faithfulness (7)

When God Enacted Daylight Saving Time

Most people hate Daylight Saving Time. So why do we still have it?

As the time changes once again, people will inevitably lose sleep and be grumpier than usual. Researchers point out that DST disrupts our body’s circadian rhythm, creating an effect similar to jet lag. Studies have shown an increase in traffic accidents, workplace injuries, depression, suicides, strokes, and heart attacks immediately following a time change. Yikes!

But as much as I dislike Daylight Saving Time, I have to admit that God Himself sometimes uses it to accomplish His purposes. For example, one day Israel needed more time to complete its victory over enemy armies:

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said,

“Let the sun stand still over Gibeon,
    and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies (Joshua 10:12-13 NLT).

In this case, the time apparently didn’t “fall back” only one hour. For an entire day, “the sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day” (v. 13). During the entire time, God was mightily at work on His people’s behalf: “Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day!” (v. 14).

There are some very encouraging principles contained in this brief account – lessons so powerful that I’m almost reconsidering my hatred of Daylight Saving Time:

  • God wants us to pray BOLD prayers. Lately I’ve found myself praying only timid, trivial prayers, as if not wanting to ask anything that might be too difficult for the Lord to answer. No wonder God has to challenge us from time to time, Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Be audacious in what you ask Him!
  • When we feel like time is running out, God can graciously give us a reprieve. This point is very personal to me. I have an ambitious list of things I want to accomplish before I die, and I’m not sure how much time is left on the clock. Just as Joshua needed additional time to finish his assignment, sometimes we find ourselves in a similar predicament. This happened one day when King Hezekiah was on his sickbed, but cried out to the Lord for more time. In a scene similar to Joshua 10, God replied, I will bring the shadow on the sundial…ten degrees backward” (Isaiah 38:8). Wow! God literally turned back time for Hezekiah, giving him another 15 years of life.
  • We must not use God’s grace as an excuse for procrastination or laziness. Yes, more time was granted to Joshua and Hezekiah. But that doesn’t mean we can count on God to miraculously intervene and give us more time if we’re unfaithful in doing our part. These were exceptional miracles, after all, not occurrences that happen every day: “There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer” (Joshua 10:14 NLT). Recently a doctor told me I seemed lackadaisical about my health. He perceived that I was hoping he or the Lord would do some medical miracles for me, even though I wasn’t committed to my own end of the bargain. What a lesson: We can stand upon God’s promises much more confidently after we’ve first “done all” that we can do (Ephesians 6:13).

These Biblical examples might not be sufficient to make you a fan of Daylight Saving Time. But isn’t it good to know that God can help you save some of the “daylight” remaining in your life? You may not need the sun to stand still, but He can give you a new lease on life to fulfill your incomplete assignments.

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Johnny's Amazing Legacy Seeds

When my daughter Molly recently asked me my favorite Bible verse, I didn’t have an answer ready.

“I have lots of favorites!” I told her. “I guess it depends on the week you ask me.”

But Molly was persistent, as she always is. She wanted an answer, yet it still was difficult for me to narrow down the list.

One of the verses I mentioned to her is Psalm 23:6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  

Notice the incredible confidence King David expressed when he wrote these words. He was certain that if he followed the Lord as his Good Shepherd, he would experience blessings in this present life that would carry all the way into eternity.

David’s words began to resonate in my heart last summer. I was on a sabbatical, pondering what kind of “legacy” I was leaving. As I prayed about how to have a greater impact in the years ahead, I kept thinking of the example of Johnny Appleseed and the awesome long-term power of sowing seeds.

Johnny Appleseed’s actual name was John Chapman, and he lived from 1774 to 1845. He was a pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. In pursuit of his mission, he traversed 100,000 square miles of Midwestern wilderness and prairie. 

Johnny became a legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. He also was a Christian missionary, sowing seeds of the Gospel while planting apple orchards to benefit the growing number of pioneers. After his death, he became the inspiration for many museums and historical sites, not to mention numerous animated movies to tell his story to future generations.

In studying Johnny’s life, I was amazing by the ways his legacy outlasted him. In addition to planting countless apple trees for others, he left an estate of over 1,200 acres of valuable nurseries to his sister. He also owned four plots in Allen County, Indiana, including a nursery in Milan Township that had 15,000 trees. In Nova, Ohio, there’s still an apple tree planted by Johnny – bearing fruit more than 175 years after his death.

