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 

Matthew 20: Showing up Late for Work

Today’s #BibleReadingPlan had me read Matthew 20:1-19. Recently my pastor taught on this passage, which showed me this parable in a light I’d never seen before. You can listen to the sermon here on Journey Church’s website.  Pastor Phil Human does a great job illustrating what this parable means . . . but I’ll take a shot at summarizing as well.

  • God is the boss of heaven. He is a kind boss. He is merciful. He is generous. He is loving.
  • Someone can turn to God in the twilight of their life – and God will welcome them into heaven just the same as someone who served Him their whole life.
  • Our focus shouldn’t be on what others are doing, how much money they are making or rewards they are getting . . . our focus should be on the tasks God has given us and our relationship with Him.
  • I need to humble myself and be grateful for the gifts God has given me.

The Parable:

6 a.m.: A landowner went into town to hire people to work in his vineyard. He found a group of laborers and agreed to pay them a set amount for working the full day. (For example, $80)

9 a.m.: Same landowner is back in town and sees some people standing around doing nothing. He offered them a job to work in the vineyard for the rest of the day. They didn’t negotiate a pay rate, but he said he’d pay them whatever was right at the end of the day.

Noon: Same as 9 a.m.

3 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.

5 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.

7 p.m.: Everyone comes in from work and stands in line to get their pay. They line up from how long they worked. At the front of the line are the guys who only worked for a few hours. I imagine they aren’t even tired after only working a few hours. The landowner hands them each $80.

When the guys who had been working all day see this they start to do the math and get excited, thinking if the landowner paid these guys $80 for working 2 hours they are probably going to get $520 for working 13 hours!

But as they go down the line, the landowner hands everyone $80.

The guys at the end of the line were extremely upset with the landowner and didn’t think he was being fair.

But in reality, he was paying them exactly what he had agreed to pay them. They weren’t getting ripped off. They were being paid the going rate for the work they did. But, the landowner was being kind to the others and the 6 a.m. workers were jealous.

As Pastor Phil said in his sermon, most of us hear this parable and get a little indignant just like the 6 a.m. worker.

But now switch things around a bit . . . let’s get real. I’m not a 6 a.m. worker. I may have been a “Christian” from a young age, but I wasn’t actively running the race until a few years ago. And when it is hot, I take a lot of water breaks. I give into temptation. I get easily distracted from the tasks God has given me.

Am I really a 6 a.m. worker? Not by a long-shot.  Not even a 9 a.m. or noon worker. I’d probably say I’m a 3 p.m. worker . . . but if I’m honest I’m actually a 5 p.m. worker. I spend the majority of my day hanging out in town. And I give God the left-overs of my energy and time.

God asks me to spend time with him. To love him with all my heart and soul. To love my enemies. To love my neighbors. To care for the widows and the orphans. To be patient, kind, merciful and humble. 99% of the time (or more) I am none of these and do none of them.

But God, in his kindness, is going to give me the same reward of admission into heaven as He gave our mentors from the Bible – Peter, Paul, Mary, Stephen. By God’s grace, I will enter heaven just like martyrs, missionaries, apostles and saints.

Instead of getting indignant about the 5 p.m. workers getting $80 . . .  I need to look in the mirror and see myself for what I am: A 5 p.m. worker.

I should be on my knees thanking God for his kindness and mercy because I am being given a gift far more generous and wonderful than I could ever earn or will ever deserve.

 

 

 

Benefits of Daily Bible Reading

Prior to the end of 2015, I didn’t read the Bible every day. I’d read other devotional books or Bible studies that usually included reading a few verses. I was rarely reading whole chapters in the Bible. Let alone whole books. Most of my quiet time consisted of reading what other people had discovered in their quiet times.

Then everything changed.

  • I was frustrated with the lack of progress I was making in become more Christ-like. I know Jesus wants me to be loving, patient, kind, etc. But I wasn’t seeing any changes in my life. I was a Christian . . . so why wasn’t I becoming more like Christ?
  • I read “The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior”  by Wayne Cordeiro (More here).  Basic premise – spending time reading and studying the Bible everyday is the key to life transformation.
  • My church small group voted to read through the Bible in 2016. I decided to get a head-start and begin in 2015.

