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Telling Time: Permanent Seasons

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8)

On this last of day of our study of this famous biblical poem, we come to some of the best and worst seasons of all.

emb_350The good news is that being a Christian means it is always time for love and time for peace. That season never ends for those who are powered by God’s Spirit. Galatians 5:22 lists both of those emotions as parts of the fruit of the Spirit. And we’re commanded to love – and keep loving – both God and our neighbors.

But we’re also called to ongoing seasons of hate and war. Romans 12:9 tells us to hate what is evil – and there’s a lot of evil, including the evil of our own sin. And Ephesians 6 describes how we must arm ourselves for the spiritual battle we fight against Satan and his demons. That season of spiritual warfare is one far too many of us are trying to sit out – because we don’t really know what time it is.

Think: How are you participating in these four different seasons that will always be part of the Christian life until we’re in heaven? Are you hating evil? Prepared for battle with a spiritual enemy? Finding ways to love God and your neighbors? Living in the peace of Christ that is beyond understanding?

Pray: Ask God to help you to love him and hate evil. Ask him to help you to live in peace while preparing yourself for spiritual warfare.

Do: Read more about arming yourself for war in Ephesians 6:10-18.

Telling Time: To Speak or Not

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)

Do you know what time it is? Do you know what season you’re in right now? If not, it’s hard to know how to live wisely. That’s what we’re thinking about week as we read through the poem in Ecclesiastes 3.

emb_350Think back on the last time you hung out with your extended family or group of friends. How did you do with knowing when it was time to be silent and/or time to speak? I think that’s one of the hardest times to tell. It requires both the wisdom to know and the courage to act (or not).

Here is one guideline for making that choice: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

If the words you have to say will not benefit or build up those who hear you, recognize the moment as one to be silent. But if you have words that will help or encourage, don’t waste your speaking season. It would be unkind not to say something.

Think: How often do you think about whether you should speak or not before you talk? How often do you think about whether you should have spoken after you talk? If you do think about it in the moment, how do you decide when to speak and what to say?

Pray: Ask God to give you the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent.

Do: If you’re looking for verses to memorize, Ephesians 4:29 is a great one to plaster on the wall of your mind.

Telling Time: Keep or Toss?

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6)

Keep searching or give up? Push on or quit now? I hate making those decisions, and we’re always making those decisions, aren’t we? Is this the season to cowboy up and stick it out, to keep going no matter the cost, to push through the pain? Or should I just let it go, already, and find a better path, a better goal and new approach?

emb_350Nothing make me feel the need for God’s wisdom more than that question. Why? Because the stakes feel so high, don’t they? It might be absolutely foolish to quit now – or completely stupid to keep going down a failed path. Either way, there are consequences to not recognizing the season you’re in.

Here’s what helps me relax a little; we read it earlier this week: My times are in God’s hands. Not my hands. His. My choices do have consequences, but my decisions will never be powerful enough to overcome his agenda for my times. If I ask him for wisdom – and wisely refuse to let fear or pride or resentment drive my choosing – he is trustworthy to direct my steps even if I miss the most obvious exit.

The choices matter, but the choice to keep trusting him through each season matters most.

Think: Have you experienced seasons of searching for something? How did you know when it was time to stop looking? How do you know when it’s time to throw away an unhelpful habit or relationship?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have the wisdom to know when it’s time to search or to stop searching. Then ask him for the wisdom to know when it’s time to hold on to something or to throw it away.

Do: Ask a wise friend to tell you about a season of searching and how they knew when it was time to stop looking. Or ask how they have decided to end relationships that were unhealthy or maybe hurting their relationship with God.

Telling Time: Sex Out of Season?

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain.” (Ecclesiastes 3:5)

We’re in the middle of a famous poem describing some of the different seasons we experience during our lives. Understanding our particular times helps us to live wisely and make the most of them.

emb_350Today’s line deals with times of “embracing” or not. The writer may have been talking about having sex, saying that sex is right for some times and wrong for others. If you’re a Christian who believes the Bible is God’s Word to you, that seasonal difference has everything to do with being married or not.

