What Does it Mean to Be Christian-Simply

It seems to me that somewhere in time the gospel became watered down.  The concern became more about “saving” others and less about personal relationship and accountability.  Focusing on others, and not ourselves, brings on judgement, condemnation, argumentation-all while the log exists in our own eye.

Raising children in a world where civil law mirrors scriptural morality less and less is difficult.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about adultery, homosexuality, murder, slander, stealing, etc… The list is endless.  Why?  Because we are sinners. We live in a fallen world and each and every one has opportunity to make one single decision-the decision that changes everything.  Yet living in a world where social and civil law are far from biblical morality should be no surprise.  Scripture tells us about this world.  This world has always existed-a depraved and fallen world.  There is no doubt social media and network television amplify it, making us acutely aware, but it has always existed.

God’s word gives us very clear direction.  Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the One true God, and determine to follow Him in faith, we have but one great (greatest) commandment.  Contrary to what I see posted, it is NOT to love one another with abandon, with no teaching, equipping, encouraging, and accountability.  The one greatest commandment is this:

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I am to first and foremost love God with my entire being.  My relationship with Him matters most.  Am I following His commands?  Am I working to become more like Him each day?  Am I mindful of my own sin and seeking forgiveness and wisdom to change?  Those things matter most.  Out of a right relationship with God flows the ability to love others.  I am not equipped to love them as He does.  I am not judge.  I am not forgiver.  I am not savior.  I can only love them as I love myself, which pales in comparison to the love He extends.  I can only share with others what I know of Him.  I can only share with others what I have experienced of Him.  It is not a love that loves with abandon.  I do not love myself with abandon.  Like you, I am my biggest critic, and rightfully so.  If I am seeking to love God with all my heart, soul and mind, then I am seeking daily to shine the light on my own sin, to determine where I need to grow.  Most importantly though, it means my compass is His word, my standard for morality is not civil law or social law, but His law.

Today, my job as a wife, mother, friend, neighbor is to make certain my children and those around me know God’s word. My job is to encourage them and equip them to desire to know more about Him and to experience more of Him every day. My job is to remind them that we live in this world, but our home is in Heaven.  I am to teach them to put on the Armor of God.  (Ephesians 6: 10-18) I am to equip them to “live carefully-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  (Ephesians 5: 15-17)  This scripture is often used as a scripture reference by pastor’s exhorting us to make the most of every opportunity to witness, to go and share the gospel. That is not what this scripture is saying.  This scripture is reminding us to be careful, to realize the dangerous condition(s) we have or are slipping into.  It is a reminder to keep our standards high, to live according to God’s word.

Must we witness?  Yes.  In no way am I seeking to minimize or belittle our responsibility to share our faith.  However, if our eyes are so focused outward that we fail to see the depravity of our own lives, what good is our witness?  What if I focused more on HOW I lived being my witness and relied less on my mouth, my fingers posting to social media?

Coming to know Christ as your personal savior is a simple act of faith.  He requires absolutely nothing of you.  We must simply acknowledge one true God, who sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to live amidst humanity, and after being rejected by most, died on a cross that we might ALL have forgiveness.  He will always be rejected by many.  Yet, His blood still covers the sins of anyone desiring to know Him, follow His commands and live according to His ways.

I don’t agree with many, many things within our civil law.  I am thankful I am not of this world, but am of Christ.  I choose today to hold myself accountable, to speak truth to those with whom I have contact.  I will seek daily to be careful, to put on the armor of God.  I will train my children to do the same.  I will pray my actions are a testament to Him.  I will leave the judging to Him, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God.  I will not accept into my life anything that is not in accordance with His word, His will.  I will remember daily I am not perfect, I am a sinner, I am nothing without the shed blood of my Savior Jesus Christ. I will remember His love for me cost Him everything.  I will remember that He can not look upon sin.  I will remember He loves us enough to give us a choice-a choice to believe in Him, the one true God, to accept the Bible as the incarnate Word of God, complete and lacking in nothing, or to reject Him.  I will remember I am accountable for my actions, my words and no one else’s.  I will grieve for those who choose to reject Him and I will encourage and love those who accept Him.  I will live in accordance to civil law while on this earth, but I will live according to His word only.

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“Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes-It’s Impact, My Thoughts

If you are a recovering perfectionist like me, I highly recommend “Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes.  It was an easy read.  It grabbed my attention in the first few paragraphs.  Not just because I am a recovering perfectionist, but I am a woman.  A woman who seeks to serve God with all my heart, mind and body and yet feels like I miss the boat all too often.