Here are the tools I use:

  1. Bible Reading: I use the YouVersion app and read the Bible on my phone.  I like it because I can highlight verses, read a passage in another version (NIV vs. NLT), create pictures from the verses, etc. Lately, I have found myself getting distracted on my phone. It seems like the minute I start ready the Bible an all-important Facebook notification pops up. I may be switching back to my actual physical Bible soon!
  2. Bible Reading Plan: Last year I used Wayne Cordeiro’s “Life Journal Reading Plan”. This year I am using Skövde Pingst’s “The BIBLE in a Year” plan. Both have been great – they include some New Testament, Old Testament and usually either some Psalms or Proverbs. And remember, you don’t have to start a plan on January 1st. I started in November 2015. Start today!
  3. S.O.A.P. Journal. In The Divine Mentor Wayne Cordeiro explains the S.O.A.P. method of journaling while reading the Bible. I’ve adapted it a bit. My journal includes my own personal journal, my prayer journal and my daily SOAP. In this video Wayne explains the method (and it doesn’t hurt it is filmed in Hawaii – I think I could spending hours doing S.O.A.P on the beach!).
    • S: Scripture
    • O: Observation
    • A: Application or Action
    • P: Prayer

Personally, reading the Bible every day has been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done. I’m finally seeing my life changing – from the inside out. No, it hasn’t happened at the speed I’ve wanted. And sometimes I get in a slump. But I am seeing changes. Slowly and steadily.

Here are a few passages that also explain the importance of reading the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.Psalms 119:105 

Instruction for the kings of Israel:

When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.   Deuteronomy 17:18-20 

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

 

 

The Kindness Challenge: I was Mean

#JoinKindness

I’m on Day 11 of the 30 Day Kindness Challenge. The recipient of my supposed “kindness” is my husband.

Days 1-5: went pretty well. I was excited, figuring out the challenge, seeking ways to be kind, etc.

Days 6-7: were OK. I was busy preparing for a trip with my daughter and was doing laundry, making to-do lists for my husband, packing, etc. I did give my husband a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers sunglasses, which he seems to like (and looks really sexy in).  I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into being kind, but I wasn’t mean either.

Days 8-9: I was out-of-town. Sent a few nice text messages about missing him. Easy!

Day 10: I was tired from my Passport2Purity Getaway with my daughter. My husband had been up late at a golf tournament the night before. He got a speeding ticket. The house was a mess. I was not nice. First thing in the morning I complained about him. Then I complained to him. I did a lot of grumbling with a side of yelling. For some reason housework makes my irritation level rise about 200 degrees. I definitely didn’t say anything nice. (Though I did begrudgingly give him a pocket knife he had been wanting) Last night we went to a birthday party and I had been planning to compliment him in front of his friends . . . but that didn’t happen.

My lack of kindness – and my abundance of frustration – brought the whole mood of my house down. My kids started complaining and bickering. My husband pulled back and didn’t really talk to me the rest of the day. It was not a good day. I was not a good wife. And I set a horrible example for my kids.

Day 11: 7:30 a.m. Only my dog and I are awake (side note, I love my dog because no matter how I act she never gets upset with me). It is just me, the dog and my coffee. And Jesus. And the reminder that God’s mercies are new every morning. Thank goodness for that. I need a lot of mercy.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:21-23 

Once the footsteps start I am going to need to apologize for my lack of kindness and losing my temper. And ask for grace.

And I am going to need to come up with some pretty off-the-charts kind words and actions for today.

Lamentations 3-22.jpg

 

Am I Loving?

Using 1 Corinthians 13 as a Barometer of my Love Life

#DailyBibleReading

The love passage.  One of three Bible chapters I have ever memorized (along with Psalm 23 and Matthew 5). It is a beautiful passage about love and about what really matters in life.

1 Corinthians 13-13.jpg

But what does it look like in practical terms?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 NLT

I can go to church and spout Bible verses and knowledge; but if I am not loving the people in the church it doesn’t matter.

I can go to Bible studies and spend time reading the Bible and praying, but if it never penetrates my heart and changes me . . . there is a serious problem.

I can write a check to a charity or volunteer at a food pantry, but if I turn around and am mean to my husband and kids and co-workers, my “good deeds” don’t count.

The number one “good deed” that God wants to see – and that should be naturally flowing out of me if I am spending time with Jesus and focusing my attention on Him – is Love. Not perfect love because we aren’t going to be perfect until heaven. But if God is filling us we should gradually be becoming more loving.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

I don’t think these verses are a threat or a list of actions for us to attempt, but more of a barometer for us to examine ourselves. Is Jesus’s love in us, flowing out to others?  Over years spent with Jesus, am I becoming more loving? Am I becoming more like the list above?

