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Number Our Days

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Ever had on of those fragile, frail-feeling days? The kind that leave you feeling how vulnerable and feeble and one breath away you really are?  Those days when you just feel so…mortal?

Sunday was one of those.

So teach us to number our days.

After church, we dashed over to Mom and Dad’s for the annual corn roast. This year was a special combo: potluck and dunked-and-buttered corn first, then out back for the baptism service. Thirteen born-again souls, including our two sons, were slated for immersion in the borrowed baptismal. But only 11 went under, because Son #2 got stung by some bees.

So teach us to number our days.

He’d been stung before, so first- no worries. But when rash and itch and panic grew despite baking soda and Benadryl, we knew. Help the boy be calm and breathe, dear Lord, I prayed. And, after my poorly timed words about his being sans phone, Jim steered the van out of the hayfield, onto the highway.  For the next four hours, that was the last I knew.

So teach us to number our days.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, my friends told me about their Teddy. After more than 15 years together, Saturday was the last day with their little Japanese Chin. and forever-pup part of the family named Teddy. We knew Teddy from years of weeks of his warm, wiggly welcomes. If we were lucky, or salty, while we waited during piano lessons, we’d get friendly licks too. But effervescent Teddy won’t be greeting this week.

So teach us to number our days.

Before Gabe got home and soaked up theTLC (The doctor said I might need a little candy if I get a dry mouth from all these pills.), I texted my friend Terry. Terry’s only son got married the day Teddy departed. Terry said she’s swimming in a swirling sea of feelings now that all her family has gone home. A strange “gel of emotions,” she texted me, “emptiness, fullness, exhaustion and extreme joy all in one.”

So teach us to number our days.

It’s been 48 hours since the stings. The meds- 4 pills carefully laid out at breakfast- 2 at dinner- are halfway gone. Gabe’s not so free-wheeling anymore. His mile bike ride to see his dog-friend Kate and his five-minute walk to feed Cookie the cat need more forethought. I need a Epipen and a fanny pack, he says, just to be safe. I feel how I felt that time Gabe got infected– vulnerable and exposed.

So teach us to number our days.

Did I happen to mention that last week was my Psalm 90 week?  That it just so happened that every single day last week there was meditating on and praying over the “Prayer of Moses, the man of God”?  I learned that many think Moses prayed teach us to number our days in between watching dozens or hundreds of Israelites die in the wilderness each day. 

Here’s part of that Prayer of Moses (Psalm 90:10-13):

The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
  that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!

God had mercy on me today.  

Gabe said that, in a sleeping bag on our bedroom floor Sunday night. If I would have got to the hospital 30 minutes later, I might have died.

You’re right, Gabe, he did. We don’t know what would have happened if we had waited.
But I don’t think the bee stings and Teddy and Terry’s post-wedding text were all coincidence. I think God was answering my prayer about numbering days.

Sunday’s Takeaways

Maybe He wanted to drive these home, before we fly away.

1. Be wise. Live each day as if it could be your last.

Which is why we ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live…and do this or that’” (James 4:1315). Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, Wisdom is the ability to look at all of life from God’s perspective, to see life from God’s point of view.

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is, David wrote

How do we gain wisdom? By numbering our days! By seeing how fleeting our lives on earth are  in the light of eternity. So do we? Are we: Storing up treasures in heaven? Investing our time, talents, treasures in God’s Kingdom? Using well our fleeting days before we fly away?

2. Fear not. God’s got this. Our frail children of dust lives, I mean.

Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground” — that  means die — “apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of much more value than the sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31).

My mouth, on autopilot, starting singing this Sunday while I waited. They’re from that hymn, O Worship The King, the verse about feeble as frail,

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in Thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

3. Fear not. God’s got this. Even the date of our death, I mean.

God’s mercies are firm to the end, But have you wondered, like my Gabe did on Monday, “Does God decide when we die?”

John Piper answered that this way:

[I]f the time for the death of a tiny bird in a remote forest is of a concern to God and determined by God, how much more will our days be numbered and determined by God with great care and wisdom. In fact, the psalmist says to God, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Which means, the days that God has allotted for me and you are already written in a book. They are decided.

Piper concludes,

God is God. He governs the world, and that includes the time for our conception in the womb and the time for our death. His children don’t want to have it any other way, do we? God is always better than blind fate. ..What else would we want than for God to determine when we are born and when we die?

Days Numbered, And In Good Hands

Our days are numbered. Only God knows when we will die. So it makes sense that the One who alone can teach us to number them is the only One who already has them counted.

Priest and missionary Henry Martyn said, You are immortal until God’s purpose for you is complete.

So you and me- and all God’s children, Gabe- we are in the best of hands.

And if that’s not invigorating truth and good news on those fragile, frail-feeling days, I don’t know what is.

My times are in your hands.

Psalm 31:15

Postscript:

Life is hard, but God is good.

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All Things Work Together For Good, How Gears Turn & Romans 8:28

There are good things and there are bad things and good things are not bad things. But those who love God have a staggering promise: that all things- good things and bad things- work together for their good. That’s Romans 8:28.

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

We know this verse and many of us know it by heart. It’s on shower curtains and calendars and notecards. But when you really stop and consider it, Romans 8:28 is baffling.

To some ears, it might even sound like divine hocus-pocus.

Is Romans 8:28 Spiritual Hocus-Pocus?

