Time Management

“This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” – Romans 13:11. 

Whether we assign a dollar value to it or not, time is valuable to us. Think about it: How much of your time do you spend stressed about not having enough time to do what you need to do. We all want to get better at time management. There are lots of different ways to help us better manage our time – you can download apps, adjust your sleep time, create lists, etc. 

Some people have the mistaken idea that time management is all about cramming more stuff into an already overloaded schedule. But that is not good time management. Good time management is all about finding the right balance in all the different areas of life. When thinking of how we view time and time management, we should start with Jesus. 

Jesus uniquely maintained a balance between worship, prayer, family, friends, work and rest. Jesus regularly spent time in prayer and in studying the Scriptures. After a long evening of healing that extended after sunset we read that,  Mark 1:35 (ESV) says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” The more Jesus worked, the more He prayed. He recognized the need to spend time communing with God to refresh Himself.  Similarly He was immersed in the Word of God – so much so that when the Devil challenged Him in the wilderness, He answered using three passages from Deuteronomy.

Jesus fulfilled everything He set out to do, but the top priority is found in Luke 4:43.. After a busy day of healing and casting out demons, people pressed Him to stay, But He said, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” Jesus also put a high priority on people. He spent a disproportionate amount of time with those who would carry on His ministry. Even so,  Jesus made time for individuals. In the midst of Jesus’ busy ministry, he did not let the urgent crowd out the important. The Gospel encounters are made up of a string of accounts of individuals whom Jesus paused with. He did not pause with everyone; He spoke only to one Samaritan at the well, only one rich young ruler, only one tax collector, but He found time for these individuals. As Christians, we should be managing our time because it is not ours. Just as we should think of our possessions and money as on loan to us from God, so is our time.

We also need to remember that our time is limited. We have been given a certain amount of time here on earth for our lifetime. When we rightly view all time as belonging to God, then we see how we fill that time in a different light. Remember that no one gets it all done, we only have to do the things God wants us to do—no more and no less.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If your time belongs to God, ask yourself these two questions: (1) What will be the result of this activity in five years? (2) What will be the result of this activity in eternity?

Jump In The Deep End

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” –  Luke 5:4

As Christians we are longing for a deeper and more meaningful Christian life. We sense that the answer is found with God and that the Holy Spirit has placed that passion within every Christian to know God and grow spiritually. But how does the Christian dive deeper into spiritual things?

The Christian faith is not boring, mundane, or safe. It is the greatest adventure any human being can ever experience. It demands all you have and are, and then it demands more. It demands that we be all in. The gospel costs us nothing. We can’t earn it or buy it. The gospel is a free gift because of God’s grace. But while it doesn’t cost anything, it demands everything.  

That’s where we get stuck. We get stuck in a spiritual no man’s land.  Most people struggle with total commitment. Yes, we have good intentions. And yes, for the most part we want to be “all in” at least until the reality of being all in sets in. Then we are not so sure. We have so many moving parts in life that we worry about what to let go and what to hold on to tightly. So there are parts of our lives that we are still trying to control. We’re afraid that if we go all in that we might miss out on what this life has to offer.  It’s not true.  The only thing you’ll miss out on is everything God has to offer.   

No one has ever sacrificed anything for God.  You always get back more than you gave up.  The eternal reward always outweighs the earthy sacrifice.  At the end of the day, our greatest regret will be whatever we didn’t give back to God.

Being “all in” for Jesus is turning to Him again and again, not just in difficult times but in good times too because connecting with Him remains the first priority in our life.  Being all in is trusting His Word and promises more than life itself. It is willing to take risks for our faith—for Him—and step out to represent Him to those around us.   

It may take longer than five years to learn to turn to Jesus consistently from our heart and not just in our head.  It’s a process, similar to a toddler learning to walk. It is one step at a time. And when all those steps are completed you can find yourself all in and in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the idea of being “all in” for Jesus mean to you?  
  2. What can we do this week to begin the process of becoming the you, you want to be in 5 years? 

Asleep At The Wheel

The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!”” – John 11:12. 

Sleep is essential to life, yet most people think that life is too short to sleep all the time. But life is also too short not to sleep a large part of the time. The fact is, we need sleep but in many cases are not getting it. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control declared sleep deprivation a public health problem, with 30 percent of adults getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night. Yet God created you and me to require sleep for a healthy life.

In fact, we need sleep to survive. We all know that going without ample sleep has drastic effects on us physically and emotionally. There are many different reasons you might notice that you aren’t able to doze off to dream land. All of us wake up at times during the night, and the first thing that pops into our heads is a big problem we’re worried about. The best thing you can do is stop yourself from going there and redirect your thoughts to something less stressful. If you get caught up on the worry treadmill, you’ll stay awake much longer.

