Time and Eternity

December 28, 2010

The eternal God who created the universe also created time. There was neither day nor passing year until God spoke the universe into existence and separated the light from the darkness. The eternal God gave the sun, moon, and stars to mark the progress of the seasons. Humankind’s first calendar was the glorious march of sun, moon and stars across the sky—each obedient to its creator. Look beyond the clock and calendar even the magnificence of the skies to the One who made it all and give Him praise.

The eternal God should be “our dwelling place.” As we see how fleeting time is—how fleeting our time is, we ponder Him for whom a thousand years is like a day or a few hours of the night (Psalm 90). But for us even a long life is soon past. Yet in those fleeting moments we may live for God and decide eternity for ourselves. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, ESV).

Having had the opportunity to hear good news, we must not let the moment fly from us without a response. Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance.

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV).

And once begun, the faith must be lived. We dare not drift away from so great a salvation. We do not know when the last grain of sand will fall in the hour glass of our life.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:13-14, ESV).

Though our life is but a mist—a fleeting moment (James 3:14), God can give meaning to our lives, and living for God can give us hope beyond the transitory and the temporary. Praise God for time and eternity!

Good Gifts

December 17, 2010

Giving gifts doesn’t necessarily come naturally. We give because we have first received. Gift giving means that we have learned to overcome selfish desires and greed. Gift giving means that we have learned to love, honor, and appreciate others. Good gift giving comes from being considerate of other people’s needs, wants, and desires. In gift giving we learn the joy of service — it is more blessed to give than to receive. I suspect that just as we love because God first love us, we give because God has richly given to us.

James describes God as the perfect giver of gifts.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ” (James 1:17, ESV)

What good gifts have you received?

God is our creator, and he has created a world that is very good, even though it has been cursed because of sin. It is a world that is full of beauty and wonder. It is a world that teems with life. I have enjoyed sunrises and sunsets that were magnificently beautiful. I have felt the awe of storms. I have felt the peace of blue skies and sunshine under the green canopy of trees. I have tasted the bounty of the earth, and I have gazed into the night sky with wonder. I have received good gifts.

God has revealed himself in the Bible. I have received the gift of wisdom that begins with reverence for God and humbly listens to his word. In the Bible I find a message that fills a void in my life. It is as if it is a missing puzzle piece that fills that hole and makes the puzzle complete. Now the world, and life, and values, and meaning make sense. I have received a good gift.

God has given his Son. The Word who knew the glories of heaven became flesh and dwelt among. He became human to save us from our sin. He learned suffering. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. He died in our place, so that we might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. I have received a good gift — a priceless and precious gift.

Love and gratitude should be the responses to good gifts. May we experience joy because with grateful hearts we recognize the gifts we have received. May we also learn to be like our heavenly Father and grow as givers of good gifts.

Swimming with Elephants

December 10, 2010

Developing the habit of Bible reading is not always easy. The beginning reader may at times feel overwhelmed by the Bible. A quotation that I’ve heard in various forms dates back at least fourteen centuries.

Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.

Why do we at times feel like we are swimming with elephants with the water way over our head? Consider the following. The Bible has thousands of names for people and places. The dictionary Pronouncing Bible Names gives 3,492 proper names from the KJV, and many of these names are admittedly difficult to pronounce. The Bible has plenty of common nouns that we don’t use in everyday conversation, like atonement, propitiation, righteousness, and mercy. The Bible covers over two millennia of history. The geography of the Bible is not ours. The cultures and customs of the Bible are distant from ours.

So how do we begin? We wade. We begin with those portions of the Bible most relevant to us and possibly the easiest from which to gain something: the gospels and Acts. Then read the epistles. If nothing else, you will learn the ethics of the Christian life. As you wade into deeper water, you add the narrative portions of the Old Testament (Genesis through Esther). Once you have all the narrative of the Bible read, you will understand the flow of Bible history. You can add the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Job through Song of Solomon). And finally, read the prophetic books of both testaments (Isaiah through Malachi, and then Revelation). And then repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

You will have questions and things you don’t understand. Write them down, but keep reading. The Bible is its own best interpreter. You will be amazed at how many of your own questions you can answer by continuing to read.

Have a dictionary handy. It is good to have a Bible dictionary because it specializes in Bible words, but a regular dictionary is helpful too. I’m an avid reader, but there hasn’t come a point in my life where I didn’t have to look up certain words to find out what they mean.

Recognize that this is a process that takes time. The more I read the Bible, the more I grasp of it. It begins by wading. But in time you find yourself in the deep water swimming with elephants discovering the wonder of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.

The Habit

December 3, 2010

I am a regular reader of the Bible. I say “regular” because I miss a day here or there. I often try to get ahead in my Bible reading, but sometimes I’m playing catch up, but it tends to work out. This year I am on track for reading through the Bible with a second time through the New Testament and Psalms. (By the way, this is not the plan I would suggest people start with.)

The habit has grown over the years. At first, I simply tried to read regularly without regard to how much in any given period of time. By setting a simple reading goal I made it through the New Testament and then finally the Old Testament. My only guide on those occasions was a bookmark. As the years have gone by, I’ve become more systematic in my reading. I have read through the Bible time after time after time for decades now.

Why do I mention my habit? I would like you to form the same habit, and the reasons are very simple. This one habit has transformed my life in many ways.

Scripture teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains. Unless you harden your heart against the message, the regular reading of the Bible should transform. It provides a constant reminder of what God desires. It provides a constant witness to God’s provisions and presence. This habit helps you to mature.

How do I know my way around Grand Rapids? It is by driving to various places on a regular basis. How do I know my way around the collection of books that make up the Bible? My habit of reading the Bible keeps me familiar with the Bible. I know where many things are not because I set out to memorize locations, but because I’ve made “the trip” frequently enough, I just know where it is. When I need a particular subject, I have a pretty good idea of where to begin looking. This habit means the spiritual resources of scripture are open and easily accessible to me.

Would you spot a counterfeit twenty dollar bill? If you are very familiar with the genuine, you will easily spot the counterfeit. The same is true for the teachings of the Bible. The regular reading of God’s word means that you become familiar with the genuine. When reading a human author, I will find myself saying what about this passage or that passage. This habit prevents you from being deceived.

This habit doesn’t need the change of the calendar to start, but it makes a good occasion to remind you. Join me. Make it a habit.