Aligning Our Aspirations with God’s Word

When you think of the word “aspiration”, you may interchange it with the word “dream”; an aspiration can feel like a desire that is far-off and improbable. Instead of unlikely to happen, think of an aspiration as a pre-meditated aim that can direct how we act, speak, and live. An aspiration is a target to help get us to our goal of becoming more like God. The key to a meaningful aspiration is to decide what the target is before given the opportunity to walk it out. Aspirations are most helpful when inspired by Biblical truth. When we aspire to be who God wants us to be, we can more clearly make God-honoring decisions.

I’ve come up with a few aspirations for my life and included scriptures that inspired them. I wanted to share a few I came up with so you can also try out this exercise. I believe that making a list of aspirations based on His Word will give you a clear focus on your life.

1.     I will put my trust in you by reminding myself how You’ve been faithful.
“And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:10
2.     I will seek your face in the morning.
“ As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” Psalm 17:15
3.     I will seek Your counsel first, before all others.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7
4.     I will not gossip but will speak life with my tongue.
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue…” Psalm 15:1-3
5.     I will communicate with God about areas that cause me to stumble into sin.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
6.     I will seek prayer before pity. My prayers will be expectant.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the Earth I call to you when my heart is faint.” Psalm 61:1-2
7.     I will pursue community even when I don’t feel like it, it hurts, or I am uncomfortable with it.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
8.     I will faithfully take the next step you have for me, even when I don’t know where it will take me.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
9.     I will give thanks to God for what He has blessed me with.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
10. I will accept your sacrifice on the cross, in exchange for my sins. I will not try to earn the gracious gift You gave through works.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This list of aspirations is not exhaustive, but it has really helped me clarify who God wants me to be. When faced with a choice to follow my way or His Word, I can remember the aspiration I am aiming for. I don’t hit the target every time, by any means. However, this exercise has given me a way to remind myself of what thoughts God wants for me.

As you are praying and reading His Word, write down a list of things He keeps reminding you to do or verses that continue to come to your mind. Once you have a solid list, meditate on these aspirations as you go through your day. Pray that God will make His aspirations your aspirations.

Question: Are there any aspirations you already have? Are there any aspirations that I listed that you also would like to work towards? 

5 Reasons Serving Others is Worth the Time

Christian liberty changes everything. The freedom we have in Christ does not permit us to do whatever we want. We are not freed to engage in selfish sin. As the chains of bondage were broken when Christ took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), we put on the garment of love and serve one another. In so serving others, we serve God.

Here are 5 reasons serving other is worth the time:

1.     Serving others takes the focus off you.

To be frank, life is not about you, anyone or me. Our purpose on Earth is to glorify God and let His Kingdom be made known. How do we show the overwhelming love of God? We don’t keep it to ourselves. We let God’s love overflow through our hands and feet. The transforming love of God leads us to think more highly of others than we think of ourselves, such as in 1 John 3:16-18:

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in Him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

In serving others, we extend God’s love to others. The sacrificial love of God leads us to sacrifice ourselves in order that others might encounter what we have.

2.     Serving allows you to develop humility

When considering serving others, many of us start comparing ourselves to others and wondering what others will think of us. We deny our best service when caught in traps of comparison. We may feel our service is not the same caliber as someone else’s. There’s a great quote by Rifqa Bary that says, “Instead of comparison and self-pity, discontentment can be an invitation to serve others and open our eyes to the gifts God has given us.” If we look around to see how our level of service compares to others, we are serving out of the flesh. Galatians 5:13 says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

      Service with a prideful attitude won’t be beneficial to the person being served, as it won’t look to see what they really need. To determine if we have a humble attitude in serving, we can ask:

·      Am I doing this to get recognition or applause?
·      Am I looking for the needs of others before the needs of myself?
·      Am I relying on God for the places I lack?
·      Am I comparing my best to others’ best?

      As we use the gifts God has given us without regard to what others think, God gets the glory. We develop humility as we lay down our best offering to God with an others-focused heart.

