For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1–8
Kids are nutty.
Some friends of ours in Texas have two little girls. The younger child is constantly on the move, rarely winding down by bedtime. So the nightly affair has become something of a familiar routine. A story from her favorite book. A drink of water. A prayer. A song. Her doll. Another drink of water. A kiss. A hug. A third sip of water. A trip to the bathroom. A warning. Another kiss. You know, the whole bit.
One night her dad decided he’d be Mr. Nice Guy, the epitome of patience and tolerance. He did it all. Not once did he lose his cool. When Miss Busybody finally ran out of requests, her daddy slipped out of the room, heaved a sigh of relief, and slumped into his favorite chair by the fireplace. Before he could stretch out and relax, however, there was a piercing scream from the jitterbug’s room. Startled, he dashed down the hall and rushed to her bedside. Great tears were rolling down the little girl’s face.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I burnt my tongue.”
Baffled, he tried again, “You what?”
“I burnt my tongue!” she yelled.
“How in the world did you do that?” he asked.
“I licked my night-light.”
That really happened. She couldn’t control her curiosity. She simply had to discover how it would feel to lick that little thing that glowed so warmly and serenely by her bed. Rude was her awakening to the fact that lights are strictly for lighting . . . not licking. And tongues are made for tasting . . . not testing. You and I realize that the best thing our little friend could have done was to stay in bed, keep her tongue to herself, and allow the light to fulfill its appointed function.
But she didn’t—and she got burned.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, Solomon, the wise, passes along to us a list of various types of “appointed times” on earth. Among them he mentions
a time to heal . . . a time to shun embracing . . . a time to give up as lost . . . a time to be silent
I see in these words of counsel one strong undercurrent of advice: BACK OFF! It is often wise to relax our intensity, refuse to force an issue, allow nature to take its course, “let sleeping dogs lie.” Backing off, says Solomon, provides opportunity for healing to occur, opportunity for perspective to break through the storm clouds of emotion and illuminate a difficult situation with a fresh understanding.
When the time is right, things flow very naturally, very freely. To rush or force creates friction-scars that take years to erase. Take it from one who has learned this difficult lesson the hard way—keep a tight bridle on your tongue, relax, and settle for a good night’s sleep. Otherwise, you’re going to get pushy, you’re going to get caught with your tongue in the wrong place . . . and you’re going to get burned.
– Charles R. Swindoll,
Insight for Today
And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.
10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased.
– Numbers 11:1-10
Covetousness has a powerful stronghold in people’s lives, especially in North America. Many of us are not only in bondage to it, but we’re also in serious denial about it.
What is covetousness? First, it’s wanting wrong things, such as wanting pure power. Wanting control over others. Wanting wealth. Wanting glory and accolades.
Second, covetousness is also wanting right things for wrong reasons. Take, for example, the role of spiritual leadership. The desire to be a spiritual leader and make an impact on others’ lives is a noble goal (1 Timothy 3:1)—as long as you want it for the right reasons. If you’re motivated by recognition, power over others, or a personal agenda, it’s not noble—it’s covetous.
Third, covetousness is wanting right things at the wrong time, like a young couple engaged to be married who rationalize, “We love Christ and each other, and we’re committed to a lifetime together. Our wedding is in three months anyway, so let’s start sleeping together now.” They want right things for the right reasons but at the wrong time.
Fourth, covetousness is wanting right things but in the wrong amount. Money is a perfect example. It’s not a wrong thing; money is a necessary part of life. Providing for our families requires earning money, yet we face the danger of not knowing when to stop. We may be tempted to think more money will make us happier—but more of anything other than God will never fulfill us.
So covetousness is wanting wrong things, or wanting right things for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time, or in the wrong amount. At the root of all forms of covetousness is a rejection of God’s sufficiency. This is the reason God hates it.
We see this clearly in Numbers 11, when God’s people wanted something other than what they had.“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat!’” Here they were, in the middle of the wilderness, and God had been feeding them fresh manna (sweet cakes baked with oil) every day. But they started complaining, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (11:5). Timeout! The fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic were back in Egypt—but not for the children of Israel. As slaves, they were treated harshly and lived on a sparse diet. Yet as they reminisced, their memories became radically selective. In that sense, we are just like them. When we dwell on our desires, sin grows more attractive and accessible than it really is.
“But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (11:6). Can you hear the disgust in their voices as they looked at what God had miraculously given them to eat? Rather than being thankful for His provision, they coveted more, better, and different. They even started to cry over their plight (11:10)!
God’s people responded to His provision with a slap in His face, essentially saying, “It’s not enough, God. You’re not meeting my needs or my expectations.” And how did God respond to their covetousness? “The anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased” (11:10b).
What about us? Will we be grateful and satisfied with God and His provision for us? Or will we covet more and better and different? Often our problem is not that we don’t want God; it’s that we covet God and ___________ [fill in the blank].
Still, our savior calls us to come to a settled place where the central passion of our lives is this: “God, I just want You. Your joy, Your peace, Your fullness, and Your friendship—that’s enough for me.”
– James McDonald
Ask rain from the Lord
in the season of the spring rain,
from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
and he will give them showers of rain,
to everyone the vegetation in the field.
