Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

Pixabay

Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Last month I began a discussion on the first song in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. While we do not know for sure who wrote this psalm, it is clear, by its inclusion in the Scripture, it is important. I explained that Psalm 1 describes two men, a righteous one and a wicked one. Last month I concentrated on the righteous man and found ten characteristics that a righteous man will have. This month, I want to look more closely at the wicked man.

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1:1-6 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

What sort of characteristics describe the wicked man.

1. They are not like the righteous man.

Verse 4 begins with the phrase, "The wicked are not so." It would logically follow that all of the traits that were listed to describe the righteous man are not traits the wicked man has. In other words this man does not love God's word, they hang out with other's who do not love God's word and they are not firmly rooted in God's law. 

2. They are like chaff.

What exactly is chaff? In this Old Testament context the word chaff was used to describe the outer hulls of seeds and other debris separated from the seed when threshing grain. Before the age of huge farm machinery, threshing was a laborious task done by hand on a threshing floor. The stalks of grain were beaten with a piece of wood called a flail. Chaff is not useful for anything and was thrown away. 

It might seem to us, calling a person chaff, is rather mean, but these words were inspired by a holy and righteous God. The point was to give us a comparison with no doubt involved. Righteous is righteous and wicked is wicked. 

3. They are driven away by the wind.

I think we can derive two ideas from this. First of all, the chaff in the threshing process was often swept up to blow away in the wind. It was meant to be discarded, just as our modern combine separates the chaff from the seed out in the field. Have you ever driven by a field when the combine is working and noticed a cloud of dust flying up in the air? That is not just dirt!

The second idea that came to my mind is, often people who do not know God are driven to and fro by the changing winds of life. They try anything and everything to fill the emptiness that exists inside of them and they most often are looking out for their own interests willing to step on others to feel fulfilled.

Pixabay - judgment

4. The wicked will not stand in the judgment.

The idea of judgment has become the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about judgment. No one wants to discuss the consequences of sin. How often do you hear a sermon about sin, hell or the anger of a righteous God? Not as often as we used to, I'd venture to say. While I think we need to show love, wait for the right opportunities and reply with gentleness, we also can't stop talking about the idea that God is a holy and perfect God and we are not. That was and still is the reason Jesus became a man, walked on this earth, died on a cross and rose again. If we stop talking about judgment we might as well stop talking about Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is who differentiates us from all other religions. It is His blood that covers a righteous man and it is only His blood that allows the righteous man to stand at the final judgment. The wicked man will not stand because he has not recognized Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

For us to say, "I don't believe in hell or a judgment," is like saying, "Seventeen people didn't get shot at a high school in Florida." Just because it is terrible, doesn't mean our ignoring it or wishing it away makes it any less a reality. 

5. The wicked will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. 

I am not sure in this case whether it is similar to the judgment, they won't be able to, because their wickedness separates them from the righteous, or if it has to do with their own desire. The wicked do not want to stand in the assembly of the righteous. We have churches closing their doors at an alarming rate. For further info on this Dr. Richard Krejcir of churchleadership.org wrote an eye opening article titled Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, wrote a book a few years ago titled Already Gone, which addresses the exodus of many young people from the church. If those who would be righteous aren't even staying in the assembly of the righteous, then the wicked certainly won't be drawn to the church. 

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

This is just my take on the verse. It is more likely that the wicked won't be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous because of their wickedness. 

6. The wicked will perish.

This isn't a pleasant thought. It might be easy to think of someone like Hitler perishing, because we could easily point out his wickedness, but the scripture is clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

While the standing of the wicked man compared to the righteous man is not pleasant, there is hope. If you are a Christ follower, then you are already familiar with that hope. You are also in a position to help someone who doesn't have that hope. Live your life in Christ out loud, so all the world can see. I leave you with these verses, which I will feature next week on my Mulling It Over column.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NASB)

Even He Called Him Lord

This morning as I was reading my devotions I was directed to a passage in Matthew. It was a familiar read, but as I started looking at it I was floored by a few words that I hadn't really noticed before. Let me show you the verses.

At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

’Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’
— Matthew 11:25-30 (NASB)
Bible

I'm sure most of you who read your Bible regularly are familiar with this passage. I don't know about you, but I am often reciting the last three sentences back to Jesus reminding Him that He is responsible to give me rest and help me bear the load of this life. I try to do that with humility, mind you, because He does say that I should learn from Him and we can't be teachable if our hearts are made of the granite of pride and self. 

The words that struck me this morning were these: 

...Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth...
— Matthew 11:25 (NASB)

Let me set the back drop for you. This is Jesus, the One who is part of the triune God-head. He, as far as we are concerned, is on the same level with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He was there at creation. He was the only person capable of taking on the sin of the world, walking into hell and coming out unscathed. Why then is He addressing His Father in this way? Couldn't He have simply said, "Father?" 

Father and baby

As with so many things that Jesus did, He was once again giving us an example to follow. 

1. Praise. There is something elevating about praising God. When we lift Him up we are placing Him exactly where He is supposed to be. Not only that, but praise ushers us into His presence. If we do a simple word search in the New American Standard version of the Bible we find the word praise used 256 times. Out of those 127 are used in connection with the Lord and 86 are used in connection with God. It would seem that praising God is a priority.

When Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the crowds were shouting,

Donkey
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
— Luke 19:38 (NASB)

The Pharisees scolded Jesus, telling him to rebuke his followers.

But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’
— Luke 19:40 (NASB)
mountains

Why then, would Jesus need to praise the Father, when in reality they are one person? Jesus is showing us that praise is an important component in a relationship with our Father. 

2. Relationship. There is no doubt that Jesus has a relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Relationships are facts of life. We have relationships with our significant others, our children, our coworkers and the people in our lives we call friends. Out of the many interactions we have with people on a daily basis the ones that are closest to us will be the ones that we invest the most time and effort in...or at least they should be. When I get together with my girlfriends we talk about what? Our families. These are the relationships that are important to us. 

Girlfriends

Jesus made a point throughout his years on this earth to talk about His Father. Look at a few of these verses.

And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
— Luke 2:49 (NASB)
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
— Matthew 7:21 (NASB)
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
— Matthew 10:32-33 (NASB)
For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
— Matthew 12:50 (NASB)
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’
— Matthew 26:39 (NASB)
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.
— Luke 23:46 (NASB)

These are just a few of the many verses throughout the Gospels where Jesus makes reference to the Father. Jesus knew how important this relationship was to Him and His purpose was to make the way clear so that we could enjoy this same relationship with God. 

3. Humility. By calling God the Father, Lord, Jesus is acknowledging a hierarchy of authority that we all need to be aware of. Jesus understood humility.

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
— Philippians 2:6 (NASB)

If God's own Son chose to place Himself, humbly under the authority of His Father, then aren't we, even more so, obligated to fall at His feet? Jesus made a choice to honor His Father's perfect plan to bring salvation to His creation. Was it easy? Refer back to Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed earnestly that the cup could pass from Him, but in the end said, "Your will be done." How often are we at odds with God because we do not want to do what He has laid out plainly in scripture? Yet our Savior honored His Father completely, even to the point of death on a tree. 

If you are feeling, not quite right in your walk with the Father, why not revisit these three things that Jesus did? Praise God, renew your relationship with Him and humble yourself. I know for me, when I place God first in my life and in my day, He takes care of the rest.