Build Your House on Jesus

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”  Lk 6:46–49, ESV.

How often have you heard this – or the parallel passage in Matthew – spoken of very simply as meaning that we must make sure our foundation is Jesus.  The rationale goes that Jesus is the Rock and therefore, like the wise man, we must make Jesus our foundation.  Like the song:

So, build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
And the blessings will come down

rockThe problem with this teaching and this song, for that matter, is that it completely misses the point that Jesus was trying to make.  Consider the context; in both Luke and Matthew this saying comes directly after a great set of teaching by Jesus called the sermon on the mount.  Jesus had just finished teaching to the disciples what it meant to show true obedience to God.  He finishes with an amazing conclusion to drive home his entire sermon, and that conclusion is…do what I say!  Yet for some reason we take his teaching and make it…make me your foundation.

Now please do not mistake me, I am not saying that the idea that Jesus should be our foundation is wrong, for surely Paul says that, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11, ESV)  But Jesus is not trying to show what the ultimate foundation of teaching is.  What he is driving home – and the point of this story – is that if you want to have a solid foundation you must do three things; come to him, hear him and do what he says.

I am unsure at what point we got this concept wrong but it drastically changes the way one understands this story.  Jesus wants to show us what a person is like who comes to him, hears him and does what he says.  He is like a man who has a solid foundation, ensuring that no matter what happens he is safe and secure against the storms; because he is built well.  Do you achieve this by only believing in God?  No, for “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19, ESV)  What does Jesus say is the recipe for a solid foundation?  Coming to him, listening to him and obeying him.

Is it enough to come?  No, for what is the point of coming to him if you are going to ignore what he says?  This has happened (and is happening) all too often in the church, where individuals – and entire churches – have come to Jesus and then continued living their life as they please.  It requires coming to him and listening to what he has to say.

Is coming to him and listening to him enough?  No, for what is the point if you come to him, listen to him and then ignore what he has to say?  Instead, we must come to him, consider everything that he is saying and then do what says.  If we miss our any of these parts of the process we completely destroy any hope of having the foundation that Jesus spoke of.

Do you wish to have a solid foundation?  Do you want to have the sort of life that when a flood arises and the stream breaks against it that it cannot be shaken?  Then, ensure that your life is built well, and how do you ensure that your life is built well?  By coming to Jesus, listening to Jesus and obeying Jesus.  Too often in the western church, we have settled for antinomianism* that lets us lay claim to Jesus – coming to him – while ignoring the commitment that comes with it – hearing and doing.

I would love to see us stop using this passage in the way that it is so often used and start using it the way Jesus intended it, Lord willing we will start seeing more people not just coming to Jesus, but hearing and doing.

 

* – one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation

Intervals of Time’s Impact on the Improvement of Time

In my previous post, ‘Indolence’s Impact on the Improvement of Time‘, I spoke about the first chapter of the second part of ‘An Essay on the Improve
ment of Time’ by John Foster.  We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Intervals of Time’.

Previously we discussed some of the clearTime-Tracking-Softwareest and obvious losses of time; idleness, vacancy and needless sleep.  Now we need to consider another loss of time which is often overlooked yet which causes a serious problem.  That is the neglect of many short intervals of time.  In a single day, there will always be many small intervals of time which cannot be stopped and which are very difficult to improve upon.  When one considers the day and how much time is used up in these moments transitioning from one job to another, considering what to do next, uncontrollable events (eg. traffic), waiting for others, and the lateness of others or self, would we not be quite astounded?  If we added all of that time up in a year I think we would be amazed at just how much it totalled.  Granted some of that time is not our fault, but acknowledging the loss is the first step in improving it.

One of the first ways in which we can redeem the time lost by intervals is in having fewer transition points throughout the day.  If you fill your time with six different pursuits every day, that means you need to have at least five transition points.  Not only is there time lost in switching from one job to another but your brain takes time to switch over so your pace is drastically reduced.Not only that but your time spent in that occupation will actually be more effective if you do it for longer (with the exclusion of the most laborious work where a switch may help).  The best way to remedy this is to reduce the amount of jobs taken a day.  If you normally would do six each day, aim to do three each day.  Splitting those same six over a two day period will enable you to maximise your efficiency.  This is especially important for the student or anyone who works from home.

