Redeem Your Time

timeEphesians 5:15-17 – Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Scripture says we are like vapors which are here today and then, POOF, gone in an instant. Some of us may live to the national average or even past it. Others will not live that long. Whatever the case may be, Scripture reminds us, “man knows not his time.” Therefore, since no one knows when they will be called home, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of every day as though it was our last?

Have you ever been asked what you would do if you only had one week or month left to live? Often, when we’re asked such a question, we offer a sweet, sentimental, or even profound answer that stresses urgency. Yet, few “live out” their answers because they suppress the truth of reality and mistakenly believe they have an infinite supply of time and opportunities before them.

In our Scripture, the Apostle Paul says this is unwise.

Making the Most of Time

Paul instructs us to be careful in how we live. He says we need to be wise, not unwise, and make the most of every opportunity. Many of the great saints of Christian history referred to this as, “redeeming the time.”

Brother, your life is a gift from God. You are called to be a steward of it. In a real sense your life is not your own. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul said followers of Christ must offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. He lived during Israel’s sacrificial system in which the animal “gave up its life” on the altar. If we are called to be living sacrifices, we must daily put ourselves back on the altar before God in dedication to him, because living sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar by the end of each day.

There is cost involved here to be sure. To give ourselves to the Lord in this way will require sacrifice, commitment, and self-discipline. To redeem the time we have been given, to make the most of every opportunity, we must change the way see and think about our daily lives. A change of perspective is required.

An Eternal Perspective Needed

God can be glorified in our most mundane tasks. Whether we are driving to work, mowing the yard, or wrestling with our children, we can do so to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). What matters is the motivation of our heart. Martin Luther is attributed as saying a cobbler who makes excellent shoes on Monday glorifies God as much as the pastor who preaches the Gospel on Sunday. Both require an eternal perspective and motivation that transcends themselves.

Isn’t it a relief to know you can glorify God without necessarily moving to the other side of the world as a missionary or becoming an ordained pastor? You don’t have to be doing something “religious” to redeem your time. The Apostle Paul said whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for God’s glory. What’s more ordinary than eating and drinking? What you are doing is not as important as why and how you are doing it. So, redeem your time.


Walking Points

• What are some ways you unthinkingly waste your days and miss the opportunities God has for you? What are some reasons you do so?
• How can you change the focus and motivation of your daily life from the temporal minutiae to an eternal perspective that seeks God’s glory?
• What are three ordinary things you do daily that can be transformed by wisely making the most of them?
• Share your ideas with someone you can trust to hold you accountable and will pray for you.


Prayer

All-wise Father, you have told me in your Word to number my days so I may have a heart of wisdom. You want me to seek wisdom and live my life in such a way that I may make the most of every opportunity. You know better than I how often I have failed in this pursuit. I don’t wake up each day planning to fail at this, and yet by not better preparing I often fail by default. Please forgive me. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom and give me not only a desire to live each and every day wisely for you, but enable me to do so. Help me to prepare on the front end so I may be ready to make the most of each opportunity you present me. Most of all, let my thoughts, words, and deeds be done for your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Lord, help me to faithfully participate in the life of my congregation and for the sake of my community…
 By my prayers
 By my presence
 By my gifts
 By my service
 By my witness
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• For those who serve in government, at the national, state, and local levels
• For those who serve in law-enforcement
• For those who serve in fire and rescue
• For those who serve in our nation’s military
• Other needs

Not All That Glitters is Gold

glittering goldExodus 7:8-13 – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, [9] “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” [10] So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. [11] Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: [12] Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. [13] Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:20-22 – Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. [21] The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. [22] But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

Acts 16:16-18 – Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. [17] This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” [18] She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.


Parlor Tricks

I have never quite understood how the magicians of Egypt could perform the same miracles as Moses and Aaron, at least a few of them. Well, we know that they weren’t exactly the same miracles, but they fooled enough of the people enough of the time to be considered the same.

Let me back up.

