Posted in christian life, theology

So late so soon? The passage of time for us all

By Elizabeth Prata

I was driving along, listening to my favorite radio station. It’s a station that plays country during the day, old timey southern Gospel at night, and in between, random oldies from the 60s, 70’s and 80s. I like the variety.

A song from 1978 came on, “I Love the Night Life” by Alicia Bridges. It’s a disco song and you’d know it if you heard it. Maybe. If you’re of an age.

And that’s the thing.

I sang along, marveling that I could remember the lyrics from…wait…I counted back. It was High School, senior year. So … 1978.

So … 41 years ago.

Four decades of adult life. Wow.

It feels strange to have so many decades under my belt. Very strange.

It was yesterday I was driving home from one stupid teenage job or another, singing along to I Love the Night Life…wasn’t it? Yesterday.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

I believe every word in the Bible. I believe the Spirit when He inspired those words from James. Life goes fast. And then one day, you don’t just believe the words, you’re living them.

How did 4 decades of life suddenly pile up in my memories? How many people, events, meals, tragedies, joys, births, deaths, woes, and hills have I climbed, endured, lived? A tsunami’s worth. It all came crashing back as I drove along, singing lyrics to a song I don’t believe (no I don’t love the nightlife but I love the singer’s voice). How is it that a song can suddenly place us firmly back in time? How can time, ephemeral and temporal, suddenly seem like a ponderous burden, weighing heavily?

This little opinion piece isn’t anything new. Many people before me have opined the same. You see it when someone gives birth and suddenly the child isn’t an infant but walking and talking and cutting teeth. When you realize you’re out of your 20s and an adult with full responsibilities. When you start getting AARP and Life Insurance bulk mail. When you can’t remember the last time you got up out of the chair without groaning or something popping. ‘Where does the time go?’ we ask.

It isn’t just in James that the Bible speaks to time passing as rapidly increasing flow –

Psalm 39:5
You, indeed, have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before You. Truly each man at his best exists as but a breath. Selah

Psalm 78:39
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

Psalm 102:3
For my days vanish like smoke, and my bones burn like glowing embers.

Psalm 144:4
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Time is smoke, vapor, breath, breeze.

OK, we know this. What to do about it? First, realize that these lazy days of your 20s or 30s or 40s etc are fleeting, as the Bible says. Second, do as Colossians 3:23 says of servants to masters,

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

Meaning, don’t work hard just when the master is looking but work hard with all your soul, all the time.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)

Proverbs 6:6 tells the sluggard to look to the busy ant and consider her ways. Many Proverbs speak badly of sluggards. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says that those who will not work, won’t eat.

Wisely shepherding the time that Jesus ordains of our days on earth is to His glory. There is work to be done. It’s good to be mindful that time is finite, at least here on earth. It sometimes feels like time is endless, that we have infinite days to accomplish what we want, but we don’t.

Third, it’s good to be heavenly minded. We will be called to account when we arrive before the throne. What will Jesus say to us? Well done good and faithful servant? Or ‘You’re here as just barely escaping the fire’? (1 Corinthians 3:15). I heard a preacher say once of the verse where God will wipe away our tears in heaven, (Revelation 21:4) that the tears could be from sorrow for all the time we wasted on earth failing to labor for God’s glory while we had time to do so. It’s a good an explanation as any for why there will be tears in heaven, if the verse is meant literally.

Even if that is not so, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. We will see our works that we not do for Christ and perhaps the time wasted that had no works at all, burned as hay and stubble. I think of Edwards, Spurgeon, Muller, Apostle Paul, who worked what seemed like every second of their waking hours for the Lord, and I think of the time that I spend frittering away. If there is anything to cry about in heaven, that would be it.