Another way we can redeem the time lost is in planning how we will spend our day.  One major problem is that we do not know what we are going to do at the various intervals of the day.  Granted, for many of us, large portions of our days are beyond our control and we must spend them doing what others require.  For those who are in control of their entire day this will impact you more, but even for those who control but a small portion of their time, there is still time to plan.  Now because we do not know how we are going to spend our time when we complete a task, we end up spending a large portion of time just considering what to do next.  By the time we find something to do we have either wasted a lot of time already or just plain given up.  Instead, if we had intentionally planned our day we would have had all that time doing something instead of fluffing around finding something to do.  My recommendations then are to set a period of time aside each week or day in order to plan what you will do.  Personally, I plan out my whole week on a Monday, and then each day in the morning I will review it and make small adjustments as necessary.  The plan adapts and changes as situations do but you will always know what you should be doing.  (see my Week planner)

To any who seek to be serious about improving their time a plan is essential.  But with planning, I must put forward a caution.  Life happens.  What I mean by that is that try as you will you cannot control everything.  God is sovereign and he is more powerful than your planning.  Traffic, queues, visitors, problems will happen, embrace them and “roll with the punches”.  After these things happen, pick up your plan, make adjustments and keep on moving forward.  Remember that the plan is a utility tool to help gain improvement, it is not a slavery chain to bind you down.  Stick to your plan, but if something vital pops up, set it aside and pursue the most important with all your strength.  If you have work set and a dear friend turns up, entertain them and spend time with them.  If you are working and should change but feel like you are obtaining great usefulness out of your current subject, continue!  If you have the opportunity to love your neighbour, sacrifice your plan and love your neighbour, for the Lord demands mercy and not sacrifice.

But what are we to do when we are stuck in situations that are not conducive with improving time?  Things that we cannot control (eg. traffic jams and queues)?  There are a couple of things we can do in order to improve our time even in these moments.  Firstly, when you are stuck in a situation outside of your control, control your emotions and practise observation.  Observe the people around you, I tell you the truth you will learn a vast amount about humanity just by observing how people do life.  Observe the parent interacting with their child, the friends chatting, the enemies fighting.  Take it all in and consider how you can learn and grow from what you witness.  If there are no people, observe the art and scenery around you.  Consider the trees, nature, and construction.  Nothing at all but yourself?  Observe yourself, how are you reacting to the situation you are in?  There is never a time that there is nothing to observe around you, you just need to be available to observe.

Secondly, Foster suggests carrying with you a small book of short essays or light histories in your pocket or bad to read in such times.  Of course in our day, it is much easier for we have cell phones!  I always have an e-book, an audiobook for driving, and my Greek and Hebrew grammar quiz app on my phone so I am prepared for any situation.  This means if I have substantial downtime in a quite place I can read my book, if I am going for a long drive I can listen to a book and if I have a small amount of time or am somewhere noisy I can briefly study some Greek and Hebrew grammar.  If none of this is possible you can bring to mind something you have considered or learnt recently and make it fresh to yourself again.

Thirdly, I suggest having Scripture on hand at all times.  Get a Bible app on your phone, or have pre-printed cards in your pocket or wallet so you can pull them out and read a brief section and meditate on the Word of God.  The advantage of having these things on your phone is that you can pull your phone out in 90% of circumstances in our society and people will not be upset with you.  On this note, I would seriously suggest deleting your facebook from your cell phone as it will cost you greatly.  Games on the cell phone are also dangerous unless you can control them very severely.  If you have things like Facebook and games on your phone and do not severely monitor your usage of them instead of redeeming your time you will send it to the slaughter.

The little moments in life are often the most important as they come together to make for large amounts of time, but they are often ignored of missed.  We need to pay attention to the littlest of moments in our day so that we can improve upon all of our time in order to bring glory to our Lord and make ourselves useful in his kingdom.

Indolence’s Impact on the Improvement of Time

In my previous post, ‘The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time’, I spoke about the final chapter of the first part of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster.  We will now consider the first chapter of the second part of Foster’s essay which is entitled, ‘Thoughts on Indolence’.

For those of us who wondered what indolence indolencemeans (myself included when I first read it) it is defined as avoidance of activity or exertion; laziness. I will alternate in usage between laziness and indolence.  I should stipulate before I start that in this part of the essay Foster is very direct and extremely straight forward on his opinions about the abuses of time.  I have not attempted to soften any of his opinions but tried to regurgitate them the way that they have impacted me, he is found speaking to the reader in a lot of this section and my writing will reflect that influence.

Indolence is a despicable trap and the complete enemy to the improvement of time.  It is something we must seek to oppose at every turn.  The odd thing is that many of us are not even aware of the problem.  We set about a task and eventually get around to completing it.  The problem is that it takes us ten times longer to complete the task than necessary.  Is that a problem you ask?  Well if you were charged ten times the amount for your cup of coffee at Starbucks would you be upset?  Then why are you not upset at yourself charging ten times the amount of time for one task?  The fact is that if you saw a child being lazy and not completing their assigned work (be it dishes, tidying their room or school work) would you not chide them for not applying themselves better?  Yet you do the very same thing when you fail to apply yourself and you let your work, home, or self-improvement gather dust while you twiddle your thumbs!  Be aware of hypocrisy.

