Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Making God a priority is an attitude

Life is always busy, and I find myself constantly embroiled in a conflict between priorities. I remember being told that God should be my priority. Period. Nothing should come before Him, and I agree with that and believe it.

But what does that look like? How do I live that day by day? And how to I juggle all the other responsibilities I have with that one priority? Making God the priority in life has to be practical somehow, otherwise we couldn’t do it. Right?

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:33.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I don’t know how many times I sang the old chorus that goes along with this verse. We’d sing it all the time at church. In a round. And as much as I loved the song, I never really thought about its application.

Seeking God above everything else means putting Him first. Yes. I get that. But what does that look like?

Is it simply doing what Jesus would do? Is it obeying the Ten Commandments? Is it changing something about yourself in order to make God happy?

I haven’t got this figured out yet, which is one of the reasons I’m blogging about it. That’s why I blog about these things, in case you didn’t know. These are things I’m working through. These are things I want to remember as the day goes on. All of these posts are letters to myself in hopes that I can get my head out of the clouds and into life where it belongs. And this is one I struggle with because I don’t always know how to apply it.

The best I can do in seeking God and putting Him first is to make the choices the Bible says are right. But the Bible isn’t a 12-step book to living. You have to understand the Bible as a whole to even begin to grasp who God is. And there are areas where the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us what to do. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit, God Himself living in those who have chosen to believe in Christ.

When we face choices in life, seeking God first means doing what the Bible says is right and/or listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and obeying.

What does that look like practically? An example from my own life deals with my work habits. I have a million things I have to get done. I work full time. I have my own writing business on the side. And I’ve started a small press with some friends. Just those three things are enough to keep me busy enough I hardly have time to sleep. And I am called to do all of those things. They are opportunities God has put in my life.

But what about my family? What about my friends? What about the personal relationships God has given me? Are they less important? God gave them to me too. So which comes first? The opportunities God has given us or the people God has given us? There isn’t always a simple answer.

I have been so fortunate in my life to have friends and family who see what God has called me to do. And I’m doubly blessed to have friends who are willing to work alongside me to make some of it happen.  But there comes a time when you have to make a choice, even between the opportunities God has given you.

And what I’ve learned is that it’s not what choice you make that matters. It’s why you make it.

Seeking God first, making God a priority, is an attitude. If everything you do is for the glory of God, every choice you make will reflect that.

So stop worrying about what choice you’re going to make and instead focus on the why behind it. Look at your motivation. Why are you making that choice? Is it out of fear or worry or pride or anger? If you’re making a choice for any reason other than God’s glory, you aren’t putting Him first.

We all face choices every moment of every day, and God has given us everything we need to make the wise choice. So do it.

Life is busy. It’s always busy, and it will keep getting busier. But if you can keep your motivation simple, it’s easier to choose what path to take. And if your choices glorify God, He’ll take care of the details.

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Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Borrowing trouble

English is kind of fun. Since I started working with people who aren’t American and for whom English is a second language, we’ve had a lot of really fascinating conversations about English idiom. Upsetting the apple cart. Pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Things like that. Well, today’s verses made me think of the idiom, borrowing trouble. According to Dictionary.com, to borrow trouble means to “go out of one’s way to do something that may be harmful.”

The example Dictionary.com gave was a statement: “Just sign the will. Telling her about it ahead of time is just borrowing trouble.”

It means to expend emotional or physical resources to accomplish something that may be unnecessary in the long run, something that may turn out to be even more difficult to handle than the current situation.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 6:33-34.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Tomorrow is that strange, foreign land that we can’t see until we get there. Shakespeare called the future “the undiscovered country” in Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1). And like everything we can’t understand until we experience it, it’s easier to worry about it than to ignore it. But worrying doesn’t really accomplish anything. Have you noticed that?

What is it about worrying that makes us feel like we are more in control than not? I don’t know what it is. If I did, I would find out and fix it. Because worrying has turned more of my hair silver than anything else (and, yes, I do have gray hair). But no matter how much worrying I do, I still can’t solve a problem before it happens. I can sit and speculate about what might happen until I’m blue in the face, but I can’t do anything about it until what’s going to happen actually happens.

