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Tithing of Our Time

Tithing is a biblical principle of bringing God the first fruits, the best of labors. One of the ladies in my Bible study group mentioned about tithing our time as a way of making sure God is our priority.

 

Although, “tithing of our time” is not an actually in the Bible, being stewards of the things He has given us is.  I think it’s safe to say that God has given us time.  In my case, sixteen waking hours.

 

I was excited about the concept and was challenged to try it.  How many hours does our culture spend on Facebook, watching a marathon of our favorite shows, reading book after book of our favorite series or, genre? Yet when it comes spending time with God we do a quick ten minutes because it’s what good Christians do.

 

Ten percent for me is approximately two hours of my day.  At first I thought “Whoa, that’s a lot”; however, I can sit for three hours reading a great mystery book.  I can spend two hours watching my shows and then I complain I don’t have time for the things God has for me to do.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, the mystery books are okay, TV is okay even Facebook is okay, but when it’s stopping me from God and what He has for me, then it becomes a problem.

 

I don’t necessarily have a schedule that allows two hours straight.  But a half hour here, fifteen minutes here and there and another half hour later, I have accomplished two hours focusing on God and what He has for me.

 

It’s being intentional and giving God the priority throughout the day not just when we have devotional times.

 

Let me show you some things I’m starting to do to make God the priority though out my day:

  • When I walk in the morning this is the time I have started using to pray. Evening walk now are times of praise and worship through music
  • Instead of watching my favorite show, I’m choosing to watch instructional video’s to improve my writing skill. Or writing more on what God is teaching me.
  • I also now keep a book like When the Enemy Strikes by Charles Stanley in the car so I can read while I wait for my children to get out of school.
  • I also leave out one or two devotionals so that during the day, I take fifteen minutes to read and mediate.

 

These are just a few of the adjustments I’m making.  I’m busy with my children, chores etc.  But just making these little changes help me keep focus on who I am in Christ and what He has called me to do.

 

However, It’s more than just reading and praying, but giving God our best in everything including ministry, and fellowship.  Do you have a ministry you are involved with?  If not, pray about it.  There is nothing like serving the Lord and others to keep our focus on Him.  I‘m scheduling coffee dates with other woman so I can encourage and fellowship more.

 

Some may say, “You’re a stay – at- homer you have all the time in the world. I work 40 to 50 hours a week.”  How do you use your lunch breaks?  Maybe take a prayer walk, read a devotional, or take time to encourage a co-worker.  We all have twenty-four hours in a day.  It not about quantity but quality.

 

I have been following this principle for a week and I have been amazed at how God has used it.  There has been peace, even energy during the hardest parts of the day (afternoons).  I have also been “responding” rather than “reacting”.  I missed one day I could tell there was a difference.

 

Warning:  There is a risk that the “tithe” becomes a ritual or legalistic. I will not become a slave to the clock.  The heart and motives are important too.  It’s all about the relationship.

 

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk-not as unwise people but as wise- making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  So don’t be foolish, but                                                    understand what the Lord’s will is.                                                                                                                                   Ephesians 5:15-17 (HCSB)

Indulging in God

Recently I was asked to write a 150-word blurb for my church’s Moms at Heart Newsletter on the topic of “How do we trust God, when life doesn’t make sense?”

 

I laughed.  My life doesn’t make sense. How am I to write about a topic when I don’t have the answers for my own life?

 

God impressed on my heart, “You’ve been indulging, in me and there is peace even though you don’t have the all answers.”

 

Of course He was right.  When is God ever wrong?

 

I’ve been indulging in Him a lot lately.  Some synonyms for indulge are savor, marinate, and enjoy to excess.  It’s hard to picture savoring God, or marinating in His presence.  However, that is what I’ve been learning to do.

 

I’ll give one word to describe it: chocolate.  Whoa God is like chocolate?  Well, no that would be absurd, but how we experience Him can be.

 

To say that I love chocolate is an understatement.  Unfortunately, because I like it so much, I have a tendency to scarf it down without enjoying it.  My weight can attest to it.  This is how I can act when it comes to God.

 

I get up, spend time reading, answering my study questions and then immediately start my day without any time to let it soak in.  It’s almost as if I am saying, “I’ve done my obligation; now on with my day.”  Sure I pray before starting, and the Lord shows me things, but is it really soaking in?

 

Since I didn’t really understand what savoring meant, I took a piece of chocolate from my husband’s stash, sat down and let it melt in my mouth.  I was totally surprised.  Taking the time to indulge, I tasted it, felt the texture and it was satisfying.  I didn’t need another.

 

Last year I posted about soul care – taking time every so often to go to a place without distractions to pray and listen.

 

Over the past several weeks, it has been almost an everyday occurrence.  I haven’t been on my knees just for my life, but also for my family and friends as well.  I read, pray and most importantly listen (being literally still, waiting and not speaking until the Lord directs).

 

Have the answers come? I’m seeing God work.

 

Indulging in Him also means being intentional.  I have to make the time; it’s not going to suddenly happen.  I’m trying to be deliberate every day.

