"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Miscellaneous (Page 2 of 10)

The Two Most Neglected Minutes of Your Life

Not long ago I asked you to consider the two most important minutes of your life—the one directly behind you and the one laying immediately before you. I want now to encourage you to take charge of what may be the two most neglected minutes of your life—the first and last minutes of each day.

I am not referring to 12:00:00-12:01:00 A.M. or to 11:59:00-11:59:59 P.M. I mean your first waking minute of consciousness and the last minute of wakeful consciousness. Leave the minutes of sleep to God; they are safe with Him (Psalm 121:2-3). For now leave the minutes of consciousness engagement with the world to God; He’s got those too (“My times are in your hand,” Psa. 31:15a).

What are you currently doing with the first and last minutes of each day God gives you on this earth? I remind you that it is your choice and within your power to decide how to spend those 120 seconds. I suggest they hold a strategic high ground, ground that we be giving away to other influences; and this at our own peril.

Take that first minute of the day, when you first become aware of consciousness. What do you do with those sixty seconds? Decide whether to roll over and sleep some more? Flail away at your alarm clock while muttering curses over it? Complain? Wish for something else? The first moments of the day help determine what the remaining minutes of the day will be like between your ears. Forty-six percent of Americans say they check their phones before they even get out of bed. It is up to 61% within the first five minutes of the day. Thirty-eight percent of Americans turn the TV on immediately upon waking up. And that doesn’t factor in other powerful influences like radio, music, the Internet, etc.

The phrase “in the morning” is found ten times in the book of Psalms in the ESV. Here’s a sampling:

  • “LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (Psalm 5:3a)
  • “I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.” (Psalm 59:16a)
  • “But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” (Psalm 88:13)
  • “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” (Psalm 92:1-2)

Okay, I’ll admit—it doesn’t say “first thing in the morning” or “first minute of the morning,” but it does present a consistent commitment to begin each day by meaningful engagement with the Lord.

The Jewish faithful have long taught their children to address God this way with their first words of the day: “Thank you, King living and eternal, You returned me my soul with compassion; I have full trust in you!”

What about that last minute of conscious awareness and thought? What are you doing with those precious seconds?

Consider how some of the greats of the faith redeemed those sacred final moments of conscious thought:

  • David said: “I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6) and “… in the night also my heart instructs me.” (Psalm 16:7)
  • Troubled Asaph said: “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” (Psalm 77:6)
  • Similarly Job cried out that “… none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.” (Job 35:10)
  • Another psalmist declared, “I remember your name in the night, O LORD.” (Psalm 119:55)
  • Isaiah prayed, “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.” (Isaiah 26:9)
  • Jeremiah counseled: “… cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” (Lamentations 2:19)

Are we redeeming the time like this “great cloud of witnesses” did in their day? A recent study by LG Electronics reported that 61% of Americans fall asleep with the TV on. So the majority of us give our last thoughts of the day over to Hollywood, late-night television hosts, sports commentators or others with an agenda to sell. That doesn’t sound wise.

In contrast consider a faithful Christ-follower’s view of these two most neglected minutes of each day: “We are silent early in the morning because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to bed because the last word also belongs to God.” [Zach Eswine, p.140, The Imperfect Pastor, reflecting on the thoughts/words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 85]

Someone has well said that we must not only give the Lord our lives, but also our minutes and moments. Have you given the Lord Jesus your life? Are you actively giving Him your minutes and moments? How might you invite Jesus into conscious fellowship with you as you depart the realm of conscious thought each night and as you reengage it each morning? Perhaps a simple, brief, consistent prayer immediately in the morning—full of thanks, worship, and surrender—would help you set the day on the right tracks. Perhaps using the final moments of your day to memorize and meditate upon a few simple lines from a psalm—taking them up meaningfully and prayerfully as you drift away to sleep—will give the Lord conscious command of your heart and life even as you surrender to Him in sleep. Perhaps you have other helpful practices. If so, I would love to hear about them.

The Two Most Important Minutes of Your Life

None of us knows precisely how much earthly life we have left.

God set a limit of 120 years to human life (Genesis 6:3). Moses said for most of us, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10). Some will be shorter and others longer.