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:11‭-‬12 NLT

Like a child growing up, change doesn’t happen right away. And I won’t be perfected until after death, but right now I should be becoming more like Jesus. If I am spending time with him on a daily basis, praying, doing spiritual disciplines like memorizing Bible verses, fasting, and meditating; I should be maturing. And the best way to tell if I am maturing? If I am becoming more loving.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.                                           1 Corinthians 13:8-10

When reflecting on my life, if I see I am becoming a more loving person I know I am on track.

If I don’t see growth in this area – if I am not becoming more loving or if I am going backwards –  I need to make adjustments in my life and make sure I am spending my time, mental focus and energy on what matters most: Jesus. Reading the Bible, praying, praising him and meditating on his words. I can’t change myself to become more loving, but when I am full of Jesus, his love will natural seep out of me.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

 

 

The Kindness Challenge: Respect

#JoinKindness

Speaking words of praise and affirmation seems simple on the surface. It is easy for me to say things like “I love you” and “You look nice” to my husband, but I might not be speaking the language he wants and needs to hear.

For the 30 Day Kindness Challenge I want to choose my words of affirmation/praise carefully and make sure they count.

I am reading “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” by Shaunti Feldhahn.  Shaunti is also the author/inventor of the Kindness Challenge. For this book she conducted qualitative and quantitative research to find out what men really think and really want from women.

Shaunti found that 74% of men would rather feel “Alone and Unloved” than feel “Inadequate and Disrespected”.  Bottom line: Men need and want respect.

She also makes another significant point – most women want a man to love her unconditionally. I know I want my man to love me (and think I’m hot) even if I’ve gained 25 pounds, am getting gray hair and have sagging boobs. I want him to love me even when I nag, complain, don’t clean the house, yell at the kids, etc. I don’t expect anything less. He married me for better or for worse, and some days he definitely gets the “worse”. That is marriage. That is life.

On the other hand . . . and this is something I really struggle with . . . I don’t give him unconditional respect. I know the Bible repeatedly tells wives to respect their husbands. And it never gives the caveat, “if they earn it and deserve it.” Actually, the Bible says quite the opposite:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
1 Peter 3:1‭-‬2 NLT

Wow.

If I want to be a missionary to my husband and set a good example to my children then I really need to get a handle on this “respect” concept. But honestly, I don’t even know if I grasp what it looks like in practical terms. In America’s society there aren’t exactly a lot of role models of strong, successful women submitting to and respecting their husbands. Especially in an unconditional way. And a healthy, biblical way.

Shaunti gives some concrete examples in her book:

  • Conflict – if my man get’s angry during a conflict most likely it is because he feels disrespected. 80% of men said they feel disrespected by their wife during conflict. That is something to tune in to. If my husband and I are having a disagreement and he gets angry most likely it is because he feels disrespected. Of course the damage is already done, but hopefully I can be discerning enough to figure out what I said and change it for the future.
  • His Judgement – “A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions” Shaunti wrote about her findings. “No one wanted a silent wallflower (nor would I advocate becoming one!”), but many men wished their mates wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue  with their decisions all the time.” Thinking back, I see so many times when I do this to my husband for no reason, other than I want to prove I’m right. Even about super stupid stuff. Like if he sings the words to a song incorrectly I’ll google the lyrics and tell him the correct words.
  • His Abilities: Here I just need to keep my mouth shut or tell him I trust him. He doesn’t need me to give him advice on how to do everything . . . from proper mowing technique to how to handle his business to parenting.  Or if he is folding towels instead of just thanking him, I’ll also insert a helpful tip on the correct way to fold towels. Even when I am genuinely trying to offer advice or be helpful, he may see it as me not trusting his abilities. Shaunti had a great point: “The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself which is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted? No contest”.
  • Shaunti found that 7 out of 10 men would rather have their wife notice and thank them for an action, rather than say “I love you”.  And not add a “but” to the end of the thank you.  Just “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen”. Not “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen, but you forgot to take out the trash.”
  • The majority of men take a “reminder” as his wife expressing disappointment.
  • Don’t put my man down in public, even if I am just teasing. I can wound him. Deeply.
  • Praise my husband in public. Brag on him.
  • Assume the best about him.

