What Will You Do With Your Turn?

It's your turn.  

Jack W. Carter

I still remember the day, over 25 years ago, that I first heard Jack speak on this theme. He talked about how this life is our turn. We can use it in any way we want, because it's our turn. If we should so choose, we can spend it in pursuit of the party life, making our way through life in a drunken or drugged fog, if we want... because it's our turn.

Or, we could spend our efforts in pursuit of lust and physical pleasures. We could live our lives in the promiscuous immorality of adultery or fornication or homosexuality if we want... because it's our turn. We could make it our life goal to pursue the almighty dollar - not caring who we step on upon our way to the top, if we want - and God would let us do it... because it's our turn.

You see God has given us, for lack of a better description, a turn here on earth. He wants to find out if we will serve Him or if we will take this turn for our own selfish desires. He will let us do anything that we want during our turn, but we have to remember two things: First, God will call us to account some day. There really will be a day of reckoning and the wise man will ask himself, "What then?" The other thing that we need to know is this:

We were called to something better!

What about you? What are you doing with your turn? Do you realize the price of the ticket for your turn was the shed blood of Jesus? Perhaps, you don't know... or perhaps you just don't care, but that's okay because God will let you do whatever you want with your turn... until your turn is through.

But, for those in the pursuit of excellence and purity and holiness and joy, there is God's way. So, how about you? What will you do with your turn? 

The length of days is seventy years - or eighty, if we have the strength... Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.   

Psalms 90:10-12, NIV (Moses)

 

What to do with a Prodigal Son

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there  squandered his wealth in wild living. Luke 15:13, NIV

One of the most important yet difficult lessons that we must learn as children of God is that He does not enable sin. It's interesting to note how many people will accuse God of abandoning them at the very time they need Him most - yet nothing could be farther from the truth. If God is not with us, it is only because we left Him.

Jesus illustrates this fact in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable the son comes to the father and asks for his inheritance. A bit bold when you think about it, seeing as how the father was not dead, but the father acquiesced to his son's request all the same. Then the prodigal son did what all prodigal sons do: He left home so he could enjoy some wild living out of the sight and control of his father.

Something else took place that eventually happens to all prodigal sons - he ran out of money. Then the country he was in began to experience a famine (have you ever noticed how there always seems to be a famine in our own lives... whenever we leave God?). Then the son began to starve.

It is vital that we understand what the father was doing during this time. He did not go looking for the son, or wire him additional funds, nor did he in any way enable his son to continue his life of sin. But he never stopped looking for the son to come home. And the son eventually came to his senses and started back to the father - not for more money for more wild living, but to repent and ask to serve.

Here is something else that is vital for us to understand: The moment the son started back the father saw and ran to meet him because he had been watching for his son to come to his senses and to come home.

We as parents (or prodigals) can learn something from this parable. First, if our kids turn away to sin, don't rush after them to clean up their mess. Second, don't invite them back home as long as they are sinning, or they will bring their mess into your home. Third, and this is really important, never give up looking and praying for them to come back... on God's terms for they will come back to do good only if you will not allow them to come back to do evil. We can learn a lot from God, if we will just open our eyes and our hearts.

When he came to his senses, he said... "I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Luke 15:17-20,NIV

 

What Good is Christianity, Anyway?

Picture this: You are driving down the road, happy and content, when you realize that you have a flat tire. You pull off to a nice level spot. In your trunk is a new spare tire as well as a good jack, tire iron and lug nut wrench. Your Bachelor's Degree is in auto mechanics and you have recently completed your MSTC (Master of Science in Tire Changing). You, however, just sit in your car and wonder, "What's the use of having the right tools and proper training? I got a flat, anyway!" A bit foolish, isn't it?

Yet, how many people go through life just as happy as can be until something goes wrong. Maybe they were raised in a good Christian family. Maybe they went to worship and Bible classes every week. They might be daily Bible readers and regular in their prayer life. But then, disaster strikes! Maybe it's health related. Maybe it's their job or finances. Perhaps someone has let them down. Maybe someone very close to them has died. Whatever the hardship, they are in great despair and they ask themselves something along the lines of, "What good is Christianity, anyway?"

None... if you don't use it!

