It Takes Work

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Ten ~

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~ Ephesians 2:10 ~

The night before my husband and I got married I wrote him a letter that told him of how excited I was to be his wife and how I planned to love him with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love for the rest of my days.  I wasn’t so naive to think it was going to be easy.  I knew marriage took work.  But I loved this man so much, and he was pretty darn near perfect, how hard could it be?

We’ve spent the last few weeks covering the beginning and middle of the greatest love story ever told.  The love story within the sixty-six books we find in the library of the Bible.  But what about the end?

That’s one of the cool things about this love story.  This love story doesn’t have an end!  This is a story that goes on and on for all eternity.  God is eternal and never changing and He has created you because he loves you and wants a relationship with you!

I want you to know in your very being, and trust that His love is unconditional, everlasting, and full of grace.  There is nothing in all of creation that will ever separate us from the love of God.  Likewise, there is nothing we can do to earn His love because he already loves us.  It is by grace that we are saved through faith in the ransom price of Christ’s blood shed for us.  It is only that gift that redeemed and restored us to God.  Trust in the truth of who He is.  He is the embodiment of love and what He does is love us extravagantly!

Do you believe that?  Is the truth of His love written on the wall of your heart so that you’ll never ever doubt His love for you?  Good!  Here’s another truth that also needs to be known.  Relationship takes work.

That letter I wrote the eve before marrying my husband, was written from my heart with all sincerity.  I fully intended to love him with patience, kindness, and gentleness.  I fully intended to love selflessly, to not be rude or jealous, impatient or unkind.  So, to answer my question above…how hard could it be?

If I’m being honest, I have failed to love my husband with this kind of love several, several times in our eighteen and a half years of marriage.  My husband is my very favorite person on earth!  But I have hurt this man that I love so very much.  I have yelled at him, hurling very unkind and rude words his way.  One of the reasons I fell in love with him is because he makes me laugh.  He’s stinkin’ hilarious!  But I haven’t always been patient with his silliness.  In fact, sometimes my funny man greatly annoys me, especially before I’ve had my coffee in the morning.   He travels for work a lot and gets to go to lots of beautiful and warm places.  I am frequently jealous, as I’m left at home to parent our four kids on my own.  This isn’t love in its best and fullest form.  I want to love my husband the way he deserves to be loved, but I frequently fall short.  It’s hard.  It’s work.  Relationship is work.

My relationship with my husband isn’t the only relationship that takes work.  Being a mama to four kids.  All my friendships.  Every relationship I’ve ever been in takes work.  They take time, effort, energy, selflessness, patience, grace, forgiveness and more.  Even my relationship with God, who is perfect in every way, who loves me perfectly, provides for my every need, and gives me my heart’s desires and dreams, even that relationship takes work.

Because while God is perfect, I am not.  Yes, God loves us unconditionally expecting nothing in return, but strong, healthy, great relationships are reciprocal.  If you want a good relationship with God, you must reciprocate that love.  And that takes work.

Guess what, guys, this is what God has called us to and what Jesus reminded us of in Matthew 22:37,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a commandment.  The greatest commandment.  We are God’s creation, and while we were created for love and relationship with Him, we were also created for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in.  We’re told,

be imitators of God, as beloved children.

~ Ephesians 5:1 ~

I’m not a scary movie person, but I have watched the JAWS movies and for anyone like my husband wanting to call me a wuss for thinking they are scary.  Heckle away.  I’m just fine being known as a wuss for thinking this movie is scary.  I hate scary movies, including JAWS.  But there is one thing I loved about the first JAWS movie.  The scene between the father and son when they are sitting at the dining room table and the little boy imitates everything his daddy does.  That is such a sweet moment!  This is what we’re supposed to do with our heavenly daddy…imitate him.  What does God do?

Mostly what God does is love…

~ Ephesians 5:1 MSG ~

But loving like God, isn’t easy.  That’s why we’re told to pick up our cross, die to ourselves, and walk as Christ walked.

How did Christ walk?  Well he was an imitator of His Heavenly Father…

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave of himself up for us…

~ Ephesians 5:2 ~

Love is part of relationship.  Loving and relationship take work.  In order to love God and others as God and Jesus do, we will have to give up ourselves.  We may have to attend a hundred funerals a day as we learn to die to ourselves and let go of the life we want in order to live a full life in God.

But all, I promise you that choosing the good portion of relationship with God, is the best choice you will ever make.  And the work you’ll put into your relationship with God and others, loving Him and others, is so worth it!

Pray this with me…

God, thank you for loving us unconditionally and extravagantly.  Thank you that there is no end to your love and that nothing can separate us from You.  Earning your love, after all you have done for us, Lord would be impossible and we’re so grateful that we don’t have to work to be loved by you.  Thank you for the grace you gifted us with.  God, we thank you for creating us for relationship with you.  We also thank you for the good works you have created for us to do.  We thank you that we have the job of loving You and others.  Help us to be imitators of you, to walk in love and love well.

