Stewarding My Time

“Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90: 11-12, 14

Yesterday, at 5:45 pm, I finished finals. Thank goodness. Congratulations to me. Really. It’s been one heck of a week.

To celebrate, I watched a solid 4 hours of Netflix when I came home. And then, simply because I could, I woke up and watched another 4 hours. We all need our lazy days, we do. Rest is a good thing. But the thing is, this morning, I chose to watch Netflix rather than get up and watch Jane the Virgin than spend time with the Lord.

I know. Rest really is important. I know that everyone has these kinds of days, but the truth is that in my avid Netflix binging, I am not resting. I am simply spending my life on a TV show that I most likely will not remember in any detail by next year. I am, in fact, distracting myself from truly finding rest in God. I am failing to seek restoration and wholeness in the one place I might find it.

At the end of the day, I am broken and in great need of God. I am a hypocrite who cannot seem to practice what I preach. I am a weak, arrogant fool, who seems to think I am entitled to a great life, a flawless family, and transcendent happiness.

This arrogance is what keeps me from seeking God. Somewhere in my heart, I have decided that I don’t need God after all. I have decided that I am enough, and that everything I have, everything I am, belongs to me. So why seek God? According to my prideful logic, I don’t need Him.

And this is what leads me to watch Netflix for hours on end. Sad, I know.

But what will I say to God when I stand before him on judgment day? “Sorry, God, I was just tired, and honestly, Grey’s Anatomy was such a great show”? Hopefully not. More likely than not, I’ll be weeping and mourning the manner in which I’ve absolutely and totally wasted my life on television dramas and dog memes.

In the Parable of the Talents, recounted in Mark 25, a master gives talents (money) to three of his servants before leaving on a trip. To one servant, he gives five talents; to another, he gives two; and to the last, he gives one. During the master’s trip, the servants use the money in various ways. The servants who received two and five talents trade with them and double the amounts they were given. The servant who received one, however, runs off and buries it, not using it to earn any profit. When the master returns, he rewards the servants who earned profit with even more wealth. But when he finds that the last servant did not use the one talent for any positive gain, the master declares him a wicked, slothful servant, and casts him out of the house.

Many people read this parable, understanding the talents represent the gospel, which Jesus commands his followers to share. Others believe the talents to represent spiritual gifts and physical talents given to us by God. Those interpretations are perfectly valid, but today, God reminded me that I have been overlooking some of the most foundational, basic gifts He has given me.

I was born into a family that was able to financially and materially provide for me. I was able to go to college. I am able to go home each night and cook dinner, take a long, hot shower (except for tonight, because my shower is broken), and sleep in a warm bed, unafraid of any harm. But at an even more basic level, I was able to wake up this morning. I was able to sit up in bed and decide what I want to do today. I have been given the gift of physical life. It’s something I overlook constantly, but really, isn’t it a miracle that I wake up each day and go to class, go to work, spend time with friends?

God has given me this talent–this talent of life. And I am burying it, failing to use it for any positive benefit to God and the building of his kingdom. I am wasting my life away on Netflix. I am misusing my time on deciding which filter to use on Instagram. I am utterly failing to live a life that reflects that I worship God and want to use my talents–my weak affections, my short vapor of a life–to speak highly of Him.

Why is it that I have no problem gushing over my favorite books and movies, but have so little enthusiasm when it comes to speaking about the Lord? Why is it that I’ll spend hours of my life on Grey’s Anatomy, but can hardly spend ten minutes in the Word without getting antsy? It makes me absolutely sick to think that I proclaim God to be my Lord and Savior, to think that He sent his only begotten son to die for me, and that I, in my heart, do not care.

See, here’s the problem: I’m not thankful enough. I don’t consider my life carefully in the fear of God, as the Psalmist does in Psalm 90. I don’t seem to grasp the fact that God is the one who gives me life, and that He who gives can also take away, even in an instant. I live my life as though it belongs to me. So I foolishly spend my time on things that matter only for here and now, forgetting that I am accountable to someone else for how I spend my life. I forget that God has asked more of my life than to be the only person who has watched every show on Netflix ever (and believe me, I’m getting there).

It’s not about being the most holy or spending the most time reading Scripture and praying. It’s about the fact that God has given me a precious talent, and I am wasting it, burying it in the ground. It’s about the fact that I have made a horrible mistake, thinking that my life is about me. Instead, It’s about reading the Bible and praying, in hopes of knowing God intimately, in hopes that my life might mean something. It’s about lifting my gaze from my grades, my Facebook, and my Netflix, and finding fullness of joy in God and God alone.