We must understand that Christianity is not a magic talisman that will prevent us from experiencing harm. God did not design His perfect way of life as insurance against discomfort. While no one but God can answer why some people seem to suffer so much, while others seemingly have it made, we can be sure of these two things: 1)This world is not Heaven, and 2) Life is a test. Will we be faithful to God in good times, and in bad, or will we be "fair weather" servants? Will we lean upon God and Christ when we cannot make it on our own, or will we try to hold Them accountable when things do not go our way? Will we praise Their holy Names, come what may?

Or... will we in difficult times just ask, "What's the use? What good is Christianity, anyway?" The answer to that question may well determine both our quality of life on this earth as well as our dwelling place for all eternity. The fact is that God will always be there for His children. If we will serve Him, in good times and bad, He truly will help us every step of the way. Life will not always be easy, but God and Christ will never let us down.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? ...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 

James 2:14 & 17, NIV

 

What Are We Here For?

Bad news travels fast. Old American proverb

Have you noticed that the news of late is not all that cheery? From riots and protests, to the prices of food and gas to the harsh political climate, all of the news just seems to be bad. Such news has a way of instilling fear and uncertainty. We worry about what the turmoil in different areas of the world will result in. We worry that we will not have enough money to pay our bills. We worry about the state of our nation. Add that to uncertain job outlooks, a drought of historic proportions, and that general sense of gloom that just seems to permeate the news and it's enough to give even the most optimistic among us the blues.

That's when it's good for us to remember what we are here for. We are not here for eternal peace on earth. We're not here for wealth and comfort. We are not here for perfect climate and health. We're here because our loving Father put us here and, sometimes, "here" is a test.

Could that be why there are challenges in our lives? Could it be that life is a test to determine who will be faithful? Could it be that God is watching from above to see who rises to these challenging times and actually lifts the burdens of those who are struggling, as opposed to those who just seem to add to the difficulty of an already difficult test?

The truth is that there has always been bad news in life and there always will be, but there is also an abundance of really good news for those who will listen. In fact, Jesus came into this world to announce the "Good News" - the news that saves men's souls. When you boil life down to its essence, you will find that we are here to go to heaven. Since that is the case, maybe the bad news isn't so bad after all. What are you here for, anyway? 

For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:9, NIV

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalms 112:7, NIV

 

What a Life!

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was go grocery shopping with my Mom. If you were to know my history with shopping, you might feel that I am stretching the truth a bit, but it's completely true - I loved to go grocery shopping with my Mom.

The reason for this was found in the way Mom let me shop. You see, Mom didn't always appreciate the pearls of wisdom that I dropped in my everyday conversation (She tended to agree with her friend who kept me once. After following this poor woman around the entire day, dropping the afore mentioned pearls, she asked my Mom, "How do you stand him talking all the time?") Well, the way Mom stood it was revealed in the way she went grocery shopping. She would let me use my allowance to buy a bag of licorice and a comic book and then she would send me out to the car to enjoy my quiet moment while she enjoyed hers. And we think Einstein was smart!

Anyway, some of my best memories are of lying down in the floor boards of the Rambler - feet propped up on the door and head propped up on the "hump", a mouthful of tasty red licorice and a long, uninterrupted period to enjoy some classic literature. This was living!

As I look back on life, I realize that it has been packed with such moments. Special moments don't require a lot of cash, designer coffees or quiet places with spectacular views. They merely require a quiet spirit (molded by clever Moms and Dads) and the ability to savor life's simple pleasures. We all knew how to do that... when we were younger. Maybe the secret to being satisfied with life is to remember the pleasant qualities we had when we were children, when all that was required for true satisfaction was the not so small miracle of just enjoying whatever circumstances you happened to find yourself in.

Now when it seems that everywhere I turn I see dissatisfaction and the continual lack of harmony that the multitudes of people seem to have in this life, I find it very pleasant (and uncharacteristically wise) to leave the crowded market place and find myself whatever passes in our modern times for the floor board of a Rambler, a bag of licorice and a good comic book. God has given a lifetime of everyday miracles to those who will open their eyes and look. They are found in the faces of our loved ones, in the laughter of our children, and in the floor boards of the Ramblers of our minds.

I know that there is nothing better than for men to be happy and do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12, NIV