The Perfect Time-Manager

What do you spend most of your time doing? If you were to take a blank schedule, every hour and every day of the week marked out, and filled it in with what you did this past week, what would stand out?

  • Work, probably – 40+ hours
  • Sleep, even more so – maybe 35+ hours (hopefully!)
  • Time with spouse and family, hopefully
  • Time with friends
  • Probably a lot of “down time” on your particular hobbies.
  • Exercise and eating (don’t try to do both simultaneously!)

Odds are, if you were to write down everything, you would be surprised – “Wow, I really spend a lot of time with my best friend Netflix!” “Eek, I really am very selfish with my time.” “Boy howdy, most of my life is just sleep and work!”

It’s easy to feel guilty about how we use our time – after all, we are a scheduled, time-saving sort of society. We measure life in hour increments and there’s a big push for good time-management, whether Christian or secular.

It’s so easy to get legalistic or too rigid about the whole thing. I know I do – I sequester devos and prayer and time with my wife and even discipleship relationships to a designated space on the schedule, not realizing that true relationships can never be put into a box on the calendar.

What are we to do? We are all pretty bad at time-management. And we know it, at least if we stop and think about it. I think one thing we must do when feeling guilty or overwhelmed with managing time is to look to Jesus. Come to think of it, that’s a good strategy for any life problem!

Getting on Jesus’ Schedule

Mark 1:21-39 presents a typical day for Jesus, especially early on in His ministry. Glancing through it, you get a glimpse of how Jesus spent His time:

  • He taught people (vs. 21) – certain ones of us have this responsibility also.
  • He cast out demons (vs. 25) – er, can’t schedule this into my calendar.
  • Spent time with disciples (vs. 29) – and note, he hand-selected just twelve out of a group of many. We don’t have time to spend with every single person!
  • Did personal healings (vs. 30) – took His time to heal Peter’s mother-in-law.
  • Ate and rested at a house while the healed woman served them (vs. 31).
  • Healed many, many, many – busy, busy, busy! (vs. 32-34). The whole city came out to Him!
  • Rose early in the morning (apparently He slept, vs. 35) – sleeping is a good, godly thing that even the SON OF GOD did!
  • Prayed (vs. 35) – again, the Son of God made time for this early in the morning after an exhausting day!
  • Prioritized – left Capernaum even though there were more people to do good for there (vs. 38). In other words, He did not do all the good, all the healings, all the demon-destroying He could have done in one place.

What do we learn from all this for our time management?

  • We can’t do everything – even Jesus selected just twelve and healed many but not all.
  • Time with God is CRUCIAL.
  • Don’t feel bad about eating, resting, and sleeping – if you don’t, you won’t have any ability to do good for others.
  • But DO GOOD for all those God places in your path – and this will mean you WILL be busy! Just make sure it’s busy with doing good for others, not for yourself.

Guilt Calendars vs. Grace Calendars

But if we’re careful, now we feel under more compulsion to get busy, busy, busy and then watch ourselves fall short, waste time, not be able to do all we should, and then feel guilty about it.

Here’s the good news – nobody ever gets all their to-do list done except God (as Tim Challies wrote in his helpful book, Do More Better). And what’s more, you are a sinner. And will be until the new kingdom! Which means you will never have a day of perfect time-management. You will always fail.

How encouraging…

But guess what? There is One who was the perfect time-manager. Christ never wasted time. He did the exact amount of good deeds as was required in the Law and by His Father. He did not neglect a single thing He should have done. He did not waste a single moment.

He kept the Law perfectly – what you could never do! And then He died for all our sins, including all our sinful time-wasting or good-neglecting in our schedules! He paid for your sinful calendar, today and all days!

And what’s more, for those who accept Him, He promises to transform them and give them His Spirit to motivate them to be better at managing time for His glory. He is remaking us into good time-managers, day after day.

That’s good news for guilt-ridden goobers like you and me who feel guilty every day for what we did or didn’t do.

Christ lived a perfect life with a perfect schedule. He died for our imperfect schedules. And He is remaking us into people with God-glorifying schedules.

Rest in that, believer.

Jesus Is Home

Have you ever been going about your life, happy as a clam (not sure why a clam would be happy though – ugly things)…and then bam! sad emotions slap you on the face. Why? Because you saw something that reminded you of something from the past – something happy. A bygone day when things were simpler – a memory of childhood. An old home or a smell that reminds you of an old home. Weather that reminds you of a great memory with a great person…who is no longer around.

Happy memories that make you sad – Why would this be? We are such contradictions in our emotions. We think about something happy and become sad.

