What Matters Most

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her,“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

There is only one thing worth being concerned about: knowing and loving Jesus

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work hard and do my best in other areas of life – I should. But my #1 priority should be spending time with Jesus and getting to know Him better. Falling in love with Jesus. If I’m not spending time with him every day I need to re-prioritize.

This lesson took me 39 years to figure out.

Up until a few years ago, I’d try to read the Bible regularly, but I’d lose momentum or get distracted. I’d do Bible studies and try different devotional books, but I’d lose interest. My time reading the Bible and praying was very inconsistent. I was swamped with work and marriage and parenting . . . and Jesus got my leftover time and energy.

Then a perfect storm of things happened:

  1. My work-life had become unmanageable. I was working 60+ hours a week, traveling all the time and completely stressed out.
  2. I read the book The Divine Mentor and it was like a lightbulb went off: devotional books are fine, but the most important book – really the only book I need – is the Bible.
  3. I applied “S.O.A.P.” while reading the Bible. I don’t do it by the book, but I keep a journal with me and write done what I am learning in the Bible. This helps keep me focused and on track.
  4. My small group at church discussed the idea of reading through the Bible in a Year.

This perfect storm led to a breakthrough for me. I put my devotionals away. I opened my Bible. I signed up for a “Read through the Bible” in a year plan on Bible.com (I use the corresponding YouVersion app). I started going to bed earlier so I could get up an hour earlier and have an hour of peace and quiet to spend with Jesus before my family woke up. Eventually, I let all my clients go and made some major career changes.

The change has been amazing.

I’m far from perfect and realize I never will be on this earth, but Jesus is changing me. I still get stressed. I still lose it and yell at my kids (I did this morning when my daughter refused to get ready for school). But I don’t get nearly as stressed as I used to. I don’t get as angry as often. I feel peace. I feel love. I’m a better mom and wife. I know that God is in control. And I know that the time I invest in my relationship with Jesus is the most important investment I’ll ever make and it can never be taken from me.

Slowly but surely, by the grace of God, I’m being more like Mary.

 

 

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Practicing Humility

Then he said to them,“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9:48 #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

The Bible speaks frequently about humility (good) and pride (bad). Repeatedly we are told to humble ourselves and that the least will be the greatest. Both the Old and New Testament explain the benefits of humility and that pride goes before a fall.

Clearly, “humility” is an important condition to practice, but society tells me something different. I am bombarded with messages about the importance of self-confidence and believing I can do anything I set my mind to. From an early age, we are told to be proud of ourselves and believe in ourselves. How do these messages fit in with the messages from the Bible?

First, some definitions (all from Merriam-Webster):

Humility: freedom from pride or arrogance :the quality or state of being humble

Humble: (1) :not proud or haughty :not arrogant or assertive (2) :reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission ; (3) a :ranking low in a hierarchy or scale

Pride: :the quality or state of being proud: such as
a :inordinate self-esteem
b :a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
c :delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship

Self-Esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself

Self-Confidence: confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities

From what I’ve read in the Bible over the past two years in my #DailyBibleReading, I don’t think most of the self-esteem messages that society sends are consistent with the Bible. Instead of spending my time building my self-confidence, I should be building my relationship with Jesus. Instead of putting my faith in my ability, I should put my faith in God’s power. Instead of teaching my daughters to be confident in themselves and their abilities, I should be teaching them to put their confidence in Jesus working through them.

I want my daughters to be extremely confident. But not in their own abilities. I want them to be 100% confident in Jesus.

Human abilities fail. I can’t do everything. I’m not Superwoman. She doesn’t exist. I won’t and don’t succeed at everything. I fail. When I was younger I heard people say that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. But that was a lie. No matter how much I might want to be; I’ll never be a great athlete. I don’t have the ability. I’ll never be an accountant or actuary because my mind isn’t wired that way.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t have an important plan for my life and a purpose for His kingdom. He does. He says that as Christians we are all part of the His church and have important roles to play. The most important role is loving God and loving others as myself.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4 

How can I practice humility? How do I humble myself?

