Making the Most of Time

“[Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?‘  Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” John 4:3-11,13-15

Jesus always made the most of His time. He made use of His thirst to place Himself at the well. He made use of His encounter with the Samaritan woman to exhibit unprejudiced love to an otherwise ‘outcast.’ He made use of conversation to offer living water and change her life. Forever. An ordinary day turned extraordinary when every minute was used and opportunity taken.

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We live in unusual times, when emotions are feverish and opinions acerbic. Fear of the unknown is tangible, encounters rife with tension between kindness and caution. Making the most of such times can effect a world of difference for thirsty, fretting individuals at the world’s well.

Do we avoid or deliberately pass through Samarias– places and conversations that may be awkward or uncomfortable? How willing are we to risk others’ condemnation? Will we look for ways that our own needs can tune us into the greater, deeper needs of others? Do we ask God to help us turn ordinary chatter into relevant conversation, and do what we can to bring significance to the seemingly insignificant? With many thirsty for hope and meaning, to whom will we reach out with living water and true life?

My Lord, impel me daily to do Your will, and accomplish Your intended work wherever I am. Help me make the most of every opportunity, to redeem the moments You give, for the eternal good of others and the glory You deserve. (John 4:34; Ephesians 5:16-17; Colossians 4:5-6)

“Whatever is Under Heaven is Mine”

Behold, Behemoth,
    which I made as I made you;
    he eats grass like an ox.
His strength in his loins,
    and his power in the muscles of his belly.
He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
    the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
His bones are tubes of bronze,
    his limbs like bars of iron. 

“He is the first of the works of God.

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
    or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
    or pierce his jaw with a hook?

“No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
    Who then is he who can stand before me?
Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
    Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

“Who can strip off his outer garment?
    Who would come near him with a bridle?
Who can open the doors of his face?
    Around his teeth is terror.
His back is made of rows of shields,
    shut up closely as with a seal.
One is so near to another
    that no air can come between them.
They clasp each other and cannot be separated.
His sneezings flash forth light,
    and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
Out of his mouth go flaming torches;
    sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke,
    as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
In his neck abides strength,
    and terror dances before him.
The folds of his flesh stick together,
    firmly cast on him and immovable.

He counts iron as straw,
    and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee;
    for him, sling stones are turned to stubble.
Clubs are counted as stubble;
    he laughs at the rattle of javelins.
His underparts are like sharp potsherds.
He makes the deep boil like a pot;
    he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
Behind him he leaves a shining wake;
    one would think the deep to be white-haired.
On earth there is not his like,
    a creature without fear.
He is king over all the sons of pride.” Job 40:15-19; 41:1-2,10-11,13-20,22-23,27-34

God exquisitely fashioned, and owns, and reigns over, the behemoth and leviathan and every living thing. Every creature, every detail of muscle and shape, movement and function, expression and skin and breath, is created, known, and ordered by the Possessor and Ruler of all.

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He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

We cannot breathe, that He has not given us breath. We cannot move, except that in Him we live and move and have our being. We cannot give, that He has not given first. This is our God– supreme in authority, perfect in knowledge, transcendent in love, worthy to be worshiped. He is trustworthy of our surrender, confidence, and faith. (Acts 17:28)

Gracious, most high God, You are great and good. May Your peace that rules me exhibit Your unfailing sovereignty to everyone I encounter.

Teamwork Works

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.” Exodus 17:8-13

Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?’ And Moses said, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.’ [Jethro] said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God… and you shall make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And let them judge the people. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure.’ So Moses listened and did all that he had said.” Exodus 18:13-24

Some are made to lead nations, some to lead armies. Some are mentors, some teach skills. Some serve with encouragement and mercy, some come alongside with strategy and advice. We are not made to battle in the Christian life alone.

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When God calls us to specific roles, He expects us to step up. To lead by strategy or example, with boldness. To fight on the front lines, defending justice, truth, or individuals, with courage. To support in the background with prayer, practical helps, or insight, with ready zeal. And if to delegate, to enlist, implement advice, or obey orders, with willing humility. (Romans 12:3-8)

Where has God appointed me to serve, and how eagerly do I take on His assignments? Will I gratefully fulfill my function not above, or below, but alongside His team?

Father, fit me, fill me, to serve Your purposes. May I willingly and honorably do my part.

Get Off the Scales!

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” Luke 18:9-14

Picture two men, bodies facing the wall of the temple. The tidy Pharisee shifts his eyes askance to stare at the tax collector, derision steaming in his heart. As he intones his prescribed chant of superior puffery, he can’t keep his eyes off the others, the scum around him. Bloating with self-righteousness, gloating in his own esteem, he reminds God of all the good he has done, presenting his neatly-checked-off list– as if omniscient God does not already know. Nearby, a tax collector, convicted to the core as he bows before the invisible holy face of God, cries in desperation for mercy.

