Every year around this time we are inundated with the year in review specials. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all did video reminders of what the year was like. Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report printed reviews of the year.
People Magazine did their supposedly 25 most intriguing people and Life Magazine always helps us remember the year in printed pictures.
Many of the magazines also include articles by experts predicting what they expect to see happening in the years ahead. Some even go so far as to make predictions covering 10, 20, or more years in the future. In the past, a few of these predictions have proven amazingly accurate, while others couldn't have been more wrong.
In 1967, experts predicted that by the turn of the century technology would have taken over so much of the work we do that the average American work week would be only 22 hours long, & that we would work only 27 weeks a year. As a result, one of our biggest problems would be in deciding what to do with all our leisure time.
I think we all know that didn't happen for most of us.
The question that we must ask ourselves is not about last year and our hits and misses. The question must revolve around what we will do with the year that we are now in.
The Bible is more than just a book of advice. It is Gods word and we need to understand that our lives must be lived according to the words found in the Bible.
You can choose to live without following Gods word. You certainly have that right. Let me ask you, how are you doing without God? How is your life shaping up? Are you anticipating this New Year and new opportunities?
I want to read a couple verses from the Bible. I think they will be very helpful for some of us to hear and read.
So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT
The Message: So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
Watch your step: Our days on this earth are numbered.
First of all, we must be very careful how we live because our time on this earth is limited.
The Psalmist wrote, "Show me, O Lord, my lifes end & the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life" Psalm 39:4
"We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might
make it to eighty). Oh teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely
and well." Psalm 90 The Message
Now, I realize that for some of us, 70 or 80 years sounds like a long, long time away. There are some who have passed that mark and can look back and on 70 and 80.
B. The Psalmist also tells us to number our days so that we will develop a heart of wisdom.
A few years ago People Magazine published an article entitled "Dead Ahead" telling about a new clock that keeps track of how much time you have left to live. It calculates an average life span of 75 years for men & 80 years for women. So you program your sex & age into the clock, & from then on it will tell you how much time you have left. It sold for $99.95. Now of course you can just look it up on the internet!
The trouble with all this is we have no ability to guarantee how many days or even hours that we have left.
The Bible tells us not to count on tomorrow because tomorrow may not come for you or for me. All we have is right now. So our time on this earth is valuable because it is very limited.
We are to carefully watch our steps. Prioritize what we do with our lives.
The poet and novelist, Annie Dillard says, How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.
Weigh your opportunities. Exercise good judgment.
Paul tells us that we must: 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days
Jesus said that Satan is a robber & a thief, & one of the things he tries to rob from us is our time because time is a very precious possession.
Just think of the time wasted in doing things that are detrimental to our relationship with Christ and others. There are people that make a profession of sinning. Sometimes I am made to wonder if we even know what that word means anymore we have become so comfortable with it.
Sin: Sin is any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against God. You may think of sin as an obvious act, such as murder, adultery, or theft. Although that's true, sin is also wrongdoing that's far subtler and even unnoticeable at times, such as pride, envy, or even worry. Sin includes both things you shouldn't have done, but did (sins of commission) and things you should've done, but didn't (sins of omission).
But it is not just sin that makes demands on our time. Sometimes even good things can make demands.
Jesus went to the home of Mary & Martha & Lazarus. He sat down to teach, & Mary was sitting at His feet just soaking in every word. Meanwhile, Martha was out in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Now, you know the story. Martha gets upset because Mary is not in the kitchen, too. So she complains to Jesus, "Lord, dont you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Luke 10:40
"Martha, Martha," Jesus answered, "You are worried & upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, & it will not be taken away from her" Luke 10:41-42
Was Martha committing a sin by fixing a meal in the kitchen? No, of course not! But heres the problem. She was so preoccupied with what she was doing that she didnt realize that God was in her living room.
same mistake that you & I make every day. We get so caught up in the
here & now that we fail to deal with the eternal, the things that
will last forever & ever.
Swenson, a medical doctor, wrote a book in which he discusses one of the
major maladies of our time - anxiety & stress. He calls it
"overload," & says that people are just plain overloaded.
1. Were overloaded with commitments. Weve committed ourselves to go here & there, to take part in this activity & that social function. As a result we soon begin meeting ourselves coming & going because we have overloaded ourselves in the area of commitments.
