Monday, February 13, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF FRIENDS IN YOUR LIFE

I've been blessed with many good friends in my life.

How many friends do you have? I guess your answer to that question will vary depending on how you define a friend. We have best friends, good friends, old friends, family friends, Facebook friends, and everything in between!

I have many friends who have been friends since childhood.  We might not see each other for a whie but when we do see each other - we catch up really quick.

Then there are those came later in life that have I have forged a deep relationship with.

There are those who pop in and out but we remain friends nevertheless.

Friends are a wonderful thing. They make us laugh and lift our spirit with their presence. Our most memorable moments happen in their company. During difficult days, they surround us with love and support.

But no matter how many friends you have and how many moments you've shared, everyone reading this post shares one thing in common: we have never had, and have never been, a perfect friend.

By that, I simply mean that our friendships are never absent of disappointment. In some way, whether significant or insignificant, our friends have failed us, and we have failed our friends.

Think about it. While some of your deepest joys are the result of friends, so are your most painful hurts. There are nights with them that you never want to end, and then there are days when you wish you could live in isolation.

Friendship is an integral part of the human existence, and we all have been shaped significantly by relationships that are full of both bliss and sorrow.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

It's important to know why God designed friendship and what he has to say about it. Through his Word, he has given us an accurate lens that will keep us from being naïve but also prevent us from becoming cynical.

Here are a few guiding principles about friends that should help keep your relationships healthy:

Friendships are intended

In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. This statement is broader than just marriage and applies to God's design for all humanity.

The word "helper" used to describe Eve isn't defined her as a co-worker, but a companion. God created us live with companions because he is a social God, living in community within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are benefits that come naturally from these friendships.

Having a companion for everyday life is a beautiful one. Having someone to comfort you during tough times is another (Job 2:11).

Honest friends who will call you to repent is a third of many more (Proverbs 27:6).

Christians, we need to seek out and immerse ourselves in community. While the "lone wolf" mentality is often applauded in our society, it is very dangerous and lonely to live in isolation. Don't cut yourself off from people, because you're cutting yourself off from your original intended design.

Friendships can become idols

While human companions are beautiful, the primary relationship Adam and Eve were designed to enjoy was their relationship with God.

Vertical communion with their Creator would provide the foundation for their horizontal community.

But since we tend to worship and serve creation more than the Creator (Romans 1:25), our friendships can become idols.

God has already given us everything we need in Christ alone for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

That means we don't need to seek perfect relational satisfaction in imperfect people.

The irony is that when we reverse the order and elevate people above God, we end up ruining those earthly relationships with the pressure we put on them to fulfill us!

Friendships will be difficult

The early history of friendship goes from perfect to bad to worse. The harmony of companionship disappears when Adam throws Eve under the bus to avoid blame (Genesis 3:12). Then, in the next chapter, Cain kills his brother Abel!

Many of us can't relate with murdering a brother or a friend, but the same sin that ruled Adam and Eve and Cain exists in our heart, and in the hearts of our friends.

We bring selfish motives, envy, greed, and more to our relationships, often without even knowing it. No wonder they're so messy! Don't be shocked when your friends let you down, or worse.

Friendships are redemptive

If God really loved us, wouldn't he make our relationships conflict-free? I wish!

But the fact of the matter is that the Lord's primary purpose in our life is redemption - the ongoing removal of sin from our heart (Philippians 1:6).

Nowhere is that sin more exposed than in relationship, where a flawed person lives with a flawed person in a fallen world.

When our sin, or our friend's sin, is exposed, we have two options: run away or lean in.

Do you hide in shame, defend yourself, shift the blame, criticize needlessly or harbor bitterness? Or do you confess your sin, seek forgiveness, speak truth, grant mercy, and encourage one another?

God's design is that the trials of redeeming friendships will test and strengthen your faith, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Don't run away from these trials. Lean in and rejoice, even though you don't feel like rejoicing!

Friendships have hope

We all look for tips and tricks that will improve our friendships - more effective communication, conflict resolution strategies, gender studies, personality typing, etc.

Just go to the self-help section of any bookstore. But the reality is that there are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships.

Rather, our friendships have but one hope - Christ Jesus. The shattered relationship he experienced with his father at the Cross provides the basis for our two-fold reconciliation. Jesus reconciled us first to God, which then becomes the foundation for the way he reconciles us to one another.