Because life is not as it has been. Life has changed. Everything has changed. People moved away. People passed away. New people have come, yes, but those old friends, family members…they’re irreplaceable.

What happened to those days?

  • Your child used to be this tiny and now they’re grown and in high school, college, the adult world, moved away perhaps, far from you physically – or spiritually.
  • Your old job – you used to love it so much. But it’s gone now – you moved away or the job was taken from you or it’s the same job but with new coworkers and it’s just not the same.
  • Or that old house you used to live in – now you’re in a new place and it’s not quite the same. It’s not quite home anymore. You’re in a different state, different neighborhood, different everything.

Like the new paint and new carpet in a remodeled room, your memories of past events seem to have been covered over with something new and foreign and you just don’t feel like it’s home anymore. Your life is so different. Life has moved on and dragged you along with it. Your life doesn’t feel like yours anymore.

Moved and Shaking

I’ve been feeling this lately as well. I may not be old enough quite yet to experience it to the degree perhaps you have, but I find myself sometimes reflecting on those “good old days.”

Growing up, we moved pretty dramatically a number of times – from Texas -> Virginia -> Colorado -> South Carolina. And I always found that hard. But sometimes what’s even harder is going back to those places to see that things have changed, that life has moved right along without you there.

  • Your old house has changed – the “update” that somehow made it look worse because it’s nothing like yours anymore.
  • Your old friends are gone – grown up, given up.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend who grew up with me told me they were going back to Colorado for the Black Friday Christmas Parade in Estes Park – suddenly, memories flooded back in my mind of that annual tradition my family had. Weren’t those much simpler days? Wasn’t it so much better? It’s been seven years, but I still find myself longing for Colorado (especially when I saw pictures of Estes Park with snow this past week – thanks FB!). I conveniently forget all the hard times back then…

The Past Is Greener

This is the grass-is-greener misconception – except it’s the past is greener. And we can’t go back to the past, unfortunately. Time is linear and it has moved right along. Stupid time! Always messing things up!

If we’re not careful, this feeling can lead to bitterness, discontentment, and fear.

  • Will the future change dramatically like the past has?
  • Will something horrible happen to my family, to my house, to my job?
  • Will I have to move?
  • Will my friends or kids move far away from me?
  • Will my health decline?

Looking back on all the change in the past makes us fearful of change in the future – and makes us grip what we have right now so tightly, white-knuckle, terrified that it will slip through our grasp. We fear the insecurity of not knowing what the future holds – how changeful life is. We fear being pulled out of our comfort zone, of not having a place to belong, a place to call home, but instead having a place that is all changed, remodeled, sterile, new, uncomfortable.

Well, what do we do with such feelings? What do we do with such a powerful fear that changes the way we live?

We must look to the One we’ve been looking to – Jesus. And find something new and oh-so-comforting about Him.

Jesus Is Our Home.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalm 90:1

What a beautiful name for our God! Our “dwelling place” – our house, our place of residence, our home! Psalm 90 is an awesome Psalm for people like me, fearful of change in the future and distraught over change in the past.

It’s written by Moses, a guy who saw so much change in his lifetime – a new covenant, a new status – no longer slaves! – and a whole new generation, with everyone dying off all around Moses. No wonder in this Psalm Moses bemoans how frail and non permanent life is – he describes it like a “dream” or withering grass. In this fall season, think of life like those leaves. They look really pretty – like the past often does – but they are dead and decaying. Life moves on. It’s swept away, it’s toil and trouble no matter how long it lasts, and it ends with a “sigh.”

Thanks, Moses – you really cheer us up!

But he starts with such deep truth that it makes even that depressing reality less dark. He starts with – God is our home! And He is an eternal home, for He has been around since before this depressing world and stands far beyond all time as sovereign over our lives (vs. 2-4).

An eternal home, unchanging God. Life is frail – God is forever.

That’s the truth we need when feeling nostalgically depressed. Life may have been better back then. But life is great right now – because “in all generations,” come Tabernacle or Temple or Spirit within us, God is our home.

In Jesus we find a place to belong.

Rest in that believer!

The Great Giver

We all like people who give. We don’t like to be people who give.

Giving hurts. Giving requires taking something that is yours and making it not-yours. And we’re all control-freaks. We like the possessive pronouns – well, at least the first-person kind. We like to own.

So the Bible’s radical calls to give things up rubs us the wrong way.

Proverbs and Ownership

The book of Proverbs talks A LOT about riches. And not money – it talks about all our material possessions and what we should do with them. One intriguing series of Proverbs involves GIVING.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered.
The people curse him who holds back grain,
    but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.

