Is Your Iron Sharp?

I recently noticed something. Something big. Something profound. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too… but are you willing to admit it? I recently noticed that it is REALLY easy to see the faults in others while being completely blind to my own faults! GASP!!! I know! I’m in my upper 30s, I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out! My guess is that you’re like me. That you’ve known this little fact for a while, but you haven’t really given it much thought.

I’m at home all day with the amazing task of teaching 4 children. Kindergarten, first, fifth, and sixth grade. I correct grammar, math problems, behavior and bad attitudes all.the.live.long.day! And sometimes, unfortunately sooner than it should, I become short, frustrated, and sometimes downright unloving. This goes on for some time before my husband comes home. Then my husband walks in, who knows what kind of day he’s had (I mean, I didn’t even ask) but he says one comment in a grumpier-than-I’d-like way and BOOM! I’m all over him! “Why are you short!?” “Why are you so frustrated!?” “Why can’t you be more loving!?” I promise, I don’t really shout this! But I am so quick to see it in him… why was I so unwilling to see it in myself?

I know I’m not alone. I’m a facebook user. I see the “advice-seeker” who posts an issue they’re having, asks advice, but then immediately turns angry when the advice doesn’t go their way. I even have a secret group of pastor’s wives that I’ll take my issues to. But as soon as one of them says something that requires me to look inward at my own bad behavior, I want to high tail it out of there! I’ve even deleted my posts so I don’t have to deal with it (I mean, let’s get real here, right?). It isn’t easy when we are faced with our own sins.

I googled “Why is it so hard to be held accountable?” You can’t even imagine how many responses I got to that question… NONE! Not one!  It’s rare to find someone who truly wants to be held accountable. We may SAY we want it. But our actions tell a completely different story. I tell my husband many times a year, “Honey, please talk me off this ledge! Please remind me of my goals of being a loving parent in the midst of my knit picking and nagging.” Then I wonder why he isn’t quick to do so after I bite his head off for not agreeing with me that whistling is the root of all evil. (Oh, have I never mentioned my hatred of whistling and how quickly it makes my blood boil in anger??? Maybe another blog post…). We say we want to be held accountable, but we actually hate correction. I believe this to be one of Satan’s most successful tools. If we can fight against correction, we can turn a blinds eye to the sin that is so easily visible to those close to us.

The word “accountability” isn’t found in the Bible. But the concept is all over the place.  In Hebrews the Author says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:23-25

The author knows that in order to hold on to our hope without wavering, we’re going to need each other to stir one another up. This is the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis. Our relationships are so important in this process. This is accountability!

To stir up can be translated urge, spur on, or motivate. It can also mean to provoke or irritate. Have you ever tried to cheer up a really grumpy person? It can be downright irritating! It’s not always easy, even when the accountability is coming in an encouraging way. However, this is needed for us to be at our best spiritually. Done right, accountability can be and should be encouraging. The word “encourage” means to call someone to your side in order to strengthen them with your words; it can refer to a variety of encouraging speech: instructing, comforting, admonishing, warning, urging, begging, and consoling. Whatever it takes to pull a friend from the dangers of sin.

I would expect my husband to remove a knife from my hand if I were about to harm myself with it. I would actually feel unloved if he sat back and did not act quickly when he could clearly see I was hurting myself. So why do I feel so attacked when he steps in to lovingly warn me about the sin I’m involving myself in? Done the correct way, accountability should encourage you to choose a more godly path in life. Galatians 6:1-2 says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If God is telling  a person to help restore a friend, He must expect that friend to receive the restoration. Just imagine the change that can come to your life if you’d receive the correction as a blessing instead of an offense. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Why not take some off yourself and let someone help you with it? Sometimes anger is too heavy of a burden to bear, Confess your sins, and let someone pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). Gossip is a hard habit to break. Ask some friends to stop you before you sin against another person, causing both them and you harm. Depression is a dark hole to get lost in, connect with a friend who won’t leave you alone even when you withdraw. Help a friend help you.

