But I Don’t Have Time…

me_timeContinued from here.

The number one reason I hear (and the excuse I also used) was “I don’t have time” to set aside daily quality time with God. My response is to identify the least important thing you do daily and recognize you are saying doing that takes priority over investing time in walking with your God. You are telling God that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to reconnect you in relationship with God takes second place to doing that daily … to watching your favorite television shows … or tweeting about what you had for dinner … or following your friends’ Facebook or Instagram posts … or playing another game of Candy Crush …

Time with God is not going to magically materialize in your life. Either you will make the decision to set aside time for Him, or you won’t. Think about when you started dating someone special. It’s not like you were sitting around with nothing to do, that person came along, and then you finally had something to fill that empty block of time. No, you made the time for that special someone because you wanted to, and you will do the same thing for God if you truly love Him.

Let me ask you a tough question, and be painfully honest with yourself: Do you love God? Don’t reflexively say yes because you are supposed to as a Christian. The truth is that becoming a Christian does not automatically make us love God. We might appreciate what He has done for us, respect Him, or feel other things about Him as a result of our salvation, but loving God takes time to develop … time that most Christians (sadly) never choose to invest.

I’ll be honest with you – I was a Christian for decades who did not love God. Sure, if you asked me if I did, I would have said yes, but I didn’t. When you love someone, you want to spend time with him or her. You don’t give someone you love the leftover scraps of your time. Instead, you make that person a priority because of your love for him or her. If spending time with God seems like a chore that you don’t have time for, consider the possibility that you do not yet love Him.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace reading a book near a cat over the words, “Me Time.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How Your Spend Your Time Reflects What You Value

game_timeContinued from here.

Show me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what you prioritize. People don’t like to hear this, but it’s true. While I would have told you that God was my number one priority, I would squeeze in my Bible study while waiting in the car line to pick up my child from school or cram it all in the night before the meeting. I did not set aside dedicated time for God. I would say my prayers as I drifted off to sleep. I would go to church on Sundays, but God was not really a part of my day-to-day life or decision-making. And yet, because I knew the Bible better than most and went to church on Sundays, I assumed I was prioritizing God.

However, you know what I did have time for? I watched my favorite television shows religiously. I faithfully set aside time to hang out with my girlfriends. I ensured I made it to the gym to exercise 4 or 5 times a week. I was strict about getting to bed on time to be sure to get the sleep my body needed. None of these priorities are “bad,” and, in fact, taking care of my body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, is a good thing to do. However, even taking care of the temple should not take precedence over spending time with the God that the temple houses.

For God to come first, we need to place Him … well … first … ahead of everything else. Paul told us,

If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. ~ Rom. 11:16

We can apply this verse to our time with God. When we give God the firstfruits of our day by setting aside sacred time with Him, then that firstfruits offering starts off our day in a way that directs us toward making the entire day about Him. Because our first hour of the day is holy, that holiness can spread to the other 23 hours as well.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a recliner with snacks above the words, “Game Time!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Is God Really Your Top Priority?

no_timeI am stepping up on the soapbox this week, so be forewarned…

Is God really first in your life? If you are a Christian, your immediately response is likely yes, but is this really true? Or are you lying to yourself? Christians can be deceived, so don’t assume that just because you are a Christian, you are prioritizing God.

I was saddened and, frankly, astonished to learn in one of my Divinity School classes what a small percentage of people in ministry actually spend quality time with God on a daily basis. I would have been disturbed by the statistics I heard if it was about laypeople, but people in ministry?? Seriously?? How on earth do you spend your days serving God without first meeting with, fellowshipping with, and enjoying God?

One reason this is a soapbox issue for me is that I deceived myself on this topic for a number of years. Because I knew the Bible well (better than most), I assumed this accumulated knowledge was evidence that I prioritized God. And yet, my life did not reflect this. Despite this wealth of head knowledge about God, I continued to live in emotional bondage, and the joy and peace that the Bible promised eluded me.

Yes, I knew a lot about God, but I did not know Him because I rarely spent any time with Him. I found praying to be boring, and my laundry list of prayers was all about what I wanted God to do for me or for someone I cared about. I never thought to ask God what I could do for Him. I wanted Him to bless my plans, not join Him in His plans. While I was a Christian who was heaven-bound when I died, I was a selfish Christian who wanted to harness God’s powers like a genie to make my life more comfortable.

God wants a relationship with you and sacrificed His Son for you to enable that to happen. God wants to walk with you, not take the slivers of your life that are left over after you do everything else that you deem more important than spending time with your Creator. Have you ever thought about what God might want out of a relationship with you? I didn’t until I started prioritizing God in my life.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of  Grace with her hands on her hips saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Courtesy Bitmoji.

Choosing Life

toasterContinued from here.

So, then, what does it mean to choose life? In a word, Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Follow Jesus, and he will transform you from death to life, which is why he came in the first place. Paul summed up how to do this here:

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” ~ Rom. 10:9-11

This is what it means to choose Jesus as your Savior and Lord, which is choosing life. Simply tell Jesus that you are sorry for living in death and that you want to live in life through him. It really is that simple, although I have said many times that simple is not the same thing as easy.

