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Posts Tagged ‘James 4:13-14’

Jo 17I wonder if you can recall a time when you watched something disastrous unfold in front of you that you were powerless to stop. Such moments can feel quite surreal—as if we and those involved are momentarily suspended somewhere outside of time in another world.

A few weeks ago, I decided to drive to our nearby Bunnings store one morning, just after the school rush. I was almost there—I could see the entrance on my right as I sat behind another car that was also waiting to turn into the car park. A small, white van was approaching from the opposite direction, so of course we had to wait for it to pass. And that was when the most bizarre thing happened. Instead of driving on down the road, that white van veered slightly, headed straight for a big concrete post outside Bunnings and ended up a crumpled mess!

I exclaimed out loud, as I watched this disaster unfold—and there we all sat for what seemed like an eternity. No one got out of that wrecked car that was now firmly wrapped around the cement post—and the driver in front of me did not move either. After a while, I began to wonder if I should edge around this other car, find a park and see if the driver in the accident needed help. Then, just as the car in front of me finally moved, a man emerged from the wrecked van. But I was worried—this man was holding his chest as he leant on his car and looked at his wrecked vehicle.

I had no choice but to get off the road and park—but what to do next? I have no great medical knowledge, so I decided to run and tell a Bunnings staff member what had happened. She immediately called the store manager, who headed to the accident scene. So, still feeling concerned but also redundant, I proceeded on with my shopping.

When I had finished, I discovered the ambulance, police and fire brigade had arrived—but they could not find the driver anywhere! Had he taken himself off home or to a nearby house? Perhaps he did not have a licence—or perhaps he was too dazed and had wandered off. The only thing I could be sure of was that when this man had set out that morning, he would never have expected to end up wrapped around a post.

Later, I realised that, if that car had have swerved the other way, either I or the driver in front of me could have been injured or worse. We do not know, do we, as we wake up each day, what will actually happen? As James writes:

Now listen, you who say, “Tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Let’s not live each day in fear, afraid to step out and do what God has for us to do. But let’s also be ready for that moment when we will meet our Lord face to face, wherever and however it comes.

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Jo 12Recently, I watched our young and very intelligent grandson, as he sat at our table, carefully shuffling that double pack of Uno cards. I offered to help, but he declined—so speedily and insistently that I began to suspect a thing or two. Often when we play this particular game, I have noted how, by some strange coincidence, he ends up with a much higher percentage of those wonderful ‘Draw Four’ and ‘Draw Two’ cards than I do, along with all those ‘Skip’, ‘Reverse’ and ‘Wild’ ones! You see, his card shuffling technique involves nonchalantly turning some over to find out what they are—and then ensuring they are strategically placed in that pack so that they end up in his hand and not mine!

Our Zain often has a wily plan like this in mind—until his grandmother succeeds in foiling it. Yes, recently, even though those cards were stacked, I somehow ended up with two ‘Draw Four’ cards as my final ones to play, thus beating him hollow. What a letdown for him. This time at least, his plans came to nothing!

All of us make plans, big and small, each day—plans that are hopefully much nobler than winning at a card game. Perhaps right now you have already planned out the next few days or weeks or months or even years of your life and have decided what you will do when and with whom. Yet it can all fall apart in a split second, can’t it? Someone becomes ill. Something happens at work that puts our job on the line. People change their minds. The bottom falls out of the economy. On and on it goes. And that’s why I have always tried to take to heart the following warning:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. James 4:13-14

This past week, on the actual day when chaos seemed to reign in the government of our country and we were unsure who would end up being prime minister as a result, my husband looked at the daily Bible verse that had appeared on his phone for that particular date and read:

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

What a timely warning, we both felt. We can have very grand plans indeed—not only for our own futures but for the future of our country—yet in the space of a few hours, they can all come crashing down. And yes indeed, there seem to have been many such plans brewing in high places in our nation, some no doubt duplicitous and self-seeking, others noble and altruistic. But whatever the case, in the end, God will have the last word. Some politicians may feel they are omnipotent, but sooner or later, their reign will end. Yet the Lord’s continues on into eternity—and ultimately, no one can stand against it.

So whatever your plans and mine, may we always submit them to God, who understands and sees all things and whose purpose for us and for this whole world will ultimately prevail—forever.

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Jo 12This week, our oldest grandchild turns fifteen. Fifteen!  How did that happen? Surely there’s been a mistake, I think to myself—she must have skipped out a few years along the way somewhere. Surely it wasn’t fifteen years ago that we rushed to see her in that hospital, just after she was born?

I remember well those growing up years of our little blonde-haired mite with the grey-green eyes. Each Friday during her preschool days, we had many adventures when we minded her until her father picked her up in the afternoon. We became well acquainted with all the nearby parks and soon worked out which had the best play equipment for whatever age our granddaughter was at the time. And we also came to know which shopping centres provided the best spots to have our important morning tea of juice and donuts!

We enjoyed endless games at home too—card games like ‘Donkey’, where somehow Nanna, with great skill, always ended up with that tattered donkey card left in her hand! We played Snap and memory games and later, Uno. We played Snakes and Ladders and others such as Charlie and Lola’s Pink Milk or that aptly named game Trouble. We watched old videos of The Fairies and The Wiggles and Hi5. We made pretend cakes and biscuits with play dough—but we baked yummy, real ones too, always keeping some for Mummy and Daddy.