Being held accountable isn’t always easy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always painless. We are called to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Admonish isn’t a pleasant word. It means to warn or reprimand someone firmly. Firmly, not harshly. As grown adults (and I guess even as children), we don’t like to be told what to do. Somehow we thought that when we became adults we could do whatever we wanted and no one could tell us what to do! And yet… The Bible tells us that we should admonish one another. I’m sure many of us read that and allow it to give us permission to rebuke others. That’s easy. But what about when you’re the person who needs the rebuke?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17). Are you sharpened or do you live in a dull state with no desire to live up to your full potential? Try cutting a tomato with a dull knife. It’s a mess. And so is life when we refuse correction. Would you take this sharpening journey with me? Ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell them to be loving, but to correct you on the sin you’re struggling with. And then actually receive the correction. Pray over it, and make the necessary changes in your life. Don’t let your pride ruin your walk with God.

There is no need to be around toxic people who correct, rebuke, and admonish out of mean spirits and divisive intentions. There are people like this lurking behind every corner. They are not there to encourage you, but rather point out your faults, push you down, and walk away. Search for those with their hands outstretched in love pulling you up. Choose a person that loves you, and loves what God could do in your life. Ask someone to come along side you  in order to strengthen you with their words. And then pray for the humble spirit to take their encouragement and grow closer to God.

 

Church is a great place to find this kind of friend. I’d love to invite you to visit us on Sundays at 10a at Crossroads Church in St. James, MN. 721 Weston Ave. Make plans to visit with a friend, I’ll save you a seat!
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Slave to Busyness

In the first year of marriage, I ran circles around my husband. If he took the last drink out of his glass, I hopped up and put it away (whether he was hoping for more to drink or not). I mopped our hardwood floor EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. It was just the two of us. No shoes were worn in the house… but those floors NEEDED to be mopped. There were nights my husband would sit on the couch and say, “Honey! STOP! Come sit with me.” I had to stay busy all the time. Funny thing though, I got off work at 2p (went in at 6a) and cleaned the apartment and took a short nap because, well, I wanted to be completely available to my new husband once he got home from work. Yet, I spent most of the night running around doing… busy work.

We live in a society that glorifies being busy. We value one another based on our schedules and how much space we can fill in on that little hourly grid. We come home and sit just long enough to brag about our busy days on social media… or we do it from our phones on the go.

We see statuses like
– It may be 3am, but I’ve crossed off the 40th thing on my to-do list! #whoneedssleep
-Yep, that’s an empty 12-cup coffee carafe… and it’s only 7am #busyday
-Not sure how I’ll get this paper done, dinner made, house cleaned, dog walked, work completed! #notime
-Up at 6a, and still going strong at 1am #insertyourenergyboostingproducthere

It’s absurd! It isn’t how we were designed. The Bible says, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” -Psalms 127:2

All this running here, there, and everywhere (even if you stay in your own house) is useless. Sure, we have to prepare meals, we have to work (whether it be outside the home, or in the home caring for children), we have to maintain our living spaces. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for a sport or book club, or church choir. It’s not useless to volunteer, pursue further education, or train for a better job. Of course if we try to do them all at once, we have to eventually give up rest. And rest is a gift from God.

Busyness can soon become a disease in your life. It can destroy your happiness, your health, and your walk with God. Busyness may get you through life, but it will not BRING you life. John Ortberg says in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted ,”For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”

I often wonder if the reason we fill every minute of our day with activity after activity, and the reason we boast about all we can fill in to our 24 hours is because society has filled us with this idea that the more we do, the more value we have. And yet, the more we do, the more pressures and temptations we put in our life. We may think that the packed full schedule means success and security and comfort and happiness. But it only attempts to fill a void that only God can fill. Our success isn’t measured in how well we can function on a tiny amount of sleep. Our security isn’t secured in a life with little down time. Our comfort doesn’t seem very comforting when we fill our lives with activities over people, and our happiness will be shallow when we fail to step back, slow down, and find solitude in God.

Hey, I’m not saying I don’t fall into this trap. I do, too often and I’m sure that’s why this is laid on my heart so heavy lately (well, for the past few years really). I see it, I recognize it, and I want out of it. We live in a society where pulling out of the busyness of life isn’t encouraged. We live where fast-food isn’t fast enough, we have to go through the drive-thru and eat in the car. And if that isn’t bad enough, we have replaced our meals with pills and patches, and tiny little power bars. We’ve gotten too busy for simple MEALS… we are in trouble. We put our kids in so many activities that we not only cut into their healthy sleep time, but we have completely done away with family time. Our kids are in school 7 hours a day, given 3 hours of homework, and still encouraged to try for varsity in every season of sports (sometimes those sports even overlap). And this has become so important that church hasn’t found itself on our schedules in months.
We must do something! But what? It’s the world we live in, right?

