What Are You Doing Tomorrow?

We’re always making plans for tomorrow—whom we’ll see, what we’ll do, and where we’ll go.  Whether it’s fun activities like attending a party or playing a game of basketball, or mundane tasks like cleaning the garage, we assume that our plans will happen and we’ll have the time to accomplish what we set out to do.  But is this assumption secure?

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One in A Million?

Historically, how many people have never died?  Not too many?  Were any of these people less than (gasp) 40 years old when they died?  Of course, we all recognize that death comes to all men, and to many, the end is not at 75, but much much sooner.  While we lament this verity, many of us (and myself definitely included) seem to ignore the obvious fact that these statistics are applicable to us.

James 4:

13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are [just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, [you ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

A Sobering Reminder

Most all of us can think of people in our life, people we may have been very close to, who have passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  It is a shocking and surreal experience to lose someone whom you thought you’d have many more years with.  When people we love go through this valley, it is our charge to comfort and pray for them, and hold them tightly as they walk through the pain.

But it is also our responsibility to take these moments as reminders that life is fleeting.  And not just life in general, but your life, my life!  I may not have tomorrow, and therefore must use today to do that which truly matters.  Only God’s Kingdom is eternal—am I seeking it first, or letting it get crowded out by many other fleeting things?

How We Spend Our Time

Am I using my gifts and talents to pursue that with is God-glorifying and beneficial to my family and those whom I love?  Or am I settling for mediocrity, more of the same, and the lack of excellence that is common among the time-wasters and complainers?

I hope you’ll join me on the journey toward personal growth and the pursuit of your grand calling.  God has seen fit to give me breath for today, and He has a purpose in mind for this life of mine.  May God bless us both as we grow in grace and knowledge of Him.

Who’s Programming You?

We are all given a limited amount of time in this life, and we all want to make the most of it.  But how intentional are we about who we spend our time with?  For good or for ill, the people we spend the lion’s share of our time with will impact who we become.  Are your associations building you into the type of person you want to be?

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Anyone Bringing You Down?

It’s been said that your income will be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I contend that often your habits, worldview, and maybe even your physique will also tend to mirror that of the people you let into the moments and hours of your life.  If you’re a part of a group of successful people, over time you’ll tend to build yourself into a successful person too.  If you hang around with losers, you’re well on your way to becoming one.

Observe the Words

A good way to distinguish successful people whom you’ll want to model from the kind of people who’ll bring you down is to listen to what they’re predominantly talking about.  Are they more positive and encouraging?  Or do they spend a good deal of time speaking about others negatively?  Is their conversation about future goals they have, and the means they’re planning to accomplish those goals?  Or are there frequent diatribes of blame:  I’d be better off but for what so and so did; If I weren’t so unlucky, I wouldn’t have all these problems.  A person who you want shaping your character will be speaking positively about future events more than he’ll be speaking negatively about past ones.

Avoid Pride

One quick disclaimer before you think I recommend sitting in your own personal ivory tower looking down on all the poor untouchables down there: there is a distinction between choosing to be part of a toxic circle of friends and spending time with people in order to evangelize, mentor, or disciple them.  The former is hazardous to your future, the latter is vital.  Only make sure that you’re spending enough time with strong leaders that you are strong enough yourself to influence a weaker group, rather than being influenced by it.

Can I Do That?

But where can I find a group of strong and godly leaders?  Why would they want to hang out with me?  I have two answers to this point—a short term and a long term answer.  First, you already know a few winners, and I think if you’ll spend a few moments considering it, you can think of few high-quality people in your life who’d answer your phone call.  Start there.  As you intentionally work on those relationships, you’ll be exposed to other winners naturally, and better than that, you’ll actually start to see and recognize the qualities of good leaders in those around you.  And one great thing about strong, godly, successful leaders is that they absolutely love to help people like you who are looking to grow themselves!

Own Your Time

Limit your time around negative people.  Particularly if your core group is of this sort, you’ll have a hard time keeping your distance, but you must gradually ramp down the time and replace it with time with positive role models.  If your negative group is family, you’ve got an even more challenging task.  But you must do it—for your good and ultimately theirs.  Get strong enough over time by being with winners that you’re capable of being around the weaker group and influencing those people positively.  And finally, recognize that you can create boundaries with people—even if those boundaries make people mad.  In fact, if your boundary makes a person mad, they’ve just identified themselves as the kind of person that you definitely need to set boundaries with!  A winner will respect others’ boundaries, and even if he feels slighted, he’ll approach you in a gentle and respectful manner, because that’s how winners behave.

Simple, Not Easy

Today’s lesson can be a tough one to live, particularly if the discussion of “toxic groups” brings the names of a few close friends to mind.  But just as the flight staff tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child, the best way to help your negative friends is to become a real leader yourself.  We’re here for you along the way, as is our Father in heaven.  Follow Him first and you’ll never be last.