  • Realize that every ability and opportunity I have isn’t from me . . . it is a gift from God.
  • Understand and appreciate that every person is better than me in some way. The 2-year-old in the line at the grocery store may have greater faith. The homeless man on the corner could teach me about patience. The woman in the nursing home may have a faith and prayer-life that can move mountains. If I take the time to look closely – to get to know people – I can learn a lot.
  • Talk less. Listen more.
  • Observe
  • Be grateful.
  • Thoughtfully receive criticism without reacting in anger or defensiveness.
  • Confess my sins to God and others.
  • Submit to authority . . . including my husband.
  • Forgive
  • Think less about myself and more about Jesus.
  • Pray
  • Speak well about others. Look for the strengths of others and lift them up.
  • Ask for help.
  • Realize I don’t have all the answers. But God does.
  • Don’t focus on what I want to do and what I want to be . . . seek God’s will in my life, obey Him, and put my confidence in Him finishing the good work He started.

And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” Daniel 10:11-12 

And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James 4:6-8,10 

 

 

 

 

Am I sinning on Facebook?

They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Titus 3:2

My siblings and I quarreled frequently over petty things like a brother having his leg touching “my seat” in the car; a little sister touching my stuff; a sibling “looking” at me (seriously, how is that an offense? My girls get mad about the same thing!).

I’ve noticed in my #DailyBibleReading a command to “avoid quarreling” today as well as a few days ago, so I’m giving this seemingly simple – even childish – concept a bit more thought and study.

  • The original Greek for that verse is: ‘To Be “Amachos” (peaceable) and “Epieikēs” (gracious).’
  • Other verses translated “Quarreling” from the Greek word  “Eris” (altercation, strife, contentious disposition).
  • Strife: “Angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues, conflict” (Dictionary.com)

The Bible is full of strife. There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot’s livestock. The Israelites fought among themselves. There was quarreling in the early church.

Today is no different. Read the Facebook comments on any post on a hot topic. Over the last two days, my Facebook feed has been full of posts about NFL players kneeling at games, Donald Trump, etc. Reading through the posts and comments is pretty depressing, no matter what side you are on. Hate and anger dominate so much of discussion  . . . regardless of the topic.

I’ve made comments or occasionally posted to stir up discussion or make a point . . .  but does it ever lead to peace? In the Bible, “strife” is listed along with sins like murder and sexual promiscuity.

Paul is pretty clear that strife/quarreling are not godly: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 (italics/bold added for emphasis)

Christians are to be known by their love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. We should avoid altercation and strife. This is a real struggle – how do I stand up for my beliefs and/or influence public discourse without causing strife? How do I fight injustice without causing quarrels? By even writing this blog post am I adding to the strife in the world?

As a Christian, how am I called to respond? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have at least one. I am called to Love.

What is the loving response?

  • To the NFL player kneeling during the anthem? Love Him
  • To Donald Trump cursing at the players? Love Him
  • To the people on Facebook bashing Donald Trump? Love Them
  • To the people on Facebook protesting the NFL? Love Them

My battle isn’t against flesh and blood and my calling isn’t to judge or to solve all the world’s problems. My two greatest commands are to Love God and Love Others. And my Facebook activity should reflect that.

 

 

 

 

How to Love God

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalms 91:14-16  #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Psalms 91-14-16 NLT

I came across these verses today in my #DailyBibleReading.

How I want to claim these as promises as mine: God will rescue, protect, answer, be with me during times of trouble, honor me, etc. But these aren’t blanket promises. They are for people who love Him and trust Him.

As Christians, our #1 command is to “Love God”. But what does this mean? How do I know if I am loving God the way He wants? Am I loving Him with all my heart, soul and mind?

What does it mean to truly love God?

  • Obeying His commands

  • Loving others

  • Hating evil

  • Holding tightly to God 

  • Searching for Him

  • Praising God

  • Storing up His words in my heart

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Jesus replied,”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40 

You who love the LORD, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Psalms 97:10

Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. Deuteronomy 11:22

Loving God with All My Heart, Soul, and Mind:

Loving God with what is inside of me . . . and with what I do and say.

Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. Psalms 119:2 

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11

Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Psalms 119:34 

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalms 27:8 

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:4-6 

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brevity of Life

Recently I was talking with a guy whose child has stage 4 cancer. He made a comment that stuck with me: “Sometimes you don’t realize that you are living in the ‘good-old-days’ until your life takes a bad turn. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed life more and savored the moments, not realizing what the future held.”

I’ve thought about his comments many times over the last few weeks. I’m working to savor the little things.

Here are a few daily practices I’m trying to incorporate into my life to keep focused on what matters most.

  1. Sitting quietly for five minutes a day without distractions and reflecting on the blessing in my life. No TV. No phone.  Just me and Jesus.
  2. Gratitude Journal: In my regular S.O.A.P. journal I’m including a daily gratitude sentence or paragraph. I have so much to be grateful for and I need to recognize it and give thanks.
  3. Pray for God to help me realize the brevity of life, so that I may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Have you found any practices that help you to enjoy, remember, or savor the little things in life?

I am more aware of the how quickly the times of hand are ticking. I see the almost overnight changes in my daughters as they start and go through puberty. The summer has flown by and another school year is right around the corner.

I have one life to live.

And this life is short.

I am so grateful for this time in my life when I am able to work less and enjoy my kids more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. #BecomingMary

Psalms 90-12 NLT

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 NLT

 

Musings on the Kingdom of Heaven

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

“But what do you think about this?

A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.

Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” Matthew 21:28-32 

I am a poster child for “fly over” America. I live in the middle of the United States in a nice, middle-class house. I have a husband, two kids, and a dog. I drive my kids to sports and school.  I am a typical “soccer mom” (minus the soccer and the peppy smile and cute blonde pony-tail . . . I’m the mom hanging out in her car with no make-up and lots of gray hair, trying to finish an overdue library book while drinking lukewarm coffee).

I am rarely pushed out of my comfort zone. I’ve traveled internationally and seen poverty, but it doesn’t touch my day-to-day life. I go to church with a lot of other hard-working, suburban, mid-westerners.

Yes, there are hipsters and hippies and refugees in our midst, but the count is small.

Sure, there are probably a lot of us living paycheck to paycheck, but not too many who are skipping meals due to lack of money.

This is my little piece of the world.

Not to say there isn’t pain and drama and sin in my church – there is – plenty of it. Just like every church in the world, the seats are full of people silently suffering from depression and anxiety. Whether in their past or present life – there is the struggle of addiction to porn, drugs, alcohol and gambling. There is divorce. There are past childhood wounds. There is future baggage being created. There is gossip and anger. There is hurt. There are struggles.

There are also the same faces that are seen every Sunday – the church leaders, the greeters, the childcare volunteers.

And then there are the invisible Christians. There are those who walk in and walk out of church, unnoticed. There are those who never even walk in the doors, because they are ashamed of the baggage they carry. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who go to church in prison as they serve a life-sentence. There are those who never show up on Sunday morning because they are in a nursing home or hospital.

In my mind, I see the “Kingdom of Heaven” being my church on a bigger scale, just without the ongoing sin and pain.

And it some ways it will be. But in other ways it will be much different.

In heaven, the invisible Christians will finally be seen. And they won’t be last. They will be first. The death row inmate who gave his life to Christ in the final hours will be leading the choir. The former thief will be at a place of honor. The invisible Christians – the poor and the hurting – will be those with the best seats at the table.

There will be people from every nationality and ethnicity, worshiping together. The prostitute with the preacher. The murderer with the cop. The man who struggled with same-sex attraction and the man who struggled with judging others. The republican and the democrat. The liberal and the conservative. The socialist, the libertarian, and the communist. The rich and the poor. The elderly and the infant.

Maybe it is time that I open my eyes and see others the way Jesus sees them. Love them the way Jesus loves them. Show compassion like Jesus showed. For all I know the homeless man I pass on the way to church might have a seat reserved for him in heaven, at the right hand of Jesus. The woman who keeps her head down at the grocery store and looks like her life is a mess . . . might be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Then he said,“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3

“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:10 

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 

“I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to his disciples,“I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said,“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:23-26