Oh God, have grace on me as I seek you in your Word. In your mercy, pour out a deeper revelation of your faithfulness, your kindness and your holiness to me. Show me the beauty of the gospel again. Cause my heart to fixate on things that are of you. Lord, give me strength, discipline, and humility as I try to live a life that worships you and expresses my thankfulness to you for all that you have done for me. Please, God, even as it says in Psalm 90, fill me with fullness of joy in your presence once again. Give me a heart of wisdom, that I might have discernment over how I spend my life. Please, Lord, redeem my life and let it mean something. Oh God, how I need you.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14

Amen.

 

 

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Submitting My Schedule to God

Each morning I try  to sit down to spend time with the Lord. But most days, that time is filled with writing down my daily To Do list. As soon as I sit down, all the things I have to do that day suddenly jump out at me, and I have to pause every few words and write down each task before it escapes my mind. But what does that say about where my heart is?

It says that my heart is more concerned about and more subject to my schedule than to Jesus, who so graciously and undeservedly bore the wrath of Almighty God on my sinful behalf. It means that I have become a slave to my To Do list. I have become like the seed scattered among thorns–the worries of this world choke out my faith. But the honest truth is that, if I believe in God, my life has been bought at a price. My time on this earth belongs to him. Because I heard the gospel and chose to put my faith in Jesus and declare him Lord of my life, my schedule does not define my life. In reality, my To Do list does not rule my life or dictate my time.

James 4 says, “Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (v. 13-16).

So there it is. I live in evil. I plan my life before I consult God. I’ve been assuming that my life will go the way I plan it–despite my actual lack of control over any of the circumstances surrounding my agenda.

In light of all this, here’s my new resolution: I will write my To Do list all at once each morning, so I don’t have to interrupt my time with God. Rather than assume I have control over everything in my agenda, I want to submit list to Him, for He alone is worthy of my time, my attention, and my life.

Take Care

Now that I’m about to wrap up my third year of undergrad, I’m thinking hard about what I want to do for the next (potentially) 10 years of my life. Some of the decisions are up to me, and some of them aren’t. Will I apply to grad school? Will I try to find a job? Will I get married? Will I be able to get into grad school? Will I be able to find a job?

So it’s not surprising that with all these questions in my head, thinking about the future brings me deep anxiety that seems to surpass any praying, hoping, and mentally reassuring that I try.

But today, I attended an intensive at my church, where we talked about intimacy with God. Part of our talk involved trusting in God–in all things. After the sermon I was able to spend time reflecting on parts of my life where I refuse to surrender to God. Naturally, the future was one of my first thoughts. But God takes care of me, right?

And then I realized that God promises that a life of following him isn’t easy. It involves trials, persecution, and hardship. But he takes care of me, right? How can that be part of taking care of me?

Unless……unless my perception of God’s care is wrong. Unless my understanding of God’s love is completely off base. Unless I have misunderstood the kindness and grace of the Good Shepherd to be purely a shower of material blessings to make me comfortable.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

What if placing my trust in God meant that I gave up everything? What if his love and care meant giving me more than the material comfort I always wanted? What if God’s blessing meant that I had fullness of joy in Christ, instead of a big house with a white picket fence?

For years, I now know, I have been worshipping the idol of comfort. I have assumed that God’s love manifested as material blessing and wealth. I realize that if God’s blessing and God’s love is merely material, then my God is not great at all. His love would be shallow and pathetic, ephemeral and transient. But no.

My God’s love is deeper, wider, longer, higher than a white picket fence. My God’s love is stronger than the grave. His care for me doesn’t manifest as money and ease in this life, but as riches and joy beyond comparison in the next. His gift to me is his son, who came to die for me. His gift to me is life, and life abundantly. His gift to me is fullness of joy as I enter into his presence.

Yes, I hope for a happy life, a successful career, and comforts of financial security. But God’s plan is so much larger, so much more beautiful than that. What if his love was worth more than the big house I always dreamed of? What if his joy was deeper than the one I could find in marriage? What if his comfort transcended the comfort of my chocolate and Netflix?

I had a small view of God and his kindness. His care ensures the comfort of my soul for all of eternity. His love covers my darkest, ugliest sins. His joy transcends any circumstance I may find myself in. Now that sounds like a God worth trusting in.

He is God.