The Intimidated Witness?

Caught Red-Handed

Imagine you walked into a grocery store just in time to see a young man slip an item off the shelf and into his pocket.  As he turns toward the exit, a security guard grabs his arm, saying, “Come with me, sir.”  The man ends up being arrested, and you are called as a witness to the court.

What would you feel like, being asked to honestly tell your story to the court?  Would you be hesitant, or would you share clearly and confidently the plain facts of the day?  Would you tell your friends and coworkers what had happened?

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The Medicine You Need

Or, take a more positive example:  let’s say you came down with a terrible disease.  You began losing function in your fingers and toes, and doctors told you that you only had a few months to live.  Then one day, a bottle of medicine is sitting on your kitchen table, marked simply, “drink me and live.” You drink it, and are immediately and completely healed!  Would you tell people your story?  Would you seek out others with the same disease in order to help them be healed as well?

These stories and questions seem so obvious:  of course we’d want to tell people!  Even though some of us would be intimidated to stand before a court, we’d want the truth to come out, and we’d certainly tell our friends and neighbors the story.  If we were healed from a terminal disease, of course we’d want to share our happiness with others, and find people who are sick too in order to help them.  But do you know that there’s something many of us have that is infinitely more important than any medicine, and concerns a court case much more significant than petty theft?

Something that Matters Much More

This truth is of the most vital importance, and will have lasting consequences.  It is this:  all people are estranged from God.  This all-powerful and holy being who gave us life also gave us a choice.  We could follow Him and live His way, or reject His love and rebel against His commands.  Our parents Adam and Eve chose rebellion, and we have been a sin-stained race ever since.  God requires perfect obedience to every statute in His Word, and to trespass once is to be guilty before Him.  How many lies do you have to tell to be a liar?  Only one.  And God will let no liars into His eternal Kingdom.

This is the disease that you and I have.  It truly is terminal, for if we die in this state of sin, we will spend eternity apart from our Creator.  One day, we will stand in judgment before the Lord of all, and on our own, there is no hope for any verdict but guilty.

Hope for the Hopeless

The gospel is the good news that there is hope for us.  While we were still sinners, God became a man, the man Jesus Christ, and came to the earth to live the perfect life we couldn’t.  When He died on the cross, he took your punishment and mine, and rising from the grave on the third day demonstrated His power and authority over death.  Any who will turn from sin, turn to Christ, and place their exclusive faith in Him will be saved.  Jesus’ blood will wash us white as snow.

Get Money, Don’t Let Money Get You

Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours in pursuit of one thing:  money.  Even though money isn’t the only reason we go to work each day, for most people it’s the main reason.  Though money can get a bad rap sometimes (in particular from those who misquote the Bible as saying that money is the root of all evil), spending the day working to acquire it is not a bad thing.  In fact, if you’re like me and you enjoy eating and having a warm bed to sleep in at night, it’s quite a wonderful thing.  But, money makes for a cruel Master, and we must be sure to take certain steps to keep the money we seek from getting us.

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What the Good Book Says

The quote I mentioned earlier that people often get wrong is from 1 Timothy 6:10:  “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Similarly, Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24 that, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

A Matter of Priorities

These scriptures, as well as many others throughout the Bible show clearly that money itself isn’t bad, but the way we spend our money tends to reveal where our allegiance lies.  If we are like Christ, our chief desire will be to love and worship God, and money will be a tool or servant under our watch, to be used to glorify God and spread His Gospel.  Conversely, if we seek our own desires first, we will tend to use God as a means toward the end of having more and being more comfortable.  As the wise teacher Hank Haanegraaf says, “instead of loving the Master (Jesus), we only want what is on the Master’s table.”

Fix Your Heart

So, given the understanding that we all tend toward selfishness and are tempted within our own hearts to pursue wealth for the wrong reasons, what can we do to keep money from getting us?  The answer is simple:  give.  All throughout history, God has taught His people to give to Him first.  Though many think that this practice is simply a pragmatic way to fund the church, in fact this has more to do with meeting a need you have than meeting a need the church has.  Here’s why:  God owns everything.  He doesn’t need your money to accomplish His purpose.

Live as You Were Meant To

But what you need is a way to keep your heart from pride, greed, and self-centeredness.  Giving accomplishes this wonderfully, and also comes with the side effects of joy and peace.  When you take the first $100 of your $1,000 paycheck and give it to God, it speaks very clearly to your heart:  “I’m not the most important thing in my life.”  By giving, you recognize that you are simply the manager of God’s money, to use it in accordance with His purposes, and really, what better investment is there?

Why Do Clean Hands Matter?

