The Time We Have

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The man who gave the world The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), J.R.R. Tolkien of Bloemfontein, South Africa, gave the world these words uttered by Gandalf the Gray to Frodo Baggins. Tolkien was born 125 years ago this date in 1892.

As 2016 has departed and a new year begins, this same question comes before us: to what do we devote our time and energy? The life we are given, the precious moments before us, do we really value them and use them in the most useful and value-added ways?

2016 taught me many powerful lessons, but the strongest lesson was one that I hope will dominate your and my 2017: Find what your passion is and once you find it, pursue it with everything you have.

Life can throw a great number of opportunities your way, and they all seem like paths to take, but when is the last time you asked if you are working toward what is truly your God-given passion and purpose in this life?

In a work meeting a couple years back, I heard a question that still rings powerfully to my ears: What keeps you up at night? As I considered that question I discovered the interests and passions that drive me forward in pursuit of God’s purpose. What dominates your thought and consumes your attention? Is that a passion to pursue?

In the words of Jon Bloom (Desiring God, Dec. 19, 2014):

Tolkien never intended his tales of Middle-earth to be a desertion from reality, but a means of seeing beyond the confined walls of our perceptions to a much larger reality beyond. And he suffered no delusions that Middle-earth was that reality. But through the lenses of Middle-earth, Tolkien, an unashamed Christian, wanted to show us “a far-off gleam . . . of evangelium in the real world” (emphasis his, “On Fairy-stories”). His kind of fantasy was intended to help prisoners in the real world escape and go home. (Source)

One hundred and twenty-five years after his birth, Tolkien’s storytelling has truly impacted the world with the massive cinematic universes created and characters captured on screen.

Will the way we spend our lives leave a legacy long after we are gone? Will we be known for using our time pursuing God and His purpose or did we just work to get by?

Will 2017 be a year where you continue to just follow your routine and just get by or will you reflect and push for that crazy dream that seems impossible? Let’s hope you pursue your adventure and find yourself on a path to new heights come December.

The Walk of Freedom

So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:10b-11, NIV)

This story comes at the conclusion of the oft-told story from Mark 2 about the paralyzed man who was brought to a house where Jesus was preaching by four of his friends so he could be healed.

I have always marveled at many aspects of this story. How the zeal and passion of those four friends led them to create a way into the house when there was no normal way inside. How Jesus, upon seeing their faith, told the man, “Your sins are forgiven,” pointing to the fact Jesus deals with the root of the issue before the fruit of the issue.

But one aspect never stuck out to me until today, the final two words: “… go home.”

I’d imagine the buzz around town that evening as the house Jesus was ministering in began to get full. Whispers flew that Jesus was in this house and if you wanted to hear His teaching make your way there. If I was this paralyzed man, I would probably face the disillusionment that I likely would not be able to make it in because of the throngs of people in the house.

While in this place of disillusionment his circumstance changes when four of his friends were determined to see Jesus heal their friend. Suddenly his disposition changed. Somehow a new factor came into play: hope. Maybe today was the day things would change.

We arrive at the moment where the man is now healed and Jesus commands him to “get up, take your mat and go home.”

Can you imagine the feeling this man had when he walked home that day? I imagine his family, to their utter amazement they see this man walking on his two legs like he hadn’t done before.

Imagine it. Close your eyes and imagine you are this man. You have the ability to do something you never thought you would able to do before, and to do it knowing your life would never be the same again. Imagine the sheer joy and excitement flowing through your body. That mat you have will always remind you that you were down for a moment, but when you realize you are standing you will remember what Christ did for you.

I don’t know what may be holding you back at this moment in your life. But I hope and pray you have this moment; where you can truly get up and move on from whatever doubt or worries are blocking you from fully walking in Christ. You may believe your circumstances will never change and that you’ll be stuck forever in your current mess, but then you remember that Christ can and will work in your life and set you free in a way you have never known nor imagined.

What’s holding you back today? Are you willing to do whatever it takes today to come to Jesus and experience that walk of true freedom? Actually, it wouldn’t be a walk; it would be a run of celebration! But you won’t arrive there without a full surrender of your life. Come to Jesus with an open heart and see what He will do for you.

 

 

Abide in Your Sphere

We hear the tales of the privileged who get to go on those mission trips to South America or Africa. We hear the stories of the great successes in ministry from traveling evangelists as they stop temporarily in our locale. And we imagine what a life they must have, traveling the globe and making an impact.

We imagine ourselves leaving our present, lackluster life and forging ahead to an adventure-filled path doing the “work of God” as we are supposed to. According to the Great Commission, that is the aim, right? “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, NIV).

Yet we lose sight of the fact that God has placed us where we ought to be, according to His master plan. Our life, from one view, is a set of circumstances that led us to our present position. We entered the school system to learn the necessary lessons for life. We entered college to prepare for our profession. Along the way, we meet the right people who open the door for us to enter into our career. And on we go down life’s journey into marriage, family life, etc.

But in the middle of all that we forget the words of Paul to the Corinthian church, “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them” (1 Corinthians 7:20, NIV). In the words of Charles Spurgeon,”Take care, dear reader, that you do not forsake the path of duty by leaving your occupation, and take care you do not dishonour your profession while in it” (Morning and Evening, June 27).

God has placed you in your profession, or in your educational field, or wherever you find yourself. He has placed people in your life for you to impact. His desire is for you to leave the place you are transformed and for Christ to rule the hearts of those there when you leave.

Spurgeon aptly states it this way:

“Therefore be not discontented with your calling. Whatever God has made your position, or your work, abide in that, unless you are quite sure that he calls you to something else. Let your first care be to glorify God to the utmost of your power where you are. Fill your present sphere to his praise, and if he needs you in another he will show it you” (Morning and Evening, June 27).

In your workplace, in your classroom, in your church, wherever God has placed you, be the best that you can be, to glorify God who created you so that your sphere of influence would be transformed.

Let us not be caught up in the grand, visionary notions of ministry that are filled with thoughts of fame and adventure, but rather be caught up in the essential goal of reaching those within our reach for the Kingdom of God and glorifying His name, regardless of how mundane, dirty or fancy the work.

What is your Vision Level?

Looking into the life of Abram recorded in Genesis, you see God gave him a vision of the Promised Land, and in response, Abram was obedient in stepping out to take possession of that vision. He had the faith to believe for himself and his family to fulfill the vision God had given him.

Without vision, we are on a road headed nowhere in particular in life. When you fully realize you are a child of God and that He created you for a truly unique, divine purpose, you know you are not destined for a life of no value; rather, you are meant to follow the path God has laid out for you.

When it comes to imparting vision, writer Art Sepulveda in his book How to Live Life on Purpose (2004) says people fall into one of four levels of vision:

-Wanderers: Those who never see it
-Followers: Those who see it but never pursue it on their own
-Achievers: Those who see it and pursue it
-Leaders: Those who see it and pursue it and help others see it

Which do you fall into, and “how do you plan to change the vision level (listed above) at which you operate the majority of the time?” (Question posed by Sepulveda, p. 33)

Is your life’s aim simply to simply build up enough resources and a family and survive till the end of your days or is it to thrive in fulfilling the God-given purpose for your life?

This is a season of graduation and transition in life; let this also be a time of checking where you are in your life and making sure you are where you’re supposed to be and not just passing time.