-Proverbs 11:24-26

Give freely – that’s the call consistently in Proverbs. It does say riches will come to those who pursue wisdom. It also says that riches come to those who are diligent. It also says that God is the one who can make rich. But what’s the point of gaining riches? Are we just using God and the way his world works to get ourselves benefit? That’s the error of the prosperity gospel and how they use Proverbs. “Honor God and He’ll make your barns burst out with STUFF!!” (Prov. 3:9-10). But they forget the other portions of Proverbs that tell us what to do with our stuff.

  • Give freely -> grow all richer.
  • Withhold -> have needs.
  • Water -> you’ll be watered.
  • Hold back grain -> people don’t like you.
  • Sell it all -> blessing!

As if that’s not convicting enough, we hear…

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.

Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

-Proverbs 3:27-28

Literally, give people the good that they already own (see Ortlund’s commentary on Proverbs for more on this). This verse flips our obsession with owning on its head. Instead of owning anything, we realize that God has given us everything and if there is something good we can give to someone, then we cease to own that object. Thus, it’s like stealing to keep it back!

This is radical generosity. Who can measure up to this? Who can share this much of their life – and not just money, but their home, their time, their car, their tools, their skills to everyone whom they meet that needs it.

The Bible presents our stuff like this – it exists in our possession so that we can let someone else possess it. It’s open-handed ownership.

Crazy!

Christ the Giver

Well, the good news is – you can’t obey all these principles of sharing in Proverbs or anywhere else in Scripture. You can try and you will fail.

But someone already has. Someone has been the most generous, the most giving, the most sharing. His name is Christ.

He came to this earth and constantly gave. He gave His time so much that He turned His much-needed vacation into a feeding fest for five thousand. He gave His energy to the point that He had little time to eat. He didn’t even have a place to live – no place to lay His head. And He started out this way – in a manger!

I love this aspect of our Jesus:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

-2 Corinthians 8:9

He was rich in everything – owner of all. Yet for us He became poor so that He might make us rich. He shared with us His abundant grace and made us rich!

So we can’t be this sharing. But Christ was. And now He is remaking our hearts in salvation and now sanctification so that more and more we find ourselves becoming less about “mine” and more about “yours.” Less about, “Look what I own” and more about “Look what I can share!”

Jesus is the best Giver of all.

Emotion-Controller

Stop crying. Stop being angry. Stop being jealous. Stop being depressed. Just stop it!

Easier said than done. It is very, VERY hard to control our emotions as human beings. In fact, I daresay it’s impossible…for us to do. Certainly, there are biological factors involved. But beyond that, the Fall has crushed, bent, broken, and twisted many things so that we are a mess of convoluted emotions and desires that we can never untie.

So how do we “defeat” our emotions? There are certainly emotions that we should not express in certain scenarios, as the Bible commands – to not be “angry,” to not be “bitter,” to not be unkind, just to name a few from the “put offs” in Ephesians 4. It tells us to “put off” actions – sure, no problem. I can work on controlling the words I say and not stealing and certainly not murdering, etc. But change my emotions? Change my anger? Change my bitterness and envy? Er, that’s gonna be a problem, Paul.

Are emotions okay? Is it okay to feel emotions, to get emotional, to express them even to God?

Well, one quick glance at the book of Psalms screams YES! But beyond that, a look at the life of Christ reveals that God not only took on our human body but also our human emotions.

Emotional Jesus

Here’s a few examples from my study of John:

  1. In John 10:1-18, Jesus describes Himself as a “good” Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Indeed, He contrasts Himself with hired help who do not care for the sheep. In contrast, Jesus cares for us His people – not just a tolerating us, putting up with us, thinks we’re halfway decent. No, He CARES – that’s an emotional word!
  2. In John 11, Jesus’ emotions come to the forefront. Obviously, He weeps (vs. 35). Short verse but incredible – the God of the Universe WEEPS! Sheds tears. Not because there was dust in His eye – He WEEPS out of sorrow over the death of Lazarus and what it caused His friends and people. My friend of another religion would be appalled at this – how could the transcendent God become a man who WEEPS? He would see it as an insult to God – I would see it as His glory!
  3. Another emotion in this chapter is ANGER. We don’t think of that, but two different times, John writes that Jesus was “deeply moved” (vs. 33, 38), once upon seeing Mary come to Him with mourners and then again at the tomb. This word is not a light one – it is a deep emotion. Indeed, as the ESV footnote puts it, “was indignant.” In other words, Jesus was mad! Mad at the people for crying?? How insensitive! No, I do not think it was that at all. It says in verse 33 He was also “greatly troubled.” Certainly, Jesus does not love it when we do not believe. But I think Jesus was also just angry at the fact that DEATH, that nasty old cockroach, was wreaking havoc on His friends. That’s why, after getting angry again, He tells them to take away that stone over the tomb so He can resurrect Lazarus!

