THE PRIORITIES TEST

To Do List picture frameToday we wrap up our theme for September: Back to School.  

The Priorities Test—this is our most important test in the school of life because it asks, “Who and what is most important.”

When I was newly married, my husband was my top priority. I remember thinking of ways to make our little apartment special for him. I thought about foods to prepare that I knew he enjoyed. I made sure that I looked nice when he got home from work. I wanted to be the best wife for him because I loved him.

Five years and three children later, my priorities had slowly shifted. It wasn’t intentional, mind you. Children demand a lot of a mother, especially in their early years.

There are a number of reasons our priorities become compromised. Life has a way of providing situations, circumstances, and relationships that test what’s truly most important to us. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves involved in things that do not reflect what our real priorities are.

Because life is ever-changing, we are faced with a priorities test on a regular basis. The trouble is, many times we don’t even realize it. We carry on, dealing with situations as they come. That is, until something of significance happens that forces us to reevaluate our priorities.

These are tests. It could be a car accident, an unexpected death, or a serious health issue like cancer.

God has given us a blueprint for our priorities and He kept it really simple. We should love Him above all else, seeking His kingdom first and all of the other things in life fall into place.

And he 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.” Matthew 22:37-38

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

By all means, I’m still a work in progress. I don’t claim to have my life in perfect balance. But I have learned a few things that have brought me some peace and better balance of priorities.

Could you use some more balance and more peace in your life?

In order to get our lives and priorities in balance, we must first take a look at where we are spending our time. This shouldn’t be a onetime event. I have gotten in the habit of reevaluating my life priorities on a yearly basis. If something of significance, like a major change, such as an illness occurs, I may reevaluate sooner.

What Does your life say about your priorities?

Do you really know what your priorities are?

Pastor Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Driven Life, says there’s a simple way to determine what your priorities are by asking yourself three questions:

                        The Priorities Test

  1. What do you think about the most?

  2. Where does your money go first?

  3. How do you spend your time?

Another thing I have found effective is to ask a family member or close friend to list what they believe are your top priorities.

Once you’ve answered the three questions from Rick Warren and gotten the list back from your family member/friend, it’s time to evaluate.

If things are not in proper balance, the first place to start is prayer.

Most of us realize that God should be our top priority, however seeking God first can be easier said than done. The good news is, God wants to help. He knows our weaknesses and things that distract us. Even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful to us. He is waiting for us to ask for His help in getting our priorities right.

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “…My purpose it to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

The key to having this rich and satisfying life is to keep God in His rightful place in our priorities. God said to Abraham, “Walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1 AMP).

Notice that God instructed Abraham to be habitual in walking with Him and living for Him. We can do this by establishing daily habits of prayer, worship and time in the Word.

Here’s the hitch: God doesn’t just want to be at the top of our to-do list. He wants to be the center of everything in our lives. This is why He said we must love Him with all that we are.

When I was young in my faith, I realized that I didn’t really love God like that. I was so ashamed.  Aren’t Christians supposed to love God? I mean He sent His son to die for us.

The truth was, I didn’t have enough of a relationship with God to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

I didn’t really know God. How do you love someone that you don’t really know?

For me, it started with obedience. I realized God wanted me to read the Bible, and I figured that was the best way to get to know Him.

So, I made God’s word and prayer my top priority. Guess what? My attitude about God slowly began to change. What started as an act of obedience, over time turned into a love relationship.

Today I can tell you that I truly love the Lord! I also love the Bible! It is amazing. It contains wisdom, comfort, inspiration, encouragement for every conceivable human problem or issue. God’s Word brings peace and stability to our spirits and will renew our minds (Romans 12:2).

Friends, the Christian life is a process. When you were a baby, did you just get up and walk? Of course not. It was a process. Even when you started walking, it was clumsy and you often fell down.

When we make a decision to put God as our first priority and in the center of our lives, we must remember that too, is a process.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

The enemy (the thief) wants us to fail in making God a priority. He knows the potential that lies within a surrendered heart for God. He stops at nothing to trip us up. But Jesus said,

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Yes, we will have many tests and trials in the school of life. But we are not alone!

God’s greatest desire is a love relationship with you.
Will you choose to make Him the center of your life today?


 I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK! If this was helpful or if you have something to share with other readers, please add to the comments section below this post where it says, Leave A Reply.