Author Dallas Willard speaks of a study done where mice were given amphetamines. Some mice were in solitude, some were in a group. It took very high dosages to kill the mice in solitude. However, the mice in the group started hopping around and hyping each other so much that a dosage twenty times smaller was lethal to those mice. They even introduced mice that had not been given ANY drugs to the group and within 10 minutes, the crowd had gotten them so hopped up and hyper that the drug-free mice died. This is the great effect of this “World” that has been created around us. We look at all of our friends get all hyped up on busyness that we feel we need to as well. We begin to put a value on ourselves based on how much we can cram into one day. But, let’s just STOP.

Let’s stop over scheduling our kids. Let’s stop boasting about everything we’ve done that day. Let’s stop letting our to-do list define how great we are. Let’s stop neglecting the rest God has given us.

And let’s start…
1. Planning ahead. When we procrastinate, we find that we cram way too much into a 24 hour period, and we miss out on the abundant life God wants for us. So plan ahead, and be sure to plan some down time into your life.

2. Praying and seeking God first. Give time to solitude with God. If that means getting up before kids do, then go to bed earlier so you can get up after a healthy night’s rest. This also may mean you have to cut something out. *You can also choose to go have time late at night… but only on nights where you can still get healthy amounts of sleep to prepare for your next day.

3. Cutting things out. Yes, getting a degree would help you get a better job. Getting a better job would help your finances. Better finances will…. Well… can I stop here and say, “Not always”. I don’t make 6 figures. And I’m doing great. Money isn’t everything. Simpler living just may be happier living. If you are pushing to get a degree just to get a better job to make more money… stop and ask yourself if that also means more hours away from family and church. I’ve seen this way too many times. Dad goes back to school while working full-time. He tells his family it’s just 2 years, then I’ll have so much more time. But then the new job requires more time away… and the cycle never stops. Maybe this isn’t the time for the new degree. Maybe wait until kids are grown and there is more time to pursue it. (Moms, this goes for you, too). Sports are fun. But don’t allow your kids to fill their time so full that they aren’t learning about quiet times. Stop the cycle now.

4. Take time to do nothing. Don’t plan something in every single slot on your calendar. Leave room to life. Do not be afraid of boredom. Let the day get away from you. You will start to feel free. Probably not right away, since busyness has such a great hold on us. You will have to make this a discipline, or a training in your life. But I guarantee it will bring freedom soon.

5. Change the stigma. Let’s start changing the scene. Stop glorifying busyness. Encourage others to come and enjoy life.

It’s time to change things, to choose another way of living, and to eliminate busyness from our lives.

One last thing… God wants more of you. He values you. He longs to be with you, to be in your thoughts, to be king over all your activities. If rest was good enough for Him… it’s good enough for us.

Ok…so one more thing…
Please watch this funny clip…
And remember, not everything that “saves time” makes life better. 😀

Don’t Forget

My girls wake up with songs on their hearts. The sing them as they get ready in the morning, they sing them as they eat their breakfast, and they sing them as they begin their school work. This particular morning they had been singing King of the World by Natalie Grant (see the video below). Now, these girls do not merely hum the song, or pick lines from here or there… they sing the entire thing. And right in the middle my 10-year-old looks up and says, “Mom, how is it even possible to forget that God has always been the king of the world? I mean, do you really think there are people who have forgotten?” I wish I could tell her that no one has forgotten. But we all know that’d be a lie. Now you have to understand, my daughter isn’t making fun. She isn’t judging. She is still learning the world around her. Although she does know that not everyone believes in Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, she at least thought everyone was aware of Him each day. You see, this 10 year old hasn’t been in the world yet. She hasn’t seen how stress pulls you away. She hasn’t experienced politics (although she got a good taste through out the last 12 or so months), and how quickly our world is turning away from God. But to be completely open with her, I would have to tell her that even church-going-self-professed-Christians have too easily forgotten that God has always been the King of the world… and always will.

How does this happen? How do we walk through this world and forget about God? How do we face the issues this world brings and try every other “remedy” and forget about the King of the world?

