Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Prayers That Are Powerful and Effective

I’m not sure where or when I saw it, but I vaguely recall a movie scene in which some not particularly religious character was asked to pray over the meal. After awkwardly folding his hands and bowing his head, he uttered, “Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat!” Not the most eloquent expression of thanksgiving!

Then I think of persons asked to pray at public gatherings who reach into a coat pocket, unfold a sheet of paper and proceed to recite a prayer they had composed in advance. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. None of us would want to stumble with our words in such a setting. But I believe the prayers God loves most are those expressed spontaneously, from the heart, without pomp or circumstance, as led by the Holy Spirit.

On the day recognized nationally as Thanksgiving Day, perhaps this is especially significant. In some households, a traditional “saying of grace” before meals is rare. So a show of sudden spirituality might seem daunting. How should we pray? And what should we pray for?

I don’t have a formula – or “recipe,” if you will – for a Thanksgiving Day dinner prayer. But the Scriptures do offer many helpful suggestions. Perhaps one of the best was given by Jesus when He warned against what I’d call “ostentatious religiosity.” In giving examples of persons who liked to parade their piety, He said, 
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men…. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

This doesn’t mean if someone asks us to pray for God to bless the food, that we should retreat to a room, close the door, and then pray. That would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? But we don’t need to try to impress anyone listening, either. Jesus continued, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).

What’s most important, I believe, on this Thanksgiving Day, is that before enjoying the food that’s been so lovingly prepared, that we pause to enjoy and praise the One who has so lovingly provided for all that we need. I like what the apostle James said about prayer, words that could be applied even to the simple practice of “saying grace”: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Recently I was reminded of how the ancient Israelites sometimes expressed their gratitude in a call-and-answer manner. The worship leader would voice a phrase of thanksgiving, and then the congregation would give a repeating response: 
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good...His love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of gods...His love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the Lord of lords...His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1-3).

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my early church days when we had a responsive reading each Sunday, but that seems like a cool way of giving thanks. Amen!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Thankful, Yes – But for Everything?

As we look toward another Thanksgiving Day celebration a few days from now, we can usually think of things for which we can be thankful: A car that runs, if we have one. A roof over our heads, especially if it doesn’t leak. A selection of clothes to wear, hanging in our closets. A job that enables us to pay the bills. Loved ones and close friends that mean so much to us. But what about things we can’t feel thankful for?

This presents a bit of a problem for those of us who follow Jesus Christ, because three consecutive verses in the Bible seem to assert that when it comes to thankfulness and gratitude, there should be no exclusions, no exceptions.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we’re told, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The words “always,” “without ceasing,” and “everything” seem all-encompassing. That’s because they are. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement. Nor does it mean they should be.

I think of a book I helped my friend, Mike Landry, to get published, called Advancing Through Adversity. In it he recounted a series of trials he and his family endured over an 18-month period some years ago. The hardships they faced were difficult – and unwarranted. They suffered through many sleepless nights. Answers to their “why” questions weren’t forthcoming. 

Ultimately, the problems were resolved and they could look back at the circumstances and realize how God’s presence had never left them alone in their circumstances, even when they seemed most dire. Through this time, when they had no choice but to turn to Him and trust that He would work things out according to His perfect purposes, they found Him unflinchingly faithful.

If we had the option, we probably have something (or things) we’d like to eliminate from our lives: Serious financial pressures. Severe health problems that have lingered and appear without remedy. A difficult marriage. Struggles a family member is going through that are beyond our capacity for bringing any relief. Grieving over the loss of a loved one. The day-to-day realities of aging. The list could go on. Does the Bible really mean we’re to be thankful for these?

I’ve mentioned him before, but my friend, Albert, is no stranger to adversities. He lived through the horrors of World War II. From childhood he has wrestled with health problems. And he’s survived major business setbacks. And yet, he’s been steadfast in trusting God and remaining grateful for the life He has given him. Albert even wrote a booklet about his life called “Saying ‘Thank You’ Even When You Don’t Feel Thankful.”

The overriding lesson he has learned – and has helped many who know him to grasp as well – is that regardless of the challenges we face in life, we can still embrace hope. We can define hope as earnest, confident assurance that God will use even our worst circumstances to carry out His plans. In the process, He will refine us, transforming us into the people He desires for us to become.

