Hope Ahead

Today as a major Category 4 hurricaneIan–is hitting the west coast of Florida, I’m reminded of the fact that it is very important to listen to the officials and their warnings to take all necessary precautions and stay inside and safe while the hurricane is going through Florida for the next 18-24 hours.

I lived in Central Florida and for a short time in South Florida for over 20 years, and during that time I experienced going through six hurricanes and several tropical storms. As I watch the latest updates on Hurricane Ian today, it brought back memories of some of those past hurricanes.

My very first hurricane experience goes back to August 24-25, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew, a tightly packed Category 5 hurricane, blew threw South Florida causing massive damage and destruction. I had arrived in South Florida at the end of June 1992 to start a one-year doctoral fellowship at a private university located there, and I arrived from the Midwest where I had lived all of my life. I had never experienced a storm on a scale remotely close to a hurricane although I had been through tornados and severe thunderstorms, and blizzards in the winter living in the Midwest.

The apartment where I stayed during Hurricane Andrew was rented by a new friend whom I met at the university where I had my doctoral fellowship. She was a new professor in my program, and she was as terrified as I was going through a hurricane for the first time, and she asked me to come over to her apartment so we could at least go through it together. I remember how eerie it was hearing the howling wind blowing outside for hours without ever letting up through the closed windows and glass patio door, and the snapping of trees in the middle of the night. We lost electricity at some point and in the worst of the storm we both huddled in her small windowless bathroom with a couple of candles for light which was the safest place to be. In the middle of the night during the height of the storm I fell asleep on the bathroom floor from sheer exhaustion as we both had been awake for at least the past 24 hours if not longer. She fell asleep in the empty bathtub. We were grateful to have each other’s company and to not have had to go through that experience alone.

As it turned out over those 20 years I lived in Florida, Hurricane Andrew was not only the first hurricane I experienced, but the worst of the six hurricanes I experienced. It’s been 30 years now since I lived through Hurricane Andrew, and despite going through several more hurricanes since that time, it is the hurricane I remember the most.

Any kind of natural disaster can leave us feeling helpless and out of control. And one question that comes to mind regarding natural disasters is why does God allow them to happen? GotQuestions.org provides us with the following answer:

Why does God allow earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, cyclones, mudslides, wildfires, and other natural disasters? Tragedies cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is distressing that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature (Genesis 1:1). Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

The Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ holds all of nature together (Colossians 1:16-17). Could God prevent natural disasters? Absolutely! Does God sometimes influence the weather? Yes, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:17 and James 5:17Numbers 16:30-34 shows us that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgment against sin. The book of Revelation describes many events which could definitely be described as natural disasters (Revelation chapters 6, 8, and 16). Is every natural disaster a punishment from God? Absolutely not.

In much the same way that God allows evil people to commit evil acts, God allows the earth to reflect the consequences sin has had on creation. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The fall of humanity into sin had effects on everything, including the world we inhabit. Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” Sin is the ultimate cause of natural disasters just as it is the cause of death, disease, and suffering.

We can understand why natural disasters occur. What we do not understand is why God allows them to occur. Why did God allow a tsunami to kill over 225,000 people in Asia? Why does God allow hurricanes to destroy the homes of thousands of people? For one thing, such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant. What we do know is this: God is good! Many amazing miracles occurred during the course of natural disasters that prevented even greater loss of life. Natural disasters cause millions of people to reevaluate their priorities in life. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is sent to help the people who are suffering. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to saving faith in Christ! God can, and does, bring great good out of terrible tragedies (Romans 8:28). (Quote source here.)

An article titled, Hope in Hurricanes and Disasters,” by Rev. Michael Beck, senior pastor of Wildwood United Methodist Church, was published on September 22, 2017, at the same time Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida. He writes:

Last Sunday, with Hurricane Irma bearing down on the state of Florida, my wife, Jill Beck, and I gathered in the fellowship hall of Wildwood United Methodist Church, to “Facebook Live” a makeshift service to our people at Wildwood and Webster United Methodist Churches. Services were cancelled, as our primary concern was the safety of our congregations, and the outer bands of the storm were already buffeting our communities. Over 1,200 people tuned in to the feed that day and almost 200 posted comments, far more folks than either of our congregations gathered in our sanctuaries on most Sunday mornings. 

The fear was tangible. People were looking for hope. Much of the state had been evacuated and news reporters relentlessly warned of the dangers of this massive category 4 storm. The significance of the moment was not lost on us. Our goal was to offer a word of comfort and hope in the face of the impending disaster. We realized as we walked the empty church campus that Sunday morning, in strange silence, that this was the first time in many year— potentially in the 130 plus years of the church’s history—that no songs of praise would be sung, prayers offered, or sermon preached. We refused to break that legacy, and began re-thinking what kind of worship needed to happen in that moment by harnessing the latest technology.

Oddly enough, I had just returned from Portland, Oregon, where fires raged up and down the west coast. Smoke blotted out the sun there, casting an eerie red apocalyptic glow over the area. The day before, a horrible earthquake ravaged Mexico. I flew back to Florida just in time to escape the fire, right into the oncoming flood. Weeks before: Charlottesville, violence, civil unrest, and massive political upheaval.

I couldn’t help but to ask myself during all this, are these the “signs” that Jesus spoke of? Is this the end of the world as we know it? That anxiety was further fueled by Social Media doomsday prophets, trumpeting proclamations that God had abandoned us in anger because human sin had come to an apex. Some of those statements were to the effect of “God is punishing us with multiple natural disasters.”

I struggle with this kind of world view in which God is deterministically micromanaging creation, using fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes to teach humanity a lesson. I was truly pressed in my faith to share my belief in an ultimately good and loving God, amid devastating natural disasters that claim human life.

While I don’t have a sufficient theological explanation for why there are natural disasters in this world, I can share how I have experienced God’s sustaining presence when in their midst, how God uses these destructive forces, and how, as the church, we are sometimes God’s answer to them. Although I don’t believe God causes suffering or natural disasters to “punish us,” they are undeniably pervading forces in our world. Throughout my ministry, I have been brought to the understanding that there are questions to which no answer will suffice, and we must live in the mystery…. (Quote source and the rest of his article are available here).

In reading the rest of his article, he brings up Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm, and he makes the following observation:

In this story, Jesus is in the boat asleep in the middle of the storm. He’s sleeping “on the cushion” meaning he’s not just dozing off, he’s sound asleep! Exhausted from his work among the crowds, the “do not disturb sign” is out. The disciples freak out and wake him up. Even in his sheer exhaustion, with no Starbucks for miles, Jesus then tells the storm to shush and it obeys him. When Jesus says, “peace be still” there is a “dead calm.” He then criticizes their lack faith, which makes me wonder what he expected them to do during a storm when the boat was sinking? Should they have stilled the storm themselves? Or was Jesus going to use this as a group water-walking 101 class? 

Now we know that Jesus doesn’t calm every storm. In this case, I get the sense that just having him in the boat should have been enough. If only one of the disciples would have said “hey guys, we have the carpenter of the universe in the boat with us, seriously, everything is going to be okay.”          

Can we have “peace” and “dead calm” even during a hurricane? I think we can, if we know Jesus is in the boat. Where is God amidst the storm? The short answer is “with us”. This passage shows us that God is not manipulating the wind, sending the tempest tossed sea to flood the boat, Jesus is in the boat with us. If Jesus is in our boat, the hurricane can do its worst, and we are going to be okay. (Quote source and the rest of his article are available here).

In one last article for this post titled, 4 Hopeful Prayers for Restoration from Natural Disasters,” by Hope Bolinger, Managing & Acquisitions Editor at End Game Press and the Founder of Generation Hope Books, published on March 4, 2020, which was just a few days before the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic began on March 11, 2020, she offers us the following:

It seems we cannot pass a day without hearing of a natural disaster destroying homes, taking lives, and devastating entire cities or lands. Being at the mercy of natural forces, we can often feel scared or distraught when facing natural disaster.

In the midst of stressful storms and natural disasters—and the fear that grips us—we can still rely on a God who has been in the middle of storms before when he walked the earth (Matthew 8:23–27).

No matter what natural disasters we see on the news, how much our family or friends have been affected, or whether we’re weathering the phenomena of nature ourselves—we can turn to the Lord and pray for restoration and hope during these times of upheaval and anxiety.

For courage during disaster, or peace to withstand disasters to come, we can lift these four following prayers to heaven:

1. Prayer for those we don’t know who are experiencing or recovering from a natural disaster (she offers a personal prayer and includes Luke 8:22-25 at this link).

2. Prayer for those experiencing anxiety due to a natural isdaster (she offers a personal prayer and includes Isaiah 54:10 at this link).

3. Prayer for family and close loved ones experiencing a natural disaster (she offers a personal prayer and includes Psalm 57:1-2 at this link).

4. Prayer for personally experiencing a natural disaster (she offers a personal prayer and includes Isaiah 54:11-12 at this link).

God does not forget us in the midst of great tragedy. Instead, he sits with us during the most difficult moments and helps us to rise again.

Whether you have a friend, a family member, or even have experienced a natural disaster yourself, turn to the Almighty who holds you in his arms and protects you underneath the shadow of his wings.

In the end, the earth will experience no natural disasters and God will make everything right. But for now, we rest in the comfort of knowing God still has a wonderful plan for our lives, and no natural disaster can even come close to matching the power of our powerful God. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with Jesus’ words found in John 16:33 (NIV): In this world you will have trouble [trials and tribulations like hurricanes and natural disasters, too]…

But take heart . . .

I have overcome . . .

The world . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Who Do You Trust?

This morning I read a blog post by a Christian blogger who often reflects on things that are going on in our society today. The blog post that she published this morning is titled Withholding Affection?” and it got me thinking about a few things. She started off her post with the following paragraph:

Withholding affection or withdrawing favor is not okay. It’s emotionally manipulative, psychologically abusive, and it’s what I call, “The Yo Yo.” It’s that place where I don’t know where I stand with you–Am I in? Am I out? Am I canceled forever? Am I supposed to do something to win back your affection? What did I even do to lose it? (Quote source and the rest of her post are available at this link.)

All good questions especially when someone is pushing our buttons or gaslighting us through punishment, control, or to manipulate us. She uses the example of social media, specifically Facebook, as she has been locked out of her account again, and apparently as she mentioned in her post this has happened several times over the past several years, and they end up lifting the ban at some point later (you can read about it in her post).

