Putting God First

A Life Focused on What Matters Most.

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God had offered the Israelites blessing upon blessing if they just followed him.  And they would . . . for a short while.  And then they would reject him.  He wanted to be their King and take care of them, but they kept walking away from him.

I can relate to this.

I could give you a million examples from my teens and early 20s, but even now in my 40s (when I am reading my Bible every day and should be more mature) I reject God regularly.  I put idols above him.  I disobey him.

God’s number one command is to love him with all my heart.  And second to love others.  If you were a fly on the wall in my house some days, observing how I spend my time, you’d think my greatest loves were Facebook, being exasperated with my kids, Word Cookies, and my career and budget.

God had offered the Israel – his chosen people – a life of peace and blessings.  But they chose something else.  They wanted another king.  A human king.  They wanted to fit in with other nations who had “real” kings.  They came to the prophet Samuel and asked him to find them a king.  Samuel was personally offended, but when he came to God, God said:

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”  1 Samuel 8:7 NIV

Wow.

How many times have I done the same thing?  Put someone or something on a pedestal.  How often have I made it my main focus, instead of Jesus?

But the wonderful thing is, even though Israel strayed from God over and over, when they repented and turned back, God was right there waiting.  Still loving them.  Still protecting them.  Showing mercy and grace.

And he does the same thing for me and for you.

Prayer:  Dear God, Please show me areas of my life where I have put people or things above you. And help me to always put you first.

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6 Lessons on Repentance from King David

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He was chosen by God to be the king of Israel.  From his family tree came Jesus.  But David wasn’t perfect.  Far from it.

King David was a murder.  King David was an adulterer.

In today’s reading (if you want to join me in reading through the Bible comment below and I’ll be in touch!  Here is the plan I’m using this year.  It is never too late to start!), the plan including Psalm 51, which King David wrote after he was confronted by a prophet, Nathan, about his adultery.

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I think there is a lot to learn in this chapter, by David’s example, about what to do when confronted with sin:

  1. David admitted his sin.
  2. His heart was broken because of his sin.
  3. David asked God for mercy.
  4. He asked God to cleanse him from his sin.  
  5. David asked God to create in him a pure heart and to renew a steadfast spirit.
  6. He praised God.

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We have all sinned – whether its lying or cheating or gossiping.  King David’s sin was huge – murder and adultery.  But when confronted with his sin he admitted what he had done and his heart was broken.  His heart wasn’t broken because he had been caught.  His heart was broken because he had hurt God.   He asked for forgiveness.  He turned away from the sin.

God forgave him.

And God turned evil into good . . . as from David and Bathsheba’s family line came a baby  named Jesus who would save the world.

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Freedom

Jesus didn’t come to save people who are perfect . . . he came to save the sinner.  The drunk.  The prostitute.  The liar.  The cheat.  The adulterer.  The mom who struggles with anger and unforgiveness and unkindness.

He didn’t just come save us from hell; he came to save us from the sin we are currently living in.

We don’t change from a lifestyle of sin by following a bunch of rules.  We change by faith in Him.   Everyone who believes is set free from every sin!Acts 13-38-39.jpg

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.  Acts 13:38‭-‬39 NIV

Three Sources for Financial Advice

I’ve always been interested in financial management.  Even as a kid I used the envelope system and tried to get my siblings to listen to my lectures on money.  Financial management is systematic and strategic . . . and this woman loves systems and strategies!

As a Christian, here are three sources I lean on for developing financial strategies for my life.

#1. The Bible

By far, the Bible is the most important resource for advice on money.  Did you know there are over 2,000 verses about money in the Bible?   No, you won’t find specific advice on investing strategies, but the Bible gets to the most important thing – where the heart is in terms of finances.  Is my security in God or in my bank account?  Do I demonstrate love for others by how I share my resources?  Who does my money belong to?  Am I a wise steward of resources?

Jesus himself talked frequently about money  . . . so if it is important to Jesus it should be important to me.  I should be seeking biblical wisdom on how I deal with finances.  Fortunately, whether I am reading the Old Testament, the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament, I regularly come across advice on how to think about and handle money.