What C.S. LEWIS SAID

I want to end with a powerful quote from C.S. Lewis. I know I just said there are no screts that guarantee problem-free relationships, but C.S. Lewis comes as close as it gets. He wrote: "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

You see, when God reigns in our hearts, peace reigns in our friendships. Ultimate friendship will only be complete in heaven, but there is much we can enjoy now.

The New Testament offers hope that our relationships can be characterized by things like humility, gentleness, patience, edifying honesty, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and love.

Isn't it wonderful that God's grace can make this possible, even for flawed people in a fallen world?

This hope challenges whatever complacency and discouragement we might have about our friendships because there is always more growth, peace, and blessing that God's grace can bring, right here and right now.

The hope of the gospel invites us to a holy dissatisfaction with all of our relationships and encourages us to tackle the rewarding but difficult work of redemptive friendships.

I AM SO GLAD TO BE YOUR FRIEND.

Inspired by Paul Tripp

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TIGHT WITH GOD

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend...”

There is something I long for more than anything else in the world - to be in God’s presence in my daily walk with God.  I long to be “tight” with Him.  That - I would be able to speak to God face to face and be in an intimate relationship with Him.

But there’s a problem - life happens!  The events of life, the routine’s of life, the day by day pressures drain God’s presence from our lives in our lives.  There has to be a constant re-calibrating and refilling of our lives with the presence of God.

Yes, walking with God and His presence is my desire but I often find myself drifting off the trail to whatever is pressing most in my life.

I was struck this morning in our devotions about Moses and the re-calibration that he needed in his life.  In fact, it seemed like Moses had to have many meeting with God along these lines.

Reading this story helped me see that I’m not the only one who had to do this.  Moses led the way over and over again.

In Exodus 33 we see that Moses was able to to do “face-time” with God but there’s more to the story…. God had to deal with some issues in his life.

There are 3 key words in this story…

1. v.5  "Obstinate  (stiffnecked)
2. v.7  "Sought"
3. v.13  "Show" (know)
These 3 words outline a pathway to restored intimacy with God.
I can relate to all 3 of these words.  There are times that I’m obstinate and stiff necked about God.  I fight Him over everything.

Then, I finally wake up and realize how far away from Him that I’ve become.  It is then that I begin to seek His presence again and to ask Him to show me His glory and that I would again walk in His presence.

Just a thought - I know when I’m walking with God or not.  No one needs to tell me.  I can tell when He and I are good or not.

It is interesting: we know the word worthy relates to "worship" in the Bible.  It also has to do with "weight."

Gr.  oxios  background has to do with the sustenance of a coin.  (Coins that were minted without the technology of today.  In those days just the handling of coins could wear it thin."

When a person would buy something  their coins would be weighed and given their worth.  Often they would be worth less because of their weight but not worthless (with no value).

To be refilled with glory does not require that you have a major sin in your life.  Often times it is just the wear and tear of life which causes a thinness to come in.

God is calling us from anything that is unworthy (that which is not up to the full potential God has for our lives.)

God is calling us to Him to come away from everything that is shallow and shabby in comparison.  God is calling us to come and be renewed.

Our problem is not walking in God's glory or even not having a passion for it but failing to perceive where thinness has come in.

Many things crop up in our lives that are unworthy to God.  The only way back to worthiness is to kneel in His presence and first confess that which is unworthy.

The Psalmist said, "Search me and try my thoughts and see if there be any wicked ways in me."

We must be clothed again in renewal. We must have carefulness in speech, discipline, conduct, entertainment, speech, etc.

Moses repented of his obstinance.  He sought for God’s presence and asked God to show him the way back to God.

When people come from God's presence there is a “shining” as with Moses  Exodus 34:29.

Exodus 34:29 (NKJV) 34:29  Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.  

When Moses recognized that he had drifted away from God and repented - God showed up.  If you are wondering where God is and what happened to the closeness that you once felt - perhaps it's not that God moved away but you did.

God is willing and waiting  for you to make your move.  Blessings await.

Monday, January 23, 2017

WRESTLING WITH GOD


Genesis 32:24-26 (NKJV) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25  Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26  And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"

I think that everyone of us has a season where we actually end up wrestling with God over the direction of our lives.