The Scene

Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh and his court. Just after Aaron threw his staff to the ground, it became a snake. That would have impressed me. But it didn’t seem to impress Pharaoh. What did he do? He summoned his wise men, sorcerers, and magicians to do the same thing. And they did, sort of. Aaron’s snake ate all of their snakes. God’s little way of reminding folks who’s sovereign and who’s not.

Then there was the scene at the Nile River. It was there Moses and Aaron turned the Nile’s water into blood. That would get my attention. Not Pharaoh. He rounded up his FX artists again and, just like before, had them do the same thing as Moses and Aaron.

In the New Testament Too

This isn’t confined to just the Old Testament. In the New Testament we learn of a slave girl, “who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.” And like so many of the demons who recognized who Jesus really was, this slave girl’s “spirit” understood that Paul and company were “servants of the Most High God,” and were telling the people “the way to be saved.”

In one sense it was good that she (or rather, the spirit in her) recognized who Paul and his companions were. But at the end of the day, it was still a demonic spirit and, by definition, up to no good. That’s why Paul cast out the spirit from the girl in the name of Jesus Christ.

Our Need to Discern

Not all that glitters is gold. Not all miracles are of God. Not all spirituality is Christian spirituality. Not all visions are from God. We make a grave error indeed when we assume, undiscerningly, that any and every sign and wonder is automatically from God. Too much in God’s Word tells us otherwise.

That’s why humility is key here. We must have a teachable spirit. We need to obey God and his Word. Scripture alone must be our final, ultimate, and sufficient authority, not our experience and feelings. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:1,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

That is wise counsel. And it’s the only sure way we’ll stand firm to the end.


Walking Points

• Have you ever experienced someone claiming to have a “word from God” that did not seem to be Scriptural? What was it? How did you respond?
• What are the dangers in accepting such a claim without discernment?
• How can you “test the spirits to see whether they are from God?”
• Do you have a strong enough foundation in your knowledge of Scripture to spot false spirits? If not, begin meeting with a couple of men regularly to study and pray over God’s Word together, seeking encouragement, correction, and training from the Lord.


Prayer

Gracious God of truth. I do not desire to be led astray by every “shiny” word others share with me. I want to be gracious toward them, yet always discerning. Lead me with your Spirit into the Word you first inspired when it was written and which you continue to inspire as I read it. Give me the wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment you promise throughout your Word. And please let that renewal of my mind lead to the transformation of my life. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
• Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
• Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
• For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
• For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
• Other needs

Guaranteed Wisdom

wisdomHow Many Years of Experience?

Age does not guarantee wisdom. Not even experience guarantees wisdom. There is nothing magical about the lapse of time in one’s life that causes him to become a sage for the ages. We probably all know someone who doesn’t have 25 years of experience at his job, but instead, has experienced the same one year, 25 times in a row. No growth or maturation has taken place.

This was the case in the story of Job. Job’s three friends, older men in the community, were all sharing their insights as to why poor ol’ Job was experiencing such suffering. Each one was way off the mark. Finally, the younger, less experienced Elihu, who had been respectfully silently, observing the back-and-forth of his elders, could no longer sit idly by and allow such error and ignorance to prevail. He responded,

“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. [7] I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ [8] But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. [9] It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. (Job 32:6-9)

Elihu then went on to provide his diagnoses of Job’s situation.

The Real Source of Wisdom

We learn a very important principle from Elihu: Wisdom does not come automatically with age. Some folks never seem to learn. Instead, true wisdom comes from God himself. Wisdom, God’s wisdom, must be desired and intentionally sought. That takes effort, self-discipline, and commitment. But it will be found only in this way.

