Jesus is not my first priority…

Paul writes, speaking of Jesus Christ: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” ~ Colossians 1:16-18

Last December I began to plan the new year in detail and wrote out goals for every aspect of my life. In the last few years, I have chosen a verse and a word to focus on throughout the year.

At the time, I was continuing my reading through Paul’s epistles. The Lord had already been working in my heart for months about this very verse and the word I would choose. I read Colossians and, though I have probably heard and read these verses hundreds of times, they affected me more than ever before.

Colossians 1:18 would be my goal verse. Jesus would be my one word.

I have touched on this before, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of living a Christ-centered life. I know the first month is nearly over, but allow Christ to have preeminence in 2014.

List everything that consumes your time.

This is how I start, and I encourage you to do the same. The list is virtually endless, but I’ll mention the most common – God, family, friends, church, prayer, Bible study, sports, reading, school, television, social media, eating, sleeping, etc… Take a look at your list and order them according to their importance. Now, be honest with yourself, are you giving more time to things of less importance? How does your life balance out?

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. ~ Ephesians 5:15,16

Jesus is not at the top of my list, nor do I want Him to be.

Jesus is not an item I can simply mark off a to-do list. The verse does not say, “…that above all things he might have the preeminence.” It says, “…that in all things might have the preeminence.” He must be at the center of everything I do.

After I made my list, I looked at each item and asked myself one question, “Can this be done to the glory of Jesus Christ?” If the answer was yes, I then set goals that would ultimately bring glory to Him in their accomplishment. If the answer was no, I removed them.

This is absolutely Biblical. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Honestly, this is difficult. It means we must constantly be walking in the Spirit, and it requires dying to our own fleshly desires. Your flesh and the Spirit are constantly at war. Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Mind the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8 is a phenomenal chapter on the flesh versus the Spirit. In verses 5 and 6 it says, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

It’s a simple truth. If you want a life that glorifies Jesus Christ, mind the things of the Spirit. If you want a life that glorifies yourself or anything else that will pass away, mind the things of the flesh.

And everything will affect you one way or another – every television show, every song, every book, every friend, every magazine, every conversation, every text message, every movie, every moment spent either glorifies Christ or doesn’t.

Is my every moment spent on things that glorify Christ? Honestly, no. But I am a work in progress, and so are you. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6) By the end of 2014, I hope to see more time spent on things that glorify Christ than things that satisfy my flesh.

Will you also allow Christ to have the preeminence in your life?

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fall to fly

We all come to a point in life in which we are comfortable. We think we have life figured out. We like the ideal life we have orchestrated – a life without complication. Yet God desires more from us. He wants us to step out in faith. The desire for more burns within us. We are not satisfied with good, we truly want great. But when the sacrifices are considered, most settle for the ordinary, the simple. They decide that it is better to be comfortable rather than to endure challenges in order to succeed – in order to obey.

I challenge you to take the leap of faith that God wants from you. Like a bird must step out of its nest so that it may learn to fly, step out of your comfort zone. You will fall at first. It is necessary. It will be frightening. It will take your breath away. You may even begin to believe that you are falling to your finale. And you may want to simply accept that, but don’t.

Inhale.

Take on the pressure.

Face the wind.

Rise up.

Fly.

And when you are soaring above all those who would not step out in obedience, those who settled for mediocrity – those who stayed in their nests – you will be thankful that you learned to fall in order to fly.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” ~ Isaiah 40:31

taught to the teacher

Several years ago, I assigned my students book reports, and many of them (in different classes) chose to do the various books from the Chronicles of Narnia. I figured, since I had never read any of them, that I would read them too.

So I started with the first book and went through the series. I discovered two things. First, these are excellent books! I should have guessed this, since I truly enjoyed C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, but I was still pleasantly surprised. The second thing that I discovered was that some of my students who were claiming to read these books were only reading the first chapter and the back cover and then using that limited information to write their book reports. See, little did they know that I had read the same books that they had read, so I knew exactly what happened in each book.

At first, I was really frustrated. I thought, I know exactly what these stories are about. Do they seriously think they can fool me with these “short-cut” book reports? They have the nerve to tell me that they read the whole book?

And then my thoughts wandered… and I was convicted.

Are there not times when I do almost the same thing with God? I take “short-cuts” and convince myself that I have done what was required of me, but am I seriously trying to fool my omniscient God? I wonder if God looks at me and says I know exactly what you are about and do you think you are fooling me with your “short-cuts”? 

