Looking to Jesus

So how do we “look unto Jesus” in our daily lives?

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.   — Psalm 119:147

The most obvious example that comes to mind is: to whom do I look first thing every morning? Whether it is first before anything or the first activity requiring thought, am I looking to the Word for sustenance? It is tempting to look to our family members and their needs, or even to social media to check on what happened in the world, but then we are distracting ourselves from the “one thing.” When we look to the Word, we will let Him set the tone for our minds, our hearts and our days.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.   — Psalm 5:3

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.   — Psalm 119:97

Building on that, as we move through the day, are we basing our actions on a desire for Christ-likeness? Are we feeding our own selfish pride or seeking to reflect the humility of Christ?

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  — Philippians 2:1-7

Scripture is also full of wisdom for life, which guides us through countless small daily decisions and also tough decisions. When we come to a crossroad and don’t know which way to go, we do have a Guide and can trust Him to provide what we need to make good choices. When we need to respond to a situation, having already saturated ourselves with who Christ is and the truth in His word as discussed above, we will be able to respond well.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding — Proverbs 2:6

As we feel weak, where do we look for help? Do we make everything work ourselves? Or do we acknowledge our weakness and His strength, deepening our trust in Him?

The Lordis my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.  — Psalm 28:7

What do we do when fear takes hold on occasion? Our sovereign God is our Rock, and trusting in Him is the best answer to our fear.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?  — Psalm 56:3-4

These are just a few examples, and I’d love to see others share encouragement. Please comment below with how you have turned your eyes to Christ in your life.

Committed Love

 

But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

These words are a beautiful expression of the committed love Ruth showed Naomi, a reflective flicker of the incredible covenantal love of God for His people.

In our premarital counseling, our pastor reminded us that sometimes marriage will require love that will stay in the car and ride even into the ditch. You can see the danger ahead and calmly share your concern, but sometimes the decision is still to continue. You then buckle up and ride out the crash (and pay the repair bill and allow the bruises to heal) together. Note: this is not referring to life-or-death or sin situations.

Yes, commitment is that committed. Committed love goes all the way to the end. The idea is beautiful and we love being loved that way, but how often are we committed?

How often will we go out to eat IF we like the restaurant? If it’s not a menu we like, it doesn’t matter with whom we are eating (never mind Proverbs 15:17).

How much have we been willing to be friends AS LONG as we share interests and think alike? It’s more efficient and comfortable. No need to stretch (Proverbs 27:17).

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, I’ll love AS LONG as they love me? Fair is fair, and I have my rights.

I have fallen in all these traps. That’s not love; it’s an even exchange of goods.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” — John 15:12-14

We often think of the Ruth passage related to weddings. I find it interesting that neither of these Scriptures are referring to marriage. Ruth loved her mother-in-law. Christ commanded His disciples, and by extension the church.

Who are we loving today?

sanddunes-2

 

FYI: Reading

Following is a collection of links that may be of interest to you related to our current topic. Note, listing does not imply endorsement. Please evaluate for your own situation.

How To — a variety of ways to read

Making a Habit — you want to read, but are you?

It’s Important — “There is a reason societies and civilizations throughout history have treasured the written word. It is art—beautiful and awe-inspiring for its own sake. It deserves our attention, our contemplation. Literature’s imaginative and creative power—the way it opens our eyes and sharpens our perceptions of the world—is highly valuable and unique.”

Bite-sized recommendations — 3 books with daily snippets

How to Make Time — encouragement with benefits and tips to make a habit

“Real” Books — why a paper copy of a book may be better

Reading Old Books — the value an older book has over a new release…and more encouragement to read

A Further Summary of Benefits — Reader’s Digest weighs in

Audio Books — how listening can redeem time — And Again

 

Reading

I am a bookworm. I LOVE books. They are a pleasure to read, touch, see, sort, collect, buy, smell. The only downside I’ve found is the risk of a paper cut, but that’s what a Kindle is for! Yes, I love e-readers, since they also unlock the treasure that is a book, but I will not digress further…

Bias aside, I will happily argue the benefits of reading and encourage you to read a book. Yes, it takes time, but consider the value of using some time this way.

