Let’s get to work while we still have time

When I’m really busy or loaded down with deadlines, my default is to stop working and play. The more I have to do, the more I want to do nothing. I’m not sure what that is or where it comes from, but it’s one of the weaknesses I’ve noticed about myself. And it’s a pain in the butt.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to do. And the things I’m doing are important. I’m following Jesus with everything I have, writing for Him, working for Him, loving people for Him, trying to live according to His Word. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I feel like doing. It comes down to what I am doing and what I haven’t done.

time-watch-hands-of-a-clock-clock-pointersToday’s verses are Romans 13:11-12.

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. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

There’s not a lot of time left. I’m not sure how many people are willing to accept that, but the world is getting darker by the moment. If you’re a Christ-follower, you can’t ignore that fact. The longer the world goes on in this state, the more trouble we get into.

This world and our lives here won’t last forever, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that our time is running out. We have a limited span of time to be here before God calls us home, and in the big picture of eternity, our handful of decades on Earth isn’t very long. But God gave it to us for a reason.

You can do a lot in 70 years. Heck, you can do accomplish a lot in 32 years, if you’re willing to work hard and do what God says is right. But it’s not easy. And you run into those days where you don’t want to do anything, where life just feels like you’re running in circles, like you aren’t actually accomplishing anything.

And maybe you’re not. Maybe you really are spinning your wheels, and if that’s the case, you need to stop and think about your situation. Are you really doing what God has called you to do? Or are you just staying put because that’s where you’re comfortable?

Our time here is running out, and God put us on this Earth to work for Him. I know it’s frustrating to be so busy you can’t keep your head above water, but that’s where priorities come into play. That’s where we need to start making the hard choices that will allow us to do the things that matter and let the things that don’t slip away.

What has God called you to do in your life? Are you doing it? If you aren’t, why not?

There’s nothing wrong with resting. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. We all need it from time to time, and it’s important that we take the time we need to recover when we’re tired. But don’t stay there. Don’t keep sitting when you need to be moving. Don’t keep resting when you need to get back to work. We all have jobs to do.

The sunlight is nearly gone, and soon it’ll be too dark to work. So let’s get busy about God’s work now, while we still have the time.

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

The danger of a predictable enemy

I love big cats, and even though I would probably say tigers are my favorite, lions just seem majestic. But if you think about it, lions aren’t really strategists. Cats aren’t strategists in general, I don’t think. They’re really pretty straightforward. If they want to attack something (or someone), they usually just wait for the right moment, launch themselves at it, and maul it. Then, sometimes they eat it. Other times they drag it up to your porch step to share.

Big cats like lions make a lot of noise. They sound ferocious. And if they ever get a hold of you, they can do some serious damage. I’m not a student of cat science or animal science, so maybe I shouldn’t be saying this because I don’t know for sure. But my observations show that cats are somewhat predictable, big or small. If it’s something they don’t have to work too hard at, they’ll try to achieve it, but they’re far too full of themselves to try it for long if they can’t succeed.

So all the zebras in Africa really need to know is how to keep running because lions only have one attack–charge in swinging. If they can evade long enough, the lion will tire out and give up. But most of the time, the zebra’s stamina gives out before the lion’s does.

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Roaring lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 5:8.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

I had a particularly difficult day on Wednesday. Just a number of different circumstances all piled up on top of me and conspired to sour my mood about a lot of different topics. And before I knew it, I was on the verge of shutting down completely and just going home and going to bed.

But I couldn’t. I had responsibilities at Judgement House, my church’s outreach. I had to be there to do my part. And that’s when I remembered that everything in my day had probably blown up and gone crazy for one reason: distraction.

I don’t want to be one of those people who blames every scary shadow on Satan, but I also don’t want to be oblivious to the plain and simple truth that we have an enemy. I’m not sure we as Christ-followers really get that half the time. It’s so easy to buy into culture’s idea of Satan–a goofy character in a red suit with a pitchfork. And who takes a character like that seriously?

Satan is out there, and he hates us. The Bible says in a number of places that he is out among us, looking for people to hurt, looking for opportunities to pull us away from God and to harry us until we make bad choices that will remove us from God’s umbrella of blessings.

Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t give you the right to give up. Just because you’re having a rough time at the moment doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will be rough. Just because two hours out of your day were awful doesn’t mean that you need to see the rest of your day through the same lens. But Satan wants to make you think that way. He wants nothing more than to ruin our perspectives on God and on what God wants for our lives.