 

Warning:  If we aren’t careful, even this purposeful time is in danger of becoming ritual.  The Christian life is about a relationship with the One who created us, not the “works” or rituals that we do.

 

Are there situations in your life not making sense, not “fair” or just plain anxiety – filled?  Take some time to indulge in the Lord. I can’t guarantee your situation will immediately change.  Some of the answers I’ve seen have taken months, but what I can promise is peace.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

 Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

If I were to describe my life right now, it would be a Pointillism painting.

 

This form of painting was developed in the late 1800s, in which an artist would dot the canvas with their brush.  In the beginning all you could see would be dots, but when finished a masterpiece.

 

There are many instances when I can see immediately what is happening.  God uses circumstances to produce new character or minister to others.  I can actually see parts of the completed project.

 

However, there are those seasons of my life, when all I see are dots here and there not seemingly part of anything.  The dots and circumstances are floating in the middle of nowhere without rhyme or reason.

 

Now is one of those seasons, and it has lasted for a long time.

 

Half of my life seems to be running in the car going here and there without stopping.  School drop offs and pickups, running errands, household chores, ministry and the list can go on.

 

Did I mention the lack of energy needed, not just for the above but the emotional and physical needs of my children?  I have two teenagers moving closer and closer to independence and a six grader who has been having a hard time adjusting to middle school. Then there are art shows, soccer practices and church activities. It’s a wonder I still have hair.  Oh, then there is that too – the pre-menopause years.

 

My brain always seems to hesitate, get confused, forgetful, fatigued, irritability, hot flashes, night sweats, “Please Lord help me” is the only thing I can cry.  And then I’m staring at all these “dots” of life and wonder what in the world is going on?  What influence am I having?  Have I done anything important?  I sense no direction, or guidance on where I’m to go or what do.  I’m in a sea of dots with no possible hint of how it all fits into the bigger picture.

 

Memories of the toddler years flash before my eyes. They were great times but yet, a nagging feel that I lost myself and who I was. I have no idea who I am anymore, nothing makes sense.  I feel like a failure at times. There isn’t even passion to do the things I love to do like write.  Are you tired yet?

 

While I sit here writing, the Lord gently reminds me I have spent so much time complaining to Him, that I have not asked “What is it You the Master Painter want me to see and learn?”  I have questioned so much concerning what I am not seeing, that I neglect to remember that He is working whether or not I see it or if He even desires to reveal it.

 

These “dots” of hardships and challenges are somehow part of the Masterpiece, but I am spending way too much time complaining to sit back and be content with where He has me.

 

Is it possible that He is saying, “Christine, this is not a time to be focusing on the area you want. Those things I have given you?  I’m putting them on the shelf right now.  Be content with where I have you right now.”

 

That’s hard to embrace, but I’ve decided to wait on Him.  I know He has it all under control and He has a plan, and it is perfect.

 

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NSAB)

Deep Groanings

“I can’t imagine how people can through something like this without God.”

 

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to people over the past weeks.  There are no words to express what I have been feeling.  How is someone to express feelings to the God of the universe when one can’t even separate the emotions out?

 

There has been anger, loss, frustration, confusion, and pain all rolled into one.

My sister passed away and into the arms of the One who saved her over thirty years ago.

 

She made bad choices in her life, and in the end those choices caught up with her.  The years of drug use wreaked havoc with her body.

 

I’ve wanted to pray, and I desired to stand on His promises but I haven’t been able to crack open the Bible to read.  Oddly, it’s not because of rebellion or anger toward God. It’s grief – caused numbness.

 

I have been in situations in the past where I have only one or two words to say such as “Help” or “Thank You.” But now there is nothing.  Not even one.

 

Someone asked, “How’s your family doing?”  and my answer was, “We’re doing okay for now. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit and the Son speak to the Father on my behalf because I’m at a complete loss what to pray.”

 

A few hours later, that same thought came out of now where while I was on my to pick a daughter up from school.  For the first time, I understood the concept; the Holy Spirit and the Son were interceding on my behalf, because all I can do is cry.

 

The Father knows and understands because He is being told by the best possible mediators.  He knows, for He has experienced the loss of a loved one, His Son.

 

Comfort and peace  floods my heart, knowing God knows even when a word is spoken.

 

 

“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

 

Romans 8:26-28 (NASB)

 

 

My husband was impressed with the Christian based talent company where he took my daughter.  One statement stood out during the open worship time and presentation.  The CEO made this comment, “We are not a cultural Christian Company but we are an overt Christian Company.”

She went on to say that they were not interested in individuals who were there to become famous or rich; instead they were looking for those who were mission minded, humble and bold.  They wanted to train Christians to go into the world of entertainment to bring the gospel to a dark area.

A gallop poll taken in 2012 states that 77 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian¹.  In May 2015 Pew research group surveyed 35,000 people from all 50 states and the results showed 70% percent identified themselves as Christians².

This to me was disheartening.  If 70 percent of the United States identifies itself as being Christians why is our country in such a mess?

I came to the conclusion that a cultural Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday’s and Wednesdays.  It’s about talking a good game but not living the life, Christianity at the shallowest.

