I’ve been watching a trend across our nation pertaining to churches & marketing. There’s no shortage of articles or content being generated about the decline in church attendance across the generations as well as a significant concern related to the seeming increase of moral depravity. Consequently, we have loads of marketing strategies to reach a younger demographic, become more appealing in our doctrine with more trendy & hip music, along with clothing adjustments & scheduling conveniences. I think all of these things are great, with one MAJOR interjection (or interruption):
In my brief years on this planet, I’ve come to see that genuine Jesus is nothing but altogether irresistible, full stop. Indeed, the original marketing plan that God has laid out for us is in John 12:32, where Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I’ll will draw all men unto Me.”
In our efforts to attract people to Jesus, let’s never make it ever about anything more than genuine Jesus!
I appreciate watches that work & these do not. Using an unreliable watch is kind of like driving on a tire that needs air – pretty soon, stuff gets messed up! Schedules go awry, anxiety increases, appointments get missed & people get frustrated, not just a little. But all of these challenges can be avoided with a functional watch.
This goes to my point with prayer. Keeping our prayer life in tune, steady & practiced is essential for our internal stability. When my prayer life goes awry, it’s only a matter of time until life hits the fan.
Who’s up to watch & pray with me?
Maybe I’m the only person to struggle with his, but I find it challenging to be truthful & sincerely loving at the same time. For me, this is a tricky balance because I find it easier to be loving & less truthful or more truthful but less loving.
In Proverbs 3:3, it says that we should keep both love & truth around our neck & written on the tablets of our heart. In this verse, we don’t get to pick one over the other, love over truth or truth over love. Instead, we are to blend them together as they connect our head to our body (as a necklace) & permanently inscribed on our hearts to inform our core values & define our actions, conversations & outlook.
With the Holy Spirit helping us, let’s blend love & truth throughout our daily living!
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, stretched too thin & as Bilbo said, “Too much bread & not enough butter.” Its true that I often do this to myself, attempting to squeeze in too much, yet again. But there are also times when I’m running to catch up to the busy lives of three teenagers & a thoroughly magnificent husband, to say nothing of my own workload. Today is one of those days. From the time I woke up, it’s like I can’t keep up with everything I need to do.
Do you ever feel this way? So what to do?
Here’s some real time lessons:
Do what’s immediately in front of you
Keep a running list of stuff you need to do – this can help you to stop worrying about something falling through the cracks
Solicit help – I just asked someone to give me grace on a deadline & they graciously agreed
Be careful with your attitude – when we’re in hyper busy mode it’s easy to get snappy & curt, only making everything worse
Pray – nothing is more helpful than requesting divine input & intervention
I changed my plans for today at the last minute. I was going to go snowboarding, but decided that there are more pressing needs at home than my snowboarding interests.
In 1Samuel 13, Saul changed his plans as well. He & Samuel made a plan to make a sacrifice together but he got scared & offered the sacrifice without Samuel. This was a major downfall for Saul & Samuel explained shortly after Saul’s fearful decision, that God had sought out a different leader for Israel, a man after His heart (1San 13:14).
Saul changed the plan he had made with Samuel because he was afraid of his enemy, the Philistines, & saw the Israelite’ support of his leadership rapidly eroding.
While I’m a massive advocate of flexible planning, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of keeping God’s goals as unchanging piers to anchor my soul, regardless of my environs, feelings or selfish preferences.
God’s goals always related to genuine love & connecting humanity to God’s heart in deep intimacy. Let’s be sure that we keep God’s plans more central to our choices rather than our selfish interests, including my snowboarding plans 🙂
Looking at this picture, you would likely tell me to fix it & turn it around since it looks like Jesus is upside down. However, sometimes I think the Holy Spirit wants to turn us up on end so we be right side up, based on the Holy Spirit’s perspective. Some areas where we might need some adjusting could include:
Money: getting is never as blessed as giving
Time: sometimes I need to remember that prayer can be the key for productive rather than staying busy
Mercy: being judgmental appealing to our flesh, mercy wins with Jesus!
Leadership: serving is the model Jesus gave us if we’re going to be the Jesus-kind of leader
That’s a stupid question.
But actually, it’s a very important question because what seduces us can give us insight into weak spots & things that can possibly cause us to go off the rails.