That’s just three emotions. I could go on and study it further (I think I shall as I continue to read John).

So Jesus was emotional. And yet we know He did not sin (2 Cor. 5:21). So obviously, it’s possible to be emotional and not sin. It IS possible for someone to control emotions – but only in the power of Jesus!

In fact, Jesus promises to renew His people’s emotions and give them “new hearts” in the New Covenant (See Jeremiah 31). The work of sanctification is a work of changing desires, changing emotions. It’s a complete change of who we are, from our actions to emotions to our very being, our hearts!

So are you feeling emotional? Are you struggling to control them? Look to Jesus, who perfectly took on our emotions and yet never sinned. Look to the One who cares for you with deep emotion and hates sin and death. Look to Him for help in controlling your emotions – He’s the only One who can!

The Best Sort of King

I did not expect to find the next major emphasis about Jesus in the Psalms. I had been going through John to figure out who He was – but lo and behold, there was a Psalm all about Him!

Well, actually, it’s a Psalm about the King of Israel, written by Solomon, describing what the king should do and asking God to help him be all he should be.

But as I’ve looked at Solomon’s life in 1 Kings, I’m struck by how horrible a king he actually turned out to be. Sure, he had some good spots – building the Temple, of course. He was very wise. But he had some very bad spots – still worshiping at high places from the beginning, amassing horses and women as Deuteronomy prohibits. The words of this Psalm, though many may have applied to him at some point, certainly do not accurately describe his entire reign.

How disappointing – a king that sounded so promising, turned out to be quite the failure. Much like his father, David who had his own failings after a great start. And much like every other king of Israel.

Yes, much like most kings – big promises made, big promise in their character, big failings soon to follow. Such are all politicians – a fact highlighted as we entire a new presidential election season – er, or I should call it stinkfest. Hurling accusations and vitriol while promising greatness, our politicians will never cease to disappoint us upon taking office, no matter who they are or where they stand.

Oh where could we find a better ruler? Where can we find a leader who actually loves his people and leads well without compromising morals or mission? Where can we find a better king?

Well, I know a guy…

Better Than Solomon

Looking at Psalm 72, let’s see how Jesus compares…

  1. Judging people with righteousness and justice (vs. 2) – Jesus is God, thus wholly just (and holy just!).
  2. Helping the poor (vs. 4) – He did this throughout His ministry, day after day of healing! And He does it today, helping us poor wretched sinners.
  3. Rains on his people as on cut grass (vs. 6) – a beautiful image! Yes, Jesus does this for us every day!
  4. His enemies licking the dust and all nations giving Him homage (9, 11) – one day, Maranatha!
  5. Rescuing the poor, the afflicted, the needy (so many words describing us!) because He sees their lives as precious (12-14).
  6. True flourishing, abundance, and blessing in Him (15-17) – only Jesus has this!

God “alone does wonders” (vs. 18). Men like Solomon may seem to do great things and politicians today promise many “wonders,” but they all end up like the “wonderful” Wizard – a small man behind a curtain. Only Jesus lives up to the name “wonderful.”

He is full of glory. He is the best King ever.

So serve Him! As Psalm 2 says, “kiss” Him – pay homage to the King of kings!

All other kings and politicians disappoint – but Jesus will never!

Most Gracious Truth-Teller

We are going to encounter more and more difficult conversations as Christians these days with those who do not know Jesus.

What do you say when your coworker says they’re transitioning genders? When your cousin says they are gay? Or when a colleague passionately insists that Jesus is pro-gay? When a friend doubting the faith points out the historical and present inconsistencies in the way Christians live – alleged racism, sexism, and abuse? When the man in the seat next to you on the flight gives you several scientific proofs that destroy the Bible?

Hard conversations about Jesus and His truth are coming – are we ready for them? Or will we be blindsided?

FULL

I think a key to know how to answer hard questions about Jesus is to look at how Jesus Himself answered hard questions about Himself.

One of my favorite verses about Jesus is John 1:14:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

That’s exactly what we need for these hard conversations – the perfect amount of grace and truth. And the “perfect amount” is not a balance between the two, but an overwhelming supply of both at the same time!

These aren’t contradictory – one should naturally lead to the other. Truth tells us about a God of wrath who poured it out on His Son rather than on us – a gracious God! Therefore, we show grace. If we show grace, our grace has to be based on truth about the world, otherwise it’s just nonsense.