 Even as Americans trade sleep for other needs, researchers have discovered more than ever about the significance of sleep. Their findings agree with the age-old adage of the psalmist: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:2)  

Beneath a God who never slumbers, sleep is a great gift that points to a God who meets our needs and cares for us. God made sleep as a continual reminder that we should not be anxious but should rest in him.  Psalm 3:5-6 says, “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.  I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.”Then we read in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”  

Commit to improving your sleep as you work through these this week. Realize that God created you as a whole person—spirit, soul and body. Those three areas affect each other. So as you are strengthening your spirit, strengthen your mind and body with better sleep. This will, in turn, strengthen your spirit and help you be the you that you want to be in five years.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How important is sleep to you? What is preventing you from sleeping well? 
  2. What can we do this week to put away our concerns and trust in God? 

Good Evening Lord

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” – James 4:8. 

After a long day of work, most people envision an evening of relaxation and maybe watching some TV. But even though having the rest of the night to do whatever you want sounds amazing, there are ways to make the most of your night and be just a little bit more productive. While chilling and watching TV can be very entertaining, sometimes the best use of your time is to spend it doing something that makes you prepared for tomorrow and five years from now.

Rather than watching TV or working on your computer till midnight, maybe it would benefit you more to get some additional sleep. Or maybe you would be better served planning for the next day, or in Bible study or searching ways to better use your gifts. Maybe the time would be better served going deeper in spiritual, physical or creative activities and studies.  

But here is something to keep in mind: God can show up at any time. God will not limit Himself to your designated time for Bible study and prayer. You could be adding some structure to your evenings, planning the day or week ahead when the presence of God shows up. You could be sleeping when God jolts you awake. You may initially grumble that God does not respect your schedule. But if God shows up there is a reason. If God is trying to get your attention there is a purpose. 

It doesn’t matter when God wants to communicate with us. We need to learn how to recognize God’s still, small whispers to our hearts. We get so enamored with our schedule, we expect God to be enamored with it as well. The truth is we should never be too busy for God. God loves us enough to communicate with us, even if that means shaking us out of our daily routine to get our attention.

In the morning and evening we need to recognize His presence. We need to come close to God, and God will come close to us. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world also needs to recognize that God can and will sovereignly choose how He speaks to us and leads us. We also need to avoid becoming routinized in how we expect to experience God’s presence.

When you draw near to God, He promises to draw near to you ( James 4:8). Not just as something that happens occasionally, but throughout your days, every day, so that all of your life, even the most ordinary parts, becomes extraordinary because it’s infused with His presence. And it is there, in his presence, that you’ll find fullness of joy, no matter what is going on in your life. “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11).

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can the time between evening and morning be so important? 
  2. What can we do this week to recognize the importance of the evening hours?

Good For The Soul

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” – Jeremiah 6:16. 

It is hard to imagine what technology will bring us in 25 years. Even five years will probably bring a whole new level of possibilities. You would think the world would be a perfect place considering the progress we have made in every area of life over the centuries. But while we have made unbelievable strides, we are still far from perfect people living a crime-free, disease-free, utopia. Yes, technology and science have made great strides, but I am not sure technology or science will ever truly understand the human soul. No matter how far MRI and other technologies have come, they can’t find where the soul is in the human body. Since it can’t be found it can’t be studied. There are no prescriptions, surgery or treatments a doctor can prescribe for the soul. But we know that we have one: and we know that the You in Five Years will be a reflection of the condition of your soul/heart, good or bad.

Toxic attitudes, behaviors, and cultural influences are the bad. While it is impossible to avoid avoid contact with such toxins in our culture, we don’t have to be contaminated by them. You can protect your soul and start experiencing the pure life that God wants you to enjoy. Things like identifying the lies that deceive you. Or changing behaviors that harm your walk with God and your witness to others. Focus on the things of God rather than the things that are not of God; things like emotions, consumptions, habits, etc.   If you think unhealthy thoughts, you’ll become an unhealthy person. But if you think healthy thoughts that reflect God’s truth, you’ll become more like Jesus, as God intends you to become. Regularly pray for the ability to view the situations you encounter as God sees them so you can have the right perspective on them. Every day, ask God to show you which thoughts that enter your mind are good and those that are not so good. Focus on the things that are good. Try to rid your heart of envy. Minimize the times you get angry.

Break free of fear. God gives you a spirit of power, love, and peace – not fear. Rather than placing your faith in all the “what-ifs” of life and feeling afraid of what may or may not happen, place your faith in God who is in charge of your future and wants what’s best for you. Pray about the fear in your life and surrender it to God, asking Him to help you trust Him more with it. The closer you become to God, the less you’ll struggle with fear. And finally break free of any negative influences in your life: materialism, media, poor company, etc.

