Priorities

There are certain aspects of my life that demand a need to be prioritized. Maybe that’s just my personal desire to be super organized. I tend to thrive on lists of  “to-do’s” and feel a great sense of accomplishment when they’re checked off as “done”!

When it comes to household chores I prioritize tasks with my family’s needs in mind. When I go grocery shopping I prioritize spending for my family’s needs over our wants (as extras). When planning short trips to visit people, I prioritize immediate family before extended family and friends.

Not only do I structure my daily activities, but I structure the things in my heart. Those things that I love also become a system of priorities.

When I wake for the day, my priorities are as such: I read devotions. I check my phone for missed calls or texts. I browse through new emails. I scan all social media notifications (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc). If I have time or am moved to do so, I write in a journal or type my thoughts out in a draft form.

I truly thought that by putting my daily devotions first was giving God my genuine time. Now, I love God very much. I felt that I was doing enough to justify my love for Him. But what I came to realize is that my devotions are all about me. Devotions about marriage, parenting, bettering myself, and so on.

The rest of my daily priorities continue to be about me, or about caring for my family or our home. While none of these things are a destructive way life, I am not fully committing my heart to God and what His word tells me to do.

God provides us the Old Testament law with this first commandment, “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3). Other gods can mean deities, rulers, idols, or that which we worship. In the New Testament, “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38). 

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My attempt at committing my time to God falls short to my human nature. The things I prioritize have become my idols. Serving myself and others has come before serving God.

Jesus advises us in John 14:15, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” I surely do love God, but I have not been completely obedient to these commandments.

I even go to God in prayer, asking Him for things for myself or others. Again, not giving Him His rightful place in my heart. There’s an incredible truth to the lyrics of “More and More of You” by the band Selah. They declare, “Oh, forgive us all for seeking Your hand and not Your face“.

How, then, can I expect so much from God without making Him my greatest priority in life? God is more than deserving of my worship, time, and commitment. Rather than having the mindset, “what can God do for me”, I must shift my thoughts to what can I do for God”. I must not always demand for His hand to give. I must truly learn what it means for me to give by seeking His face.

Dear friend, if this is all too familiar I ask you to join me. Let’s make a committment to seek God’s face, to keep all of His commandments, and to make Him our first priority. Let us agree together in prayer:

Lord, I confess that I have diminished your rightful place in my heart. I have not completely made you my greatest priority. Right now, I repent from this selfish nature. I thank You for freely lavishing me with Your loving forgiveness and unending grace whenever I ask. May Your Spirit guide me in wisdom and understanding to know how to truly seek Your face. And it is in Your name that I pray. Amen! 


Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”- Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Expectations

I am a person who has high expectations for people and experiences. I feel that people may not see the potential in themselves that I see. I feel the need to constantly be doing something to get the most out of my time. But, I often long for something more.

Many times, I’m left disappointed from failed expectations. I’ve pondered what someone could, or should, do differently. I’ve wondered why after I’ve achieved my experiences I still feel a void.

To name a few:

I’ve had expectations for my husband. That he would do things for me or our home without my prompting. When those expectations are not fulfilled, I’m left feeling angry.

I’ve had expectations for my friends. That they would be there for me more often- providing social gratification. When those expectations aren’t met, I’m left feeling lonely and unwanted.

I have expectations for my child. That he will stay on a path of purity, choosing right over wrong. If that expectation doesn’t get met, I will feel like I’ve failed or that I could’ve done something more.

I’ve had expectations for my job. That my income would supplement our family to buy the things we need or want. When those expectations were exceeded by more spending on needs than earning, I was left with bitterness and resentment.

I’ve had expectations for food. That the sweet and savory taste of unhealthy eats would provide me a fulfilling satisfaction. When those expectations fall short, I’m left feeling regret and shame.

You see, dear friend, expectations for things of this world will always fail us. Maybe not right away. But it eventually catches up. It will lead to disappointment and hurts that are not of God.

The truth found in scripture reveals, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26). If only I would put my high expectations in God, the giver of life and of all good things.- “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). 

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There are a few variations of meaning for ‘expectation’. The Hebrew transliteration is tiqvah- meaning hope, or a thing longed for. The Greek transliteration is apokaradokia- meaning persistent, or intense anticipation. Applying this literally means to watch with head erect, to direct attention to anything, to wait for in suspense.

I must turn my expectant thoughts on God. I must hope and long for Him to meet my needs. I must persistently and intensely anticipate the good that will come when I focus on Him.

God is Sovereign and His promises are unconditional. Instead of focusing my expectations on people and experiences, I will focus on God and His truths:

  • When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations… For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!- Isaiah 64:3-4 (NLT)
  • For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus… which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth... It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth…- Colossians 1:4-6 (NLT)

  • All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.- 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)

My friend, you may have expectations very similar to mine. Maybe yours are to a lesser or a greater degree. Maybe yours is in a phone call, a good report, a new home, or even as simple as expecting to have a good day.

