It’s About Time

This was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador

To God, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”  (2 Peter 3:8).  While God exists outside of time, we humans do not.  In fact, I have spent a great deal of my life thinking about time, and I bet you have, too.

As a child, and even a teenager, I felt that I had “all the time in the world.”  When I grew up, married, had children and a career, there weren’t “enough hours in the day” to finish all the tasks that needed to be done.  Eventually the children grew up, my parents grew old, jobs changed and “time marched on.”  A few years ago I turned 65, an age at which I am, at least according to government standards, officially old.  Suddenly I realize that “time is short.”

I find myself wondering, “What things do I most want to do or accomplish in the time I have left?  Time has become a limited and precious commodity and I must decide how to “spend” it.

In actuality, the Bible tells me that my time on earth has always been brief —

“Man is like a breath;  his days are like a fleeting shadow”

says the Psalmist (144:4).  This means every one of us, regardless of our age, should have a sense of urgency about time and how to use it.  We must “work the works of Him who sent me while it is day;  night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

Scripture give us a number of clear instructions about how to do this.

  • Be Grateful

We have no control over the length of our lives (Luke 2:25), so every day is a gift.  The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time”(3:11) and “everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil”(3:13).  This means we should take pleasure in daily life and give thanks to God for the small and large blessings of each day.

  • Be Wise

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  In Proverbs, the wise person is described as one who fears the Lord and shuns evil(14:16), is humble(12:15) and wins souls(11:30)

  • Be Ready

We should be ready to witness:  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). We should “be ready to do whatever is good”(Titus 3:1) We should be ready for Christ to come again for “you do not know on what day your Lord will come”(Matthew 24:42)

  • Be Trusting

This is a crucial element in how Christians approach time.  We cannot control time but we know the One who does.  He sent Jesus to save us “at the right time”(Romans 5:6).  Can’t we trust Him with the events of our lives, as well?  As a Christian, I can say along with David, “My times are in your hand.”(Psalm 31:15a).

 

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New Month/New Theme

This month’s theme is one that is often ignored, because we really don’t want to talk about it.  No, it’s not death, but close — stewardship:  or as Beth Anne told me, taking care of God’s stuff.  We don’t like to talk about it because down deep, we can’t bring ourselves to admit it’s God’s stuff.  We fool ourselves into believing it’s ours.  We have money because we got a good job and worked hard.  We’re talented because we recognized an innate ability and developed it.  And time!  Don’t even go there!  Surely any time we can carve out of our busy, productive life is our own.  We’ve earned the right to some relaxation!

The Bible tells us this kind of thinking is dead wrong.  We’re the managers, not the owners, of everything we have, even ourselves.  God made the world, and God made us.  He gives us our daily bread, and so much more.  He expects us to use all these things wisely.

So this month I hope we’ll see lots of posts on our time, talent and treasure.  What are we doing with them?  Are we being good stewards? Are we multiplying them or squandering them?  Are we using them to build up or tear down?  Will we hear the words “good and faithful servant” the day we meet Jesus in eternity?

Of course, at times we may be led to go off topic and post what the Spirit has put on our heart.  We are after all “free in Christ.”  I look forward to this month together.  Readers, don’t hang back.  Use your ideas to encourage us.  We want to hear from you.

Spending Time With God’s Perspective

Good evening! I have had something come up unexpectedly and wont be able to blog post tomorrow…so I grouped the verses together. Our Ecclesiastes 3 study continues tonight with verses 9-13…

What do people really get for their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

How do we stay content in this life with so much negativity, so much violence, so much grief. Do we ignore it? Do we keep it in the back of our minds like it doesn’t exist? Ignoring, or pretending the reality of the world doesn’t exist, or doesn’t affect us, is not a healthy state for us to be in. That is why Solomon shows us here in the first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 that everything exists and operates in a proper balance. We cannot ignore that hate exists. We cannot ignore that war exists. We cannot ignore that killing, death, grief, and sadness exist.