So…I want to be more like Johnny Appleseed. Day after day, I want to sow seeds of God’s “goodness and mercy” to everyone I meet, whether they are believers or unbelievers. Yes, I’m excited about dwelling in the Lord’s house forever in eternity, but I want to leave a legacy behind me when I go.

If Johnny Appleseed’s trees could still bear fruit more than 175 after he passed from this life, I pray that some of my seeds will bear long-lasting fruit as well.

What kinds of seeds are you sowing today? The type of seeds will determine the type of legacy you leave. There may not be any museums or movies made to commemorate your life, but people in heaven will one day give you thanks.

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Billy Graham and the Fruit of Loyalty

Countless books and blogs could be written about the many admirable qualities of Billy Graham. But to me, one of his most remarkable examples was the loyalty and teamwork of his evangelistic team.

As someone who has spent man decades with Christian churches and ministries, I assure you that this quality is extremely rare. Yet, while most Christian organizations are marked by a constant turnover of personnel, Billy Graham stood out in his ability to assemble a team that lasted.

For more than 50 years, Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shay, and Grady Wilson were regulars in Billy Graham’s crusades. And associate evangelists Ralph Bell and John Wesley White each were with Graham for more than 30 years.

Although the fruitfulness of Billy Graham’s ministry can be attributed to many different features of his character and gifting, this issue of teamwork should not be overlooked as a key factor. As David observed centuries before, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity...for THERE the Lord commanded the blessing” (Psalm 133:1-3).

It’s striking that Billy Graham’s team was marked by loyalty rather than “survival of the fittest.” In other words, he didn’t keep Cliff Barrows on the team because he was the world’s best songleader or MC. Nor did he continue to have George Beverly Shay sing because Shay was the most gifted soloist he could find. Though many organizations, whether secular or Christian, use a survival-of-the-fittest policy regarding those who will remain on staff, Graham chose to honor those whose lives were marked by faithfulness and commitment, not just talent.

Billy Graham could easily have found some more dynamic people to minister in his crusades, and eventually he did wisely incorporate some younger people into the mix. But he also built a team marked by faithfulness and longevity, held together by loyalty to his friends.

Faithfulness or Flashiness?

Many churches and Christian ministries have taken a different route. They promote whoever is the “hottest,” most popular, or “most anointed” at the moment. Older members of the team are shown the door in order to bring in sharper, flashier, less expensive, and younger workers. It’s a lot like an NFL football team replacing veterans with free agents, all the while trying to save money and stay under the salary cap.

Of courses, these Christian organizations have many spiritual-sounding explanations for adopting this worldly way of handling employees. “We think God has something better for you,” they piously explain. Or they say, “God is leading us to make some changes around here,” or “Your gifts would be much better suited for some other ministry.” But behind the facade of spiritual reasons, the true motivation is all about money and image.

When we are building teams in our church, ministry, or company, let’s learn from Billy Graham’s example. Let’s reward faithfulness more than flashiness. Let’s make our decisions based on fruitfulness instead of finances. And let’s value loyalty over image, for the Lord has repeatedly told us that loyalty is something He highly regards:

Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness (Proverbs 20:28 NASB).

He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor (Proverbs 21:21 NASB).

I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6 NASB).

What can you do if your organization isn’t yet marked by loyalty and a culture of honor? There’s still time to repent and ask God to help you follow Billy Graham’s great example. If you put a premium on faithfulness rather than flashiness, and on character rather than charisma, your team will stand the test of time.

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Lay Down Your Expectations

Rather than attacking today’s idea from the front—and our previous rumination on goals and plans hit on many of the ideas inherent in this next idea already—I’d like to approach today’s meditation from a different angle.

Over the last several years, and from multiple sources, God has reinforced the importance of expectancy in my life. Meaning: When we lay down our time, our possessions, our attitudes, whatever, to actually give God something to work with in our lives, do we truly expect that God will show up?

At the same time, I’ve realized how little expectancy bears resemblance to expectation. If I bring my own agenda to the table, even with the best of intentions, about the only thing I can expect is disappointment—and I’m likely to do more damage than good, not least of all to myself. That’s not only true about my relationship with God, but about every part of the life he’s given me.

Conversely, when I turn to God and say, “This is your gig; do what you will” (or the old-fashioned but still effective “not my will, but thine”), things tend to fall into line much more easily—because they’ve been left in the hands of Someone who can draw a line correctly.

Hopefully, it’s obvious that being expectant doesn’t translate to “do nothing.” It means: Go about the business God’s called you to, and let the results take care of themselves. The parable of the talents nicely illustrates this:

“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19:12b–26).

