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 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Condition of My Heart

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:7-11

#DailyBibleReading  #BibleReadingPlan

  • Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins
  • Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire
  • Give to the poor . . . help those in need

Saying that I’m a Christian doesn’t make me a Christian.

Getting baptized doesn’t make me a Christian.

Repenting of my sins, turning to God, and putting my faith in Jesus makes me a Christian. And if I’ve truly turned from my sins and am following God, my behavior will show it. I’ll love others. I’ll care for the poor and needy. Just like Jesus did.

My actions aren’t the measuring stick that God will use to let me into heaven.

But my actions are a litmus test so I can see the true condition of my heart.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Underdogs

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, my Reading Plan emphasized God’s love for the underdog:

But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Jeremiah 7:5-6 (italics added for emphasis)

Blessed are those who are generous because they feed the poor.  Proverbs 22:9

A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.  Proverbs 22:16

Don’t rob the poor just because you can, or exploit the needy in court. For the LORD is their defender. He will ruin anyone who ruins them. Proverbs 22:22-23

If God’s heart is with the underdogs – the orphans, widows, foreigners, and the poor – I need to do a self-check. Where is my heart in terms of those who are suffering or marginalized?  What concrete actions do I need to take to love them like God does?

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

There is chaos all around us. Anytime I turn on the TV or look at my phone it is swirling around me – from the KKK in Charlottesville, to nuclear threats, to political unrest, to celebrity suicide. And then there is the chaos of everyday life.  From getting kids ready for back to school and keeping up with my to-do list.

But my God is a God of peace. And if I focus on Him, all the chaos falls away.

Isaiah 45-18 NLT

Chaos is nothing new. War, racial tension, family disagreements, and unrest have been here since sin entered the world. God didn’t create us to live in chaos. Our eyes aren’t meant to focus on the worries of the world.

Our eyes should be focused on Jesus.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:7,10

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. Psalms 119:165

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalms 34:14 

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

  1. Seek Jesus: Read the Bible every day. #DailyBibleReading
  2. Do a Self-Inventory: “Am I doing good in the world?” Do something good. Every day. Show kindness to a stranger. Do something loving for a family member. Pray for an enemy.
  3. Pray: Keep a prayer journal. Take your worries and hurts to Jesus.
  4. Praise God: Thank Him and praise Him.

Turn off your phone. Open your Bible.

Peace - turn off phone