That’s why, in Romans 5:3-5, the apostle Paul could write, “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

The apostle James seemed to second the motion when he wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Although they do not use the words thankful or grateful in these passages, they’re clearly implied when the writers admonish us to “rejoice” or “consider it pure joy” when we have to deal with various trials God allows in our lives. So, when Thanksgiving Day arrives and we pause to give thanks, let’s be sure to express our thankfulness to the Lord – even for the things for which we don’t feel thankful.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Finding a Selfish Reason for Being Thankful

Many of us spend weeks – for some, months – getting ready for the Christmas celebration. Buying trees and ornaments, putting up decorations, planning parties, purchasing gifts. And sometimes it seems as if we still don’t have enough time. What if we were to spend as much time getting ready for the annual Thanksgiving observance?

I’m not referring to assembling all the ingredients for the meal, including turkey or ham (or both), yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc. No, I mean getting into the true spirit of Thanksgiving – preparing to be genuinely thankful. So I’m dedicating a few posts, including on the holiday itself, to consider how we could best do that. First, a bit of motivation.

Tony, one of the pastors at our church, introduced a series he called “21 Days of Thankfulness” by citing a secular study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, a psychologist and professor at the University of California-Davis. Described as “the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude,” Emmons has written a number of books about what science has learned about being thankful, including, Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier

Turns out, according to his research, “We discovered scientific proof that when people regularly engage in a systematic cultivation of gratitude, they experience a variety of measurable benefits: psychological, physical, and interpersonal.” 

Among those benefits are greater happiness; lasting relationships; better health; fewer aches and pains; more alertness and determination; decreased stress, anxiety and depression, and better sleep. Who knew there’s actually a selfish reason for being thankful?

Once again, it seems, science is affirming what the Bible has been saying all along. We’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Another translation puts it this way: “in everything give thanks.”

When we read that, however, some among us might be tempted to argue, “Yeah, but you don’t know my circumstances!” But Philippians 4:6-7 provides this response: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Could it be that a key to this promise is found in the simple phrase, “with thanksgiving”?

Living in a materialistic society, where the virtues of consumerism are exalted – and exploited – we’re bombarded by messages that give us every reason not to be thankful. Whether it’s a car, smartphone, TV, the latest high-tech gizmos or clothing, commercials, print advertising and even news reports tell us we’ll be woefully unfulfilled if we don’t have the latest and greatest. We watch romance movies with idyllic couples that can make us wonder, “Why isn’t my relationship like that?”

The Scriptures, however, offer the antidote for such poisonous wishful thinking. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). In other words, we should learn to feel thankful for what we have.

Getting back to Dr. Emmons, his findings support biblical teachings that warn us against the pitfalls of being greedy, covetous and envious. He stated, “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions, such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism, and that practice of gratitude as a discipline protect a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”

So as we gear up for Thanksgiving Day, besides planning and preparing the meal, deciding which football games to watch, and whether we’re going to see the new holiday movie that’s just come out, maybe we should try warming up our “thanksgivers.” It would be good for us!

Monday, November 18, 2019

If Money Were No Object, What Would You Do?

From time to time, reports indicate many people are highly dissatisfied with their jobs. I suspect that a substantial portion of them are also dissatisfied with their lives in general. I’m not among them, but can imagine how miserable it must be to awaken each morning and, instead of a enthusiastic “Good morning, Lord!”, only being able to grudgingly muster up, “Good Lord…morning!”

Years ago, someone asked a simple question that helped me to evaluate the work I was doing and see more clearly what I would really like to be doing. During a phone conversation he asked, “If money were no object, would you continue doing what you’re doing right now?”

This individual wasn’t some wealthy magnate or philanthropist offering to write me a blank check so I could do whatever I wished. He was just a concerned friend. But his question prompted me to put my life into proper perspective. Was I really pursuing those things I believed God wanted me to be pursuing, things He had equipped me to do? Or was I clinging to my job – any job – for the security of a paycheck, or for fear of change or the unknown?

After thinking about the question for a while, I had my answer: If money were no object, I’d definitely be doing something else. This led me to begin exploring other options. Most important, I became very open to any course corrections the Lord was preparing to make in my career.

The issue wasn’t money, however. It wasn’t as if I was envisioning joining the so-called “one percent.” It had nothing to do with how much I could earn. And the question didn’t motivate me to rush out and buy lottery tickets. It involved removing personal finances from the equation entirely. 

At that point in my life, I was well into my most productive years, so if there were hopes and dreams I intended to achieve before my life’s work was over, it was about time I got started. It wasn’t as if I hated what I was doing at the time. There were many positives. But there still seemed to be much to accomplish – potential I felt God had put into me. When was I going to start trying to realize it?

