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January 1, 2015

Hourglass (1)
 Before reading on, pause and make a list of the things you value most in life. Undoubtedly God, Jesus, family, etc are at the top of your list. But did you list “TIME?” Ephesians 5:15-16 has been called the Bible’s key to “Time Management,” but might be more aptly called the key to “Life Management!” In these passages Paul commands all believers “Therefore (because we have been awakened from spiritual stupor and spiritual death and have the light of Christ – Eph 5:14BE CAREFUL (a command to continually take heed, be alert, be vigilant, to discern with Spirit enabled vision) how you walk, not as unwise men (“fools”), but as wise, REDEEMING THE TIME (making the most of every opportunity) because (explains why we must redeem the time) the days are evil (Corollary: The evil of our day should motivate us to redeem the time each day).” (Eph 5:16) If we are continually filled with God’s Spirit (Eph 5:18), He will enable us to be on “high alert” for spiritual opportunities which we can seize before they are gone. What opportunities are passing before us today? How will we respond? Will we even see them? We don’t want to be like agnostic Mark Twain who said “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” As followers of Christ may we imitate Paul’s example and live as if every minute counts—because it does! (Read 1Cor 11:1, Heb 6:12) It takes only a moment in time to be kind, but that moment will bear fruit that lasts throughout eternity. Indeed, as Wiersbe reminds us “No good deed done for the glory of Jesus Christ will ever be forgotten before God. No loving word spoken in Jesus’ Name will ever be wasted. If we don’t see the harvest in this life, we’ll see it when we stand before the Lord. Even a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ will have its just reward” and hear “Well done!” (Mt 10:42; 25:31-46)

Some lives are darkened by want and care;
The lack of sympathy brings despair;
Seek out such souls and their burdens share,
Redeeming the precious time.

Adoniram Judson a famous missionary to Burma wrote that “A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity and the same may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever. Each day will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny (Read 1Ti 4:7-8Rev 22:12). How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness! It is too late to mend the days that are past (Read what Paul did with his regret-Php 3:13-14). The future is in our power (when we are in His hand). Let us, then, each morning, (enabled by God’s Spirit) resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more day is irrevocably gone, indelibly (forever) marked.” Like Adoniram Judson we need to embrace an eternal perspective in this temporal world. Too often we number our years and not our days. However we live one day at a time, and so we should instead number our days that we might make them count for eternity. “So teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)  

A day is full of many hours just waiting for your using;
and there are many ways to spend them,
so be careful in your choosing.

A farmer’s clock ran amuck one morning and struck seventeen. The man of the house jumped up and ran all over the place, saying, “Get up, it’s later than it ever has been before!” It is later than it ever has been by God’s eternal timepiece. It is later than you think! Don’t vacillate! Don’t hesitate! Don’t procrastinate! Time is loaned to us and, as stewards of Christ, we must use it wisely. Let us each redeem the golden moments of opportunity while we still can!  We do “not know what our life will be like tomorrow. We are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) “Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” (Ps 144:4) “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.” (Ps 90:9, 10) As Spurgeon (who went home at age 59) said “A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour!” He even reduced our lives to four words “Sown, groan, blown, gone!” Dear Father, in light of the fact that our life is but a vapor and the “night is almost gone and the day is at hand,” (Ro 13:12) by Your Spirit grant us the desire and power to obey Jesus’ command to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” remembering that “where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.” Amen (Mt 6:20-21)

The grain stands white in the harvest field
And rich the fruitage which it will yield.
Step in today and the sickle wield,
Redeeming the precious time.

Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning and read his own obituary in the local newspaper. It read, “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.” It was Alfred’s older brother who had died; a newspaper reporter had bungled the epitaph. But that account had a tremendous impact on Nobel, who decided he wanted to be remembered for something different. As a result, he initiated the Nobel Prize to reward individuals who foster peace. He said,Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.” Alexander Graham Bell said that “When one door closes, another one opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” In Christ and enabled by His Spirit, we are given a golden opportunity to see those divinely opened doors and pass into the inheritance beyond, even “writing” a new “eternal epitaph!” As Larry Moyer said “Decide now what you want written on your tombstone, then live your life backward from there.” Stated another way, instead of counting your days, make your days count!  In fact, we should live every day as if it might be our last, for one of these days we will be right!

The Lord soon comes, His own to take,
And of their stewardship reckoning make;
Blest will he be, that for Jesus’ sake,
Has ever redeemed the time!

The word OPPORTUNITY is derived from the Latin “ob portu.” In ancient times before modern harbors, ships had to wait for the timing of the tide before they could make it safely to port. Thus “OB PORTU,” described the ship waiting “FOR PORT,” ready to seize the crucial moment when it could ride the tide into safe harbor. The captain knew that if he missed the passing tide, the ship would have to wait for another tide to come in. God gives each of us many “ob portu’s”, but we must be spiritually wise and Spirit filled in order to see and seize them. As Charles Swindoll said “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities (ob portu’s) brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Joseph Parker described “a king of Sicily who was called “The Lingerer,” not because he stayed till opportunity came, but because he stayed till opportunity was lost. There is a time to wait and a time to act. Overlong waiting means loss of chance!” Shakespeare’s famous line from Julius Caesar conveys the same thought: “There is a tide in the affairs of men (an “ob portu”), Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.” History tells us of Hannibal that when he could have taken Rome he would not, and when he would he could not! Hannibal missed the “opportune time,” the brief “window of opportunity,” even as believers can if we lose our eternal perspective!  