Speaking for myself, this has been on ongoing event of God bringing me into alignment with His perfect will.

To be honest, for the most part, I don’t like it.  I don’t like change and I often struggle with God to fight for control of my life and ministry.

The sad part is this, the older we get – the harder it is to change.  What do they say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

When I was younger – it seemed a lot easier and I seemed more pliable.  Ugh!  I hate this reality about myself.

People say that they want change.  Just look on the internet and look at all the self help books that are for sale.

But the great tragedy of life is that sometimes we don’t want to change for the better.
In Genesis 32 we see the process that God uses in changing Jacob.  God is helping him become a different kind of person – a better person.

This event in Jacob’s life was a turning point in Jacob’s life and serves as an example of God can change us also.

Keep in mind that Jacob was kind of a shifty sort of fellow.  If you recall, in Genesis 27 that he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was intended for his older brother Esau.

Did you know that Jacob’s name means cheater or scammer? He even ended up scamming his uncle Laban to gain more sheep for his own flock.

Before Jacob could move on – God needed to deal with him and bring some alignment into his life.  Thus the night of wrestling with God.

Jacob ended up wresting with God all night long – till the break of day.

It was such a transforming experience that it literally changed Jacob into the man after God’s own heart.

In this passage – there is a 4 step process of change.

   1.    The first step is CRISIS

Our text says: “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

This was no ordinary man for later on we see that Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.

Some will say that he wrestled with an angel and others will say that it was pre manifestation of Jesus himself. Either way – it was some divine being.

Jacob found himself in a real fix – he had gotten himself involved in a wrestling match with a heavenly being.  He was having a real struggle – and worst of all he came to realize that he was in a no-win situation.

Here’s a fact: God often uses a crisis to get out attention. Have you ever got yourself into a fix that you couldn’t get out of?  I know I have.

Psalm 86:7 (NKJV)  In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me.

Just like a mother eagle that stirs the nest of her young to encourage them to fly – so God will at times stir your nest so you can be everything God wants you to be.

    2.    The second step is COMMITMENT

Look at what Jacob said – “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jacob was committed – He was persistent – he stayed with the situation until he received a blessing.  

He  was in a situation that he didn’t like – it was frustrating – it was getting him down – he was tired – but he said, “I am 100 % committed to staying with the situation until God blessed me.”

    3.    The third step is CONFESSION

After Jacob tells the wrestler he was not going to let go until he received a blessing – the wrestler said to Jacob: “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

What was the purpose of that question?  I think it was to get Jacob to acknowledge his character by stating his name – his name meant “cheater” or “schemer.”

Jacob had a long history of cheating scheming.  He had cheated his brother Esau.  He had lied to his father and deceived him.  He also deceived his uncle Laban.

So, the question was asked: “What is your name?  What are you really like?  Who are you really?”

Jacob answered, “My name is Jacob.”  By saying his name Jacob admitted, “I’m a cheater.  I’m a schemer.”  He admitted his weaknesses because he was honest.  When he identified himself as “Jacob,” he was admitting his character flaws.

This is an important process in God changing us, because we never change until we honestly face and admit our faults and sins and weaknesses and mistakes.

God will no to to work on our problem until we first admit that we’ve got a problem.  We need to say, “Lord, I’m a mess.  I’ve got a problem and I admit it.”  It’s at that point that God can go to work.

   4.    The fourth step is COOPERATION.

After Jacob confessed to God – God said: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Jacob did not argue with God about the name change.  After had a personal encounter with God he knew his life would not longer be the same.  God changed Jacob from a cheater and schemer to an 
Israel – a “Prince of God.”

God saw all of Jacob’s weaknesses and faults – but He also saw Jacob’s potential.

God always knows how to bring out the best in a person’s life.  He knows how to do it better than we do.

It’s interesting that at the end of the wrestling match that God put his hip out of place (32:24-31).  He would forever have a limp that would remind him of the night that God wrestled with Jacob.

I was thinking the other day of all the scars I have on my body – believe me, there are plenty as I was a very active kid.

But those scars remind me of the bad decisions I have made in life and that God has spared me over and over.

So, if you find yourself wrestling with God today – understand that you will not win until you surrender to Him and that He alone knows what is best for you and your life.