Have you really convinced yourself that you have read your Bible as you should? 

Prayed as you should? 

Yielded to the Holy Spirit as you should? 

Shared the Gospel as you should? 

Obeyed as you should? 

Trusted me as you should? 

Helped others, rather than self, as you should? 

Loved as you should?

Lived the Christian life as you should? 

It’s your reasonable service.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ~ Romans 12:1-2

success?

Of this I am almost certain, there are two proverbial keys necessary to unlocking the door of success to any goal we desire to reach. The first key is discipline, a weighty key that requires great strength; the second is balance, a delicate key requiring great attentiveness to preserve its fragility. Now here is the hardest part… you have to use both keys at the same time to unlock that “door.”

Are you imagining this with me?

Does this seem nigh impossible to anyone else?!

Well, let’s just start with this then, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) Despite the fact that balance and discipline seem almost contrary to one another, it is possible to exercise both and reach the goals you have set for yourself. But not on your own. You need your Heavenly Father to help you.

There have been numerous times in my life when I have tried to do it all in my own strength, and every time I am left exhausted and disappointed until I realize I have not been relying on Him to help me. And until you do the same, you too will end up exhausted and disappointed. Of course, I am no expert; all I can do is share with you the things that the Lord has shown me in my own life. While making my goals for 2012, this was something that God put on my heart – something that would help me stick to my goals and see growth in my life.

With that being said, let’s address these two “keys.” Of the two, balance is probably the one I struggle with most, so I will address it last. Discipline can be a little easier for me if it means acquiring something I really want. For example, in January 2011, I set a goal to lose thirty pounds by the end of the year. My purpose was two-fold 1) I wanted to be an ideally healthy weight 2) I wanted to feel good about myself. By June 2011, I had lost thirty-five pounds.

The difficult thing is being disciplined when I don’t want to be, but need to be. I can think of several goals I have set for myself, because I know they are things that I should be doing in order to see growth in my life. The hard part is putting what we know we should be doing into action. Because knowing how to do something and actually doing something are two very different things.

The truth is, you know how to reach your goal. You probably wouldn’t have set a goal, if you had no idea how to attain it. But if you are like me, it’s taking the necessary steps that can be a struggle… or as in my introductory illustration, it’s lifting that weighty key that requires a measure of strength. So where do we find that strength? Through Christ. He gave us everything necessary in His Word and through the power of His Spirit. In fact, discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s just known by another word – temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23).

With this in mind, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why have I set my goal? Is it to please yourself, others, or Jesus Christ? Above all, if your goal is not set with Christ in mind, then perhaps your goal is not really worth striving for. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” When you are living a Christ-centered life, knowing that everything you do is for Him makes the hard things a little bit easier. Now along with the Christ-centered goals you may find yourself and even others pleased, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as pleasing Him is your primary focus. Later in verse 23 of the same chapter the Bible says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

2. Have I asked for the Lord’s help in accomplishing my goal? Once you have separated selfish goals from Spirit-filled goals, this step becomes a bit easier. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” God obviously wants the best for you, and since He is omniscient and omnipotent, why not ask for his guidance and strength in reaching your goals?

3. Am I doing everything I can to reach my goal? Oh, hello discipline… we meet again. So once you understand you must be dependent on God, what can you do?

First, get organized. Organizing your life is a whole other subject in and of itself. Time and space and frankly capability does not permit me to address this right now. Ask God to help you prioritize your responsibilities. Read books on organization (I highly recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen).

Next, get focused. You have already narrowed your goals to the things Christ would have you do, now write them down. Set time frames for your goals, and intentionally make time to reassess your progress on a regular basis. Eliminate distractions that keep you from reaching your goals.

Finally, do. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting time. Trust me, I know that it is easier said than done, but at some point you have to decide that you are just going to do it! And you can. Because your goal is worth doing when you know you are doing it for the glory of God. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

As I told you before, I set a goal in 2011 to lose 30 pounds, and I reached it. What I didn’t tell you was how it affected the other areas of my life. The results were not good, because I had completely disregarded that necessary key of balance. There was nothing wrong with my goal to lose weight. The problem was I had lost sight of all other aspects of life, and losing weight almost became an obsession. I no longer thought of my goal being accomplished for the glory of God; my goal was being accomplished for the glory of man. I thrived on compliments. My appearance in the sight of others controlled my every thought. Now, there may have been other factors that played into this – certain life events that had provoked a measure of insecurity with how I looked. But had I my focus been on Christ, I would not have reached this point.