And it’s the same tactics he has used against us from the beginning of time. He wants to make us doubt God. He wants us to go after our own desires, our own plans, our own wants and forget about what God is doing.

Satan is nothing if not predictable.

So how does that explain why I keep falling for his underhanded, dirty tricks over and over again? Well, the way I look at it is that he wears me down, and I let down my guard. And once I’ve stopped expecting him, he’s free to walk in whenever he wants. That’s the danger with a predictable enemy; they can only breach your defenses if you let down your guard.

I nearly let him in yesterday. I nearly opened my ears to him and let him carry me away on the waves of overwhelming insecurity and feelings of uselessness. All lies, I know, but they’re so easy to fall for. I just had to remember that the only way I could fall for them is if I let myself. That choice is up to me, whether to let my guard down or shore up my defenses so I can keep on fighting.

The Holy Spirit lives inside me. God has offered me His strength, and Satan can’t stand against Him. So when I stopped focusing on my failures and my weaknesses and started focusing on how awesome God is, Satan and his stupid lies faded into the background.

So remember, if you’re a Christ-follower, you have an enemy out there. It’s not your mean boss or your unfriendly coworkers or your next door neighbor. We don’t fight against people. Satan is our enemy, and he will do anything to trip us up. But the only way we’ll fall for his tricks is if we allow him into our lives to begin with.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Get off the couch

I have a long list of things I enjoy that are complete time wasters. They don’t really accomplish anything, but I do enjoy doing them. Sleeping. Reading. Watching movies. Surfing Youtube. Daydreaming. The list goes on and on. And the irony is that those things we enjoy so much take time, but they make us happy. Or at least we think they do. And maybe they do for a while, but the more time you spend doing them rather than doing the things you know you should do, the more unhappy you’ll become.

There is joy in accomplishment. There is something remarkably satisfying about seeing how dirty my kitchen is and then comparing it to when I have finished doing my dishes. I feel like I’ve actually done something. It’s amazing!

Right now, my kitchen is a nightmare. It’s been a busy two weeks, but honestly I had time to do dishes on Wednesday night. Yes, I chose to do laundry instead, but I could have done dishes at the same time. I just didn’t. And now my kitchen is still dirty. But I chose to do something else instead of cleaning, and while I enjoyed what I was doing, I’m still bothered that the kitchen is dirty.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:12-13.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It’s easy to work when someone is supervising you. When your boss is around, it’s easy to do what they want. When your parents are around, it’s easy to do the things that make them happy. And in making them happy, you feel happy. But when you’re on your own, it’s not so easy. You have to be self-motivated, and self-motivation is difficult.

But like Paul is telling the Philippians in these verses, hard work is important, and not necessarily physical work. I used doing the dishes as an example because it’s the most normal thing I struggle with doing. But what Paul is talking about is working on deepening our relationship with Christ. He’s not saying we have to work to earn our salvation. No, that’s not it at all. Nobody can earn salvation. What he’s saying is that we have a responsibility to demonstrate that we have been saved, and we can only do that with hard work, both physically, spiritually and emotionally.

There’s a complicated three-step process here that I learned about in a biblical doctrines class a long time ago, and it throws people for a loop every time. But I’m going to try to simplify it because it’s important and it makes sense.

When we choose to follow Christ, we go through what this doctrine calls justification. It’s immediate. It’s complete. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, and because we didn’t earn it in the first place, it can’t be taken away from us. But just because we have been justified by Christ in the eyes of God doesn’t make us perfect. On the contrary, it just splits us in half because we have the redeemed part of ourselves, but we also have the part of ourselves that remains tied to the world. So the Christian life becomes a struggle between doing what our sinful self wants to do and doing what God has told us to do.

The process of that struggle of learning how to follow Christ is called sanctification. And it takes our entire life on earth. We’re going to fail. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to stumble and struggle and do things and say things that we’re going to regret. This is where the hard work comes in. This is where our responsibility comes in. This is where we have to make the choice to do what God has told us to do in the Bible or to do what we want to do anyway. And that’s hard work. But eventually, when we reach the end of our life on earth (no matter how long it might be), this process comes to an end as God takes us home.

Then we get to experience the third part, glorification, when step into our new lives, when we shed our earthly body and take on the perfect body that God has for us. No more struggle. No more sin.

This three-step process confuses people because they think once they accept Christ, they should be perfect. And that’s not the case. Nobody’s perfect except Christ, but with His power we can make the right decisions. And that’s where verse 13 comes in.

If you know Christ, and if you’ve chosen to follow Him, He will give you not only the desire to do His will but also the power to make it happen.

