Shortly after we both were saved (in 1989, at 36 years old), Judy and I began attending a non-denotational church here in Raleigh. The pastor offered a powerful sermon one Sunday morning on the subject of our stewardship before the Lord. It was not so much about financial obligations in support of the ministries of the church as it was about the use of our time and talents.

Sadly, I have a very poor memory, so I count the recollection of that sermon as a reflection of its importance. The illustration I remember most was from the Pastor’s own life. Back in the early 90’s Day-Timers (small paper notebook scheduling calendars) were in vogue and he was never without his. As I recall the Sermon was early in the year and he was explaining how, as he set goals and objectives for the coming year, one of the first things he did (over Christmas) was to write in the bottom corner of each page in his Day-Timer the number of days it has been since he was saved, a slash mark, and then the number of days he had left to live (based on actuarial tables).

After making the illustration, the rest of his sermon revolved around the importance of those numbers, as day-by-day, the first number got bigger and the second, smaller.

This past Sunday as I was thinking/praying about the upcoming Offertory Prayer. My thoughts landed on stewardship and that Day-Timer illustration from so many years ago.

Even though God knows us from eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5), in a sense, God starts a countdown timer at the point we are conceived (Psalms 139:14). It displays the number of days we have in this “human” phase of our eternal existence (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

We are born and begin to live out our lives, often naive to the responsibilities we have before God. At some point (hopefully) we are exposed to the saving gospel message of Jesus and cross over from eternal death to eternal life (Mat. 25:46), or from eternity in Hell to eternity in Heaven. At that point the Holy Spirit enters us and we become followers of Christ, left on this earth to do His work, under His will…

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…… the invisible (to us) countdown timer continues to mark the days, as we live out our lives through the good times and the bad times, though job changes, houses, kids, sports, church, etc.

Like the game of musical chairs, the music will stop at some point, unknown to us when the last tick-tock is heard by God. As believers, that will be a glorious time with new, sinless, healthy bodies in a wonderful, eternal place called Heaven.

However, embedded in that eternal joy, peace, and love is a lesson for those of us whose clock has not yet run out…..

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Many interpret this verse solely as a description of the brokenness of man on earth vs the joy awaiting us in Heaven. A few, based on Isaiah 65:17, treat this verse in Revelation as evidence that God will proactively wipe away just the memories of our sin nature, leaving good memories behind. However, I would offer the thought that, based on varying rewards and recognitions offered at the Bema Seat, we will have some knowledge of both the good and bad of our time spent on this earth (Rev. 22:12, 1 Cor. 3:11-15, 2 Cor. 5:9-10, 1 John 2:28, Rev. 3:11-12). Beginning with the statement “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” it suggests [to me] that God might actually need to comfort us as we enter Heaven….

I think when we get to Heaven and clearly see our sin nature and all the lost opportunities He gave us to serve Him rather than serving ourselves, we will be in tears. It will hit us, just as we are entering Heaven for eternity, no longer able to serve God from a position of faith (1 Cor. 13:12).

The times we squandered watching TV, stressing over the minutest details of earthly life, in conflict with our neighbor, missing opportunities to share God’s love, etc., will confront us.  As we face the outcome of our actions and inactions, we will be overwhelmed with sadness.

Relative to eternity, our time as earthly foreigners (Phil. 3:20) is infinitesimally short in this sin-cursed world, but holds so many opportunities for kingdom ministry that we will never have on the other side of the grave,….. tick-tock.

Jeff Hilles


On Reading the Bible

This year our church is reading a Bible plan together called F260.

I am excited as I hear about the changes that are happening and the insights being gained by each of you.  I pray that God will use this in our lives to draw us closer to Him individually and as a church.  As we are learning of God’s goodness and His word we are to actively share what we are learning with others.  We are calling this “Breathe” as we inhale His word and character and exhale His good news.  I have been able to share with a couple of people outside of our church membership and am excited to see that they too are joining us in reading the Bible.  Click here to read another report of another church in Canton, Ohio who is also doing the plan in 2018.  What wonderful news to read about God’s saving work through just reading His word.

