How Are You Going to Spend Your Year?

January 3, 2014

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”  (Psalm 90:12, NLT)

According to Moses, we should realize that life is like a game of Monopoly.  We all begin with the same amount of currency.  When we begin a new year we are given 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week and 8,760 hours a year.  You often hear the remark: “I haven’t got time for that!” This implies that we are not given the same amount of time.  It would be more accurate to say: “I don’t value that activity enough to spend some of my time in that way.”

The dictionaries tell us a value is “that quality of any certain thing by which it is determined by us to be more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable.” We all have a set of values.  We spend our time on the things we consider important, useful, profitable and desirable.

When we ask God to teach us how to spend our time He will challenge us to consider the values of Jesus Christ.  One of the many reasons He became flesh and lived among us for 33 years was to show us how to live.  He did that by presenting us with a set of values.  As we read the four Gospels and follow Jesus every time He models and teaches a value, that spiritual discipline will revolutionize the way we spend our time.

I challenge you to ask God, “How should I spend my time?” I also challenge you to let the values of Christ revolutionize the way you spend your time in 2014.


The Greatest Thing in the World

November 8, 2013

“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What is the greatest thing in the world?  The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things:  hope, faith and love.  Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life.  God plants hope in the hearts of human beings. People sometimes commit suicide because they lose that conviction.

On the positive side, hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God.  However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.  This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God.  When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.  There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.

To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter he passes this quality of love through the “prism” of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect.  It comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God–and is the greatest thing in the world.

One reason Paul presents these three concepts as the greatest things is that they are the things that last.  Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout all eternity we will love.

Therefore, pursue the greatest thing in the world – love.


Values Clarification and Application

August 6, 2013

“Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, The Message)

We are exhorted by the Apostle John to confess Jesus Christ (1 John 4).  That is a compound Greek word that means to speak the same thing or to agree with the values of Jesus.  I challenge you to clarify your value system and apply these eternal values I have focused for you.  The eighth and final eternal value is:  the work of God is a greater value than the works of man.

In his two swan songs (Psalm 127 and the book of Ecclesiastes) Solomon told us it is possible to work very hard in vain our entire lives when we work for the wrong things.

Many years ago a Methodist missionary, who had labored in India for fifty years, was saying farewell to the people of India, whom he loved very much.  He had won the respect of many of the large gathering of influential, high-caste Indian political and professional leaders who gathered for his farewell address.  After he proclaimed the Gospel that night in the mighty energizing power of the Holy Spirit, his concluding words to them were: “If what I have told you tonight and for the past fifty years isn’t true, it doesn’t matter; but, if what I have told you is true, then nothing else matters!”

I want to conclude my perspective on these eternal values the same way that missionary concluded his message to those leaders in India.  If what I have written about the meaning of these eternal values isn’t true, then what I have written here doesn’t matter.  But, if what I have written here is true, then nothing else matters!


The Supreme Value

August 2, 2013

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me — that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4)

I have now shared with you six eternal values that are the hallmark of people who live life in Christ at its deepest level of meaning and then “graduate” into eternal life.  There is another value I must share with you because it is the supreme and absolute value, the “door” that must be opened if we are to find all these eternal values.  This seventh value is the value we place on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Let me explain.

Suppose I asked you to write your answer to this question: “What is the Gospel?”  Imagine that I asked you to accompany your answer with Scripture verse references.   How would you answer my question?

As you search the Scriptures, you will discover the seventh eternal value:  Easter is far more important than Christmas.  When the Apostle John wrote his Gospel, he devoted approximately half his twenty-one chapters to the thirty-three years Jesus lived on earth and half his chapters to just the last week Jesus lived.  Of the eighty-nine combined chapters of the four Gospels, four chapters cover the birth and first thirty years Jesus lived, while twenty-seven chapters cover the last week Jesus lived.  Why is the last week of the life of Jesus so very important, and why is Easter far more important than Christmas?

