abundant Life, Bible, Christianity, Church, Discipline, Family, God, Life Change, Marriage, Money, New Year, New Year's Day, Parent, Repentance, Salvation, Scriptures, Testimonies, Tithing, traditions
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” -Mark 12:30
Like always, the New Year came in with all the buzz of fresh chances, diets and health, resolutions and redos. We’ve never been that family that starts the year with black-eyed peas and ham for prosperity. We don’t do big over the top New Year’s Eve parties. We don’t even usually remember to catch the parade. We do football games and goals.
We usually sit the kids down and make a list of a few things they liked about their concluded year and a few things they’d like to do better. Jason and I add a few “ideas” of areas we’d like to see growth in. It’s all fair, as we let them make suggestions for us in return. We emphasize that their goals need to have a timeline of when to accomplish them and a basic plan of how they are going to accomplish them. We write them down. We check back in every few weeks for the first few months. We encourage one another. We throw them out as accusations in disagreements, as areas we wish they really would work on. We applaud when one goal is completed and we encourage persistence for the ones that are getting ignored. Overall, we learn and we grow from them.
This year, our goal making ritual took on a new dynamic.
God has really been impressing on me the last few months, that the chaos, circumstances and unknowns that I fear, all came from the same place. Every area of life that I felt I was suffering or falling short in, all came down to my lack of discipline. My lack of discipline had a bigger cause. I lacked a disciplined faith.
Proverbs 5 tells us about a man who let the world’s agenda and his own sin ensnare him. He was trapped in his lack of discipline in multiple areas of his life. The end result in all of those areas led to the same place. God said he dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly, he is led astray (Proverbs 5: 23). This was what I was becoming. In my foolishness, in my desire to do everything myself, fix everything myself, be all things to all people, I was being led astray. I was dying.
Maybe not physically, but maybe. My health is obviously something I struggle with. I’d love to make excuses for my body; “I’ve had 5 kids”, “healthy food is more expensive than I can afford”, “I work nights”, “I’m so tired”, “we’re so busy, I don’t have time to cook”. My lack of discipline in my eating was killing me but no one said a word. I’d get looks of pity. I’d get words of encouragement if I said something about wanting to do something about it. Not one person came to me and said, “Your weight and your health are a sin problem”. “I love you, and I want what is best for you, you need to change”. I’ve obviously tried “fixing” this problem on my own for years, back and forth, back and forth yet still not where I should be. Gluttony is a sin. It’s a sin equal to murder. If I murdered someone, I’m pretty sure, someone might have had a word or two for me. On the flip side, I’ve had friends that struggle in this area also and yet, I’ve done the exact same thing. I have a socially acceptable sin it seems. God doesn’t quite see it that way.
If only my folly stopped with the buffet line. Alas, it doesn’t. I lacked discipline in the area of our finances. I love giving. I love helping. I love making memories. I hate saying No to any invite regardless of the reason. I dream big. There are occasions where that leads to spending big. Not in a major, we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts big. Quite the contrary. We haven’t had a credit card in over 18 years. We own one car and have a manageable payment on the other. However, I lacked discipline, consistency and faith in this area. Sometimes, I make Dave Ramsey so proud. In other instances, it seems I have never heard of a budget. Let me just say this though, in this area, my struggles weren’t caused entirely by my lack of discipline. In this arena, I had legitimate circumstances and not just excuses. We had a landlord steal a large amount of deposit money from us. We had an employer that did not honor their word, their agreement or their written charter and ended up costing us over 20 days pay. Those things did cause struggles. Those situations caused a lot of pain. (You did read above that I have food issues, right? Emotionally food dependent problem alert!) Those were consequences from someone else that I was left to deal with.
Now, I’ve realized that I didn’t just lack discipline in my actions, but I see my reactions as falling short in the area of discipline as well.
I could go on and on, you might enjoy it because it would definitely reveal my personal character flaws that I’d much rather keep hidden and secret. Then again, hiding my flaws and mistakes instead of fixing them, brings me right back to my need for discipline.
What it all came down to is that once God revealed these truths to me, I had a choice.
I could continue on in my life. Existing. Surviving. Managing. Scraping By. Empty. Lacking. Failing.
I could claim God’s truths and promises in my life.
I’ve been blessed with amazing parents who poured the Word into me. I’ve been blessed with an amazingly smart husband, who comprehends and teaches the Word patiently, clearly and reverently. I’ve studied the Word under the most amazing Pastors and Teachers and Fellow Believers. I knew better but I couldn’t let go of my recalcitrant ways. Then, I opened my eyes to the truth in front of me. I opened my ears to the voice that I had ignored. The voice of the Holy Spirit inside me telling me, I didn’t need to just fix my problems or change my circumstances, I needed to fix me. I needed to repent. My way wasn’t working. My way was not getting me where I wanted to be.
Once I had made my choice, the changes started subtly. I’d work on one area at a time holding onto others still. I’d have good days. I’d have bad days. I was trying to develop the functioning habits of a disciplined person. I read the Bible, I read books about God, I did my bible study homework, prayed with my kids, went to church, helped people, avoided curse words, and tithed sometimes…..
This was the area that nagged at me the most. Tithing, translated from church lingo, is just the command of God that His people give back to him ten percent of their earnings. Back in the Bible day, this meant crops but nowadays, we operate in cash. I love tithing. I love filling out my envelope. I love hoping and dreaming of the awesome way God would use my gift back to Him. But, did I mention, I wasn’t disciplined. I’d accidentally spend it before Sunday or I’d use it to cover a bill that I thought I’d already paid, or the excuses would go on and on. I’d miss tithing and feel horrible and guilty. Then I’d give and be happy again. Now, understand this-God doesn’t need my money. He doesn’t even want my money. He wants my faith in Him. He wants me to show that I trust Him to provide for my needs.