What we can do is change the attitude of our hearts. The only way for us to find true contentment in our lives depends upon our attitude. If we constantly focus on the negative things, or on the contrary, ignore them all together, then we live in a state of disillusionment. It happens when we lose our sense of purpose…the purpose God put us on this Earth to accomplish for His Kingdom. When we keep our eyes focused on the work God has for us, we begin to realize the fruits of our labor are gifts from Him. Everything we do, everything we possess, every single minute of everyday we have is because of Him… the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Ultimately, we can never be satisfied with “earthly pleasures”. Maybe for a short window of time, but after a while the pleasure fades and we are right back to reality. Of all the people I have encountered, I have never heard any of them say that being addicted to earthly pleasures was fun and gave them hope. Maybe for a split second at first, but that “high” soon wears off and doesn’t help us learn how to change our lives for the better. Most of the time it only makes our situation worse.

God wants us to enjoy life, to live it to its fullest, to experience the beauty of His creation… but to do it in a way in which we don’t lose the proper perspective, His perspective. Then, and only then, will we discover that our joy and happiness comes from using the gifts God blesses us with, not in the stuff we accumulate.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of Proverb 31 Ministies

Here on Earth.

What I’ve been given is time. Not life, not really. If I believe in what the bible says (and I do) my life, as it were, is a blink compared to the life that awaits me in a very real kingdom finer than those described in any legend or myth. Still, the time I’ve been given here is such a great gift that I can’t even grasp it. What do I do with it? How am I to spend it and with whom?

I’m still trying to work out the first question for myself and my family, and with a firm assurance I can tell you I am a terrible steward of time. I waste it, and mock it, and complain about it either dragging on too long. or flying by too fast. I often wonder what I could’ve done better in time past. Then I turn around and wonder what I can do to improve my future, and promptly begin scheming. How utterly human of me.

Why not live in the moment? Now is the best time of all. Insight is all we need, a.k.a prayers of wisdom. To remember we aren’t given a spirit of fear is to resolve to use our time wisely. We profit nothing when we fear what the future holds, or fear what some might think of our past. It does no good at all, yet it is done everyday. Certainly time should be thoughtfully and lovingly spent with a large dose of bravery in the mix. Because here on Earth we have little time to decide where we’ll be spending eternity. As to who we should spend time with . . . time will tell.

To Keep Or Not To Keep?

Good evening and welcome to tonight’s blog post. We are continuing with our study in Ecclesiastes 3, taking a look at verse 6…

A time to search and a time to stop searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

If you have read my blog post a few weeks back titled The Gift of Gab, you will know that I have been overwhelmed with the amount of things we have accumulated. With adult children in the house it has been difficult to keep up. (One daughter is expecting a baby in Sept. and the other just moved back home after graduating college) Verse 6 has been something that I have had on my heart for a while, especially the keeping and throwing away part. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of has been a challenge but I have left it up to God to show me what is important and what isn’t.

I have lots of books because I love to read. I have an elaborate craft room because I love to create and do art. I have boxes of my “skinny clothes” in the attic because I have been dropping weight and want to fit into them again. (I have gone down almost two whole sizes already! Yay!) I have a lot of knickknacks, glassware, silver, and china that I have inherited or were given to me as gifts. I mean really, who needs two sets of formal china and silver in this day and age?

I have already cleaned out a considerable amount of books. God said… it’s OK, you can go to the library and get any book you need. So out they went. I have gone through my art room, gathered up the things I don’t use, and took them to church for craft supplies. God said… its OK, you are not using this stuff anyway. So out it went. Even though I have been losing weight, I went through my “skinny clothes” anyway, gathering up what I know I wont wear. God said… its OK because your taste in clothes has changed over the last 6 years and some of those clothes don’t go with your new style. Now going through the knickknacks were easy! So bye bye! God said loud and clear…you don’t like to dust them anyway. Now I am on to the glassware, silver, and china. This I was wrestling with. All of these are valuable, whether monetarily, sentimental, or both. Some of the pieces I have are from our grandmothers and were handed down to us when they passed. Some of the pieces were given to us as wedding gifts, anniversary gifts, or just gifts in general…but they all have meaning, memories attached to each one. Of these things, God has said to me…these are things you keep to remind you of memories of special events, special people, and blessings of both.