Her issue with Facebook reminded me of a pic regarding trust issues that was recently posted on FB that I thought was very relevant for the times in which we are living. I smiled as I could relate to that pic which I have included in this post. We live in an age of 24/7 news cycles, social media, disinformation campaigns, and smartphones capable of tracking our every move and conversation, so this pic is so, so relevant as well has funny. It also reminds me of a 1997 movie titled Wag the Dog,” with several big name actors (Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Anne Heche, and Woody Harrelson, to name a few). Here’s a brief description of the movie: “Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal.” (Quote source here.)

Well, you get the idea. Often, nothing is as it appears to be on the surface whether it is regarding trust issues or presidential elections. And on the topic of trust issues, did you know that the middle verse in the Bible has to do with trust issues? The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8 and it states:

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (NKJV)

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. (NIV)

It is better to trust the LORD for protection than to trust anyone else. (CEV)

The author of Psalm 118 is assumed to be King David, and he certainly knew about trust issues. He totally trusted in God from his youth as a shepherd boy and the slayer of Goliath, and later on when King Saul was trying to kill him, and when David became King. In a blog post titled, What the Story of David Teaches Us About Trust,” by Rebecca (no last name mentioned) who is the mother of twins, and she also has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, she writes:

David’s trust in God allowed him to rescue sheep from the mouths of lions, to defeat Goliath, the nine-foot giant, with only a handful of stones, and to conquer countless enemies as king of Israel.

And so, a question to ponder as you think about David and his trust in God to work all things for his good, is this: Who do you trust?

Do you trust God to provide for you in all circumstances?

Do you trust him to rescue you from the mouths of bears and lions?

Or do you trust in things? In circumstances? In relationships, and mortgages, and jobs, and accomplishments?

Do you trust in your own power more than in that of God?

Trusting in these other things can be disappointing and exhausting. In fact, it is always disappointing and exhausting, since all of these other things are temporary. They don’t last. We are happy and secure when we have them, and anxious and depressed when we don’t.

Learning to trust in the love and the power of God gives you a security that allows you to face lions, rescue sheep, and say, “No big deal. I trust that God’s got this.” (Quote source here.)

This may be one of the shortest blog posts I’ve written in a very long time, but it’s the message that is important, and not the length of the blog post. So I’m going to end this brief post with two verses on one of the most important topics we have regarding God, and that is to trust God completely in everything. Here are those two verses found in Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him…

And He . . .

Shall direct . . .

Your paths . . . .

YouTube Video: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

The Perks of Being An Introvert–Part 2

My last post published on this blog on September 5, 2022, titled, The Perks of Being An Introvert,” got my juices flowing on this particular topic, so this post is a follow-up to that post. I also published a blog post titled, In Praise of Introverts,” on my second blog back on April 23, 2019, but that’s been almost 3 1/2 years ago, and I had completely forgotten about it. I thought about republishing it on this blog, but you can read on my other blog at this link.

Let’s start off with 30 humorous memes that every true Introvert can relate to from an article titled, 30 Funny Memes That Will Make Every Introvert Laugh Out Loud,” by Greta Jaruševičiūtė, Photo Editor-in-Chief and a staff writer at BoredPanda.com. Click here to read/see all 30 memes (#10 is my favorite).

I will admit that some of those memes might be a bit excessive, but they are LOL funny to those of us who truly understand what it means to be introverted and misunderstood by the Extroverts out there who think we are just plain weird. Also, Introverts make up 25% to 40% of the population, and it is important to note that being introverted does not mean an Introvert is socially anxious or shy (source here).

Since I’ve already published two blog posts on the topic of being an Introvert and what that means (click here and here or see first paragraph above), this post will focus on a different aspect of Introversion.

In an article titled, Myers-Briggs: 8 Introverted Personality Types,” by , Ph.D., LPC, contributor on MindfulMuse.com, she writes:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) organizes personality into 16 distinct types, based on Carl Jung‘s theory of psychological type. We all exhibit different “preferences” for ways of being and interacting with others in the world. The idea behind personality type is that characteristics that appear uninterpretable or even odd, make sense when we consider these behaviors through the lens of personality.

People are not usually “always” one way or the other. We can act different ways in different situations and around different people. This is highly adaptive and enables us to alter our behaviors to fit different social contexts. For example, someone who might identify as being highly introverted might be able to utilize extraverted tendencies adaptively when he or she needs to engage in an important public speaking event.

The Myers-Briggs concept of introversion (vs. extroversion) involves a tendency to derive energy from time spent alone; time spent around other people may be experienced as emotionally or psychologically draining.  These individuals tend to be sensitive to their environments and may even report being easily “over-stimulated” by the amount of sounds, smells, colors, and interactions taking place around them.  A newer concept called the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) goes into greater detail with this aspect of introversion (not all introverts have this experience).

8 Introverted Personality Types

Introverted individuals generally prefer to take time on their own to contemplate or reflect upon ideas before taking decisive action.  They are also usually more comfortable after a decision has been made.  It is not uncommon for introverted people to experience liking the “idea” of something better than the “real thing.”

ISTJ (Introverted / Sensing / Thinking / Judging – 16.4% of males, 6.9% of females)

ISTJ’s are quiet and serious, generally interested in a peaceful and secure way of life.  They are known for their responsible, dependable, and thorough natures.  They are logical, practical, and work steadily towards goals without much distractibility.  They are often interested in supporting traditions and establishments.  ISTJ’s usually take great enjoyment out of order and organization in both their home and work lives.

ISFJ (Introverted / Sensing / Feeling / Judging – 8.1% of males, 19.4% of females)

ISFJ’s are quiet, conscientious, and kind.  They are responsible in nature and are committed to meeting their obligations.  They have a tendency to put the needs of others above their own.  Stable and practical in nature, they value security and traditions.  ISFJ’s tend to have a rich inner world and are highly attuned to the feelings of others.  They usually are very interested in ways of serving others.

INFJ (Introverted / Intuitive / Feeling / Judging – 1.3% of males, 1.6% of females)

INFJ’s are quietly forceful, sensitive, and original.  They seek out meaning in the connections between people, ideas, and possessions.  They are curious to understand the motives of others and generally have great insight into other people.  They are conscientious in nature and committed to their firm values.  They tend to develop a clear vision about how to best serve the common good and then are organized and decisive in the ways in which they choose to implement this vision.

INTJ (Introverted / Intuitive / Thinking / Judging – 3.3% of males, 0.8% of females)

INTJ’s are independent, original, determined, and analytical.  They have a great ability to turn theories into solid plans of action.  They easily see patterns in external events and are able to explain these patterns thoroughly. When they are committed, they are capable of organizing a job and carrying it through to fruition.  They tend to have high standards for their own performance as well as the performance of others.  They are natural leaders, but they are willing to follow if they trust existing leaders.

ISTP (Introverted / Sensing / Thinking / Perceiving – 8.5% of males, 2.4% of females)

ISTP’s are quiet and reserved, interested in the way that things work.  They are highly skilled with mechanical work and may be interested in/talented in extreme sports.  They are flexible and tolerant, and tend to quietly observe until a solution becomes clear.  They are interested in cause and effect and tend to organize facts using principles.  They can be perceived as somewhat detached or analytical, and they excel at finding solutions to practical problems.

ISFP (Introverted / Sensing / Feeling / Perceiving – 7.6% of males, 9.9% of females)

ISFP’s are quiet, serious, sensitive, and kind.  They dislike conflict and are unlikely to engage in activities where conflict is likely to occur.  They are loyal and faithful, with a particular appreciation for the aesthetic.  They tend to be flexible and open-minded, and are likely to be creative and original.  They prefer to have their own space and work within their own time frame.  They appreciate the present moment and enjoy what is going on around them in that moment.

INFP (Introverted / Intuitive / Feeling / Perceiving – 4.1% of males, 4.6% of females)

INFP’s are reflective, quiet, and idealistic.  They are loyal to their values and to the people who are important to them.  They tend to have a well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with.  INFP’s are loyal, adaptable, and laid-back (until one of their values are threatened).  They have an interest in understanding and helping others.

INTP (Introverted / Intuitive / Thinking / Perceiving – 4.8% of males, 1.8% of females)

INTP’s are original, logical, and creative thinkers. They tend to get very excited about ideas and theories.  INTP’s usually value logic, knowledge, and competence. They are quiet and reserved, and may be difficult to get to know well. They are usually individualistic and are uninterested in either leading or following others.

If you felt that you identified as an introvert in my recent post, Understanding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which specific introverted type stood out to you the most?  For some, a brief description of their Myers-Briggs type is a bit of an “a-ha!” moment.

For others, they may identify with features of multiple types.  It is important to remember that no one type is “better” or “worse” than any other.  Each type has specific strengths and weaknesses; they are simply different.

If you are interested in taking the official MBTI personality assessment, you may take it at MBTI Online for $49.95. For an unofficial version of the Jung Typology Test, you may take it for free aHumanMetrics. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.myersbriggs.org/ (Quote source here.)

Of course, there are 8 Extroverted types in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, too, and you can read about all 8 Extroverted types at this link.

I first encountered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) when I was attending graduate school at a state university back in 1990 when the program I was a part of required all students to take the MBTI personality assessment. Upon graduating with my master’s degree, I spent the next 20 years working in academic settings (public and private colleges and universities), and in several of these work settings they also required that staff members take the MBTI personality assessment. With the exception of one time when my result was INFJ, my usual results were always ISFJ. As it turned out, I was very close to the middle of the “S” (sensing) and “N” (intuition) continuum which is why one time when I took the test the result was INFJ. ISFJ is the most common type found in females (19.4%) and INFJ is the second most uncommon type found in females (1.6%) according to the stats noted in the article above. When I read through the differences between ISFJ and INFJ in an article at this link, I could tell I tend more towards ISFJ.

Because I worked in academic/educational settings (mostly secular) from the mid-1980’s for the rest of my working career, taking assessment tests like the Myers Briggs Personality Assessment was a “big thing” in those settings. This particular assessment is very good for understanding your basic personality preferences and your strengths and weaknesses.

From a Christian perspective, GotQuestions.org provides the following information regarding the MBTI:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) is a popular personality inventory first published in 1943 and based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. The test was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, as a way to help people understand themselves and each other better.