Writing to the turbulent church in the ancient city of Colossae, the apostle Paul gave this admonition: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:17,23-24). 

This means striving to do our very best, even in undesirable settings and circumstances. But it’s much easier to “work as for the Lord rather than for men” when you enjoy what you’re being asked to do. Thanks in part to that probing question, before long God revealed new opportunities that I might not have even considered before.

One time Jesus concluded a parable by explaining the importance of being faithful with whatever we’ve been assigned to do, even if it doesn’t seem significant. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). Even if we’re not enthused about our current circumstances, God still expects us to do our “utmost for His highest,” as Oswald Chambers called it.

Then, if and when the Lord chooses to give us a “reassignment,” we’ve demonstrated our capability and readiness for what He has prepared for us to do next. Over the years since I was presented the “if money were no object” question, I’ve discovered another truth. As Ephesians 3:20 promises, God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” What would you ask of God, or dare to imagine – if money were no object?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

But God Intended It for Good

In less than two months, regardless of the quality of our eyesight, we’ll all be seeing 2020 – on our calendars. In one respect, I can’t wait to see what the new year holds. However, if the crazy current year is any indication, maybe waiting wouldn’t be a bad idea. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of 20:20. Not the kind revealed by an eye chart, but the perfect vision afforded to us through the benefits of hindsight.

Have you ever experienced a time of extreme disappointment, when at that moment it seemed as if all of your hopes and dreams were crashing down? Then, days or weeks or months, or even years later, you realized that setback wasn’t so bad after all? 

One man who attested to that was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who courageously exposed many of the evils of Communism under Joseph Stalin. For his efforts, he was sentenced to years of imprisonment in a Soviet gulag in the 1950s. Deprivation he experienced in the “corrective labor camp” provided unique insights into human suffering and the meaning of life. Most important, it became an integral part of his spiritual journey, leading him to conclude, “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”

Bless prison? How could anyone regard cruel confinement as a “blessing”? And yet, that was how Solzhenitsyn came to regard it as he wrote a series of books called The Gulag Archipelago.I know of other individuals who could look back on their time in prison as a spiritual turning point. Among them was the late Charles Colson, a former chief aide to President Richard Nixon, whose own prison experience led him to start the Prison Fellowship ministry that continues to touch many thousands of inmates nationwide.

For individuals like this, flawless hindsight revealed to them God could use a devastating experience as part of His process for shaping them into the people He intended for them to become.

Thankfully, I’ve not experienced anything remotely close to that. But numerous times, circumstances caused me to wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” or, “What in the world’s going on?” Only later did I learn how God had allowed the distressing circumstances to take place so that He could guide me to something much better than I could have imagined.

The Scriptures provide numerous examples of individuals whose lives seemed to reach a dead end, only to realize God was preparing them for future use. One who comes to mind is Joseph, the young man whose own brothers sold him into slavery out of resentment for his father’s favoritism. Taking that lemon and turning it into lemonade, Joseph became a valued servant in the household of Potiphar, a prominent Egyptian official. 

But that was hardly the end of his story. Joseph’s faithful service was unjustly “rewarded” by Potiphar’s wife when he spurned her lustful advances. “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph protested (Genesis 39:9). Rather than admiring his virtue, the scorned wife falsely accused him of sexual assault and Potiphar had him imprisoned. 

“What did I do?!” might have been Joseph’s lament. Sitting in prison, he had ample opportunity to wonder about being wronged for doing right. Ultimately, it became evident God wasn’t at all surprised by the turn of events. The Lord used them to place Joseph into a strategic role as the chief assistant to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. This set the stage for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham when He said, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). 

Many years later Joseph’s brothers unknowingly came to him looking for help in the face of a growing famine. Rather than seeking vengeance for their betrayal, he embraced them and was able to declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

A familiar New Testament verse relates to this. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Unfortunately, it’s sometimes dispensed as a simplistic platitude to comfort people going through times of serious struggle. Nevertheless, as Joseph learned in Egypt – and as many of us have discovered through our own adversities – it's true.

Do some of your hopes and dreams seem shipwrecked? Have dark times descended that defy explanation? When we encounter such moments in life, we can take heart in knowing the Lord is indeed in control. As He said through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

For all of us who love God and are called according to His purpose, we can trust that even our hard experiences are intended for good. Sometimes we just need 20:20 hindsight to see how.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Word About Words – and The Word

Lacking any mechanical mastery whatsoever, I occasionally employ the services of people who have it. Folks skilled at using tools like hammers, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and such. I admire them, even though I’ve never had any disposition toward learning how to use such devices. If hard-pressed, I can turn a screw or hammer a nail, but those aren’t things I particularly enjoy doing.