In re-reading this recently, something hit me that I hadn’t previously noticed. There’s a bit of conjecture to it, but it makes sense: The king comes back after receiving his kingdom, and upon seeing the faithfulness of the first two stewards gives each of them authority over several cities. Where do you think those cities came from? My bet’s on the kingdom that the nobleman just received. Someone’s got to watch over those cities, after all.

Likewise, God wants to create new things through us, not just give us control over things (and kingdoms) we already know. We can only prepare to receive those things by remaining obedient to the King, and by remaining faithful to his kingdom and the things he’s already entrusted to us. Expecting God’s goodness (or in the third steward’s case, his “badness”) to look a certain way is usually a futile exercise. God will show us what we need when we need it. Sometimes we get a glimpse into what God’s fulfilled vision in our lives will look like, but more often he’ll let us know when it’s time to move forward, and into what new kingdom.

So stop expecting too much from yourself spiritually, or otherwise. Stop expecting instant regeneration, or instant success. Trust God as you once did. Don’t try to anticipate his moves before he’s made them. Allow him to grow you at his pace, instead of thinking you can run out ahead.

At the same time, don’t underestimate what God can do. Be faithful with what God has already entrusted to you, and live in the expectancy that the good things he’s already entrusted to you will produce even better things beyond your expectations. 

Lay It Down Today

We’re going to try a little parallel Bible study today, reading both versions of the parable of the talents—Matthew 25:14–30 and Luke 19:11–27. Note the similarities and the differences between each account. More importantly, note what God’s saying to you through each version.

Then, reflect on this: What can you identify as things God has already entrusted to you—things you know God wants you to do? It could be a specific calling or impression of the Spirit, or something as profoundly “mundane” as being a better parent or spouse. Whatever those things are, list them out now. Then, pray over your list. Ask God to help you “[be] faithful in [the] very little” he’s already given you, so that you may be ready to receive the authority you need for the new works he has in store for you—both here and beyond.

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The First Step Is Showing Up

Moving from Duty to Expectancy

Most churches would be thrilled if 120 people showed up at one of their prayer meetings. Well, the truth of the matter is that most churches no longer even have prayer meetings. Attendance was so meager that the churches lost heart and concluded it wasn’t worth the effort.

In contrast, 120 people gathered together to pray for an entire week preceding the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus had instructed His followers to “wait for the Promise of the Father,” when they would receive the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8).

You would certainly think no one would want to miss out on such an offer. Who wouldn’t want to receive “power from on high” (Luke 24:49), enabling them to perform miracles and be a bold witness for Christ?

Yet there’s a sad, and somewhat bewildering, back story here.

Hundreds of people presumably knew of Jesus’ promise, but failed to show up and join the others in prayer. We can infer this from passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:6, where we learn that the risen Christ was seen by over 500 people on one occasion.

Surely they all would have been told about the coming outpouring of the Spirit. Surely they all would have dropped everything else in order to experience such a transformational event.

But only 120 people showed up to pray.

Why were so many people absent when the Holy Spirit came? Were they simply too busy? Did they think they had “better” things to do? Despite Jesus’ promise, were they skeptical that anything of significance would happen?

We can only imagine what their reasons were. But whatever the reasons might have been, they look rather silly in retrospect.

I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is to “show up,” whether in our personal prayer times with the Lord or in our gatherings with other believers. I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t see much happen when I show up. And sometimes I probably just give up too early—right before some breakthrough would have occurred.

I’ve concluded that there are two primary motivations for why we show up for things. One is DUTY, and the other is EXPECTANCY. Although duty isn’t necessarily an improper motive, expectancy is clearly a much better motivator.

Most of us go to work more out of duty than out of expectancy. The same is true of showing up for our six-month dental checkup.

But duty shouldn’t be our primary reason for going to church. We should come with great anticipation, expecting to meet with God, even as we are meeting with fellow believers.

I don’t know if Peter, James, and John were expecting much to happen the day Jesus took them up the mountain to pray (Matthew 17:1-8). Perhaps they assumed it would be just an “ordinary” day. But to their surprise, He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (v. 2).

It was no ordinary day.

Prior to climbing the mountain with Jesus, the three disciples may have felt they had “other things to do.” However, they chose to show up—and the Lord met with them in a powerful way.

Is there somewhere God is calling YOU to show up…some divine appointment He’s asking you to keep? Then don’t go just out of obligation or duty. Be expectant that He will meet with you and change your life!

