Making the Best Use of the Time

8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:8-17 (ESV)

Have you ever taken a time management course? Did you learn how to speed time up? Or slow it down? Or produce more of it? If you know me well you will know that the concept of ‘time management’ is a pet peeve; yet the text above does make a salient point concerning time. Essentially, we are instructed to make the best use of the time we are allowed to have; be that time at home, work, recreation, relational, whatever pursuits we undertake. This idea was driven home as I sat in a Dentist’s waiting room while a friend I had driven there was undergoing oral surgery. The first hour had been spent out in the truck reading a book I’ve been trying to finish; then, as the procedure was to be done in an hour, I went inside. On entering, the little ‘no weapons’ sign was noted, probably not a bad idea, given the history of dentistry. Then, as I sat for another hour and a half, it seemed the weapons ban was aimed at preserving the overhead speakers, as ’70’s music droned on in an unbroken stream (no offense intended, if you are a disco fan). Being exposed to pop music of any period for an extended time is an education in culture, and the lesson is that our days are sometimes as shallow as the lyrics we listen to on FM music loops. The challenge of making the best use of our time, indeed of our times, is to face each 24 hour period with eternity in mind. Once we manage to do that, then we are ready to face weeks, months, lifetimes, with our eternal time-print in mind. Let’s close with a cliché worth repeating. Only one life, t’will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last!

Why Don’t We Give a Witness?

A popular broadcast preacher often asks the congregation, “Can I get a witness?” It is really a good question, and I often wonder if Jesus isn’t asking many of us the same thing. Very few of us (‘us’ being Evangelical Christians) often share our faith in Christ with another person who is a nonbeliever. I will spare you the endless statistics on this subject; just ask yourself this question, when was the last time I did that. A frequently cited problem that blocks us from sharing is a lack of knowledge on how to lead a person to Christ; there are a plethora of books on that subject, so let’s dismiss ignorance as a valid reason. Anyone who has come to faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior knows enough to share the reality of their faith! I would like to suggest a more powerful underlying deterrent to witnessing than procedural ignorance; Christians who occasionally behave badly (me included).

1st Peter 3:8-16 is a classic text encouraging us to give a witness in often hostile environments. The passage certainly does call for good behavior on the part of believers as a substantiation of the message of the Gospel, and yes, we are called to strive to behave well before all people; but that just doesn’t always happen, now, does it. We say or do something wrong (or stupid) and we fear our validity as a witness is compromised; perhaps it is. We need to remember that even a compromised witness is far better than no witness, and it may serve as a good example of God’s gracious forgiveness and redeeming love. Allow me to share a brief history of not yet perfect witnesses for Jesus:

Paul and Barnabas argued and split up (Acts 15), Peter balked at eating with gentiles (Galatians 2), James and John wanted to burn up an entire village (Luke 9), two ladies in the Church at Philippi had a major falling out (Philippians 4), Demas deserted Paul (2nd Timothy 4), Paul could be hard to understand (well, duh! 2nd Peter 3), the whole Church at Corinth needed restoration (2nd Corinthians 13).

This is just a partial list from the New Testament, and we didn’t even crack the Old Testament! Now then, were there powerful and effective witnesses for Christ among these people?

Let’s return to the text cited in 1st Peter 3; take particular note of verse 15. What are we to witness to? We bear witness to the hope we have in Christ who is the Lord of our heart. Having a bad moment or day does not remove our hope; it should spur our discipleship, but it does not defeat our hope in Christ, and that is the core of our witness.

Just remember, we are bearers of Heavenly treasure in jars of clay (2nd Corinthians 4).

So don’t be self defeated witnesses, just be cracked pots for Christ!

The Need for Context in Bible Study

I heard a great quote the other day while listening to a podcast of the Vineyard Church of Columbus, OH; “A text without a context is a pretext.” As I was reading in the January issue of “Christianity Today” a stark example of pretext leapt from the ‘Quotation Marks’ column, “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest.” The quote is credited to Brian Griffiths, member of the British House of Lords, and advisor to Goldman Sachs International. For the context of the text Mr. Griffiths references, see Matthew chapter 22. In all fairness, the entire text of Mr. Griffith’s speech does not appear in the column, though his advisor-ship to a world-wide retailer does lend the notion that he endorses self interest in a light not intended in the Gospel.