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

Romans: 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Ephesians 2:4-10 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

– Ephesians 3:19 MSG – Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

* – Ephesians 5:1-2 – Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

*- Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG – Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.  Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.  Love like that.

* Think About It:

Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13.  The whole chapter.  It isn’t long.  In fact, it’s very short.  But in the thirteen verses that comprise the thirteenth chapter of the first book of Corinthians, you will find the most amazing definition of deeply devoted, selfless, and unconditional love.  In your journal, take notes of any thoughts or questions you have while reading this beautiful passage called the Love Chapter of the Bible.

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Ephesians 5:1-2 are quoted in both ESV and MSG translations because I love both translations equally and wanted to share them with you, my friends.

 

 

Free Indeed

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Nine ~

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

~ John 8:36 ~

Indeed!  There’s that word again, right there, in John 8:36!   We first saw this word indeed at the end of Genesis chapter one when God looked upon us, His creation, and saw that it was “very good indeed”.   Let me copy and paste from last week the meaning of this word “indeed” for you…

“confirming something already suggested” and “introduction of a further, stronger and more surprising point”

“Indeed” is a confirmation of what creation suggests.  God’s love for us.  It also is an introduction of a further, stronger and more surprising point!  JESUS!

The last two weeks we’ve covered the very beginning of this amazing love story that we find in the Bible.  Now let’s fast forward through the Old Testament and all the laws of how to look, act, eat, and sacrifice animals.  Keep fast forwarding through tales of tragedy and woe, through judges, kings and prophets and head right to the New Testament where we meet this wonderful surprise that the whole Old Testament points us to.

I’m going to go on the assumption that all of my friends reading this already know that Jesus came in the form of a tiny little baby that would grow up to be a man that dies on the cross to set us free and redeem us from the bondage of sin.  But did you also know there was more to the purpose of Jesus coming to earth than to die on the cross to save us from sin?  That He was the ransom for our hearts and gave His life for us is pretty amazing!  But there’s more!  I love how the bible is never done!  It’s an unending story of “but there’s more” moments!

Now let’s take a look at what’s going on around John chapter eight, specifically verses 12 – 58, where we see Jesus use the word “indeed”.  Jesus used this word here to confirm to us that we are FREE.  He is using it in conversation with men who believed they had no sin in them.  They lived by the Law of Moses, assumed themselves holy and righteous, and called themselves children of Abraham.  Jesus said that even though they are descended from Abraham that they do not know God.  He tells them if they were truly Abraham’s children, they would recognize Him as the Son of God.

I know we said we were fast forwarding through the Old Testament but we’re going to skip on back to Abraham for just a bit.  Abraham is one of my favorite people of the old testament, mostly because of his relationship with God.  I love the way God and Abraham related to each other!  They talked with one another, they hung out, promised each other things, and they trusted each other.  God and Abraham had such an amazing friendship that the authors of the Bible draw attention to it more than once (2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23).  Guess what’s also cool about this relationship.  This man, Abraham who was a friend of God messed up in some pretty big ways over and over again, but he was doing relationship with God and believed God, and God counted it to him as righteousness and called him a friend.

Got that?  Abraham did relationship with God and trusted God, and God counted it to him as righteousness and called him a friend.

Now let’s fast forward back on to John chapter eight again.  By the time Jesus came, Abraham’s descendants no longer had relationship with God.  The people of this time knew a lot about God but they did not KNOW God.  They lived their lives devoted to the Law of Moses and lived by these laws, not because they wanted to please their Heavenly Father, but because they thought of these laws as their link to Heaven, their salvation.  Essentially, they did not trust God for salvation.  They trusted themselves, their good works, and their “good citizenship award” as their salvation.  Their lives were so caught up in what they needed to act like, look like, eat like, talk like, and sacrifice like that they had forgotten all about relationship with God.

Because of this God needed to become flesh to this world.  He needed to come down to Earth in order to reconfirm and introduce the INDEED at the end of Genesis chapter one.  That He loves us and wants relationship with us.  So, He sent himself, in the form of Jesus, to walk on earth and introduce further this concept of a loving relationship with God as our Father and friend.

Jesus did this by loving on people, even the sinners that the “holy and perfect” pharisees paid no attention to at all.   He hung out with them, ate with them, fished with them, took their children in his arms, reclined with them and laughed with them.

God created us to have relationship with us as Father and child.  He created us to be friends with Him.  Jesus was not only God’s plan of redemption.  Jesus was God’s plan of FULL RESTORATION.  Jesus’ life redeemed us from sins and was the ransom price that restored us to intimacy with our Father.  Before the foundation of the earth was laid, Jesus was a part of God’s plan to enter fully into the good portion of loving relationship with our creator and Father.