Recently, I listened as our granddaughter groaned about the many school assignments she currently has to complete. Her life is so full—she is an excellent dancer, with classes and performances consuming many of her spare hours. Right now, she cannot even think much past these school years, with all those assignments and tests. Yet soon they will be over. And soon those university years will be over too. Soon, she will be a young woman, finding her own way in the world.

Will both my husband and I still be around to see her life unfold? I hope so, with all my heart. Yet none of us knows how long we have on this earth—not even our fifteen-year-old granddaughter. We often think we have years ahead of us, but nothing in this world is truly certain, as James warns us:

Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Even if we all live into our nineties, that is such a very, very short time, isn’t it, when compared to eternity? Of course we have to plan and ‘carry on business’ in life, but how easily we can take our eyes off God and allow things that don’t matter in the end to consume us!

When I am about to vanish like that mist, I don’t want to find myself saying, ‘Where has the time gone? How did that happen? I know there were things God had for me to do, yet I chose not to do them.’ Instead, I want to use those God-given gifts each day as best I can—and I hope you do too.

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It has been brought home so shockingly to us all this past week how uncertain life is and how, while we might think we know what 2011 will hold for us, the reality might turn out to be quite different. As we have watched the TV coverage of people’s homes and livelihoods being destroyed by the floods in Queensland and elsewhere and heard of the loss of life involved, I am sure that, apart from feeling deep grief for those so badly affected, even the strongest of us must have experienced some personal inner quaking and questioning. What if this happened to me? What would I grab if I had to leave my home in a hurry? What really is important to me in life?

I also experienced uncertainty of a different kind this past week, as we farewelled our younger daughter Tina at the airport on her way to Ghana. Her fiancé, who is Ghanaian but a permanent resident here, is currently in Ghana visiting family, and Tina has travelled to join him for around a month. In that time, they plan to get married – but when she left, our Tina was still unsure if this would happen or not. Communication is difficult between Australia and her fiancé’s hometown – and besides, she knows weddings in Ghana aren’t the big, costly events they are here! Well, Tina seemed fine about it all. In fact, she was very much looking forward to all the new experiences ahead – and of course to seeing her fiancé again. It is her mother who is feeling the uncertainty!

And then there is the ongoing uncertainty I should be used to in relation to writing novels and getting them published. After working hard on a book for months, there is no guarantee anyone will want to publish your ‘baby’. Even if they eventually do, there is no guarantee people will flock to buy it! On top of that, I as the author need to do my part in promoting the book – but there is no guarantee these promotional opportunities will be easy to come by either. ‘Don’t give up your day job’ is a piece of advice authors hear very often.

Perhaps you are facing a quite different uncertainty in your life right now. Maybe you are unsure about your job situation or how some difficulty in an important relationship will be resolved. Perhaps the following words from Scripture will resonate with you as they did with me this week:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

We can’t ‘boast and brag’, as James goes on to say, about what is going to happen for us, as if we are in complete control of our lives. God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, is the one who has ultimate power and authority and the one to cling to in times of uncertainty. And when our best-laid plans unravel and things fall in a heap around us, God will always be there for us, both now and on into eternity. Yes, we are called to be God’s people in this world, but the best ‘treasure’ we can have, the one that moth or dust – or floods – cannot destroy is the treasure of a rich relationship with our God in heaven, as Jesus himself points out in Matthew 6.

May God strengthen, support and comfort you in this uncertain world.

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I have had some sober reminders this past little while of how uncertain life is for all of us.  Yesterday I discovered that a friend has been diagnosed with a particular form of cancer that will be very difficult and painful to treat.  I hope and pray she will pull through and that her upcoming operation will be successful – but suddenly, life has changed for her and her family.

Then two weeks ago, a friend of my son and daughter-in-law passed away, aged only thirty-five.  She had gone into hospital for a routine foot operation, but while there, a clot formed – and she died with doctors around her.

Truly, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring – and this is exactly what James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about in his very practical letter to the early believers.  This is what he says:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

Is that how you view your life?  As a vanishing mist – as something that is so insubstantial and fleeting?  This thought could be scary.  It could paralyse us with fear.  Or it could cause us to decide that if life’s as fleeting as that, then we should enjoy it while we can.  We should ‘eat, drink and be merry’ and do it with gusto and with little concern for anyone else except ourselves, because otherwise we might miss out.

And yet this thought could have a different effect on us.  It could spur us on to live life in a much more positive and pro-active way – to do what God wants us to do and to reach out to others in whatever way we have been gifted.  Tomorrow the opportunity might not be there.  Tomorrow the person we could have helped or encouraged in their journey might have completed it.  Tomorrow we ourselves might no longer be in a place where we can offer any more help to anyone.

James actually goes on to say that we do wrong to others and ‘miss the mark’ entirely in our lives if we choose to ignore what God is calling us to do.  He writes:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)

Do you know the good you ‘ought to do’?  Are you doing it?  Let’s act while we can – before the mist vanishes.

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