Time. Where does it go. Soon time will be no more. I’ll be glad that the burden of memories and the weight time gone under the bridge will be lifted. Meanwhile,

“How did it get so late so soon?”
——-Dr. Seuss

seuss clock

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Last day of 2017: Thoughts on time’s passage

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The year 2107 flew by. I turned 57. Since my birthday is at the very end of the year in mid-December, I usually count myself as that age all year. So all of 2017 I thought of myself as 57. When my birthday approached, I mistakenly thought I was turning 58. When I realized my true age, I was relieved and happy I’d ‘gained’ a year. It was like Daylight Savings Birthday, as a witty friend said.

During the mistaken period when I thought I was a year older than what I was, I was kind of sad. 58 is pushing 60 and that is a major milestone. It’s the old age retirement age decade. The seriously shortening lifespan decade. The years pile up. Our church is filled with young folks, even our pastor just turned from 29 to 30. A lot of the members are in college or graduate school. It is startling when you look at them all assembled and realize you could be their mother. It’s even more startling when you realize you could be their grandmother. Wut? Not me! Yes me.

On Twitter the other day, one of the guys asked ‘what is your first life memory of a major news story?’ Most of them said the Challenger explosion. That was 1986. I was already teaching, married, and owned a house. My first memory of a news story was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, February 1964, I’d just turned 3. The first major news story that impressed itself on my heart and psyche was the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. I was 7 1/2.

When there are that many decade layers you swim down through in your brain to get to the memory, it sets a person back. Whoa, you think. I was a kid just yesterday. Memories I recall as recent are actually 20 and 30 years old. I graduated high school forty years ago. People you know start dying. If they die outside of Christ, it’s very sad. My ex-husband has died. A friend I’d worked with on town political issues has died. My father has died. Reading the obituaries becomes a regular habit.

I like demarcations. I enjoyed standing on the equator. I like the 45th parallel, the point halfway between the equator and the north pole. I liked being at the easternmost point in the US and the southernmost point in the US. Crossing the Rio Grande from the US to Mexico. Borders are good, they contain things, attempt to make the chaos orderly. Or at least manageable. Year end borders are good. So it’s New Year’s Eve now, and we’re looking at another year ahead.
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New Year’s Eve is an artificial demarcation of years in a progression of invisible days, which are artificial demarcations themselves. The Egyptians divided the day into two 12-hour periods, and used large obelisks to track the movement of the sun, says Wikipedia. Graduated candles, hourglasses, sundials, water clocks…all used to mark off time for different reasons in different ways. The first mechanical clocks were invented in Europe at around the start of the 14th century, and became the standard timekeeping device until the pendulum clock was invented in 1656, says Wikipedia again. Now we have an atomic clock that keeps time to the billionth second. And we have our calendars that tell us when one year ends and another begins.

To what end? Man in his whirring activity here on this blue ball, must seem very much like children to our Great God. And so believers are children, that is how God sees us. (Romans 8:17, John 1:12-13). To what end are we so active and energetic on this blue ball?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

It is the last day of 2017. Perhaps the Lord will come for us in 2018. I hope so, fervently.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

I don’t have any profound words of wisdom as the calendar page turns over from this year to the next.  No hopeful statements to uplift. Just this: there will be a last day. One. Last. Day. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:54 )

The New Testament makes it clear that the coming of Jesus Christ was the critical event. His atoning death was God’s final answer to the problem of human sin and once that had been accomplished nothing could be the same again. For our present purpose the important thing is that Jesus ushered in a new state of affairs. He wrought the atonement that made it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to enter God’s kingdom and to be fitted to take their part in God’s final kingdom. That gives a different quality to all time after the coming of Jesus, and the scriptural writers bring this out by referring to all that is subsequent to the coming of Jesus as “the last times” or the like.

Very important is the fact that the final, great day will see the triumph of God. This is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, for example, in the great passage in which Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26). But the important thing from the Christian point of view is that the saving work of Christ has altered everything. Sin has been decisively defeated and believers have already entered into salvation. However long or short a time it will be before the end of this world as we measure time, we are living in the last times as the New Testament writers understand it. Bakers Evangelical Dictionary

And on that last day when time shall be no more,

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And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12).

