Psalm 138:8

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Guarding Against Greed this Christmas

Christmas is two months away and I’m already thinking about my budget – what I “need” to buy and how much I “need” to spend. My children have started to hint at what they want.

This is what Christmas is all about, right? A season of spending money on gifts, of which less than 1% will remain in use six months after the sale (Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give gifts at Christmas or that consumerism is intrinsically bad . . . but in today’s #DailyBibleReading in Luke 12, Jesus says I need to make sure my mind isn’t focused on collecting material goods. The focus of my mind should be on Him and I should be guarding against greed.

Then he said,“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 

On the surface, I love the idea of “Minimalism” and have tried living much more minimally over the past few years, but even that can be its own idol – just as much as money – if my focus is on “minimizing” my stuff rather than following Jesus.

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Luke 12:29-31

The debate isn’t Consumerism vs. Minimalism. The real struggle is where is my mind  – am I making my prayer life and time with Jesus my number one priority? Where is my security? Am I worrying or am I trusting in God? Am I generous and helping the poor, or am I greedy? Do I want more than I need?

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Luke 12:25 

What is Jesus calling me to do in Luke 12?

  • Keep my mind focused on Jesus
  • Guard against greed
  • Don’t worry
  • Give to those in need
  • Trust in God

“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Luke 12:33-34 

Will I change anything this Christmas?

Hopefully, I shop less and celebrate Jesus’s birth more.

Hopefully, I will spend less time wrapping gifts and more time doing puzzles and playing games with my family.

Hopefully, I will spend less time worrying about my budget and more time celebrating the nativity.

Because isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The Hope of the world being born to a virgin and sleeping in a manger. Joy to the world isn’t about presents under a tree, but about a baby born to save us.

 

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.

 

 

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 

 

 

 

 

Asthma and Jesus

My youngest daughter has allergies and asthma. She takes multiple medications in the morning and before bed – including an asthma maintenance inhaler – and never goes anywhere without a rescue inhaler and epi-pen. This past weekend she had a friend spend the night and in the excitement of a sleepover, she didn’t take her medications before bed. By the next evening, she was wheezing and congested. After only one missed dose and she could feel the effects.

I had a similar experience but in a spiritual sense.

Sunday morning I was worn out from listening to a late night slumber party giggle-fest. I decided to skip my morning time of #DailyBibleReading and sleep in. I figured I’d get my Jesus fix at church. I’d read the Bible and pray later.

We went to church and then in the afternoon I prepared to do my #DailyBibleReading. But I got distracted by Facebook and HGTV and Sukuku (I’ve advanced to the “extreme” level) and a library book that is due soon. I didn’t read the Bible or pray.

By evening I could feel the effects of missing one dose of my personal time with Jesus. Seriously.

I was crabby and irritable. I yelled at my husband. I was letting my mind wander to places it shouldn’t.

I’m not trying to be legalistic about #DailyBibleReading, but here’s the thing: I have a disease called sin. I can’t control it. Only Jesus can. My daily time with Him is like a maintenance inhaler.  If I don’t take those 30 minutes with Him every morning I can feel the effects.

This spiritual race isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. And the only way my lungs stay strong is through time with Jesus. Every day.