“Love Idol” was a fresh perspective.  I have never thought of how my drive to seek approval, perform (do for others), maintain order etc… as idols.  Yet Jennifer Dukes’ analogies were dead on.  Not only that, but she very openly discusses the impact these “love idols” can have on our families, especially our daughters.  It’s not just the perfectionist tendencies, ALL of us have “love idols”.  For some it may be more about holding one’s self out as the nurturer, playful woman who puts others above tasks, chores, performance.  It can often even be our service or ministries.

An idol is anything that captures our hearts, our minds.  We begin to think more of those things than we do God.  As we focus, our efforts become more about our ways, our plans, our thoughts than His.  I know, stings a little doesn’t it!?!

I recommend this book.  In fact, mine is on loan right now to a young mom.  It is an easy read, but a thought provoking read. You could get through it in a day or two, but I recommend taking it chapter by chapter and pondering.

My take aways:

1.  God continues to use writings, friends, music to remind me of the need to slow down, step back.  I absolutely will not find God in the hurried days of a cram packed life.

2.  I am uniquely gifted and created.  He has a purpose for me, one He will allow me to fulfill if I watch and wait.  Life is full of seasons, and in due season my gifts and talents will be used in various ways and in differing amounts.

3.  There is no doubt our families come before our service, our ministries and our work.

4.  The comparison game is dangerous and deadly.  Too often, I am comparing myself to my own too high standards, not so much to others.  I need to release those self-imposed standards.

If you are interested in the book or learning more about Jennifer Dukes go here:

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/love-idol/

Inspired-Back to Basics with the Proverbs 31 Woman

Any time I am asked to speak, God does a work in me.  This weekend, sharing about how to be effective women and not just efficient women, I was reminded how valuable these passages in Proverbs 31 are.  It saddens me when others say this Proverbs 31 woman is not relevant, that she is simply an ideal, and not one we can attain to.  I just beg to differ.  She is an ideal. The description of her however is the entirety of her life.  Yet, we see her included in scripture.  I believe she is the goal to be attained, much like Paul refers to.  She is the culmination of a race well run.  She is God’s design for woman and the description of her helps us in setting our priorities and making choices.

prov31I am reminded that in good season, God grants me the wisdom, the ability and the time to be and to do.  Keeping Him first and my family second, remain constant.  The opportunity to work, invest, minister, etc… come at different times.  So often in my humanness I struggle with the “in due season.”  I read Proverbs 31 and I want it all, all right now.  I strain and struggle. I become discouraged and before I know it, Satan convinces me I can’t do it.  He would be correct.  I can’t do it without Christ and I can’t do it all at once.  I have to remind myself that a “no” now does not mean “no” forever.  There are moments when God says “no, not right now”.  I have to remember that He will restore those jobs, ministries, relationships in due season.

I struggled with this when my girls were younger, spending way too much time trying to do too much, looking to the next season instead of embracing the season I was in.  I have fallen prey to that again.  I realized as I shared with others, God was convicting me.  I had let a seed of resentment set in regarding home schooling.  I was looking to ministry and jobs I wanted, but couldn’t make work in this season.  I need to embrace this moment.  What a gift.  I have the opportunity to be at home, to focus attention on both my girls in unique ways.  I get this extra time while home schooling.  I have to have faith, living in this season with strength and dignity, knowing He will open doors for ministry, expand my opportunities when this season is over.

As I refocused my attentions on this passage it was like revisiting an old friend.  Why had I lost touch?  Why I had I let my attention drift to other things?  This world needs more Proverbs 31 women.  I embrace setting her before me as an example, a goal.  I will not strive though.  Instead I will rest in Him, seeking His guidance and wisdom as I seek to love Him, serve my husband and my daughters.  I will embrace His precepts and follow His word.  I will raise girls to do the same.

The link below is a document outlining what I believe to be the attributes of the Proverbs 31 Woman.  I would love for you to use these as motivation.  Please don’t look to them as a “to do” list.  Instead see them as a guide.  Remember it is not about what you do, so much as it is about who you are.  Yes, the Proverbs 31 Woman did a lot, but the passage focuses on who she was, how she did it.

Outline

Things are a Part of Your Legacy

As my girls approach college years, I find myself thinking more and more about the legacy I am leaving them.  Often that revolves around memories, behaviors, lifestyle.  But things are a part of the legacy too.

I love antiques.  We are blessed to have a number of family items.  Nothing that would be of much value to anyone else, but they are a part of our family’s history and hold memories.  One of the girls has their dad’s mom’s childhood desk.  Our dining set, which I have broken up and used throughout the house, is from my mother-in-law.  Each girl has a childhood rocker passed down from my family and my husband’s.  I love those sorts of things.

I love dishes and hospitality items even more (hence my job as a Mary & Martha Independent Consultant).  I have dishes from my grandmother, great grandmother, my husband’s mother, my own collection.  Love them all, use them all, and pray my girls find enjoyment in them.