Romans 8:28 almost sounds like the work of a fairy godmother.

As if God waves his silver wand over the bad things in a believer’s life, things like cancer and conflict and infertility and injury and accidents and temptation and pain, and then- bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!- the lowly pumpkin suddenly becomes a golden coach that whisks the suffering saint straight to the palace and prince.

Like hocus-pocus magic. As if to disguise the reality of the badness, because we know good is good and bad is bad and good and bad are quite often opposites. And yet Romans 8:28 boldly states: All things work together for good to those who love God. And of course, all things means good things and bad things.

But how can this be? How can things working in opposite directions-things like health and disease, kindness and mistreatment, birth and miscarriage, reconciliation and separation, comfort and distress- both be working, pointing, moving for our good? 

If good points right and bad points left, how can they both be leading to our good? 

I don’t know about you, but visuals help me understand. And I need a metaphor to grasp this hard thing. My little pea-size mind needs an image to help make sense of such a staggering promise.

But it’s not a silver wand. It’s a watch.

Watch The Wheels Turn.

In “Working for our Good,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers another image. It’s at the end of his sermon, but it hit me so hard I played and rewound and transcribed for an hour so I could describe this unbaffling image. Here it is:

Take your watch and open it. What do you see? You see wheels turning in opposite directions. You see one wheel moving in an anti-clockwise direction attached to another wheel going in a clockwise direction.

And you… look at this machinery and say “This is mad. This is quite ridiculous. Here are wheels working in opposite directions. The man who made that watch must have been a madman.”

 Of course he wasn’t. This is how he’d arranged this watch to work and move the hands around. Because all these different wheels are ultimately controlled by a main spring.

There’s a purpose at the back of it all. At the back of the main spring is the watchmaker who made the watch and wound it up… One gear is turning this way and one turning that way, but they’re all working together to move the main wheel and tell the time.  All these things that seem to be in contradiction are working together to the same end. It’s like that.

See the Gears Spin with a Spiritual Eye.

You look at life and say at first, “What’s happening? I can see that certain things are good for me, but look at all these other things. These are all against me.” 

“Think again,” he says, “Think again. Think of the One who’s planned it all. Don’t jump to conclusions. Look for an ultimate purpose. Look for an ultimate end. And if you do so with a spiritual eye as you should you will soon begin to see that God knows what he’s doing.”

Yes look at it again with spiritual eyes and will come to the conclusion that all things- everything- yes everything- that’s happening too you is working together. God’s made it like that. He wound it up. He keeps it going. The watchmaker is working it all together for our good.. 

Could there possibly be a more comforting and reassuring truth than that? Could there be a more heartening promise?

 

Don’t Slap It On.

I could stop here. After the watchmaker is working it all together for our good.

But I know Romans 8:28 is so encouraging we might be tempted to apply it quick and loose to others in pain. At our best we do so because it’s we’ve felt it’s immense comfort and we want to comfort others with the help we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4). There may well be a time to share Romans 8:28.

At our worst we apply the verse like a slap job. It’s a take-this-pill-and-get-over-it. It’s saying, “It’s all for the best,” at a funeral for a child. It might mean, “Hurry up and heal, so I don’t have to see you hurt.”

Besides that, it might come off as if we’re saying that bad things are good. They’re not. In the context of Romans 8, Paul had just finished talking about trials and suffering and all creation groaning (see Romans 8:17-27).

Paul was not calling black white or dark light and neither should we. To do so would be “false spirituality and a crass insensitivity.” 

Because evil does enter our homes. Things invade our lives that are just plain bad. We’re not to be glib and slap on Romans 8:28 like we slap a band-aid on a crying four year-old’s knee, to quiet him and send him away.

Our freshly wounded friends need our presence and hugs and listening ears. A slapped-on Romans 8:28 won’t heal their hurt.

Fools rush in. Wisdom can sit and wait when words won’t come.

But Hold On Tight.

But we, reading this now- we need grasp the watch and the gears- and hold on tight to the image when things go “anti-clockwise.” Because bad things will come to us. Things will go anti-clockwise.

That’s why we need to latch on to ALL THINGS. Because Romans 8:28 tells us that no meaningless trial comes to us. It affirms that no suffering- no bad thing- is wasted. Romans 8:28 teaches us that there is no experience ever in the Christian’s life that will not be worked for good.

Most of all, we know- not think or hope, but know- that in his providence God uses every single seemingly isolated event, to bring about his purpose- that we be conformed to the image of Christ and finally brought to glory.

Finally, in a Romans 8:28 sermon of his own, Pastor Geoff Thomas quotes one Daniel Howland,

All the events that take place in the world carry on the same work—the glory of the Father and the salvation of his children. Every ill­ness that may seize you, every loss you may meet with, every reproach you may endure, every shame that may color your faces, every sorrow in your hearts, every pain in your flesh, every ache in your bones, is for your good.

Oh, Christians, see what a harvest of blessings ripens from this text! The Lord is at work; all creation is at work; men and angels, friends and foes, all are busy, working together for good.

Oh, dear Lord Jesus, what have you seen in us that you should order things so wondrously for us, and make all things- all things – to work together for our good?

The Lord is at work. Clockwise or anti-clockwise the wheels turn for His purpose.

Rest assured, the watchmaker turns all things for our good.

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Romans 8:28-29