“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). The older you get, the more you tend to reflect on life’s experiences, trying to discern and learn from them. The reflections found in the Book of Ecclesiastes read like a personal journal. The author is an older man looking back at all of his activities and accomplishments. He asks himself questions such as, “What does this all mean as I realize that I will die and leave it all behind?” Through God’s wisdom, the author directs our thoughts to the truth that life is made up of “seasons.” For us to live well, we must consider the seasons of our life and make the most of them. There was a season in my life while in high school when I thought playing sports was the most important thing. I still have an interest in sports, but it is only a passing interest to me now. For many of us, there’s a season of raising children. This is a very important time of our lives, but it also passes quickly. There’s a season when work and career seem to occupy great significance…and we come to realize that work alone doesn’t fulfill the deepest purpose of life. What season are you in right now? Sometimes during times of grueling perseverance, we tend to think, If only I could fast-forward into the next season, then I will find peace and happiness. However, there’s a better way to navigate through our seasons. In my life right now, I awaken each morning with a “jolt of reality” at how quickly the seasons pass and on the brevity of life (I will be turning 65 next month). Please allow me to give you some advice. Live for Jesus today and be grateful for the season you find yourself in right now. If you are enduring an especially hard place, trust God through it, knowing that this season will also pass. Ecclesiastes teaches us to appreciate God’s gift of life and to reverence Him and keep His Word (see Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). So, don’t just long for your next season. Walk and talk with Jesus today and rejoice in Him. He is faithful and good, and He will keep you through every season of your life!
“Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). I admit it. I don’t like shopping. Usually, when I go into a store, I have something specific in mind, I go find it, and I get out of the store. The longer I stay there, the more I find myself buying things I don’t need. In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon directs us to do some shopping…to buy truth! Some would ask, “Why should I buy truth? I thought truth was free.” Yes, truth is free. Jesus freely came to earth, freely gave His life, and freely saves those who call upon Him. However, even though truth is free, there is a cost for us to accumulate and apply truth in our lives. What does it cost us to “buy the truth”? It costs us repentance. We must be willing to admit our ignorance and that many thoughts that go through our mind don’t agree with the Lord and His ways. Truth costs us change. When we are confronted with truth and it goes against how we think and live, we must “pay the price” and be willing to embrace change. There is also the cost of time. The world provides “stores” filled with stuff which can take up all our time. If we’re not careful, we can live our whole life spending time on things that don’t matter at all. For us to grow in the truth that gives us purpose and meaning, we must realize that God’s Word is not just going to “jump” into our hearts. We need to take the time and “buy up” the opportunity to read, to study, and to hear God’s truth. In order to buy the truth, we must first see the value of what we’re buying. The Lord Jesus provides us a life of light and power over sin. He is the open door through which we begin to experience wisdom, discipline and understanding. When I shop for something and see an object of extreme importance and value to me, I pay the cost. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). So, the question is, “How serious are we about buying the truth?” Are we willing to spend time, attention and devotion? Remember, the benefits of truth given by our Lord eternally outweigh any cost on our part. “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23).
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). If we’re not careful we can find ourselves filled with stress and worry in this life. There is always something that’s wrong or needs to be fixed. There is always a challenge to face or an obstacle to overcome. That’s why we need to grow. Jesus wants us to know His peace and rest, which strengthens our soul. But for this to happen, we must obey Him. He told us two things in Matthew 11:29. First, He said, “Take my yoke upon you….” Finding rest inside is not the result of casting off all responsibility. It’s not trying to go on a lifetime vacation, sitting around doing nothing. A yoke is a symbol of work and effort. Animals wore yokes to plod through the fields breaking up the earth before the seed was sown. The yoke of Jesus involves willingly embracing the work to which God has called us. As we love Jesus and do His will, this yoke doesn’t seem like a burden to bear but rather a delight. That’s why He said, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). This rest and peace of Jesus come as we are willing to do the second thing He told us, “…learn from me….” How do we learn? I learn to do something new by first watching someone else and then repeating it myself. Of course, learning a new skill also takes much practice and repetition. When it comes to learning from the Lord, He helps me in various ways. I “watch” Him and learn from Him as I pray, read His Word, and observe Him through the lives of others. This past weekend, Terry and I visited Chicago Tabernacle, a growing urban church in a large city. We observed, listened, and experienced an environment of passionate love for God and His Word. The Lord has used the “culture” of Chicago Tabernacle to provide fruitful ministry to the community. This visit was a great encouragement and gave Terry and me many good ideas to pray over and consider for Highway Tabernacle. While we should never try to “copycat” another church, we can open our hearts and learn from Jesus how to do ministry more effectively. We thank you for allowing us the opportunity to travel to Chicago, and we believe the Lord is teaching us some great lessons as we go forward. The Lord Jesus is the great teacher, and we thank Him for a lifetime to learn from Him! Let’s continue to learn and grow!
One of the duties I’m responsible for at the ministry I’m employed with is to serve as a donation coordinator. This task consists of contacting and meeting with potential donors of essential items and provisions toward the care of the residents in the ministry’s program. Giving full disclosure, my initial assumption going into this task was that I’d be met with an overwhelming degree of rejection from the organizations contacted. However, the opposite has been the case. In fact, many of the organizations I’ve encountered concerning this specific matter have each told me the same thing. They often say, there is a plethora of supplies and provisions available for donations, but few inquire about the need for or offer the laborers to receive and distribute the donations. This reminds me of the words from Jesus, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). There are countless souls in the harvest field primed to hear and receive the Good News but not enough believers to go out and gather. So, I ask these questions…. Have we as individuals as well as a collective body of Christ made ourselves available to work in the harvest field? Has one of our consistent prayers been for God to use us as laborers for His kingdom and to increase in abundance willing participants? Misdirection and distractions put forth by those with ungodly agendas have a way of deterring and discouraging Christians from sharing the faith confidently. In many instances, I’ve come across believers who’ve simply conceded to a thought that no one wants to hear about God anymore, therefore, focus should be centered more on those who are already believers rather than on the harvest field. This mindset is not consistent with the mindset of our Lord and Savior. Did He not say He would leave the ninety-nine behind for the one? (Matthew 18:12). The ultimate celebration of revival happens when new names are added to the Book of Life. God urges us not to delay any longer. He wants us to go, go, go out into the true field of dreams! “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).
You know the feeling…. You are surrounded by people but feel alone. Why is this? In this life we are created with a deep yearning to know and to be known. Relationships are not only good but also necessary for life and health. Yet, we have this challenge. Every person struggles with a sin nature. Called by the term flesh in the New Testament, this nature is inherently selfish. As a result, we find ourselves “guarded” in how close we interact with others and in our ability to trust others. The other day I met a parent with a child, and I spoke to the child. He just looked at me and backed away. I get it. Children are naturally shy, and they are taught to be wary of strangers. Sin, in the world, tempts us to live “every person for themselves.” But Jesus shows us a better way. He called us to trust Him and, from the strength of His Holy Spirit, to love one another. Yes, this love still needs boundaries of appropriate behavior. However, we are free to serve and help others to know that they are not alone. The ability to give comes first from our fellowship with God. I don’t have to wander aimlessly in life looking for people to notice me and love me. Because I am known and loved by the Lord, I have hope and grace to look beyond myself and truly care about others. While most people in life look for love, Jesus commands us to love. As we love others, we discover that we are not alone. This life of love starts with knowing God…and realizing that we are known by God. David, the Psalmist declared, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2). David knew that God knew him. This gave him strength to live a victorious life. Love and trust the One who knows you best, and give to those you are getting to know here and now. This is the way of Jesus!