The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

By Imogen Schafer

dscf3122The fifth of November dawned to women rising early and hurrying to the long-awaited morning filled with a hearty breakfast, an inspiring talk given by CCU’s own Janet Gray and testimony by Amanda Lesufi.

While everyone tucked into a delicious breakfast of muffins, granola, fruit and croissants, Janet delivered her talk based on Timothy Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. Janet summarised the short, three-chapter book with one phrase: “Don’t think less of yourself, think of yourself less”. Keller’s book showed the women how a gospel-humble person is neither a self-lover nor hater but a self-forgetful person who through their self-forgetfulness can find great freedom and rest.

dscf3144Amanda Lesufi gave a moving and emotional testimonial, telling how she became a Christian dscf3129and about the conflict and problems she has experienced in this broken world. Her emotional and heartfelt words inspired and moved every woman in the room.

The ladies at the morning event were challenged by Keller’s helpful little book and many left the morning with a renewed look on how they view themselves as well as opening the doors to the freedom of self forgetfulness.

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Living Without Worry

A review by Brenda Daniels

When I first came across this book by Timothy Lane for some reason I remembered its title as Living with Worry. It could in fact be called Living with Worry as it carries with it a very realistic way of looking at worry. It speaks about Jesus even saying in Matthew 6:34 “… Each day has enough trouble of its own.” It points out the fact that Jesus is described as being able to identify with our suffering because he suffered too, i.e. he experienced a world of worry. Hebrews 2: 18 says that Jesus was made like us “fully human in every way” and because of that he suffered, as we suffer.

While the author points out that God will be ever faithful and that he imagegives us sufficient grace to live under trials we do have to “endure” those trials (1 Corinthians 10:13). They don’t magically disappear because we know Jesus. Suffering WILL come in this life, we are assured, and the goal is not, in fact, that we should worry less but that we should REJOICE more in Jesus. In other words, our worries do remain. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you”; what we must do, says Lane, is relate to God IN THE MIDST OF OUR WORRIES. And relating or praying to God about our worries doesn’t mean a quick fix for our worries or a guarantee of a good outcome for them. And when we do learn to relate to God about our worries it’s something we will have to do every day, that is, we’ll never arrive – and be worry free – on this earth.

I found this realistic approach extremely helpful. I could relate. But Lane’s book does teach us how we can, in fact, move on from “Living WITH worry” to “Living WITHOUT worry.” And that starts with the reasons WHY we worry. The bible you see, he says, while showing an understanding of WHY we worry, nevertheless does not CONDONE worry. That is because the bible commands us not to worry. Worrying is sin.

I have, of course, heard this before but felt only vaguely guilty in response and not known how to move on from that. But the author very helpfully describes what worry is: at its root it is a divided loyalty. My loyalty, instead of being to God’s kingdom, becomes overly concerned with things in this world’s kingdom. It fears things in this kingdom, and to fear anything else is to make it a god. So worrying in fact reveals my OVERLOVES. And this is where it becomes useful. Worry, says Lane, is a way for me to assess what I am living for. And I can use that worry to drive me to God in dependent prayer.

Lane goes on to describe in more detail what worry is, dividing it into PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE worries.

I found the section on dealing with present worries particularly helpful. With the PRESENT, nitty-gritty-of-living-life worries, Lane urges us to be aware of God’s RELATIONAL love to us in his Son and to focus on God’s various promises.

This is the very essence of the book’s message, and the most helpful part of all. I quote from page 133: “If you are a Christian, you are in a RELATIONSHIP with the living God based solely upon what Jesus has done for you in his life, death and resurrection… He is your Father and you are his child.” We are in a relationship with a gentle Father who cares about us and knows us intimately.

And as far as relating to each other goes, each of the 11 chapters in Living Without Worry has a short Questions for Reflection section so would be good to do with a friend who worries as much as you do.

Living without Worry can be purchased online

OCD and Religion, Fear and Jesus

In the article “OCD and the Death of the Christian” by Jonathon Bowers the author speaks to two issues that are of current interest to members and adherents of Christ Church Umhlanga.

Firstly, Bowers likens the compulsive actions of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a return from grace to self-made / man-made religion. A departure from grace is an important subject in CCU’s bible study on Galatians being conducted over several months this year. Controlling behaviours, in Bowers’ case, he says, actually masked a desire in him for omniscience. But, he adds, God never expects us to be omniscient. He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.

