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One of the most haunting lyrics ever put to song, lamenting the brevity of life, went like this: “It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy.”

I know I’m giving away my age, when I quote a line from a 70’s song by Kansas; but since I could tell that many of you recognized it, you’ve given away your age, too; so, we’re even.

The topic of our d’rasha this morning is, obviously, time. But the message within the d’rasha concerns our use of it.

At certain seasons of the year, and at Jewish functions of a joyous nature, we give thanks to God through reciting The Shehecheyanu (from the Hebrew word Chai, meaning ‘life’): Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season! When we do so, we are acknowledging God’s gift to us of time. And it really is a precious gift.

Let me give you a preview of what we’re going to try and cover this morning:

I. Time as a Component of the Creation

II. The Mystery of Time and the Incalculable Risk of Presumption/Procrastination

III. Squandering the Most Precious Commodity on Lesser Things

IV. Milking it for All its Worth: Integrating Responsibility and Pleasure (Multi-tasking)

V. Big Picture: Recognizing the Time in Which We Live

I. Time as a Component of the Creation

Whenever you use the expression “time and space” you’re actually affirming something that we don’t usually think about; namely, that time itself is a part of the Creation. Time is a substance that is measurable and variable.

For example, did you know that time moves slightly more quickly at high altitude than it does on the ground? It is referred to as the ‘time-dilation’ effect. Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity posited that the gravity of a massive body, such as a planet, warps the space-time around it, causing the flow of time to speed up or slow down depending on one’s proximity to the mass. Time is theorized to slow down the closer one gets to the massive body.

This was confirmed in 2010 through the use of ultra-precise atomic clocks that were synchronized, and then separated by just 12 inches. The clock at the higher level moved ever-so-slightly faster than the one at ground level. But if you’ve been thinking about moving to the mountains of Nepal, I don’t want you to worry; over the course of 80 years, you’ll still lose less than 1/1000th of a second.

God exists entirely outside of time. Along with everything else, He created time for our benefit; you might say as the training ground for the eternity that awaits us. What we do with the wonderful gifts He’s given us here will determine how it goes for us there. And time is truly a wonderful gift. But it is a decidedly finite gift.

The issue before us is: how will we use the time given us?

II. The Mystery of Time and the Incalculable Risk of Presumption/ Procrastination

Watching our children grow up into adults, and now having children of their own, causes Alexandra and me to marvel at the passage of time. When did I grow up? I well remember my teenage years, and my considerable foolishness. At other times, I marvel at the pronounced chapters of my life, and it sometimes feels like I’ve lived three or four distinct lives. I can tell you in all honesty that the 22 years we have been here at Shema and among family and friends in Michigan have been the most pleasant of all.

And because the days and weeks and months blend into years, we naturally think there will be plenty more where that came from. But that is an assumption about time that we cannot afford to make. Even when, like me, we are on the back side of our years, we still assume there are years in store (and that all we need to do is make sure to keep a supply of Advil around).

And because most of us haven’t served on the front lines of a war, and because we have lived in what is indisputably the most affluent period of time in human history, we wind up with what Rabbi Loren has told us is called ‘normalcy bias’. We assume that tomorrow will be pretty much like today, since today was pretty much like yesterday. But a person’s life can change dramatically in seconds.

Bob Hanner was a wonderful guy who used to attend Shema. So full of life. There was often a playful, boyish gleam in his eyes, especially when he would talk about the things of the Lord, or about his latest round of golf. Even the family dog was named “divet”. Bob wasn’t a young man, yet he was in great physical shape. But all that changed in the blink of an eye when one day he went to get his dog out of the neighbor’s yard, and hopped the fence, only to get his foot caught in it, pitch forward headlong, and break his neck. His remaining years were spent bed-ridden, needing constant care, which his devoted wife Elaine and his sons gave him. He never wavered in his faith, and it was always a joy to visit him. But I never forgot how quickly and dramatically a person’s life can change.

The mysterious aspect of time is that you don’t know when it’s up for you; when your heart will have beat for the last time… when you will have taken your last breath. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We aren’t even guaranteed the rest of today! I don’t say these things to frighten us, but the fact is, in God’s perspective, how long we live isn’t nearly as important as how wisely we live. Moses prayed this way: As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away… So, teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10).

