Tag Archives: Times

My Times

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But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;

Psalm 31:14-15a (NRSVCE)

I occasionally have people who ask me how on earth I write these posts every morning, how I come up with my ideas. I confess, there are mornings when I sit with the text a long time, read it a couple of times, and then struggle to find anything to think, write, say, or share. Many times I’ve skipped a day of blogging because I say to myself, “Nope. I got nothin’.” More often than not, I read the chapter and consciously do so with an open heart. As I read I’m mindful of what the text makes me think about, what memories it conjures, what it means for me on this day of my journey right where I’m and what I’m going through, what other stories or texts within the Great Story it makes me think about, and what teachings or events in Jesus’ story dovetail with it. Many times I just start writing about that one thing that came to mind and everything just sort of flows from there.

Then, there are some mornings when I get to the text and certain words leap off the page right into my soul. It’s exactly what I need today.

That’s what happened today.

In the seeming chaos of our world at the moment it’s so easy to get discouraged, anxious, and afraid. Every morning I shake my head at what I’m witnessing around me, what I’m hearing come out of people’s mouths, and the events I watch and read about in the news.

In the lyrics of David’s song, known to us as Psalm 31, David declares his trust in God and then, in faith, says, “My times are in your hand.”

I’ve observed that humans like to think that everything in life should be hunky-dory and if it’s not then there’s a problem. This leads me to want to focus all my attention on the inspirational, Pinterest-worthy words of Jesus that are regularly printed on lots of hokey trinkets, coffee mugs, and decorative plates. However, my continuous journey through the Great Story reminds that the night before Jesus was to be betrayed, arrested, mocked, threatened, unjustly accused, unjustly tried, beaten, whipped, screamed at by mobs, and cruelly executed by having nails driven through his wrists and feet and hung up for hours to die while people hurled insults at Him, he said this to his closest followers:

“But remember the root command: Love one another.

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

“When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. 

“In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Hate. Beatdowns. Difficulties. Jesus said to expect it, and to act with love before, during, and after.

I’ve never seen these words quoted on a coffee mug.

But as a follower of Jesus, I also know that this life, this earthly journey, this world was never what Jesus focused on nor does He want me to focus on it, either…

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

I also know that Jesus spoke often about this Great Story having a scripted end. It’s leading toward a destined conclusion and certain events are yet to come. If I really believe that, then I can take to heart Jesus words to his followers when he told them about the hatred, beat-downs, and difficulties they’d face: “Take heart!”

Or, like David sang: “Trust. My times are in His hands.”

What I’m expected to do is love.

Note: I’m taking a hiatus to love some friends and celebrate the end of summer. Be back in a week or so!

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Shifting Wind

Pope Francis“Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:28 (NRSV)

I have watched with keen interest the past few years and have noticed a trend. It began with the world’s largest and oldest institution of Jesus followers in Rome when they elected a humble outsider from South America to be Pope. Pope Francis has been shaking things up, and this Protestant will admit being a fan. One of the things I’ve noticed in my study of Jesus is that he was an equal opportunity offender by speaking truth and raising the ire of people on both sides of the spectrum. I’m seeing Jesus’ heart in Francis. He has been appointing more and more Bishops from the Third World into the upper levels of leadership in the Roman Catholic church.

A few months ago I received an e-mail from our friend who has, for several years, been the President of a large international ministry organization called the Navigators. Founded to reach out to men and women in the U.S. armed services, the group spread to college campuses and has since grown over the decades into a world-wide mission organization. Mike’s e-mail described the Navigators’ leaders from around the world gathering to pray for guidance in selecting his successor. Their choice to lead the Navigators was a couple who are natives of Kenya in Africa.

This morning as I read the chapter I found it interesting that Paul told the Jews in Rome that God, in response to the Jews unwillingness to believe, has sent salvation to the Gentiles. God uses the metaphor of wind to describe Holy Spirit. The wind moves, changes course, increases to gusts then falls back to a gentle breeze. It is not tamed nor controlled. Paul observes that the Spiritual winds are shifting and blowing away from Jerusalem and to the rest of the world.

Jesus said to be aware of the signs and the times. Paul was aware that God’s Spirit was shifting in his time. In our time I believe I have seen a shift in Holy Spirit wind moving and gusting through the Third World. I see it in Rome. I see it in the Navigators. I am seeing other weather vanes turn in headlines and news reports. I am not a prophet and I can’t see the future, but I want to be aware of what God is doing on a meta-level even as I struggle to fulfill my bit-part on a micro-level here in the middle of fly-over country America.

