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.

Shoot Oop

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Jesus Changed the Sick—not Satan’s Minions (Mark 1:21-45).

            “Be quiet!” I can’t tell you how many times in my childhood my Mother would use such a command. You see, I have an addiction to talking. There are few things more enjoyable than running my mouth. But not everyone finds that enjoyable. Now, my Mother would love to tell me, “Shut up!” But she considers that too rude. Instead, she rephrased it to sound a little nicer: “Shoot oop!” As if that makes a difference.

It’s one thing to be silenced by your mother. It’s quite another thing to be quieted by the Son of God!

After gathering a gaggle of goons in Galilee, Jesus went to one of his favorite little towns—Capernaum. And He entered into the synagogue—the place where the Jews who lived too far from the Temple gathered to worship God and hear His Word (since there weren’t the Gideons back then to hand out Bibles to everyone to read on their own). So Jesus went into the synagogue and, as any teacher in that day would do, began teaching the people gathered. Only, He taught a little different from the “scribes” who normally taught. The scribes quoted extensively, relying on the authority of Rabbi So-in-So rather than assume the people would believe their own message. But Jesus was a little different…

God doesn’t need to quote anyone…other than Himself. He needs no footnotes, no references, no bibliography (Jesus must’ve had an easy time writing His English class research paper!). God has all the authority He needs as Creator and Sovereign of the world. So Jesus didn’t quote—He just taught on the basis of His own authority as the Son of God. And all the people were shocked…except one person.

One of the crowd members stood up. This man was obviously a bit strange—he looked bare-boned and crunched over. His eyes would haunt anyone. The kind of guy that would make the hair on your neck stand up. He yelled out,

“Leave us alone!”

“What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

Jesus, looking up from the scrolls, acted calm and in command.

“Be quiet, and come out of him!”

The man looked like a twig that had just been snapped. He started shrieking and convulsing as if electrocuted. The noise and sight were horrifying. Parents hid their children and tried to escape themselves. Then, it stopped. And the man fell to the floor, looking…changed. Like a normal person. He gasped a lung-full of air and cried out, “I’m free!”

Then, it hits you. That guy—obviously demon-possessed—had said that Jesus was the Holy One of God (Read: Messiah). Could that be true? Why did Jesus tell him to be quiet? Better yet, where had the Teacher gone?

One of Mark’s big emphases is on the “Messianic secret”—that people cannot know Jesus is the Messiah until the right time. That’s why He hushed the demon. But why so secretive? Why not cry out that Jesus had come to save the world? I think one of the main reasons is because that would’ve avoided the Cross. If people knew without a doubt that Jesus was Messiah, they would flock to Him and try to convince Him to take down Rome. It would’ve been the easy way out for Him. It was similar to the temptation Jesus faced only a little earlier in the story, when Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world…no Cross, no pain, a Messianic Kingdom right then and there…if He would just bow down and worship the Lord of Lies. Of course, Jesus resisted with Scripture. But Satan and his cohorts are slow-learners. They never change…so what does Satan do? He sends his demon to reveal the secret at that synagogue in Capernaum. But Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He silences him…and conquers him. With only His words.

Demons may never change. But Christ can sure change people. Not only did He change that demon-possessed man, but only a little while later, He heals the mother-in-law of Peter (remember that guy from last week? Told you he was married—it’s hard to have a mother-in-law without a wife!). But Christ is not done. He finishes the day by healing many more people, conquering many more demons—told you they hadn’t learned their lesson!

Then He continues His journey around Galilee…until He is confronted by a most pitiful man. A leper. Only the most disgusting, vile disease ever. Google it and look at the pictures—I hope you didn’t just eat. It’s revolting. Imagine what this man looked like. It’s a wonder He even got out to see Christ—normally they quarantined these barely-humans to the dump heap. And if they encountered someone, they were to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” Talk about embarrassing! But that’s not what this leper says…

“If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

The leper falls before Jesus and confesses that Jesus can do whatever He wants. And if He says the word, He can make that leper clean. What faith!

Jesus smiles at the poor, disgusting vermin—the shell of a man so racked by disease. He has compassion on the ruined sinner and…touched Him.

Gasp! That’s a huge no-no! You can so easily catch leprosy—all it takes is one touch! Besides being ceremonially unclean under the Law! Christ doesn’t care. His touch takes away disease. Just as His voice can take away demons.

“I’m willing. Be cleansed!”

The leper looked at his skin. No more oozing, no more festering sores, no more falling-off limbs. And he looked at Jesus with awe-struck wonder, crying, “I’m free!”

Jesus told him to go to a priest and get ceremonially clean again. Oh, and also not to tell anyone. The Messianic secret there again. But what does the leper do? Tells everyone he sees! So that people come running to Jesus from miles around, and Jesus has to flee to the desert to avoid being thronged.

Change had come to the leper. Where before he had no hope, now he had healing. The demon-possessed man found that same freedom. He couldn’t do it on his own. But Christ can do anything.

Do you believe that? Are you sure? Because, if you’re like me, you don’t live like it. You live like you have to be enslaved to that festering failure. That shackling sin. You tried to break that habit, but can’t. Might as well give up. You tried to stop being so angry, but nothing works. You tried being a better person, but all those motivational speakers lied.

Exactly. Admit it—you can’t change! Neither can I! Hopeless! But it’s in our hopelessness, that we can find…healing.