Moving forward – with a limp.

Monday, January 16, 2017

HOW FULL IS YOUR WELL?


Isaiah 12:3 (NKJV)  Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.

Have you ever felt anxious in your life?  Overwhelmed?  Un-peaceful?  Angry?  Depressed?  Hopeless?  I think all of us would say that at one time or another we feel this way in our lives.

As a young man – whenever I would mention to my dad that I was feeling any of those things – the first thing he would ask me is “How is your prayer life.”  He used this scripture often in his own life and in teaching others about having a well that was full.

He would go on to tell me or anyone else listening that when I pull from my well of joy to deal with my anxieties and problems – it’s all fine as long as my reservoir is full and running over.

But if I pull from my well and it is bone dry – that’s when we deal with frustration and depression and all sorts of other negative feelings.

The misnomer is this: that it is only God’s responsibility only to fill my well.  The truth is this – God is willing to fill and overflow our wells but it is up to us to be the funnel to capture all the blessings of the Lord.

This comes through prayer – much prayer.

Things can be going really well in my life but I can sometimes sense that I’m a little off in my insides.  It doesn’t mean that you or I are in deep sin or rebellion or walking away from God.

It’s just that you need to recalibrate your signal toward God.  

It’s a lot like the calibration that you would have to do on your cable dish or antenna in your home.  To be off by the smallest amount could lose your signal.

When we partook in the fast this last week I asked the Lord to recalibrate my life and help me to be totally focused on Him and His perfect will for my life.

It’s not always easy.  Our flesh strongly pulls us away from that fine tuning and insists on doing anything in its power to pull us away from that closeness and intimacy with God.

Look at this verse and it will help you to have some context of what I’m saying…

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

You see, there is much power that is available to us but we have to become the conduit for those blessing to come into our lives.

I venture to say that many people don’t have a well of joy that is full because they’ve allowed the circumstances of life to drain and have not been purposeful in refilling their well.

Yes, God wants fill us – even to overflowing but we have to be intentional – very intentional about keeping it filled.

May I encourage you today to stop and and check your joy level gauge on your life.  If you are honest – you will immediately know if you are full, half full or on empty.

God is waiting for you right now to bless and fill you with His joy and peace and especially with His presence in your life.

What are you waiting for?




Monday, January 2, 2017

WHAT DO YOU WANT IN 2017?


It’s just me and God this morning as I sit in my office.  It is very quiet with worship music in the background. I am thirsty for more of God. My soul is reaching out to Him for a fresh and new anointing from Him in this next year.  

I’ve been so blessed in so many ways – how can I count all the blessings.  He has never failed me in the past nor will He in the future.

Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Have you ever been thirsty – really thirsty?  Do you remember those hot days when your body was parched from not having enough water?

It’s interesting – my body tells me when I’m dehydrated and in the same way – my spirit speaks to me when I’m dry spiritually need an outpouring of God onto my life both for now and for the season to come.

I’m fascinated by the Joshua Trees in the High Desert.  From what I’ve learned – they can go for a long time without water because when the rains come – they drink in gallons upon gallons of water into their branches.

You and I must be like that.  There will be seasons of dryness and aridness where there is little or no water for your soul.  When the rains comes – we need to learn to soak them in and saturate our souls.

It is interesting: When you are thirsty for God – you will do anything.  You will travel for miles to be in a church filled with the Holy Spirit.  You will arrange your schedule so you are able to listen and to receive from the Lord.

Look at David in Psalm 27:4 – 

Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)  One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.

The woman with an issue of blood (Mark 5:25-29)  was so desperate for God that pressed through all the crowd just to be able to touch the hem of His garment.  When she did – she was immediately healed.

Paul, in Philippians, was willing to do anything that he might “know” God more and to experience His presence in his life.

Philippians 3:7-11 (NKJV) 3:7 (NKJV)  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In Isaiah we see the results of being thirsty for God.  It tells us that water will be poured on him who is thirsty. This water is the Spirit of God on your life.  If you are thirsty for God – God will pour out His Spirit on you.  That is personal revival – the very presence of God in your life.

Isaiah 44:3 (NKJV)  For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

When a person is thirsty – things like worship, prayer and seeking the Lord, fasting, going to church, loving the word are normal parts of your life and growth in the Lord.