The MBTI tests for preferences in four different areas and specifies sixteen personality types. The areas of preference include (1) a focus on the exterior world (extroversion, E) or the interior world (introversion, I), (2) a focus on basic information (sensing, S) or interpreting and adding meaning to information (intuition, N), (3) making decisions by first looking at logic (thinking, T) or by first considering the people involved (feeling, F), and (4) a desire for things to be decided (judging, J) or being open to other options (perceiving, P). The sixteen personality types are identified as combinations of those four preference; for example, ISTJ is a personality type that is basically introverted, focused on basic information, logical, and most comfortable when decision-making has been resolved.

The MBTI is a popular assessment tool. Whether or not people have taken the official psychological assessment, many have heard of the terms and have unofficially tested their personalities or self-identified with a specific type. Descriptions abound of general personality traits, strengths and weaknesses, best jobs for each type, best learning environments for each type, and even best romantic combinations of each type.

The Myers & Briggs Foundation is careful to point out that no one personality type is better than any other personality type. Also, personality types are not indicative of ability or character. The types are simply offered as helpful tools in better understanding oneself. Personality type might be helpful in making choices but should not be the only tool a person uses to determine career path, romantic partners, or the like.

The secular scientific considerations of the MBTI notwithstanding, is the idea that there are different personality types biblical? Are personality types something Christians should consider? Are they helpful in any way? Let’s find out what the Bible says.

We know that all humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We know that we are uniquely formed and that God fully knows us and fully loves us (Psalm 139). No two human beings are exactly the same. Nothing in the MBTI contradicts this. Simple observation tells us that some people seem energized by spending time with others whereas other people recharge best alone. The Bible leaves room for there being different types of people as well as for commonalities among the different types. The fact that John Doe is unique does not mean that every single thing about Mr. Doe is different from everyone else. It does not contradict biblical truth to classify certain general similarities among people.

The benefit of the MBTI for Christians is in helping us better understand ourselves so as to better serve God. Often, our personality traits coincide with God’s call on our lives. For example, we might tend more toward introversion and have as part of our call being a writer. Or perhaps we tend more toward extroversion and find that God has asked us to host large-group Bible studies. Knowing our “natural” strengths can help us be attuned to the places where we can serve most effectively; knowing our “natural” weaknesses might help us avoid paths that would more easily trip us up.

Understanding personality types can also help Christians better love and serve others. For example, when we know that one of our friends tends more toward introversion, we’ll know that time spent together one-on-one is probably more meaningful than time spent together in larger social settings. If our friend tends more toward extroversion, we’ll know that he enjoys being included in social activities so we can be sure to invite him. Understanding personality types can also help us more easily forgive others. For instance, when an introverted friend says “no” to our invitation to a get-together, we might not take it as personally. Or, when a person who is a “thinker” talks first about the bottom-line in a church staffing decision, we can recognize that his words are not due to hard-heartedness but to the way God has naturally wired him for analysis.

One danger of the MBTI for Christians, or for anyone, is in making personality type inflexible and using it to justify stagnation. One’s personality type does not excuse one’s bad behavior, nor does it limit one’s ability to change or to do (and enjoy) things not stereotypically within the type. An introvert is still called to share the gospel. An extrovert is still called to spend time alone with God. A thinker should still consider the people his decisions affect. A feeler is still expected to be a good steward. When God calls us outside of our comfort zone, personality type is not a reason to disobey. If anything, a call of God that challenges our natural inclinations gives us more opportunity to trust Him and a deeper understanding that it is only His work in us that causes amazing things to be accomplished (see Zechariah 4:6).

Another danger of the MBTI is in allowing it to define the totality of our identities. A Christian is first and foremost a child of God (John 1:12). Our personality is something God designed, and it is certainly something to explore so that we can bring glory to God. But we are defined first by Jesus. Paul was willing to lose all things “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own . . . but that which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8–9).

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI can be a helpful tool in understanding God’s unique design of humanity, and of yourself specifically. It hints at both the order and diversity with which God created the world, demonstrating His logic and His artistry. Understanding ourselves can help us better steward the gifts God has given us. Rather than try to become someone else, we can thank God for His unique design and make the best use of the gifts God has given us. (Quote source here.)

At this point, I’ve pretty much covered the topic on being an introvert (it does get old being misunderstood just because one is quieter then those who are more vocal and outgoing among us), so I’ll move on to a new topic in my next blog post. I’ll end this post with a quote from Jenn Granneman, author of the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World,” and creator of IntrovertDear.com. She states: Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude…

And the inner world . . .

Will always be . . .

Our home . . . .

YouTube Video: “Fill My Cup” by Andrew Ripp:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Perks of Being An Introvert

I’m an introvert, but not excessively so (but then again, maybe more so then not). According to an article published on The Minds Journal titled, Hey Introvert”:

Introverts are the most misunderstood people on the planet. They care deeply about others but their inability to express or demonstrate their feelings earns them the reputation of being rude, shy, and whatnot.

Introverts enjoy their own company and feel drained out when they are forced to socialize with people they’re not comfortable with. They maintain a very small group of friends who are close to them and privy to their innermost thoughts. (Quote source here.)

Some well known introverts include leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama (source here), along with Bill Gates, Guy Kawasaki, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett (source here). Also included in the list of introverts are Oprah Winfrey, Amy Schumer, Rosa Parks, Meryl Streep, and J.K. Rowling (source here). 

Yesterday I found myself in a brief conversation with someone I had not met before, and he asked me a few questions that led me to answer that I tend to be an introvert, but not excessively so. That made him laugh and he said, “So, you’re an extroverted introvert.” I laughed and said, “Probably so.” 

This morning I got to thinking about the topic of introverts from that brief conversation, and I decided to look online to see if there is a category known as “extroverted introvert,” and I found several articles on the topic. It does exist and it is sometimes also known as ambivert.”

One of the articles I found was published on October 5, 2018, on IntrovertDear.com titled, If You Relate to These 10 Signs, You’re Probably an ‘Extroverted’ Introvert,” by Jenn Granneman, founder of IntrovertDear.com and author of “The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World.” I’ll list the 10 signs below, and you can read the descriptions for each sign in her article at this link. Here is the opening statement to her article along with the list of the ten signs:

The extroverted introvert is known by many names. Some call it an “outgoing introvert” or “social” introvert. Others argue that this is ambiversion.

So what does “extroverted introvert” really mean?

The thing to understand about introversion and extroversion is they are not all-or-nothing traits. Think of these two temperaments as being on a spectrum. Some people fall closer to the extreme ends, making them either very introverted or very extroverted. Most people are closer to the middle, which gives them qualities of both introversion and extroversion. 

If you think of yourself as an extroverted introvert, it probably means you’re an introvert at heart—but you may be more outgoing than other introverts because your personality is more middle-of-the-spectrum.

Are you an extroverted introvert? If so, you’ll recognize yourself in these 10 signs [see article for details on each of these signs. I’ve added a personal note after each sign listed below]. (Quote source here):

    1. Your energy level is closely tied to your environment. (True.)
    2. You find people to be both intriguing and exhausting. (True, too.)
    3. Certain people and interactions drain you while others recharge you. (True again.)
    4. You can be charming but also deeply introspective and reflective. (Charming… maybe.)
    5. When you feel rested and recharged, you reach out to others. (Maybe, depends.)
    6. You need time to warm up in social situations. (Depends on the social situation.)
    7. It actually takes less energy to say what’s on your mind than to make small talk. (So true.)
    8. You’re selectively social. (Yes.)
    9. You have no interest in trying to prove yourself in a crowd of strangers. (True.)
    10. You’re often confused for an extrovert. (Usually when not expected.)

This website, IntrovertDear.com, is an excellent resource for introverts and parents of introvert children, and anyone involved in relationships with introverts who want to understand them better. I also looked at the contents of her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World,” on Amazon.com (I’ve decided to ordered this book online), and in Chapter 3 she lists seven misconceptions that are frequently believed by others regarding introverts. Here are the seven misconceptions: (1) rude, (2) antisocial, (3) lack passion, (4) hate people, (5) shy, (6) poor leaders, and (7) don’t know how to have fun. As an introvert, I can attest that introverts are not any of these things listed above.

So let’s take a closer look at the signs of the introvert personality. In an article published on June 24, 2020, on WebMD.com titled, Introvert Personality,” by Rachel Reiff Ellis, freelance writer, she writes:

What Is an Introvert?

An introvert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as introversion, which means that they feel more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally. They enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds.

When you hear the word introvert, you might think of someone who’s shy or quiet and prefers to be alone. While that may be true for some introverts, there’s much more to this personality type. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert all depends on how you process the world around you.

A psychologist named Carl Jung began using the terms introvert and extrovert (sometimes spelled extravert) in the 1920s. These two personality types sort people into how they get or spend their energy. Introverts, Jung said, turn to their own minds to recharge, while extroverts seek out other people for their energy needs.

Signs You Might Be an Introvert

Around one-third to one-half of all people in the U.S. are introverts. Though it looks different in everyone, introverts have many of the same patterns of behavior. In general, introverts:

    • Need quiet to concentrate
    • Are reflective
    • Are self-aware
    • Take time making decisions
    • Feel comfortable being alone
    • Don’t like group work
    • Prefer to write rather than talk
    • Feel tired after being in a crowd
    • Have few friendships, but are very close with these friends
    • Daydream or use their imaginations to work out a problem
    • Retreat into their own mind to rest

Types of Introverts

Being an introvert isn’t an all-or-nothing stamp on your personality. Psychologists think of introverts as falling somewhere on a scale. Some people are more introverted than others. Other people fall right in the middle of the scale. They’re called ambiverts.

Introverts usually have a few extroverted traits mixed in with their introverted ones, and vice versa. There are a wide range of ways to be an introvert. One study shows that introverts tend to fall into one of four subtypes:

Social introverts. This is the “classic” type of introvert. Social introverts like small groups and quiet settings over crowds.

Thinking introverts. People in this group are daydreamers. They spend a lot of time in their thoughts and tend to have creative imaginations.

Anxious introverts. They seek out alone time not just because they like it, but also because they often feel awkward or shy around people.

Restrained/inhibited introverts. These introverts think before they act. They aren’t likely to make a decision on a whim. Typically they take longer to take action.

Your introverted ways may change over time, and in different settings, too. You’re not likely to swing from introvert to extrovert. But it’s possible you could become more or less introverted, depending on what’s going on in your life.

Introversion Versus Shyness

Many people think of introverts as shy, but the two aren’t linked. Introversion is a personality type, while shyness is an emotion.