What unfinished business is there in your life? What have you been putting off?

When you procrastinate, you risk forfeiting forever the opportunity to do the thing you need to do. Is it something simple, but necessary? Is it a thank-you note to someone who did something nice for you? Perhaps a phone call you’re dreading, but know you need to make? A job you committed to do, or a task you promised you would handle? A debt you very well could pay back, but haven’t? Listen, unfulfilled promises are the purview of politicians. When Messiah’s people say “Yes” it needs to be yes. Don’t put things off, and don’t leave loose ends.

Or is it something much more consequential? Is there someone to whom you owe an apology? Or has someone apologized to you, but you haven’t decided whether you are ready to accept it? Is it reconciliation with a family member or a friend?

When people come to the end of their lives, and there is regret, it’s almost always over a broken relationship. There is no more despairing feeling in the world than regret over a situation that is now irreparable, because one or the other person is dying or has died, and neither took the initiative to be reconciled.

What bit of unfinished business do you need to handle… TODAY?

III. Squandering the Most Precious Commodity on Lesser Things

While there is a certain logic and validity in the expression “Time is money,” in reality there’s no comparison. Money, once lost, can potentially be reacquired through perseverance. Time, once lost, is irretrievable. It’s gone forever.

Wise King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, wrote, There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. That is a statement of fact. What is less certain is whether we have the wisdom to know what we should be doing at a given time, or the sense of propriety to know how to behave in a sensitive situation. There is a specific time to do certain things, which, if you don’t do them then and there, you lose the opportunity. For example, Proverbs warns repeatedly against laziness and wasting time, such as the person who is idle during the time when he should be plowing the ground and planting seed; when harvest time comes, he’ll be starving and begging from others.

And we need to have right priorities when it comes to investing our time.

Messiah Yeshua admonished us not to ‘spin our wheels’ over mundane things. He said,“Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:27-33).

As far as the pursuit of fame and fortune, Messiah considered that a squandering of our time. He asked what good would it do for a person to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul in the process. We were given this life for purposes so much higher than the acquisition of wealth. In order to drive home the point, Yeshua told the following parable:

“The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?…This is what I will do; I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and all my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Your time here on earth is a finite but precious commodity. How are you investing it? In things which you will eventually have to leave behind, anyway, or in people who have been created in the image of God, and about whom He cares deeply? Reaching other human beings with the Good News MUST be our first priority!

Have you been presented with an opportunity to do something significant? Consider whether or not that opportunity will ever present itself again in your all-too-brief lifetime. I am not suggesting you accept every invitation; but it’s very important to weigh opportunities in light of a finite and unknown amount of time.

IV. Milking it for All its Worth: Integrating Responsibility and Pleasure (Multi-tasking)

Considering the precious and finite amount of time we have, we ought to utilize our time in the most efficient and satisfying way possible. If possible, find a way to combine the tasks you are required to do with things you enjoy doing. My brother-in-law, John, enjoys reading books. Back when he worked for Chrysler, he had a long commute to and from work. So, he began listening to books on audio. Boom!

Is there someone you’re mentoring who’s new in the faith? And do you have a common interest? Maybe natural health, or calligraphy, or gardening, or fine wine, or golf? Since discipleship involves life-sharing anyway, find a way to blend study and prayer and meals and activities with the one you’re discipling.

We need to work, but our priority is people. Find ways to blend activities, so that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, and doing what you enjoy doing, and doing it with others. Since your workplace is also your mission field, see who might be open to engaging with you. You could take the initiative and announce that if anyone would like to take lunch together once a week, while discussing a series of life issues, you’ll be facilitating that, say on Friday. On Monday you could announce what the focus of that week’s lunch talk will be, as a way of getting their mental and/or spiritual gears moving.

I like to ride motorcycles, and I love to teach and preach the Scriptures. So, if the weather’s nice on a Sunday when I’m scheduled to speak at a church, you’ll find me riding there. And I’ve begun inviting guys who also ride, to whom I’ve been ministering, to join me. Link your tasks and joys, and invite people to come along!