For me, I’m a bit of an odd duck. What seduces me isn’t chocolate, wealth, image, clothes, etc. I’m more enamored with intellectual stuff, March Madness & the NCAA college basketball tournament, along with adventure & exhilaration.
Let’s be sure that we keep the stuff that interests us in proper alignment to our love for Jesus. If I let my interests in college basketball, intellectual pursuits or thrill seeking get more intense than my passion & love for Jesus, then I’ve become a victim to idolatry.
We don’t intentionally set out to be idolaters but that’s the problem with seduction. It’s subtle & creeps up on you often before you recognize it.
This is one of the reasons I so deeply love the Holy Spirit who keeps me away from deception & distortion while staying passionately in love with Jesus! Let’s pay attention to the things that seduce us!
There’s a popular tv show out called “The Voice”. The general idea is related to finding vocally talented peeps & putting them on tv to compete for the top prize. There are loads of phenomenal individuals who have amazing voices, but there’s only one Voice that needs our steady attention & the is the voice of our Good Shepherd, from John 10.
When we think about all the voices in our lives (appetites, worries, relationships, things we need to do, etc), we can get overwhelmed with this barrage of input. But alas, there is one Voice who is worthy of our consistent attention. There is one Voice who invites us to experience genuine Love. There is one Voice who leads us along paths of peace & divine productivity & that is the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Let’s be sure that the volume is appropriately adjusted for the various voices in our lives so that Jesus’ Voice gets our best attention & obedience!
Tonight is the final game of the World Series – the annual culmination of the baseball season in the US. The Cleveland Indians & the Chicago Cubs haven’t competed in the World Series for more than 60 years each & the series has been a nail biter to be sure! If you can’t tell, I’m UBER excited about this game tonight, but alas I won’t be watching the majority of it because we have church tonight & I’m scheduled to preach.
I’m not writing this to get your sympathy but rather to talk about what’s important. If the truth is known, I’m a really big sports person & I love watching almost every sport. But in the grand scheme of important priorities, sports don’t really carry eternal significance. For that matter, I seriously wonder if many of the things that we stress over, goals that we work towards & stuff that we spend time on, I wonder if many of these things really have any bearing on eternity.
Let’s be careful that the things we deem as important & worthy of our attention / energy are really the important things with lasting impact!
This morning, I read a verse that hit me between the eyes – 2Kings 17:41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; . . .” This verse really spoke to me about my passion to follow Jesus.
I think that we generally have respect for God, but all too often we serve idols. No one sets out, usually, to be an idolator but there are lots of subtle idols that can allure our attention. Greed seems to be the most obvious idol & it has certainly a firm foothold in our culture & values! Another subtle idol is image & vanity. Of course sports & fitness can be an distraction from serving Jesus & so can consumption & food. Comfort & convenience have also become significant values that often sway our priorities.
Let’s be sure that we respect & serve God with both feet!
Our world can get complicated super fast – technically continues to evolve at warp speed, our schedules get increasingly dense & we are encouraged to be strategic in our thinking & planning. These things aren’t bad but they can add layers of complexity to our daily living. So for me, it’s a breath of fresh air to stop the proverbial roller coaster & refocus on my essential priorities.
It helps to take a deep breath, close one’s eyes, sit in the car for a few minutes & be still. Our brains can of course make this challenging but let’s keep our essentials as the bull’s eye for our living:
Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level. There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.
More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities. So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix. Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:
be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
don’t ditch church 🙂
Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help
One of my offspring, who will remain nameless, became distracted during their kitchen cleaning chores & flooded the kitchen sink, floor & down into our basement. I yelled & I’m still in the unhappy camper zone – it will take me some time to come off the ceiling & not be snarky (nicknames like Noah, Ahab from Moby Dick & swimming snipes are fully flourishing in my brain).
All of this started when someone didn’t pay attention to an important responsibility. And this is a problem any one of us can experience. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve had to compensate or fix something that’s been messed up for the simple reason that I was distracted.
Let’s keep our focus on the important stuff: do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God, Micah 6:8 🙂
As I was making my way home from Singapore yesterday, I checked the news & saw there was some kind of uproar about Starbucks & Christmas. Since I’m a coffee fan, I decided to briefly look into the uproar only to be disappointed. I’m disappointed because there are many issues in our world today that are super important that need our prayers & attention. And today, Donald Trump jumped into the conversation, leaving me to speculate about not only cup decorations and caffeine, but now I get to add politics into this busy buzzy world.
