Archives for March 2012

My Not-So-ForceFlex Life

A few years ago, Glad introduced a tear resistant, stretchable strength garbage bag that you can “fill, stretch, and stuff with just about anything.” Well, I just got around to buying a box of my own. And while I suppose they are a bit more durable than regular garbage bags, they have not kept me off my hands and knees, wiping a trail of who-knows-what off my kitchen floor after taking an over-stuffed bag out to the garage. Aside from realizing for the 1,000th time that I am way-too-easily led astray by any half way decent marketing strategy, my ForceFlex experience has taught me two important lessons:

1)      No matter how a bag is designed, it can only hold so much.

2)      Refusal to accept this fact will lead to a broken bag and a nasty mess.

Replace the word “bag” with “life,” and you have yourself two really good reasons to re-evaluate the five gazillion items that you’re trying to stuff into the measly 18 or so hours of wake time you have each day. The fact is, when you consider everything that you aspire to do, that others want you to do, that your family needs you to do, that your church is begging you to do, that your company is paying you to do, that your friends are asking you to do, and that media (magazines, TV shows, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) is tempting you to do, you have to face up to the reality that YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. You flat-out don’t have time. There is no such thing as a ForceFlex life, so you have to pick and choose.

I am not in any way under the impression that I have said anything profound up to this point. All I have to do is look at your tired eyes and plastered-on smile to see that you are painfully aware that your “to-do” list is way too long and your days are way too short. If only you didn’t have to sleep, right?!

If you’re like me, you already know what motivational speakers, leadership gurus, and management books have to say about time management. But I’m afraid we are way too neglectful of what God has to say about it. We want “ten steps to a well-organized life,” and since the Bible doesn’t quite work that way, we set it to the side and buy yet another day planner or time management app that we might use for a whole week before we decide it’s not the right fit.  Not saying I’ve done that or anything  . . .

So, the question before us is: What does God’s Word say about our time? Here we go . . .

Our time is sovereignly ordained by God.

Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes have seen my substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were not one of them.” Job 14:5 says, “Since [man’s] days are determined, the number of His months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.” In Psalm 31:15, David proclaimed, “You are my God. My times are in Your hand.”

In other words, God already knows the exact date that will appear to the right of that dash on the stone that marking your  grave. (Lovely thought, huh?) He has perfect knowledge of the moment you came into existence in your mother’s womb, the day He will call you home, and every day in between. So whether your days are many or few, they are God-ordained. And last time I checked, that strongly implies, and even necessitates they are to be God-honoring. If you regularly attend a church in America, you have no doubt heard countless messages on financial stewardship. But there’s a broader, more foundational stewardship to consider and that is the stewardship of your time. Because it is God-given and God-appointed, we must devote ourselves to ensuring that it is God-glorifying.

Our time is short.

James 4:14 says, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” This echoes the words of Job when he declared, “Remember that my life is but a breath” (7:7). We see this same principle in the Psalms as well: “Lord, make me know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreaths, and my lifetime as nothing in your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath” (39:4, 5). And again in Psalm 144: “Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow” (v. 4).

I’ll never forget the time when my mom drew a long line with arrows at each end across a sheet of paper. She then placed a tiny little dot on the line. Her words went something like this: “The line is eternity. The dot is your life on this earth. It’s so short. Don’t waste it.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. (Also see Ephesians 5:15, 16.)

Our time should be filled with good works.

After making it ever-so-clear that we are saved by grace through faith and NOT by our good works, Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) gives us valuable insight into the significance of works in the life of believers: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). To Titus he also wrote that Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds . . . be careful to engage in good deeds” (2:14, 3:8). James went as far as to say that if we fail to devote our time to good works, it’s pretty solid evidence that our faith is dead. He’s the same one who wrote that “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (2:26, 1:27).

I am well aware that “good works” is a VERY broad category, and I think that’s a good thing. The Bible doesn’t dictate that we do a, b, c, and d specifically. It offers us truths and guidelines concerning things that are near and dear to the heart of God and grants us the freedom to pursue those things in whatever ways the Spirit leads. He doesn’t expect us to be carbon copies of each other, and I love that.

And may we never forget that ultimately, our good works are to be rooted in the command of Christ to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20). If you want your time to matter, you have to spend it being missional. You can feed the hungry all day long, but if you don’t introduce them to the Bread of Life (John 6:35), you’ve missed the point.

Our time is sufficient to do everything God wants us to do.

