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Climbing Stairs to Nowhere

30 Dec

One of the funniest things I pass on a regular basis is a set of stairs that leads nowhere. It’s near my husband’s office at the seminary where he works. There likely was a door there once, or plans for one, but the stairs just look odd there now. I smile every time I pass them.

thestairstonowhere_lolwithgodAs I approach a new year, I’m thinking back over my life and ministry and trying to figure out what has been the most productive things I’ve accomplished over the past year.

There were some great things, but in at least one case, I was “climbing,” but ending up nowhere. I wasn’t lazy, but there was no “fruit” for my labors in that area—nothing I can point to and say, “That was worth my time.” 

I don’t want that to happen next year.

I’m sitting down to consider where I want to end up so I can make wise strategies to get there.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

God not only created me, He gave me new life in Christ; and with that new life He also created work projects for me. It’s my responsibility to pray and listen so I can discover those good works He has prepared for me to accomplish.

Life is too short to miss what God has planned for me to do. 

The older I get, the more I am struck by the brevity of life. The Bible makes this so clear:

“… our days on earth are like a shadow…” (1 Chronicles 29:15).

“…my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away…” (Job 9:25).

I am like “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

I found myself praying today:

Lord, teach me to consider my days so I can grow in wisdom. Remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered and fleeting. Help me make the best use of the time You have given me. (Psalm 90:12; 39:4; Ephesians 5:16)

I don’t want to end up on a stairway to nowhere.

Do you?

What are you doing to evaluate your life before you head into a new year?

~ Dawn

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5 Brilliant Lessons Age Spots Taught Me

2 Sep

I didn’t know lion cubs are born with spots—brown rosettes—on their body. Almost like a leopard.LionCub_pogo_mm_Pixabay

A funny cartoon shows Daddy lion talking to his young cub.

“Don’t worry, Son,” the lion said.

“They’ll go away as you get older. They’re just youth spots.”

Youth spots are cute, but what about age spots?

Poet Elaine Bishop wrote, in “Poems of Hope and Humor,”

“When I woke up this morning, I found another spot.

I do not know what’s causing them, but I sure have a lot.

Grandma called them liver spots; that does not appeal to me.

Now I’m hearing age spots; Oh, Lord, that could not be.

I’d pass them off as freckles but that would not be true,

And I must always tell the truth whatever else I do.

As long as I’ve no name for them and I’m still in the dark,

I’ve decided I’ll call them my special beauty mark.” *

GrandmaDorothy_LOLWithGod_5BrilliantFactsAgeSpotsTaughtMeI always said I wanted to grow old like my Grandma Dorothy (pictured here). Yes, she had wrinkles and age spots, but her gentle spirit and kind heart always glowed.  She loved Jesus and it showed!

I just didn’t expect to see my own wrinkles and age spots so soon! 

As I sat in church one Sunday, I stared at my arm, counting the age spots:  1 – 2- 3 – 4. Oh, please! Enough already!

As I sat there, only half listening to the preacher at that moment, I was hearing another message. My age spots were “speaking” to me, and they taught me five important lessons. Brilliant lessons!

1. GET SMART: Use Sunscreen!

I haven’t been wise. Although I wasn’t a “sun baby,” since moving to California I’ve soaked up lots of sun just in daily activities. And I haven’t used sunscreen.

Damage is apparent, but it’s not too late to start. (I hope.)

I’ve read lots of home remedies for age spots (like a mixture of brown rice, agave nectar and lemon juice), and the market is flooded with potions for a price. (I’ll probably get emails from them!) But the truth is, we all get them. Some more, others less.  We need to get smart and use the sunscreen!

2. SEE REALITY: Beauty IS More than Skin Deep.

My Grandma is in heaven now, but I remember her true beauty. Whenever I looked at her face, I saw more than wrinkles and age spots. Her beauty truly was more than skin deep. Her beauty was deep within and it blessed all of her family and friends.

In extolling the virtues of the noble woman, the writer of Proverbs says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 HCSB).

Matthew Henry wrote, “…the fear of God reigning in the heart, is the beauty of the soul; it lasts for ever.” **

I want that beauty of the soul, don’t you?

3. FACE TRUTH: You’re Terminal.

Hollywood celebrity Valerie Harper, diagnosed with brain cancer, said, “We’re all terminal; none of us are getting out of this alive.”