I think it happens to many of us, and it isn’t until we’ve hit an all time low that we finally reach out to this long-lost God that we use to serve. We’ve grown so distant that we forget about the one who can pull us up, get us through, and help us triumph. We turn to friends, social media, drugs, sex, addictions, ourselves… and we only find ourselves further in the pit way worse than we were when we started. How did we forget? How COULD we forget?

1. We stop talking to God.

We allow our schedules to fill every minute of our day leaving no room for a prayer time. Imagine if you stopped talking to a friend. Eventually, we stop making time to get together with that friend. We grow apart. We eventually stop talking about them, and eventually they are no longer in our short-term memory… and barely in the long-term. On occasion when their name is brought up you may find yourself with a smile remembering the good times you’ve had, but you quickly move on to the next thing, and that friend has been forgotten again. It’s sad, but it happens with God, too. We look at our busy schedules and try to squeeze God in, and when we’ve made no room, we toss Him to the side. Instead, shouldn’t we work our other activities around our time with God? Without talking to Him, we will soon lose our closeness with him, and eventually, we’ll forget altogether.

2. We stop studying Him.

I took a Literature class in college. I attended the class (that I can’t even remember the real name… it wasn’t “Literature” but some specific kind of Lit). I may have even gotten a good grade. But sitting here right now, I can not for the life of me tell you what I learned in the class. I don’t even know one book I had to read for the class. So I have to tell you, I do not feel I’m some literature scholar. Once I stopped studying, I stopped learning, and I stopped caring. Sure I love to read, but I don’t study literature anymore. I’m FAR from a literature know-it-all. I’m not even a know-it-little! The same goes for us when we stop studying the word of God. It’s possible something triggers a faint memory of something that you’ve learned, but is that really enough to live on? And more times than not, when we go on distant memory, we get a LOT of things wrong. The Bible is our guidebook for Christian living. It is how we learn about the workings of this King of the World. Without reading it, trying to learn from it, and making that consistent in our lives, we’ll forget about the support He gives. We’ll forget about His love for us. We’ll forget about the sacrifice He made in order to make a way for us to live eternity with Him.  We’ll forget altogether and begin to live as if we don’t even know him.

3. We stop living in His world.

We have set up a routine in our home where God is as close to center as we can get. Please don’t see this as a brag, it’s not. I mess up in my attitudes, and I’m a sinner each and every day. But we’ve created a routine where we start our day off with the Word of God. We read it as a family. We then pray, committing our day to God. Our school curriculum is Christian, and it sparks a lot of talk about God through out our day. I do my Bible study at the table while they are working on their school work. We talk about the things we see on tv that may not line up with our walks with God. And we try to teach during those moments about the world around us. We attend Church. We value the lessons we learn there and try to get our kids to worship, and desire more of Him. So for my 10-year-old, it doesn’t seem possible that anyone could FORGET about God. I mean, we see His creation every day. We live in His will (at least we try) each day. We speak to Him, learn about Him, hear from Him on a regular basis.

I’m fully aware that we live life on this earth, and not in heaven. I’m fully aware that life happens and that we aren’t all sheltered in a “Christian” bubble. However, I haven’t suggested anything that God hasn’t asked of us.

Psalm 145:18- The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Colossians 4:2- Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Joshua 1:8- Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

2 Timothy 3:16-17– All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Psalm 16:11- You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Acts 17:28-  For in him we live and move and exist.

**There are SO many more… you should explore this on your own!**

And done for the sake of doing isn’t what I’m saying either. These aren’t things to check off a check list. Check. Check. Check… and poof! It doesn’t work this way. But to build a relationship you focus on that person. And we do the same with God.

I’m aware that in this world there is chaos. But it’s important that we not forget that He’s always been the King of the World… and even further that He CURRENTLY IS! We must take the time to make this King of the World a part of our lives. If we can live day in and day out remembering who we serve, why we serve Him, and what He has done for us, the chaos may still be there, but the way we manage it will change in drastic ways.

This theme has been in my adult Bible study at church, in my daily personal Bible study, and even at a convention my kids attended this past weekend. So I’m taking notice. What are ways I can REMEMBER!? For me, I’ll be living with the knowledge that God is big enough, loves me, died for me, and continues to bless His children. I’ll be actively pursing Him so I won’t forget. How about you?

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough
When you’re the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world

Oh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to me
And you’re holding on to me

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget you’ve always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world