Psalm 121:3 reads, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

When I first read this, I was confused because…that’s a given. God doesn’t sleep; he doesn’t grow weary. Why should I care if he never sleeps?

And then I was overjoyed. This is such a powerful statement about who God is. He needs no sleep because he isn’t human. God is…well, God. Not only does he protect me, but he is able to protect me from even myself because he is God. Praise the Lord that he isn’t like me, that he isn’t human. Praise God for his sleepless, tireless watch over me. Praise him for his ways are higher than mine.

Psalm 121:3 is a statement about how God is able to constantly protect me, day and night, which is wonderful in and of itself. But I am fascinated by the deity of God, the holiness of God, the fact that he is beyond me. I am amazed and thankful that I worship a god who isn’t like me. He is holy where I am unholy. He is sovereign where I am powerless. He is loving where I am bitter. He is God and I am not.

Oh Lord, I will worship you for who you say you are. You are God.

Is Love Blind?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NASB)

The other day I passed a group of students on campus, holding a sign that said “Love is blind.”

Honestly, I don’t really agree with that.

I like to think that God isn’t blind to my sin. I like to think that God is who He says He is, that He sees everything, that He knows the depths of my sins, that He sees the ugliness of my soul. And yet He loves me. And yet He chose me to save me. And yet he sent his son to die for me.

Doesn’t that make the love of God that much more beautiful, that much more wonderful, that much more gracious? Why would I want to hide the disgusting filth of my sin, if I know that when I confess, He is faithful to forgive? Why would I guard my brokenness from the only one able to mend it?

The greatest love in the history of the world is not blind. It is all-seeing. It rages against the arrogant, rebellious sins of my soul. It reviles the failures of my flesh. And yet it lavishes grace upon grace over me. It rescues me. It washes me clean and offers me new life.

God is love. And God is by no means blind. He loved a people whom He well knew to be undeserving.

Sitting, Wishing, or Waiting

“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
In the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and wait.”
Psalm 5:3

So often, I cry out to the Lord in the morning (or right before I fall asleep at night), and then promptly check off the box on my to do list that says “pray,” and carry on with my day. I move on to forget the things my heart had seemed to earnestly desire just a couple hours ago. But David, when he wrote this, didn’t just sit or wish–he waited for the Lord. He called out to God in full faith, knowing who God is, knowing what God can do, and sacrificed, knowing what God required, and then he waited in full expectation, in full hope that God would deliver. David didn’t offer a sacrifice and walk away; he remained in the presence of the Lord, waiting for God to answer his prayer.

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of praying in preparation for my new semester at college. The challenge for the next semester (and forever, I guess) is to teach myself to trust fully in God’s faithfulness to me. I walk away from prayer unchanged because I don’t entirely trust that God will come and actively change my life. Instead, I go about my day, attempting to control my life and mold it into my own vision of success. When I look at David’s heart, I clearly see how he has come to the end of his own efforts, and has chosen to rely on the might of God to save him.

In this coming school year, my prayer is that I won’t just pray anymore. I want to pray and wait. I want to believe in the power and in the compassion of God to answer my prayers and to accomplish his will through my life. I want to lean on Him to work and to change my attitude that says that my ways are higher than His. I want to stop walking away from my prayer time, unaffected and unchanged because in my heart of hearts, I don’t really think He will deliver or make a difference. I have full faith that God is strong enough, kind enough and compassionate enough to hear me, to deliver me, and to transform me.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”
Ephesians 3:20

The Help

In Genesis 2, God creates Eve, saying “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a suitable helper.” And thus, out of Adam’s rib, Eve is created. But as a twenty-first century woman, this idea of only ever becoming a man’s “suitable helper” is such a highly offensive thought. As a college student, I have so often thought, What if I am never going to have the opportunity to use this education? What ACTUALLY is my purpose as a woman? A huge portion of women are under the impression that we (as a gender) were invented solely to help garden and name animals, and then were later blamed because we ate of the apple first. Let’s get this out of the way: women ARE helpers. Women WERE created with the intention of helping men. BUT, this is not the lowly calling to scrub toilets and change diapers. If you look to the origin of the word “helper,” it translates to the word ezer in Hebrew. Ezer is a term used throughout the Old Testament to not only describe the creation of women, but also to describe God himself. Thus, the role of the helper is a high calling that God has even placed upon himself. Women, just like men, were created in the image of God, as seen in Genesis 1:27. Therefore, women are called uniquely to help men through embodying in the flesh the image of God as an ezer.