Secondly, OCD is of course related to the subject of fear and anxiety, the very relevant topic of the upcoming KZN Women’s Convention scheduled for Saturday 13 August 2016 (visit www.ccu.org.za for more details).

Encouragingly, Bowers says that “Your deepest fears [need] have no hold on you, even if you feel like they do.” He urges us to “look to Jesus. Look at him in his triumph over the rulers and authorities (Colossians 2:15). Look at him as the hiding place of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Jesus has the soundest, most well-adjusted mind there is. Look at him as the place where the fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). Look at him as the head of the church (Colossians 2:19), the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), the one in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), the forgiver of our trespasses (Colossians 2:13).

“That’s where your life is. That’s where you are.”

The solution these words offer speak to both topics mentioned above: to the temptation to return to religion and forget Jesus; and to our anxieties and fears.

Read the full article at desiringgod.org.

Be a Plodding Blogger

Being urged to be a “plodder” can be helpful to a number of different areas of life. Here, an article from www.challies.com encourages Christian blog writers to be “plodding bloggers”:

I believe that blogs have been a blessing to the church in the twenty-first century. Maybe I have to believe this since I have blogged nearly every day of the century. Still, with every bit of objectivity I can muster, I say it and believe it: For all their problems and all their shortcomings, blogs have been a blessing. They have served the church and the cause of the church.

Over my years of reading and writing blogs, I have seen thousands of blogs and bloggers come and go. There are many reasons people have stopped writing: Some have had life’s responsibilities overwhelm the time they would otherwise dedicate to writing, some have had to refocus on family or local church, some grew weary of critics and criticism, some have simply run out of things to say. But I think the most common reason people have given up is that they grew tired of the plodding. Over time they grew discouraged by the distance between the effort and the reward, between the investment and the result.

And let’s not kid ourselves: Blogging is hard work. Far more often than not, it is mundane, unglamorous, thankless work. In that way blogging is a lot like most of what we do in this world. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes skill, and at the end of it all you wonder if it has made any difference to you or to anyone else.

Today I want to put out a call for plodding bloggers. I’m taking my cue from Scott Slayton who recently put out a similar call to plodding church planters. In that article he pointed out that many church planters delude themselves into thinking that they will move to a new town, start a new church, and see immediate, overwhelming results. But in reality, most move to that new town, start the new church, and see only very ordinary results. Unless they are plodders they will be tempted to give up.

And in much the same way, many bloggers set out with grandiose dreams of writing a few articles and witnessing an explosion of readers, of receiving mountains of grateful feedback, maybe even of seeing publishers waving book contracts. But the reality is far different. They publish a few articles, see little response, and find themselves tempted to give up. Or perhaps, even worse, they publish an article, see it explode in popularity, and then never again come close to matching that one. And soon the daily blogging becomes weekly blogging becomes occasional blogging becomes abandoned blogging.

Slayton says,

The man who plants [a sound, faithful church] must be willing to do work that doesn’t make for interesting tweets. He must be a man who cultivates his relationship with Jesus, his wife, and children each and every day. He has to be willing to spend hours glued to his chair with his head in the Bible so he can faithfully teach it to others. This man will dedicate significant time each week to purposeful conversation with other Christians, helping them to understand how to follow Jesus.

The task of the Christian blogger is different but the same. He, too, needs to do a lot of living that will never turn into tweets or blog posts. She, too, must first cultivate relationships with her Saviour and her family. He, too, must be constantly learning and growing through the Word. She, too, must put aside desires for other visions of success in favor of the simple joy of helping others understand how to follow Jesus. And what a joy that is! And what a blessing that blogs make it possible.

Are you blogging to build yourself a platform, so you can be known and admired? No platform will ever be high enough and no amount of fame or admiration will ever satisfy. Are you blogging as a kind of necessary evil on the way to a book contract and a conference stage? You will forsake authenticity and true substance in favor of manipulative click-bait headlines. But if you are blogging out of a desire to glorify God by doing good to those who are created in the image of God, now you are in the spot where God can and will use you, even if he uses you in small ways and ways that are hard to detect. When I bump into readers of my blog and they tell me about articles that have been helpful to them, almost invariably these are the small articles that I would have deemed unsuccessful. They are the minor articles that barely registered. And yet the Lord chose to use them to encourage one of his people. Hearing this blesses and strengthens me every time.