People who are shy tend to feel awkward or uncomfortable when they’re in social situations, especially when they’re around strangers. They may feel so nervous, they become sweaty. Their heart may beat quicker, and they may get a stomachache. They may be inclined to skip social events because they don’t like the negative feelings that take over their thoughts and bodies when they have to go to parties or other activities.

People who are introverted also prefer to skip social events, but it’s because they feel more energized or comfortable doing things on their own or with one or two other people. Introverts don’t choose to skip social events because they have strong negative reactions to larger gatherings the way that shy people do; they just prefer being alone or in very small groups.

Myths About Introverts

One common myth about introverts is that they’re shy. Some introverts may be shy, but this is not the case for all introverts. Other myths include:

    • Introverts are unfriendly. Being an introvert doesn’t affect how friendly you may be. Some people may think that introverts are unfriendly because they don’t tend to have large groups of friends, and they may reflect on situations quietly rather than joining in on conversations at gatherings.
    • Introverts can’t be leaders. Although people may think of an extroverted personality when they imagine a leader, introverts have the skills to be bosses and leaders, too. Some of their qualities make them effective leaders: They listen to their employees’ ideas, they can stay focused on long-term goals, and they may seem less threatening, so people may accept them in their roles.
    • It’s hard to get to know introverts. Introverts prefer to have deep friendships with only a handful of people. They may not open up to everyone who wants to small-talk, but the people they’re close with know them very well and develop real friendships with them. (Quote source here.)

When I did a Google search on the topic of the perks of being an introvert, many links to articles showed up listing the number of benefits from anywhere between 5-16 benefits, and that was just on the first page of the search. For the purposes of this blog post (and to keep it within a reasonable length), I’ll end this post with a list from an article titled, 12 Reasons to Celebrate Introverts on World Introvert Day (Jan. 2nd),” by Jenn Granneman, founder of IntrovertDear.com. And yes, Virginia,” there really is a World Introvert Day, and it is celebrated every year on January 2nd. Here’s the list of 12 reasons (and full descriptions of each of these 12 reasons are available here):

  1. Introverts really know their stuff.
  2. Introverts are problem-solvers and idea-generators.
  3. Give up? Not yet.
  4. Introverts make better team players than extroverts over the long run.
  5. Introverts are capable of incredible depth and intimacy in their relationships.
  6. Introverts know the power of words.
  7. Introverts are low maintenance.
  8. Introverts can be the calm in the center of the storm.
  9. Introverts “get” you.
  10. Introverts look before they leap.
  11. Introverts create worlds inside their heads—and help create the world we live in.
  12. Who runs the world? Introverts. (See the list of world leaders at this link.)

So, to all of the introverts out there in the world, it’s time to…

Celebrate, celebrate . . .

Dance . . .

To the music . . . (P.S.–and you don’t have to go to the ball, either)

YouTube Video: “Celebrate” by Three Dog Night:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Outward Appearances

The movie, The Matrix (1999), starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and a host of others, is a movie about outward appearances and deception. The YouTube movie clip I posted above shows how deceptive outward appearances can be. In case the clip doesn’t show up or open up on your device, it is also available at this link.

The Bible mentions a lot regarding the deception of outward appearances. A list of just a few of the verses on this topic is available in an article titled, Bible Verses About the Deceptiveness of Appearances at this link. Here are the verses listed in that article:

  • Matthew 7:15
    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
  • Proverbs 31:30
    Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
  • Matthew 24:24-26
    For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.”
  • John 7:24
    Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
    For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
  • Genesis 3:6
    So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
  • Deuteronomy 13:1-5
    If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods—which you have not known—and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
  • 1 Samuel 16:7
    But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
  • Proverbs 26:12
    Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
  • Matthew 23:5
    But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.
  • Matthew 23:14
    Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
  • Luke 18:9-14
    Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
  • Ephesians 6:12
    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  • 1 Peter 3:3-5
    Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands…
  • 1 John 4:1
    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

In an article published on May 30, 2018 (and updated on March 6, 2022), titled, Outward Appearances Are Deceiving–I Samuel 16:7,” by Ed Jarrett, blogger at AClayJar.net, he writes:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

God had sent Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king of Israel. When Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, was presented, Samuel believed that he would be the one to anoint. Apparently, he was big and strong and kingly looking. But God had other plans, ultimately choosing David, the youngest son of Jesse. And what God told Samuel here is an important lesson for all of us.

What Is Important?

Outward appearances are important to many people, both for themselves and for how they judge others around them. But outward appearances can be deceiving and are not really all that important. Does a clear complexion, white teeth, flat tummy, bulging muscles, and designer clothes really make you more valuable? Or is what is on the inside of a person more important: their heart, mind, and will?

I’m not sure that it is possible for us to completely ignore the packaging that a person is wrapped in. But how much better if, like God, we would learn to put more stock in the inner person. To value people for who they are rather than what they look like. (Quote source here.)

It is pretty much impossible for us to completely ignore the packaging that a person is wrapped in. But how we respond is what matters. This reminds me of the words of James found in James 2:1-13 (the following is taken from The Message Bible):

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

Even our nonverbal communication–a tilt of the head, a reflection in our eyes, a haughty look, a scoff, smirking, mocking, glaring, staring, cynical laughter, deceptive game playing, and our body language in general–can clearly indicate to someone that we reject them. And God doesn’t miss what we do to others, either, and it clearly speaks to those we do it to what we really think about God regardless of what we may claim to believe about God. Our actions speak louder than words.

I took a book off of my bookshelf this morning that I had not look at in a while. It is titled, All In: You are one decision away from a totally different life (2013), by Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. He is also a New York Times best-selling author of 19 books. On the back cover of “All In” in big bold capital letters are these words:

THE GOSPEL COSTS NOTHING,
BUT IT DEMANDS EVERYTHING.
IT’S ALL OR NOTHING.

The following is the rest of what is written on the back cover of the hardcover edition:

If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all. Many people believe they are following Jesus, but they have mistakenly invited Jesus to follow them. Mark Batterson calls it the inverted gospel. He challenges you to go all in and all out by fully surrendering your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This is when the true adventure begins.

How we treat others (all others) is a direct reflection of what we think about God and Jesus Christ and whether or not Jesus is really the Lord of our lives. We cannot say we love God and Jesus if we hate or disdain those we don’t accept or like, including our enemies. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 5:43-48 how we are to respond to those we don’t like for whatever reason we don’t like them (and that could even be from gossip we’ve heard about them that may not even be true):

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In an article titled, When Jesus says, ‘Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect,’ does that mean we can attain perfection, and should we?” by R. C. Sproul (1939-2017), founder of Ligonier Ministries and the radio program “Renewing Your Mind,” founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, professor, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine, he wrote:

There are a couple of things we need to understand about this statement. In the first place, the word that is translated “perfect” literally means “be complete.” So often, the New Testament and the Old Testament will describe people as being upright and righteous—not in the sense that they have achieved total moral perfection, but rather that they have reached a singular level of maturity in their growth in terms of spiritual integrity….

Now to the question of whether we can, in fact, achieve moral perfection in this world. If Jesus says to be perfect, the assumption would be that he would not require us to do something that is impossible for us to achieve. Therefore, there are Christians, many Christians, who believe that, indeed, it is possible for a person to reach a state of moral perfection in this life. That view is called perfectionism, and people develop a theology whereby there’s a special work of the Holy Spirit that gives them victory over all sin or all intentional sin that renders them morally perfect in this world. The mainstream of Christianity, however, has resisted the doctrine of perfectionism chiefly because we see the record of the greatest saints in biblical history and in church history who to a person confessed the fact that they, to their dying day, struggled with ongoing sin in their lives. Not the least of which, of course, was the apostle Paul, who talked about his ongoing struggle with sin…. (Click here for quote source and to read the rest of his article).

In an article published on September 22, 2016, titled, What does Jesus mean when he says ‘Be perfect…’?” by Paula Gooder, a contributor on BibleSociety.org.uk, her thoughtful reflection shows the struggle involved. She writes, “Following is no intellectual exercise, it requires whole-life transformation. We are called to mirror the character of God, not merely to do or say the right things.” She continues by writing:

Okay, okay, I know I’m not helping! That just makes it worse not better–now we don’t just have to be perfect, we have to mirror the character of God, too. So before we go further let’s just be clear, this is challenging and it’s meant to be challenging and there is no way round that. Jesus’ calling to us requires our all and more. (Quote source here.)

As she continues, she brings up a comparison with “maturity” (1 Corinthians 2:6, Philippians 3:15, James 1:4), and I very much appreciated the illustration regarding cracked pottery she brings up at the conclusion of her article:

But perfection is not what we are aiming for, far from it in fact. One of my favorite passages from Paul is 2 Corinthians 4:7 which says that “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

The extraordinary power that Paul has been talking about is God’s glory that shines in the world. Ben Witherington observes that the Corinthians were well known for their pottery–not just their highly glazed pottery but their pots made of inferior clay that, when fired, cracked and made great light diffusers.

An example of Kintsugi pottery

Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians is that our cracked imperfect exteriors (in this instance his in particular) are nothing to be ashamed of—they are vital. A well glazed pot keeps the light in; only a pot riven with cracks can shine God’s light in the world. The cracks let the light out.

When I have spoken about this in past people have brought to my attention Kintsugi pottery (an example of which you can see at the side of this post). Kintsugi pottery is a Japanese practice which mends broken pots with gold or silver so that the resulting pot is more beautiful than the one that broke.

We are called to be who we are with all our cracks and imperfections.

It’s a slightly different image but still as powerful. As Christians we are not called to be perfect. We are called to be who we are with all our cracks and imperfections, knowing that God’s glory will shine through those cracks into the world around us and that the gold of God’s love will mend our brokenness into something far more beautiful than it was before. (Quote source here.)

I like her thoughts on how we are like those cracked pots, and it goes along with what Paul states in Philippians 2:12-16:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I (Paul) will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

And there is our answer… for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” I’ll end this post with Jesus’ words from John 7:24 (NCV)–Stop judging by the way things look…

But judge . . .

By what . . .

Is really right . . . .

YouTube Video: “Start Right Here” by Casting Crowns:

Photo #1 credit here (YouTube Video)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Timing Is Everything

“Timing is everything!” Where have we heard that statement before, right? GotQuestions.org gives us some insight into what this maxim means:

“Timing is everything.” This is a maxim that comedians, campaign managers, and marketing directors live by. It indicates that there’s always an ideal time to introduce an idea or perform an action, in order to maximize an intended effect.