What about you? Do you have things that you need to decide…is this a time to keep or is it a time to throw away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of frugalandthriving.com.au

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Time

“Time lost is time when we have not lived a fully human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment and suffering.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906. He was a brilliant student, earning his doctorate at the age of 21. His dissertation was published in 1931 as “Act and Being.”€ Bonhoeffer was one of the first German Protestants to see the dangers of the Nazi rise to power. He founded a secret seminary to train pastors in an illegal anti-Nazi church he had organized. Though frien…

Date of Birth: February 04, 1906
Date of Death: September 04, 1945

Cultivating Time

Hello! Welcome to our blog! Today in our blog post we will be continuing our study of Ecclesiastes 3 with verse 5…

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

I will admit this verse puzzled me at first when I read it in my NLT Bible above. So I looked at what it says in The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson…

A right time to make love and another to abstain. A right time to embrace and another to part.

The Message Bible is not an exact translation, so I went into further study in my amplified Bible and it says…

A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

In pondering different versions of this passage, I couldn’t help but to think of a garden. I love gardening! So much so that I am willing to put my body at risk due to the immense nature of my outdoor allergies. (The patch of eczema on my shin that I can’t get rid of proves it! LOL) This verse makes me think of all the times in the Bible where God’s Word talks about a vineyard. A garden, or a vineyard, are the same in terms of the work it takes to cultivate it. Time to clear away the “stones” in order for the ground to be just right and time to build those “stones” back up again around the perimeter to protect it from invading pests.

As I sit here meditating on these words of King Solomon, I think about the “stones” in my heart that since becoming a Christian I have had to “cast away”… anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, impulsiveness, idolatry… just to name a few. I also reflect on the “stones” I have had to “gather”, to rebuild my heart…love, peace, joy, trust, faith, patience, gentleness, self-control. I thank God every day that He brought me to a place in my heart where I was open to receiving Him and willing to let Him be the captain of my faith journey. After all, He isn’t called the the Lord and Giver of Life for nothing!

So now I think about the second part of this verse… to embrace or not to embrace. It seems there is a time for both of these as well. I remember times in my life when I have had to embrace situations, both good and bad. Along with that, there have been times in my life when certain situations have arisen that I simply could not embrace.

Now I wonder… what do the two parts of this verse have to do with the other?

Relationships!

In any relationship, whether it be with a friend, someone you are dating, your spouse, a family member, a co-worker, or someone you just met… relationships take a lot of work to cultivate. In order to have healthy relationships your heart has to be in the right place, sowing those good seeds we talked about in a previous blog post. Why? Because you can’t grow and produce good fruit in your garden unless you “cast away stones”, just like you won’t have healthy relationships if you have stones in your heart that get in the way.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, how do you cultivate it to make it healthy? By “gathering stones” of a different sort. Stones that build up, not tear down. Stones that protect your heart and protect the hearts of those who you are in relationships with.

Changing ground, or relationships, to be fertile and produce good fruit, takes time. Sometimes a lifetime. God will help you . His Word contains a wealth of ideas of how to do it. Ask yourself , and God, these questions…

Do I have “stones” in my heart that are affecting my relationships? If so, how can I tear them down and build them back up again in order to cultivate good fruit?

How can I replace those “stones” with ones of a different sort, ones that protect my heart and the hearts of those around me?

Are there certain relationships in my life I should embrace and are worth taking the time to fix? Are there ones I need to turn away?

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

photo courtesy of makeroomforgreatness.com