Can you still choose to sit on the couch and veg? Sure. But you won’t be happy. Maybe you’ll think you are for a little while, but you won’t really be. If you’re a Christ-follower, you have a purpose here. God has something for you to do, and if you’re ignoring it, you’re going to be discontent. It’s a like a Sheltie stuck indoors with nowhere to run. You’re wired to do something specific, and if you refuse to do it, you’ll be restless and unhappy until you do.

Want to be happy, American Christian? Get off the couch and get to work.

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvest doesn’t wait

Autumn is the time of year where part of me just wants to collapse with a cup of tea and a good book under a blanket and do nothing but read all day long. Or I want to be outside taking long walks and not being overwhelmed with my pollen allergies. There’s something about the fall that makes me want to chill out constantly. Unfortunately, the fall is the time of year when I get the busiest. I’m always running, but in fall I run crazy.

And I don’t know about you guys, but the more I have to do, the more tempted I am not to do any of it. I have a lazy streak. Anyone who’s ever been to my house and seen my crazy load of dishes waiting to be done realizes that. I’ve actually got dishes waiting to be done today, although I’m going to do my best to get them done tonight.

It’s easy to put things off, but it’s a bad habit to get into. And some things in life really can’t wait, the harvest being among them. If you don’t harvest your crops when they’re ready, you’ll lose them. And that’s something you can’t get back.

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 20:4.

Those too lazy to plow in the right season
    will have no food at the harvest.

The Bible has so many examples of why we should get our work done while we have time it’s hard to pick one. And I’m sure everyone has a story about a time when they had an opportunity to accomplish something and didn’t and the chance never came up again. But most recently, I experienced something that made me think about procrastination.

Folks who follow this blog know I live in Kansas, state of unpredictability and ridiculous wind speeds. I had a friend out visiting recently, and I have been working on broadening her horizons as a geek. So we’ve been watching a lot of nerdy movies. Anyway, as we were watching a movie, I heard something unusual.

The wind.

Here’s the thing. To be in my 100-year-old farmhouse’s basement and be able to hear the wind outside is rare. This old place is so solid the wind has to be blowing at 70 miles per hour before I can hear it, and we couldn’t just hear the wind. We could feel it. The whole house shook like a freight train had struck it. For a moment, we dashed up to the main level, but the windows were rattling so violently that I thought they would shatter. So we retreated to the basement. We checked the storm channel briefly, and (of course) the only little circle of pink in the entire storm front was parked right over my house.

Fortunately, it didn’t last long, and the majority of the damage was to my outbuildings like my barns and my chicken coop (60 years old and blown eight inches off its foundation). But as we finished up our movie, my friend remembered that she had something she needed to do for work. And it required internet access. I thought there would be no problem. Well … hurricane force winds tend to wreak havoc with internet radio dishes bolted onto the roof of a house, and I had no internet.

It’s amazing how much you take little things like internet connectivity for granted. I had come to rely on my internet connection for nearly everything, and not having it was crippling. Not to mention my poor friend needed a way to accomplish something for work, and with my internet down, she was out of luck. (Fortunately, we determined that a 3G Kindle will run Joomla. So she was actually able to get her work done on my Kindle, of all things.)

But the point is this: How many times do we put things off because we assume we will be able to do them later? I do this all the time. I shove responsibilities to the side because I think I can accomplish them at a later date, but then–surprise! Life happens. Things get in the way. My plans don’t work out the way I expected, and before I know it, I’ve lost the opportunity to get it done.

Sometimes it’s with unimportant things. Other times, it’s with important things. And we don’t always have a piece of technology around (like a 3G Kindle) to eke out a solution. Really, we don’t have the time to waste. It’s not always fun (actually, it’s rarely fun) to do work first, but it’s better. And somehow, you end up with more time after you do what you’re supposed to do than you would have had if you skipped it. I don’t know if any of you have experienced that, but I have. Yet it’s still difficult to remind myself of that.

If we do the things we’re supposed to do first before we play, God blesses our time. It’s like He makes us more productive. I’ve seen it happen too many times for it to be coincidental, but I still seem to have trouble remembering it when it comes to doing my dishes.

So if you’re putting something off (dishes or otherwise), I encourage you to do it now. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Just do it. Because you’re not in charge of your life. Maybe you think you are, but you’re just fooling yourself. Whether you’ve given your life to Christ or not, you aren’t the commander of the cosmos; God is.

Do what needs doing today. You might not get a chance tomorrow. And if you miss the chance, you might not ever get it back.