3.     Serving others if a form of worship

In all we do, we are to “do all to the glory of God.” In our workplaces, homes, and daily spaces, we can worship God. A church building is not necessary to worship God. Hebrews 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This means that everything we do can be a form of worship if we are doing it unto God. Our worship is most satisfying to God when we “serve with your [our] whole hearts, as if serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7 ESV). Our love for God is the root of our lives of service. Even when no one else notices, God notices our service.

4.     Service is what we were made for

We were made in the image of God. As image bearers, we should immolate His image. In sending His Son, Jesus, we were given a model of a life of servitude. He didn’t consider it an inconvenience when He was called on. He considered it a chance to serve His Father. He gave of Himself sacrificially. Matthew 20:28 says, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The Son of God could have come in pomp, demanding praise and honor; yet, He came in humility to serve humanity. He didn’t seek the limelight. Mark 9:35 says, “And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” In serving, we get the opportunity to become more like our Creator. We become more like the Child of God we were born to be.

5.     Service is a space for God to work on you

Service is not easy. Serving people is messy. Many times in serving others, we have to go beyond our own abilities. Serving others will often expose areas of weakness in our hearts.  1 Peter 4:11 then says,

whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

To serve others fully, we must be fully submitted to God. Service is the place to develop our gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” We best use our gifts when in the context of serving others.

As we remember the great act of love Christ showed, our hearts develop a love for serving others. The response to freedom in Christ shows itself in service. This quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf sums up the transforming ability of serving others: “As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.” May the love Jesus Christ displayed in taking the form of a servant transform our attitude about service.

7 Ways to Be Productive When You Don’t Feel like it

We know productivity is important. We understand that God wants us to use this life He has given us for His glory. Yet, year after year we fall into patterns of wasting time, procrastinating, and not getting stuff done. Maybe it’s because we only want to do things when we “feel like it”. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The phrase “making the best use of the time” reminds us that wise use of time does not just happen. Here are 7 easy ways to be productive, even when you don’t feel like it.

1.     Make a weekly plan
A weekly plan is a way to tell the week where you want it to go. It is a fixed, yet flexible decision of what you will do and accomplish in the week. Part of my Sunday routine is to get out my planner and first write down appointments, responsibilities, and required to-dos. I then go back through and schedule meals and extra household chores to fill each day. I’ve found by being structured in the way I plan my week, it allows me to accept or reject things that come up. I have the flexibility to change my schedule as God leads me, but it gives me a framework.

2.     Decide on priority tasks.
Within your planner, it is important to decide what tasks are priorities for you. I like to choose 3 tasks for home/blogging and 3 tasks for work. These tasks are in addition to regular daily habits. Every day after I finish my priority tasks, I can decide to do more if I’m feeling up to it or just stop. By putting these tasks in writing in my planner, I am held accountable to complete them. It’s important to remember that these do not have to be done if God has something better in store for your time.

3.     Know your limits
The first thing we have to accept is that we have limits. We also have to be okay with the idea that not everyone’s limits are the same. We must have grace for our limits being less than someone else’s limits. God has formed us in His image with limitations. Our limits remind us that we are not God, the limitless King! The work He has given us will be within our limits.

4.     Set a timer
A timer is a great tool to help get you beyond your feelings and into action! I use the Pomodoro Technique when working to complete tasks. The idea is that you work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. During the Pomodoro (25 minutes), you only focus on the task at hand. You continue this cycle of work then rest four times, then take a longer (15-30 minute break). 

5.     Reward yourself
Simple rewards give you something to work towards. If I complete a task, I may reward myself by reading a book, walking outside, or calling a friend. I try to avoid rewarding myself with television or social media time because both of those tend to be time traps for me.