What good does worrying about it do?

There is a difference between worrying and planning. You do want to plan. You do want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. But that’s where it needs to stop.

Tomorrow is the future. Tomorrow is Shakespeare’s undiscovered country. And worrying about what happens tomorrow will rob us of what is going on in our lives today.

The whole chapter of Matthew 6 is part of a lengthy but revolutionary sermon that Jesus preached called The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It was unlike anything people had ever heard before because previous teachers couldn’t speak with real authority. The teachers of religious law that the people had always listened to previously couldn’t speak like Jesus could. And a good deal of Matthew 6 talks about worrying.

We’re all good at worrying. We worry about food. We worry about clothes. We worry about finances. And it’s amazing to me that Jesus spoke on this in the First Century because they’re still issues we worry about today. Apparently it’s something people are just prone to worrying about.

But Jesus says not to worry (Matthew 6:25-32):

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“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.

Instead of worrying about tomorrow — instead of borrowing trouble — we need to seek God first today. Don’t regret yesterday; don’t worry about tomorrow; run after God today. God knows what you need, and He’ll take care of it.

Simple needs make life really complicated

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:33.

 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s probably supposed to be simple, but we make it complicated. I know when I look at my life, there’s a part of me that thinks there’s really just too much that God has to provide for me and I shouldn’t be asking for that much. So I think I need to do it for myself.

I need money to pay my bills. I need clothes to wear to work so I can make money to pay for my bills. I need food to eat, specifically good, healthy food so I will be able to continue wearing the clothes I bought. I need gasoline for my car. Ha. And in 5,000 more miles I’m going to need a new set of brakes and four new tires too. I need allergy meds so I don’t get sick, which means I need insurance. My daily needs are no different from anyone else’s, so just like I sometimes feel like I can’t provide all these things for myself, I’m sure other people must feel the same way.

So why don’t we think that God can provide all these things for us? I know why I hesitate. I’m stubborn. I want to do things myself, provide for myself, not have to rely on anyone ever — even God.

And I guess the real question is whether or not I actually need the things I think I need. Obviously, some of the needs I listed up there are definite, but when you get right down to it, what’s more important — eating a salad or seeking God? Having gasoline to go somewhere or knowing God? Wearing a brand new shirt or having a conversation with God?

And see, I’m foolish enough somedays to think there’s a choice between those things. And there doesn’t have to be. Because I can seek God while I eat a salad and I can know God while I’m driving somewhere and I can wear a brand new shirt while I have a conversation with God. But the point is, those things shouldn’t be what I’m seeking first.

God needs to be the priority in my life. Not things. Not stuff. Not food. Not position or rank or authority.

I need God. Nothing else.

And if I can wrap my head around that and actually live like that, He will take care of everything else. He’ll provide me with money. He’ll provide me with clothes. He’ll provide me with food and gasoline for my car. He’ll provide me with the things I need to live . . . . and many times He’ll give me too much. And I know He even gives me things I want too and not just the things I need.

I love the Amplified Version’s spin on this verse too.

33But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

Here’s the thing. This verse is part of a larger sermon Christ delivered in the Book of Matthew. This verse comes along right after Christ was telling people not to worry.

Those of us who follow Christ don’t need to be controlled by thoughts of the material possessions we need. In this same set of verses, Christ tells people to look at the birds and the flowers. Birds have enough to eat, and flowers are beautiful in their design without having to work to clothe themselves. And in the same way, God will provide for us. Because if God takes care of creations so insignificant as birds and flowers, He’ll definitely take care of us — creations designed just like Him.

God is all I need. And the only thing my life needs is to reflect His goodness, a life that both knows and does the right thing all the time. And everything extraneous will be given to me.

And I know all that. The hard part is living it.

The hard part is looking at the stack of bills on my table, wondering how I’m going to budget for it. The hard part is shopping at a grocery store where all the food prices have gone through the roof. The hard part is trying to make ends meet when I’ve done all I can and the ends still aren’t meeting. The hard part is taking God at His Word and not working myself to death to provide things for myself and others that He would have given us anyway if I had just asked.

Need God.

Do the right thing.

God’s got us covered.