But how do we know how to do these both in conversation?

An Example

Thankfully, John doesn’t just make this statement and leave it there – he gives us many examples in his Gospel, as well as many more in the other three.

But my “favorite” one has to be John 4 – Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well.

GRACE: “Give me a drink.” A simple request. But one that in itself is full of grace because Jews, especially men, were not supposed to talk to Samaritans, especially women!

WOMAN: “What-what!?”

TRUTH/GRACE: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The truth is that He is the ultimate source of water – the grace is that He offers it to her if she just asks.

WOMAN: “Huh??”

GRACE: “I have water that will never make you thirsty again!”

WOMAN: “Give me!”

HARD TRUTH: “Call your husband…”

WOMAN: “Er…”

HARD TRUTH: “Oh that’s right, you’ve had five and the one you’re with now isn’t even your husband.” Ouch!!

WOMAN: Change the subject! “You Jews worship in Jerusalem, but we Samaritans on Mount Gerizim!” This is a hard subject-change. She is trying to get the subject off of herself. This was a touchy issue between Samaritans and Jews to this day. It had both political, ethnic, and religious connotations. It would be similar to how an unsaved person might try to outflank you in conversation by throwing out scientific “disproofs” of the Bible or mentioning a horrid politician that Christians support or talking about how Christians supported slavery.

But notice what Jesus does here…He doesn’t ignore the question. He could’ve said, “That’s a moot point here – back to talking about your personal life!” No, He answers her question firmly and truthfully…

TRUTH: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

And yet then “spins” it back to talking about grace –

GRACE: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” In other words, this issue doesn’t matter terribly because God just wants our inside worship!

WOMAN: “When the Messiah comes…”

TRUTH: “I am he.”

What a beautiful conversation! What a combo of truth and grace without sacrificing one or the other. Study this conversation, as well as His with Nicodemus in 3, the crowds in 6, and his debates with the religious rulers in the Synoptics for more counsel from our Christ about difficult conversations.

Jesus is so gracious. Jesus is the Truth. Let us share His truth with His grace this week in every conversation!

The Most Interesting Person

What is the most interesting thing you saw this week? What caught your attention? What took your breath away? What captivated your mind and you just couldn’t get over it?

The Netflix show you’ve been binging? The start of college football and that first game? That riveting book you can’t put down?

Maybe you’re more introspective than that and you’d say – the sunset, this biography, this in-depth article.

But I bet (if you’re like me) you did not think of this – Jesus.

Bored with God

You “see” Jesus every week. You interact with the Gospel every day. It’s old news. It’s nothing new.

We’d never say that…but when pressed, our fleshly minds would admit to thinking that way, even if subconsciously. We know we’re thinking like that when we’re so excited to get home to watch another episode but so unmotivated to open the Word. When we’re latched-onto the screen at the game but doodling through the sermon.

We’ve lost our sense of what is truly interesting. We’ve been so over-interested, over-excited, over-indulged in spectacle that we can’t see the greatest spectacle of all.

That was Tony Reinke’s point in his new book, Competing Spectacles. In our digital age full of screens and sensuality, we’ve lost our interest for what is truly interesting. He submits that the greatest spectacle of all time is the story of redemption.

Jesus is the most interesting person of all time. Yes, He is the wisest, but He is also the most riveting, most enlightening, most jaw-dropping. Any serious study of His life (without half-reading it over yawns and cereal) would have to admit that, just simply in the things He does and says.

But even more than His life, His death and resurrection provide the most interesting event in history. And our calendars prove it, even if our interest levels don’t. The biggest days of the year are Christmas and Easter still (okay, well, maybe Black Friday and the First Day of School nowadays).

God Made Man

When was the last time you marveled at the fact that God became a man? I admit, it had been a while for me. But when I was challenged at how ridiculous that sounded – God to have to go to sleep, get hungry and thirsty, yawn, eat, and feel sick and weak – I realized the wonder of it. God became a man! That sentence, if any, deserves an exclamation mark, even if you’ve read it a million times.

Jesus is God. Jesus is man. Jesus died for you.

If you skipped over those three sentences because you know them already, reread them. Embrace them. Drink them deeply. And say it aloud. How ridiculous you sound – God becoming a man! How glorious for you and me you sound – God became a man for us!

Jesus is more interesting, more compelling, more exciting than any Netflix show, football game, book, sunset, YouTube video, webcomic, board game, etc., etc.

He is the most interesting of all.

Do you believe that? Do you live like it?