1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; James 4:13-17; 1 Peter 1:24; 2 Peter 3:8-9; 1 John 2:17; Hebrews 13:8
“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman…” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Words of promise—words of promise for the ominous events surrounding the return of Christ.
Without personally experiencing pregnancy, or labor pains, the Apostle writes as if he has been up close with women who have. He chooses the image of an upcoming onset of birth’s labor for a figure of speech, in explaining the timing of Christ’s return.
Expectant women know that on a certain day—a delivery is coming. The precise hour of the clock, the bursting point of new life, is typically an educated estimation. Pregnancy leads to labor and delivery, and hopefully new abundant life.
Paul possesses a fully authorized understanding of Jesus’ imminent return. Consider Jesus’ true words which can be found in Revelation 16:15: “Look, I come like a thief!” Paul emphasizes, in writing to the disciples of Thessalonica, this certain-suddenness of Christ’s return.
No man, may claim to have been pregnant. However, some of us have lived with our beloveds, wives who are the mothers of our children.
Personally, I have also watched from the appropriate sidelines, as my daughter and daughter-in-law traversed the pregnant path of labor and delivery. I number these among the most amazing experiences of my life.
Now with deep anticipation, while hearing the groans of all creation, with other disciples I await Christ’s return. Truthfully, the fervent intense screams of church and society increase my anticipation. Come quickly Lord Jesus—we await your day.
Mark 13:32-33, John 9:4-5, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Galatians 6:10
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10 (NIV)
It’s always been a privilege to help others. Whether performing a simple task, providing transportation, or preparing a meal when a family member is ill, I’ve considered it an honor to assist.
Then I was the one who needed help. I was hesitant to ask. Sure, we’d been the recipients of a few meals after minor surgeries, but this was long-term. It was months. It was driving an hour to appointments for life-giving treatments, then providing an hour ride home. And there were meals on the days I didn’t feel well, not to mention the wide variety of gifted hats and scarves that would cover the sparse hair on my head. Our neighbor’s Life Group raked our yard and laid mulch. We felt loved.
I couldn’t have gotten through that season without the help of my Christian friends. Not only did they help meet physical needs, we were covered with prayer from colleagues around the world.
It gave it opened my eyes to view the body of Christ in ways I’d never seen.
Galatians 6:10 reminds us that our primary focus is to serve those in the church.
Homer Kent, Jr., writing in The Freedom of God’s Sons, Studies in Galatians (BMH Books, 2002, out-of-print) reminds us that believers are responsible for others in the faith. “This recognition of their spiritual union with each other because of their oneness caused the early church from the beginning to share their goods with one another and to be concerned about their brothers in Christ in all ways,” he said.
“It is a biblical principle that members of one family have a special responsibility for one another (1 Tim. 5:8), and this is also true when the family is the spiritual one of the household of God,” he concluded.
Paul also reminds us that this service should not be in exclusion of people in the world. Dr. Kent writes, “There are countless opportunities to display one’s Christian faith by appropriate deeds. Therefore, ‘as we have the opportunity,’ the situation should be grasped to ‘work what is good toward all men’ (literal). The word ‘opportunity’ (kairon) is the same one which was translated ‘season’ in 6:9. There is a season for sowing just as for reaping, and that season is now.”
When have you been blessed by the household of faith?
What ways you have had opportunity to do good to your Christian family?
How have you have been able to do good to others (all people)?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, 9:10, Esther 4:14
Life’s rhythms are sacred. Warren Wiersbe has stated, “You don’t have to be a philosopher or scientist to know that ‘times and seasons’ are a regular part of life.” Read through Ecclesiastes 3:1-11: What “times and seasons” are addressed in these verses? The mom who is up in the middle of the night with a fussy baby is pacing sacred ground. The gentle touch of father’s hand on a fevered forehead is a divine touch. The joyful celebration of a wedding is a sacred dance. All our lives, in the mundane and the highlight reels reflect God’s intertwining in our lives. Elisabeth Elliot said, “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I make to God. Therefore, it is done gladly if it is done for Him.”
Man’s life is linked to eternity. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Trying to find meaning and purpose in anything outside of God will ultimately end up empty. Solomon reminded us, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil-this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13) How can you view your toil as a gift of God? Read Colossians 3:17 and explain how this impacts what you do. C.S. Lewis has stated, “Time is the very lens through which ye see-small and clear, as men see through the wrong end of a telescope-something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all.”
God’s sovereignty directs our days and with eternity set in our hearts, we can approach life with hope in the midst of the sacred mundane. Esther’s life experienced a divine interruption. Mordecai responded to Esther’s hesitant response to his initial plea,
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) What time in your life would you identify as your “such a time as this”? God is accomplishing His divine purposes, even though we don’t always understand what He is doing. Our view of God’s sovereignty over this gift of our lives will design a more hopeful attitude, just as it did for Esther. Our outlook determines outcome. Every minute of our life gift is sacred. Every step you take can be holy ground. From diapers to dishes, consider that your time was divinely designed for “such a time as this.” You may feel like you don’t have the wisdom of Solomon or the royal position of Esther, but God is in the sovereign business of making “everything beautiful in its time”. How will you embrace God’s sacred design of your life, today?