Excerpting and skewing Bible texts to serve even noble self interest certainly is not new, and it certainly continues to be most dangerous to the self, and to others. I have heard “Blessed are the poor” (Matt. 5:3) used to promote social justice issues. I have no opposition to social justice, as this is a strong and pervasive teaching of God throughout the Bible, but the above quote is a partial reading completely removed from its context, which is immediately the entire ‘Beatitudes passage, and more fully, the entire ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which is Matthew chapters 5-7. When we read the Word of God, whether in a personal devotion or larger group context, we must always practice at least two disciplines; pray for God’s Holy Spirit to lead and teach us, and keep all texts in context!

Bless Those Who Curse You

Luke 6:28 (NIV)
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

We recently received a few, well; let’s say colorful ‘comments’ on the web page. They were not great works of literary genius, nor did they convey a clear message, rather; we receive them as calls for help from people who live in spiritual dark places. To you dear ones, who send us such comments, please rest assured we will pray for you. Our prayer is for God’s Spirit to call to you, and show you the way, the truth, and the life which are offered to you in Jesus Christ.

You may contact us by using the ‘contact’ link in the left navigation side-bar. In the mean time, allow me to paraphrase a familiar Bible verse, not the one above; “what you plant, you often end up picking and eating.”

Grace and Peace to you all in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Larry

God’s People on the Move

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country… to the land which I will show you.”From Genesis 12:1 NASB

God is always pointing His people forward; we may not always agree with Him about it, but He bids us go anyway. The Biblical pattern is already in place before Abram is sent out to an unknown destination; even the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden is a forward movement toward God’s grace being fully revealed in Christ.

Now we hear the prophets strain to see the incarnation of the Coming One. Gabriel visits Mary and points her toward the unprecedented plan the Almighty has for her life.

Jesus begins His earthly ministry resolutely moving forward to Calvary. He accomplishes salvation’s plan and moves toward the resurrection.

He commissions the Church, His Body on earth, and ascends to the Father with the promise of His return, to which we who believe now move toward on the path of ministry He has set before us in fulfillment of the commission He has placed upon us.

Look again at the pattern of promise God has built into His relationship with His people: I will send you into Egypt and I will bring you out; I will send you into exile for your sins, yet I will bring you home again; long have I desired to eat this Passover with you… not again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God; go make disciples of all nations; you shall be my witnesses…; why do you stand staring into the sky… this Jesus will come in the same way you have watched Him go? I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

We are God’s people on the move. From the garden to the new earth and the heavenly city, we are a people in progress. The life of the Church of Jesus Christ is a rising crescendo preparing to burst forth in the eternal presence of Almighty God, Father Son and Spirit; our service in the Name of Jesus is the music which causes the crescendo to swell. Heaven rings when our witness to Jesus causes each lost one to whom we have born witness to come home. Make no mistake, our words and deeds of love in the name of Jesus do not earn for us salvation, they reflect the grace which has redeemed us; they are instead lights shining in dark places.

I remember a magnet that used to adorn our ‘fridge’ when I was a teenager, it read, “Don’t be so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good.” I understand the sentiment, but am no longer convinced that it forms a complete picture.

We need to be a forward looking people; we need to see heaven on the horizon. If we lose sight of the destination, we may well abandon the journey and the mission. If I do not see the loss of hope in one who is not heaven bound, why would I bother to point them in the Way of Jesus? Why not just live and let live while I see to my own concerns? In fact, we need to be so heavenly minded we are of earthly value to those God sends us to as we travel toward Home.

Not convinced? Might I suggest an exercise? Pick any of the Gospels, pray for discernment, and read it through in one day. I would be interested in hearing from you. There is an email link in the left side navigation bar, just click on “contact us”.