When we live a life on the assumption that salvation is by our deeds then we are still living in bondage.  Guess what all.  We all have some form of bondage in our lives.  We’re all Marthas in a sense, distracted by doing instead of being at His feet in relationship.  We all have habits that keep us in bondage instead of living in the freedom Christ gave us.  Habits of thinking we need to have a spotless house before we can have people over and do relationship with them.  Habits that tell us we need to finish this last project before we take time to read our child a book.  Habits that tell us we need to look a certain way to please God.  Habits that say we need to keep it all bottled up so we won’t be judged.  Habit, upon habit.  Law upon law.  We all have distractions, anxieties and fears that keep us in bondage.

Note in Genesis 15:6 that it was not all the wonderful deeds, good works, and looking like a follower of God that made Abraham righteous.  It was his trust and belief that God was who He said He was.  Abraham was in such close relationship with God that he trusted Him with everything.

Friends, I encourage you to choose the good portion of relationship with God.  I encourage you to grasp firmly onto the love of God and let go of fear.  Fear is what holds us in the bondage of habit.  Fear is what holds us in the bondage of performance.  Fear is what holds us to the Law.  But perfect love casts out fear!  Like Abraham, believe God!  Believe that when He set you free, He set you free from EVERYTHING!  And you are FREE INDEED!

Pray this with me…

Father thank you for setting us free!  Thank you that we are not bound to the law, but we are bound to you as our Father.  And not in a legalistic way that says we have to look and act a certain way to earn your love.   Our hearts are bound to you Lord, not as slaves but as soul mates.  We hunger and thirst for relationship with you, Father, in a way that we know, not just about you, but know who you are in an intimate way as a father and child.  Help us to get into your word, so that it can get into us and become so much a part of us that we do not doubt you.  That we will trust that you are who you say you are.  Thank you for creating us for relationship with you, thank you for valuing our hearts and sending your son to be a ransom for us and restoring us to relationship with you as our Father and friend.  Help us to let go of fear that traps us in our ways.  Replace the habits that keep us bound with a habit of freedom in relationship with you.  May we live as though we are loved and free indeed!

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Genesis 15:6 – And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

– Matthew 20:28 – “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

– John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the word to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

– John 8:36 – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

– Romans 4:1 – 8 – What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justified the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven; and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

– Romans 8:15 – For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba Father!”

– 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

 

* Think About It:

Are you living like you’re still caught up in bondage of doing?  Are you like Martha distracted and anxious by many things?   That’s okay, friend!  You aren’t alone.  In your journal, write a letter to God sharing with Him your deepest heart.  Your fears, your habits, your secrets.  Choose to trust Him as your closest friend.  Because He is!  Trust in His perfect love for you.  A love that casts out fear and has set you free indeed!

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

 

Indeed

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Eight ~

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.  Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.

~ Genesis 1:31 CSB ~

When our first two daughters were little my husband and I decided to build them a big lumber and beams play set.  When it was finished and we were ready to show them the big surprise, we talked to them about how this brand-new play set was because we wanted to show them that we loved them and it was a way for us to spend time playing together as a family.  We told them, “Have fun and enjoy every part of the play set and sandy area.  You have to stay in these boundaries of the backyard though and  cannot go on the road.”  We warned them that the road is dangerous, and they could be hurt.

Head on back to Genesis chapter one with me for a moment.  Each day ends with God looking at all that He created for us, and He sees that it is GOOD!  However, we see something a bit different on day six, the final day of creation.  The day that He finished decorating our temporary home, making it look, smell, and feel like love for us, was, I believe, a day of great excitement for God.  This day was what it was all about!  Day six was when He got to create us, His children and start spending time in relationship with us!  What’s different about the end of this day, is that He didn’t look upon it and say that it was good.  He looked upon it and saw that it was VERY GOOD INDEED!

Have you ever looked up the word indeed?  I have.  I’m nerdy that way.  I like to know the truth and fullness of all things.   And let me tell you that there’s a LOT within the indeed that wraps up Genesis chapter one.  If you were to get in touch with your nerd-self and look up the word indeed you would find in its meaning, “confirming something already suggested” and “introduction of a further, stronger and more surprising point”.

When God ends this beautiful love song of Genesis 1 with the words “very good indeed”.  He’s confirming something that His creation already suggests.  He’s confirming, “Yes, indeed, I love you!”  And in that same word that confirms His love for us, He is also setting the stage to introduce us to a stronger more surprising point.  Stay tuned for what that surprise is!

Like I said in last week’s post, Genesis chapter one is just the first six days of the most amazing love story and it’s introducing us to all that is available to us when we choose the good portion of relationship with Him!

Now, let’s look at the next chapter when He puts man in the garden of Eden.  This place is like paradise!  Everything was set up in such a way that Adam and Eve would never want for food and would never have to work for it.  They could literally play and laze the day away while God used nature to take care of them.

