Limited edition

Do limits annoy you? Do you wish you had more money, time, brains or beauty? Consider that perhaps limits on our lives may serve a good purpose.

God sets the limits for all things. He sets limits for the sea so it does not encroach upon the land. He sets the times and seasons, He determines the orbits of stars and planets. He sets the length of life for all people and the times of rulers and kings.

God also limits each of us, setting the place where we will be born, the parents we will have, and the abilities we will inherit.

I seem to spend much of my life kicking against the limits within which my life has been placed. I’m not entirely sure what I am seeking to achieve, but often I push against the limited time available to me, burning through the quiet hours of my nights in the eerie glow of a computer display.  I hungrily read and consume from the fire-hose of information now available through the internet.

Oddly, my ‘problem’ is no longer the difficulty of locating information as it was a decade ago, now I have difficulty saying “enough”. I have information obesity (it is even a problem for academics).

Unfortunately most of what passes as ‘information’ is really just trivial. In fact, the best most popular blogs, websites, news outlets and social media sites are primarily experts in entertainment and how to hold a human being’s attention in such a way as to induce clicks, page views or divulging of credit card details.

This evening I read a book instead of opening the lid of the laptop. It felt good, undistracted, a cohesive argument to follow and well crafted words – quality workmanship. I need to read more books and browse the internet less. There is good reason for calling it ‘browsing’ or ‘surfing’ – both capture the skimming, superficial nature of how we interact with the web.

God created me with limits. I need to respect them and use the limited time I have wisely.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)


(A re-post from the archives)
Image: iStock

Making the best of my time

Why do I give my time to that low-priority stuff which could easily wait at the expense what is immediate and important?


How many hours have I wasted catching up on blogs, social media and whatever else is new on the internet? Then I find it is very late, my sermon is not yet finished and I’ve not done the dishes either. Why is it that low-priority stuff which could easily wait is given my time at the expense of the immediate and important?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)

The section of Ephesians this sentence is taken from discusses the works of darkness in which we should not participate in as Christians. Such things as foolish talk, crude jokes, impurity, coveting, getting drunk, and general unfruitful pursuits. Often in the New Testament the idea of  fruitfulness comes up – our lives are expected to bear fruit for God.

Great, so I’m expected to be fruitful on top of working full time, being a father, a husband, and trying to maintain our house. Where am I supposed to find time to be fruitful?

Godly, organic time management

God’s time-management principles are simple: stop doing pointless and destructive things, replacing them with fruitful pursuits. This is an organic model which fits our humanity better than trying to cram every minute with action and scheduling life in a manner more appropriate to a robot than a person. Jesus talks of pruning unfruitful branches to make the tree as a whole bear more fruit, a principle we can apply to our own lives. Not just adding more stuff to do but cutting away all that is unfruitful so what remains will grow better.

Fruitfulness is also a lifetime assessment – no tree bears any useful fruit in its first few years – in fact God commanded Israel to not eat the fruit of a newly planted tree for 5 years (Leviticus 19:23-25). Similarly, a tree cannot control the seasons or growing conditions around it.

Sometimes life is hard and our focus has to be on survival. Then seasons change and the roots which that down deep seeking living water in order to survive a drought enable great fruitfulness which could have come no other way.


Image: iStock

Finding time to pray

How do you find time to pray? I set out to pray for 30 minutes a day and frankly am struggling to manage even that! I can usually get in 15 minutes a day without any stress, but the additional 15 minutes is much harder to find, or to remember to make time for. In theory, 30 minutes of prayer time a day should be an easy thing — simply a matter of making it a high priority and doing it.

But is it really that simple? In order to pray you need to get alone with God (see Matthew 6:6). I live with my wife and three young children in a small house, work all day in an office with six other people, use public transport to and from my job and am pretty tired by the end of each day (this last point is relevant!). While I have read some advice on training your kids to not annoy you while praying, that is much easier to advise than to do; my eighteen-month-old son is often up in the mornings when I am and loves to climb onto the dining room table to stand there investigating my coffee! Such antics make it difficult to read the Bible, let alone pray.

As alluded to, my preferred time to get alone with God is in the mornings, in fact the ‘easiest’ times for me to pray and focus on God are early in the morning while everyone else (aside from my son!) is asleep, or late at night when everyone else is asleep. Can you spot the problem? (Hint, I pointed out that I’m tired at the end of each day).

At the very least, making more prayer time in my life will require not only discipline, but also some re-arranging of other priorities in order to be able to spend time in prayer. Some folks might try forgoing some sleep, however, I am in a stage of life where I have been getting too little sleep for too long and am physically suffering for it already, without purposely making it worse. So what is the answer?

I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I am not giving up on praying, I am still aiming for 30 minutes per day but am flexible regarding attempting to consolidate that time into a single block, or even two blocks. I have been encouraged by a blog called The Prayer Experiment in which the author is setting the goal of directing his thoughts Godward every minute.

Prayerlessness and social media

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.
John Piper 2:02 PM Oct 20th, 2009

My response to this was “ouch!”, it hits me on a sensitive spot – not only how I interact with social media, but the internet and computers in general. It also reminds me of another penetrating comment from John Piper:

We are made to know Christ; we are not made to do little diddly things.