The chief source from which we gain godly wisdom is God’s Word. Psalm 119:99 says,
“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and its focus, (almost exclusively so), is God’s Word. In that chapter, God’s Word is also referred to as his statute, law, precept, decree, and command. In each case it refers to God’s revelation of himself and his will to his people. His wisdom for the ages can be found therein. This is how he has chosen to guide us. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

Godly friends and teachers, informed by God’s Word are treasures. But it must be his Word that is the primary source for wisdom. I’ll take a mentor who has been seasoned by years of experience almost every time over a younger, less-experienced person, but especially if the former has walked with God during those years and sat under the tutelage of God’s Word. That’s where wisdom will be found. That’s also why we must “delight” in God’s Word each day – that we too might learn, grow, and one day be a source of godly wisdom for someone else.


Walking Points

• Who do you know in your life that is older and has walked closely with the Lord throughout his years, faithfully learning from God’s Word? Share a little of what you have seen in his life to lead you to this opinion of him.
• Why not take him out to lunch and ask him questions about important lessons he’s learned, how he’s persevered with the Lord, etc.
• Are you walking faithfully with the Lord, delighting in his Word, and being influenced by it?
• Is there a younger man in the faith whom you can counsel with wisdom you’ve learned? Why not meet with him, not to be his “guru,” but to build a relationship with him. And, who knows, you may have some words of wisdom that will bless him.


Prayer

Gracious God, you are sovereign, good, and all-wise. You are in control of the universe you have made and know best how it works. You love me and have my best interest at heart. Furthermore, you not only have my best interest but know best how to bring it about in my life. Therefore, I will trust you. Thank you for the gift of your Word that provides direction for me to follow. I needn’t grope in the dark, tripping over obstacles, when your Word is such a radiant and trustworthy light in my life. In the name of the One who is the Light of the world, I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Give me greater knowledge, depth of insight, and understanding of God’s Word.
• Remind me daily of who I am in Christ. Let me be defined by who God says I am, not the world around me.
• Guide me into greater understanding and faithfulness of God’s call in my life.
• This week’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• My pastor(s), church staff, and missionaries
• Those struggling with anger, anxiety, or the overwhelming desire to please people at all costs
• Other needs

Prayer Journal: Week 51

wisdomHe who labors as he prays, lifts his heart to God with his hands. (Bernard of Clairvaux)


This Week’s Scripture

·         Exodus 3:1-15
·         Psalm 105
·         Romans 12:9-21
·         Matthew 16:21-28


Adoration

Psalm 105:1
Oh give thanks to the LORD;
call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!

O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice (verse 1)
O happy day, that fixed my choice on thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice, and tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day.
(Philip Doddridge)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.


Confession

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

Righteous Father, I have acted as if I hated thee, although thou art love itself; have contrived to tempt thee to the uttermost, to wear out thy patience; have lived evilly in word and action. Had I been a prince I would have long ago crushed such a rebel; Had I been a father I would long since have rejected my child. O, thou Father of my spirit, thou King of my life, cast me not into destruction, drive me not from thy presence, but wound my heart that it may be healed; break it that thine own hand may make it whole. In Christ I pray. Amen. (The Valley of Vision)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).


Thanksgiving

All-wise Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful for the direction you give me for my life. I am humbled and thankful that you have not left me to grope in darkness to search in vain for the right path, but your Spirit has provided a light for me so I may follow the same road as my Savior. I pray Father, in your power, give me strength to follow your will for my life. Enable me to let my love be genuine and to abhor what is evil. Help me love others with a brotherly affection and continually and consistently show them honor. May I never be slothful in my zeal, but fervent in spirit, always serving you. Let me faithfully rejoice in hope, show patience in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. And may I think of others before myself by contributing to their needs and showing hospitality to them. Then, gracious God, when people see my life, let it point to you so that you, and you alone, receive all the praise and glory. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen. (based on Romans 12:9-13)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.


Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Help me to grow in wisdom and become who you created and redeemed me to be.
·         Renew my mind and enable me to cultivate a godly perspective and attitude regarding the various spheres and circumstances of my life.
·         Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My family, immediate and extended
·         Those struggling with sin, illness, or difficulties in their workplace
·         Other needs


God wants to get us out of the love of virtue and in love with the God of virtue – stripped of all possessions but our knowledge of him. (Oswald Chambers)