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Last year I was challenged by an acquaintance to read through the Bible on behalf of my girls.  The challenge spoke to me. I hadn’t read through the entire Bible in a year in quite a while.  I journal for my girls, but this spoke to me in a different way. What if I could take two old family bibles and read through them.  Not only would I be leaving them notes, highlights and thoughts from my own experiences and knowledge, but I would be leaving them each a Bible- read, used, loved by someone else in the family.  That makes my mamma heart happy.

I just finished reading through the first Bible for one of my daughter’s.  I chose a Bible we had purchased for my grandmother, who spent a great deal of time with me and my girls.  This particular daughter was especially close to my grandmother and had helped pick out this Bible for a Christmas gift.  Reading through the Bible on behalf of my daughter was a great experience.  On some level it was as if I was reading through the Bible highlighting and noting the things I would want to say to my 16-18 year old self.  What did I want her to take note of in scripture?  What struggles did I anticipate she might face and what scripture would I want to direct her to?  What stories were my favorite and why?  It took me a little over a year.  My old perfectionist self might have been upset, given up, but being a recovering perfectionist I chose this time to  persevere.  It was so worth it.  I am so glad an acquaintance challenged me.  I am glad I took the challenge.  I am glad my legacy includes behaviors, beliefs AND things.

In all honesty, it was an emotional journey, so I’m gonna give it a year before I read through for the next daughter.  But… I already know which Bible I’ll use.  She is named after her grandmother.  I was lovingly given one of her daily Bibles when she passed away.  It will be the perfect Bible.

Cup of Fresh Brewed Coffee and Main Things Remain the Same

My day of planning on the 31st went well.  As mentioned in Monday’s post.  I have been fairly purposeful about my calendar and project notebook, so I spent the time I had looking back through my journal.  I keep a daily journal.  Well, there are a few days missing.  For over 20 years I have held a morning quiet time.  For me, it is a spiritual discipline.  I love to sit with a fresh brewed cup of coffee, my Bible, journal and a devotional (or two).  My husband sits in a nearby chair, practicing the same discipline.  We don’t talk.  We dwell in the peacefulness of a morning not yet disturbed.  We dwell in the beauty of day not yet spoiled by our own sin nature.  The sun slowly rises and with it the robin sings and nature begins to stir.  In those moments our minds are clear.  What truly matters seems to rise to the forefront of our thoughts.  My husband ponders.  I write. Often the words I write bring clarity to my mind.  They determine the course of my day, or the next step in a decision to be made.  I often look back upon these words, amazed that I penned them.  Often it is evident, the Spirit has spoken.  Often the words penned are quotes from the devotional I am reading or a verse that hits me with a fresh perspective or new conviction.  When I take time to look back upon my journal I can see clearly the tapestry He has woven. What may have seemed chaos at the time, comes into focus and makes sense in hind-sight.

As I enter this period of raising teens, this Second Season, realizing my role is changing and my time to instill in them is quickly passing, I long even more for my actions and decisions to be purposeful.  I want my decisions to reflect my priorities, to reflect who I am, to reflect my convictions.  I want my decisions to have impact.  As I read through my journal words confirmed.  I am attempting to work a real estate business and organizing business part-time, but my main role is still at home.  Our home is our ministry tool.  Our home is my daughters’ safe haven, their soft place to land during these pubescent years.  I am now homeschooling one. The decision to do so based upon frustration with both public and private educational systems that struggle to see the capacity of children with learning disabilities, especially those who just need a little boost, a little accommodation.  The decision to do so based upon a need for my relationship with her to be more than one of tutor and task master.  The decision based upon a child who was losing hope.  My job is to protect her heart, but more importantly to teach her to fly.  I am blessed that in this time, I can do this.  It is a privilege and one I will not and dare not take lightly.  In addition, I am still meeting weekly with dear friends who know a ministry vision God has placed on my heart.  It’s been burning in me for years, but the time is not yet.  It’s not easy for someone like me to wait, but I am learning.  Words penned in the early morning hours in faithful discipline remind me to wait.

The main things remain the same.  Over a fresh brewed cup of coffee in the early morn, it is clear.

P.S.  I am currently reading “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley.  Life altering.  I highly recommend it.  If you want something challenging related to being a mom, I recommend the following:  The Passionate Mom, A Woman After God’s Own Heart, Disciplines of a Godly Woman or The Gentle Ways of a Beautiful Woman.

I also challenge you to join me in praying for three simple things.  I have prayed weekly for these the past six months.  They are simple, but alter my mindset.  I pray weekly for Provision Not Prosperity; Peace not Panic; Gratitude not Grumbling.