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And whom did God justify? Whom does He always exalt? The humble. He who humbled Himself to death on a cross is He who receives and rewards those who do the same. He went before us to make the way of salvation that we could confess and extol His glorious name. (Philippians 2:3-11)

Do our eyes get stuck and muddied on what others have done, or done to us, and so we come to God with scales of comparison? Or do we focus on amassing our twinkly piles of good deeds to outweigh our slip-ups, and present to our Sovereign, who is actually not impressed? Would we instead bow humbly, and lift our eyes in trust to the Judge who sees not our sin because of His mercy that covers every penitent sinner? In faith to the One whose scales are perfect and blindfold is the perfect blood of Christ? Because of the finished work of Jesus, God the Righteous sees believers as covered, clean, clothed in His righteousness. He who owns the scales has taken on the weight of our sin and its penalty, borne our burden to the cross, and risen victoriously. (Isaiah 61:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”  ~ Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888)

Good Father, teach me all Your cross means for my sins, including the sin of comparing myself to others. Toward You, make me humble and repentant, emptied of self-righteousness and filled with faith in Your completed work on my behalf. Toward others, may I be generous with love, grace, and forgiveness, as You have been with me.

Exalted Among the Nations

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

“Come, behold the works of the LORD,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!’
The LORD of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46

Because God is present, we will not fear. Because of who He is, we will not fear. Because of what He does, we will not fear. Because God is God, we will not, we need not, fear.

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Crumbling earth and mountains, roaring foaming waters here on earth, are glad streams in God’s immovable holy habitation. His voice is stronger than the raging of nations, His purposes rule the desolations here below. His calm order surrounds every outbreak, He reigns in peace over earth’s wars of violence, hatred, moral rebellion, disease.

Be still, anxious heart! Be silent, fretting soul! The LORD of hosts is with you! God is in the midst of every unknown, every fear. His control can bridle every runaway thought, every free flow tear of regret or sorrow. He is sovereign over every hypothetical what-if, and the tottering of courage and hope. He is God!

In our midst and all around, our unshakable refuge and fortress is He. The God of angel armies is our help! Listen to Him, look for Him, behold His works! Do not be moved or shaken! Be still, and know Him! Take every chance to hear His voice and watch His hand, to hide in Him and know Him better as He makes Himself known among the nations.

“A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!”  ~Martin Luther (1529)

O God our help in ages past, and hope for years to come, You are exalted now and forever. Amen!

Check the Grumbling!

Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water because it was bitter. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. 

They set out from Elim, and the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you.’ And Moses said, ‘Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.’ And Moses said , ‘Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.’” Exodus 15:22-25,27; 16:1-4,8,33

As soon as the thrill of God’s miraculous dividing of the sea and deliverance of millions of Israelites from the feisty, dominant Egyptians had waned, focus turned inward and life became small again. The God whose awesome, unimaginable strength held back the waters for His people, whose breath dried the seabed beneath their feet and wheels, was now so small in their minds He was incapable of feeding them? Or was it that they forgot His majestic grandeur and failed to think of Him at all?

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When life is all about me, how quickly I forget the goodness and power of God! I can be hasty to castigate Israel for so quickly grumbling– only three days after their supernatural escape– yet in moments, reduce my own attitude to grumble at any inconvenience, discomfort, delay. I can allow the poison of comparison, media negativity, personal rights to disgruntle my outlook, taint my speech, and squelch any gratitude in my heart.

Where do my eyes go when my going gets tough? Where does my mind travel? Do I spit the bitter water and growl for grumbling’s sake, instead of raising my sights and hope and trust to the One who is ready to answer?

How careful am I to store up God’s ‘manna,’ in a journal or my Bible, so I can readily recount His faithfulness? Whom am I telling of His deeds, that they might expectantly look to Him in need? Do I make a practice of writing letters or otherwise documenting for the next generation?

Father, keep my view of You large, and of myself small. Keep me glorying in Your magnificent splendor and greatness, and thanking You for every good gift. May I decrease, and You increase– in my mind, my spoken word, and my countenance. (John 3:30; James 1:17)

You Versus I

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

‘I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The LORD is a man of war;
    the LORD is his name.

‘Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.”
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

‘Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

‘You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.  

‘The LORD will reign forever and ever.’” Exodus 15:1-13,18

When the I of man meets the You of God, God wins. He is supreme, all-powerful, in control. This song of Moses mentions Moses only once, that he will sing God’s praise. The only “I” is the boast of the enemy, who was swallowed by God, blown away by His breath.

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Who is like our glorious God? None! He alone is holy King, Victor, Lord!

What if we began every prayer with “You” instead of “we” or “I”? What would change in our outlook, attitude, and offering, if we began every day with “You,” concentrating on God Almighty, in praise and adoration proclaiming who He is? What if we recounted what He has done, instead of what I want? Life all about Him would drastically alter our focus, ignite our motives, and direct our thinking.

If we would begin our plans, our choices, our daily to-do list with ‘You are Lord and in charge, You know all things and orchestrate every interaction,’ how would our priorities change? If we would acknowledge ‘You own everything, have bestowed every spiritual blessing and every good gift,’ what kind of stewards and servants might we be? If we believe ‘Your plans are good and redemptive. You give wisdom, insight, love, and hope,’ how differently might we spend our hours? With whom would we communicate, and with what intentions? (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Ephesians 1:3; James 1:17)

LORD, help me eliminate ‘I’ and elevate You. Make my life one of continual praise and constant trust in You, who alone are worthy to receive them.