It’s not bad to have expectations. Just remember the source. Things of this earth will fail us. Instead put your expectations in God, the only source to provide anything we could hope for, and more! 


Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”- Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

Discipleship

Recently, I have been focusing my intentions on what it means to be a disciple for Jesus. Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes, “A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example”.

Luke 14:27 guides us in this; “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple”.

Jesus carried his own cross for as long as his physical body could bare. He had endured punishment on the cross without even committing a crime. He underwent abuse and public shame in order that you and I may be forgiven (Luke 23:22-47).

You and I will never have to physically carry our own cross. We will never have to endure punishment and public disgrace. However, when we are asked to ‘carry our own cross’ we are asked to give up everything we have (Luke 14:33). This is inclusive of any unrepented sins deep within our soul (Acts 2:38). We must choose dying to self in order to follow Jesus. This is inclusive of surrendering from worldly ways (Romans 12:2).

I sought after the Lord to show me any unrepented sins that may be lurking deep within ME. I wanted Him to show me what areas to rid myself of worldly ways.

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He led me to the account of Judas Iscariot. The Bible shares of Judas, one of the twelve disciples, who would eventually betray Jesus. Judas was among those that physically followed Jesus. He heard Jesus’ parables and teachings. He was trained to heal and deliver people through Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 10:4-8).

You would think when you’ve spent all your days following Jesus that your life would mirror His. You would live a life completely without sin. But because of the original sin from Adam and Eve, humankind would still be trapped by the sin nature (Romans 5:19).

All for some cash from leading priests, Judas agreed to betray Jesus. Even after his devious agreement, he was present at the Last Supper. He was a partaker of the blessed bread and wine that served as a reminder of Jesus’ body to be broken and blood to be poured out (Matthew 26:14-30).

While Jesus was praying in an olive grove, Judas and a crowd of armed men came to arrest Him. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss (Matthew 26:48-49).

This account has always left me feeling disdain for Judas. Until God showed me how some of my life choices have resembled this very behavior.

I’ve spent countless times chatting with someone on the phone or over a text, standing in the hallway of my workplace, sitting at a kitchen table with a friend. “Do you know what So-and-So did?”, “I cannot believe they chose to do that!”, “But I’m not surprised, they always make poor decisions.”. Then, to encounter said people in person. I greet them with an excited “Hi! How are you doing?”, offering a smile, a hug, or both. Simply put, betrayal. 

I am not proud of this behavior. This was that unrepented sin that was lurking deep within me. After seeking God, I have repented immediately! I have asked Him for forgiveness and I know that He has covered me in His grace (1 John 1:9). The next step is to ask others for their forgiveness (James 5:16). This is giving up everything I have. This is dying to self. This is carrying my cross to follow Jesus.

I’m not the only one to fall into this all too common worldly way of life. If this is you, I urge you to repent and ask God for forgiveness. If not, I urge you to seek God and allow Him to show you what unrepented sin you do have deep within your soul. Carry your cross by giving up that burden of sin and dying to self. Choose discipleship and follow Jesus!


“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”- Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Provision & Fulfillment

I enjoy being an observer of nature. In my home, we have a window above our kitchen sink that shows our backyard. There’s a tree just a short distance away where we hang three bird feeders. I typically open the blinds while doing dishes to watch birds come and go.

The other day, I was doing just that. While watching, it began to downpour rain. It happened without warning or indication that this was going to take place.

Various birds had been eating. Many took flight at the onset of the downpour. But to my amazement, a handful actually stayed to feast.

Now, normally I would have felt sorry for the birds that stayed behind in the rain. However, God gave me a completely different perspective this particular day. He revealed that the birds who took flight were dwelling on their circumstances and left feeling hungry and empty. But, the birds who stayed to endure the weather continued to receive provision and fulfillment.

I began to think back on storms trials in my life. I pondered how many times I had taken flight, dwelt on the circumstances, or missed out on what was right there in front of me. Or, had I exhibited faith to be fed and satisfied- had I stayed to receive my provision and fulfillment.

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Scripture tells us in Romans 5:3-5 (NLT), We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we have faith and put our hope in God through our trials, He will not allow us to feel hungry and empty. In fact, our promises rest in these scriptures:

  • It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.– Isaiah 55:11 (NLT)
  • God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.– Matthew 5:6 (NLT)
  • …how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!– Romans 5:17 (NIV)
  • Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!– Luke 1:45 (NIV)

Those birds who stayed in the downpour of rain had faith they will be fed and they took joy in their feast. With faith, we should take joy in receiving the abundance of God’s provisions and fulfillment through our trials. 


“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”- 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT)