Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
As we approach the end of 2019 and get ready to enter a new decade, I find that Psalm 90 speaks very much to what is in my heart. I hope it will speak to yours as well.
The circumstances surrounding Psalm 90 are not a happy one. It speaks of a time when the people of God are “consumed by [God’s] anger” and “overwhelmed” by God’s wrath (v. 7) because of their “iniquities” (v. 8). In spite of the bad news of God’s judgment, there is the solid foundation of confidence in God’s never-ending goodness. Joy and prosperity will come again (v. 14, 17).
Psalm 90 helps us see the passing of time in a different way. The author begins with good news: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” Additionally, God is not limited by time, “before the mountains were born” (v. 2). Undeniably, the writer rejoices, “from everlasting to everlasting You are God” (90:2). Because God is not bound by time, God sees the breadth of time differently than we view it: “A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (v. 4).
In contrast to God’s eternal existence, our life here on this planet is short: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (v. 10). Life’s shortness, especially if we live in challenging times, could be disheartening. But, as this Psalm teaches, it can lead to wisdom: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). The phrase, “count our days” means “know that our days are numbered.” When we understand the shortness of our life, such understanding can help us become wise.
How? To begin, the shortness of our life juxtaposes with the infinite life of God. We are also reminded of our smallness compared with God’s greatness. It leads us to want to use our time well. It also leads us to an utter dependence on God. Psalm 90 closes with, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us.” When God’s favor is with us and He establish us, then our work will be fruitful and prosperous. What as amazing and applicable conclusion! The psalmist’s considerations on God’s timelessness, the shortness of our lives, and our dependence on God’s grace lead to a prayer that God “prosper” our work. Though our days are numbered, our work still matters. The work we do will prosper as God’s grace is active in our lives.
So as the year changes from 2019 to 2020 and as we enter a new decade, , we do not despair in the face of the briefness of our life. Instead, as we count our days, we renew our faith in our eternal God and we ask for His favor so that our life and work might make a difference in the brief time given to us.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
One Christmas morning years ago, a family with young children woke up before dawn and hurried downstairs to see all of the gifts shimmering under the tree. They started with the stockings that hung on the fireplace, as was their tradition. Three were stuffed to overflowing. The mom’s was empty; her husband didn’t think to fill it.
Utter horror contorted the children’s faces. They never forgot that Christmas when their mom was forgotten — the one who had been busy for weeks doing all of the baking, cooking, decorating, shopping, planning, wrapping and sending Christmas cards.
It’s Christmas Day. Whom have we forgotten? Whom have we refused to see, to acknowledge and to serve, not just during Advent, but in the comings and goings of our everyday life? Which child lays his head against the hard earth, with no crib for a bed? Which mother rejoices over the birth of her son or daughter with no way to protect or care for him or her? Who is cold against the night?
Whatever gift we bring to the Christ child we bring to the world. If we live our faith out loud with deliberate, full-throttle love and compassion, then Christ will be born in us anew and into the world afresh. God never forgets any of us.
Pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s nudges as you see the strangers around you. Bring some joy to a stranger through striking up a conversation in the checkout line or as you wait for a cup of coffee. Initiating positive interactions not only will lift your spirits, but also raise theirs. Encourage children to talk to someone
new at school. At church, seek out a visitor or someone with whom you’ve rarely spoken.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all Creation. Let us pray that we may see Jesus in all that is visible, in all people and throughout the earth, and forget no one or nothing He has made. Amen
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
(2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
“I wish I had been more generous with my time,” Constance said, days before passing from this life – a life she had spent teaching American literature at Georgetown University, coaching pastors, acting, pursuing artistic endeavors and managing her farm.
Are we generous enough with our time?
Karen, a deacon at her church, is in the habit of generosity. She pays attention to others, she practices gratitude and she shares it. Karen is famous for the notes she sends out regularly to members and visitors of the church, among others, including shut-ins, old friends, new friends and neighbors. Her Pastor is a recipient of those cards, as is the Pastor’s mother, who periodically can attend worship services there. These little cards, with an average of three scripted lines, bring unexpected joy to all those who receive them. Such acts spur others to a habit of generosity.
Consider every letter or card you send a love letter of sorts. Instead of signing only your name on any Christmas card you send, add a personal note; it will bless the receiver. Everyone needs to know they matter. Encourage young ones to send a card to someone they don’t know, such as to a local fire or police department, and thank the men and women for putting their lives on the line every day for those they don’t know. Acknowledge those in the service industry by name. Write a positive review online or wherever the opportunity is, giving those who serve you high marks. Consider leaving a larger-than-average tip. Waitresses, for example, make on average less than $3 an hour. Goodwill is contagious.
Pray that the Lord will teach us through experience the joy of being generous with our time. Ask God to show us all of the ways that it enlarges our hearts and the hearts of the receivers.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Several years ago, the following ad was printed in the Lost and Found section of a newspaper termed, "Classifieds": "LOST: MY WILL TO LIVE. If you find it, please return it to me."
The verse above, Proverbs 13:12, is speaks of both HOPE DELAYED, HOPE OBTAINED.
HOPE DELAYED: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."
Years ago, a small town in Maine was chosen as a proposed site of a hydroelectric plant. Since a dam would be built across the river, the town would be submerged. When the project was approved, the people were given several months’ notice to relocate. During the time before the dam was built, an interesting thing developed. All improvements stopped, no repairs were made on buildings, roads, or sidewalks. Slowly the town became shabbier and shabbier. Long before the dam was completed and the waters came, the town was uncared for and abandoned – even though the people had not yet moved. One citizen explained, "Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present."
Norman Cousins said, "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live."
HOPE OBTAINED: "But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Hebrews 6:19 describes hope as "an anchor of the soul.” Someone stated, "God makes a promise. Faith believes it. Hope anticipates it. Patience quietly awaits it."
Through the prophet Habakkuk, God reassures, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. " (2:3).
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, "In the turmoil of life without, and black despair within, it is always possible to turn aside and wait on God. He will always turn up."
The English city of Coventry was made famous by the devastation it suffered in a Nazi air raid. Only the tower remained of the city's great Cathedral. One morning, an inscription was found at the base of the tower, written there by an unknown person during the night. It was the familiar passage from Haggai 2:9, "’The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Remember, "Nourish hope. Hope is the flame that rekindles our fire, and casts out darkness." Where in your life today do you need the hope of Jesus Christ?
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
There are many traditions that we observe during the Christmas season….we put up Christmas trees decked with pretty decorations, burn Yule logs, send Christmas cards, go to church, go caroling, go shopping, prepare family dinners, etc., the list goes on. But are these what make Christmas special?
Christmas fills us with a feeling of wonder and awe; but it is not the day that is critical, nor the customs that are observed. Christmas is more than a day of traditionalism, commercialism, materialism, and indulgence. Christmas celebrates the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation….Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this….It was the central event in the history of the Earth – the very thing that the whole story has been about.” Christmas revolves around a person – Jesus Christ! It is a time of praise and gratitude for all that He has done. He is to be magnified, lifted up, and exalted. In today’s society, many make light of the amazing truth of this greatest of all miracles. Thus, they cannot truly grasp nor understand the real significance of the birth of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The Christmas story is the account of God coming into a redeeming relationship with ordinary people. The key to living a full and meaningful life is first discovering this relationship with Jesus Christ, and then following the Lord on an amazing adventure through a life of faith. God is calling us to take part in making His message known, near and far. Jesus told His disciples that when the gospel is preached throughout the world, then His kingdom shall come. As a church, we desire to be God’s ambassadors in ushering individuals into the Kingdom of God wherever God leads us.
Dear brothers and sisters, what or who will you be celebrating this Christmas? Let us celebrate Christmas in a God-honoring way: to come in awe, reverence, and gratitude to worship the One who humbled Himself and descended down to earth to become man, and by ascending again, He set us free from bondage into glory and freedom. So, who will you extend Christ’s invitation of a full and joyful life to this season? Jesus promised that the vitality and abundance and pure happiness that can be ours are closer than we think. This is the ultimate “Christmas gift” for those who are searching for meaning and direction in life. This is what makes Christmas special. The measure of influence in God’s kingdom is not position, but glory—the glory of God shining through your life and bringing the world to its knees.
“Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”