In many areas, when one’s timing is off, the likelihood of success is diminished.

“God’s perfect timing” is an aspect of divine sovereignty. In God’s perfect timing, He only acts when it is optimal for what He wants to accomplish in His kingdom. In His omniscience, the Lord sees everything that is going on in the world in any given moment of time—which involves trillions of details that only the Spirit of God can fully grasp.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon says, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). What does this mean, especially in regard to God’s perfect timing?

The declaration that God has made everything beautiful in its time is preceded by one of the most famous passages in Scripture:

“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,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).

In 1965, the folk rock band The Byrds recorded a song,Turn! Turn! Turn!that used a portion of this passage and helped contribute to its recognition in pop culture.

Solomon follows his catalog of human experience with the statement that God, in His sovereignty, has made everything beautiful in its time. That is, He optimizes the outcome of all things, both what He has made and the products of mankind’s activity—even the more challenging aspects of human suffering. He does this in a way that is not only glorifying to Him but healing to those who look to Him for peace, purpose, and salvation. In the words of commentator Joseph Benson, God will work all things out “so that, all things considered, it could not have been better” (Commentary on the Old and New Testaments).

There are a multitude of scriptural passages that indicate the perfection and beauty of God’s timing:

“When the set time was fully come, God sent His son” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus introduced his ministry with the words, “The time has come” (Mark 1:15). And we have the promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT; see also Genesis 21:2Isaiah 46:1060:22Habakkuk 2:3Matthew 24:3626:18John 7:62 Corinthians 6:2Ephesians 1:101 Thessalonians 5:11 Peter 5:6–72 Peter 3:8Revelation 1:1).

From a human perspective, God’s timing often does not seem perfect, and it’s hard to see how the events of the world can ever be made “beautiful.” Consider the disappointed reactions of Mary and Martha when Jesus arrived four days after their brother died—after He deliberately delayed His arrival (John 11:1–44).

We are admonished repeatedly in the Bible to “wait on the Lord” (e.g., Psalm 27:14Hebrews 6:15). Peter tells us to not forget that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness” (2 Peter 3:8). If we are patient and wait on the Lord, we will eventually see the beauty of God’s handiwork—all in His perfect timing. (Quote source here.)

So, how can we know what God’s timing is? GotQuestions.org supplies the answer to this question, too:

The first thing we need to understand about God’s timing is that it is perfect, just as all of God’s ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30Galatians 4:4). God’s timing is never early, and it’s never been late. In fact, from before our birth until the moment we take our last earthly breath, our sovereign God is accomplishing His divine purposes in our lifetimes. He is in complete control of everything and everyone from everlasting to everlasting. No event in history has put so much as a wrinkle in the timing of God’s eternal plan, which He designed before the foundation of the world.

One would think, then, that by understanding the sovereignty of our Creator, patience and waiting would come a little more easily. Unfortunately, however, that’s not always the case. Our human nature can make waiting for God’s perfect timing a difficult thing to do. In fact, in the hustle and bustle of our frenzied lives, we often find it difficult to wait for anything or anyone. We want what we want now. And with our modern technological advances, we’re often able to get what we want now. As a result, we are not only losing our patience, but also finding it increasingly difficult to discern God’s timing.

Patience is a spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22), and Scripture makes it clear that God is pleased with us when we display this virtue: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7), for God is good to those who wait for Him (Lamentations 3:25). And our patience often reveals the degree of trust we have in God’s timing. We must remember that God operates according to His perfect and foreordained eternal schedule, not ours. We should take great comfort in knowing that, when we wait on the LORD, we receive divine energy and strength: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). The psalmist reiterates: “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14).

Another key to understanding God’s timing is trust. In fact, our ability to wait on the Lord is largely related to how much we trust Him. When we trust in God with all of our heart, forgoing reliance on our own, often erroneous understanding of circumstances, He will indeed give us direction (Proverbs 3:5-6). “The LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him” (Psalm 32:10). To fully trust God, however, we need to know God. And the best way to know Him is through His Word. God’s divine energy is released in our lives through His inspired Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The work of God’s Word includes saving (Romans 10:171 Peter 1:23), teaching and training (2 Timothy 3:16-17), guiding (Psalm 119:105), protecting (Psalm 119:114,117), strengthening (Psalm 119:28), and making us wise (Psalm 119:97-100). If we study and meditate on His Word daily, His timing will also become clear to us.

When we question God’s timing, it is often because we are looking for guidance or deliverance from a difficult situation. We can rest assured, however, that our heavenly Father knows exactly where we are in our lives at every moment. He either put us there or is allowing us to be there, all for His own perfect purpose. In fact, God often uses trials to strengthen our patience, allowing our Christian faith to mature and become complete (James 1:3-4). And we know that all things–including these difficult trials–work out for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). God does indeed hear the cries of His children and will answer those cries according to His perfect will and timing. “A righteous man may have many troubles; the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). The plans God has for His children are good plans–to help us, not hurt us (Jeremiah 29:11). (Quote source here.)

As I look back over my life which as of my last birthday a few weeks ago has now reached 70 years, I can honestly say that most of the things I thought I wanted and was, in fact, waiting on God’s timing for never did materialize (for example–marriage and children), and some of the things that I hoped for that did materialize did not have a happy ending, but some did have a happy ending, too, like my doctoral fellowship year spent at a university in South Florida back in 1992-93. Does that mean I’ve been wrong in some of my desires that didn’t happen or end well? No, not necessarily. What I have learned by those things not coming my way or not working out in the way I had hoped for has taught me a lot about how God works in our individual lives. God’s guidance and timing are intricately woven into each of us in very specific ways (read Psalm 139:1-18; 23-24), and we should never compare our life and circumstances with anyone else’s life and circumstances.

One last article I want to include in this post is an article published on April 30, 2021, in the Carroll County Times, and it is titled, God’s Timing is Perfect and He Has the Final Say,” by the Rev. Bill Thomas, Lead Pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He writes:

Have you ever been through a crisis? Maybe you’re going through one now.

There are three important lessons we can learn in John 11 about how to hang on in times of crisis. Jesus gets word that his friend Lazarus is critically ill. Much to his disciple’s astonishment, Jesus doesn’t run to heal him, but stays for two days before leaving. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, home of Lazarus and his two sisters, He learns that Lazarus died four days earlier.

Lesson 1: God’s timing is always perfect.

God’s never early, never late, but always on time. Our timing isn’t God’s timing. For us, God’s timing often feels like a long, desperate delay.

God’s perfect timing does two things: It grows our faith as we are forced to wait and trust in God and it makes certain that He, and He alone, gets the glory and praise for pulling us through. “My times are in Your hands…” Psalm 31:15

At the right time, God will provide your need. At the right time, God will deliver you. At the right time, God will rescue you.

At the RIGHT time. His time!

Lesson 2: God’s ways are not our ways.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

God has eternal perspective! God is the great “I AM” (Yahweh) who knows the past, present and future. And what do we know? Nothing really. Nothing compared to God. If I were Jesus, I would’ve healed Lazarus right away. But Jesus wanted to stretch the faith of His disciples who after His death would be the catalysts to taking the message of Christ to the world. They knew Jesus had the power to heal people—but to raise a 4-day-old corpse? Come on, that’s taking faith to a whole new level.

Knowing that God’s ways aren’t my ways means I have to put all my faith and trust in His ways.

Lesson 3: God always has the final say.

No matter how terrible and impossible the situation appears, how awful you feel, or how there appears to be no answer, no help, no hope, God will see you through because He and He alone has the final say.

We put periods in our lives where God puts commas. We think it’s over, period: Our marriages, our families, our jobs, our health, our futures. But God puts a comma in those places because it’s not over until He says it’s over.

Lazarus was dead and decaying for four days in that tomb. That’s more than a period, that’s an exclamation mark! But it wasn’t over. God put a comma in that place. And Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, his organs functioning, the rotting skin is made new again.

And Jesus will take what has died in you and raise it from the dead! He will see us through the crisis, not just barely surviving, but victorious. Victors, not victims. Champions, not chumps. Winners, not whiners. Stop putting periods where God puts commas.

The world put a period after Jesus’s crucifixion and death. But God always has the last say. On the third day, Sunday morning, God raised Jesus from the dead and He’s alive! “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Because of Jesus Christ, death and the grave no longer have the last say in our lives. Jesus has the last say. And because He lives, if you trust in Him and put your lives in His hands, you’re going to live too! (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from David found in Psalm 27:13-14: I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living…

Wait for the Lord . . .

Be strong and take heart . . .

And wait for the Lord . . . .

YouTube Video: “Right On Time” by Aaron Cole (feat. TobyMac):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Sing Praise

I woke up this morning with a song going through my mind. The song is titled, Heart of the Father” sung by Ryan Ellis (YouTube video is at the bottom of this post). That’s a good way to start a brand new day before one even gets out of bed. Instead of starting off the day with a prayer filled with requests, it’s amazing what a prayer of praise can do when we put our focus on God first instead of ourselves.

God knows what we need before we even begin to pray or know what to pray. In fact, he know us better then we know ourselves. As Romans 8:26-28 (MSG) states:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

And Hebrews 13:15 states:

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

So what does it mean to offer a “sacrifice of praise”? GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” The terms sacrifice and praise might seem to be opposites. We think of sacrifice as offering something at great cost to ourselves. Praise, on the other hand, sounds joyful as it bubbles from a grateful heart. However, in the spiritual realm, sacrifice and praise are intertwined.

Praise does not always cost us something. We praise our dogs for fetching the ball and people for a job well done. Praise is often our response to some action that directly benefits us, and we feel generous because we extend it. We often find it easy to praise God from the same motivation. When He has blessed us, helped us, and protected us, we feel generous toward Him. We can sing, worship, and talk about how good He is because we can see it. That kind of praise, although worthwhile, does not cost us anything. It is not a sacrifice.

Then there are those times when God did not come through the way we thought He would. The medical test comes back positive. The spouse wants a divorce. A child is wayward. The mortgage company calls in the loan. God seems very far away, and praise is the last thing to bubble up from our hearts. We can’t see His goodness, and circumstances scream that He has forgotten us.

To praise God in those times requires personal sacrifice. It takes an act of the will to lay our all on the altar before a God we don’t understand. When we bring a “sacrifice of praise,” we choose to believe that, even though life is not going as we think it should, God is still good and can be trusted (Psalm 135:2Nahum 1:7). When we choose to praise God in spite of the storms, He is honored, and our faith grows deeper (Malachi 3:13-17Job 13:15).