I believe we are living in a golden age of writing, where any Christian with a heart for the Lord and the Lord’s people can have a voice of edification and encouragement. This is a tremendous blessing! We have thousands and tens of thousands of Christians eagerly using this new medium to tell others about what Jesus has done in them and for them. We are all the grateful beneficiaries.

So my message for my fellow bloggers is this: Plod on! Be content to be a plodding blogger and trust that God is glorifying himself and blessing his people through your faithfulness.

Are You Racist?

By Alida Ganesan: A book review of Bloodlines by John Piper.

We will never run out of struggles to live the Christian life. Racism, especially, is a global concern and very often a stumbling block to our worship of God. I never considered myself guilty of racism until Bloodlines revealed my ignorance and shattered my pride.

On the surface I happily socialised with other races. But I fooled myself into thinking I was fully accepting of those different to me. Only Bloodlines exposed my racism and partiality.

What’s wrong, you may ask, with me wanting to spend time only with those who eat curry, share my culture and view the world through eyes similar to my own? Another question: what’s wrong with comfort?

Well, you see, the gospel creates new people. I now know that my partiality reflected a weak understanding of what Jesus’ cross achieves. And Jesus’ cross, his gospel, makes us uncomfortable. It breaks us down before we truly understand its beauty: the cost of putting us back together. It unites us through the common ground of wickedness, cleansing and making us one with Jesus.

That group of people with whom I instinctively cocooned myself, has been challenged. Social events are no longer minor but majorly exciting times to be with the people of God, true family. My choices for who I want to catch a movie or grab a coffee with have changed their colour. They are no longer about comfort but about celebrating the gospel.

Here at Christ Church Umhlanga (CCU) I’ve developed many relationships, uniquely cultural and special. These relationships are not merely greetings on a Sunday morning and the general conversations during weekly gatherings. They are rooted in the love God has for each of us despite our race or ethnicity, a love that creates a people where such things no longer matter.

We may agree with the ugliness of racism but have no resolve to live out any kind of change until the gospel does its supernatural work within us. Praise God because he came to redeem a people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Because of his redemption we can enjoy the privilege of a Christ-exalting diverse family of God. With Christ at the pinnacle of our lives, colour and superiority do not exist, but racial harmony and diversity do.

You see, those in Christ drink from the same and only fountain of grace. If you desire to submit to all that God teaches in his word and if you believe you struggle with racism, you should give Bloodlines a read. If you don’t think you do, like I did, you should commit to reading this. I encourage you to invest time for this book. Your sin will be exposed but the greatness of God’s mercy will be magnified. Let us grow in unity for the worthy cause of the gospel of Christ. May it restore you and glorify him.

Copies of Bloodlines are available at CCU for purchase. Cost: R200. Alternatively, go to www.desiringgod.org/books/bloodlines and download the book in PDF form for free.

16th and 18th Century Christian Wives’ Tales

Review by Brenda Daniels.

Clare Heath-Whyte has written two gems in the books First Wives’ Club and Old Wives’ Club. In the first she describes the lives of six women, each of whom lived and was married during the time of the Reformation in Europe. In the second she shows us portraits of seven Christian women who negotiated life and marriage in 18th Century Europe and America.

imageEach portrait is written with insight and sensitivity, not an easy task based on how difficult I think it must have been to obtain information on these women who lived 300 to 500 years ago. A short bible study accompanies each chapter. These question sessions relate directly to the particular woman studied as well as to the modern reader.

The women described in these pages are unique. Several were married to some of the great reformers like Luther and Calvin or to well-known evangelists like the Wesley brothers and Whitefield. But marriage for former priests in the 1500s was a new thing, and their wives were sometimes ostracised by society. Some of these unions, as well as those in the 18th century, were founded on pragmatism rather than on romance. Life was hard, with money, ill health and infant mortality for most a constant. Although life is very imagedifferent for us today the women’s struggles with godliness is anything but. By describing them in their real, human state, Heath-Whyte creates profiles to whom the 21st century woman can relate.

I highly recommend these books and think they would be suitable for studying in small groups. First Wives’ Club and Old Wives’ Club retail at R178 each and are available from Brad Flood. Contact him at tollelegge2014@gmail.com.