The Bible says much the same thing about our earthly existence. Unless the Lord comes to snatch us away (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), we’re all doing to die (Hebrews 9:27).

We’re all terminally ill with a disease named “death.” 

Christians don’t need to worry about this fact. To be “in Christ” and to die is “gain” (Philippians 1:21). We go directly into the presence of the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul said he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

4. REDEEM TIME: Don’t Lose Opportunities.

Although we don’t know the final date for our tombstones, we have today to love and serve the Lord and people.

We need to “redeem” (buy up) every day, looking for opportunities. How?

There are many ways to redeem our remaining days. Here are just a few:

  • We can awake from our sleep and understand the times (Romans 13:11).
  • We can look carefully how we behave and be wise (Ephesians 5:15).
  • We can make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5b).
  • We can seek the will of God each day—our marching orders (Ephesians 5:17).
  • We can be filled with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b) and under His control.
  • We can do all God calls us to do with all our might while there is still time! (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  • We can set our mind on heavenly things, because really, the truth is we are “dead” to this life—with our lives alive in and “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Don’t live in such a way that your final day is filled with regrets. Where you have sinned, confess and repent … and then move on! God has much to accomplish through you until your dying breath!

5. REMEMBER HOPE: You’re Promised Another Body!

While the Christ-follower’s soul goes to be with the Lord, the body is changed later (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16). Our bodies are raised “imperishable”—perfect and free from all death and decay (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

This is part of the blessed hope (Titus 2:13-14) of the Christian’s eternal life. Our mind can be in the beginning stages of transformation now (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). But someday our lowly body will be transformed to be like our Savior’s glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

Our new body will never wear out or grow old, never get sick or decay and never die! 

And no more age spots!

Which of these lessons from age spots speaks to you today?  In light of your aging, how will you cooperate with the inner transformation God wants to produce in you?

– Dawn

* “Seeing Spots” by Elaine Bishop, Poems of Hope and Humor (AuthorHouse, 2013), p. 9 (Emphasis mine).

** Matthew Henry Commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31

 

Stealing Time?

9 Feb

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, said his first sermon at the church was 1 hour and 15 minutes long because there was no clock.

LargeWallClock_RedeemTheTimeThe next week A LARGE CLOCK was installed. *

I read some cute humor about being late. It seems a little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Bible class. As she ran she prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!”

While she was running and praying, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again!

As she ran she once again began to pray, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late. But please don’t shove me either!” **

When I traveled with a revival team, the director, Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., was a careful to start meetings in churches on time, but he was a stickler about our team meetings.

Once, when several team members were late and we had to wait for their arrival before beginning, our director waited until we were all settled and then said – quietly but firmly – “Some of you have stolen the other team members’ time and you need to ask their forgiveness.”

Are the time, I thought he was being a little severe. But the more I thought about it, it made sense.  I realized lateness, especially habitual tardiness, was rude and thoughtless. Those who cared about punctuality had to wait for others to arrive.

Granted, we need to give each other grace. But when team members, employees and even family members consistently show up late, perhaps it’s time for a loving but pointed “conversation.”

To encourage accountability, one of the things our revival team director did was to have all the team members memorize some applicable scriptures for diligence and wise use of time.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
  • Colossians 4:5 – “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”
  • Ephesians 5:15-17 – “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

In our director’s thinking, being late wasn’t just about causing others to wait. It was also about not wisely using the time God allots us. Our director wanted to impress a powerful principle in our hearts:

Time is more than time … it’s about people, ministry and accomplishing the will of God in the world. It’s a matter of stewardship.

We surely can waste time, abuse time and yes, even steal others’ valuable time though our thoughtless behavior.

Often it’s just a matter of poor planning on our part; and if it’s a regular issue, perhaps we need some help so we won’t cause an offense and so we can be more effective in accomplishing our tasks. We can ask God to show us the tools and attitudes we need to make some time adjustments.

Maybe, like MacArthur, we just need a bigger clock!

What do you do to help yourself arrive on time? Which of the scriptures above speaks to you today?

* “John MacArthur: The Infographic” by Josh Byers and Tim Challies, 1-28-14, Challies.com

** http://ministry-to-children.com/funny-church-jokes/

– Dawn

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