Whatever the length may be, Jesus urged us not to fret about it, asking “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Luke 12:25). Answer: not one of us.

Yet we are counseled to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). And if days matter then so do the hours that make them up. And if hours matter then so do minutes of which they are composed. And if minutes matter, so do moments. After all “we bring our years to an end like a sigh” (Psalm 90:9). Just what will you exhale with your final “sigh”?

In light of these realities I want you to consider the two most important minutes of your life.

Any idea what they might be? The two minutes just before you make life’s biggest decisions? The two minutes it takes you to exchange marriage vows and say, “I do!”? The last two minutes before death?

Those are all very important. But they are not the most important minutes of your life.

Are you ready to consider these two minutes? Are you eager to rethink their strategic nature? Are you willing to change how you use them?

What are the two most important minutes of your life?

Answer: the last one and the next one.

The minute immediately behind you and the one standing immediately before you are the two most significant, impactful, and strategic minutes of your life.

Consider the minute that has just passed. It possesses disproportionate potential to shape the rest of your life. Just how it will do so is largely a matter how you deal with … regrets, wounds, revenge, forgiveness, failure, success, disappointment, discontent (and a host of other issues).

How you deal with that minute and what filled it will go a long way in answering such foundational questions as: Who I am? What am I worth? What difference will my life make? Where am I headed? What matters most to me?

Now consider the minute that stands immediately before you, next in line in the succession of your unfolding life. That singular minute is the only minute of which you can have any assurance. Fact is, you have no guarantee you’ll make it to the end of it. So we better live it well. Doing so requires making some decisions about things like … reality, truth, faith/trust, hope, purpose (among other key matters).

How will you view the minute that has just passed? In light of it, how will you engage the minute that is just now beginning? Answer these two questions and you’ll be well on the way to determining where you’ll end up and what the ride will be like.

The Apostle Paul said, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

All “arguments”; each “opinion”; every “thought.” The minute behind you and the minute before you all speak “arguments,” offer some “opinion” and form some “thought” about what reality is, who you are, what you can do in the face of what stands before you. All of them must be taken “captive to … Christ.”

How are you doing in dealing with the two most strategic minutes of your life right now? What’s the pattern for how you do so? Is it helpful? What determines what you do with those minutes and what you let them do with you?

This next minute might be a good time to consider again these words: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Are you simply letting the minutes slip by? Or are you “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16)—specifically, the only two minutes of which you can be certain.

Good AT and Good FOR

We all want to figure out what God wants from us. What is His will for your life? What does He require of you? What ought you to be and do?

It struck me not long ago that in pursuit of answers to these kinds of questions we each must consider not only what God has made me good at, but also what has God made me good for.

The answer to the former is found in discerning what God has done in imparting to you spiritual gifts, natural talents, and shaping experiences. Figuring out what you are good at is a matter of competency and skill. You might be good at car repair, football, sewing, computers, baking, nuclear physics, etc.

The answer to the latter is found in discovering and discerning what God has done in shaping your heart. Discovering what you are good for is a matter of calling and character. It is harder to quantify this isn’t it? In fact it might be easier to describe what you are no good for – things for which you just don’t have the heart and for which you just can’t sustain the passion.

What you are good at, we might say, is a matter of the hands. What you are good for is a matter of the heart.

Both are vital. But it seems to me that a person might be good at certain things, but also only good for doing that in a certain arena or for a certain cause or purpose. You can use gifts, talents and the like for many things. After all a great writer could compose cheap and bawdy literature that debases the human soul or she could write with style and substance that imparts life and hope to her readers.

Does it make sense to say that what you are good for has to define and direct what you are good at?

A person who has discovered what God has made them good at is a person who has direction and a future to pursue. But a person who has also discovered what he is good for finds the field of possibilities drastically narrowed—not because he doesn’t possess the skill for some matters, but because God has spoiled his heart for anything other than what He has made him for.

So are you asking more questions about what you are good at or what you are good for? Some people would settle to know what they are good at. They would love to be the best in the world (or even in their school or family or on their block) at something. But that can be an ego-driven matter. We need to know what God has made us good at, but we can’t stop there.  We must know what God has made us good for. For then we can not only do our best, we can do it for the glory of God and with all the passion and purpose for which He gave us the abilities in the first place. When we discover what we are good for we begin to move from just doing, to doing as doxology.