Try to utilize your time as efficiently and creatively as possible. Are you involved in an ongoing community service project or are you a member of a recreational sports team? Be the Jesus person in that group. Offer to start things off with a prayer. Even if some people roll their eyes, others will identify you as the spiritual go-to person, and when they have questions or situations and need advice, guess who they’ll search out first? Do you enjoy gardening? Is there a community garden near you? Join it, and be the Jesus person of the garden. If there isn’t one, maybe you’re the one to start it up! We would all do well to take a little more initiative. Believe me, when you do these things for the Lord, He takes note, and you will be blessed. Don’t worry about ‘success’ or ‘failure’. The only failure is doing nothing.

V. Big Picture: Recognizing the Time in Which We Live

In the panorama of human history, and in light of what the Scriptures say about the Last Days, where exactly are we? I think we’re very near the end. Israel has been re-born in a day, Jewish people have returned and rebuilt the Land. The nations are raging against the Jewish people. Worldwide, anti-Semitism is perceptibly on the rise, as is violence being perpetrated against Christians. Confusion abounds, even about the most fundamental aspects of life. War abounds and lawlessness is rampant. Corruption in government is commonplace to the point of tedium.

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, there is growing resistance on the part of self-identifying Christians to recognize the final authority of Scripture. Instead many are relying on their emotions and personal sense of ‘social justice,’ forgetting that our “justice meter” is broken, radically out of calibration.

Jeremiah put it this way, The human heart is deceitful above all else and is desperately sick. Who can know it?

Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).

In Matthew 24, Yeshua taught that in the Last Days the world will be increasingly violent and godless. It’s pretty bad now; but it will get worse. In light of these developments, many of which have fulfilled ancient prophecies, I conclude that we are in the last of the Last Days. What should be our priority and our course of action in the time in which God has placed us?

There is a somewhat obscure passage in 1 Chronicles 12, which includes a list of loyal followers of David, at a time when following David was decidedly risky, since Saul was hunting for him. In this list is included the entire tribe of Issachar, described as men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do. From the other tribes there were smaller numbers; but the entire tribe of Issachar threw their full support behind David. They were wise and courageous.

I want to be like the men of Issachar; discerning and wise, understanding the times, and prepared to do the right thing for the sake of Messiah Yeshua, and for the sake of Israel, despite the raging of the nations.

Rabbi Paul advised the believers in Ephesus accordingly,

Be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

In 1 Corinthians 7, the great Apostle to the Gentiles affirmed that the time is short, and we simply cannot afford to put stock in the things of this world, because this world in its present form, along with everything in it, will soon pass away. Peter said that in light of this, we need to conduct ourselves in holiness and godliness. As a community this needs to be the case, and it must be true for us as individuals.

I would like to conclude by shifting from the abstract to the personal. If some of you here, and some of you who are listening to this message online, are still on the fence about following Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, you to stop that, and make your decision. Refusing to make a commitment to follow Him, is refusing Him.

If you are thinking that there’s no hurry about this, that you have ample time later on to think about Heaven and Hell, you are being lied to, and I fear that in your comfortable indifference you are repeating the lie to yourself like an awful mantra.

Let me close with this true story. It was Friday night, January 6, 1996, and people were gathered at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC to see The Makropulos Case – an opera written in the 1920’s which tells the story of the search for a secret elixir that promised to add 300 years to a person’s life. The opening scene takes place in a law office in which there is a rolling ladder in front of a wall of file drawers. Well-known Tenor Richard Versalle, playing the role of an elderly file clerk, standing on the ladder, sang this line: “Too bad you can only live so long…” when suddenly his voice faltered, he suffered a heart attack, fell off the ladder and died onstage.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Richard Versalle had a heart attack and fell off this ladder in 1996 at the Met.

Man knows not his time. It’s one of the truest axioms of all. If we knew the day and time of our appointment with death, imagine how differently we would live out the remainder of those years, days or hours! But we don’t. And since we need to be ready to stand before our Maker, and since we don’t know when that will be, the right and only logical course of action is to be ready at all times – starting now! Whatever bit of unfinished business you have, either with another human being or with God, now is the time to handle it; today is the day of salvation. My fear is that we’ll leave here today, go home and have lunch, forget what we’ve heard, and fall right back into ‘normalcy bias’.

Lord our God, and God of our Fathers, please forgive us for our complacency; for indulging in trivialities, and neglecting our first calling. Help us to be wise sons and daughters; diligent and creative in the way we use the limited time we have, and remind us just where we stand in time. In Yeshua’s name.