Fortunately, the same life events that had played a part in my obsession also brought my attention back to my relationship with God – the relationship I had almost completely abandoned for several months. As I sought him for guidance and strength (something I had not done when I had set my goals) I began to realize how faulty my mindset was. And once God had shown me where I fell short, He began to help me find the balance I needed.

Now, perhaps I had known this all along, but for the first time in my life, I had intentionally decided to live it out. I determined that everything I did would only be done because my relationship with Him was all that mattered. Do you know what I discovered? Obsessing over my weight and my appearance – what I should and shouldn’t eat or wear or whatever – was doing nothing for my relationship with God. Yes, the Bible says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost… For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body…” I had started off with these verses in mind, but I had forgotten the end… “and in your spirit, which are God’s.

With this in mind, here is my advice for finding balance:

1. Put Christ at the center of all your goals. And if your goal cannot be done to the glory of God, let it go! Pleasing Him is all that matters. There is no #2 after this. As far as, I’m concerned, it is the only thing necessary to acquiring balance.

As I said before, I am no expert. But I know what the Bible says, and I know what the Lord has shown me, and I know how the Lord has worked in my own life. I only pray that some part of this may help you or simply encourage you in some way. Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

you have now.

A birth, a life, a death.

This much is certain.

A life – my life, your life – length unknown.

What are you doing with this moment?

Those who have influenced the world most are those that have done the most with the time they are given. Those who have changed the world are those that were most aware of the value of every minute.

They were governed by the same clock, the same calendar by which you are governed. They did not know when their time would end, but they lived with an understanding that the passing of every minute is an irretrievable commodity.

What motivates you?

I recently asked a number of people what motivated them. The answers were surprisingly varied, yet I would venture to say that those with noblest motivations are those with a true understanding of time.

Several mothers responded by saying that their children motivate them. They know that childhood and adolescence are fleeting, but they also realize that these years are foundational to their children’s futures so they cherish the time they have to mentor and mold.

A number of people responded with motivations like “glorifying God,” “the cross,” and “the love of Christ.” I believe they understand that we will give account for the time that we are given, and only the things that are done for Christ will matter.

I don’t think there is necessarily any one right answer for what should be our motivation, but I strongly believe that our motivations should be centered on Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 speaks on the importance of this saying: “Now if any man build upon this foundation [Jesus Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, [eternal things] wood, hay, stubble; [temporal things] Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”

What you do with your time reveals your true motivations.

I can claim that the future is my motivation, but if I do not spend my time wisely or better yet, invest that time now, my claim is unfounded. I can tell you that the love of Christ is my motivation, but if my actions do not reveal the love of Christ to others then my words are meaningless.

Assess your life. Be honest. What motivates you? Is it relationships, identity, health, knowledge, wealth, beauty, acceptance – this is what the world will tell you is most important, but none of these things can last. People will come and go. Health will fail. Riches will not last. Beauty will fade.

Do you want to make a difference with the time you are given?

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Paul was one of those Christians. He understood that his time on this earth was short, and there was much to be done. His advice: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

I recently asked my students if any one knew what God’s will was for their lives. I was completely surprised that not one hand went up. Then I realized why. To them, God’s will was something far off in the future – when they needed to decide where to go to college, or what career path they should take, or whom they would marry. Those decisions are indeed aspects of God’s will, but He has a will for each and every one of us right now. I began quoting Romans 12:1-2, and they finished with me. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Seek God’s will today, and He will inevitably direct you towards the right college, the right career, and the right spouse; and He will do it all in the right time too!

God has given you this moment, right now.

Today you will either choose to become more like the world or more like Christ. With every passing minute you move in one direction or the other. You cannot conform to the world AND be transformed by the Word.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. ~ 1 John 2:15-17

Today you will either invest your time into your own future and the future of others or you will waste it on selfish pleasures that hold no significance. Live with eternity in mind.

The length of your life may be unknown, but you have now. What will you do with it?

when God doesn’t make sense

How do we understand an infinite God with finite minds? Simply, we don’t. A comprehended god is not God at all.