Cultural Christianity is what others deem as “Sunday” Christians, go on Sundays to get their church fix or fulfill an obligation.  There is also the, “what is in it for me mentality” and pointing out the sin yet forgetting the person, by treating others disrespectful.

The overt Christian goes so much deeper.  They take the pastors sermons to heart, and get into the Word on a daily basis.  Their words turn into action.  The overt Christian sees opportunities to serve others through ministries within the church, and in their communities.

They get their hands dirty, get out of their comfort zones, and have a heart to see others come to Christ.  They love the human being because Christ loves them yet in a respectful way not condoning the sin. They produce the fruits of the spirit, deny self and strive to walk by the spirit (Galatians 5).

Overt Christians are not perfect, but there is evidence of growth, others mindedness and seek to be a light in their community, not hiding the light under “a bushel”.

I have to admit when my husband talked about all that was said there was a sick feeling inside.  Was I truly an Overt Christian or just going through the motions?  I can say there are times I am, but other times that I slip into the culture Christian character.  My desire is to be more consistent.

What are you?  A cultural Christian or an overt Christian?  Because we are human and not yet with the Lord in Heaven we will not be perfect in being an overt Christian 100% of the time but we should be striving for overtness.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

 (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV 1984)

 

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

(Galatians 6:7-10 NIV 1984)

 

1   http://www.gallup.com/poll/159548/identify-christian.aspx

2   http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

Friday

As I write this, the time is 2:45 in the afternoon on Good Friday.

Jesus was on the cross from approximately the 3rd hour (9 am) to the 9th hour (3pm).  The pain He would have felt physically was excruciating. However, that wasn’t the worst part of the cross.

The message my pastor brought this past Sunday, “What Really Happened at the Cross” went much deeper, allowing me to experience today in a whole new way.

At a stop light today, I looked at the clock it was, 11:50 am, ten minutes before the 6th hour.  The book of Matthew says this,

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,”Eloi, Eloi lama sabachtham? – Which means, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  

Matt 27:45,46 Psalm 22:1 (NIV 1984)

He went on to say the description of Hell is darkness and separation from God.  Jesus experienced this to the nth degree.  The punishment for sin is death, a separation from God.

As Christ hung between heaven and earth He felt that separation not only for me but for all who came before me, who live in the world with me and those who have yet to live. He felt what it would be like for the whole would to be separated from His Father.  How is it that He could possibly feel billions upon billions of people’s punishment all at once?  The pastor said, being who He was (God in the flesh) He could.  We can have no comprehension of how this is possible.

1 John says,

“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”  (2:2 NASB)

I looked up the definition of that big word “propitiation” in the Greek. The definition stunned me.  It says, “that which appeases anger and brings reconciliation with someone who has reason to be angry with one” (NASB Key word study Bible)*.  He not only felt the separation but also satisfied God’s wrath for sin.

I see the clock, it is now 3 pm.   Shortly after this Jesus said,

“…He said, ‘It is finished.’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.”  John 19:30 (NASB)

The better translation of “it is finished”, is “Paid in full”.  There was nothing more to be done.  The punishment was completely paid for. Nothing else was needed.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only too take it up again.

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to

lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.”

John 10:17,18  (NIV 1984)

*  NASB Hebrew-Greek Key word study Bible  AMG International Inc. 2008, pg 2190

Solitude is refreshing.

I can almost hear your groans.  Solitude is not an easy discipline.  Like I said in an earlier post, silence is not easy for me.  Solitude is even harder.

Webster’s defines solitude as:  “1. The state of being or living alone.  2.  Remoteness from habitations, a lonely unfrequented place.”  It sounds depressing.  And yet Jesus took time to seek solitude.  (Mark 1:35)

It goes beyond being quiet, before God. Solitude means getting away from everything. You would think that for a homemaker with three children attending school it wouldn’t be a challenge; all I have to do is go to the home office and sit.  But even in the office there are many distractions such as the dog, telephone, and mental reminders of all that needs to be done.  So I started praying for a place I could get away to, with no distractions.

One day a missionary friend posted a picture on Facebook of a place she likes to go when she is home from the field, The House of Prayer.  I found the hours of operation and decided to go.DSCF4086

I confess, it was a little uncomfortable at first, because it wasn’t in my own church.  I almost turned around and left.  Well, that excuse doesn’t work, because the church is not a building but believers.

It was beautiful and peaceful with soft instrumental music played and a water fountain flowing.  With only my Bible, notebook and pencil, I chose one of the little rooms to the side, and closed the curtain.  It was God with me, alone together.

By the time I left, the sense of being in His presence was overwhelming.  The amazing thing was how the Holy Spirit brought scripture to mind and spoke to my heart.

It was not the building but what it provided; It was a precious time being alone with my Creator, Redeemer and Heavenly Father.

A few days later, I longed to have that time again.  I finally understood the scripture that says,

             “As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you. Oh God”   Psalm 42:1  (NIV 1984)

My challenge to you is: to pray about a day and place that you can schedule time for solitude.  It doesn’t have to be a “church” building.  For you it may be a park or beach.  Be intentional.

You will be glad you did.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up,

left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”   

Mark 1:35 (NIV 1984)

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