Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Did Leap Year Surprise You?

On the evening of February 28, 2009, I went to sleep.  When I woke up, it was March 1.  This same phenomenon repeated itself on February 28, 2010 as well as on February 28, 2011.  I began to believe that this was a reliable trend.  Then the strangest thing happened.  Last night (February 28, 2012) I went to sleep just as I had on all of those other occasions, but when I awoke, I found that it was not March 1, but rather it was February 29 – a day that hasn’t even been on my calendar for the last three years!
Well, as you know, this anomaly wasn’t really unexpected.  Even though it hasn’t happened in a while, we knew that this was Leap Year.  A year is not actually 365 days long.  It really is 365 ¼ days.  Thus, if we didn’t periodically adjust the calendar by adding a day each 4 years, then our seasons would slowly shift out of sync.  Actually, if we want to get technical about the matter, the year really is 11 minutes less than 365 ¼ days.  This causes the calendar to become a day off every 128 years.  So about once a century we have to skip a leap year.
  Knowing all of this enables us to be ready for the extra day.  Calendar companies are well familiar with the event and print their products accordingly.  It doesn’t really take us by surprise even though it is out of the ordinary.
However, there is another out of the ordinary day that we know is coming, but we just don’t know when.  Nevertheless, it is essential to be prepared for it.  That day is judgment day.  One morning we will awaken to our last day on Earth.  For the vast majority of us, we’ll have no indication that it is going to be our last day.  It will begin like most other days, with no warning that it is really THE day.  The Bible assures us of the sudden and surprising nature of that day in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (NKJV), “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape“
On the other hand, knowing that this day is coming does enable us to prepare for it.  We don’t have to be caught off-guard as if it were an unexpected event.  In the next verses, Paul would go on to say, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). 
With this warning, why would any of us be caught off-guard?  The answer to that question lies in Luke 21:34 (NKJV), "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”   If we allow ourselves to get distracted by the immediate to the neglect of the eternal, then we are sure to be unprepared on THAT day.  We all live life at a hectic pace, but will we take proper time to be watchful?  Will you make time for mid-week Bible class?  Will you make time for daily prayer and Bible reading?  Will you make your children aware that their spiritual lives are of surpassing importance when compared to any other aspect of life?  Will they see that priority reflected in your own life? 
In short, are you ready or are you distracted?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Wrong Home

A 46 year old man broke into the home of Ashley Murray in South Bend, Indiana.  However, the man did not steal anything, nor threaten any violence.  On the contrary, he made himself helpful.  He cooked dinner and even tidied up the place, sweeping the floor and folding the laundry.  Was this mysterious intruder a friend or family member who was trying to offer Ashley a pleasant surprise? No.  Unfortunately, this was a man who seemed genuinely confused about where he was.  He adamantly asserted that he was in his own home.  The police were called, and safely took him away to await psychological evaluation. 
We question the man’s mental soundness because he operated under the delusion that he was at home in a place that was not his home.  However, we may often be guilty of falling to the same delusion.  Although we sometimes sing the hymn, “This World is Not My Home”, we live and think as if this world were our home.  Even we, who should know better, find ourselves sometimes judging success, achievement, and value by the temporary standards of the physical world rather than the eternal standards of the spiritual world.
I wonder how dramatically it might change our thought processes, if we could connect, on both an emotional and spiritual level, with the idea that we are simply sojourners in this world rather than permanent residents.  Many of our material possessions would become much less important; perhaps some might even be viewed as hindrances on our journey.  Some of our current anxieties would be alleviated, while other things might suddenly become much more troubling (such as an erring brother, or an unrepented sin).
Jesus prayed to the Father regarding his disciples, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:14-16).  Jesus viewed those who would come to believe in him through the ministry and teachings of the apostles (John 17:20) to be just as foreign to this world as he was.  Do we view ourselves that way?  Or are we like the man who broke into Ashley’s house, delusionally acting at home in a place that in not our home?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

National Signing Day

Today was national signing day.  It is the day that the best football players across the country are allowed to sign official, binding letters of intent to play at a particular school.  Over the past year, many of them have made public announcements giving verbal commitments as to where they intend to play, but there is nothing binding about those verbal commitments.  The can and do change them often.  But when the letter of intent (LOI) is signed, then they are locked in to their commitment.
I wonder, if there was a spiritual national signing day, what kind of commitments would we make?   For many people, their commitment to Christ is not much stronger than a high schooler’s verbal commitment.  They have stated their intentions, but they might switch to the other team at any time. 
God is looking for commitment on our part.  Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord”.  Proverbs 16:3 urges, “Commit your works to the Lord”.  He doesn’t just want partial commitment, however.  He is looking for us to be totally committed.  Consider what Jesus says in Mark 12:30 (NKJV), “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.”  That certainly sounds like He wants us to be all-in.
Sometimes football recruits exhibit loyalty to the schools that began recruiting them first.  Those schools made them feel wanted and valuable before anyone else took notice.  In our spiritual recruitment, God was the first to consider us valuable and make us a metaphorical scholarship offer to be on His team.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus was committed to us when were at our most unlovable, covered up in sin.  We weren’t blue-chip recruits; we were diamonds in the rough.  We needed to be cleaned and shaped up to be worth anything.  But he was willing to recruit (redeem) us and make more of us than we ever could of ourselves.
We have offers from two teams.  Satan offers to let us play right away (no need for self-improvement); God offers to make us better (we’ll have to work hard and be disciplined).  Satan’s team stays thirsty (Luke 16:24); God’s team drinks the Living Water (John 4:10).  Satan offers to make us stars (we can live life focused on ourselves); God offers to make us champions (we can be part of the team that overcomes death and wins the final victory). 
The words of Joshua challenging the Israelites naturally come to mind: "“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).  So if this were spiritual signing day, which team would you sign with?