Jason is one of the hardest workers I know. He cares very deeply about being the provider for our family. He would love nothing more than to only rely on his paycheck so I could be home with the kids all the time and so he could feel like he is following God in being the responsible servant leader in our home. That is not where God has us. We both have to have the faith that God knows all the details and He knows all the needs and He loves me more than Jason ever could. The problem really isn’t even the circumstances with our money, the problem was my heart condition. I depended on our employers. I depended on other people to do the right thing and honest thing. I depended on the number of shifts I could work to dig us out of the hole. I depended on myself instead of God. I was led astray.
Then I stopped fighting it. I stopped fighting the conviction. I stopped fighting God for control. I paused. I breathed. I decided to start over. I asked God to forgive me. I started immersing myself in God’s word. I started recording what I ate. I walked instead of sitting. We set up a strict budget. I chose obedience and discipline and life.
On a Sunday morning in December, I entered into God’s house to worship with my church family. I was laughing at myself and the humble place I found myself in as I prepared to give my tithe as the new disciplined obedient me. Insert the plot twist. You see, there had been a clocking error at work and I only was paid $60. A $60 check a few weeks before Christmas. So, I wrote out my $6 tithe check. My teenage girls had been babysitting quite a bit during the holidays, and their tithe made mine look like the miser woman who gave her last coin. But gladly, humorously, I dropped it in the bucket, joy in obedience. I wasn’t expecting a kickback from Christ. I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I was just walking in my new found discipline, confident God was in control. The next day, God had a surprise for me. Waiting in our mailbox was a check. A refund check from one of my numerous medical bills in September. It was A LOT more than my $6 tithe. It was proof that God knew our needs. It was confirmation that repentance, though painful, can be joyous. It was a reminder of the power of the God I serve. It was a reminder that I could do nothing about my circumstances, but I am loved by an almighty Father who not only can, but will do something.
The Pastor at my church summed it up for me so well a few weeks ago. His sermon series was on Gifts and he was sharing the aspects of gifts in relation to the the journey, gifts and relationship to Christ of the Wise Men. It was so simple but so encouraging. God reminded me of a simple but life altering truth. God has given me a life worth living. A life worth living well. Why would I want to waste it in disobedience and indiscipline? (Check out the sermon for yourself-you won’t regret it! Sermon Series Gifts: The Gift of a Life Worth Living)
That brings us back to the start of our story A New Year. Resolutions. Goals. Going forward in newness, grace and mercy. God spoke to me. I felt it in my soul with no doubt or hesitation. We were to go forward- only in His truth and His direction. I read the verses He placed on my heart.
“You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” -Deuteronomy 6:5
“And Jesus 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.'” – Matthew 22: 37-39
And finally, I read the verse I posted at the top. I took this to Jason and he agreed. We had a new plan. I told the kids that I was sorry and asked for their forgiveness. I had been living my life in foolishness and not in truth. I had made selfish choices. I want to teach them the right way and the difficult way not the good-enough easy way.
Discipline is intentional. Discipline is faith based on trusting that God is who He says He is, not what I think I know and can see and control.
Remarkably, that is what we established to start the new year. We told the kids to make some goals. Not just any goals, but specific, intentional goals.
A spiritual growth goal so they could love God with all their heart. Some of us have committed to reading the entire Bible this year, some have committed to a daily individual devotional time, one of us committed to doing an in-depth study of the Gospels and Jeremiah. All intentional things to help us strive to love God completely.
A bucket list type goal, a dream deep within them, something that they wanted to learn or do so they can love God with all their soul, the very essence of who they are. He created them. He knows and celebrates their passions. He celebrates my passions. He celebrates your passions. He gives us our desires, so I want my kids to pray and to dream big. I want to dream big and build a testimony of how God is working on my soul. One of us wants to learn to ballroom dance or decorate cakes. One wants to skydive. One wants to start a business. Another set the goal to save for a Mac and one an ipad mini. We’re singing a lot of Toby Mac’s Mac Daddy around here. Our marine biology lover wants to study and experience marine biology in a hands-on interactive way. All the goals are unique, precious and personal. That’s exactly how God loves us. Unconditionally. Uniquely. All so we can love Him with all our soul.
We set an educational goal, so we can love God with all our mind. We’re writing books, blogging, working towards certifications, researching and learning languages. We’re setting specific timetables for curriculum and sticking to it. We’re limiting things that distract us from learning and loving God with all our mind.
And yes, in the spirit of the American New Year we’re going to eat healthy and exercise.
We’ve set a physical goal so we can love The Lord our God with all our strength. We’re playing outside and being active 60 minutes everyday (as if you even have to guess which kid is our future NFLer). We’re training, exercising and drinking lots of water. We’ve committed to not just fuel and engage our bodies, but to care for our body in cleanliness and to rehab the temples of the Lord we’ve let become less than our best. (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
I want to challenge you to start fresh and anew. I want you to be intentional-in your spiritual walk, your relationships, your home, your priorities. Walk in obedience to God’s word. Walk in confidence that God is a loving, caring merciful God who desires you to accept His love and walk in the goodness and abundance He has for you as an act of worship to Him. If you don’t know Him, start with that introduction. It will be the greatest thing you ever decided to do. If you don’t know how, start here.
I want you to cheer me on! I want you to hold me accountable and pray for me in my walk. I want you to hear the testimonies I’ve shared, not as an emotional diatribe of my failures, but as proof of the change you see in me which is only possible through my Christ and Lord.
We’re only a month into the New Year. It’s never too late. How can you change things in your life so that you’re loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
Leave a comment and know I’ll be praying for you as you start your journey! #soroskigram