Vacancy or idleness is a dangerous type of indolence.  A vacant person is busy about but achieves nothing, appearing to be busy, but truly they are vacant in what they do.  And the idle person is far worse, for they sit and watch the days go by.  They may stand and observe some people travelling past their house.  They may look at facebook and make comments or share information for a time.  Maybe they will watch TV in order to “vegetate” for awhile.  It is a dangerous folly to fall into, for you will often not realise you are doing it.  How many of you have not fallen into the trap where you do not realise that you are actually spending time achieving nothing until it is too late?  Who has not spent an extended period of time mindlessly looking at a TV, a computer, a magazine, a book, a sports game, only to say, “What did I do the last few hours?” or “What was the point of that?”  Maybe your conscience is so dulled with indolence that you no longer feel the prangs that come when idleness is afoot.  If so, allow  your conscience to be renewed now so that may be aware of the idleness in your own life.

Another type of indlazinessolence is the person who sleeps too much.  Foster spends the rest of the chapter devoted to this problem as he sees it as the biggest problem.  I am conscious of adding at this point that Foster states that the perfect amount of sleep is six hours, seven for those who work in very laborious industries, I am aware that lots of modern research show that eight hours is the perfect amount.  I am not going to argue what is the perfect amount, I will leave that up to the reader to consider how much is a good amount of sleep.  Personally, it is my view that six to seven hours is a good amount, up to eight for those who seem to require a bit more sleep, but I will leave it at that, judge for yourself what is right.

Consider that if you live the same amount as your neighbour and he rises one hour earlier each day, that, in his lifetime he will do much more to prepare himself for eternity, even though he is given the same amount of time.  And notice that if you sleep for nine or more hours a day that you come near to spending half of your life in a state of non-existence.  Yes, I mean non-existence, you may be existing, but it is a non-existing for you spend it doing nothing.  Of course, we must spend a certain portion of our time asleep for the sake of nourishing our bodies, that is how our creator made us.  Non-necessary sleep is a dreadful waste of the time given us by our Lord.  We will all answer for how we have used our gifts and time is one of them.  Will you be like the foolish servant who buried the talents his master gave him?  Or will you use them and reap a bounty of one, ten or even one hundred times back?

Think of it another way.  Imagine your closest family member or friend is dreadfully ill.  They have been told they may not last through the night.  You receive the phone call and are told that the person on their death bed desperately wants to see you one last time.  Now you hang up the phone, go for a walk, check your emails, visit some other friends, read Facebook, have some dinner and go to bed.  You rise late to discover that your loved one is dead.  How would you feel?  How should you be treated?  If you did that then you deserve to be spurned by friends and family alike, for it shows a complete contempt for your loved ones.  But the truth is that all of us do this day in and day out.  We sleep the day away and meanwhile there are people all around us dying and heading to an eternity in hell.  There are brothers and sisters who desperately need our support and we ourselves desperately need to be pursuing Christ.

Maybe you are still not convinced.  Maybe you still feel that you are justified to sleep as much as you wish.  Let me provide you with a few reasons why sleeping too much is evil.

  1. If you had been awake for the two or three hours you overslept and had spent that time wisely, would it not have been an honourable thing in the Lord’s sight?  If so then to sleep is to commit wrong for it stops the honourable.
  2. If you think there is nothing that you could have done honourably with your time, let me ask, why are you on this earth?  Are you put here to take but not to give back?  There is always honourable actions required of all people.
  3. “But”, you say, “I will achieve these honourable things at 10am and not 7am!”  The problem is that at 1pm you are doing 10am’s work and at 3pm you are doing 12pm’s jobs.  This continues until the end of the day where you cannot complete the last three hours worth of honourable tasks.
  4. Maybe  you do not have any tasks to complete.  Is there any improper habit in your life?  Any sin?  Any vice?  Anything lacking?  If so, which I am sure there is, then every moment you sleep and do not deal with these sinful flaws is another moment where these sinful flaws fester and grow.
  5. Are you not appalled by a man who goes on a drug spree and sleeps for multiple days?  Do you realise that you waste more time in a year then he does?  Yet you despise him and honour yourself?

The problem is not that you feel justified to sleep, but rather that you fail to realise what good can be achieved in the time that you sleep.  If you realised how much could be achieved in those moments and contemplated how many you have slept away, the truth is, you would be just as sorrowful as John Foster.  How much time have we all wasted that the Creator has given us?