For the household gods utter nonsense,
and the diviners see lies;
they tell false dreams
and give empty consolation.
Therefore the people wander like sheep;
they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.
“My anger is hot against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,
and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.
From him shall come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler—all of them together.
They shall be like mighty men in battle,
trampling the foe in the mud of the streets;
they shall fight because the Lord is with them,
and they shall put to shame the riders on horses.
“I will strengthen the house of Judah,
and I will save the house of Joseph.
I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,
and they shall be as though I had not rejected them,
for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior,
and their hearts shall be glad as with wine.
Their children shall see it and be glad;
their hearts shall rejoice in the Lord.
“I will whistle for them and gather them in,
for I have redeemed them,
and they shall be as many as they were before.
– Zechariah 10:1-8
On La Gomera, one of the smallest of the Canary Islands, a language that sounds like a bird song is being revived. In a land of deep valleys and steep ravines, schoolchildren and tourists are learning how whistling was once used to communicate for distances up to 2 miles. One goat herder who is using this ancient language once again to communicate with his flock said, “They recognize my whistle as they recognize my voice.”
The practice of whistling also shows up in the Bible, where God is described as a shepherd whistling for His sheep. This image could be what the prophet had in mind when he described how God will one day whistle to bring a wandering and scattered people back to Himself (Zech. 10:8).
Many years later Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). That may be the whistle of a shepherd. Sheep don’t understand words, but they know the sound that signals the shepherd’s presence.
Misleading voices and distracting noises still compete for our attention (cf. Zech. 10:2). Yet God has ways of signaling us, even without words. By events that can be alarming or encouraging, He reminds us of His guiding, protecting, and reassuring presence.
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
8 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.
– Psalm 61
Most of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart; emptied as when a man wipeth a dish and turneth it upside down; submerged and thrown on our beam ends like a vessel mastered by the storm. Discoveries of inward corruption will do this, if the Lord permits the great deep of our depravity to become troubled and cast up mire and dirt. Disappointments and heart-breaks will do this when billow after billow rolls over us, and we are like a broken shell hurled to and fro by the surf. Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not without an all-sufficient solace, our God is the harbour of weather-beaten sails, the hospice of forlorn pilgrims. Higher than we are is he, his mercy higher than our sins, his love higher than our thoughts. It is pitiful to see men putting their trust in something lower than themselves; but our confidence is fixed upon an exceeding high and glorious Lord. A Rock he is since he changes not, and a high Rock, because the tempests which overwhelm us roll far beneath at his feet; he is not disturbed by them, but rules them at his will. If we get under the shelter of this lofty Rock we may defy the hurricane; all is calm under the lee of that towering cliff. Alas! such is the confusion in which the troubled mind is often cast, that we need piloting to this divine shelter. Hence the prayer of the text. O Lord, our God, by thy Holy Spirit, teach us the way of faith, lead us into thy rest. The wind blows us out to sea, the helm answers not to our puny hand; thou, thou alone canst steer us over the bar between yon sunken rocks, safe into the fair haven. How dependent we are upon thee–we need thee to bring us to thee. To be wisely directed and steered into safety and peace is thy gift, and thine alone. This night be pleased to deal well with thy servants.
– Charles Spurgeon
Morning and Evening
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. 3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. – Romans 16:1-16
Every one of us wants significance. How do you find significance? How does one make a significant life? For most people the answer is found in what they have, where they live, or what they do. While none of these things are unimportant, none of these are a good answer to what gives a person significance.
In Romans 1:1 it says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.” Now Paul served as an apostle, but his identity was found in being a servant of Jesus Christ. That is where Paul found his identity and significance. The significance of a servant is found in the one he serves. It is not where Paul served so much, or what he did to serve, as it is Who it was that he served that made his life significant.
Romans 16:3 says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus.” So, they were Paul’s helpers, but they were Paul’s helpers because they were all serving the Lord Jesus.
In Romans 16:5 it talks about the “first fruits unto Christ.” In verse 7 it speaks of those who were “in Christ” before Paul was. In verse 8 it talks about those “beloved in the Lord.” In verse 10 it speaks of one who was “approved.” How? Not by what he did, but “in Christ.” Verse 11 says, “Greet them.” How were they to greet them? They were to greet them “in the Lord.” In verse 12 there were those who labored. How? In the Lord. Verse 13 says “chosen.” In what way were they “chosen”? The answer is “in the Lord.” In verse 22, Paul’s scribe greeted these people in this church. How? He greeted them “in the Lord.” Paul’s entire life was defined by Who he served, how he served, and what he did in order to serve.
There is only one negative spot in this entire chapter and it is found in verses 17-18 when Paul is talking about those who were causing divisions. “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” What you find is that we are to accept those that serve Christ and to avoid those that serve self.
If you find your significance in what you do, then that is tenuous at best. What you do is not insignificant, but you can lose the ability to do what you do. Your value is found in Who you serve. What you do is not unimportant, but nothing is unimportant if you are serving Christ.
– Evangelist Wil Rice
First Light Devotionals
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal,be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[h] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– Romans 12:9-21