I pray that each of us can make the main thing the main thing, shed ourselves of any toxic attitudes, behaviors, and cultural influences, and begin each day by asking, “How can I magnify you today, Lord, and become the person you want me to be in five years?” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you think about your soul? How are the soul and purpose connected?   
  2. What are some preliminary steps we can take to make our soul/heart healthy? 

Knowing God

“This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 9:23-24. 

Of all the goals for the future, one of most important is knowing God.  It is probably safe to say that all of us, at one time or another, have been so busy trying to “do” Christianity that we neglected the “know” part.  We give our time, our money, and our resources to God’s work while forgetting the most critical connection with Christ. 

No one ever disagrees that knowing God is central to the life of a Christian. We can know about God, but that is quite different from knowing God. What does it mean to know God? The idea of knowing God can seem abstract. It can seem like a pie-in-the-sky concept that most people can never attain. But you can know God.  If you don’t know God as well as you like, five years is a sufficient amount of time to get better acquainted with our Savior and Lord. 

Knowing God is not about joining a religion, following a set of rules, or even about being a “good person”.  Knowing Him is about having your own personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, discovering just how much He truly loves you, and embarking on the journey of loving Him in return. Too often we see truly knowing God as a chasm seldom crossed. We assume that “encountering or really knowing God” only happens in extreme miraculous or emotional experiences. There is nothing wrong with wanting and seeking those experiences, but we should not overlook the moment-by-moment encounters we have with God’s Spirit every day. Knowing God is more than an acquisition of knowledge or information. Nor is it just a fact finding mission. 

Knowing God means encountering Him. Knowing God means communing with Him. It is getting to know Him as a loving Father. Knowing God means there is a relationship. Knowing God is the byproduct of regular, consistent time spent with Him, in His word and in prayer. Knowing Him is when we are no longer content with learning about Him but want to really know Him. 

My prayer over the next five years is that each of us make knowing God a priority in our lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to “know” God?   
  2. What can we do in the short-term to better know God?  

Here And There

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.…Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” –  Matthew 26:36,40.

Matthew 26: 36-46 paints a picture of the difference between Jesus and the rest of us. Jesus is with His disciples.  Several times Jesus asks them to be in prayer for what was about to happen, but each time they fell asleep. Jesus wasn’t preparing to die a horrible death for each one of us. Then as now, Jesus is over there and the disciples and each one of us is over here.  

The you in five years should bridge some of the gap between here and there; between where we are now and being more Christlike. And that is hard to do if we can not keep watch with Him because we are asleep. Being asleep is when you are going through the motions. Being asleep is when we get alive spiritually only when it is convenient or it fits our schedule or when we are at the end of our rope. Being asleep is staying the same, so our life stays the same.

The Bible talks about life transformation and we have seen evidence of real life change in people. And that is what we want: to be transformed in 2019 and beyond. But real spiritual change will not happen if we are here and Jesus is over there.

We should never be comfortable with any distance between us and God. We are saying, essentially, “I’m close enough. I don’t need to go any further. I’m good right over here. I don’t need more of You at this particular moment. Maybe in the future, but not this moment. Thank you for saving me but I’m good with You over there.”

Don’t settle for God being over there. Ask Him to get close and then closer. Ask Him for more of Him and then more after that. We should make a beeline over there. And if that hunger has waned, we need to rekindle that hunger. We need to revive or increase that spirit that is thankful, and grateful, and awestruck, and in love, and can’t for the life of us get enough of Him.

Will you be the Christian who is comfortable with being close to over there knowing that He is within reach? But definitely an arms length away just in case we need Him for something; the person who wants the relationship with God on our terms. Or will you be the Jesus follower who is passionately pursuing Christ and moving constantly because you can never ever be close enough to Him. We will see God do what only He can do over the next five years if we have the courage to step out and go there. God is there and He is waiting for us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How close or how far are you away from being there with God?
  2. What is keeping you from getting there? What can you do this week to start overcoming those obstacles?  

Risk-Free Guarantee

“So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:4.

Many marketing campaigns include “risk-free trial for 30 days” or a “guaranteed warranty” for some amount of time. This is a guarantee without a long-term commitment. It makes sense because we live in a world where nothing is guaranteed long-term. There are caveats, rules, conditions and strings attached. There are usually limits. 

As Christians we have a guarantee, a promise that is never to return void, fail, decay, or even have a limited time offer. It is the risk-free guarantee of salvation and it is good for all eternity. Not only is it free, but it is the best investment you’ll ever make. But once you have that risk-free guarantee, we still need to make some investments in God daily. Who you will be in five years will be largely determined by the investments you make in your life over these five years. 

We live in a scary yet exciting time in history where investing in the Lord has significant returns. Returns that produce, not material gains, but eternal gains. Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” So it’s not just preparation for this life, but also our eternal life in heaven.

