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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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

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.

nice to see you… see you later!

This post was not written by me; however, the author requested to remain anonymous. It was too good not to share! Please read it, enjoy its content, and apply its message accordingly.

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I am sick and tired of seeing people treat God like barely even an acquaintance. “Devotional time” is less than five minutes. Prayers are nonexistent. We pull out the earbuds for a minute to catch a few verses and then plug right back into anything but God. The TV is always on. Some show is always pulsating its message and theme across the screen to you. Mindlessly, that message is absorbed and applied to your life. If we do manage to get away from the TV for awhile, we have our phones out. Consuming content. Never doing anything worthwhile. Never reading a book. Never sitting still and being at peace. No, the world would never allow that. This world wants the mind and hands constantly doing something. You’ll never notice the lack of God if you are kept busy and mindlessly influenced to the world. Amidst it all, we barely have time to even say “Hello” to God before we kick Him out of our lives again by turning on the TV, putting in the earbuds, or texting a friend. God is an acquaintance in the lobby of our life when He truly longs to be the author of our entire lives. Let’s look at a few quick ways we can unplug, turn down, and tune in to God.

1. Realize that you have too much “non-God” in your life.

This first step is always the hardest. You have to take an out-of-body approach to your life. Look at your “down time.” How is it spent? TV? iPod? Staring mindlessly at a virtual conversation on your phone? If you can’t see the “non-God” in these mundane things, here’s a simple question to ask to determine it: “Am I producing anything of value through my actions RIGHT NOW?” If no, you have a problem. Admit it. Be willing to change. It’s for the God Who loves you. Remember, change requires doing something you’ve never done before.

2. Replace the “non-God” with God.

Seems too simple, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! It truly is that simple. You have too much TV time on your hands? Put a Bible next to your remote. When you reach for the remote, grab the Bible first and say out loud, “I will read one chapter of the Bible,” and then do it. This is an easy step to take and it allows God to be placed before TV in your heart and mind. Trust me, God will honor that. Another easy replacement: when you pull out your phone to text, launch your Bible app first instead. Read a portion of Scripture until you find a verse that you want to tweet, post to Facebook, or screenshot for Instagram, and then post it! Again, this rewires your mind to begin realizing that God comes before texting. Final simple step to take: before you put your earbuds in and listen to your favorite tunes, look up Colossians 3:16-17 on your Bible app or in a Bible. If you don’t know these verses, memorize them. This prompts your mind to listen to music that is pleasing to God. Be warned: this will change your life. You won’t want to listen to Katy Perry if you truly realize what these verses say. You’ll delete Jay-Z from your iPod if you heed the words of this Scripture portion. As I said, remove the “non-God.” Simple and life-altering. Try these three simple swaps.

3. Read God’s Word with a goal in mind.

This can be anything. For me, I study His Word. I look for three-point messages. I find repeated words in the same chapter. I look up where else those words are used. In other words, I don’t just read mindlessly for a checklist; I come to my Bible with a purpose. Let me share two easy ways to have goals in Bible reading. The easiest is to read a chapter, then take a pen and write down on some paper what God is trying to say to you through it. Sometimes, you’ll write a paragraph. Sometimes you’ll write one word. Sometimes a long sentence. But realize this – you are writing something! That is a goal! You got something from God’s Word! Simple and applicable. Secondly, use a Bible app or concordance to see where and how an interesting word that you read is used in the rest of Scripture. For starters, look up words like peace, joy, love, or sin. You will find that God has much to say about His own Word! Go into His Word with a goal. And then thank Him for it!

This list could go on and on and on. But you will begin to make your own list of ways to replace the “non-God” with God as you walk each day with Him. Try it for one week and see if I’m lying to you. Look, the world is fighting for our attention, and we are letting it win each and every day. God patiently waits within the pages of Scripture, whispering softly for us to come to Him. We miss it. All the time. It’s time to start being aggressive in our walk with Him. Fight off the “non-God” for the sake of the One Who did more for you than any songwriter, actor, or friend ever did. In His Word are stories and examples of His amazing power, endless love, deep mercy, and righteous Person. There are also accounts of giants getting killed by teenagers, fire falling from the sky, the earth swallowing people, donkeys talking, dead men walking out of their graves, big fish swallowing and vomiting up people, mere words being used to create a universe, bleeding hands being spread in love for salvation, and heavenly mansions being prepared for those who embrace His Son. Doesn’t that sound interesting? The One Who wrote that Book wants you to set aside the “non-God” and come to Him. Don’t believe me? Well, look at what He said about this: “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalms 34:8) See? Just come get a taste of His Word. You’ll want more. Stop saying a quick “Hey!” to God… and sit down and dwell with Him awhile.

the Potter’s hands

Jeremiah 18:4 – And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

I love this picture that God gives in the book of Jeremiah. In context, it is a picture of His relationship with Israel, but I think it is also a picture of His relationship with me. In this picture, I have learned much of the love and grace of God. When the clay is marred, it is marred within the potter’s hands… and the same is true for me.

When I am marred, whether it be by wrong choices or by circumstances beyond my control, I am still in the almighty hand of my Potter. He is continually working to make me into the vessel He wants me to be – and all this for my good and His glory. He works past all my flaws, my scars, and my shortcomings, and amends each disfigurement to make me a much stronger and more beautiful vessel. He does what I could never do in my own power.

If I attempted to rectify any imperfection in my own strength, I would fall so miserably short. The vessel I would create would look a pitiful mess when compared to the exquisite vessel He could create… if I let go and let Him work.

He can do the same for you. Will you relinquish all you hold in your hands – your desires, your will? I know it can be hard. Maybe like me, you’re a “control freak”… but always keep in mind that His desire and His will are above and beyond what we could dream, and He is able to do above anything we could ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20)