2. Were also overloaded with possessions, he says. Our closets are full, & our garages are overflowing. We've gone into debt to pay for all of these things that we "simply must have." And now were so afraid that someone will steal them. We are overloaded in the area of possessions.
3. We overloaded in the area of work. We get up early, fight traffic, & experience intolerable working conditions because we have to if were going to pay for all those possessions that weve accumulated.
4. We are overloaded with information. He said that as a doctor he has to read 220 articles a month just to keep up with all the changes in his profession. And now with the Internet there's an information superhighway. But the problem is that we cant possibly absorb it all. So we feel an overload in this area, too.
Hopefully you get the picture. There are so many demands on our time, so many good things that need to be done. But there are just 8,760 hours in a year, & weve already used dozens of them. (30 some or 192 if you are watching this sermon at The Firehouse or Real Life) If we want to make the most of every opportunity, what are we to do?
Weve talked a lot about ministry and ministry opportunities in the last few months. Exercise good judgement by weighing the opportunities to serve God and others.
Want what God wants: Embrace what God is doing
17 Dont act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
One of the best ways to make this year meaningful for you is to embrace what God wants to do.
Too often we find ourselves praying for God to bless what we are doing when we should be praying for God to lead us to what He is doing.
I want to address this briefly in three areas.
Our church: God has a calling for every church
The leadership of this church believes that God has called us to be the kind of church that we are. We do not do the things we do because it is trendy or the church up the road somewhere is doing it. We are constantly trying to understand what it means to share the gospel of Christ with the culture that we live in. We firmly believe that you cannot effectively share the message unless you are willing to make sacrifices out of the way the church has always done things.
Church people have succumbed to one of the most tragic deceptions in the history of the church. For years we have come to believe that church was about us. We think its about what we want and what we like. What makes us happy and comfortable?
What church is about is taking the message that Christ commanded us to spread and presenting it in a way that connects to the culture that we live in.
When I evaluate the wasted hours and people power that is exerted every week across this nation under the name church it is heartbreaking. This is not about us being perfect or having it all figured out as a church. This is about simply finding out what God is doing and what He wants to do being the church that is willing to give up our trinkets and toys to go where God is going. I call on you to embrace what God is doing here. You dont have to like everything. I dont even like everything we do but it is not about me. Embrace this incredibly unique opportunity that God has given our church and lets see what God will do.
B. Our World: God is busy around the world but most of us don't know much about our world outside of the United States or North America.
In his book, The Hole in our Gospel, Richard Stearns writes the following:
Whenever a major jetliner crashes anywhere in the world, it inevitably sets off a worldwide media frenzy covering every aspect of the tragedy. I want you to imagine for a moment that you woke up this morning to the following headline: One Hundred Jetliners Crash, Killing 26,500. Think of the pandemonium this would create across the world as heads of states, parliaments, and congresses convened to grapple with the nature of this tragedy. Think about the avalanche of media coverage that it would ignite around the globe as reporters shared the shocking news and tried to communicate its implications for the world. Air travel would no doubt grind to a halt as governments shut down the airlines and panicked air travelers canceled their trips. The National Transportation Safety board and perhaps the FBI, CIA and local law enforcement agencies and their international equivalents would mobilize investigations and dedicate whatever manpower was required to understand what happened and to prevent it from happening again.
Now imagine that the very next day, one hundred more planes crashed and one hundred more the next, and the next, and the next. It is unimaginable that something this terrible could ever happen. But it did and it does. It happened today, and it happened yesterday. It will happen again tomorrow. But there was no media coverage. No heads of state, parliaments, or congresses stopped what they were doing to address the crisis, and no investigations were launched. Yet more than 26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty, and it will happen again today and tomorrow and the day after that. Almost 10 million children will be dead in the course of a year.
One of the goals I have for us as a church is that we will increase our world view. I am not talking about getting involved more deeply in church or denominational missions but a personal awareness of the world that we live in. A personal awareness of how God is moving around the world and what He is doing. A personal awareness of what breaks the heart of God around the world and what He may want you and I to do about it.
I really think most of us think that somehow we are the brightest and the best in the world but you know what it isnt true anymore. Our kids are overdosing on video games instead of learning to read. We are over stimulated by entertainment and think nothing of doing whatever it takes to insure that we keep up our neat little American dream lives.