Think of it as your eternal life insurance. Your life is literally insured in the guarantee of Jesus Christ—today tomorrow and forever. So what investments can we make over the next five years? 

What in the next five years are you willing to give or surrender to God? Contrary to what most people think it doesn’t have to be something hard or painful. It could simply be thanking God. Giving thanks to God is mentioned over and over again in the Bible. So God expects and requires us to be thankful. We should thank Him everyday. Another investment we can make is trusting God to the point we let trusting God rule our hearts and mind completely. We can trade our problems for a purpose; trade our grief for joy; trade our weakness for strength; and trade our hopelessness for hope.

Even the best of us will make small, limited and even seemingly bad investments at times over the next five years. The good news is the size of our investments have no bearing on the excellent return we receive from Christ. We have a risk free guarantee for eternity from a loving God that is always working on our behalf.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it hard to make spiritual investments? Why?
  2. What will your life look like in 5 years if you start making spiritual investments today? 

Small Changes

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” – Like 16:10. 

If you don’t think that small things can and do make a difference, consider that one of the most powerful forces is the splitting of the smallest thing. In the splitting of the atom, a succession of explosions can be set off to cause the biggest explosion the world has ever known.

You see this a lot: people who have great intentions of changing their life are super-enthusiastic for a while, and then that enthusiasm wanes. Take New Year’s resolutions for example: Most people think big and want to make significant changes in their lives. That may be part of the reason so many people do not keep their New Year’s resolutions.  If you want long-term change in your life, you have to start slowly, knowing the initial spurt of energy won’t last. Instead, aim at changing in smaller increments. Once you take a few smaller steps it will be easier to carry on when the initial enthusiasm is gone. This habit will stabilize your walk, and provide the inspiration to stay with it.

Think of it this way. It is assumed that being a Christian will translate automatically into becoming a Christian. It is also logical to think that a five-year-old Christian will have five years’ worth of spiritual maturity, a ten-year-old Christian will have ten years’ worth of spiritual maturity, and so on. The assumption is that faith cannot help but grow with time, and it is time alone that is required. But the key is to start small and try to make them habits and turn those habits into growth. 

Starting small does not mean it will stay small. Jesus never pastored a large church. He told simple stories about a flower, a bird, a lost coin, and a boy who ran way from home. His Father and our Father takes note of a bird that falls. Hence, if we would be Christlike, we too must be willing to do the small things.

So here’s my suggestion to you. Take that area of growth in your life and break it down into very small pieces. If you don’t listen well to your wife, don’t just pray, God, help me to be a better listener. Instead pray, God, when I ask my wife how her day went this afternoon, help me to listen through her entire response without thinking about what I want to say when she finishes. It is those moments that sanctification takes place. So think small. Very small. And watch as God transforms you into the image of Christ one degree at a time.

So, if you are going to start with the small things, I encourage you to be consistent in order to reap the full benefits out of these small things.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it so easy to neglect the small things in life? Can you make up for lost time in these areas?
  2. Pray about and identify the one area that you can begin doing consistently by making daily deposits of time.

Building Momentum

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” – 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Momentum is an amazing thing, built over time by the constant movement of activities, events and initiatives to create something extraordinary. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, sustaining momentum can be a powerful force for growing a vibrant, healthy spiritual life. 

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” (Isaiah 43:19 MSG) Buried right in the middle of Isaiah 43 God gives His people the promise of momentum.  

Momentum is the impetus we need to ignite our life, work, ministry, and our relationship with God. But as valuable as momentum can be, the lack of momentum, or being passive leads to problems.  Being passive is when we are “stuck” in the same place for a very long time. We wish things would change, but we are reluctant to do what is necessary to effect that change. The law of inertia teaches us that once an object has stopped moving, it won’t start moving until force is applied. We may need to take drastic action in order to move on in our spiritual life. I have often heard people say, “I am waiting for God to do His work in my life.” That’s fine, but we also need to consider whether God is waiting on us to do something.

To build momentum, step out in faith. God has already been where He is asking you to go and prepared every step of the way for you. You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown. It is unknown only to you. God is well aware of where you are and of every step He is asking you to take. He may be asking you to get rid of old memories, eliminate destructive habits, or mend broken relationships. He is waiting for you to take one step. Remember the story of Elisha and the huge step he took by killing his oxen. This was basically Elisha stepping out and saying, “there is no back up plan here.” By choosing this path, Elisha was forfeiting his very good and secure life for a lot of unknown variables, but it created a momentum that lasted the rest of his ministry.

The safe life is not that safe. Living a safe life will prevent you from experiencing all that God has planned for you.  I believe that we will never get to where we want to be without boldly stepping out in faith and creating momentum by doing the things that God calls us to.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where is God working? How can you build on His momentum?   
  2. What one thing is keeping you from stepping out in faith? Are you willing to surrender that one thing to God right now?