Right away God shows His love for us, by not forcing anything upon us.  See, He didn’t want to create little robots that were programmed to love Him.  God is a loving father and love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5).  He wanted us to choose Him, just as He chose us.  So, He created the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And He wasn’t a drill sergeant father with a lot of rules and expectations.  He had only one.  Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

God says, “I love you so much that I have provided for your every need.  There are lots and LOTS of trees with amazing fruit to eat from, including that of the tree of life.   Enjoy yourselves!  Have fun!  Eat, drink and be merry!  But I have one rule.  Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Its poison will destroy you.”

This is just like when my husband and I showed our littles their new play set and talked of all the fun to be had, but also had to warn them of the dangers of the road.  Here God is warning Adam and Eve of the dangers of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And just as every one of our four children ignored our warning to not go on the road at one point in their life or another, so Adam and Eve decided to ignore God’s warning.  They ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

You may wonder, as I used, to why God created a tree with fruit they couldn’t eat.  Well, that goes back to what I said earlier.  He created us for relationship with Him, but He didn’t want to force himself upon us.  He wants us to choose Him like He chose us.  Without the tree of knowledge of good and evil we wouldn’t have a choice.  Relationship with God would then be forced.  And who wants to be in a pre-arranged relationship?

When our kids didn’t stay in the designated play area.  When their curiosity lead them out of the safe area we created for them and onto the road where it’s dangerous, our children received a time out and had to go sit inside.  Adam’s and Eve’s choice to indulge their curiosity and leave the safe place God created for them meant they could no longer stay in the garden.  They would now have to leave, and life would become difficult for them.

It is here where God’s love is once again revealed.  When God sends them away from the garden of Eden, we don’t see Him become a tyrannical leader.  He never tells them, now here’s all the rules and this is the only way you can please me.  He just sends them out to live their life telling them that because they made the wrong choice, life will now be harder than God intended it to be.

And life outside the garden would definitely be much harder.  When God created Eden it was His loving daddy way of creating a safety net with parental guidelines for his children to play and live without care or worry.  But choices have consequences and this consequence took them outside of the garden.  Outside of Eden, outside of that safety net, there are far more choices, far more trees with fruit that hold poison and destruction for humanity.  But, without choices we don’t realize our need for our Heavenly Father.  And, friends, we NEED Him!  We need to choose the good portion of relationship with Him and let Him love us like He’s always desired since the beginning of time.

And here is that surprise mentioned earlier!  This is where the indeed meaning of “introducing of a further, stronger more surprising point” comes into play.  This is where God begins to introduce us to JESUS!

Pray this with me…

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us so gently and not insisting on your own way.  Thank you for being loving, kind and patient with us, even when we reject your warnings and rebel against your loving ways.   Thank you that you made things so simple that all we need to do is be loved by you and engage in relationship with you.  Reveal to us where we’re making wrong choices.   Reveal to us where we’re choosing our way instead of the good portion of love and relationship with you.  Father, continue to beckon us to your side and help our hearts be open to the way that you love us.  Help us to embrace that love and fully submerge ourselves in you.  May we learn to love as you love.

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Genesis 1:31 – CSB – God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.  Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.

– Genesis 2:15 – 17 – The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

* Think About It:

Read Genesis 1:31 in the Christian Standard Bible and think on the meaning of indeed.   Journal how God confirms His love for you with the word INDEED!  And then, tell Him of your love for Him!

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

 

 

 

Creation Sings of Love

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Seven ~

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

~ Genesis 1:1 ~

I would say I’m a pretty creative person.  And one way that I enjoy expressing my creativity is to decorate and set up my home!  Something I enjoy doing the most is coming alongside my husband as we redecorate our kids’ bedrooms!  We let them choose the theme and the wall color and then my handsome sidekick and I spend a lot of time thinking, designing, drawing, shopping for deals, and planning the perfect space for our kiddos!

Once we know exactly what we want we ship all the kiddos off to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s for a three-day weekend.  Up to this point, they know nothing about their new space except for the theme and color they’ve chosen.  And we keep it that way until they’re back home for the big reveal!  After the kiddos are out of the house and in the care of grandparents, my husband and I go to the empty, void space that is about to become something new and wonderful for our child and get to work.

It’s with excitement and anticipation, that my hubby and I give the room new color and build special shelving or stands for this new space.  We know exactly where we want each item that we’ve bought or built.  We know exactly where lighting should go to reflect the beauty of this new space.  We have planned every detail out so that the space reflects our child’s personality and lets them know how much we love them as an individual.

The thing I love most is when we’re all done and have arrived back home from picking our kiddos up from their grandparents’ house.  This is when we get to watch the expressions on our children’s faces and hear the excitement and joy over what their father and I created for them.  I love, love, LOVE these moments!