If you have lived the Christian life for any length of time, it is likely that you have experienced a time when you did not understand what God was doing. From our limited perspective, His way just did not make sense. Our natural response is to take those circumstances back into our own control, turn back, stop moving, or at the very least, figure it all out. I have been there. I hate confusion and love solutions. When God doesn’t make sense, my mind races with possible scenarios and outcomes. Then a two word command from the Word of God is brought to my mind. “Be still.” (Psalm 46:10) Not a pleasant suggestion to rest, more of a command to stop with my control-freak tendencies and know that He is God. It is then, when I stop that He reminds me of His promise from Proverbs 3 – one that you are likely familiar with.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Beyond this incredible promise, however, is a Bible filled with reasons why we can and should be encouraged when our circumstances don’t make sense. So I want to share with you what God has shown me.

1. When God’s leading in your life doesn’t make sense, take heart because He might just magnify Himself through you!

I think we have a tendency to read the Bible (especially those most familiar stories) without truly thinking them through. We are able to see the whole picture, and we neglect to consider what these men and women faced, while not knowing what God was going to do. Often times, the things God either told these people to do or what He allowed to happen to them were seemingly absurd.

  • Noah was commanded to build a giant boat that would house him, his family, and a host of animals because God was going to flood the earth and “destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.” (Genesis 6:14-17)
  • Abraham was told to leave his country without a specific destination. (Genesis 12:1) Then later, after God had made a covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation and after God had fulfilled that promise (when Abraham and Sarah were both over ninety… absurd in and of itself), God tells Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. (Genesis 12:2-3, 17:16-19, 22:2)
  • Moses led God’s people out of Egypt only to be trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea; then God told them to go forward. (Exodus 14:5-15)
  • Joshua was told to march around an entire city for seven days. (Joshua 6:1-16)
  • Gideon gathered an army, only to be told that the army is too large. Then by God’s processes, the army was narrowed down to three hundred men. They then faced Midian with trumpets and empty pitchers. (Judges 7:2-21)
  • David, a man after God’s own heart, was anointed to become the next king of Israel only to have the present king of Israel attempt to kill him… multiple times. (1 Samuel 13:14, 16:12-13, 18:10-11, 19:9-10)
  • Elijah, after delivering God’s message to wicked King Ahab, was told to hide himself, and he would drink from a brook and be fed by ravens. Then, when the brook dried up, he was told to go to a widow woman and ask for her last meal. (1 Kings 17:1-12)
  • Job, who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil,” lost all of his possessions as well as his children in one day. Then when he “sinned not,” he was afflicted with sore boils from head to feet. (Job 1:1,13-19,22; 2:7)
  • Mary, a virgin, was told she would give birth. (Luke 1:26-34)
  • The disciples were told to feed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes. (Luke 9:10-16)
  • A man who was blind his whole life had clay (made from dirt and spit) put on his eyes and was told to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. (John 9:6-7)
  • Paul, while faithfully spreading the gospel, was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and so much more. He was also afflicted with a “thorn in the flesh,” which he asked the Lord to take away three times. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 12:7-8)

These are just some of the most familiar stories. The Bible is full of stories in which men and women face seemingly impossible situations. Put yourself in their place. Imagine that you don’t know what God is going to do. Does it make sense? No!

But we do know what happens in the end, and that is what makes the stories so awesome! When these men and women obey God’s commands and trust His guiding hand, they see God magnified. These stories are all about God!

  • God blessed Noah and made a covenant to never destroy the earth by flood again. He also invented the rainbow! (Genesis 9:1,12-16)
  • God provided a ram as a substitute offering in response to Abraham’s obedience. (Genesis 22:13)
  • God parted the Red Sea and had the children of Israel walk on dry land; then, best of all, He had the waters come down on the Egyptian army and killed them all. (Exodus 14:21-31)
  • God gave the Israelites the city of Jericho when the walls fell down flat. (Joshua 6:20)
  • God caused the people of Midian to turn on themselves when they heard the three hundred trumpets. (Judges 7:22)
  • God protected, delivered, and blessed David. David wrote, “Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.” (Psalm 35)
  • God saved the widow and her son and proved His Word to be truth. (1 Kings 17:24)
  • God revealed His omniscience and omnipotence to Job and blessed Job with twice what he had before. (Job 38, 42:12-17)
  • God favoured Mary and she gave birth to the Son of God, who would give His own life to take away the sins of the world. I love her words “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (Luke 1:30,35,46)
  • God fed the five thousand and left fragments that filled twelve baskets. (Luke 9:16-17)
  • God opened the eyes of the blind man so that he could see; then Jesus used the miracle to teach spiritual blindness (John 9:11,39-41)
  • God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. When God’s leading in your life doesn’t make sense, trust Him because He is faithful.