Uggghhhh. I just don’t have enough time to get it all done!” Hardly a day goes by that these words don’t come out of my mouth. (And just so you know, I’ve perfected the dramatic sigh!) Each day when that alarm sounds, I face the daunting task of being the ideal wife, mother, friend, evangelist, prayer warrior, chef, financial planner, housekeeper, laundry manager, groundskeeper, interior designer, family historian (if I can ever get those pictures off my camera!), taxi service, grocery buyer, dog groomer (which I’m really bad at, poor dog), Bible teacher, blogger (not that one post a week really qualifies me to embrace that title), and mentor. All that, and I don’t even have a “real” job!

At any given moment I am painfully aware of my responsibility to meet my child’s developmental needs, my friends’ relational needs, my church’s ministry needs, my home’s organizational needs, my body’s exercise needs, my family’s nutritional needs, my small group’s spiritual needs, my own personal needs (such as showering and going to the bathroom . . . alone), and – with the buckets and buckets of energy left over at the end of the day (ha-ha!) –  my husband’s “personal” needs, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Hold on while I go take a nap!

Okay, I’m back and still as overwhelmed as ever. But there is hope! In John  17:4 Jesus says to His Father, “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.” What exactly was “the work” that Jesus accomplished?  Oh, not much. Just the entire plan of redemption!!! And as He did, He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, fulfilled the Law, uttered the greatest sermons ever preached, and mentored a small band of men who would carry on His work and literally change the world. All that in three short years!

So, we’re not Jesus. We are 100% human, and have lots of evidence to prove it. Certainly, Christ’s divine nature aided in His ability to accomplish so much in so little time. But I think there’s a much bigger factor in Jesus’ completion of His “to do” list. Look back at John 17:4: “I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.” Jesus didn’t heal everyone,  cast out every demon, raise every dead person , or disciple every promising young man – just the ones the Father gave Him to heal, cast out, raise and disciple. As Mark Buchanan notes in his book Your God is Too Safe, “At the heart of Jesus’ ministry was a Holy must. He must go through Samaria. He must go to Jerusalem. He must suffer. Everything He did or refused to do centered around that.” His must was dictated by the Father’s will.

Do you operate with a holy must? Do I?

Can we just stop for one second and entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe some of the “good” things we stuff into our lives aren’t from God? Like, maybe it’s not God’s will to spend 6-8 hours of my week working out.  Or perhaps I could do without the regular mani/pedi. Is it possible that cleanliness is NOT next to godliness (i.e. it’s okay to actually live in my home)? Could it be that the church’s well-being does not depend on me signing up for every volunteer position under the sun? Or that God desires to raise up more Bible teachers in my church, if only I will step aside once in a awhile? Is there any chance my family would be better off if we stayed home on Wednesday night?(I know, crazy thought, right?) Is it possible that my life would be more productive if I didn’t check Facebook and e-mail every 3.5 seconds? Is there even the remotest chance that I don’t have to achieve every ministry goal I’ve ever had by age 35? Could I be a functioning member of society and a relevant Christian (whatever that means) if I dared to relegate watching American Idol to the bottom of my priority list? Perhaps I can be a thriving Christian even without reading every book on the “Top Seller” list at my local Lifeway store. And can I just face the fact that though the body of Christ has hundreds of solid Bible teachers, conference speakers, and bloggers; my husband has one wife and my son has one mom. I’m replaceable just about everywhere, but not in my home.( Yet all-to-often it’s not the focus of my time.)

All these questions/statements point to areas of my life where God’s has exposed some wasted or poorly managed time. Yours may be a lot different. But all of us need to take the time to regularly lay our “to-do” lists and agendas before the Lord and ask Him to give us eyes to see anything that didn’t come from Him – anything that doesn’t reflect biblical priorities. We need to pray for that “holy must.” Can you imagine what life would be like if we operated off a divinely directed “to do” list? In light of the fact that we have been given “everything pertaining to life and godliness,” that’s no pipe dream, sister (2 peter 1:3)!

 Don’t you just love that God can make a not-so-ForceFlex life into an oh-so-faithful life? I may over-stuff my life, but I never over-step His grace. I can’t think of a better motivation to fill my time with things that thrill His heart and glorify His name!

“. . . so teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Book Club: Twelve Extraordinary Women, Video 6 (Hannah)

Oh to have a heart like Hannah’s!

[wpvideo 63Qksd1U]

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