Anyone who suffers from sleeping too much is instantly challenged in this regard when they meet someone who is studious with their time.  They meet a sister who rises early to use her time well and commit herself to the Lord.  They meet a brother who starts his day early so he can achieve much at work.  When faced with a person as such, your conscience is struck regarding your oversleep.  You will wish internally that you could do what he or she does.  So often this will happen to us in our life and we will just shrug it off and shake it away before it takes root in our heart.

If you are to make a change, however, you need a good reason do you not?  Let me describe what you could achieve from a little less sleep.  If you normally sleep for nine hours and instead you slept for seven, consider the impact on your life.  You have now gained two hours extra every day, fourteen hours every week, sixty hours a month and seven hundred and thirty every year.  If we take seven hundred and thirty and divide it by seventeen (the number of awake hours) you find that you have in one year gained approximately forty-three days.  What could you achieve if your boss said you could have an extra forty-three days leave each year!  Now consider this.  It takes approximately one thousand hours to become a genius at anything.  Now stop for a second, think of something you would dream of being a genius at.  Piano?  Cooking?  Writing?  Speaking?  Business?  Sports?  Now realise, that with the above scenario in fourteen years you could be a genius at whatever you picked.  Only fourteen!  That is not that much!  How many lots of fourteen years have you lived already?  (I am mid way through my third lot already, I could be part way through my second category of genius already).  In forty-five years you could be a genius piano player (we are talking Mozart level), a genius rocket scientist and a genius Biblical scholar with all original languages in place.  Now I may be oversimplifying this.  But the point remains.  It is actually quite amazing what you could achieve by deciding to rise two hours earlier each day.

Consider indolence.  What does indolence look like in your life?  We are all guilty of it at some level.  What does laziness look like in your life?  Is it vacancy, is it complacency, is it idleness, or is it sleeping too much?  Find any indolence in your life and set about rooting it out and casting it to the wind!

 

 

In the next post, we will be looking at Foster’s consideration of the ‘Intervals of Time’s Impact on the Improvement of Time’.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time

In my previous post ‘The Swiftness of Time‘ I spoke about the third chapter of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster.  We now will consider the fourth and final chapter of the first part of his essay, ‘The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time’.

One important thing to note at the start is that for there to be any ultimate object for the improvement of time there must be more to existence than this life.  If this life is all there is then there is no point in seeking to improve with an aim towards something.  I might as well just seek to fulfill my animal passions and await deTime-math.  If there is no existence after death then what should we do?  Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Sadly, this is how much of the world lives.  If you believe honestly that there is nothing after death then there is no reason to do anything that does not benefit you solely in the present life.  But, if, as of course is true, life continues after existence then we must be using our time in a way that benefits not just us in this life, but the life to come.

To live with the next life in view means to properly view this short life as a preliminary or introductory life before the fuller existence in the next.  It means pondering daily, moment by moment, how I may best use this life to prepare myself (and as a side-effect others) for the next life.  That is the chief motive and ultimate object for the improvement of time.  We improve our time in this life so that we will have a “better” life in the next.

For those of you who come quickly to agree that the time in this life impacts the next, you can easily move on to the next paragraph.  But for those who do not agree, let me just briefly say that the best use of your time, the best way to improve your time, is to apply all of your efforts to the question of whether this life impacts the next.  Without a proper understanding of this life’s implications on the next, you cannot hope to consider how to better use your time, for the obvious points already stated.  Let me briefly mention that I am not suggesting that every single thing must be done with your future in mind.  Food is eaten, sleep is had, toilets are used, and we do these things for the present life.  Yet, if we care not for our life in the present time, how can we commit ourselves to endeavours for the future life?  So you see, even the simplest thing carries a sense of consideration for the future life.

Since, the future life is our goal, that our efforts apply to it, it makes sense that we vigorously apply ourselves at each moment in preparation for that life.  But what, or, who is the one that we should look to in order to know what we should strive for?  Is it another man?  Well, it can’t be a man like me, for we are all striving for something greater.  It can only be one who knows the future state and the rewards contained there.  Who can we look to for that, but the Lord Jesus Christ.  He in whom the fulness of Deity dwelt, he is our model and chief aim by which we mark our aims.  He is our plumb line, therefore, let us fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

In this first part of Foster’s essay, we have begun to understand the general principles for understanding the value, capacity, swiftness and ultimate aim of the improvement of time.  As we can appreciate through this part we may have many more questions than answers.  I hope personally that like myself you are challenged to improve your time.  Though you, life myself, may be unsure what that looks like.  Let us trust that as we walk through the rest of Foster’s essay that we may begin to gain a better insight into that.