For example, if you are reading along with me through the Bible (this year I am using the Skövde Pingst YouVersion Plan in NIV – Click Here to Start!), yesterday’s reading included Psalm 49:16-20, which talked about not being jealous or greedy; wealth will fade.  I should focus more on gaining wisdom than gaining money.

  • 16-17: Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.
  • 18 – 19: Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper— they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.
  • 20: People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.

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#2. Dave Ramsey

I love Dave Ramsey.  I’ve never done his Financial Peace University classes, but have heard rave reviews.  He has simple, biblically-based concepts that have worked for me.  The resources I’ve used are:

  • Radio program:  I listen on-line; usually every day.  I love Dave’s advice and the inspiring stories of people who have paid off all their debt.
  • Baby Steps:  As outlined on the website and in his books.  Simple.  Clean.  Makes sense.  And it works.  I’m on Baby-Step 5 . . . and I want to sell my house and buy a new house with the equity to fast-forward to complete Step 6.  (But I have a lot of work to get my house ready to sell!)
  • Total Money Makeover book:  quick read, great resource.  And it works if you follow it!

 

#3. Joshua Becker

Josh spoke at my church several years ago about his journey and philosophy on possessions.  It was such a different concept than the consumerism that I was caught up in . . . and it made total sense.  I follow Josh’s blog www.BecomingMinimalist.com which has great insight on topics on minimalism, getting out of debt, becoming un-busy, decluttering, etc.

His blog as great reminders on getting rid of the things that don’t matter and focusing on what matters most.

I haven’t read any of Josh’s books yet . . . but have them on my to-read list.  If you have read any, please share thoughts.  Josh’s latest book is below:

Hope for Living in Hard Times

Yesterday I watched a few minutes of the Today Show and the hosts and their guest were talking about all the horrible things going on in the world today.  They weren’t talking specifics, but big picture – people unhappy with the current political environment, war and threats of war, etc.  And I agree, there is a lot of unrest.  There are people who think Trump will destroy America and possibly the world.  There were people who thought the same thing about Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan . . . and I bet there were people who thought the same about Nixon, Lincoln, Truman, Roosevelt, etc.

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Unfortunately, there has always been war, murder, incest, racism, rape and hate.  Around the world there are good leaders and bad leaders.  There is peace and there is war.  There is love and there is hate.  Nowhere is perfect.

Today in my Bible reading plan it was pretty depressing reading about horrible things that happened thousands of years ago.  In Judges 18-19 I read about:

  • The complete destruction of a peaceful city
  • A priest “taking” a concubine, who was then unfaithful to him
  • The men of a city banging on the door of a house where the priest was staying, asking the owner of the house to send the priest out so they could have sex with him
  • The owner of the house instead offering his virgin daughter and the concubine for the men to “use them and do to them whatever you wish” in order to protect the priest from rape
  • The rape and abuse of the concubine
  • The priest then cutting up the woman into 12 pieces and sending her limbs to each of the tribes of Israel

Gruesome stuff.  I’ve read it before but it still makes me feel sick to my stomach.

But then my reading plan took me to Psalm, where the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 49)

  • Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me
  • No one can redeem the life of another
  • But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself

We live in a fallen world.  There is sin and evil all around us; but our hope isn’t in this world or its leaders.  I can’t change the world, but with God’s grace, I can change myself.  I can impact my children and husband.  I can make a difference, for the better, in the lives of the people around me.

Are we living in tough times?  Yes, some of us are.  Is there hope for the future?  Yes, especially a future in heaven with Jesus.  Can I have peace in the present?  Yes, by continually reminding myself that God is in control and focusing on fixing myself and letting God take care of the rest.

Finding My Mission

I’ve been married for 13 years this August.  I’ve been a mom for over 11 years.  These are very important roles for me – loving my husband and children, taking care of them, providing for them, etc.  But sadly, they have often taken a back seat to my career and the busyness of life.  Several years ago God started to put on my heart that they are more than just my family.  They are my mission field.

