Turning 50

Birthday50

I am turning 50 years old today (April 5, 2017). On the one hand, I feel no difference. I feel the same today as I did yesterday. My life this week will look much like my life did last week. The rhythm of my life this year will probably match the rhythm of last year: Easter, Summer Vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, … (repeat). Some things change from day to day, but not much. Time marches on.

Yet, I have crossed a threshold. In all probability, I have already lived out half of my life. I am on the back end. Moses wrote long ago, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10).

I see my strength fading. I can’t run as fast (or as long) as I used to run. I can’t jump as high. My endurance is less. My injuries don’t heal as quickly. I have less hair and more weight than ever before.

Furthermore, I see my time slipping away. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. I remember when I was in elementary school. Even today, I could take you to my classroom and name my teachers and my friends. I remember my days in middle school and in high school and in college and in seminary. They seem only a few years ago, even though they were decades ago.

Today is a natural time in my life for reflection. Moses (in the same Psalm) prayed for wisdom regarding our fleeting time. He wrote, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

There is something about all of us all that lets our days pass by unnoticed and uncared for. We move from day to day without a care. Yet, our end is coming. The death rate is still 100%. Moses encourages us to live in light of the end.

I have noticed that ball games are played differently when time is ticking down. Those in the lead take their time. Those who are behind show more hustle. I have noticed that people live differently when a big project is nearing completion. When the project due date is weeks away, people are willing to spend the evenings with their friends. But when the due date is tomorrow, they brew the coffee and burn the midnight oil.

How easy it is to live as if there is no end. How easy is it to eat and drink and enjoy the God-given pleasures of the world. But there is an end. And the end is coming. It is coming fast. I am closer to it than ever before. It’s a call for me to live with a sense of urgency. My prayer to God this day is that I would number my days. Such is the path of wisdom.

But the end of our lives is not the end. Moses began his Psalm with a declaration of eternity, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). This is why we are to number our days. They are short.

We can number our days, but we cannot number eternity. Eighty years of life are less than 30,000 days. It may seem long, but compared with eternity, it barely begins. The hymn-writer penned these words to put our short life in perspective:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.
(by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

My life here on earth is only the beginning. It is a very short beginning. In light of eternity, my few years (being more than 50 now) are but a fleeting vapor. James says, “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

If we truly knew how long eternity was; and if we truly knew how short our lives were, we might just live differently. We might live with a sense of urgency. God has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He wants for us to live in light of eternity. And when we do, we will be wise.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
(by C. T. Studd)

First World Problems

FirstWorldProblems

Those in wealthy nations often experience “First World Problems.” These are problems that come only to privileged individuals, who have no worries of food, shelter, or clothing. It’s the owner of the yacht who bemoans the cost of upkeep. It’s the Porsche owner makes a fuss when a can of soda is spilled in the back seat of his car. It’s those at their vacation home on the lake who complain of the sand that comes into the door from the beach.

Those who complain in this way seem oblivious to their material wealth. They have a yacht! They have a nice car! They have a vacation home! They have things that most of the world could only dream of having. They really have no right to complain at all. Reminding themselves of how good they have it would help them to see how minimal these problems are.

In a similar way, those who know and experience the tremendous spiritual blessings of God would do well to remember the privileges that they possess. Those who trust in Christ have been blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). It is the Lord …

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:3-5).

Such blessings can easily be forgotten. That’s why David reminds himself to “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). That’s why Paul instructs us to remember where we were before trusting in Christ. “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

For a believer in Christ, complaining about the troubles of the world we face is like a wealthy man complaining about his first world problems.

The Genie

Genie

A genie is a magical creature of Arabian folklore, who is imprisoned in an oil lamp. When someone rubs the lamp, the genie is released, willing and able to grant wishes to the one who set him free. All sorts of stories result as wishes are granted by genie.

The magic of the fairy tale is that it easily engages us into thinking of what sort of wishes we might make if we happened to rub a lamp and set a genie free. Would we wish for a new car or a new home or for millions of dollars? Would we wish for success or for health or for world peace? How wonderful it would be to have such a genie! At some point, however, we come back to reality, realizing that the genie is mere fantasy.