The Swiftness of Time

In my previous post ‘The Capacity of Time‘ I spoke about the second chapter of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster.  We now will consider the third chapter, ‘The Swiftness of Time’.

To call time ‘swift’ seems to me to be an odd thing, for time (in the metaphysical sense) does not really seem to speed up or slow down.  The sun rises and falls, our days roll over, no faster or slower than the last.  But when we consider it through the incessant nature of time I think it helps to understand what John Foster intended.

Consider a creek, if you sit and watch the water, it moves incessantly onward does it not?  It never ends, whether you are there or not makes little difference to the water or the creek.  It just continues to flow past that point of your observing.  It incessantly travels onwards.  Time is the same, whether you are acting foolishly or prudently means very little to time, she just keeps incessantly plodding along.  This is how we begin to gain an understanding of the swiftness of time, not necessarily in speed but in incessantness.

Now consider it this way, every moment of your life your vitals are working in your body, you breathe and your heart beats.  Sit for a moment and hear it go.  Now realise that each breath you take, every beat your heart makes, represents a moment of time that is gone that will never return. Now, consider how many breaths and beats you have had in your life up till this point.  And let me ask you, how have you used those moments?  Have you used them well, or have you used them unwell?  Now also consider that there is a fixed number of those moments in your life (future) as well.  So therefore with each passing moment (breath/heartbeat) you draw ever nearer to the last moment that you will experience in this life.  Do you begin to understand the swift incessant nature of time in your life?  Think now, how will you use each one of those moments?  Feel your pulse, hear your heart beat and consider for just a moment…how many are left?  How will you use them?

Adam4d Comic on the Improvement of Time

After all my thinking, reading and writing recently on the improvement of time I read this new comic strip this morning on Adam4d.com.  I thought it was fitting so I would share it.  All credit to Adam4d for his awesome work!

six-months1-569x630

six-months2-560x630

six-months3-647x630

Well written and challenging.  If you haven’t seen his website and comics, I encourage you to check it out.

The Capacity of Time

In my previous post ‘The Value of Time‘ I spoke about the first chapter of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster.  We now will consider the second chapter, ‘The Capacity of Time’.

635917038311632174-371695616_best_Time_-_good.305184206_stdWhen one stops and thinks of the capacity of time it can be hard to pinpoint what is meant.  But it simply means what is possible to achieve in any given period of time; be it an hour, a day, a week or a month.  If you think of a woman attempting to knit it is easier to grasp.  She knows that if she is dutiful in her art that she will finish her blanket after six hours work.  She knows how much can be achieved in any given period of time.  Now think of your own life, if you set out to complete a task – learn a language, learn a part of history, etc. – you will know it will take a fixed number of moments to achieve it.  If this is the case, which it assuredly is, then we know that the more time you commit to it the faster it is achieved.  Therefore, if you were to spend time doing things outside of the goal, would it not just delay the goal from being achieved?  Since this is the case, let us set forward for ourselves profitable goals in the sight of our creator and be earnest about achieving them.  Applying ourselves without delay and fighting against lethargy to complete our set goals.

If we consider what has been achieved by a ‘great’ person in the past or present – say, John Calvin or Isaac Newton – we are prone to say that they were special people and  that we could never do it.  This is foolishness, however, for if all house and moments of time are equal to all men, then all men have the same capacity.  The only difference is in the particular giftedness of the man in certain areas.  John Calvin was made for pastoral and theological work, and another is made for something else, say knitting or caring for the poor.  The limitation is not the capacity for what can be achieved but rather the efforts applied by the individual.

One example of this will help to express what I say.  One of the finest examples of this principle is Richard Baxter, who, if one was to only view his copious literary works, one would assume he was a man of very good health, without an occupation, free from troubles, commitments and the pressures of society.  However, he was a man tormented by health problems which brought many medical trials which resulted in an inability to arise before 7am and was brought near to death on many occasions.  Not only was he sick, but he was a full-time Minister who preached, catechised, visited the sick, was hunted, was imprisoned and dragged into many a broiling political, theological and cultural argument.  Truth be told if ten men achieved what he did combined we would applaud them vigorously.

If this does not remove any notion of lazy justification I know not what will. For if we sought to achieve even a portion of what he achieved and applied ourselves vigorously we would achieve a great amount.  We must shun notions of incapacity and impossibilities, for to each person is given the same capacity to achieve in their given time a great wealth of achievement in any area of life.  The question for us then is not whether our time on this earth has the capacity for achievement, but rather whether we will use our time on this earth to achieve it.