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Time and Times: Day 5

Sow for yourselves righteousness and reap the fruit of unfailing love…for it is time to seek the Lord.
Hosea 10:12


Part of my after-Christmas routine is the transferring of birthdays and anniversaries from my old kitchen calendar to my new one. Sure, I know all about day-timers and scheduling apps, but for me, nothing says “Uh oh! Look what you almost forgot!” like that big paper calendar on the inside of my pantry door.

This year’s calendar had the usual cardboard backing and plastic overwrap which I routinely wad up and throw away. I have always been vaguely aware of some kind of message on the cardboard backing, but, eager to be at my appointed task, I have never paid much attention to what it said. This year, in the sovereign plan and time of God, I read it for the first time.
If you, like me, are a Dayspring calendar aficionado, but, unlike me, a more careful reader, you may be familiar with the message. It is from Roy Lessin, the co-founder of the company, who must be a really fine man. I can’t think of a better way to end this week than his words: 

Just think,
     You’re here not by chance, but by God’s choosing.
     His hand formed you and made you the person you are.
     He compares you to no one else—you are one of a kind.
     You lack nothing that His grace can’t give you.
     He has allowed you to be here at this time in history    
                     To fulfill His special purpose for this generation.

In case no one has told you lately… welcome to the story!

Nancy Shirah

Time and Times: Day 4

What is has already been and what will be has been before.
Eccles. 3:15


In the narrative of Scripture, we see a meaningful history: the ways God interacts in love and justice with His creatures, the unique, even surprising, ways He uses people and nations to accomplish His plan, including the final outcome for people who choose both for and against Him. Because of this, we can find our place in the narrative and apply its lessons to our life.

However, there is another way to look at time and it is actually a very popular view, held by philosophers, scientists and millions of regular folk, both religious and non-. It is cyclical time. In the cyclical view, time is an illusion; it has been nowhere and is going nowhere. It is a series of cycles--e.g. the seasons, celestial rotations, birth and death, war and peace, famine and plenty, etc.-- in which all living beings are inevitable participants. The challenge is to find one’s place and the meaning of life in these impersonal and pitiless cycles. 

Of course, “meaning” is a meaningless term: Resignation is more appropriate. As far as god goes—who he is and what his plan might be? Not much help there. For some, god in the inescapable power of the cycle itself. To others, their experience of deity is what brings a measure of beauty or peace-- like a spring morning or a child’s laugh--amid the grind. Finally, there is the god-in-me crowd. Since they can’t verify any reality outside their own experience or any purpose outside their plan, they must conclude, as the old poem says, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” (“Invictus” W.E. Henley). Hard to know if that view is more liberating or lonely. I would guess the latter.

In the beauty of the seasons, the opportunities and challenges of each stage of life, Christians see a God among His Creation. When we look into His Word, we find that, indeed, is the plan (Psalm 19:1) and the promise (Heb. 13:6) from the God who is Alpha and Omega and everything in between.

From that we can look at our seasons and our days with confidence that even in the hardest times, they are part of an eternal narrative that will end well, really well.


Nancy Shirah    

Times and Times: Day 3

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands…
Psalm 31:14,15


Maybe you are having a problem with my referring to the Bible as a story. There was a time when such a label would have bothered me. But then I came to understand that it is indeed a story—a true one—written by 60 authors, on 3 continents, in 3 languages and over a span of about 4,000 years.

So often we look at the Bible as the book in which we find our Sunday School heroes, The 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer and the Easter story. No great story line, for example Gone with the Wind, could be understood on the basis of a few random, out-of-context passages. If we have read the entire book, when Rhett Butler says, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” to Scarlett’s pleadings not to leave her, we know those are the words of a man whose heart has been used, abused and calloused over by a selfish woman. Those same words, read in isolation from the rest of the story line, make Rhett exhibit A in the male chauvinist hall of fame.

If we understand that the Bible has been written in linear time, one event after another and each one related to the other in some way, we can see how the Lord’s actions in the past relate to how He promises to act in the future. We also begin to see His attributes—wisdom, love, truth, mercy, justice—played out in the reality of a certain set of circumstances, not simply an isolated list of admirable qualities.

Most importantly, we see His purposes and his plan are bigger than one generation or one event. It is so hard for us to believe that God is present, let alone acting in any meaningful way, if we can’t see it in our time. But in Scripture, we rest in His time—as a reflection of His nature—bigger and better than ours.

It is one thing to know it; it is another thing to make it truth for our life.

If you open a box of dry cake mix into a bowl, and add the ingredients (water, a raw egg and oil, probably) called for in step 1 and expect it to look like the picture on the package, you will be disappointed. If your response is to throw the mixture down the sink and walk out of the kitchen in disgust, you will always believe Betty Crocker to be a fraud. Time is the essential ingredient to turn glop into glorious. In fact, even with cake baking, oven times vary! It is done when, both inside and out, the cake becomes what it was intended to be.

Nancy Shirah


Time and Times: Day 2

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” 
Isaiah 55:8,9


In relation to His Creation, God is transcendent, simply understood as “outside the boundary of.” As the above verses show, transcendent isn’t just bigger. When you go to an art museum and stand appreciatively before a painting you are especially drawn to, you don’t believe it to be a collaboration among an artist, a canvas, some brushes and a wide variety of paints. The latter were the tools that the artist chose as a means by which his genius and his talent would become visible to the world. 

Because God is the maker, He is sovereign, the ultimate authority over what He has made. This is hard news for two types of people: those who have been hurt or abused by authority figures, and those who really don’t care for any situation in which they aren’t in charge. As the Scripture story unfolds, we will find out that God is so much more than boss. 

Apparently, however, the first thing we are supposed to understand about Him is this: “… the Lord he is God; it is he that made us and not we ourselves.” We are his people and the sheep of this pasture” (Psalm 100:3 KJV).

When we only operate in our own limited view of things, we can’t help but understand time to be the arena in which we get what we want, when we want it and in a way that brings us the most pleasure and the least pain and for as long as possible. Scripture teaches us two things about this approach: God’s viewpoint, as played out in His time and His timing, is both larger than ours and ultimately better than ours. Secondly, all of humanity, regardless of age, is afflicted with a case of spiritual cataracts (“we see but a poor reflection” I Cor. 13:12) compounded by worldly short-sightedness (“Why you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow” James 4:14).

Someone has said that God’s plan is what we would want for ourselves if we could see things from His point of view.


Nancy Shirah

Time and Times: Day 1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1


This first verse of the Bible tells us about three creations of God: three things He brought into being that previously, had not existed. They were the heavens, what is above us; the earth, what is around us and beneath us; and time, specifically, when it started (the beginning).

As Scripture pictures it, this thing we call time:
  • Separates the mystery of eternity past from the glory of eternity future
  • Is the dimension in which the Bible’s story will be told (the big “when” for journalists)
  • Has the same purpose as the rest of Creation—to reveal its Creator. (Romans 1:20) 
  • Has a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and an end (Rev. 21:1-5)
Because of this, the way the Bible teaches us about time is called linear, by those who name such things. (What we will find out later on in the week is that not everybody views time this way.) How we see time effects both how we understand God and how we see ourselves. 

FYI: Because this is a New Year and the topic is time, you might think we are headed in the direction of time management/New Year’s resolutions. I wouldn’t do that to you. However, if you need to lose weight or exercise more, hang up and call Marie Osmond.

With that settled, pass the cookies down this way and let’s get started. We have some great stuff to talk about.

Nancy Shirah