The command in Hebrews 13:15 says that this sacrifice is to be offered “continually.” Our praise of God is not to be based on our opinion of His job performance. Praise cannot be treated as a “reward” we give God for His obvious blessings. Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Real praise continues regardless of circumstances. It flows continually from a worshiping heart in good times and bad (Acts 16:23-25).

The “sacrifice of praise” comes from a humble heart that has been purified by fire. It rises from a spirit that has chosen to honor God in spite of the pain that life is causing. Psalm 51:16-17 expresses this idea when it says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Quote source here.)

I remember a book that was published back in 1970 (the year I graduated from high school) that became a bestseller. It was the first book published by Merlin Carothers (1924-2012), and it is titled, Prison to Praise,” (and it is still in print today). It is a short book with a powerful message. He went on to write several other books on the subject of praise, and he established the Foundation of Praise in 1970 which continues today. An excerpt from Chapter One in Prison to Praise is available at this link. The following brief description of the book is taken from the Foundation of Praise website:

“Prison to Praise” chronicles Merlin Carothers’ spiritual journey from a hostile, bitter young soldier in World War II to accepting Christ and returning to the military as a chaplain. “Prison to Praise” is an enlightening book that is not about a prison with bars, but about a prison of circumstances–and how to be set free! (Quote source here.)

“A prison of circumstances”–events and/or conditions that are out of our control–and we’ve all been there, too. In my Google search on the topic, I found an interesting blog post published on June 11, 2014, titled, Are You a Prisoner of Circumstances or a Prisoner of the Lord?” by William Earnhardt who has an online ministry at InLightOfTheCross.com. As I read through his post and experiences, I could relate to a lot of what he has written. He starts off his post with the following:

Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances? Due to lack of education or money you have missed opportunities? Maybe if you had not married right out of high school you could have explored the world instead of getting tied down. Now you are sacrificing your own dreams in order to create a better life for your family. Meanwhile others wish they had married so they could be experiencing a family. Now those are examples of being a victim of our own choices and not necessarily circumstances beyond our own control. Others feel like they were born victims.

Some blame the location of where they were born on how their lives turned out. Several years ago a friend came to visit me from South America. We were stopped at an intersection where a man was begging. My friend was amazed that there were poor people in the United States. She thought all Americans were wealthy because America is known as the land of opportunity. It seems that, no matter where people come from or what their lot is in life, they can see themselves as victims of circumstances.

While I enjoy my freedom of being single, there are times I miss having a family. I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the things I miss about not having my own family. I miss having someone with whom to share my stories. I don’t have a wife with whom I can share my school yearbook and tell her my high school and college stories. I don’t have any children to whom I can tell my “when I was a kid” stories. Then again, I know married people who don’t have anyone in their family who wants to hear their story either. [He has a footnote at this point in his article that states at the bottom of his post: “By the way, just because I am happy being single does not mean I have chosen to remain single. I am just happy being single until God brings me the right woman. I am not desperate. I am happily content.” I had to laugh when I read his footnote as that is exactly how I feel about being single although I’m not convinced that God meant marriage for me since I just turned 70, and it just seems like a bit of a stretch at this point in time.]

Earnhardt continues in his post with the following:

My friend then made an amazing comparison. She told me while I have no family with whom to share my stories, I share them with my church family and extended family through blogging. She told me Paul was the same way. Maybe that is why he wrote so much and loved his church so much. Having no immediate family, the church was his love and passion, and he shared his story and testimony with them through his letters. Maybe that is why he wrote so much!

Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and it got me to thinking about Paul’s circumstances, and one thing I have always noticed. While being persecuted and in prison Paul never thought of himself as a victim of circumstances. He never even thought of himself as a victim of the Jews or Romans while in prison. Paul writes,

For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles… Ephesians 3:1

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you… Ephesians 4:1

Be not thou, therefore, ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner… 2 Timothy 1:8

Paul never refers to being a prisoner of the Romans or Jews. Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was exactly where God wanted him to be. Paul did most of his writing from prison. If he had been free to travel and talk to people in person, he would not have written so much, and we would not have had all of his writings preserved in the New Testament that we have today.

Paul was well aware of how an angel freed Peter from prison. Paul was well aware of how Philip just disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Paul knew that the iron bars and soldiers were not really holding him there. He knew he was right where God needed him to be, so he calls himself a prisoner of the Lord instead of a prisoner of man or circumstances…. (Quote source and the rest of his post are available at this link.)

Reading his post gave me “food for thought” as I look back over the past dozen years of my own life, and how starting back then it took a turn I never expected it to take. As it turned out, the reasons behind all of it have been unfolding over time, too, and I’ve discovered a much bigger picture going on behind the scenes of life in general (and not just specifically my own life) then I ever imagined or that I could have known existed back then, and it has certainly been an interesting ride since then, too.

In an article published on October 29, 2015, titled What does God expect of us?” by Dr. Sam Smith, columnist at Jacksonville Progress, he opens his article with the following:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

What do you believe you are on earth to do? Are you here to make as much money as possible? Are you here to have and care for a family? Are you here to become famous? Nothing wrong with those things, but do we think that is God’s ultimate expectations for us? If not, what does God expect of us?

We know what He does and does not want us to do. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not covet what others have. Do not dishonor thy father and thy mother. Do not misuse the name of God. Worship only God, no other. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy and resting. Do not make anything into an idol. Do not murder.

He does expect us to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

To love others as we love ourselves, and love others as Jesus loved us.

Those are the do’s and don’ts. God has given us the rulebook for living together on this planet. But those are still not His ultimate expectations for us. So, what does God expect of us? God expects us to accept His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Savior. He expects us to give our lives to Him, and in so doing, develop the character of Christ. God wants us to become more like Christ. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the chorus from the song, Heart of the Father:

Jesus, Your name is power
It’s breath, and living water
And Your Spirit guides me
To the heart of the Father
Let Your praise ring louder
Everyday and every hour…

‘Cause Your Spirit guides me . . .

To the heart . . .

Of the Father . . . .

YouTube Video: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Our Abba Father

The reference to God as “Abba Father” is found three times in the New Testament–once spoken by Jesus in Mark 14:36, and twice spoken by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. GotQuestions.org provides the meaning behind this most important name for God:

In Scripture there are many different names used to describe God. While all the names of God are important in many ways, the name “Abba Father” is one of the most significant names of God in understanding how He relates to people. The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word that means “Father.” It was a common term that expressed affection and confidence and trust. “Abba” signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father and his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.”

“Abba” is always followed by the word “Father” in Scripture, and the phrase is found in three passages. In Mark 14:36, Jesus addresses His Father as “Abba, Father” in His prayer in Gethsemane. In Romans 8:15, “Abba, Father” is mentioned in relation to the Spirit’s work of adoption that makes us God’s children and heirs with Christ. In Galatians 4:6, again in the context of adoption, the Spirit in our hearts cries out, “Abba, Father.” Together, the terms “Abba” and “Father” doubly emphasize the fatherhood of God. In two different languages, we are assured of God’s care for His children.

Many claim that all people are “children of God,” but the Bible reveals quite a different truth. We are all His creations and under His authority and lordship, and all will be judged by Him, but the right to be a child of God and call Him “Abba Father” is something that only born-again Christians have (John 1:12–13). When we are born again (John 3:1–8), we are adopted into the family of God, redeemed from the curse of sin, and made heirs of God (Romans 8:17Galatians 4:7). Part of that new relationship is that God now deals with us differently, as family.

It is life-changing to understand what it means to be able to call the one true God our “Father” and what it means to be joint-heirs with Christ. Because of our relationship with our “Abba, Father,” He no longer deals with us as enemies; instead, we can approach Him with “boldness” (Hebrews 10:19) and in “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). The Holy Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17).

Becoming a child of God is the highest and most humbling of honors. Because of it we have a new relationship with God and a new standing before Him. Instead of running from God and trying to hide our sin like Adam and Eve did, we run to Him, calling, “Abba, Father!” and finding forgiveness in Christ. Being an adopted child of God is the source of our hope, the security of our future, and the motivation to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Being children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us to a higher standard, a different way of life, and, in the future, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4).

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began with the words “Our Father.” There is much truth in those two words alone. The holy and righteous God, who created and sustains all things, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present, not only allows us but encourages us to call Him “Father.” What a privilege is ours. What amazing grace that God would love us so, that Jesus would sacrifice Himself for us, and that the Holy Spirit would indwell us and prompt our intimate cry of “Abba, Father!” (Quote source here.)

Let’s take a closer look at those three scripture references mentioned at the start of this post. Jesus stated in Mark 14:36 (NIV):

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

In a devotional titled, What Jesus Did! Your Will, Not Mine!–Mark 14:26,” published on Heartlight.org on October 31, 2020, the author (name not mentioned) states:

Jesus recognizes two crucial realities: First, God can do anything he wants to do; he is God, the sovereign ruler of all things. Second, Jesus knows that his life must be governed by God’s will and not his own. The whole of human salvation history hinges on Jesus’ following through on one heart-felt phrase from his lips: “I want your will to be done, not mine.” In a parallel way, our future is also determined by our following our Savior’s example and saying, “Father, I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Quote source here.)

The second reference, Romans 8:15, stated by Paul, is within the context of Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)–verse 15 is in bold and red text:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

In an article published on September 30, 2015, titled Sons of God–Romans 8:14-17,” on The Fellowship (author’s name not mentioned), the article states:

In Romans 8, [Paul] continually speaks of the contrast between the Spirit and flesh. The chapter begins with how we have all sinned and are unable to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. Therefore, God has to provide a way (and He did so) through Jesus Christ. Christ is the propitiation for our faith–He has fulfilled the law and its requirements on our behalf and we can now be counted righteous by the righteousness of another. 

The law of the Spirit leads to life and peace, and as Christians, we have the Spirit dwelling in us to give us new desires. This leads to today’s study, where we explore and understand our identity in Christ. 

Paul has been teaching about the Spirit of God dwelling in us, and verse 14 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from earlier. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are therefore “sons of God”. John 1:12-13 tells us that this new identity is part of the will of God. This is consistent with what we have seen so far–God acts.