This is kind of the same way that the greatest love story begins.  This love story is of how God loves us, His children, and how He showed that love to us before we were even created, before the foundation of the world was ever laid.

I learned something pretty cool a few months ago on an Annie F. Downs podcast with Ellie Holcomb.  Did you know that the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, was originally written in the form of an old Hebrew poem?  I did not know that until this past November. (Want to know more? You can check out Tim Keller’s message here .  VERY COOL!)

The original form is a poem that flows with rhythm like that of a song.  Ellie Holcomb came up with the idea from Tim Keller’s message that God sang creation into existence.  I’d like to take it a step further and say that He sang it while thinking of how much He loved us.  Meaning, God sang the first love song!

See, God wanted relationship with us so bad!  He wanted to create people, but before He could create people, he had to make a space for us.  And like my husband and I when we’re creating and decorating our kids’ bedrooms, God created the universe while thinking about our hearts, our desires, our interests, our needs, and so much more.  He did this because He wanted to show us how much He loves us!

He looked into a great empty and void expanse, just like my husband and I look into the emptiness of our child’s room, and He began to set things in place.  He set the planets on perfect paths so that life could be sustained on the one that would be our home, Earth.  He added light so that we could see both night and day.  He set more lights in the sky, countless stars and amazing beauty, for us to gaze upon in the evenings.  He then looked more closely at the space where we would live our lives and thought of us, wanting to create things of beauty and necessity.  He created land and water, and caused the earth to rise up out of itself and form large masses of mountains and rolling hills.  He created thunderous waterfalls and soft lapping waves.  He created flowers of beauty in every color you can imagine and trees that would bear abundant fruit.  He created water and land creatures that are as beautiful and majestic as their Creator.

In the same way that my husband and I completely finish every detail of our kids’ bedrooms before we show them their new space, so did God with us.  God added every last detail and decoration, down to the last grain of sand, placing in perfect position, before He called us to earth by creating us.  This is how much He loves us.  He created the beautiful universe for us!

Do you love mountains?  God created them just for you!  For you to hike in and gaze on their amazing height and width with awe!

Do you love the ocean?  God created it just for you!  He created the beautiful teal water and it’s rolling waves to crash upon soft, white sand, performing a beautiful song of nature just for you!

Do you love strawberries?  God created them just for you!  The plump, bright redness that is so juicy tart and sweet at the same time, that’s from Him!

Do you love sunrises and sunsets?  God created them and continues to masterfully paint beautiful bright colors in the sky for you every morning and evening!

Guys, this whole creation thing is just the beginning.  It’s just the first six days of the most amazing, and never-ending love story.  If there is one truth I hope you get ahold of by the end of 2019, its how EXTRAVAGANTLY our Father in Heaven loves you!  His love is not conditional.  It has no limits. No end.  Just as He has always been and always will be, so is His love for you!

The good portion is relationship and God wants to have a relationship with you!  The greatest commandment is love.  Guess what!  GOD IS LOVE!  And the whole earth is filled with His demonstration of love for you!  Look no further than your Creator for love and the most important and amazing relationship you will ever have!

Pray this with me…

Oh, Father, thank you for the extravagant love that you lavish upon us.  Thank you for knowing us, our hearts, our desires, our needs and for taking care of them before we were even born.  Thank you for creating a space and temporary home for us that is so amazingly beautiful.  Father, I pray that you will help us to find time at your feet, in your word so that we can be rooted and grounded in your truths and promises.  Give us the strength to comprehend the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of your love and that we will be filled to fullness of you.  Continue to draw us closer to you, Lord.  Beckon us to the good portion of relationship with you and help us to drink full up on the greatest of loves!

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Psalm 119:64 – The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!

– Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…

– Ephesians 1:4 CSB – For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.

– Ephesians 3:14-19  – For this reason I bow my knees before the father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

* Think About It:

Take time today to read Genesis chapter one, the entire thing, as the beautiful poem and song of creation and love that God composed for you.  Maybe even read it in a few different versions!  I’m big on journaling!  Journal any thoughts that come to mind!

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

The Greatest

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Six ~

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

~ Matthew 22:37 – 39 ~

I had told my son to head up stairs, brush his teeth, get his pajamas on, grab his favorite book, and to tell me when he was heading up to my bedroom.  It was his turn to sleep with me while Daddy was out of town for work.  He did as he was supposed to in a very timely and respectful manner and when he informed me that he was heading up to my room I said, “I’ll be up as soon as I’m finished tucking your sisters in.”

My youngest daughter had forgotten one of her snugglies downstairs and when I went down to get it for her, I noticed a few towels had been left unfolded and weren’t put away.   I hollered up the stairs to my son that it would be just a moment longer as I put the now folded towels away.  I brought the towels to the kitchen and noticed a few dirty dishes that hadn’t made it into the dishwasher, as I was putting these in the dishwasher, my little man yelled down the stairs, “Mama, are you commin’?” “Yep, right after I put these dishes in the dishwasher.”