The God who made Himself real to these Bible characters is the very same God who wants to make Himself real to you and to those around you. The Bible is filled with promises given to those who trust Him and follow His leading.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

I’m smiling right now as I type this because even now there are aspects of my own life that do not make sense. But this life is not about me – it’s all about Him. And if He wants to use perplexing circumstances to magnify Himself through me and prove Himself faithful, that is an awesome privilege! Nothing could bring me more joy than to be used by Him for His glory.

One last thought…

When we read the Word of God, we see the stories from start to finish. But it may be that you will never why God allows certain circumstances into your life. It may not make sense, but we cannot forget that He is God. Job never knew why God allowed all his possessions and family to be taken, but in the end he was faithful, and God blessed that faith.

There is also a chance that you will not see God’s blessing on this side of heaven, but the Bible says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (James 1:12)

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. ~ Psalm 34:3

the beauty of death

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:… He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from beginning to the end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1,11

I am absolutely captivated by fall in the Midwest. Every time I take a drive, I risk my life because I find myself looking at the trees rather than the road. Growing up in the desert (which has its own beauty), I never experienced such a colorful season. It’s just magnificent!

Today, as I was on one of my risky drives, I started thinking about the significance of autumn. Why do the leaves change colors?

Now, I am not a science teacher or any expert on biology, but I remember enough from grade school to know that as the days get shorter and the weather cools, the leaves stop making food, the chlorophyll (which makes the leaves green) breaks down, and the remaining pigments are revealed (hence the red, yellow, purple, and orange colors). Then within a short time, those leaves will fall. After all the leaves have fallen, the tree is prepared for the dark, cold winter. Once the tree has made it through the winter, warmth and light return with spring, and the tree continues to grow.

God reminded me of some Biblical truths through those autumn leaves today. In order for there to be growth, there must be periods of “death.”

Death for Life

The most significant time of death in the spiritual life is when we crucify our sinful natures. Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the bought of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” In salvation, we find freedom from sin. Our sin natures must die so that the Spirit might live within us. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) This death alone, which provides new life, is beautiful to me. I think my favorite passage on this is found in 1 Peter 2:21-24, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; be committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Death for Growth

Beyond this, I consider the wintry times of my life–times that seemed dark and cold. Before them, I didn’t realize what God was preparing me for. During them, I didn’t understand what God was doing or why He was even allowing it. After them, I couldn’t praise Him enough for proving Himself so real in my life! I came to see that in those times of “death,” He was preparing me for growth. He was working in my life to reveal Himself not only to me, but to others as well, and all for His glory! What an incredible God! 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye…” 

In James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this that they trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” That word perfect is referring to maturity. God has a plan for each and every one of us. In order for us to fulfill that plan, we must go through periods of pain in which we die to self and trust God. We must shed away our desires, our wants, our fears, and our desire for control. They only hinder us from allowing God to do His growing work. We must trust that He is good, and He is loving. I think that Asaph understood this when he wrote in Psalm 73:28, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”

A Final Thought

Our God is a creative God, and He is a God of order. I think this is wonderfully displayed in the changing of the seasons. I think creation reveals so much about God, not to cause us to worship that which was created, but rather the awesome, omnipotent Creator.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:…” It then goes on to speak of those who lost sight of the Creator, saying “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more that the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:20,25)

I think too often we are in such a rush that we forget to stop and look at the things which God has created. They reveal so much about our awesome God. David understood this when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Do not be in such a hurry that you miss something that He wants to show you. God began to reveal His power and wisdom to Job and said, “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14)

Will you stand still? Will you consider His works?

For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. ~ Psalm 92:4-5

girl (or boy) meets Bible

I have probably watched every episode at least a dozen times. I could dominate every trivia game. I could throw out quote after quote. I could probably even quote entire episodes. I know every character and their whole story. In fact, my love for literature and part of my desire to be an English teacher stems from this show.

Boy Meets World.

We all have that show, or maybe that movie. Maybe several shows and several movies. I have a group of friends that can quote the entire script of Megamind. Truth be told, I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with that. I do think that we should strive to guard our minds and hearts from things that are contrary to the Word of God and don’t follow guidelines seen in Philippians 1:8 which says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” But I digress from these beliefs, and move to my point.