My goal for today is to be as thoughtful and reflective as possible when it comes to praising and affirming my husband. And outside of that, to keep my mouth shut. To a man, not saying anything negative goes beyond outright mean remarks. It means to keep my mouth shut – no “helpful” reminders or suggestions or corrections – for 30 days.

There was a great response from one of the survey takers in “For Women Only” who said, “You know the saying ‘Being every good man is a great woman’? Well that is so true. If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or a home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”

P.S. Thanks to last year’s craze of loom bracelets I now have a lovely rubber bracelet on my wrist, handcrafted by my daughter, to remind me to be kind.

Proverbs 31-10‭-‬12.jpg

The Kindness Challenge: Day 2

#JoinKindness Day One Review:

  1. Say Nothing Negative about that person: I think I did this, but not too well. There was one incident when my husband and I were discussing some scheduling and budget stuff and I caught my tone of voice, which wasn’t kind. I also went out with friends for dinner last night and completely forgot about the challenge and later had to think back to remember if I’d said anything unkind about him. I don’t think I did (fingers crossed)
  2. Speak Praise or Affirmation: This one is easy for me. I praise my husband a lot – compliment his looks, thank him for things, tell him I love him, etc. So I stepped it up a notch. It was to the point where my daughter said, “Dad, mom is just saying all that stuff because she is doing a Kindness Challenge.” Maybe I stepped it up too much and wasn’t being completely sincere.
  3. Act of Kindness: I washed my husband’s portable grill and put away his laundry.  Writing them down is  a little embarrassing because they seem very small . . . and like things I should have no problem doing. But typically I don’t pick up or clean his stuff. And I didn’t want to do it (which also sounds ridiculous and makes me aware of my selfishness and laziness when it come to household chores). But I did it.

#JoinKindness Day One What I learned:

  • I need to be more thoughtful in my praise and affirmation. I need to really observe my husband and reflect on his strengths and weaknesses and how I can build him up, rather than just throwing out lots of random compliments.
  • I need to watch my tone, not just my words.
  • I need a physical reminder about the challenge so I don’t forget about it when I get busy during the day or if I have a Corona while stuffing my face with Mexican food and laughing with girlfriends. I thought about wearing a rubber band or hair tie around my wrist (but then I worry about cutting off circulation). I need to come up with something.
  • I am selfish.
  • I need to come up with additional and creative ways to do Small Acts of Kindness or Generosity . . . and I also need to be willing to do the stuff I don’t want to do. Like scrubbing a dirty grill even if I didn’t eat the steak.

Proverbs 3-3.jpeg

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Proverbs 3:3 (NLT)

#JoinKindness Goals for Today:

  • Find a physical reminder of the challenge to wear
  • Write a list of all the things I love about my husband and leave it on his pillow tonight
  • Reflect on a certain situation that he handled well, and tell him that I appreciate it and why
  • Watch my tone of voice

The Kindness Challenge: Verses for Encouragement

June 1: My Thirty Day Kindness Challenge is starting today!  Click here for more information.  #JoinKindness

When I first signed up for the Kindness Challenge I was doing to improve my marriage. I was signing up to challenge myself. I was doing it to bless my husband.

But in my daily Bible reading today I read a verse that made me realize something – the person I need to be doing this for, above anyone else, is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15-58.jpg

This will be helpful for me because I’m sure there are going to be many days when it is going to take everything in me to keep my mouth shut. There will probably be plenty of days when I am not going to feel like doing anything kind for my husband, whether because of laziness or selfishness or plain old meanness.

But God is kind.  Jesus is kind. Kindness is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. And God commands me to be kind.

I’ll be re-reading these verses every day through this challenge to give me strength to be kind, even if I don’t feel like it.

The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. Psalm 145:17 (NLT)

Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you. Proverbs 11:17 (NLT)

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Proverbs 31: 26 (NLT)

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NLT)

Love: The Greatest Thing

1 Corinthians 8-2-3.jpg

Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. 1 Corinthians 8:2‭-‬3 NLT

In my #BibleReadingPlan I’m currently reading about King David in the Old Testament and Paul’s letters in the New Testament. David and Paul are my favorite mentors in the Bible, along with Mary of Bethany.

  • King David: He was a very flawed man, but still loved God passionately. He was an adulterer. A murderer. A song writer. A lover of many women. Even as king had no problem dancing and singing in the streets to praise God. His kids were screwed up. They killed each other. Raped each other. His heart broke for his children and he wept for them. No matter how many times he stumbled and fell, no matter how dark the valley or cave he was hiding, he always returned to God.