Exercise Your Mind

The act of reading exercises your brain in a way that normal daily use does not. Absorbing the words on the pages takes mental effort — which is good! Focusing on a train of thought for page after page takes concentration that we rarely exercise anymore in the age of tweets and sound bites. As you read, you interact with the author’s thoughts and confirm or formulate your own. This time to think is priceless.

Open Your Mind

Very few of us are able to experience as much in person as we can peek into through a book. As Emily Dickinson said so well,

There is no Frigate like a Book  
To take us Lands away,  
Nor any Coursers like a Page  
Of prancing Poetry –   
This Traverse may the poorest take         
Without oppress of Toll –   
How frugal is the Chariot  
That bears a Human soul.

Help with Learning

You’d like to know how to better serve the nutritional needs of your family? There are books that delve into that topic and help you understand the science and benefits. Your good friend recently moved to Kenya? You can gain a better understanding of her new life by reading about the country and culture — through nonfiction and good fiction.

Reading also expands your vocabulary and boosts your writing skills. You may not be an author, but writing is a valuable tool at various points in our lives. Being able to wield it better will yield better results from that communication.

Promotes Good Health

There is promising research that reading helps with brain cell health, building up a reserve you may need in the future. Taking the time to read also helps reduce your stress level, and we are all familiar with the negative health effects of stress.

Provides for Social Interaction

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially in a work of fiction or a biography, helps you see from another perspective. This helps you understand the people around you better; you gain empathy.

The more you read, the more you have to talk about. Small talk at your service! Your conversations will be richer, and you will have more to add.

Book clubs are also a great way to meet new friends, maintain relationships, and inject social time into your schedule. The fact that you read a book in the process is a bonus. If you have a good library system available, you can reap all these benefits for a minimal financial investment.

And More

There are more detailed benefits and plenty of research on the topic, but hopefully this is enough to get you thinking…and maybe even enough to get you to pick up a book. Enjoy it!

 

Plan to Succeed

You know what you want (usually), but do you know how to get it? A goal can look so attractive in the abstract, but without a path we often look and move on. Especially when goals seem ambitious or overwhelming.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just like it is impossible to swallow an elephant whole, we can’t tackle everything we want to improve overnight.

Chapter 4 of Shopping for Time discusses the value of a regular personal retreat, including time to evaluate your priorities and come up with an action plan. Even if it is just a morning to yourself twice a year, you will benefit from the time looking back and then forward. Prayerfully consider each of the arenas we discussed last week. Then come up with just one step forward for each.

You will benefit the most if your steps are clear, measurable and attainable. If you don’t know exactly where you are going, you won’t arrive. If you can’t tell if you arrived, you won’t feel success. If it is impossible to achieve, you never will. Revise what you have until you know specifically what you want to accomplish and that you can expect to get there.

Once you have done that, look at the steps you assembled and pick one or two to implement in the next 6 months. Take into account your situation and what is involved and other responsibilities that factor in. But it is important to pick one. As the authors of Shopping for Time* said,

This is extremely important. If you target too many areas for growth, you may fail to make progress in any of them and end up more discouraged than when you began. However, if you develop a plan to change in one area, you will be surprised at the dramatic difference it will make…Remember this: even if you only change in one area, you will be doing more than if you hadn’t sat down to plan at all.

You did not waste time coming up with all your steps. You can go back to them for consideration the next time you evaluate. They also help you make the best choice each time you plan.

Next week we will look at an example for how this can work. Until then be thinking about your areas and when you can devote some time to goal-setting. The dividends are available to you, if you make the investment.

 

* Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed, by Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore and Janelle Bradshaw, Crossway, 2007, page 61.