The demons didn’t change. They kept trying to get Jesus to avoid the Cross, avoid redeeming mankind. They tried to stop His purposes. And failed again and again. Why? Because Jesus is more powerful than they. And He’s more powerful than any sin habit or any failure. So stop trying again and again on your way. And start trusting the Teacher. He has the authority. He needs no bibliography—He just needs to bellow the command and it’ll happen. So let Him have your struggle. Run to Christ when stalked by sin. And find a sure escape in His Words…in His Book.

Only the Change-Maker can silence your sin.

-M@

Fishers of Fear

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Jesus Changed the Fishermen—But Not for Long (Mark 1:1-20; 4:35-41; 6:45-56).

For our first changed characters, we go to a ragtag band of fishermen in a hillbilly town of Galilee. These aren’t your pleasant old-man-by-the-creek type of fishermen. These are the rough, rugged, low-class thugs that somehow make a living out of the depths of the equally-rough Sea of Galilee. They spend late nights—er, all night out on the lake, in rickety boats that go up and down, up and down, up and down…past midnight. 2 AM. 6 AM. And into the day. Catching every tiny guppy they can find. And their boats weren’t the nice fishing boat your Grampa used on the pond. They were basically small curved planks with poles sticking out. More like a surfboard than the Santa Maria.

Mark picks up his epic biography with a man named John the Baptist. An equally-rugged desert dweller. Interestingly enough, some of these fishermen were attracted by John’s simple “repent and be baptized” message and left their trades for a time to be his disciples (according to a different Gospel). Who knows, perhaps they heard John’s messages about the coming Messiah, whose sandals John wasn’t “worthy to loose.” Indeed, they encountered this supposed Messiah at some point, known locally as Yeshua (in the Greek, Jesus). And they liked what he said. But apparently not well enough. For, here in Mark, we find these dudes down by the lakeside, back at their menial day (and night) jobs.

Perhaps it had been a late night for Peter and his bro, Andrew. No fish. Only lake algae and driftwood in their nets. But nevertheless, they cast it out again. Much as they had done day after day. Growing up with their father (likely a fisherman also), from whom they learned the task. Throw the net out. Wait. Pull it back in. Groan in frustration because nothing’s there. Throw it out again. Repeat until you bring in a meager load. Then take it to the market and sell it for enough money to put bread on the table. Now, Peter was married (contrary to popular but heretical tradition), and he had to provide for his young wife (and children?) the same way his father had. Thankfully, he had his brother to help.

“Shalom!” Peter heard a cry coming from the shore not too far away. There stood a man. The man that John thought was the “Lamb of God.” Peter stifled a groan and yelled back, “Shalom! How can I help you?” Then, the Teacher yelled something he couldn’t quite make out. “What’s that?”

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

The change was so sudden that Mark uses the word “immediately” (one of his favorites). They left it all. Left their empty nets. Their measly boat. Their crummy day job. For what? To follow around a wandering Teacher. Didn’t seem like a step up. But there were more fishermen to join the journey. James and John, some of Peter’s fishing buddies, also left at the call of Jesus. Their poor old father was abandoned to scratch his head. Why did his sons just pick up and leave all they had known?

Seems like a very drastic change. But we must remember that Jesus had met them earlier. They knew who He was. Probably had seen some miracles, or at least his amazing baptism. They saw Him as Who He was and wanted to be a part of the action. So they up and left. Left it all. Talk about a change!

One would think they’d be perfect little protégés of Christ from here on out. Haha! That’s funny. Cuz they most certainly weren’t.

A couple chapters later, we find them terrified of a massive storm overtaking the ship. Meanwhile, that great Teacher they were following…He was fast asleep. This had not turned out how they hoped. They expected to avoid the death of the typical fisherman—at sea—in exchange for an amazing life of glory with the Messiah. But now it looks like Fate had caught up to them.

They were supposed to be experts in times like these. Fishermen were the closest thing the lake had to a friend. They should’ve known how to handle this storm—but it was even too great for them. Thus, the faith that had led them to forsake all was now sinking in the sea.

Jesus woke up and, without even a cup of coffee, told the sea to “Hush!” And it obeyed Him like a faithful servant. Those “rough and fearless” fishermen were amazed. He knew how to handle the fisherman’s life better than they did. He rebuked them for their faithlessness.

And did they learn their lesson? Goodness, no! Two chapters later it’s the same thing. Even after a day full of miracles, they lost faith in their Teacher. He told them to go on ahead—He’d catch up to them. What they didn’t realize is that He’d catch up with them…on the sea. Walking like a stroll in the park over the roar of the waves. And, on top of everything, it was raining…er, storming.

When they saw the shadowy figure walking on the wake, they panicked. Had a good ol’ freak-out. Jesus turns to them, and, standing on the waves as they splashed and crashed about, He said,

“Take courage—it’s me! Don’t be afraid.”

Or, as I like to think of it, “Stop freaking out.”

Once again, here were these fishermen in a situation they should’ve known how to handle. But they didn’t. It was too much for them—and at least they knew it. But it was not too much for the Change-maker…

Maybe, like these fishermen, you’ve been saved. You’ve left your past life behind. You’re following Christ. He’s changed you—changed your nature, your destiny, your life’s purpose. But have you let Him change everything? Have you cast all on Him? Or are you still holding on to that fear? Freaking out at every bump in the road—er, lake. Storms come to us all—but Christ can change any storm. He is sovereign. So sovereign, in fact, that He can use the storm…to change you.

It’s time to trust the Change-Maker. If He’s strong enough to handle your salvation, He’s strong enough to handle your little or big afternoon showers.  He’s strong enough to handle the storms of your doubt, your temptation, your tragedy. He’s strong enough to keep changing you…keep making you more a fisher of men than a fisher of fear.

-M@