All of which brings me back to thinking about what’s important & specifically what’s important about Christmas: God loves humanity & Jesus’ birth into human existence.
In the grand scheme of things, let’s keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing 🙂
There are things that get under my skin & there are things that BUG me. I get agitated when people tailgate me, I don’t like it when my family leaves a dirty knife on the counter & I don’t like that my car’s alarm goes off randomly. These things are annoying. But in the grand scheme of things, it BUGS me that we withhold our love because someone doesn’t believe like we do. It BUGS me that we use religious jargon to manipulate & even shame people. It BUGS me that I can sometimes be the same hypocrite that I judge someone else to be.
It doesn’t bother me that my nails haven’t been manicured in countless years. It doesn’t stress me out that I wear wool socks to keep warm in the Winter & I’m not jittery that my clothes don’t always match well 🙂
This month, there’s a convergence of interesting phenomena in conjunction with many Jewish holidays and feasts. I have friends who think that this month is a very strategic month, maybe even the return of Jesus. I also have friends who think that the end of the world things in Sept is nothing more than history being repeated yet again.
Regardless of your opinion, if you think Jesus is returning this month or not, let’s keep some essential priorities in mind, based on Jesus’ teachings when He lived among us:
As a follower of Jesus, these two commandments need to shape my priorities and how I live everyday, so that whenever Jesus does return, He finds me doing His work 🙂
I like alot of things: snowboarding, swimming, coffee, travel, family, chiliquiles, pho, rain, friends, reading, sleep, etc. But I can also overdose on all of these things – too much family, too much travel, too much reading, too much pho, etc. But I have yet to find the limit of my appetite for genuine Jesus and in actual truth, I can’t seem to get enough of Jesus.
A strategy that helps me with getting more of Jesus in my life is being more integrated with Jesus. Here are some ideas for integrating Jesus into our daily living more:
family – there are lots of times when I learn lessons about Jesus and have ample space to ask for Jesus to help me in relating constructively with my kids and husband
serving – I’m always blown away by how closely I feel connected to Jesus when I serve others (not to be noticed, validated or repaid), like some of our work with Saving Moses
praying – in my thinking, prayer is a two-way conversation with God and this can be happening all the time throughout any day; I need this
watch – looking for Jesus and paying attention to Him helps me be more aware and attentive to Jesus’ involvement in my daily living
Thrills, chills, spills and frills – we all love being excited, inspired, encouraged & sometimes, even schmoozed. Perhaps we can even be “excitement junkies”, from time to time, living for the next thrill or rush. I don’t think, however, God designed our lives to be a continual roller coaster, going from peak to valley and curve to corkscrew. There’s huge value in stability even when it seems boring. If the truth be known, you can predict with fair accuracy a person’s future success by their daily routines & disciplines.
While it can be lots of fun to get excited, never resent the importance of stability. Here are a few quick perks from stability:
Truth be known, I’m not a Mon morning fan & when I taught high school, I used to think that hell would be made up of perpetual Monday mornings. So on that happy note, let’s think about some really awesome things to keep our Monday perky & uplifting:
God’s love is continuous & reliable
Life is about exploring God’s love for us throughout each day
nothing we do or don’t do can make God love us less
we can trust God to work in our lives to bring about good things as we stay in love with God & true to God’s purposes for us
There are lots of things in our lives that we should affirm. It’s super great to be positive and optimistic. It’s also really helpful to say, “yes” to job promotions, good grades at school, kind offers from friends and unexpected blessings from random sources.
There are, nevertheless, several things that need to always require a “NO” reply. Here are a few ideas:
doubt: pre-decide that doubt always gets a “no” answer and faith always gets a “yes” answer
unforgiveness: meditating about hurtful words and actions done by others should get a consistent “no”
mean actions & words: give yourself “no” permission to react hatefully or with snarky words to someone else’s mean behaviors or libel
insecurity: sometimes a simple mental “no” is enough to jolt us out of that destructive thinking pattern laced with the poison of insecurity
destructive behaviors: let’s be certain that we’re consistently saying “no” to addictive patterns, an undisciplined lifestyle, debilitating relationships, poor eating habits and unproductive usage of time, to name a few suggestions
What else should we be saying “no” to in our lives? I’d love to read your thoughts & wisdom 🙂