In August 2014 I was sitting in a Bible study on Gideon (by Priscilla Shirer) at the Gretna United Methodist Church and I was praying for God to reveal his grand purpose for my life (and I was convinced it was grand) and it suddenly hit me:  My purpose was to be a missionary.  In my house.  To the man I married and the two children I love.

And I’m embarrassed to say, since then I’ve had a million excuses not take that mission seriously.  But God keeps bringing me back.  I keep looking for my grand purpose in my career.  Or a grand purpose through other “mission” work – service projects, church volunteering, humanitarian organizations, christian ministries, etc.  And while all that is important and good, God keeps bringing me back to that calling I heard several years ago.  He closed the door to my old life as a political fundraiser, so I took another full-time job in a non-profit organization.  He closed that door.  He is telling me over and over that my mission field is right here.  In this house.

My number one priority is to spend time with him every day and follow him.

My number two priority is to minister to my husband and children.

I get it.  I finally get it and accept it, but it is still a struggle.  I’m learning what it means to be a missionary; usually by way more trial and error than success.  I’m learning to resist the daily temptation to start chasing a “mission” that looks a lot more exciting than Mom/Wife.  But I feel at peace that I am finally in the place God wants me.  And I know he’ll give me the strength to run this race and will guide me to the end.

P.S. I’m reading through the Bible in a Year – using the YouVersion or Bible.com app.    My reading today was a good reminder on my keeping my priorities straight, following God’s direction, and the importance of observing the greatness of God and passing on that message to the next generation.  Psalm 48:12-14:  Walk around Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.  For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.   (NIV)

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Top Five Devotional Books for Tween Girls

This blog post is for all the moms of tween girls who are hoping to instill a habit of daily time with Jesus.  I have two girls ages 9 and 11.  I’ll be honest with you; most of the time I feel like I am barely pulling off this “mom” thing.

  • We rarely eat a meal at the kitchen table.  Usually we’re eating Taco Bell in the car or processed chicken nuggets on the couch while watching The Middle re-runs on the Hallmark channel.
  • After I’ve asked  my youngest to clean her room 50 times without a response I end up yelling at her and threatening to ground her from screen time for a month.  #MomFail
  • I put up job charts and forget about them.
  • I read lots of parenting books and blogs and the concepts sound great, but usually my implementation falls flat.
  • While I completely believe in the importance of consistent discipline, I don’t do it.  Half the time I don’t discipline and half the time I’m overly strict.  So I guess I am consistently 50/50.  Does that count?

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But there is one thing I think I have done a good job of and that is having a pretty consistent nightly devotional time with my girls.  (And “pretty consistent” in my house is about 70% of the time.  I call that a huge accomplishment!)  I started with they were little and some months we’ve done it almost every night.  Some stages of life I’ve been lazy and had my priorities out of whack and we’d go months without reading and praying before bed.  But we always come back to it.  My girls are the ones who usually remind me when I’ve fallen into bed exhausted.

Here are my top recommendations on devotional books for girls ages 7-12, in no particular order:

  1. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo by Dannah Gresh and Janet Mylin
  2. 3-Minute Devotions for Girls by Janice Hannah Thompson
  3. You’re God’s Girl by Wynter Pitts
  4. A Girl After God’s Own Heart Devotional by Elizabeth George
  5. The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls by Sandra Byrd

When my girls were a little younger sometimes I’d run across a topic that I thought was too mature, and we’d go to a different devotion, but most of them have been great for their ages.  Some examples of topics:

  • Happiness vs. Joy (A Girl After God’s Own Heart)
  • How Do I Speak Love? (You’re God’s Girl)
  • Me?  Stuck up? (3-Minute Devotions for Girls)
  • The Beatitudes:  Peacemakers (The One Year Mother Daughter Devo)
  • I’m Not Popular at School (Be-Tween You & God)

This devotional time has not only been a great opportunity to build a habit of daily time with God, but it has also opened up opportunities for discussion about what my girls are dealing with in their lives.  And when it comes down to it, that is what is the most important thing to me: teaching my girls to be more like “Mary” by spending time on what matters most.

Even if they don’t always eat healthy, have messy rooms, and unfinished job charts . . . if they are spending daily time with Jesus everything else pales in comparison.