Job 7:7a; Psalm 31:15a; 39:4-5; 89:47; 90:12; Proverbs 6:6-8; 16:9; 27:1
24/7 - 365 - 12 – 4.
We keep track of our lives with numbers-- hours in a day; days in a week or year; months and seasons in a year. Those numbers measure time, and time is a gift God has given to each of us in equal measure. Together, the numbers make up the rhythms of life.
What are your daily patterns? Do you follow a routine or live life as it comes?
Whether you like to follow a rigid daily, weekly, or monthly pattern in life or prefer a totally spontaneous lifestyle, it is important to remember that ________________ (complete the sentence. You could use any of the verses in today's reading guide to finish that thought.)
In the last year most of us have experienced being totally out of rhythm. We long to return to the daily grind (not referring to your coffee). There's something very comforting about routines because we know what to expect and prepare for. But think about it for a moment (of time): when life is predictable, you don't have to trust much; you simply pursue the normal and usual, expecting the normal and usual outcomes.
Think about the last year (or maybe, just a week) for a moment. How often has the loss of life rhythms caused you to trust God?
Solomon pointed out life's rhythms in Ecclesiastes, chapter three, where he begins by saying, "There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven." And James reminds us of the uncertainty of life when he asks. “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14).
How are you responding to the loss of life's rhythms?
Has the chaos of the last year caused you to put your life on hold? We don’t know what the future holds, of course—not the next 12 months, the next 30 days, or even the next hour, so how do we face that unknown future? The most helpful answer no doubt is trust. James encourages us with this thought, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). So, we must trust the Lord to lead us into the next hour, day—the rest of our life. He alone can enable us to make the most of the rhythms of life for our good, our ministry to others, and to his glory.
As a follower of Jesus, how do you face the unknown future? How is it different from the way your unsaved friends face tomorrow?
Hello, Mary and Martha: I’m Luke, and I’m preparing to write a Gospel. I’d like to have your perspective on that unusual day when Jesus came to your home for a meal. I know it’s been several decades, but I imagine you remember it quite well. I’ll let you go first, Martha. What stands out in your mind?
Well, for me, it was totally shocking that this amazing teacher—Rabbi, we called him—accepted the invitation for dinner. He had never been here before and seemed truly glad to come, giving no hint of condescension toward us. What an honor it was.
Mary and I were accustomed to working together preparing meals, and it was obvious that this would be a special meal with Jesus present and would require extra time and effort. So I was rushing around getting things in order, while Jesus was speaking to those that had assembled.
Okay, Mary, your turn. How did things unfold?
Well, first, I must give credit to Martha. All of us women were trained in domestic duties, but Martha seemed to take those responsibilities more seriously than most and excelled at them. Frankly, I wasn’t particularly pleased with confining women to household chores.
So for me to be able to join those listening to this amazing Rabbi was too good to be true, in spite of the fact that women weren’t usually welcome in such settings. But I considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I also realized it would mean abandoning Martha, but what was I supposed to do? Listen to Jesus or clean fish?!
So not only did I join the group, but I sat on the floor right at Jesus’ feet, which was an indication of special commitment to him. I wanted to be more than just a hearer; I wanted to become one of his disciples, which, frankly, was unheard of for rabbis in our day.
Okay, Martha, what were you thinking with Mary leaving you hanging high and dry?
Hmmm. Looking back on the situation, I now wish I had reacted differently. My initial reaction was self-centered, concerned about the extra time it would take to finish the preparations all by myself. It also seemed inappropriate for Mary to step out of her domestic roles and join those listening to Jesus.
But as I see it now, if I had been thinking of others first, I would have been glad for my sister’s desire to sit at Jesus’ feet. What a privilege, and who was I to object to that? I certainly could have managed the meal preparations, even if it took some extra time.
Wow! It’s great to see your change in perspective, Martha. So, Mary, what do you think I should emphasize in my Gospel about the lessons from this experience?
I’m not totally sure, but I can think of several. Looking back, many of the events in Jesus’ life had something to do with meals and hospitality. Eating together allowed Jesus to share his heart, to develop close relationships, even to bind himself to others. Also, Jesus believed strongly in working hard and serving others, so what Martha was doing wasn’t wrong; the issue was apparently about attitude and priorities. Also, Jesus frequently emphasized the importance of thinking of others first, even if it wasn’t the most convenient thing to do. Putting others first is an act of humility, and Jesus certainly modeled that. Also, Jesus often seemed to go against the cultural norms of our day. For example, he associated freely with women and with Samaritans, which most Jewish men would not consider respectable. Also, though eating was obviously essential, spiritual food was even more important to Jesus; I remember him saying one time, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32).
Whoa! That’s a lot, Mary, and more than I’m going to be able to fit into my Gospel. Maybe I should just give a bare-bones account of the event and let readers figure out those things for themselves. But one thing I think I will do: by putting the story of the Good Samaritan right before your story, it may help readers to spot some significant contrasts between the Samaritan and Martha.
I certainly want to thank you two for giving me the inside scoop on that significant event in Jesus’ life. It will be interesting to see if any of the other Gospels tell the same story.