Takeaway and Application: Getting our priorities in order is not a onetime thing. Situations in life may warrant a reevaluation.

Begin with prayer (see below).Take the priorities test above and evaluate any necessary changes. Make spending time with God in His word, prayer and worship your first priority.

Prayer: Father God, I truly want to make You first in my life. I know that the other areas in my life will fall into place as I seek You and Your ways first. Please guide me as I seek to spend time with You everyday. Keep my heart and mind open to how I should apply Your word to my life. Help me be habitual in my walk with You like Abraham. As I seek to obey You, help me to learn how to love You and be loved by You. Then I will be able to love others the way You call me too.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

money

We continue with our theme for September: Back To School. Even as adults who’ve long graduated from school, we still face tests and trials in the ‘school of real life.’

What comes to mind when you think of health and wellness? Most of us likely think of things like exercise, eating nutritional foods, getting enough sleep and regular doctor check-ups. Rarely do we think of money.

But according to Joe Lowrance, PsyD, “financial wellness is a component of overall wellness.”

Jesus certainly knew there was a fundamental connection between the overall wellness of our spiritual lives and our relationship to money. In fact, money and possessions are such an important topic to Jesus that it is the main subject of nearly half of the parables he told.

Jesus says in Luke 16:11, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

It appears from this verse that God uses money as a test of our management and stewardship skills before entrusting us with spiritual things.

In my opinion, money may quite possibly be our biggest test in the school of life.

The subject of money is obviously important to God which means it should be important to us. Why then does it seem to be one of those ‘taboo’ issues to talk about?

Quite frankly, I didn’t want to write on the topic of money. I loathe dealing with money issues. I’d much rather avoid it altogether. I’d venture to say there are many people who’d join me in this line of thinking. Perhaps you are reading this and nodding your head. So I humbly ask you, how’s that working for you?

I got to the place where avoiding financial issues and responsibilities wasn’t working for me. You see, my husband happens to be an accountant, and for many years I conveniently relied solely upon him to handle our finances. I lived in financial ignorance. But as I began to mature in my relationship to Christ, I discovered that ignorance was not where God wanted me. Consequently, my avoidance of money issues was adversely affecting my marriage.

This realization served to illuminate my need for help. I started with prayer, asking God to help me gain wisdom. I also researched the Bible and other reputable sources on the subject of money.

By no means do I have it all together. Admittedly, I’m still l working on a healthy, godly relationship to money as opposed to avoiding it.

One big reason I have avoided money is out of fear of not having enough.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT) “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I remember reading these verses and coming to the conclusion that my fear about not having enough was actually a declaration that I didn’t trust God to provide what I need.

Do you really trust God to provide what you need?

Matthew 6:21-28 (NLT) “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Another thing I discovered is, I like ‘stuff’. Clothes, going out to eat, new pillows for the couch, kind of stuff.

I had to stop and ask myself if ‘stuff’ mattered more than growing in my relationship to Jesus. My answer was an emphatic, “NO!” And God’s reply was a gracious, “Then live like it.”

Malachi 3:10 “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”

It was time for me to step out in faith, trusting that if I tithe, God would not only provide, but I would be blessed (tithe means giving ten percent of your income). My husband and I lived for years in credit card debt, so giving ten percent to the church seemed impossible.

To my surprise, God has provided for my family’s needs every day, just as His word says. Even when we have been unfaithful with our tithing, God has been faithful to us. I admit, I’m still growing in the area of tithing.

I’ve learned that God doesn’t need me to give my money. No, I need to give.

In giving, I learn to trust.

In giving, I learn where my true treasure resides.

In giving, I am free.

I had become a slave to money through fear and desires for earthly stuff.

Matthew 6:24 NLT “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Money is a test we will face again and again until the day we don’t need it any longer—which is of course when we meet Jesus.

And since we are going to need money every day of our lives, this means we need to develop a healthy relationship to money. We must keep things in perspective, recognizing all that we have comes from God. We are only managers of what God provides.

Our hope is not  in material things, for they will all be gone someday.

Matthew 6:19-20 NLT  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
It was Martin Luther who said, “There are three conversions a person needs to experience: The conversion of the head, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the pocketbook.”

How about you? How’s your relationship to money?

It’s time that we trust God to do what He says He’ll do, even with regards to money.