My tools are of the verbal variety – words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, punctuation. I suppose I’m better at using them than most, because for more than five decades they’ve helped me build a satisfying career. Words have always fascinated me, much as a carpenter is intrigued by a seemingly haphazard pile of wood, screws and nails, along with plans and the equipment needed to assemble them together.

If wanting to let others know what we are thinking, we use words to communicate it. What are we feeling? We use words to express that, too. When we want someone to do something, we use words to tell them. You don’t have to be an articulate speaker or proficient writer to get your point across – as long as you use the right words in the right ways.

Alistair Begg is among the small minority of individuals who are equally adept at conveying ideas as a pastor, public speaker and author. Recently a statement he made resonated strongly with me: “Words work – and God’s words work best.” Because I’m convinced that no matter how skilled a speaker or writer may be, nothing’s as effective or powerful as the Word of God.

I might have any number of views and values, but in the end they belong in the books of 1 or 2 Opinions. However, precepts supported by the Scriptures carry weight that surpasses all of human reasoning. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals Himself in incomparable ways – through narrative, history, poetry, prophecy, theology, principles, promises and parables.

Bible scholars tell us approximately 40 different persons wrote individual books that comprise the Scriptures, and these writings took place over the span of an estimated 1,500 years. And yet, in many respects the Bible can be considered God’s autobiography, a sprawling account of His dealings with His people since the beginning of time.

How can we call it an “autobiography” since it was scripted by so many different people? Because, as we’re informed in 2 Peter 1:20-21, Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Lord used an array of writers, allowing latitude for their personalities and perspectives. However, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 makes the declaration, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

We find similar assertions in other parts of the Bible. In 2 Samuel  23:2, King David, author of much of the Psalms, stated, "The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”  The book of Ezekiel opens by saying, the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest…. There the hand of the Lord was on him” (Ezekiel 1:3). Another prophetic book begins, “This is the word of the Lord that came to Micah…what he saw regarding Samaria and Jerusalem” (Micah 1:1).

Getting back to Pastor Begg’s view that “God’s words work best,” I heartily agree – not only for the quality of writing and depth of content, but also for their unsurpassed impact on those who believe them and put them into practice. As the apostle Paul told his disciple, Timothy, the Scriptures truly are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” And for those of us who desire to serve the Lord and His people effectively, we can use His words to become “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Cynics and skeptics may disagree, but I can attest that after reading, studying and seeking to apply biblical truths over nearly four decades, God has transformed me – and continues to do so – through His Word. I could also point you to thousands of people I’ve met over the years who have had the same experience. 

That’s one reason I’ve devoted much of my writing – using the tools of my trade – to addressing how to integrate our faith into every area of our lives. “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1). I’m what you might call a “satisfied customer.”

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Nothing More Tempting Than Temptation

When you hear the word, “temptation,” what comes to mind? Hollywood seems to love the word; including it in the title for a movie or TV show promises potential viewers an chance to venture into the realm of things taboo. But it’s hardly a new concept. From the very beginning of Genesis, when Adam and Eve confronted the temptation of the forbidden fruit and then succumbed to it, temptations have been ever-present and relentless.

As someone has said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Depending on the individual, being tempted can mean anything from indulging in extra pieces of candy, another alcoholic drink, or heading back to the buffet line, to indulging in purchases one can’t afford or yielding to the urge to spend another session in front of the computer viewing content we wouldn’t want anyone to know about. 

Sometimes we don’t even try to resist. The magnetic pull of things we shouldn’t do seems too strong. We justify our missteps with excuses similar to that of comedian Flip Wilson’s classic character, Geraldine: “The devil made me do it!” But it’s at that point where we make our greatest mistake – the devil can’t make a follower of Jesus to do anything. He can offer an enticing suggestion, and we in turn can decide, “That sounds like a good idea.” Except it’s not.

One of the longest Bible verses I ever learned deals specifically with temptation. To memorize it, I found it best to put it to into practice: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When I reflect on this passage, two key truths stand out: First, temptations we face aren’t out of the ordinary; they’re not unique to ourselves. They’re “common to man.” Things that tempt us also trouble many other people. If we feel no one has ever faced temptations such as we’re dealing with, we’re wrong.

