made and made every effort to politely get my attention during the entire class time. I couldn’t help but spend some extra time with him. As I interacted with him, I saw that his little blue eyes gave away something else; a sense of deep hurt and loss. I devoted as much time with him as I could. Fortunately we had several other adult helpers that day, so I had the luxury of extra time. Together we played games, drew pictures, and he demonstrated his extraordinary play-dough skills for me.

It was later that I had learned from his mom, that her husband had recently abandoned their family, and that her son had been devastated in not understanding why “daddy left.”

When class was over, and I was signing him out to his mom, he ran over to her with crafts in hand and greeted her with a hug, and then turned quickly to face me as if to say something. I knelt down to be at his level, and without warning, he fell into my arms, putting his little chubby arms around my neck. He gave me a great big hug! He held me tight. I was so surprised that at first I didn’t know how to respond. That kind of thing never happened before! Certainly never in any of my adult classes! I put down wherever it was I had in my hands and gently hugged him back.

In that instant, my heart was broken, but my vision was made clear.

What we do for our Lord does matter! It matters because He places us in the right places at the right times for His perfect purposes. We may not see the final outcomes, but where possible, we are to express His love in every task we are given, no matter how much or little we think it might matter.

All I know is that it mattered to a little boy that morning, a young life that had experienced deep hurt without understanding the adult complexities of why. I hope and pray that perhaps on that day, he saw in me a small reflection of Jesus.

Grace in Restoration

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

I walked into my friend’s large auto shop, and on the floor, near the drive-in sized roll-up door, were countless rusty and corroded parts. Barely discernible in the middle of all these parts, was the large rusty frame of an old farm tractor. My friend, who loves to restore such antiques, stood by it with an oily wrench in his hands and broad smile on his face.

That afternoon he told me all about this tractor. He proudly told me how he and a friend had spotted the old tractor in a field as they were driving along a highway. They contacted the owner of the property, an old farmer, and he was more than happy to get rid of it. He took a small sum for it, kind of shaking his head and wondering why on Earth anyone would ever want to buy such a broken down piece of machinery.

The longer my friend talked that afternoon the more enthusiastic he became. We visited for a while, and then I wished him luck on his tractor restoration project and headed home.

About two years later, as he and I were talking and catching up, I asked him about that old tractor. He beamed with pride and pulled up a series of pictures on his computer showing the entire restoration process. The result was amazing!

There it was in the final picture, fully restored, just like it rolled off of the factory floor back in 1948. I could hardly believe the complete transformation that I was looking at.

Every detail, every part, all the internal gears, wires, pistons, the countless thousands of parts we don’t see, but are critical, had been lovingly, and sometimes abrasively worked on, to restore them to a new condition. He shared that there were times when the project hit some rough patches, and the going got tough, but through it all, he kept at it.

The entire process was also very costly. There is nothing cheap about restoring an old tractor. Yet once the work was done and the bills were paid, one could hardly argue with the complete transformation that was shown in the pictures. And I know the transformation was complete, inside and out, because he showed me pictures of the tractor being driven in a parade. This was not simply a cosmetic restoration.

The term “restore” is mentioned over a hundred times in the Scriptures.  Most dictionaries define restoration as “a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.”

In the grand scheme of life, the Scriptures are all about restoration, humanity’s restoration to a right relationship with our Creator. We are restored via Jesus Christ, who in effect “paid our restoration bill.” His restoration is complete, from the inside out, there is nothing cosmetic about the work that Jesus does. Ultimately, even our physical bodies will one day be restored to the mint condition our Creator envisioned. (I could use a little of that right now…but I’ll have to be patient.)

In the meantime, I am reminded of how important it is that that I too have a mind of restoration.

The Psalmist shared: “Restore us again, God our Savior…” (Psalm 85:4) Thankfully we worship a God of new days, a God that seeks to restore us to himself with an infinite degree of patience. There are times I have to go back for multiple restorations. I have to be restored again, and again, and again. (Thankfully God never closes the garage door.)

Those closest to us are also undergoing restoration. There are times I need to remember how much grace God has given me every time I show up at the garage for another round of restoration. I need to give that same compassion and grace towards others while they are being restored. After all, restoration is a process, sometimes it takes years to get the rust off of all the parts. Some of the parts that need restoration lie deep within our lives; they’re the hardest to reach.

Yet Jesus promises us, that for those who trust Him, there will be full restoration. As believers, we need to be like Jesus. I know it’s hard, but we need to be patient, not only with others, but patient with ourselves.

By the way, you have permission to have setbacks during your restoration; they happen. God will ALWAYS be present with you as you are seeking restoration, no matter what it is in your life that needs to be restored. I can tell you from personal experience that the wait is worth it.

Not all restorations are equal. Some restorations involve our closest relationships, those with our spouse or children. Restorations can range from recognizing our need for eternal restoration with God through Jesus Christ, to the more mundane, such as restoring a relationship with a child or family member that perhaps we were short with, or perhaps we said some words that came spilling out in a moment of frustration.

In extreme cases, where major restoration is underway, we may feel completely overwhelmed, the circumstances of life may seem like this restoration is beyond anything that God could ever fix. During these deepest darkest moments, we may want to give up, but that would be human thinking at play.

The Psalmist wrote the following,  because he realized that no matter how hard the journey, that if God was involved, then restoration would happen!  ”Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (Psalm 71:20)

The Apostle Paul reminded us later that restoration comes only when we surrender. It is in our weakness that we are restored and not in our own strength. Jesus shared that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I encourage you to never give up on God no matter how hard or hopeless your restoration project may seem, God seeks to see us restored!

Copyright 2013