 

Eternal Punishment for Sin: Is God Overreacting?

Bible Study groups at Christ Church Umhlanga have recently been working through a study in Leviticus, looking at the sacrifice Jesus made in fulfilment of the Old Testament law’s requirements. The focus on sin in Leviticus is unremitting and we learn that whilst the rewards for obedience are beautiful, the punishment for disobedience is harsh. This raises the oft-asked question: “Can it really be just for God to punish people forever? Or: Is it fair for God to punish a person in eternity for temporal sins?”

In an article on his blog, www.challies.com, Tim Challies says that this question is really one of scales or ratios. “We understand,” says the author, “that sin deserves to be punished. Human nature tells us that it is appropriate for there to be consequences for sin. So it’s not that we contest the appropriateness of some kind of punishment but the appropriateness of this specific one. Is it right to dispense a punishment so ultimately severe?

“We think about a pretty normal person who lives a pretty normal life and sins in pretty normal ways. He never commits any of those really big sins. He is no Hitler, no Gacy, no Dahmer. He is faithful to his wife, he provides for his kids, he pays his taxes, but at the end of it all dies without putting his faith in Jesus. Is it right, is it fair, that he should now spend eternity in hell? Isn’t the God who would send such a man to hell like the father who would beat his son for spilling his milk? Isn’t he overreacting, punishing arbitrarily and too severely?

“I understand the sentiment here. I understand the confusion. But I think I also understand why we come to this conclusion. We come to this conclusion because we look at the question the wrong way. Is it fair for God to punish a person in eternity for temporal sins? When we ask the question we tend to focus on ourselves. I only committed this sin. I only committed this many sins. I only committed this severity of sin. I’m not nearly as bad as that guy, or that one either.

“We can only rightly answer the question of justice when we see who it is that we have sinned against. When we ask this question we ought to focus on God. We can only rightly answer the question of justice when we see who it is that we have sinned against. It’s not first a question of who has sinned but a question of who has been sinned against. We look at God and see his majesty. We look at God and see his patience. We look at God and see his love. We look at God and see his holiness. The more we look at God the more we see the depth of our depravity in contrast to the heights of his purity. The more we look at God, the more we understand the true horror of our sin, its true extent and true aim. We have not just been acting out against men but attempting to drive a knife into God. We have not just been sinning against men but committing treason against our Creator. And now, at last, we see that the consequence is not at all inappropriate.

“The question of justice and the answer the Bible provides requires that we see God as he really is.”

Use Anxiety to Your Advantage

By Vince Miller, desiringgod.org.

Anxiety is one of the most predominant forms of mental illness today, plaguing both young and old, showing up as post-traumatic stress syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, even phobias and generalised anxiety disorder.

We all struggle from time to time, whether as a way of life or due to particular circumstances beyond our control. It brings about physical reactions like shaking, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, frustration, and anger. Even depression can be linked to a series of anxieties we experience in life.

Culturally, we are a nervous wreck, and no one is immune to it.

Jesus Heals Anxious Hearts

My struggle with anxiety started early. As a child, I experienced vivid dreams that made my heart race. Even thinking of them today brings on certain emotions. The night terrors came on suddenly and without escape. I was trapped for half an hour after waking, held captive in terror.

Eventually, a counsellor helped me to break free from those dreams. But as an adult, anxiety returned in the form of insomnia. Some nights I wake up completely drenched in sweat. An average night’s sleep for me is about four hours. I wake up at two, three, four in the morning and never go back to sleep.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve read the text of Matthew 6:25–34 hundreds of times, as I have not only wrestled with the anxiety, but also with embarrassment and shame for having the struggle in the first place. There, I discovered that Jesus cares about our anxious hearts. And he teaches us how to direct our minds and hearts in order to please God.

Jesus Shifts Our Focus

Understanding the fears bedded deep within being humans, Jesus starts the discussion with a bold command, then adds reasoning we can all grasp.

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25–26)

Look up. There are five hundred million hungry birds flying around. They don’t sow, reap, or gather into barns and yet your Father in heaven knows their need and feeds every single one of them. If God feeds animals, essentially his pets, will he not feed you?

You, whom God created in his image. You, whom he designed to be unique from the creatures of this earth. You, within whom he has placed his spirit. Look up and remember that he cares for you and will provide for you. God designed you, knows you, and wants to guide you into a fruitful and productive life.