Sadly, there are many who treat God like a genie who grants wishes. They pray to God, wishing for some good result in their life like health or wealth. Sometimes they pray in a crisis for a dying friend or for a wayward son or for an ailing marriage. But when God doesn’t act like a genie in granting their every desire, they give up on God, because he wasn’t working for them. Soon they come to deny God altogether, thinking that he is simply a fable.

How foolish this is. It is based upon a faulty understanding of exactly who God is. He is not our servant, compelled to obey our every whim. Rather, we are his creatures, created to love him and obey him. When he does’t answer our prayers, it isn’t because he is inept or imaginary. It is because he has plans that we know not of. Let us submit our will to his.

“You thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you”
(Psalm 50:21).

The Garbage Man

GarbageMan

Every Tuesday evening, we go around the house and collect our garbage, place it in our garbage container, and set the container by the street. Every Wednesday morning, the garbage man drives down the street in his truck and empties our garbage container. He takes our garbage to the landfill where it is never seen again.

In many ways God is like the garbage man. He removes the garbage of our sin to a place that will never be seen again.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

“You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

“You have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).

Note that our garbage man never enters into our house to empty our wastebaskets for us. He requires that we place our garbage at the curb. In the same way, we must confess our sins to place them on the curb.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

But note the extent of our forgiveness in the above passage. When we confess our sins, God cleanses us “from all unrighteousness” through Jesus Christ. He enters our hearts and empties every wastebasket of sin in our souls.

Find My Friends

Find My Friends

I recently added the “Find My Friends” app to my iPhone. It is an amazing app. It allows all of the members of our household to know the whereabouts of each other. With a few clicks on the screen, I can see if my son is in the library studying or at the beach surfing. I can see if my daughter made it safely to school. I can see if my wife is close to home or still shopping for groceries.

There is something comforting this, especially as a parent who loves his children. But admittedly, there is something unnerving about this, as privacy among us is gone. However, my son reminded me that the phone company already knows where we are at all times. It’s how they are able to connect our phones with those who are calling. So, the app merely lets us in on the knowledge.

This is nothing new for God. He has always known where all of us are. He knows us in the womb, before we were even born.

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. …
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, …
Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (Psalm 139:13-16).

This is comforting. But it means that privacy is gone.

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

You may be able to hide things from others, but you cannot hide things from God.

 

 

Donut Day

Donuts

On the first Friday of June each year, it’s “Donut Day.” My daughter came into my home office on that day this year and presented me with a donut, saying, “Happy Donut Day!” Initially, I resisted. But, after a few moments of the donut sitting beside me, the temptation was too great. In fact, I went inside later and enjoyed another one. My eight year-old confessed later to having five of the donuts my daughter had brought home!

Such ought to be the desirability and irresistibility of the Bible. Consider the following statement made by David:

Psalm 19:10
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.

God’s word is to be greatly desired. More than money. More than sweets. This was David’s experience. Is it yours?

Let God Work

Snow1

Above is a picture of my driveway shortly after I shoveled the snow that fell last night. It looks like I didn’t do such a good job, as there are patches of snow still left on the driveway. Given the time (and effort), I could have scrapped the driveway clean, so that no snow would remain. However, today is one of those cold, sunny days in the Midwest where the sun sparkles off the snow to create a beautiful scene. I know that the sun on my black driveway will melt the snow and do a far better job clearing away the snow that I will ever do. Here’s a picture of my driveway I took about two hours later.

Snow2

Notice how the sun has done it’s work! My driveway is practically snow free! Look closely and you can see the water draining down the driveway. By the end of the day, I’m sure that all of the snow will be gone, without me lifting a finger. The lesson is clear: let the sun do the work.

There are many times in this life when we try to do all the work ourselves, as if all depended upon our effort. But God is working in our lives far more than any of us realize. It is better (and more efficient) (and more glorifying to God) to let God do His work. Sometimes we simply need to “be still, and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10).

When the Egyptians were pursuing Israel by the Red Sea, Moses said, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. … The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13, 14). Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31, 32). When worried come your way, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Give your cares and concerns to God and let Him work.