It’s hard to humble yourself, admit that you have made a mess of your life, and that you need a Savior. You know what’s even harder? Being dead … living only for yourself … making your own judgments about what is “good” and “bad” … bearing the consequences of those decisions because your worldview is skewed … being mired in bitterness toward everyone who has wronged you … taking advantage of other people before they take advantage of you… Being dead is hard work!

I gave up a lot when I became a Christian. I gave up my “right” to live my life however I feel like living. You know what else I gave up? Being dead! I gave up reliving all of the ways that my abusers harmed me … fixating on my bitterness … judging everyone around me while worrying about their judgments of me … suicidal urges … an eating disorder … severe anxiety disorder … panic attacks … self-injury … Yes, I gave up a lot for God, and following Christ was the best decision I ever made!

Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live. Are you ready to live?

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace popping out of a toaster saying, “Not bad. How are things in your life?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Why Jesus Came

lifesaverContinued from here.

So, if Jesus did not come to make bad people good, what did he come for? To make dead people live! That is the good news that if we really grasped, we would experience joy and peace every minute of every day for the rest of our lives! (And, no, I am not there yet, either.)

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. When they ate it, they did not physically die. However, they did spiritually die, and that is what Jesus came to undo.

From the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their perspective shifted. Instead of seeing the world in alignment with God, they aligned their worldview with Satan, whose worldview is in direct opposition to God. Sadly, we have all inherited this skewed worldview, causing us to naturally behave in ways that are counter to God. Our problem is not that we are “bad.” The problem is that we are DEAD! This is why God told the Israelites through Moses to “choose life” rather than to “choose to be good:”

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ~ Deut. 30:19-20

Don’t be deceived – your default setting is death. If you do what comes naturally, you will consistently choose death over life. That’s the consequence of the Fall and why we live in such a broken world today. God gives us another option – to choose life, and He sent His Son to die for us to make this possible … not in our own strength but through the equipping of the Holy Spirit.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a lifesaver and saying, “Ur a Lifesaver.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus Did Not Come to Make Bad People Good

overruledContinued from here.

One of the lies far too many people believe – both Christians and non-Christians alike – is that Christianity is about “being good.” They mistakenly believe that the Bible is a rulebook of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” If I do this, then I get to go to heaven, and if I do that, I will burn for eternity in hell. That’s not why Jesus came!

If we could will ourselves into “doing good” by following a rulebook, then Jesus would not have needed to die for us. Paul captured this dynamic beautifully:

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” ~ Rom. 7:18-20

If it were possible to do what is “good” through following a rulebook, Paul should have been able to do so. After all, he was a Pharisee well-versed in the Law. And yet, as he so eloquently explained, he was unable to do what was “right,” even though he knew better than most what “right” is.

That’s why we need a Savior! Even when we know what is “good,” we are helpless to do it because the drive of selfishness is so deeply ingrained within us. So, it’s pointless for me to spend my time memorizing a bunch of rules and fixating on how I am going to follow them because I cannot do it! In my own power, I am helplessly “bad.” I am entangled in sin and death. The power of both is too strong for me to withstand. Thankfully, God provided us with a solution:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Rom. 7:24-25a

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace slamming down a gavel and yelling, “Overruled!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Futility of Trying to “Be Good”

nopeContinued from here.

When I was a teenager, I did try to “be good” and was mocked for it. I was called a “goody goody,” “goody two shoes,” and other such nonsense by my peers. I wrestled with “right” versus “wrong.” Adults wanted me to “be good.” My abusers “punished” me through severe abuse for “being bad.” My peers mocked me for “being good.” It seemed that no matter what I did, it was never “good enough:” I was never “good enough” for the adults or “bad enough” for my peers. Whatever I did was always “wrong” in somebody’s eyes.

As a child and youth, I was terrified of “being bad” because this came with dire consequences. My abusers would set me up to fail and then “punish” me for that failure through severe abuse. To this day, the dynamic of being placed in a position in which there is no possible outcome but failure triggers my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, despite all of the grace that God has lavished on me over the years.

Because of this deep fear, I came across as a perfectionist to the people around me. Everything needed to be “just so” for me to be OK. (This developed into Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in my 20’s and 30’s.) However, my underlying drive was not that of a perfectionist – it was one of sheer terror of the consequences of something not be “just so.” My “perfectionism” was driven by a severe anxiety disorder.

I tried really, really hard to “be good,” but I simply could not do it. No matter how deep the terror of falling short, I was unable to succeed in “being good.” “Being bad” (selfish) comes as naturally as breathing while “being good” (godly) feels like being told to walk on the ceiling. It is completely unnatural, and all the willpower in the world cannot make us successful at it.

News Flash: It is not possible to “be good” in our own strength. Thank God for sending us a Savior to do this for us!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running in fear over the words, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]