The longer I live I find myself asking more of the second level questions than the first level. I’m wondering if that’s the case for you too.

A Faithful Servant

Today the world learned of the passing of Warren W. Wiersbe—man of God, student of the Bible, devoted family man, prolific author, and gifted Bible teacher.

I first became aware of Warren Wiersbe as I was trimming azalea bushes just outside Columbia, South Carolina in the early 1980’s. I worked on the grounds crew at a large condominium complex while working my way through seminary. While I worked I listened to Dr. Wiersbe teach the Bible on the Back to the Bible broadcast. I was amazed. He fed me and made me more hungry. He opened the Scriptures in a way I had scarcely heard before, and he did so day after day. The depth of his Bible knowledge was impressive; the depth of his heart commitment to the Lord was infectious.

After graduation from seminary a couple of years later I became a pastor and began teaching and preaching the Bible myself. Dr. Wiersbe’s books were an enormous help to me.

In the early 1990’s I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Wiersbe’s instruction in a Doctor of Ministry class he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His insights on the role of imagination in preaching lit up my mind and heart and sent me out with fresh desire to be faithful to the Scriptures and powerful in the Spirit.

But one day during class Dr. Wiersbe gave us all a fright. As we regathered after a lunch break Dr. Wiersbe, standing at the front of the class, suddenly fell strangely silent and his eyes glazed over. Very quickly we realized something was wrong. Those closest to him in the front row rushed to his side and helped him land gently as he collapsed to the floor. Paramedics soon arrived and they wheeled Dr. Wiersbe out, strapped on a gurney. We prayed fervently for him. And we worried that perhaps the entire Bible-believing world would lay upon us the death of the beloved Dr.!

We were relieved when he returned to the classroom within a couple of days reporting that a drop in his blood sugar had been the culprit. We breathed a sigh of relief and lifted a prayer of thanks to the Lord our healer. Dr. Wiersbe completed a wonderful week of learning for us all.

Then in the early 2000’s God began to open a publishing ministry for me. My publishers wanted me to get endorsements from famous authors who could recommend my books. I’m not famous. I don’t know anyone famous. But I asked myself whom would I most desire to offer an endorsement for my book(s) if it were possible. Warren Wiersbe was the immediate response within my heart. But he didn’t know me. I was just one of hundreds of students he had instructed over the years in various seminaries. But I ventured a letter and Dr. Wiersbe graciously responded with an offer to consider my book. He wrote the following for my book Song of the Satisfied Soul:

There is always room on the shelf for another exposition of Psalm 23, especially when it is as balanced and practical as this one. The author allows the text to speak for itself as he reveals the richness of the believer’s relationship to Jesus Christ. The ideal book for a pastor or other care-giver to share with those needing encouragement.

Later he offered another endorsement for my commentary The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors:

I heartily welcome and endorse this encyclopedic study of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles. For years we have had Eugene Stock’s Practical Truths from the Pastoral Epistles and W. Edward Chadwick’s The Pastoral Teaching of St. Paul: His Ministerial Ideals, but this volume goes beyond them in exposition and application. The beginning pastor and the seasoned minister will both discover in these pages enlightenment, encouragement and a new sense of wonder and privilege of being a servant of God. You can live in this book for the rest of your life and have a more fruitful and rewarding ministry!

I found Dr. Warren Wiersbe to be a gracious, kind man. He was a man of great conviction and strength. He was a ravenous student of the Scriptures and he lived out a lifetime of faithful ministry for the Lord. I am just one of a vast multitude who has been profoundly blessed by this godly man. I give praise to the Lord for the grace He has poured into my life through him.

And, oddly enough, I discovered today that Warren Wiersbe was the same age as my father. They were both born in 1929, just months apart from one another. My father passed away nine days before Dr. Wiersbe did. I just conducted my father’s funeral three days ago.

It reminds me that a faithful generation is passing off the scene and the responsibility to live wisely and well for the honor of the Lord is upon me and my generation in a new and unique way. May the God who empowered these two faithful men also empower me to faithfully serve and honor Him for however long I have left on this earth.

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