As I hear from others I am struck by how few of us believers will take the time to read the Bible.  I am afraid that the American church culture has started to read the Bible like one might just read the dictionary.  We can treat it as the “go to” source to find points to prove a theological point or to address a cultural moment, or pressing emotion.  Yet, the Bible has an overarching story that is life-giving and is a gift from God to us.  As one person has recently written, we need to be Bible-readers and not just Bible-quoters.  There is supernatural power in just recounting God’s story with others.  As I shared with one young man last month, he observed, “I can tell you did not make up this story, for no one can make up a story such as this.”  For those of you with children living with you, don’t be afraid to make this a part of your family time.  Let your children be exposed to God’s word in your home.

Jarrod Scott


“You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”  This compelling quote is from the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.  Each year around Christmas, one of the networks will broadcast this timeless gem, and I am compelled to watch it each time as if I’ve never seen it before.  Of all the aspects of the movie that I love, I think the irresistible force over me is simply the acting of Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey.  It is he who is given the gift, even as he considers taking his own life after he tells God, “I’m at the end of my rope.”  But to convince him that his rope is much longer and better than he thinks, George is granted the opportunity to see how different the lives of his loved ones, and even the fate of his entire town, would have been had he not lived his “ordinary” life.

The wife of a friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Being in the vicinity of her late 40’s to early 50’s, she was understandably surprised to learn of her condition at such a young age.  Healthy and active and a follower of Christ, she nevertheless fell victim to this dreadful disease.  But in speaking with her dear confidant and mentor, she was told that she had been given a great gift.  She had been granted by God the opportunity to live out her faith in the midst of dealing with terrible news.  How she processed this unwelcomed setback, and the ways in which she chose to deal with the prognosis and treatment, would speak to many people as to the strength of her faith and the depth of her reliance on God.

Having just experienced the joys of Christmas, we have been reminded that gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  They are wrapped in the most unique ways, and they sometimes mean much more, or much less, than was ever expected or intended.  But nobody boxed up a batch of cancer and put it under the tree.  Nor did anyone look in their stocking and then have to spend hours wrestling with the condition that they no longer existed.  But such as these can be used by God to bring the greatest gift He offers, and that is to experience Him in a deep and loving relationship.  God doesn’t pass out cancer like we pass out the gifts on Christmas morning.  But He does offer the gift of knowing Him deeper and displaying that for the world to see.

The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from God, and also that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  So, you hold in your hands, or have within your body, or are experiencing in your relationships, something that will be labeled.  Will it be part of a gift that moves you closer to the God who loves you, who can use every situation as a means to express that love?  Or will it be called something much worse, and be for you a means to step away from your heavenly Father?  Your heart certainly longs for the first.

Rich Holt

Breathing God’s Word in 2018

As a church we are beginning a church-wide Bible Reading plan called F-260.  You can find more information about this plan here.
In preparation of starting our Bible reading plan I read a very helpful article which you find here.
I have copied the artlicle for you on this blog.  Jarrod Scott
Article by

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Here comes our annual reminder to take stock and make fresh resolves. And for many of us, a new year means an opportunity to re-up on our spiritual disciplines. However poor our eating has been or however inadequately we’ve exercised, we never seem to end the old year with the fully functional “habits of grace” we want to enjoy in the new year.

Inevitably, in this age, even the most basic spiritual-discipline inventory will give us something to feel guilty about. Could we ever avail ourselves enough of God’s ear in prayer? Ever memorize enough of his words in Scripture? Ever personally share the news about his Son with enough unbelievers? Without a seared conscience, we’ll annually find ourselves lacking in some way, and have more to aspire to on this side of heaven.

Perhaps you feel so overwhelmed when it comes to the failures in your spiritual habits, or lack thereof, that you barely even know where to start. Do I start praying more, and memorizing Scripture, and sharing my faith aggressively, all at once? But the more resolutions we try to bite off at the same time, the less likely we are to make real and lasting progress on any of them. We can’t change everything at once, but we can pursue in faith, with God’s help, just a few keys habits that may have a domino effect. Even just one key habit.

So, if you’re looking for just one fresh spiritual focus for the new year, I’d like to offer a suggestion: Marry the Bible this year.

God Himself Comes First

Without downplaying prayer or fellowship or witness in the least, I say start with the Bible because hearing God’s voice in his word is the most fundamental of his ongoing “means of grace” for our Christian lives. Having his ear (in prayer) and belonging to his body (in the church) are equally essential, but they don’t play the same fundamental role, because the Christian life is not a symmetrical partnership between man and God.