For the Christian, this is good news. We are judged by what Jesus has done, and we know that God is pleased with His Son. (Matthew 3:17). For the non-believing dead-resurrected, being judged according to what they have done is very bad news, for their lives of evil and rebellion will be reflected in the books, and in the end, their punishment.

Scoffers look at the calendar’s pages turning over the years and the decades and-

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4).

He is coming. This blog is called The End Time because we must constantly be looking forward, up, to the future. We are in the last days and we look forward to His appearing. There will be a last day. Man marks time and confidently says, ‘Today is the last day- of 2017’. However, God has his own timing schedule,

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Where will you be on the last day? Where will your friend, your ex-husband, your father be? Will you and they be in the line to the right, with the sheep? Or to the left, with the goats? Today is the last day of 2017. Let this melancholy and sober recounting of time’s passage be a reminder of the true and glorious last day of all: the day of His appearing when He comes to judge the living and the dead. May it be in 2018.

SDG

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Release from the ‘Tyranny of the Clock’

Missionary to Vanuatu in the late 1800s, John G. Paton, writing about the death of one of his first native converts in his book Thirty Years Among the South Sea Cannibals, said:

“While staying at Aneityum, I learned with as deep emotion as man ever felt for man, that noble old Abraham, the sharer of my Tannese trials, had during the interval peacefully fallen asleep in Jesus. He left for me his silver watch one which I had myself sent to the dear soul from Sydney, and which he greatly prized. In his dying hour he said, “Give it to Missi, my own Missi Paton; and tell him that I go to Jesus, where Time is dead.”

That converted cannibal had a real and profound grasp of his position in Christ. I have read many times that in heaven sin will be dead, tears will be dead, sorrow will be dead, but I never read anything put quite like that. In heaven, time is dead.

Graphics Fairy

What will it be like when we are never running late? When the good labors we perform stretch endlessly ahead in joy and interest but not in constriction of artificial hours or days? When we don’t have birthdays or appointments? When there is no catching up, falling behind, or getting ahead? Instead, all our tasks and meetings simply unfold perfectly and in a pace that is like the very river of life streaming from the Fount- constant and perfect?

God instituted seasonal time, and He instituted day and night. (Psalm 104:19, Genesis 1:14). He did this for the benefit of man, certainly not because God needed to mark time. He dwells in eternity where it is all time at once. The clock measures time precisely, in specific increments, and this mechanism more than any other has subdued man. The clock at once has inhibited man in his actions and catalyzed man in his actions. I’m late! I’m early! I’m behind! I’m on time- give me a gold star!

The clock segments the teacher’s day. It regulates the inmate’s day. It formulates the train conductor’s, the pilot’s, the bus driver’s day. The clock convicts the chronic tardiness of the employee. The clock dares. The clock monotonizes.

Anarchist George Woodcock wrote in The Tyranny of the Clock,

Socially the clock had a more radical influence than any other machine, in that it was the means by which the regularisation and regimentation of life necessary for an exploiting system of industry could best be attained. The clock provided the means by which time – a category so elusive that no philosophy has yet determined its nature – could be measured concretely in more tangible forms of space provided by the circumference of a clock dial. Time as duration became disregarded, and men began to talk and think always of ‘lengths’ of time, just as if they were talking of lengths of calico. And time, being now measurable in mathematical symbols, became regarded as a commodity that could be bought and sold in the same way as any other commodity.

Sadly he did not know that liberating man from the tyranny of the clock would only enslave him to another device, another machine, another apparatus, whatever it may be. God created time for our benefit and ever since He has been ordaining its orderly progression, despite man’s over-dependence on the clock.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

In heaven, time is dead. However without clocks the orderly progression of all things will continue, for God is God of heaven as He is of earth. Our liberation from the tyranny of the clock will free us in ways we can’t even imagine. The old cannibal and new man, Abraham of Vanuatu, knew. He went where time is dead and men are alive. Where there are no clocks but precision is more precise than it has ever been anywhere on earth.

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:10)