Today, I find my heart echoes the prayer Jesus taught us to pray: “May your will be done on Earth….”

Living in This Time and Place

2015 Pella Tulip Time 039Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:1 (NRSV)

I spoke with my parents last night on the phone. Just this past week they put a deposit down on a retirement apartment that is part of a larger community and care facility. Over the past couple of weeks I have toured three different facilities with them. We have discussed their options and their preferences as well as the major shift life is taking for them.

It has struck me in the midst of this process how our relationship has changed over the years. It seems like yesterday I was seeking their help, their wisdom and their insights as I made major life decisions. This time around I find that they have sought my help, wisdom, and insight in their major life decision. I realize that we are at a very different stage of this life journey.

Along my spiritual journey as a Jesus follower, I have heard some who speak in idyllic terms regarding the church as described in the book of Acts. They speak of the events, the miracles and the outpouring of the Spirit as a pinnacle from which we have fallen; an ideal for which we should strive. The further I get in my journey the more foolish I find this line of thinking.

We live in a different chapter of the story, in a different time, and a different place. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but human civilization is ever changing. How our heavenly Father relates to we His children will naturally change across time just as my relationship with my parents will change across time. Looking back across the story from Genesis to Acts we find that the way God intersected, communicated and related to humanity changed from creation, to the Exodus, to the period of the Judges, to the time of the monarchy and the prophets, to the period before Jesus was born, to the time of Jesus, and to the time we are studying in Acts. To say that the church today should be like the church in the book of Acts is like saying that the time of King David should have been more like the time of Noah.

I found it interesting this morning that Dr. Luke is sure to mention that things were not all signs and wonders. The Jesus followers who were Hebrews from Greece were hacked off because their widows weren’t getting their share of the communal welfare program. The more things change, the more they stay the same. People are people. “Where two or three are gathered,” Jesus said,  “you’ll find me in their midst.” That is a good thing. We need a referee because where two or three gather you’ll also find conflict.

I’m grateful for the times we are living in. I’m grateful for my relationship with God. I’m grateful for my relationship with my parents. We are blessed to experience some really great things in our day and age, and at the same time we face unique challenges that those living through the book of Acts couldn’t possibly fathom. Such is life. I am not called to live in another time and place, but to walk the journey set before me in this time and place.

Chapter-a-Day Ezra 1

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdomEzra 1:1-3 (MSG)

As I write this post, the newspaper headlines and 30 second sound-bytes are all depressing. The economy refuses to recover. The government can’t get anything done. Europe is sinking under the weight of debt. The U.S. is not far behind. Young people can’t find jobs even as companies report a shortage of qualified, experienced workers. I just heard about another round of lay-offs locally. It is said that the standard of living of the average American has now fallen to what it was in the 1970s.

I grew up in the 70s. Watergate, Vietnam, Carter, oil embargo, 55 mph national speed limit, hostages, disco and leisure suits.

[sigh]

Amidst all of this depressing news, One is apt to wonder where God is in all of this. I imagine those in exile in Babylon felt much the same way. Torn from their homes, enslaved, and hauled off to live in a foreign land to work for a foreign tyrant. “God, where are you? What are you doing?”

Then I read that God, as prophesied by Jeremiah, moved Cyrus the King of Persia to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem and send people and materials for the task. A small gesture, maybe, but one that gave life and hope to a depressed and hopeless people.

Today, my heart is lightened by the reminder that God is not idle. Times and events, kings and kingdoms, leaders and movements, are still in His hand. This journey is continuing toward a destination of His grand design. He bids me not to be anxious about tomorrow, but to be content and faithful in this one day that I’m given.

He’ll take care of the rest.

Chapter-a-Day Daniel 2

King born in a manger.  "Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all: He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment…." Daniel 2:20-21 (MSG)

This is the time of year when all of the media outlets come up with their "Top 10" lists from the previous year. It's interesting to look back, but it can also get kind of depressing for me. There's so much craziness in the world on so many levels. I don't need a recap of the death, tragedy and scandals – thank you very much.

As I watch the daily news, I have to remind myself that God is guiding history. It sometimes takes conscious effort to recall that God "raises kings and brings them down." It is so easy to get discouraged and fatalistic.

I was reminded again in todays chapter of the season of Advent we are in. David reminds King Nebuchadnezzer that throughout the earthly kingdoms God will be "building a kingdom that will never be destroyed." Advent is the season of expectant anticipation of the coming of the King of Kings. Advent culminates at Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the "Prince of Peace" who came to establish God's Kingdom work on Earth.

Even so, come quickly King Jesus.
 

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mtsofan