The fact is that this earth and everybody in it was created by God. If you think that God is blessing America with all of our sin and open rebellion to Gods word you are truly blind. We are a country that celebrates everything the Bible says we shouldnt do. We are so upside down at this point that God is our only answer. Let me remind you that you would do a whole lot better talking to God in prayer then listening to Glenn Beck or on the other side Jon Stewart or Keith Olbermann every day. Think about it. I know people who will spend hours listening to a guy sensationalize and emotionalize politics for ratings and a following but wont even spend an hour with God in prayer a week.
I am talking about praying and seeking Gods forgiveness and pardon on behalf of a country gone awry. One of the reasons we are starting a prayer and fasting time on Wednesdays is to help alleviate our lack of prayer and concern for needs around the world.
Out of 100 people:
60 would be Asian
14 would be African
12 would be European
8 would be Latin American
5 would be American or Canadian
1 would be from the South Pacific
51 would be male; 49 would be female
82 would be non-white; 18 white
67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian
In our affluence which all of us find comfortable we are fighting a losing battle I believe in the area of spiritual life and awareness. We are distracted, disinterested and frankly most of the time we could care less about people around the world yet in areas around the world where poverty is the norm (and I am not talking about American poverty where everyone gets Government support) Christianity is flourishing.
Philip Jenkins: Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted while it atrophies among the rich and secure.
C. Your life: God is calling you. He has called every one of us to be Christ followers and disciples
Bob Pierce prayed, Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
I believe that God is calling some of you to step up to greater involvement in some ministry. I believe that God is calling some of you to full-time ministry and you are trying to understand what that means for you.
The two greatest enemies of time are regrets for things we
did in the past, & anxiety about what will happen to us in the
future. Many of us are living either in the past or in the future.
In fact, many of us are engaged in the little game of, "I wish it were." "I wish it were next week," or "I wish it were next month," or "something." Kids go to school & say, "Boy, I wish this day were over."
Someone said, "Life is what happens to you while you're making plans to do something else.
I found a great passage of scripture in Romans 13. Listen to these verses from The Message Bible:
But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and
exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you
lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is
about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is
doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he
began when we first believed. We
cant afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious
daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and
dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of
bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very
last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
We will someday have the opportunity to present our lives before God. We will have the chance to show Him what we have done with the time we were given on earth.
There is an odd tendency in humans to think that we can worm our way out of the consequences of our actions. Ive heard that husbands often do this with their wives when they have done something they should'nt have. People do it to law enforcement officers when they try to squirm out of a speeding ticket.
John Ortberg in his book, If you Want to Walk on Water you have to get out of the Boat, tells a story that happened between him and his son.
Some years ago, our son, who was about eight at the time, was having a generally squirrelly day. He was headed for trouble. I warned him that if he did'nt settle down soon, he would face serious consequences involving the availability of Mr. Nintendo. Then came a spill of Exxon Valdez proportions. Okay, I said, you know the consequences. This eight-year-old boy pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket, waved it in front of my nose and suggested slyly, Maybe Mr. Washington can change your mind.
The whole area of service is a very important one in the
Christian life. The importance can be seen in the difference between the
Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea in the Holy Land. The two bodies of
water are connected by the Jordan River in a direct north-south line
along the Great Rift Valley. Clear, sweet water from underground springs
flows into the Sea of Galilee. And the Sea of Galilee flows south into
the Jordan. Galilee is a gorgeous, active lake, full of life that has
sustained fishermen in the region for millennia. The Dead Sea, by
contrast, is a shallow, selfish basin with no outlet. It hoards the
water that flows into it. Some water evaporates, leaving behind
brackish, clouded water so dense that swimmers bob like corks. The whole
sea is dead.
When we as Christians have no outlet of service, we too can become spiritually dead, and stagnant. Instead of our faith being attractive, life giving and fruitful, we become as off-putting as a stagnant pond.
There is one before whom we will all stand. He is loving, holy gracious, and just, but He intends for us to understand that we really will give account to him of our lives.
At the memorial service for country singer June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne, celebrated her stepmother as someone who knew only two kinds of people: Those she knew and loved and those she did'nt know. . . and loved.
God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars. Elbert Hubbard
Bill Hybels puts it this way: I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, uncallused hand a hand never dirtied by serving and shake the nail-pierced hand of Jesus.
I encourage you this year to: Watch your steps. Weigh your opportunities. Want what God wants.