6.     Learn to say “no”
No one wants to say “no”. We are conditioned to think “yes” is the only answer. Lysa TerKeurst talks in her book “The Best Yes” about sacrificing a “yes” for your “best yes”. She says in her book, “Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman.” Maybe the secret to the “best yes” is learning to throw in a “no” when encountered with a lesser request. It goes back to the passage from Ephesians 5 about “looking carefully how you walk….as wise” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV). God is the only one whose promises are always “yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV).

7.     Be purposeful in how you use technology
Lastly, I think it is crucial that we evaluate the way we use technology. Technology can be such a time trap and a controller for us if we allow it to be. When making decisions about the way we use technology, we need to consider what our purpose is for using it. If we do not make purposeful decisions about how we use it, I fear it will control us. As people of God, we must control what influence we allow a device to have over our time and space.

 Where we have influence over our time and productivity, we should use it. God blessed us with minds to think and make decisions over our daily lives. Purposeful decisions to allow or refuse requests will allow for a purposeful life. Our feelings do not have the final word in how we live our lives. God is honored when we thank Him for our lives by stewarding it well.  

Biblical Call for Productivity

Appointments, home chores, work tasks, gatherings, hobbies, oh my! At times, it can feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do the things we want or need to do. Productivity is an ideal that most people long to reach so they can have time for what is important. Productivity is not just a worldly goal, but there is a Biblical mandate for it. In the first chapter of the Bible, Adam and Eve were put to work by God. They were called to have children and be rulers over living things (Genesis 1:28). Even now, God has called us to make “the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5: 16 ESV). Here are some ways Biblical productivity may differ from worldly productivity:

1.     Productivity is not about us.
As I was perusing Pinterest for productivity quotes, I was amazed by the self-glorification found in the quotes. There was a mirage of sayings like “Only you can make it happen,” “I got this.” and “Things are always working out for me.” According to these sayings, the goal of productivity is to win at being me. This pursuit of self-excellence ignores the real goal of productivity. The goal of being a productive person is to do your work so you are available for what God may be calling you to do. Consider the command given by Jesus,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and 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.
On these two depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV).
By taking care of the things God has called us to manage, we are freed to be present for those God is calling us to be there for.

2.     Doing more does not give us an identity.
Look around and you’ll see to-do lists a mile long. If you’ve seen the large sections in planners these days, you know what I’m talking about! Some of us have something planned for every hour of the day. It’s almost as if we are trying to find our identity in the length and extent of our to-do lists. More does not equal better. We may be sacrificing a better “yes” by feeling the need to be it all for all people. Paul tells us that by “testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). The more we are in tune with who God is, the more we will know who He has called us to be. Our reflection as a child of God is expressed through our doing the things God has specifically called us to do. By applying this to our lives, we may not only be doing the best things but may also shorten our to-do list.
3.     A completed to-do list is not the goal.
A pen mark through a task on my to-do list is a satisfying feeling. Nothing beats seeing a to-do list completely finished. There may be a time for an incomplete to-do list. Often, Jesus was interrupted when He was doing His Earthly ministry. His to-do list was probably more often than not left unfinished. As Jesus was teaching His disciples about fasting, a man approached Jesus. The man told Jesus that his daughter had just died, but wanted Jesus to touch the girl. In a moment that could have been looked at as a distraction, “Jesus rose and followed him, with His disciples” (Matthew 9:19 ESV). What began as an afternoon of teaching twelve disciples became an opportunity for healing. The remarkable nature of this healing would spread to neighboring districts. Maybe God was trying to show us that distractions to our to-do lists could be the most important “yes’s that we allow. It’s often when we give of our selves sacrificially, we see God use us in the most remarkable ways.

Understandably, it is difficult to lay our schedules down before God and ask for direction. Maybe, like me, you have also found identity in doing more. The more I have grown to accept what God has called me to do, the less overwhelmed I feel. Jesus said, “my toke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 ESV). Perhaps when we lay down the weight of trying to earn acceptance, we can truly gain freedom to worship Go

Aligning Our Aspirations with God’s Word

When you think of the word “aspiration”, you may interchange it with the word “dream”; an aspiration can feel like a desire that is far...