Jesus shifts our focus to the “more” in life — what our hearts crave. There is a different kind of life we experience in fellowship with our Creator that is supernatural. That’s where our lives become more than “food and clothing”.

“Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). The minutes, hours, days, or even years we expend being anxious amount to wasted, stolen time. Concerns about natural things regarding our bodies, health, retirement funds, politics, drought and crime are matters for God. He will be concerned about them because he cares for you, and wants to guide you into living a fruitful and productive life.

What Our Worry Says About God

In verse 30, after continuing to prove the care and love of God, Jesus calls out our anxiety by saying, “O you of little faith.” The hard truth is that when we are anxious, we demonstrate lack of faith. We don’t trust God and instead take control, somehow believing we can take better care of our lives than God. It’s as if we say to the Creator of the universe, “I don’t need you, because I have to figure this out.” Then our hearts and minds circle and spin like hamsters on a treadmill. But we are worth more. Even when the situation seems unbearable, we can trust God.

We can go to him with our worries, even when our hearts feel unsettled about our marriages, children, jobs, retirement, health care, and so on. Even when we doubt, we can acknowledge our sin. Faith turns to God and accepts what’s been given, asking him to use whatever circumstance we encounter for his good and glory, and to refine us into his image.

Practise the Shift

Then, near the end of the passage, Jesus calls us to change our hearts by shifting focus. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (verse 33). He tells us to move our minds from the worries of this life to issues of greater importance, to shift our focus to eternal values.

Breathe. Trust. Transfer your anxiety to God and place your concern where it belongs: on the things of God.

It is difficult to practise, but this is the road to supernatural living. When the mind is focused on what God is concerned about, anxieties dissipate, and God provides us with what we need.

I used to hate being an anxious person. Now I don’t mind it as muchbecause in those moments when I wake at two or three o’clock in the morning in a cold sweat, my mind racing, concerns of money, the future, those who depend on me overflowing, I roll off my bed and onto my knees in prayer. I practise this shift every time my anxiety strikes. I ask God to transition my anxieties from the things of this world into the things that God is concerned about.

And there in those moments I fight the war that God has called me to fight as a man of God.

Praying Past Technology

Taken from Desiringgod.org.

Jesus told us, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Now, he said this as a corollary to avoid being showy and “like the hypocrites” when you pray (Matthew 6:5). Still, this verse has been taken as a manifesto to be undistracted in prayer behind a closed door. This isn’t a bad idea. It worked for two thousand years. Not so much anymore though.

For two thousand years, the most private and undistracted place was behind the closed door. Now, the noise has relocated indoors. If our computers and devices are near, it’s the worst place to try to pray. Walking through Times Square is less distracting than sitting alone in a room full of technology.

This loss of private prayer is affecting the church.

The Christian Prayer Life

It’s been said that if you want to humble any pastor, ask him about his prayer life. The sad truth is that most Christians, even pastors, spend more time reading articles, watching ESPN, or playing games on their smartphones than they do in prayer.

When I compare my prayer life with that of the spiritual greats, I wonder sometimes if I actually know the same God.

The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’s immense prayer life. Paul’s prayer life bleeds through every part of his letters. James, the most prominent pillar of the early church was called “the man with camel’s knees” because of the price his interminable prayer life exacted on the skin of his knees.

The writings of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus are bathed in prayer. One wonders if Augustine or Aquinas ever stopped praying. Luther prayed three hours per day. Calvin prayed during five set-apart times of the day. George Mueller prayed two to three hours a day and recorded more than fifty thousand answered prayers in his journals. Hudson Taylor awoke in the middle of the night to pray from two to four in the morning so that he wouldn’t be disturbed!

Struggling to Pray

I struggle to pray for seven minutes in my workspace. I have to set a timer, and if I don’t set my phone to do not disturb, good luck. I have to put my computer to sleep to avoid googling the first question that comes to mind.

Oops, I forgot about the tablet. Looks like my friend is in Chicago for the day. I should text him about my favorite coffee shop there! Wait. Do not disturb on.

I’m doing what Jesus said, right? I’m closing the door, and then trying — in vain — to close all the digital doors that hijack my brain. Why is it so hard?

