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The First Priority

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-12

My Lord and Savior Jesus there is no other above you!  You are the touchstone for everything and person in my life.  Help me to place my thoughts first on you today, God.  There is nothing I should chase after that is placed greater than You. Amen

Misplaced priorities, oh how I have had (have) quite a few.  I can easily forgive myself for the years I wasn’t a Christian.  Even those years I was a baby Christian I look back upon with grace.  But today?  Today when I put my yearnings above God there’s really no excuse.  I know better.  And I find myself doing it anyways.  I’m getting better day by day.  As my friend Betsy calls it, I’m making imperfect progress.

“8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8

The apostle Paul was certainly a man on fire to give all glory and honor and praise to Jesus.  We “normal” folks can sometimes look at the very faithful and think, “I have family that’s going through (fill in the blank) and that needs my attention.”  Or even, “My job takes a lot out of me and it’s important work so I don’t have the same time as Paul to devote to my faith.”  We can list endless reasons why we aren’t on fire for the Lord.  Or worse, we just are ambivalent.   Paul was not a man with time on his hands. Although Bible scholars aren’t in total agreement, some believe that at one time he was married. He also had a thriving tent making business which he took on the road during his mission trips. Whatever his full biography was, he clearly placed his everyday activities secondary to God.

I’ve come to finally realize that once I have begun aligning my actions, yearnings, words and more to God’s priorities, life has gotten a lot simpler and clearer.  It doesn’t mean it’s easier.  However, knowing my highest authority is our Lord, my worries and thoughts get pulled into His ways and purpose.  

Friend, if you’re chasing a need or desire that places an earthly object, goal or person above God you are just spinning your wheels.  You may get the fame or the fortune but you won’t have the fruit.  God alone deserves the highest place of honor and glory in your life.  He has no rival; He has no equal. Pursue Him with great passion over everything else and you will see Him at work.

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At Home With God

“Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”  Romans 4:20

Holy God, everything I have belongs to you — my home, my car, my food, my marriage, my family. Help me to use them in service to you each day so I can proclaim Your glory and the wonderful work you have done in my life. Amen

I’d have to say one of the first obvious signs that I was submitting to God and giving Him authority over my life was years ago when my brother-in-law came to visit us and wanted to bring his girlfriend.  We had two small children and my husband and I decided we needed to model God’s morals by telling his brother that although she could come, they couldn’t sleep in the same room together.  He laughed, thinking we were joking.  But when we affirmed our decision, he asked how we could decide that when we, ourselves, had lived together before marriage.  It’s an easy answer actually.  We were now Christians with children to whom we were responsible for modeling God’s will.

Here’s the thing, Christian, it’s ok, even necessary in God’s act of progressive revelation, to change our minds.  To grow in our faith.  To set up new boundaries.  Especially in our own homes.  For Abraham, mentioned in our first verse today, he struggled to align his entire household with God.  He made bad decisions about his wife, he had to make peace among his family, he was faced with the prospect of sacrificing his son to the Lord.  But He kept moving forward in his faith.  With each step he learned more about God’s expectations of him and he guided his family and home toward God’s promises.  He set history on the right path by giving glory to God over and over. Joshua carried this forward when he assembled all the tribes of Israel.

"15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Our home spaces are the perfect place to glorify God.  Why? Because when we stand in our home, every blessing we can see belongs to Him.  The home, apartment, tent, condo, all belong to God.  The food in the cupboards, the furnishings, the beds, the indoor (or outdoor) plumbing – yes, all belong to Him and should be used in His service to glorify Him.

My two oldest friends are unfortunately not believers.  And over these last few years I’ve had the Holy Spirit convict me of my behavior when I’m around them.  I need to show them the work God has done in me.  When they are at my house, I must model God.  That means I shouldn’t allow certain behavior or speech within the walls of my house.  I fail at times when I let myself be pulled into the world of unbelievers.  Sometimes I forget to pray over our meal, I drift into outraged political discussions, and I gossip.  My first step was realizing what I was doing doesn’t honor God.  My second step is to be more consistent in application.

Friend, if the Lord has blessed you with a comfortable place to lay your head each night, a place to make a life for your family, a home to provide hospitality to others, we need to remember it was all given for a purpose.  If we struggle to honor God in our home, how can we be expected to receive further responsibility from Him outside our homes?  So today, stand in the middle of the place you call home and proclaim it is all for His glory.

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Our Outward Reverence

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 3:18

“Holy Spirit, today as I stand looking into my closet in deciding what to wear today help me to not only have an inward Christ-like life but also an outward one so that I may completely glorify God in all I show the world. Amen”

I know it’s not fashionable or even politically correct these days to say things like, “the clothes make the man (or woman) but in the not too distant past this was understood as fact.  This well documented human behavior actually acknowledges a role in what our outward appearance says to the world.  You may think things have changed because of culture or “at home work” but human psychology is a pretty stubborn thing. Don’t take my word for it.  

“Through our clothing, we can send each other silent cues that signal to others how we expect them to treat us. This works because we tend to make very quick assessments of situations and people and put them into categories that we already understand. This cognitive shortcut, known as representative bias, saves us precious computational energy.” 

Sarah C. Newcomb Ph.D., Psychology Today

And in a 2012 study done through Northwestern University, researchers found that wearing certain clothes exerts influence through symbolic meaning.  So, when, as Christians, we leave the house each day do we ever consider what message we are sending out to our neighbors, the folks at the grocery store, at church or at the beach by our clothing choices?  That’s not to say we should be covered head to toe in some sort of hijab – the Bible doesn’t ask that of us women.  

“20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:20

Jesus wants us to present ourselves with honor in front of God.  That means we clean ourselves off and cover our private bits up.  When my youngest was home from college her last summer she wanted to find a modest one piece bathing suit.  Quite the change from her bikini days.  When asked why, she said she wanted to be more modestly dressed around her Christian boyfriend.  That’s the Holy Spirit work in a believer!  

Friend, when we leave our homes and go out into the world, we are God’s representatives.  And when we attend church, we should present our best as though receiving an audience in front of the king.  We glorify Him through our modesty of outward appearance and exuberance of inward love.