All, I wish I could say I had kept my word to my sweet boy.  Instead, I have to admit to the opposite.  I allowed myself to get distracted by thing, after thing, after thing, that I thought needed to get done at that point in time.  By the time I got upstairs my sweet boy was already asleep with his reptile book held in his arm.

I had missed out on an opportunity to choose the good portion of relationship with my son and love on him like Jesus instructs me to, because of the distraction of things that were not important.

If you’ve been following along, you’re probably noticing a pattern here with me.  A pattern of missing out because one distraction leads to another.  Hearts are the most valuable thing on earth.  I tell this to my kids all the time.  When I choose “doing” over relationship with my family and friends, I’m not upholding the message that I’m speaking.  I’m showing them that cleanliness, doing, and achieving are more valuable than their hearts.

When God first started working on my Martha-ism years ago, I thought it was because he wanted me to set aside my distraction and anxiety to make more room for time at His feet. But that wasn’t it at all.  It was that He wanted me to set aside distraction and anxiety, brought on by myths that I had taken on as truths.  He wanted me to set aside what I thought was important, for what God says is important.  He wanted me to learn to value what He valued.  To care about what He cares about.  And what He cares most about are hearts.  Loving on them and relating to them.

That’s what this story of Martha and Mary is about.  Martha had bought into the myth of doing what others said she ought to do or what she thought she had to do.  Mary choose the necessary thing, the good portion.  If you read last weeks post you know that this one necessary thing, the good portion, is relationship.  How do I know this?

Well, let’s look at what Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-39 when asked what the greatest commandment is…

“You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus says the GREATEST commandment is LOVE.  How fitting that the greatest commandment is love, when the one necessary thing, the good portion, is RELATIONSHIP!  This isn’t a coincidence!  We were created to be loved and to love!  We were created for Relationship!

When we can fully understand the good portion of relationship and God’s love, then we won’t get caught up in the Martha-ism of distraction and anxiety.  If we fully believe how much we’re loved and how much He wants to be with us, then we can carry on the second greatest commandment “to love others” in a fuller and more amazing way.

I don’t want to live a life full of distraction and anxiety that leads to regrets and missed opportunities.  That’s an empty life.  I want a life that’s FULL of the portions of LOVE and RELATIONSHIP!  They are the necessary things.  They are the greatest!

Pray this with me…

Sweet Father, we thank you that you cannot deny yourself and that you remain true to who you are, because God we forget so often that you are a God of love and relationship.  You have never asked us to clean up and act a certain way before we can have a relationship with you.  You just tell us to come as we are.  God, we thank you for the “but God” stories in our lives; it’s in those stories that we learn more and more about who you are and grow closer to you our Father and friend.  Help us to set aside the things that are not of you, the myths that keep us in distraction and anxiety.  Help us to remember that when we choose the good portion at your feet and take the time to grow our relationship with you that we will be able to relate with others in a much fuller capacity.  God help us to love you with all our hearts, with everything we’ve got so that we can love people the way that you love us.

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (MSG) – Love God, your God, with your whole heart; love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!  Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts.   Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.  Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.

– Matthew 22:36-39 – “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

– 1 John 3:18 (ISV) – Little children, we must stop expressing love merely by our words and manner of speech, we must love also in action and in truth.

– 1 John 4:11-12 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love on another, God abides in us and he love is perfected in us.

* Think About It:

Take the time to do some inward searching and answer a couple questions that may be hard to answer truthfully, but do it anyway, Friend!  In what ways are you choosing things, or doing, over relationship and showing love to the people in your life?  What ways are you speaking love but not acting it out?  Choose one thing to give up today and replace it with relationship and love.

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

The Necessary Thing

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Five ~

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

~ Luke 10:41-42 ~

I was sitting with my family on the floor playing a game.  There was a whole lot of laughter and a bit of light-hearted, competitive joking going back and forth as everyone tried to outsmart and outwit the five other opponents gathered around.   Everyone was entirely in the moment of this game…except for me.

I was trying to be in the moment. I took my turn when it was my turn, half listened to the playful banter and I laughed when everyone else laughed.  For the most part I think everyone was buying into the farce that I was in full participation, but the dirty kitchen counters had a pretty good chunk of my attention as well.  As much as I desired this time with my family, I couldn’t push away the desire to hurry this game up so that I could clean.

Sadly, this is a norm for me.  I desperately love my family and love spending time with them.  No matter what we’re doing; traveling, hiking, playing a game, or just sitting around our home, I LOVE moments with my family!  If you were to ask me what tops my “Favorite Things” list, I would tell you relationships and moments.  I love building on my relationships with precious moments and gathering memories with my favorite people!