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Who Is Holding Your Rope?

If I asked you who was responsible for writing nearly half the books of the New Testament and over 30% of its content, you probably would say the apostle Paul. Although that’s the correct answer, I was actually thinking of a couple of other guys. If not for these “other guys,” Paul’s amazing ministry would never have taken place.

These unnamed heroes are described in Acts 9:23-25, soon after Paul’s conversion. Paul learned that the Jews were plotting to kill him, watching the city gates day and night in order to get their chance.

Keep in mind that Paul hadn’t planted any churches at this point. Nor had he written any epistles. He was just a new convert—but one with a special calling from God.

So how would Paul escape this plot? “During the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.”

We’re never given the name of these “other believers,” referred to in some other translations simply refer as “the disciples.” But make no mistake about it: Their faithfulness in “holding the rope” on Paul’s basket was the difference between success and failure, life and death.

This observation leads to two important questions for each one of us:

      1. Who is holding the rope for YOU? If you face tough times someday and your back is against the wall, is there anyone you can count on to hold your rope and keep you from crashing to ground? In an age of megachurches that often don’t even provide staff members for counseling, weddings, hospital visits, or funerals, are you confident that other believers will be there for you in your hour of need?

      2. Whose rope are you holding? Are there people who are counting on you to faithfully hold their rope, serving behind the scenes in order to ensure their safety and success? Are you willing to be a selfless, unnamed servant while God raises up someone else to prominent ministry?

The problem with rope-holding is that it seems unnecessary when everything is going well. You may be saying today, “I don’t need anyone to hold MY rope! I can navigate life just fine on my own, thank you.”

But the truth of the matter is this: We ALL need someone to hold our rope at one time or another. And if we are faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, He will surely call upon us to hold someone else’s rope in their darkest hours. Are you ready? Have you invested your time in relationships that will stand the rope-holding test? Or are you content just to “play church” and maintain superficial, noncommittal relationships?

In the days ahead, who will hold your rope? Whose rope will you hold? Your answer to these two questions will have profound implications.

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Influence-Peddling and the Church

Residents of Charlotte, North Carolina, were shocked by news that our mayor, Patrick Cannon, had been arrested by the FBI for influence-peddling. He was accused of using his position as mayor to solicit kickbacks from phony businessmen seeking his help in cutting through government red tape in getting their real estate projects approved.

Influence-peddling is nothing new, of course. People in positions of power throughout history have tended to use their influence for personal gain instead of for the good of their constituents. In 1887, Lord Acton made a famous statement that rarely is proven wrong: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Sadly, we see this in Washington all the time. Politicians crassly offer influence and access to those who give the largest campaign contributions. Lobbyists find ways to influence legislation via money, not just through persuasive arguments about what’s good for the country.

Meanwhile, a similar scandal brews behind the scenes in many American churches: Extra influence is bestowed on those with the big bucks. No honest pastor can look you in the eye and say they have not faced this temptation, if not actually succumbed to it. Churches need money, and those with money often expect power—do you see the potential for an unholy matrimony?

The Bible makes it clear that the selection of those given authority in the church should be on the basis of spiritual maturity and character (Acts 6:3, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). Instead, the church often has pandered to the proud and courted the involvement of those who have the most to give financially.

When influence-peddling begins to infiltrate church decision-making, godliness often is made secondary, if it is considered at all. Many church boards are stocked with people who have succeeded in business rather than those who have succeeded in shepherding their family or fulfilling the Great Commission.

James saw the same danger in the churches of his day:

     My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

If James were writing today, perhaps he would ask pastors who deny giving preferential treatment to take a look at their appointment books. “Have your lunch appointments been only with the rich and powerful members of your church?” he might query. “Has your time been spent discipling those who have the most spiritual hunger, or wooing those most able to advance the church bank account and image?”

I’m certainly not advocating that we favor the poor and reject people just because they are wealthy. God forbid. That, too, is an ungodly form of partiality.

There is only one form of partiality that is proper, and it has nothing to do with a person’s financial assets. Paul tells Timothy to give priority to the discipleship of “faithful men” (2 Timothy 2:2). As pastors and leaders we should give ourselves disproportionately to those who are truly hungry for the things of God.

So be sure to pray for Patrick Cannon and other political leaders who have gone astray. But the next time you read of politicians who’ve allowed financial contributions to determine who will influence their decisions, make sure you haven’t done the same thing yourself.


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