Takeaway and Application:

There is a fundamental relationship to our spiritual lives and our relationship to money. Money is a test from God to teach us that He is faithful. Money tests our hearts.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for your provision. I want to trust you with everything, including my finances. Give me wisdom. Teach me how to handle what you have given me wisely. I desire to have a generous heart. I repent of any mismanagement of your provisions. In Jesus’ name, amen.

CONFRONTATION—LET’S STOP HIDING

We continue with our theme for September: Back To School. Even as adults who’ve long graduated from school, we still face tests and trials in the ‘school real life.’Hiding face in hands

Both of my boys are musicians and played in a few garage bands when they were teens. I remember one day asking my oldest son, “Are you having band practice today?”

“No,” he answered flatly. “I’m not sure if I want to play with them anymore.”

He went on to explain his reasons. I listened carefully realizing there had been many disagreements that had never been voiced. When the boys didn’t agree about things, rather than talking about it, they held back their feelings. In actuality, resentment was building. It had come to the place where it seemed easier to quit.

Have you been there? Are you there now?

I certainly understand. In all honesty, I was there just this morning. Although I have been married for twenty-five years, sometimes it seems easier to avoid conflict rather than deal with it. I found myself in a situation with my husband where I chose to confront rather than avoid. Why? We had both been avoiding some issues lately and the sweet Holy Spirit called me out on it.

The result was a messy, difficult discussion that went on for several hours. I know, I know—that doesn’t sound fun. Nope, it wasn’t. However, we were able to talk about some much needed issues. The discussion ended in prayer and tears of joy.

Confrontation is risky, scary, and just downright hard.

As I explained to my son, running away from difficult situations doesn’t make them go away. In fact running actually causes us to stay stuck.

As long as we live on this earth, we are going to face difficult people and difficult situations. If we hide or run from them, we miss the lessons and tests from God.

One thing we can count on: Our God is faithful to give us another crack at the tests we either failed or ran away from.

WE NEED TO STOP RUNNING

Moses tried it.
Hagar tried it.
Jonah tried it.

Running away didn’t work out for them and it doesn’t work for us either.

God had a destiny in mind for Moses. Moses made a terrible mistake and rather than face Pharaoh, he ran to the desert of Midian just outside of Egypt (Exodus 2:15). He spent the next forty years hiding. It wasn’t until he was eighty that God called him to lead the Israelites.

Hagar was a servant girl in a difficult situation between her master Abraham and his wife, Sarah. When she became pregnant by Abraham, which was Sarah’s idea, this caused a huge rift between her and Sarah. So Hagar ran away. There the angel of God told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her control” (Genesis 16:9). Yikes! This must have been extremely difficult, yet Hagar obeyed the Lord.

Jonah ran away because he didn’t agree with God’s plan of giving the sinful people of Nineveh a chance to repent. He ended up in the belly of a whale. There he confessed his disobedience and God caused the whale to vomit Jonah out onto dry land.

WE MUST FIND OUR STRENGTH IN GOD

We need to be a people who no longer run from difficult situations. God calls us to be bold and courageous because His Spirit is living in us, and is greater than any situation we may face.

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NLT

WHEN WE CONFRONT

  • Before confronting, we must pray and ask God to examine our hearts and motives.
  • Follow the pattern in Matthew 18:15-17 (below). First go to the one with whom the problem is. Secondly, if needed get help from another godly person or two. Finally, it may be necessary to bring it to the attention of authorities (Pastor, work supervisor, whatever is applicable to the situation). 

Matthew 18:15-17 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

  • Speak With Love And Respect

Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
Colossians 4:6 “ Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.   

  • The ultimate goal is restoration and peace if possible

We can see from the scriptures above, the Lord is clearly calling us to something much more loving and redemptive than going toe to toe and confronting others with a list of wrongs. Our goal should be peaceful restoration.


Takeaway and Application:

Avoiding difficult people and issues doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it actually causes us to stay stuck.

Examine your heart before God. Ask for wisdom about any issues or people He may want you to confront.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, I want to handle difficult people and situations Your way, not my own. First show me what I need to work on within myself. Change my heart and attitude to be like Yours. Show me when and if I am to confront any matters that  you reveal to me.
If you call me to confront a situation, cover me with your grace causing me to speak with gentleness and love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

My prayer is that this post was a helpful tool. I’d love to hear your comments or suggestions below.
Blessings,
Beckie