If you know me, you know that I spend a lot of time cultivating both relationships and moments.  But the odd thing is that as I try to cultivate relationships and moments, it’s a rare occasion when I am completely in a moment and able to fully engage in the relationships I love so much.  I am so easily distracted by the voice of my to-do list or something that may be worrying me that it’s almost impossible for me to be fully present in a moment.

This part of my personality, this tendency to be distracted and anxious, is a part of me that I wish I could easily turn off.  I know this Martha side of me has a purpose, and it has been a great asset when it comes to serving and getting things done.  But it’s near impossible to ignore when things need to be done, and since things always need to be done, my Martha station is almost always playing in my head.  Its volume is usually higher than the volume of the thing I value most…relationship.

Late this past summer, my husband and I were playing with our kids on the prairie of our land and I was so full of peace and joy…for a moment.  And suddenly I started thinking of how much I wish it could always be like this, and that thought led me to think of all that was coming up in our week.  And the feeling of peace and joy was washed away by a wave of exhaustion.

“God, I’m exhausted.” I said, as I sat there on the hill.  I told Him of how I was tired of the ever growing to do list, tired of the full schedule, tired of running here and there, tired of not having the time to be with my family the way that I really wanted to.  And He prompted me to read the story of Martha and Mary in Luke chapter ten.

God chose that sunny Sunday afternoon to speak to my exhausted and anxious state and teach me that there is so much more to this story of two sisters and their two different choices.  A couple weeks ago I shared that God used my son to teach me that time at Jesus’ feet was more than I thought it was.  This time He taught me that there is more to the good portion than reading His word and praying.

Reading your Bible and having conversation with God are so important, and I don’t want to undervalue them in anyway and that is why I spent time touching on them.  But they are not the “one thing that is necessary”.   They are not the “good portion”.  They are part of it, but not IT.

When Jesus gently chastises Martha, he didn’t say, “Martha, Martha, Mary has chosen to read her bible and talk with me.”  He told her, “…one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion”.  So, what is the good portion?  What is the one necessary thing?

What Jesus is referring to when He says “the good portion” is fellowship.  Which translates into relationship.  In today’s language we could translate it, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about the dirty dishes but those don’t matter.  Only one thing matters, and Mary has chosen it.  Mary has chosen relationship, and I will not stop her from choosing relationship with me.”

Relationship is what the good portion is all about, and it’s what God is all about too.  Relationship is the one thing that is necessary.  From the beginning of time it was God’s desire to have a relationship with you and me.  On the sixth day of creation He created Adam and then said, “It’s not good for man to be alone…I’ll make him a companion.” And God made Eve.  In the second chapter of the Bible God created relationship!

But wait there’s more!  Even before God created the relationship between Adam and Eve we see another relationship in Genesis 1:26. When God created man he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  The “us” and “our” is referring to the very first relationship.  The relationship between God, the father, Jesus, His son, and the Holy spirit.  We were created not in their physical image, but to resemble their spirit.  A spirit that desires relationship!

When God started opening my eyes to relationship being the good portion, I realized why my favorite things are relationships and moments.  It’s the thing that everyone desires; love, belonging, relationship.  Why do we desire it?  Because God created us with hearts that desire relationship with him (Jeremiah 24:7).  And it is our relationship with God that spills out into our relationship with others.

As someone who gets distracted by to-do’s and anxious over a full schedule, or concerns of this world, God is teaching me that every moment is a moment to choose the good portion of relationship with Him and others.  Things are going to come up, our schedules are going to get full, our to-do lists will always grow.  It’s part of life.  But what are you doing with all that time in between the busy-ness?  Are you cultivating relationship with God?  Are you using the moments you have with your family or friends, to build relationship with them?  And here’s one for Marthas like me…are you prioritizing relationship over things that don’t really need to happen when you think they need to happen?

Pray this with me…

Father, I thank you that you created us for relationship.  Thank you for drawing our hearts towards relationship with you.  Help us to set aside the things that aren’t of you; the things that distract us, cause anxiety, and steal our peace.  God help us to value what you value and show us how to prioritize so that our days are structured according to your plan.  May we fully realize that every moment is a moment to build relationship with you and the people that you have put in our lives.  May the voice that beckons us to relationship be so loud that it shuts out the voices of distraction and anxiety.

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Genesis 2:18 (MSG) – God said, “It is not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.”

– Jeremiah 24:7 – I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

– 1 John 3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.

* Think About It:

Relationship is important to God.  He desires to be your friend, your BFF!  Think about your closest friendship and what you value most about it.  Do you see that same trait in your friendship with God?  If not, talk with Him and start working towards that kind of friendship with God.  You won’t regret it!