One of the things I like about this verse in Isaiah is the promise not only for me but for the overflow upon my family.  Wouldn’t that be powerful for not only you to experience a personal revival but for your whole family to experience one as well?

John 7:37-39 (NKJV) 7:37 (NKJV)  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

The phrase “living water” is translated  from the Greek as “anazao” – meaning to come again and again.

I’m hungry for that.  I don’t want it to be forced but I want it to be natural and organic – flowing from the throne of God into my life on an ongoing basis.

One of the stories I like to hear about is the Welsh Revival of 1904 – 1905.  At that time there was a young man who had been praying for revival for 11 years.  He had a real sense that God was going to pour out a mighty spirit of revival on Wales.

He prayed, “Bend me, O Lord.”

One night his pastor allowed him to speak to anyone who wanted to stay after the service.  Only 17 stayed – mostly youth and young adults.  They all ended up at the altar crying out to God until 2 AM.

That week 60 people were saved.  Over the next 1 ½ years – revival came to Wales and over 100,000 people were saved.

Bars closed down because no one was coming to them anymore.  Arrests went down because people were living an orderly life.  In fact, the policemen now came to the meeting for traffic control. 

The meetings grew to nightly meetings of thousands.

Why?  Because one young man was hungry and thirsty for more of God.

Ask yourself today – Are you thirsty – really thirsty?  Do you want a fresh move of God on your life and in your heart.  I know I do – for myself, my family, my community and my church.

Let’s press in for “more of God” in 2017.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

GOODBYE 2016, HELLO 2017


I was thinking this last week about this gift that we get every year - it’s that our calendar closes one year and begins a whole new year.  In a way - it’s like wiping the slate clean and getting a new start. 

I heard an old story many years ago about a happy little boy who went out into the field wearing a baseball cap. In one hand he carried a baseball, and in the other a baseball bat. His face bore a look of tremendous confidence.

Cocking his bat, he tossed the ball into the air, saying, "I’m the greatest batter in the world!" Then he swung and missed. "Strike one," he said.

He picked up the ball, examined it, and then threw it into the air again. As he swung, he repeated, "I’m the greatest batter in the world." Once again he missed. "Strike two," he said.

This time, he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. Then he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, and tossed the ball into the air for the 3rd time. 

He repeated again, "I’m the greatest batter in the world," and swung with all his might and missed for the 3rd straight time. "Wow" he cried, "What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!"

Today is the last week of 2016, and as we look back over the last 12 months, I’m not sure whether most of us would be considered pitchers or batters. One thing for sure, at times we have all struck out.

So I guess it’s good to be able to start over afresh. 

What do you anticipate for this year? Are you full of enthusiasm, looking forward eagerly to what each day will bring? Or are you filled with a sense of dread, worried that this year will be worse than last year was for you?

Like the little boy with the bat, may I suggest that your attitude, your frame of mind, your reaction to its events will largely determine whether this year is a year of victory or a year of defeat.

The Apostle Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him. Rather, with the help of God, he was determined to win the victor’s crown. Listen as his attitude, dedication, determination shine through in these words found in Philippians 3:12 14...

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

With Paul’s words fresh in our minds, here are some suggestions to help us be all that we can be this year. 

1. RECOGNIZE THE VALUE OF TIME

How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade. 

How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely. 

How do we value ONE WEEK? Editors of weekly newspapers know. 

How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill waiting for a loved one who is late. 

How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane, a train, a very important engagement that would never be rescheduled. 

How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic Medalist, or someone who just missed having an accident, or someone saying “goodbye” to a loved one they will never see again. 

Of course we know that time is a human invention. I’m convinced that God doesn’t wear a wristwatch, or use a calendar. The Bible says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8) God deals with eternity, and therefore time is not an important factor with Him. 

But time is important to us because we live in a limited time frame. We begin with infancy, then go on to adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, and to everything that follows. We measure life in segments of time.

Now, what makes something valuable? Oftentimes it is scarcity. If there is a scarcity, then that product quickly escalates in value.

So, if something is rare, it is usually valuable. But if we have a lot of it, it loses its value. Now, the same is true with time.

