Okay, here's an embarrassing confession from me. I’m a little more high-strung than I used to be. I get more worried. I fret over little things. I imagine worst-case scenarios when they really aren’t very likely.
In fact, my daughter recently told me (politely) to chill out. She was right. I really needed to chill out.
The apostle Paul demonstrates some pretty remarkable “chill” in the book of Philippians. Instead of being challenged by his daughter (he didn’t have one), he asked himself a good, self-corrective question:
But what does it matter?
It’s a short, rhetorical question that Paul asks in Philippians 1. The issue at hand? Some people were preaching the gospel out of “envy and rivalry….for selfish ambition”. He even says they were doing it to “stir up trouble”. Paul had heard reports that there were some who were engaged in ministry for impure motives, which caused him great inconvenience, and in some ways, tarnished the message of the gospel.
But his response? “It’s no big deal”, he says.
“The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” (Philippians 1.18)
He was so convinced that the gospel message needed to get out to all people, that he was willing to even dismiss the fact that some did it for wrong reasons.
“And because of this, I rejoice”, he says. Not only did he give a pass to the wrong-motived preachers, he even found a way to be joyful, knowing God would use it to reach other people.
A few great reminders for us all here:
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." John 12:23
"You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Luke 12:40
"Moreover no man knows when his hour will come." Ecclesiastes 9:12
Recently, as my wife and I were pulling our Christmas decorations out of storage, I found the patch of my USAF 97th Bombardment Wing that was on my flight suit. The patch has the logo "Venit Hora" which translated from Latin: The Hour has Come. This stimulated my thoughts as it had in 1966 when I joined this B-52 bomber wing.
While clearly in different contexts, there are underlying messages. As a reminder, the verse in John refers to our Lord's speaking of His death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection and exaltation.
The Luke verse talks of servants waiting for their master to return. Solomon in Ecclesiastes focuses on the common destiny for all.
The overall message for us is to remain watchful for the return of our Lord and to live our lives consistent with Jesus' teachings.
Let me conclude by returning to a poem that is associated with my Bomb Wing.
"Immortal is the Name"
Lord, hold them in thy mighty hand
Above the ocean and the land
Like wings of eagles mounting high
Along the pathways of the sky.
Immortal is the name they bear
And high the honour that they share
Until a thousand years have rolled,
Their deeds of valour shall be told.
In the dark of night and light of day
God speed and bless them on their way.
And homeward safely guide each one
With glory gained and duty done.
Let us respond to the hour has come by:
Imagine with me: It is now December 31, 2020. (Yes, 2020. Not 2019.) You are hanging out with a group of friends. Since you guys have known one another for years and you trust one another, your sharing is usually deep and honest. Now, it is your turn for your annual “year-end game.” Here is the format:
My name is: ___________
I am _______ years old
This is what I will say about myself this year:
Now, pause for a moment and ask yourself: What do I want to say about myself on Dec 31, 2020?
Do you want to say something that you are proud of or something you know you would regret?
We often say that "20/20 hindsight" is perfect. But thankfully we don't need to be bound by a "hindsight." God has given us "foresight," a special ability to envision a better version of ourselves. He has also enabled us through his divine grace.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
We may not be able to guarantee the desired outcome, but we can always set our course of action in a desirable direction. Before we kickstart the year 2020, before we appeal to "20/20 hindsight," let's ask God to give us "20/20 foresight" and set our direction towards a goal that his honouring to God and satisfying to you.
In the new decade ahead of us, we will no doubt continue to see amazing advances in technology. Online news, blog posts, Facebook updates, and tweets will most certainly expand their influence. The ability to pay digitally by simply swiping a cell phone will increase, leading to changing spending patterns. More and more we will be connected by technology.
But as people continue connecting digitally, there is a risk that we may simultaneously decrease in our ability to speak directly and spontaneously to each other. When we spend so much time on our phones, we can more easily lose the ability to focus on others in person.
We spend a lot of time with our phones, with one recent study indicating that young millennials check their phone on an average of 150 times a day! Educators are discovering that children are losing the ability to recognize non-verbal communication, are less likely to look someone in the eye, and while great at using emojis, can hide how they are really doing and feeling behind them.
We are heading into an amazing decade that we should cherish and use well. As we do, remember the value of personal relationships. When with others, be fully present! Don’t let your tech item disrupt your connections with people. Spend time with friends and family who are good for you. Resist indifference to others, even those who are different than you.
As the writer of Hebrews wisely puts it: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
As we enter into the year 2020 and a brand-new decade, remember to turn off tech and tune in to people.
You are thinking to yourself... What should I wear to the company Christmas dinner? The high school reunion Christmas gathering? And what about the Island ECC Christmas Eve service? Hmm... Perhaps the latest designer label with a dash of red, something sparkly with a hint of gold? Hmmmmm… Not too fussed about it? Stick to the annual Christmas red pullover? Have you thought about shoes? Accessories? The watch? Which bag will match?
The truth is, we spend countless hours, energy and resources on our appearance, our skin, our hair, what we wear. Whether you are a fashion guru, a practical kind of person, or fall somewhere between… you will put on something.
That’s at least the basics? We would never leave our home – naked! Would we?
Here is a daunting thought for you then, why do most of us, everyday, leave our home spiritually naked!
We don’t clothe ourselves at all, not to mention adequately, before we walk into the world; and yet, we often wonder why we are tempted by sin, crushed by frustration and often feel defeated by our enemy. The word of God instructs us to “put on” the breastplate of righteousness! To raise our shield of faith! To strap on the gospel of peace! (Ephesians 6:13-17)
Do you want to be ready for the day? Do you want to be ready for Christmas Eve? Do you want to give to Jesus His best birthday gift? Well, let’s prepare together and get our spiritual outfit sorted out.
Try this – Create a playlist of say, your 10 favourite worship songs and name it “Battle Ready” (or whatever inspiration God gives you).
Listen to your playlist as you get dressed spiritually every morning with steps 1-3 below:
1) Choose the Right Mindset: When you wake up, don’t touch your phone but recite this scripture “This is the day that the Lord has made, (your name) will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24), even in your difficult times, choose to rejoice despite the circumstances!
2) Repent & Receive: Come before God with your repentance and receive His new grace every morning! (Lamentations 3:22-23)
3) Attitude of Gratitude: Give thanks for every little and big thing around you! A thankful heart reminds you to be joyful always! (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Commit to this for 7 days (best to grab someone to do this with) and you will see the difference between walking out “naked into the world everyday” versus “being armoured up in the power of God” as soon as you wake in the morning! For some of you, this might take 5 minutes, for some, maybe you need a 30-minute “getting ready” time, however long or short each day, it’s up to you!
When you are done. Say to God, I am ready and text your friends or group e.g. “Battle Ready”. This year, let’s make time to get dressed, not only for Christmas but every morning! If you see me around church, wave and say “B.R.!”. I’ll know what you are talking about! Merry Christmas everyone!