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

 

 

 

 

A Solitary Place

A Solitary Place

~ Choose the Good Portion – Week Four ~

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

~ Mark 1:35 (NKJV) ~

Last week we discussed that being at Jesus’ feet can be done anywhere, at any time, in any circumstance.  As much as we’ve been taught about quiet time and that being alone with God is important, God is also in the moments with our families and friends.  In fact, He’s in every moment of our day.  We just have to remember His presence and allow Him to be a part of our day with our people.

That being said, let’s look at what was supposed to be last week’s post and remember the importance of getting alone with God.

~~~~~

Did you know that Jesus calls us friend?  If not, or you need a reminder, let’s take a look at one of my favorite verses in the Bible, John 15:15…

“No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends…”

There is more to this verse, hence the “dot, dot, dots”, and we’ll touch on those in a bit, but first can we just take a moment and feel the exquisiteness of being called Jesus’ friend? I LOVE this so much!  Guys, this is a universal truth, that everyone wants to be loved and belong.  If you feel less than, unloved, shut out, or alone, you have a friend and His name is Jesus!

And what does any friendship need in order to grow closer to one another?  Time alone with each other.  It’s in the moments when we are alone, not surrounded by others and distraction, that we feel free to share our deepest heart stories.

Jesus exemplified moments alone with God in scripture in the opening verse, Mark 1:35, and others like this…

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.  When evening came, he was there alone, – Matthew 14:23

Jesus knew that in order to have a good relationship with His Father He needed to go to a solitary place and spend time alone with Him.  Time for Jesus to share His heart with God and time for God to share His heart with Jesus.

There is one thing I love to do most with my favorite people, my best friends, and that’s spend one on one time with them as we share our deepest hearts with each other.  And it’s the same with Jesus.  I love to spend alone time with Him!  It’s in these alone times with Him that I can really enter into an intimate relationship with Him.

A truly good friendship is one that is reciprocal, and this is also true for our friendship with Jesus.  If we want Him to give us His all then we need to give Him our all.  We need to spend time in His Word.   When we spend time in His Word, not just looking to get something out of it, but to spend time with Him in friendship, amazing things happen.  First, we need to remember that…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.            – John 1:1

We are literally reading the very words of God when we read the Bible.  Every word in it is His word.  And His words hold unbelievable authority and power.  We see this just a few verses further into John chapter one…

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5

In the Bible, which is God Himself, we have God breathed words of wisdom and authority.  In His word is LIFE and LIGHT that cannot be overcome by darkness.  If you’re searching for answers, look no further than God’s Word and spend time with it at Jesus’ feet.  Why?  Well, let’s now take a look at what’s in those “dots” of what Jesus says to us in John 15:15

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

This friendship with Jesus is an amazing friendship!  This is a friendship that shares ALL.  When we’re friends with Jesus, we have the inside scoop on what God’s up to.  We have all the answers, all the help, all the strength, all the hope, all the grace, all the love we will ever need…and then more!  The goodness of this friendship is unfathomable!   And we learn more and more about it and grow closer to our friend Jesus when we spend more and more time in His Word.

Spending time with God in His Word is one of the ways we grow in our friendship with God, but we also do this in conversation with God.   Prayer is the word we use for conversing with God.  I hope you know that God so badly wants to have conversations with you.  He already knows what is in your heart, but He wants you to freely share it with Him anyway.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.   – Psalm 62:8

Pour out your heart to Him.  Like any best friend, He wants you to know that you can trust Him with everything and there is not one thing you will tell Him that will surprise Him.  What may be surprising is the peace, joy and love you’ll find when you’ve let it all out and put it in God’s hands.

Reading the Bible and praying are so important to our friendship with Jesus.  Through prayer, we get to pour our hearts out to Him and by reading our Bible, He gets to pour His heart out to us.  What an amazing blessing to have this kind of friendship with Jesus!

Pray this with me…

Heavenly father there are no words to express the gratitude in our hearts for sending Jesus to be our very best friend!  Thank you for sending Him to show us that this intimate friendship was what you wanted with us since the beginning of time.  Thank you for giving us your Word that is full of wisdom, love and grace.  Father, beckon us to a solitary place and your Word every day so that we can be full up on your promises and truths to carry us through dark and desert places.  Remind us in our darkest hour, that you are a friend to be trusted and that we can pour out our hearts to you because your ear is already bent down to listen.

* Take time to read these scriptures today:

– Psalm 116:2 (NLT) – Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

– John1:1-5 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

– Romans 15:4 (MSG) – Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us.  God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.

– 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) – Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.

* Think About It:

Write a letter to Jesus, as your friend, today.  Include in it all that you would tell your very best friend, because that’s what He wants to be.  Your best friend.  Then sit with your Bible and allow Him to speak to you through His Word.  Record what He shares with you through His word.

Blessings to you as you Choose the Good Portion today!

 

All biblical references are ESV unless otherwise noted.