Maybe that helps explain the generation gap. Young people feel that they have plenty of time, therefore time loses its value, and they aren’t too concerned about wasting or squandering it.

On the other hand, as we get up in years a bit, we begin to realize that our time is becoming rare and therefore more valuable.

So those of us over 60 tend to look at those under 20 and say, "Don’t squander time, because it’s valuable." They reply, "No, it’s not. We have lots of time. So we can waste it any way we want."

And the wider the age gap, the wider the generation gap because of the different values that we place on time.

The Bible often speaks of the brevity of life. It compares life to the weaver’s shuttle rapidly going back and forth to the shadows of summer that quickly disappear to grass which grows up, dies, and then is burned. 

I ran across some interesting statistics a few years ago. Someone went to the trouble to research what people do with their time, and came up with these results:

If we live to be 75, most of us will have spent 3 solid years, 24 hours a day, acquiring an education grade school, high school and college.

We’ll have spent 7 years eating, 24 hours a day, some less, and some more, obviously. We’ll have spent 14 years, day and night, working. We’ll have spent 5 years riding in automobiles or airplanes. 

We’ll have spent 5 years talking with each other again some more and some less. We’ll have spent 1 year sick or recovering from sickness. And get this, we’ll have spent 24 years of our life sleeping!

We’ll have spent 3 years reading books, magazines and newspapers. And 12 years amusing ourselves watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, etc. 

That totals up to 75 years and that is what the researchers say, on the average, most of us will have done with our lives.

Hebrews 3:15 says, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." Because life is uncertain we must take advantage of the time that we have.

2. DON’T BE IN BONDAGE TO THE PAST

We are special beings in that God has given us the ability to remember. Your memory may be your friend or your enemy. When you remember, hopefully you’ll remember some very pleasant things about this past year, but chances are that you’ll also remember some negative things.

In fact, sometimes we dwell upon the negative and begin to feel sorry for ourselves. Maybe this past year was a time of transition in your life the kids grew up and married and left home and you’re now trying to deal with the empty nest syndrome. 

Maybe your job came to an end and you’re having a tough time making ends meet. Maybe a loved one died and you’re trying to deal with the lingering grief and loneliness you feel.

Maybe it was a time when sin got a real hold in your life, and you now feel the burden and guilt of that sin.

You see, those things can cripple us and hold us in bondage to the past. That is why Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind…" Paul had a lot to forget. Paul had a very shaky past.

He persecuted the church. He used his authority to kill Christians. By his own admission he said, "I am the chief of sinners." (Timothy 1:15) He could have walked around all his life with this tremendous burden of guilt crippling him and he would never have become the great apostle we know and love today.

But Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind…" In other words, "God, I commit it to you. I seek your forgiveness for all the sins of the past, and I look forward to what lies ahead. And right now I’m going to live today the best I can."

3. WE NEED TO ESTABLISH A PRIORITY IN OUR LIVES 

Paul says it this way, "This one thing I do." Now Paul obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons and established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote books. He did a lot of different things.

But he said, "The top priority in my life is to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ “

A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students.

After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. 

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel into the jar and shook it, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. 

Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the big rocks of your life? - They should include these: Each day drawing nearer to God, spending time with Him in prayer, and seeking His guidance for your life through reading His Word. Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

It was Jesus who said, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

We’ve just gone through another Christmas season in which the world was reminded again that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son." In His love, God offered us the most wonderful gift that we could ever receive.

There is a story of an old beggar woman who ran out of money. She couldn’t pay her rent. She couldn’t pay any of her bills. The landlord had threatened to throw her out if she didn’t soon pay her rent. 

She had only a candle to keep her warm, and on Christmas Day she warmed her hands over the candle. There was a knocking at her door and she was afraid to answer for fear that it was the landlord coming to kick her out.

She blew out her candle and sat quietly in the dark and waited for the intruder to leave. Two weeks later she found out that the knocking on her door was the knock of a friend who had come to bring her enough money to pay her rent and pay her debts.

I wonder how many have from time to time heard the gentle knock of the Savior who wants so much to come in and free them from the burdens of their sin? But they have ignored His knocking.

As we prepare to leave 2016 - I would encourage you to stop and listen to the knocking on your heart by a Savior who loves you so much.  With His help we can “"press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Goodbye 2016 and Hello 2017!