Easter is when Jesus died and rose again for our salvation. The cry of the church all over the world on Resurrection Sunday is:

He is risen, indeed.   


Metamorphosis

July 30, 2013

“…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”          . (1Corinthians 15:50)

Another arresting statement made by Paul in his great resurrection chapter is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, because corruption cannot inherit incorruption.  What Paul means by this statement is that we cannot go to heaven with a physical body.  When God decides that He wants us in heaven, He must perform a metamorphosis on us that prepares us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  God works that miracle metamorphosis through our death and resurrection.

As Paul describes the resurrection of believers at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ he also tells us that those who are living when Jesus returns will be changed.  They must be changed because they cannot enter into heaven with their physical bodies.  They, too, must experience a miracle metamorphosis to prepare them for heaven.

Here Paul is declaring a sixth eternal value:  our heavenly bodies will be so much greater than our physical bodies we must experience a metamorphosis to live forever in heaven.  This is just one more way the Scripture consistently tells us that heaven is greater than earth and the best things in life for believers await them in the eternal dimension of life.

The Shepherd Psalm of David tells us that God makes us lie down to discover the green pastures and still waters of life.  But, then we get up again and the green pastures turn brown and the still waters become disturbed.  Many see a metaphor of the believer’s death as the Great Shepherd coming into our life making us lie down in death that He might give us the green pastures that never turn brown and the still waters that never become disturbed in heaven.


Little Clay Pots

July 24, 2013

“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”   (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Many years ago when John Quincy Adams began crossing a street, he was in such poor health it took him five minutes to approach the other side.  A friend who was passing that way asked, “How is John Quincy Adams this morning?”  He replied, “John Quincy Adams is doing just fine.  The house he lives in is in sad disrepair.  In fact, it is so dilapidated, John Quincy Adams may have to move out soon, but John Quincy Adams is doing just fine, thank you!”

John Quincy Adams was no doubt acquainted with the verse of Scripture I have quoted.  Paul writes that we have an outward man and an inward man.  In two of my favorite translations the outward man, or our body, is referred to as a common earthenware jar and a little clay pot (JB Phillips and the Living Bible Paraphrased.)

Paul declares a fourth eternal value: Our inward man is a greater value than our outward man. These verses Paul wrote to console those who were persecuted at that time are also a consolation for persecuted believers today or those who may be in the final stages of cancer that is causing their physical bodies to perish.  When they have prayed for healing and it appears that God is taking them home, their inward man can be renewed while their outward man is wasting away.

As some believers study the resurrection chapter they want to believe they will hold on to their physical body.  The great news is God is going to replace our little clay pots with spiritual bodies.


A Spiritual Body

July 19, 2013

“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  (1 Corinthians 15:44)

Have you ever seen a dragonfly with its double wings moving like a helicopter from one flower to another?  This amazing creature actually begins its life under water.  For about two years it exists as a shellfish with a long narrow body like a knitting needle.

If you did a cross section on that shellfish you would find that it has two respiratory capacities.  With one it can absorb oxygen from passing water through its body like other shellfish; however, it has another respiratory system that will one day breathe air.

When the two years of its underwater life have ended it rises to the surface of the water, moves to where land begins, dries its magnificent wings in the sun and then begins the second dimension of its existence.

The Apostle Paul writes that we are also designed to live our life in two dimensions and God has provided a body for us to live in each place.  He has given us a body so we can live on earth and a body so we can live in heaven.  Paul labels our earthly body “a natural body” and our heavenly body “a spiritual body.”  He then identifies a third spiritual value:  A spiritual body is a greater value than a natural body. 

Since I have spent several decades trapped in a quadriplegic body I really resonate with Paul when he declares that a spiritual body is prepared for me.  How I look forward to that spiritual body that will not have the limitations of my present body.  With great joy I anticipate the spiritual body God has prepared and Christ has made possible for me.

Do you value your spiritual body?