 

  • Paul: He hated Christians and hunted them. He watched as Stephen was stoned to death for believing in Jesus. And then God stopped Paul in his tracks. Quite literally. God opened his eyes and showed him that Jesus was real, and Paul believed. He changed his whole life and committed it completely to following Jesus. He was beaten. He was a letter writer. His life was spent traveling and preaching. He was church planter. A prisoner.  He encouraged and corrected. He was loved by many and hated by many. He was executed after 30 years of serving Jesus. He was a lover of the gospel and lover of the church. His greatest love in life was Jesus.

 

  • Mary of Bethany: Mary was a sister to Martha and Lazarus. Jesus was her friend. She trusted him and loved him. And she understood that spending time with Jesus and loving him were more important than anything else. She wasn’t ashamed to express her love for Jesus – even when others criticized her for it. She sat at Jesus’s feet, which was controversial because that signaled that she was a disciple, a role typically just for males. She washed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume. Also, controversial.  She didn’t care what others thought of her, she just wanted to love Jesus. She understood the importance of being with Jesus and expressing her love of him.

What can we learn from these mentors?

  1. To love God
  2. To praise and worship God – no matter who criticizes us for it
  3. To make time with God our #1 priority
  4. To love others
  5. To share God’s love with others

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Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

The Kindness Challenge

As I was driving to Wal-Mart I heard a story on the radio about “The Kindness Challenge”.  I was intrigued.  I didn’t hear the whole discussion – but the gist of it was a woman had done a study about how 30 days of kindness could transform a relationship, even if only one person in the relationship was doing the challenge.

I love a challenge.  And I love an easy model to follow. #JoinKindness

Once I got home I did a little more digging and found the 30 Day Kindness Challenge online. (Disclaimer, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know all the details). According to the website:

The 30-Day Kindness Challenge is a much-needed movement of kindness led by many influential organizations.

 89% of relationships improve if you pick a person with whom you want a better relationship; then for 30 days:

1. Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them to anyone else.
 
2. Each day find one positive thing you can praise or affirm about that person and tell them and tell someone else. 

3. Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

I signed up!  Interested in joining me?  Sign-up here.

I am starting on June 1, 2017 and the recipient of my kindness will be my husband.

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So right now I am trying to get prepared by brainstorming small acts of kindness (and doing Pinterest research because honestly, outside of doing laundry and making his favorite dinner, I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas for a man who doesn’t ask for much).

But even more so, I am praying for God to help me with #1 on the list – not saying anything negative. I nag my husband. Probably more than I realize. My tone of voice can be not so pleasant. When I am displeased everyone in the house knows it. I complain about stupid stuff – how he folds the laundry, him buying chips when I am trying to eat healthy, him letting the kids watch too much TV, etc.

So my big prayer right now is for God to help me prepare and that I will rely on Him for the kindness and loving words. And that He will help me keep my mouth shut when needed.

In my Bible reading this morning there was some great stuff as I get my heart (and mouth) ready for the challenge.:

1 Corinthians 2: When Paul came to tell people at Corinth about Jesus he was timid and trembling. He didn’t have the words to say. But instead of trying to come up with impressive speeches, he relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Mentally, he focused on Jesus only, and then let the Holy Spirit speak through him. Wow. That is what I want. There is no one who loves my husband more than Jesus, and Jesus would much rather have me covering my husband with love and kindness than nagging about how to fold the towels. When I open my mouth I don’t want my words to come out, but the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

Proverbs 12: So much incredible stuff here about the words I speak to my husband:

  • A worthy wife is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4)
  • The words of the godly save lives (Proverbs 12:6)
  • The family of the godly stands firm (Proverbs 12:7) (OK, not exactly about my words, but I have two daughters listening to everything I say. Are my words and my tone godly?)
  • Wise words bring many benefits (Proverbs 12:14)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Proverbs 12:16)
  • The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth (Proverbs 12:22)
  • Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging words cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25)
  • The godly give good advice to their friends (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.(Proverbs 12:18).

My words have the power to heal or destroy, and 95% of the time I open my mouth without really thinking through what I am going to say. I really need God in this area of my life. I need to think before I speak and filter everything I am saying through the Holy Spirit. And I probably need to keep my mouth closed a lot more often.

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