Paul goes on to contrast 2 kinds of spirits (Rom 8:15)slavery and adoption. The spirit of slavery leads to fear, while the spirit of adoption leads us to cry, “Abba! Father!” Notice the contrast between the identity of a slave and a son. There are rights and privileges that come with transforming from being a slave to a son. Your former debts have been paid, and you now have security and authority in the household. More than that, you now have a relationship with the Father, and can cry out intimately “Abba! Father!” Do you realize how wonderful this is? When we come before God in prayer, uttering the words “our Heavenly Father”, this is not a formula or just a model prayer for us to recite without thinking. To call God our Father is something radical, so radical and mind blowing that Jesus was charged because He claimed to be the Son of God (c.f. Matt 26:53). 

Verse 16 tells us that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit. What does this mean? Or to rephrase, how can we be assured and confirm that we are sons of God? Safely to say, this passage shows us there is an experiential element to our faith. This can take the form of new and changed hearts with new desires. God not only gives us new identities, but also sends His spirit with us to confirm it. 

The issue of sonship is repeated in these verses. Modern people like us think of sons from a genetic point of view. But to the 1st Century readers, they would understand sonship and its implications differently. Sonship comes with inheritance and continuity, for the son will continue the trade of the father. Isn’t that different from our modern sensibilities, where we are told to be what we want to be and dream our dreams? We try our whole lives to become who we think we should be, to try to make an impact on the world and try to leave a lasting impression. We prize individualism, thinking it is our freedom, but Romans 8 shows us a different kind of freedom, and shows us what it really means to be who we are made to be. Paul calls us to become sons of God, our new identity in Christ, to be recognized by the King. 

[Next], Paul speaks of a privilege, a condition and a consequence of being sons of God (Romans 8:17):

Privilege: Heirs of God and heirs with Christ

What are we heirs of? As sons of God, we now have the assurance that we are God’s and that we now have the intimacy with him and no longer have condemnation because of Christ (basically everything that we’ve been talking about so far). The verses in Rom 4:13-14 speak of a full and complete inheritance. God is not stingy and gives us only a portion, but He gives us beyond what we can expect. More importantly, these verses tell us that we inherit it through the “righteousness of faith”, not by our striving and merit.  Not only that, we are also guaranteed the resurrection body and resurrection. 

Condition: Suffer with Christ

Yet, sonship does not guarantee a trouble free life. Look at the life of Christ. He suffered as the Son of God. The Bible keeps repeating this in many of Paul’s letters (c.f. Phil 3:8-111 Peter 1). We all have real struggles, problems and sufferings today. But as we read these verses, let us take our eyes away from our circumstances and realize that equally real are the promises of God here, and the work of Jesus Christ! So, why do we take our eyes of Jesus and the promises that await us in Him, and focus on the problems that we have? 

Consequence: Glorified with Christ after we have suffered with Him. 

What does this mean for us today? What do you find your identity in today? How does understanding of your inheritance as a son of God change the way you live today? Perhaps it is time to pause and consider your answer to these questions. (Quote source here.)

And now we come to the third reference, also stated by Paul, in Galatians 4:6 (NIV) which taken in context includes Galatians 4:1-7 (NIV)–verse 6 is in bold and red text:

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

In an article published on October 6, 2020, titled, Galatians 4:1-7–Sonship in Christ,” by Mathew N. Taylor, contributor on SeekingOurGod.com, he writes:

One of the tragedies of legalism is that it gives the appearance of spiritual maturity when, in reality, it leads the believer back into a “second childhood” of Christian experience. The Galatian Christians, like most believers, wanted to grow and go forward for Christ; but they were going about it in the wrong way. Their experience is not too different from that of Christians today who get involved in various legalistic movements, hoping to become better Christians. Their motives may be right, but their methods are wrong.

Paul enumerates some of the characteristics of childhood to illustrate the spiritual immaturity of living under the law. Though a child may be the heir of a great estate, he still lives and functions as a slave until a time set by his father.

In verse 3, Paul uses first person to include himself and give the sense that they are in this together. Prior to the grace of Christ, the Christian is enslaved to the elementary things (or basic principles) of the world, the ABCs of the law.

Verse 4 provides the divine answer to humanity’s slavery under the law. When the law had accomplished its purpose and man was ready for release from the bondage of the law, God sent his Son. He came right on schedule, arriving on the earth when the time had fully come. Some suggest world conditions were ripe for the spread of the gospel. The Romans had ushered in an era of relative peace through law and order. Their network of roads made travel more convenient. Widespread use of the Greek language simplified communication. At the same time, the proliferation of empty religions among many people created a spiritual hunger for something genuine. The Son had the qualifications to bring salvation to human beings. (Quote source here.)

Specific to verses 6-7, Taylor states:

Verse 6: God the Father not only “sent His Son”; He also sent “the Spirit of His Son.” Thus the full Trinity is involved in the work of salvation. The Holy Spirit is a gift of God to every believer because of sonship. No sons or daughters lack the Spirit. Further, He is present within each believer’s heart to give evidence of that one’s position in God’s family. Christians can know intimacy with the Father because of the indwelling Spirit. The Spirit moves the believer to pray to God, addressing Him as “Abba, Father” (cf. Rom. 8:15). The word “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “Father.” Abba means a term of endearment, later used as title and personal name; rarely used in ref. to God. that it is the diminutive form used by small children in addressing their fathers. Many say it is appropriate to see its similarity to the English word “Daddy” or some will say it means “Papa.” Used by Christ (cf. Mark 14:36), this familiar form indicates intimacy and trust as opposed to the formalism of legalism. It shows the closeness children of grace have with their Father. No slave of the law had such an intimate relationship. That intimate relationship comes through the Spirit not through the law.

Verse 7: To conclude, Paul declared that the Galatians were no longer slaves, but were sons and heirs. Thus, under grace we have progressed from being slaves to being sons and heirs. Grace is adulthood. Law is childhood. With the privileges of adulthood, the Christian has no reason to regress back to the law. The plural forms in verse 6 were replaced by the singular forms in verse 7 thus making the application to the reader direct and personal. In God’s family, sonship carries with it heirship (cf. Rom. 8:17).

To be an “heir of God” is true of all “sons” unconditionally. This should be distinguished, however, from being an heir of the kingdom. The Bible speaks of two inheritances (Rom. 8:17). All children of God by faith have an inheritance in heaven which can never fade (1 Peter 1:3-5), but the inheritance in the earthly reign of Christ is earned as a result of our sufferings for Him (2 Tim. 2:12). (Quote source here.)

In summary, Taylor states:

Paul, writing to Roman audiences, uses the metaphor of adoption, which a Roman audience would have understood. In Galatians 4:3–7, Christians are born enslaved, but Jesus buys them out of slavery and they are adopted by the Father and given the Spirit, so now they are heirs. When we come to faith in Christ, our debts are cancelled, we are given a new name, and we are given all the rights that heirs of God possess. One difference from Roman adoption is that Christians are not adopted because God thinks they will make worthy heirs. God adopts people who are completely unworthy, because He adopts on the basis of His grace. (Quote source here.)

God adopts people who are completely unworthy, because He adopts on the basis of His grace”…. I’ll end this post with the chorus from the song, “Abba” (YouTube video below):

Abba . . .

I belong . . .

To You . . . . 

YouTube Video: “Abba” sung by Dante Bowe live at Bethel Church:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The 4th of July

Back on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress, the population of the United States of America was 2.5 million (source here). As of January 2022, the population of the United States of America was 332.4 million (source here). As our population has grown tremendously over the past 246 years since the Declaration of Independence was adopted, so has our racial diversity. The following information is provided by VisualCapitalist.com:

Growing Diversity in America

As of 2019, here is the current distribution of the U.S. population by race and ethnicity:

    • White: 60.1% (Non-Hispanic)
    • Hispanic: 18.5%
    • Black: 12.2%
    • Asian: 5.6%
    • Multiple Races: 2.8%
    • American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.7%
    • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%

Note that the U.S. totals do not include Puerto Rico. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 28, 2022, titled, We the People: Voices of the United States,” by StoryCorps, an organization created in 2003 with a “mission to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world,” the article states:

With the Fourth of July around the corner, there is a lot to reflect on as a nation from the past year. For many this is a time of celebration, to celebrate our nation and our diverse history. However, there is also much to learn as we navigate the country today.

Thoughts of country and patriotism evoke different things for different people—often, they evoke different, conflicting notions for just one person. The U.S. is complicated, its history marked by both incredible beauty and profound injustice. And so its people are complicated too: their backgrounds, experiences, and values are diverse and nuanced. Let’s recognize and honor that. This Independence Day, hear what it means to be a part of the United States right from the source. Listen to these extraordinary stories from remarkable people, all of whom make up this complicated, beautiful, and diverse country.

The following stories were drawn from across the various StoryCorps initiatives, each of which highlights voices from a particular group of people living in the U.S. As you listen, click the links at the bottom of the descriptions to explore the corresponding initiative. [Quote source and links to the stories are available at this link.]

There is a collection of articles at Zinn Education Project listed under a profile, People’s History of the Fourth of July,” which includes a collection of people’s history stories from July 4th beyond 1776. Howard Zinn (1922-2010) whom the Zinn Education Project is named after, was “a historian, author, professor, playwright, and activist. His life’s work focused on a wide range of issues including race, class, war, and history, and he touched the lives of countless people” (quote source here).

American flag and fireworks

In my search for information to include in this blog post, I came across a number of links regarding a range of divergent views when it comes to Independence Day celebrations and the 4th of July holiday. In fact, I hardly knew what to include in this post. The typical stories we are used to reading over the years rarely include some of the other pressing issues I found that surround the 4th of July holiday. You can find some of those stories at the Zinn Education Project mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I also came across a brief post (a questionnaire) published on June 27, 2022, titled, We’re asking all immigrants–what does the 4th of July mean to you?” by Elena Burnett at NPR that states:

This Fourth of July, we want to hear from those who immigrated to the United States about what the day means to you.

How do you celebrate? Did America live up to the promise it held when you moved here?

Please fill out the form below, and a producer or reporter may follow up with you. [The form asks for contact and demographic information and includes seven questions.] (Quote source here.)

Due to the diversity of opinions I came across in my search (and it will be interesting to read the results from the NPR survey mentioned above once the data has been collected), I decided to include a brief history of the 4th of July holiday from History.com as this is the historical account of how the 4th of July became a Federal holiday in America:

The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. The Fourth of July 2022 is on Monday, July 4, 2022.

History of Independence Day

When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.

By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphletCommon Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.

On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of ConnecticutBenjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” (Quote source and additional information is available at this link.)

NOTE: “On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.” (Quote source here.)