A few years ago, I was faced with an extremely convicting question: Do I know the Word of God  more than anything else?

I am privileged to teach a number of brilliant students. The things that they know often astound me. They all seem to have some area of specific interest, and they want to learn everything they can about whatever it is. You could probably think of your own interests in which you are quite knowledgeable. I think that is a good thing. But could someone say that you know your Bible?

In my last post, I addressed simply getting into God’s Word on a daily basis, but now you must go beyond that. You should be reading with a purpose. You should desire for God to speak to you through His Word, to change you to be more like Jesus Christ. In fact, we are commanded to be followers of God (Ephesians 5:1). That word followers literally means that we are to be imitators. How can you imitate something that you don’t know the least bit about? You can’t.

So how can you read with purpose?

First things first, when you sit down to read your Bible, remove all distractions.

Please do not attempt to read your Bible in front of the television. Try to find a quiet place, where you can’t be bothered by siblings or pets or whatever. Above all, put your cell phone away! There are so many things screaming for your attention, don’t let them drown out what God is trying to say through His Word.

Once all distractions are removed, have a specific goal – determine that you will get something from what you read. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of they law.”

I think one of the best ways to fulfill this goal is to keep a Bible reading journal. Write down what you read, and then write down something that God showed you from that portion of Scripture. It may be a specific verse that God brought to your attention. It may be one word that will stay with you throughout the day. It may be a paragraph. It may be a prayer written out. Just write something!

Now, not everyone may agree with me on this, but I suggest marking your Bible. Highlight verses. Write in the margins. I love looking back at a Bible and seeing what verses stood out to me through different times in my life. In fact, moving from one Bible to another is difficult for me because I don’t want to lose all those markings (not that they are lost, they just aren’t as accessible).

After God has shown you something, meditate on it throughout the day. Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. The Bible also speaks for itself when it says, “Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Proverbs 6:21-23) I am always amazed how God will use something from my devotions throughout the rest of the day, and often times I am able to share the blessing with others. Don’t just read your Bible to mark it off a checklist, read so that you can apply it’s principles to your daily life. Reading with a purpose will allow the Word of God to change you, guide you, comfort you, strengthen you.

Finally, and quite possibly most importantly, memorize the Word of God. I could probably write an entire post on this point alone. First, it can keep you from sin. A familiar verse to many is Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” It can provide direction when faced with a choice. It can bring comfort in time of sorrow. You know your besetting sins and struggles better than anyone. Find verses that will help you, and put them to memory. If you don’t know where to find the verses, ask! It is likely that God has placed spiritual influences in your life who can help you. Start with one verse a week, and see how often God will use that verse! I have no doubt you will be amazed!

So do you want to know God’s Word… truly know it? It won’t just happen. You must make a conscious effort. I will say, however, that the more you do, the more you will begin to desire it.

So, girl (or boy), meet your Bible. Know your Bible. Unlike your movie quotes and other random bits of (usually useless) knowledge, it will change your life!

“Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.” ~ Psalm 119:2

developing a relationship

God wants a relationship with YOU

First and foremost, the only way you can begin to have a relationship with God is to know His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Savior.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” You see, we were each born into this world as a sinner. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) Because of that sin, we are all condemned to eternal death–separation from God forever. Roman 6:23 speaks of the price of sin saying, “For the wages of sin is death…” But the verse doesn’t stop there! It continues with, “ …but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And in Romans 5:8, we read, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that , while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God doesn’t want you to suffer for eternity in a place called hell, forever separated from Him. He loves you, and He wants you to accept His gift of eternal life. Accepting that gift is simple. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” So if you see your sin, and you realize your need for a Savior, and you have never called on Jesus Christ to save you, will you do that now? There is no greater decision!

If you have received Christ as your Savior, and you know without a doubt that you have a home in heaven, what next?

God doesn’t save you and then just leave you to live the rest of your life on your own. He has a plan for you, and He wants you to know Him more.

Think about any significant relationship in your life. It didn’t end upon meeting. Inevitably, there were many conversations in which you slowly got to know one another. In those conversations, you probably realized you had a lot in common. As your relationship developed, naturally, you wanted to spend time with that person, you wanted to know that person even more, you wanted to make that person happy. You wanted to give them things – for Christmas, for a birthday, then just because. You wanted the best for that person. You would do anything for that person if they needed it, and you knew this wasn’t one-sided. That person would do anything for you as well.