God’s word comes first, because God comes first. He acts first. We did not create the world or ourselves. And we do not initiate the Christian life; he does. First he speaks, and then we respond in prayer. First he speaks, and his word creates a people called the church. Marry the Bible this year, and it’s only a matter of time before God’s word lights a fire in you to respond in prayer. Marry the Bible this year, and you won’t long keep to yourself, but will soon feel compelled to lock arms with others as his word not only feeds you, but gives you bread to share, with baskets left over.

Absorbing Culture or Christ?

I say marry the Bible because it’s a phrase that jumped out at me recently when reading an early Piper sermon from 1982. I’m sure it made for a powerful call then, but these words are perhaps all the more relevant today, a generation later:

Satan devotes himself 168 hours a week trying to deceive you and fill your mind with junk. He has seen to it that you are surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture whose mood, and entertainment, and advertising, and recreation, and politics are shot through with lies about what you should feel and think and do.

Do you think that in this atmosphere you can maintain a vigorous, powerful, free, renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day? The reason there are church people who are basically secular like everyone else except with a religious veneer is that they devote 99% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of the world and 1% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of God’s word.

If you want to bring forth the will of God in your life like a mother brings forth a child, you must marry the Bible. For some of you, it is a stranger that you greet on the way to work but never have over for a relaxed evening of conversation, and seldom invite along to spend significant time with you on vacation. Do not, then, be surprised if you are ill-equipped to read the trajectories of God’s will for your own life. (“He Will Send His Angel Before You”)

It may feel admirable to start a new year with a firm resolve to spend ten minutes in God’s word every morning. Ten minutes every day is a good step forward from less, or nothing. If that’s where you are, take step one first, then step two later. But don’t be naïve about where you stand after one step. And if dipping into God’s word for ten minutes is the grace and joy it really is (rather than mere duty), what’s keeping you from enjoying more? Receiving more grace? Basking in more blessing?

As we look at the larger picture (“surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture”), we see that a ten-minute glance is just a start. This is not a call to balance every single minute in the world with an equal and opposite minute in God’s word — God’s voice is stronger than Satan’s. But we will do well, here at the outset of a new year, to think how we can indeed walk with our God, and enjoy him throughout the day, and not simply touch base quickly for ten minutes.

More Than a Reading Plan

By all means, yes, make a habit of making a beeline to the Bible first thing in the morning in 2018. Find a realistic, enjoyable reading plan, let your reading give rise to meditation, and meditation to prayer. A daily “quiet time” or “time alone with God” is a great place to start. They are like date nights with your wife — but dates do not a marriage make! Consider what a “marriage” with God’s word might look like for you here as a new year begins.

Perhaps it might include regularly hearing the Bible read. What tremendous opportunities we have in our day through technology to hear the Scriptures. Try the YouVersion app, or the forthcoming Dwell app. Hit play on the treadmill or in the car or while doing chores. The Bible was originally written to be read to crowds of listeners. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). In the history of God’s people and his church, far more people have heard his word read to them than have read it themselves. It’s a glorious gift that we have it ourselves today and can read it ourselves, but God also means for us to hear his word. Hearing engages us in a way that reading does not, and vice versa.

And marrying the Bible in 2018 will include, in some form, hearing God’s voice through faithful teachers. God gives his church pastors and teachers for her equipping and upbuilding (Ephesians 4:11–12). First and foremost in person, in our local churches. And then, secondarily, in the wider church. Come ready to receive God’s word from your pastor each Sunday, and midweek, and avail yourself of the remarkable riches pouring out today from faithful Christian publishers, along with the plethora of substantive, well-written articles online (like TGCLigonierChalliesFor the Church, and more). And as long as it’s been in coming, perhaps we’re coming into a golden age of podcasting as untold millions seem to be discovering not only the convenience of audio as a medium, but also its power to engage the heart through the imagination. (Choose from among eight such podcasts here at Desiring God.)

Better When You Share It

Finally, marrying the Bible this year will eventually mean some fresh effort to share your nourishment with others. As the very life of God himself in and through his words dwells richly in you, and feeds your soul, you will want to extend and deepen your joy by sharing him with others. When we commend to others what we ourselves are tasting as sweet in God’s word, we enjoy it all the more. Hearts full of joy in Christ don’t stay full by putting a lid on them, but by taking the lid off and spreading out the feast before others.

Marrying the Bible is not a sequestering pursuit. As God fills us with the spiritual life and joy he imparts to us through his word, he will put a word in our mouth and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to others. The dominos will begin falling as the word of God comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls.