Seasons of Life (Break Down or Build Up)

In five days, I’m going to have a pretty amazing day. I’m going to experience the first day of school as a teacher for the first time in several years.

When I graduated from college, I taught high school math. I loved teaching and adored my students (most of them, just keeping it real,) but after 5 years of teaching, God called me to leave the classroom and go into ministry fulltime. I had to break down my classroom, and I remember packing up posters, tools, bulletin board supplies and the like, thinking I’d never have a classroom again. Little did I know that 17 years later, God would call me back into the classroom, this time teaching 8th grade math. I’m starting all over again.

In the seasons of life, there is a time to break down, and a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:3). Is it your time to dismantle? Do so with fondness, savoring every good memory. Is it your time to build up? Do so with anticipation of what God has in store!

 

Seasons of Life (Kill or Heal)

If you’ve been traveling this road with me through Ecclesiastes 3, you’ve noticed that God is giving us seasons on opposite ends of the spectrum. Think about each of these opposites from the perspective of standing in the middle, realizing the outcome could go either way. As we come to a time to kill, and a time to heal (v.3) and think about the circumstances that could lead to one of those two conclusions, we can reason that “the middle” is something (a ministry, a business, a group, a project) that is virtually “wounded.” We are at a crossroads: is it time to “kill” it, or should we do whatever it takes to bring healing?

This pair points out an action that we will take (note God says “kill”, not “die.”) It’s hard to kill a project or shut down a ministry because it feels like failure, or at least like we’re quitting. God is teaching us, sometimes it’s His will to shut something down and walk away. But of course, sometimes we’re supposed to hang in there and do what we can to patch up what’s broken. How can we discern? With much prayer, God will make it known.

 

Seasons of Life (Plant or Pluck)

God says there is a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted (Ecclesiastes 3:2). When we plant something in the ground, it’s because we want growth to happen in that place. And when we pull that plant out of the ground, it’s because it’s time to end that growth.

One day I sent my son into the yard to do a chore as a punishment: pull weeds. My little fella has a temper, and when I went outside to check on him, I discovered that for spite he had bypassed the weeds and instead had been pulling up my plants. I was not happy.

As you think on this verse, ask yourself if it’s time to begin something new or to bring an end to something else. But also ask yourself: do you tend to pull weeds in your life, or do you pull up what God is trying to plant in your life? In other words, do you tend to root out the sinful or unhealthy things, or do you sabotage the growth God is trying to bring to you by never letting His efforts take root in your heart?

 

Seasons of Life (Be Born or Die)

When I wash my hands in a public restroom and then dry them with one of those high-powered air blowers, I watch the air push back my sagging skin and think that it must be what it looked like when Moses parted the Red Sea.

Look at your hands. No matter how good your lotion is, your hands probably tell your age. I’ve got a scar on my right hand, a reminder of the great fun I had playing sports as a youth. I’ve got short nails from doing housework, but that too is a reminder that I have a beautiful family that I get to serve in a wonderful house. And yes, I’ve got wrinkles on these hands. Bunches of them. These are reminders that God has allowed me to do a lot of things with these hands,  and every day I’m a little closer to enjoying my eternal heavenly home.

How are you dealing with your mortality? If you dread death, ask yourself, is it because you haven’t taken time to learn about the promises of heaven that await you as a Christian, or is it because you lack certainty that your heart truly belongs to Jesus, the key to entering heaven?

A time to be born, and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Seasons of Life

When I look back on my life, I’m shocked at how little I’ve known through the years about what God was truly doing in my life. I’ve had doors close and I’ve watched them open. I’ve had things handed to me, and I’ve had things ripped from my hands. At times I thought that I knew for certain God’s purpose for my life, and though I may have been correct in what I was thinking, little did I know that all I had discerned was a mere brushstroke of a grand masterpiece God was painting on the canvas of my life. As I look back and see that God is good, the tiny, limited perspective God has granted me, well, that’s okay with me. I’m just happy for God to be God.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Everything has a beginning and an end. And the timing of each start and finish is with purpose, by God’s design.

I’m Picking Joy (3 of 3)

One of my precious babies needed some corrective action the other day, particularly in the area of motivation. I pulled out Ecclesiastes 9:10 to share: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. The verse exploded in meaning when I paired it with the previous verse: Live joyfully with your wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity…. Sometimes we lack motivation to do things with all our might because we’re just tired of doing the same thing over and over! It feels like vanity, and it’s hard to be motivated to do vain tasks, over and over and over.

God is revealing a mystery in these two verses: there’s a link between doing your best and choosing to be joyful. I’m resolving to do both, believing that choosing to do one will help me successfully choose to do the other.

I’m Picking Joy (2 of 3)

When I was a kid, I loved to watch “Let’s Make a Deal.” Contestants dressed in ridiculous costumes, and the strategy behind each game was equally ridiculous: just choose. The host asked contestants to choose if they wanted what was behind curtains 1, 2, or 3. No strategy, no skill, just random chance. Choose! Then live with your choice.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:9). As you daily decide whether or not you’ll choose to be joyful, realize that your joy levels impact the people you love. Your children will struggle to be joyful if you’re being sour. Your spouse, your friends, and even other drivers on the road and the cashier or waitress will be negatively impacted when you choose anger, negativity, or gloom instead of joy. What will you choose today? You — and those around you — have to live with your choice.

I’m Picking Joy (1 of 3)

Got a lot of boring, mundane things to do today? Maybe wishing you were sitting on the beach instead? Good news: you get to choose how your day goes today!

Listen to God’s voice inviting you to choose: Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Yep, most days are going to have tasks that feel like vanity. Sweep those floors. Push the papers around on your desk. Pull the weeds, then watch them resurface again the next day. That’s life on earth. But as you do whatever it is that you’re doing, enjoy it! Say yes to joy! God is inviting you to live joyfully.

 

 

Carry the Pitcher

Only a select few are granted fame, but we are all made for greatness.

When Jesus sent His disciples to prepare for their final Passover meal together, what we call The Lord’s Supper, Jesus gave them instructs on how to prepare: “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water” (Luke 22:10). This man was the one offering up a room for Jesus and the twelve to eat and worship together.

Who was this man? What was his name? How had he met Jesus? Maybe he was one who had been healed by Jesus, or perhaps he was one of many who was stirred at Jesus’ teachings. We don’t know his name. He gets no attention or credit for the preparations he made or his generosity to offer this room to Jesus. Yet he played an important role in what would be Jesus’ final evening before His crucifixion the very next day.

God puts us in all walks of life to serve Him as dentists, teachers, receptionists, retail clerks, housewives, cooks…let us be faithful. Let us quietly go about serving the Lord however and wherever He calls our name.

July 4 Focus

Luke 22:1-2 describes what was happening in the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion: Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover, and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him. Passover was a holy time for all Jews to remember how God had delivered them from Egypt’s bondage. Instead, they were focused on murdering Jesus.

On this special day when we celebrate the freedoms God has given us as a nation, some would turn our attention away from God’s blessings and have us focus on divisive themes. Let’s choose patriotism today. Let’s choose gratitude toward God first and also to the brave men and women who have fought for our freedom. Let’s celebrate freedom today. Let’s not be like the chief priests who allowed hatred to distract them from celebrating freedom that is granted directly from the throne of God.