It’s not just that sex out of season is wrong, it’s that it’s foolish. It still feels great, of course, and it creates a kind of closeness between two people – but it’s a false and destructive closeness when it happens without the commitment of marriage. The negative consequences linger far beyond the moments of pleasure.

But the creator of sex intended for sex in season to be the norm, providing connection and excitement within the commitment of marriage. And it’s just as important to participate in “embracing” when the time is right as it is to skip it when the time is wrong.

Think: If someone asked, what would you say are some of the negative consequences of participating in sex out of season? What’s the point of sex as part of marriage?

Pray: Ask God to give you the wisdom and courage to avoid the destruction that comes from having sex out of season.

Do: Read 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 to hear how Paul spells out God’s teaching on sex and marriage in our times.

Telling Time: The Crying Season

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)

We’re working this week on learning to recognize the seasons God has lead us into – so we can live wisely during those seasons.

emb_350Nobody wants to live in a season of crying or mourning. Usually, that means something bad has happened – we lost the big game or got betrayed by a friend or watched a loved one die. But that season matters. In fact, Ecclesiastes 7 tells us it’s better to go to a funeral than a party because it reminds us again that this life isn’t permanent – and we’d better get ready for the one that is.

Many of us just try to go numb during the crying seasons and hope they go away quickly. But that’s a waste of the season God has lead us into. Instead, he wants us to turn to him for comfort and learn from him how to comfort others during their sad times. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

The season for laughing and dancing will return. It always does, thank God! But it will be much, much sweeter if we have made the most of the crying season by using it to learn just how comforting the arms of our Father can be.

Think: How can a person turn to God for comfort during a season of sadness? Have you ever been comforted by God through another person who has experienced the same kind of loss you are going through?

Pray: Ask God to help you to turn to him for comfort during seasons of sadness and to include him in your times of laughing and dancing.

Do: Read Romans 12:15 and think about what you can do to participate with others in their sad and happy seasons.

Telling Time: The Killing Season

“There is a time for everything . . . a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3)

We’re working this week on learning the wisdom of recognizing the seasons God has lead us into. Why? So we can live wisely during those seasons.

emb_350These words were likely written by Solomon, whose father King David lived in a time of killing. Israel was at war with several enemies, and David defended Israel by killing tens of thousands. But Solomon’s season as king was a time of healing, and he used that era wisely to make peace with Israel’s neighbors and make the nation stronger still.

We’re called to kill in season, as well. In Colossians 3, Paul tells us to “put to death” whatever belongs to our earthly nature, to literally kill (or execute) our sin. Wisdom demands we tear down whatever plans or dreams we have built on the selfish foundations of sinful desires.

It takes courage to be the destroyer of the worthless things in your life, but if you sit the season out you won’t make room to build – with his power tools – the new life God wants for you.

Think: Do you think God is leading you into a season of tearing down, a time of forcefully removing from your life sinful and worthless things that are getting in the way of living for him? How can you make the most of that season?

Pray: Ask God to give you the courage to tear down anything in your life standing in the way of living for him.

Do: Make a quick list of things in your life that might need to be torn down to make room to continue building your commitment to Christ.

Telling Time: What’s Your Season?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

People love to say at Christmastime that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It’s a good line, and it rhymes. But this week, we’re going to look at a famous poem from Ecclesiastes 3 and see that God is the reason for every season (not just Christmas).

emb_350David said this to God in Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands.” That’s true for all of us. God controls our seasons. You and I cannot turn winter to summer any more than we could have scheduled our own birth or the day of our death. Every season belongs to God.

What we can control is how we live in whatever season God brings along. Will we be wise or foolish this season? Will we plant in planting season — by investing our time and work and energy in whatever opportunity God gives us for the future? Or will we waste our planting season and have nothing to “uproot” or harvest when the payoff season comes along?

We’ll see this week that learning to tell what season you are in right now will help you to have the wisdom to know how best to live. Come back tomorrow.

Think: Does it bother you that God controls what season or time you are in? Do you trust him to bring you in and out of the seasons of your life? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God that your times are in his hands and that he has made a time for everything in your life.

Do: Read the whole poem we’ll be studying this week in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.