A good friend, right? Yes! But every friend holds one flaw. They are human. They will at some point let you down, and it is quite likely that you will let down a friend as well. Does your friendship end? I should hope not! If it is a true friendship, it will not (we will save this for another post).

“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother…” (Proverbs 18:24) and he says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5) He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants you to know Him. He wants to reveal Himself to you, but you must seek Him.

Have you ever gone to Starbucks and just waited for your friend to show up? You didn’t text her to let her know that you were going. You didn’t ask her to meet up with you. You just hoped she would come. That would be absurd. If you want to spend time with someone, you usually have to plan that time.

How can you expect to know God if you do not seek to know Him? You have to make time for Him. I cannot emphasize enough how important this time is! Every decision that you make in this life, everything that you do or don’t do will be directly related to your relationship with God and how well you know His Word.

So how do you even begin to know an infinite God?

How can you know His will?

Read His Word

The best way to know God and His will is to know His Word, because Jesus Christ is the living Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

In the beginning of my Christian life, the task of reading the Bible seemed overwhelming. Recently, I asked my class of junior high girls if they had ever made a decision to read through the Bible in a year. Almost every hand went up. I then asked them how many of them had quit after missing a day or two because they felt like they would never be able to catch up. Those same hands stayed up. I was not surprised in the least! I knew exactly how each girl felt because I had done the same thing! I would determine to read through the Bible. I would get through Genesis and then Exodus and then I would start Leviticus; then suddenly I had no idea what was happening. I would miss a day, then two, then three, and then I would conclude that I had failed altogether for the year, so I would quit and make another attempt next year.

Don’t quit!

It was in high school that I learned something that shifted my paradigm (sadly, it wasn’t until several years later that I actually put it into practice, but the lesson stayed with me nonetheless). If I read my Bible solely for the purpose of the getting through it by the end of the year, I would probably quit every time. BUT, if I read the Bible because I loved God and I wanted to know Him and His will, reading was no longer a task, but rather my special time with God. So I threw out my “Through the Bible in a Year” schedule and started reading specific books of the Bible in varied order. Please do not get me wrong, reading through the Bible in a year is awesome, and I think everyone should do it at some point, but you cannot hasten through the Bible for the sake of saying you read it. If you do, you will miss out on so many things that God may be trying to teach you. R.A. Torrey  said, “It is better to read one verse attentively than to read a dozen chapters thoughtlessly.”

You must begin reading your Bible daily. Your relationship with the Lord depends on it. It is unlikely that you go a day without talking to your best friend. Why should it be any different with the truest Friend, the One that gave His life for you?

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. ~ Psalm 119:10

experience God

Since school started in August, this is the first night that I have not had a pile of grading or a to-do list taunting me. This is the first night that I have really been able to write what God has been putting on my heart. I started with five simple truths that I wanted to share, but since these things have been on my mind since August, I came realized that I won’t be able to share them all in one post. In fact, I won’t even be able to share all of one truth in one post…

Let me just get started.

Since this summer, one question has prevailed in my mind and I have discussed it with many others. How can I help others, particularly my students, understand the importance of living the Christian life? How do I get them to realize that there really is no happier life than a life submitted to God?

The answer was the same every time.

I cannot.

I love writing. I literally have hundreds of papers filled with quotations, illustrations, thoughts, sermon outlines, blog ideas, poems, verses, and so much more. My favorite pieces of paper are those with verses and thoughts; whether it is truth from the Word of God or lessons taught to me by God, I want others to experience those same things. Most of them are incomplete, waiting for a day when I will put it into a complete work to teach as a lesson or post on my blog. While both of these mediums are good (God has used many lessons and many blog posts to shape me), they are just not good enough.

If all you ever do is learn God’s truths from lessons taught in Sunday School or posts written by godly men and women, you are missing the point, and you will end up spiritually emaciated.

You absolutely MUST experience God for yourself!

I can give you Biblical principals. I can live by example. But ultimately, the choice lies with you. Each and every person must come to a point where they make the choice to follow God or follow self.

I went through life for years before I realized this. I had been taught and had read about a number of truths that kept me going on the right path and protected me from mistakes, but it was not until I experienced these truths personally that I realized the joy and satisfaction in experiencing God on a personal level.

I will share some of those truths in the next few posts, but you cannot take my word for it. Go to God’s Word and then ask God to make Himself real to you!

Psalm 34:8 – O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.