That is how the 4th of July became a Federal holiday 246 years ago, and why we continue to celebrate it as a national holiday here in America right up through today.

In a short story published on July 6, 2017, on LinkenIn.com, titled, A Very Diverse July 4th,” by Vince Vitiello, President at New America Marketing. He wrote:

On Tuesday [July 4, 2017], the USA celebrated Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Lost between the department store and auto specific sales commercials is the true meaning of “Why America is Great”.

Quietly, my family and I celebrated the fourth at our apartment in Midtown Manhattan. At about 6 PM, before the roar of the Macy’s firework display, my wife prepared a simple cookout in a common area of our building. At the table next to us was a Chinese family of ten, including four generations, two of which were born in China. At another table, there was a three-generation South-Asian family. We were just a two-generation family. My son’s 4 great grandparents were all born in Italy, but at the age of 23, he still refers to himself as Italian-American.

As the sun disappeared and darkness overcame the canyons of buildings, fireworks exploded in the New York City skyline.

We were all on the roof. A Middle-Eastern resident, whom I have never met, handed me a “whiskey” to celebrate. Different beverages, the aroma of barbeque food from multiple countries and a symphony of languages all living, celebrating and thankful for our wonderful divine country. This is “Why America is Great!” (Quote source here.)

A song often played at 4th of July celebrations is The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Star-Spangled Banneris the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from the “Defence of Fort M’Henry, a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory” (quote source here). So, appropriately, I’ll end this post with the last three lines from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave . . .

O’er the land of the free . . .

And the home of the brave . . .

YouTube Video: “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Whitney Houston:

Photo #1  credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Healing Balm

I just read a blog post that was published today that was quite refreshing. It’s titled, Redeeming the Time,” and you can read it by clicking here. It’s based off of the King James Version (KJV and also NKJV) of Ephesians 5:16“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Here is a quote from that blog post:

“Redeeming” is like having a free ticket to a carnival. It is like winning the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We redeem points, we redeem a coupon. We redeem the time because it is a gift we’ve been given and granted dominion over. When Christ “redeemed us,” He was claiming what was His, and cashing in.

“…Because the days are evil,” redeem the gift you’ve been given! So break out the good silver, wear your best dress, and stop saving everything for a rainy day. It’s raining now. Don’t focus on all the evil, redeem what you have been granted, time yes, but time spent in His presence, His peace, His joy…. (Quote source here).

Reading that was like applying a balm to my soul. “Balm” in the Bible is described as the Balm of Gilead–a rare perfume used medicinally, that was mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and named for the region of Gilead, where it was produced. The expression stems from William Tyndale’s language in the King James Bible of 1611, and has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech” (quote source here).

A universal cure….

In an article published on March 15, 2021, titled What is the Balm of Gilead According to the Bible?” by Tammy Kennington, author, speaker, and contributor on Crosswalk.com, she writes about the three times in the Bible that the “Balm of Gilead” is mentioned, and their significance and meaning to each other (her article is available at this link). At the end of her article she answers the question, Why is the Balm of Gilead so important for Christians?:

The Balm of Gilead is a powerful symbol of Christ’s power in the life of a believer beginning with the initial covenant established in the book of Genesis. Like Laban with Jacob, we have an enemy who “seeks to steal, kill, and destroy,” [see John 10:10] but once Christ is our Lord the covenant is sealed. There is a testimony that stands as an agreement between heaven and hell. Satan knows He has no power over those who belong to God.

This was made possible because the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician, was pierced like the tender root of the balsam plant. In the same way that the leaves of the plant were thrust through to extract the resin, Jesus was broken that we might benefit from His wounds. We received new life through the one tree—the cross upon which Jesus died. (Quote source here.)

In a book published in 2015 titled, Let God Fight Your Battles: Being Peaceful in the Storm,” by Joyce Meyer, one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers, a New York Times bestselling author, and President of Joyce Meyer Ministries, there is a chapter titled, “God Will Provide” (Chapter 11), with a subsection titled “The Enemy Steals, God Provides” on pages 107-109. In that section, she writes the following regarding the scripture reference mentioned above (John 10:10):

The Old Testament includes many stories about the enemies of Israel and Judah, enemies who wanted to destroy God’s people. Likewise, you and I have an enemy, Satan. He has a plan to destroy us. He is working on that plan, and part of the way he does it is to steal from us and bring loss into our lives. But God has a plan to surprise him and bring us victory. We can be confident of this, and this is why we can worship God in faith when we find ourselves in the battles of life.

A good friend of mine who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10. It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also show us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

But I came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum! (Quote source: Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems, p. 548 and at this link.)

I am so glad for the words, “But I have come,” spoken by Jesus Himself. He is always able to interrupt the enemy’s plan and to bring victory. As I said earlier, no one gets through life without battles. But those battles belong to the Lord, and if we worship Him through them, He will bring us to victory. (Quote source: “Let God Fight Your Battles: Being Peaceful in the Storm,” pp. 107-109).

Our healing balm for everything including the things mentioned in John 10:10 above and in all of life is found in Jesus Christ.

In a book published in 2019 titled, Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life,” by Rob Renfroe, Loft Lead Pastor at The Woodlands Methodist Church, and President and Publisher of Good News, there is a chapter titled “The Promise of New Purpose” (Chapter 3) with a subsection titled, “Come to Me.” On pages 39-40 in that subsection, he writes:

Jesus begins here [see Matthew 11:28-30] because nothing is more important. Real peace, inner strength, and an abundant life–they all begin when we come to Jesus.

We look to all kinds of things outside of ourselves to bring us life and give us peace–a drink, a drug, a promotion, money, success, the admiration of others, a more attractive spouse. But our problem is not an outside problem; it’s an inside problem. It’s a soul problem, a spiritual problem. And there’s only one reality that can satisfy what our souls long for–a relationship with the One who created us to know him.

Fifth-century theologian and philosopher Augustine, who converted to Christianity after giving in to all the desires of the flesh, wrote in his autobiography, speaking to God: “For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” Twelve hundred years later, Blaise Pascal wrote about the same reality, which he described as an “infinite abyss [which] cannot be filled but by an infinite and immutable object, that is, but by God himself.” In the early twentieth century, the Indian Christian missionary Sundar Singh describes in a beautiful way the yearning of the soul and our need for a relationship with God. “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart…. Its capacities can only be satisfied in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace until it rests in God.” 

There is a reason the things of this world cannot put our souls at peace or bring our spirits alive. In Ecclesiastes we are told that God has placed eternity within the human heart (3:11). Within each of us there is a desire to be connected to what is real and true and lasting and to live for a cause that will make a difference in this world and in the world to come.

It’s no surprise that trying to live by the rules does not bring rest to our souls. It’s no wonder that a religion of striving to reform ourselves never satisfies our desire for an abundant life. Neither do professional success or the pleasures of the flesh make us complete or fill the emptiness within our hearts.

We are human beings made in the image of God. We have a spiritual nature. Whether we recognize it or not, the restlessness within us–the “in-here” longing we try to fulfill with an “out-there” solution–is the cry of our souls not for something, but for Someone.

One of the beauties of the Christian faith is the truth that the universe is inherently relational. Before physical reality existed, there was one God in three persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–sharing life together. Being made in the image of God, at the heart of who you are, there is a relational need greater than any earthly pleasure or achievement can fulfill. So, Jesus calls us to a relationship. He says, “If you want rest for your soul, first you must come to me.” (Quote source: “Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life,” pp. 39-40.)

And this brings us back to the original topic that started this blog post–redeeming the time. Let’s take a closer look at what that means. GotQuestions.org provides us with the following information:

Ephesians 5:15–16 in the King James Version says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The phrase redeeming the time is also found in Colossians 4:5: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (KJV). In both passages, redeeming the time is related to wisdom in how we “walk,” that is, in how we live.

To redeem something means to buy it back, to regain possession of it. Time is a gift from God, and none of us know how much of it we are allotted. Only God knows how much time each of us has on this earth to make decisions that will impact eternity (Psalm 139:16). When God says we should be “redeeming the time,” He wants us to live in constant awareness of that ticking clock and make the most of the time we have. In fact, the NIV’s translation of Ephesians 5:16 uses the phrase making the most of every opportunity instead of redeeming the time. Rather than waste our days on frivolous pursuits that leave no lasting imprint, Scripture instructs us to be diligent about doing good (Titus 3:8).

The context of the command to redeem the time helps us understand what redeeming the time looks like and why it’s important: “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life” (Ephesians 5:15–18, NLT). Redeeming the time means that we are careful in how we live. We seek out and employ wisdom (see Proverbs 2:1–15). We seize every opportunity and use it for God’s glory. We think through our plans and make sure they align with God’s will. And we avoid empty, harmful activities such as getting drunk. Why are we to live this way? “Because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus taught His disciples the necessity of redeeming the time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus was diligent about keeping to His mission. Distractions were as prevalent then as they are now, but He let none of them deter Him from preaching and teaching God’s Word. That was why He had come (Luke 4:43). Though He spent only 33 years on this earth, Jesus changed the world forever because He redeemed the time.

We can learn to redeem the time by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They conclude with this thought: “Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.” As Christians, we should live like we were dying and pursue all God has given us to do while we have time. Everything done for Christ on earth earns eternal rewards (Mark 9:41). That which was done for selfish, carnal reasons will burn up and blow away (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).

Another way we can learn to redeem the time is by asking God to help us. We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance. By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts. We look for ways we can honor the Lord, help someone else, or utilize our time in productive ways. Sitting at a red light, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip along with a gospel tract or a card inviting the waiter to church. We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. Volunteering, serving at church, leading a ministry, taking Bible studies to the jails and prisons, and studying to show ourselves “approved unto God” are all ways we can redeem the time (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).

James 4:14 reminds us that our earthly lives are no more than a fog that appears and then quickly evaporates. Our money and possessions will be given to someone else. Our jobs will be filled by others. Our families may remember us with fondness but will move on with lives that don’t include us. All that remains of our lives on earth is that which was invested in eternity. In the end, all that matters is what we did or did not do to redeem the time (Psalm 102:3144:4). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from a plague that hung on my bedroom wall when I was a little girl. It was written by a British missionary named C. T. Studd (1860-1931), and on that plaque were these words–Only one life ’twill soon be past…

Only what is done . . .

For Christ . . .

Will last . . .

YouTube Video: “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw:

YouTube Video: “God Turn It Around” by Jon Reddick:

YouTube Video: “Yes He Can” by Cain:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here