Times Are Changing

You see, for eight hours a day I plug my mind into the machine and jump from task to task, interfacing endlessly with the devices in front of me. Day after day, year after year. How can I expect to sit in this same space and turn it all off after so much conditioning? I can’t. I have to change my environment.

The problem is, where in the first century the room behind the closed door was private, in the modern era it’s often the most distracting place to pray.

In the first century, people spent much of their time outdoors when they weren’t sleeping. Outside, you faced distraction. You saw the people you’d known your whole life. You saw the market — the center of ancient civic life. But today, if you go outside in a major city, suburb, or small town, you’ll likely find next to nobody walking around. If you see anybody, chances are you don’t know them.

So why not pray outside? Go for a prayer walk. Yes, even in a Northern winter. As the Norwegians say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Same Message, Different Means

Outside, you’re alone, but behind closed doors, your devices will chime ad nauseam with that constant nonsense, helping your brain from fix to fix until you’ve neither prayed nor even enjoyed the time you’ve spent distracted.

Pray without distraction. The message is the same, but the means have reversed. One of the best ways to close the door in the 21st century is to open the door and leave your home to go on a prayer walk. This is the opposite of shutting yourself in a room, but it accomplishes the same purpose in our era.

Leave the phone at home, or on do not disturb in your pocket. Pray. Start small and soon you may find it rewarding to walk for twenty or thirty minutes while you pray. You may enter into a communion with God you haven’t felt in years. You won’t be nearly as distracted. The fresh air and exercise will do you good too. Plus your mind will unplug from the noise. Turns out the dopamine-obsessed monkey on your back doesn’t like the weather.

Making the Best Use of the Time

Taken from www.thegospelcoalition.org.

In 1884, George Eastman patented rolled photographic film and within a few years created the camera that could use that film. The first camera was sold in 1900 for $1, bringing family photographs to American homes for the next century. His firm, The Eastman Kodak Company, went on to create the film used on the Apollo 11 missions and eventually became a household name that controlled 90%  of the market share for photographic film in the U.S.

Sadly, Eastman Kodak, one of the most innovative and profitable firms in the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Despite its cutting edge research, Kodak simply failed to seize opportunities such as the invention of a specialized coating product. The technology is one of countless innovations that Kodak developed over the years but failed to successfully commercialize, the most famous being the digital camera, invented by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson in 1975. Digital technology has all but done in the iconic filmmaker. Since 2003, Kodak has closed 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs, and reduced its workforce by 47,000. It now employs 17,000 worldwide, down from from 63,900 less than a decade ago.

Business mistakes are made one of two ways. The first is to accept a bad business proposition and invest in a losing venture. The second is to forego a good business ideas and leave money on the table. Some are so afraid of the first error that they fall prey to the second.

God’s Word tells us to make the most of opportunities with respect to people around us, and we can do this by being ready, available, and watchful.

Be ready to answer questions about the hope that we have in Christ.

Upon graduation, students are able to jump into the work force because they studied in school and left college prepared to face the challenges ahead. In our daily lives, we’ll encounter many opportunities to share hope with others, so we too need to be prepared.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

“But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15.

Be available to others rather than buried in our own lives.

Ministry needs often arrive at the most inconvenient times. Being available to others rather than filling every minute of the day with activity, even good activity, gives us the flexibility to share hope with others.

“And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying: ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying: ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.’… Then Jesus answered her: ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” Matthew 15:22-23.

Be watching for opportunities that God brings our way.

Pastor Truman Herring in Florida taught me that somethings the circumstances we face are not what they appear to be. What I might think is a broken down car is actually  an opportunity to meet the mechanic who will fix my car. Or what I might think is an unreasonably long wait in the doctor’s office is actually an opportunity to connect with another person about to face a scary medical issue.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6.

Eastman Kodak missed opportunities because they were stuck doing what they always did: making photographic film. When new technologies change the world, some companies are caught off-guard. Others see change coming and are able to adapt in time. And then there are companies like Kodak – which saw the future and simply couldn’t figure out what to do. Kodak’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing culminates the company’s 30-year slide from innovation giant to ageing behemoth crippled by its own legacy.

Let’s not join the ranks of Kodak and forgo the opportunities around us. As we launch into the New Year, let us make the best use of our time with respect to others.

What opportunities might God be placing in your path to make the best use of the time?