John Broadus said “Opportunity is like a fleet horse that pauses for a moment at one’s side. If you fail to mount him in that moment, you can hear the clatter of his hoofs down the corridors of time. That opportunity is gone forever.”

Now is the only time we own
To do His precious will,
Do not wait until tomorrow;
For the clock may then be still!

Opportunity is the flower of time which blooms for a moment and is gone forever. Napoleon said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point (cf kairos). Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.” D. L. Moody recalls an incident in his ministry that brought him great distress because he failed to redeem the time. “On the night when the courthouse bell of Chicago was sounding an alarm of fire, my sermon was upon ‘What Shall I Do with Jesus?’ I said to the audience, ‘I want you to decide this question by next Sunday.’ What a mistake! That night I saw the glare of flames, and knew that Chicago was doomed. I never saw that audience again!” Redeem the time!

Lost souls are hastening down to doom
Without a ray to dispel the gloom
Give them the Gospel, their path illume,
Redeeming the precious time.

Jonathan Edwards America’s greatest theologian understood Paul’s charge to “redeem the time” and so as a young man wrote “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved: to live with all my might while I do live.” The 16th-century reformer Philip Melanchthon kept a record of every wasted moment and took his list to God in confession at the end of each day. Little wonder that God used him in such mighty ways. Like these great saints before us, we too should spend time wisely, by investing in eternity! 

Time that is past you can never recall,
Of time to come, you are not sure at all;

Only the present is now in your power,
Therefore, redeem and improve every hour.

Noah Webster said that opportunity is the convergence of a favorable juncture of circumstances, but in God’s universe the convergence of circumstances is not left to “chance” or “fate” but is under His providential control, so let us pray daily for God’s Spirit to open the eyes of our heart” (Eph 1:18) to recognize and seize the fleeting opportunities God gives us. Most of us are familiar with Garage Sales – if the ad says the sale begins at 8AM, you can be sure there will be “redeemers” on site thirty minutes early, lest they miss the best opportunities which go fast! As J H Jowett says “in all these purchasings everything goes to the early buyer. To be first in the market must be our constant aim. Let us regard every moment as precious treasure, and before the enemy of our souls can lay his hand upon it, let us be up and buy it for the Lord.” Indeed, may we be as determined as shoppers eager for temporal trinkets, making the most of every opportunity to purchase timeless treasures!  

The time is short!
If thou wouldst work for God it must be now;
If thou wouldst win the garland for thy brow,
Redeem the time.
With His reward He comes; He tarries not; His day is near;
When men least look for Him, will He be here;
Prepare for Him!”
–Horatius Bonar

John Piper reiterates the truth that the “OPPORTUNITY of a lifetime” may “never come again. The days are evil; opposition is great; be wise as serpents (Mt 10:16). Understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:17). These words ring with a sense of urgency. They are like the words of a platoon leader addressing his unit just before they enter combat. The air is tense and your heart is beating fast and, even if you love battle, your hands are sweaty. “Watch your step; be smart; don’t miss your opportunity; keep yourself lean for the battle!” In other words, the Christian life is a vigilant life, defensively guarding itself from the subtleties of the evil days and offensively redeeming the time to strike for love and righteousness again and again. We are a vigilant people at war with unbelief and evil. O to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me. Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant. Paul said, “In the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Php 2:16). In the same way, I have good hope from the Lord that my “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1Co 15:58). And I commend this promise to you. No minute need be lived in vain. Eternity will render it significant if lived in faith for the glory of God. In the end we rest in this: “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15).

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To say just when the hands will stop;
At late, or early hour.

As we have seen the idea of KAIROS is not “clock time” but what one writer calls “kingdom opportunities” those openings for ministry that often come at inconvenient times – a friend who wants to talk, a child with a problem, the chance to lend a hand to someone in need. Paul is encouraging us to keep our lives uncluttered so that we are prepared to respond when the need arises—lest the fleeting kingdom opportunities, which are “the best,” be squeezed out by “the good” in our busy schedules. Think back on your last 24 hours – were there some “kingdom opportunities” you saw (or see now in retrospect) and which you rushed past because you were “too busy”? Are we so task oriented that we miss the “kingdom tasks” God gives us the privilege to experience? May His Spirit give us all “kingdom vision”! Amen

The good we do is never lost,
Each kindly act takes root,
And every bit of love we sow
In time will bear rich fruit.

Beloved, it is too late to redeem the time that has passed but not the time that is passing. We can always make more money, but we cannot make more time. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. And when our time on this earth is over, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” to give an account to the One Who gave us the priceless gift of TIME (2Cor 5:10). May God grant us His amazing grace that we might make the most of the rest of our time on earth, knowing that one day soon we will enter into the “rest of our life” in Christ. Amen

Now may we all take a moment, to prayerfully ponder the days God has numbered for each of us, as we listen to the soul stirring words of Robin Mark’s song

When It’s All Been Said and Done

When It’s All Been Said and Done
There is just one thing that matters.
Did I do my best to live for Truth?
Did I live my life for You?

When It’s All Been Said and Done
All my treasures will mean nothing.
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward,
Will stand the test of time.

See Related Topic – A Year of Grace

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  1. This is a powerful message. It is not to be heard once and forgotten. It is not a reminder to be place on reminder the wall and gazed upon. It is a precept, a principle, that should be meditated upon and hidden in one’s heart to be reflected upon day after day. It is truth. Redeem the time. Maranatha. Thank you.

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