The second is there is always a choice. God will provide us with a “way of escape” or, as another translation puts it, “a way out.” Years ago, a friend who was a diabetic talked about one of his greatest temptations – Krispy Kreme donuts. Especially when the red neon light was on signaling a hot, fresh batch was ready for the taking. The Lord’s way of escape for him, he explained, would be to continue driving rather than turning the steering wheel toward the parking lot.
Two passages in Hebrews assert that even Jesus confronted temptations, so we can never contend, “Lord, You just don’t understand.” Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “Because (Jesus) himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Then Hebrews 4:15 expands on that: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”

So when we read the apostle Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), we can apply this promise to overcoming temptations that threaten to defeat us. Knowing Jesus Himself was tempted, but never yielded to sin, assures us that we too can experience victory over temptation – through His strength.

One other thing strikes me when thinking about seductions trying to lure us into sinful behavior. We don’t have to worry about God tempting us, although He will test us at times through a variety of trials. There’s an important difference:
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:12-15).

The Lord brings testing into our lives as part of His process for molding and shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Much as a bodybuilder uses various weights to strength and tone muscles, God uses tests to strengthen and refine our faith.

As I see it, temptations come when our spiritual enemy presents opportunities for us to fail. Testing comes when God presents us with opportunities to succeed.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Living for the Moment – Or Living in the Moment?

Ready or not, we’re officially immersed into the Christmas season. Retail stores, from Cracker Barrel to Hobby Lobby, have unveiled their holiday finest, 2019 edition: Trees brightly adorned. Snowy tabletop baubles and red-and-green finery in vast array. Familiar carols serenading us as we stroll through festively decorated malls. TV commercials bombarding us with “must haves” for our very special somebodies.

With these constant reminders, many of us already are anticipating magical moments. I know the Hallmark Channels are – around Christmastime, with them everything’s “magical.” Young ones envision Christmas morning, awakening to a tree surrounded by brightly wrapped gifts containing wonders soon to be revealed. Enticing aromas wafting from the kitchen, previewing a scrumptious dinner culminating with pies and other sweet delicacies. Over the next weeks the words, “I can’t wait!” will be uttered countless times.

Lots of people live for these moments. Of course, moments aren’t limited to Christmas or other holidays. We can live for the moment that we’ll depart for a long-awaited vacation. Brides – and grooms – live for the moment they arrive at the wedding site, exchange “I do’s,” and begin a journey together as husband and wife. A professional person might live for the moment when he or she earns the coveted title of “partner,” the reward for excellence, hard work and dedication to the firm.

The thing about moments, however, is that we await them for so long, then so quickly they’re gone. Here today – gone today. Then we’re left to consider what our next “moment” should be. 

Recently I heard someone suggest an alternative: Instead of living for the moment, why not try living in the moment?

Many of us tend to be future-oriented, always planning and preparing for something in the weeks or months ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to embrace upcoming activities and events with expectancy. But there’s a danger of becoming so preoccupied by days yet to come that we neglect to recognize opportunities of the day at hand.

In the Bible we read a lot about the future. It speaks about eternity, and life after death. Jesus said much about His return, His “second coming.” But the Scriptures also talk about the here and now, not becoming so future-focused that we become presently impoverished. 

For instance, Ephesians 5:16 warns about, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Or as a different translation phrases it, “making the most of your time.” In His most celebrated public message, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus spoke about the dangers of going about our daily lives fearful of what might or might not occur in the future: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

One aspect of this could be concentrating so much on what lies over the horizon that we find ourselves stumbling over good things right in front of us. An example was when Jesus spent time in the home of sisters Mary and Martha. Apparently a consummate hostess, Martha was preparing the dinner she would serve. Her sister, however, “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

The passage continues, “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-41).

Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for her kindness in cooking a hearty meal, but was simply showing her that while she had been living for the moment, Mary realized the value of living in the moment. After all, how often did Jesus stop by one’s house for a personal visit?

Pondering the comparison between living in the moment vs. living for the moment, I think of a man I heard of, boasting about the significant estate he was amassing, intending to leave it all for charitable purposes upon his death. Although such intentions are laudable, I couldn’t help thinking about how much good his financial and material resources could accomplish for people right now, rather than delaying such assistance for years later. 

Proverbs 3:27-28 seems to address this when it admonishes, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’ – when you already have it with you.”

Without question, it’s fun living part of the time for special moments – a favorite holiday, birthday or anniversary, or the vacation you’ve always dreamed about. But what about this moment? Right now? It could be holding some of the best memories of all.