Whoever loves Christ has the remarkable privilege of adoption into God’s family.  Since we call God Father, we may inadvertently diminish His great power and His holy wrath toward those who oppose Him.  The following excerpt from Psalm 18 depicts God in his mighty majesty and power, and reminds us that in times when those who pit themselves against God seek to harm us, our Father yet holds the strength and the will to bring down those who lift themselves up.

 

Psalm 18

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.

14He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.

15Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O LORD,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

16He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.

17He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

18They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my stay.

19He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

20The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.

21For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.

22For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.

Nature Obeys Him

In verses 13-15 we get a clear picture of the massive strength and power of our Mighty God.  The elements of this earth obey His every word, as he sends forth lightning to scatter groups of men who would oppose Him.

The psalmist remembers past times when the Lord has delivered him from his enemies.  Strength and safety was found in the secure presence of God himself.  This haven was provided to the psalmist because God delighted in him.  He chose righteousness and clean hands, rather than falling to the temptation that undoubtedly surrounded him.

What You Place Before Your Eyes

See in verse 22 how the psalmist continued to keep the ways of the Lord:  by keeping God’s Laws before his eyes.  This is a great example for us to follow—day by day placing the statutes of the Lord in front of us, that we might live in them.

To those who do not understand the ways of God and who He is, it seems silly and pointless to place such restrictions upon ourselves.  For example, why would we choose to “miss out” on all the fun of casual sex or drunken partying?  Many who engage in these things seem to do just fine, and disaster and destruction don’t necessarily rain down on them.  But there is wisdom in the words of this Psalm, and in the example set by the psalmist.  By living God’s way when it seems that we could “get away” with behavior that displeases Him, we are storing up a reward (v20) with Him who holds all things in His Hands.

What Will That Day Be Like?

Days of struggle and even oppression by the unrighteous occur in the lives of Christians more often than we’d like to think about.  When these days come for you, how will you face them?  Will you confidently rest in the comforting protection of your Father God, or will you look back in regret at all the times you broke and disregarded the statutes of the One who stands in power over all things?

In our culture, it can be so easy to push the Laws of God into the back corners of our mind—to focus on so many things which fill our schedules, until there’s no time for reading God’s Word or talking with Him.  Let’s encourage each other to adopt some new habits of placing the statutes of God ever before our eyes.  Let’s work as a group to grow in righteousness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may face our enemies and disasters with clean hands and a pure heart, watching what our Mighty God will do in defense of His children!

Worthy of Praise

Life can get pretty hectic in our fast-paced world! If you’re like me, you rush through breakfast and your morning routine to get to work on time, spend the day on various projects, get a workout in, cook dinner, kids to bed, chores, snack, and crash into bed. Just writing it all out makes me tired!

Add to all that the pursuit of a thriving life and you’ve got a full plate! But if we’re not careful, this “pedal to the metal” living can wear on us, even working against us in the pursuit of a successful life.

The best medicine for a life starting to spin out of control is a time of quiet reverence in the presence of God. While it can be easy to neglect spiritual matters when life gets busy, it’s vital that we take time to commune with our heavenly Father, as we will find in Him the peace and satisfaction that can be found nowhere else.

Psalm 145 is a great passage to bring praise to God and foster a time of meditation and prayer:

1I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
5They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.b
6They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

The Psalmist begins in reverence of His creator–exalting him as King. God’s name is lifted high in praise. When we approach God, recognizing his authority and glory, we find our hearts softened and open to His life-giving Word.

In verse 3, we read that no one can fathom the greatmess of God. Though we see the splendor of God in His Word, creation, and in our lives personally, we can never fully comprehend his greatness. The highest thoughts we can imagine fall terribly short of his true glory, power, and greatness.

We do well to speak to one another of the great works that God has accomplished throughout history. From the awesome display of his power in creation, his wrath against rebellious men at the flood and the Red Sea, to his infinite mercy in sending a Savior to redeem us from death, the Lord has displayed His greatness to us. We do well to consider his works, call them to mind regularly, and speak them to each other all throughout the day.

How thankful we are that verse 8 speaks the truth! God is slow to anger–allowing us time to recognize the insanity of sin, turn from it and to him, where he waits with open arms to freely forgive. Praise God that Jesus has made a way for our forgiveness through His atoning death on the cross!

The Lord is good to all, according to verse 9, and He has compassion on all He has made. Even those who hate him enjoy the blessings of rain, sunshine, laughter, and love. God is rich in mercy and allows us sinners chance after chance to spurn our rebellious ways, give up our lives to Him, and place our faith and hope in Him alone.

If you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, thank God for his grace and mercy, and turn to Him today. Though you now stand guilty before the all-powerful just judge, you can yet be saved from the punishment you deserve. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, His torture and death has paid the debt that you owe. Trust in Him alone for salvation, give your heart to Him, and He will wash you white as snow.