We All Pay Attention…But To What?

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women. Pay attention to the word of His mouth. (Jeremiah 9:20a)

What gets your attention? Be honest. Look at the way you spend time. What easily distracts you? What do you intentionally schedule? Where do you seem to lose or pass time?

confusionSome of the things that draw your attention might be things you love to do. When given the freedom to choose whatever you what to do with a block of time, you’d choose these things. You might not seem to get as much time for these things as you’d like. You think about them, especially when you’re bored, stressed, or frustrated.

Some of the things that draw your attention are things you don’t like to do, but you feel you have to do. They’re obligations. Whether you put the pressure on yourself or feel someone else puts the pressure on you, you don’t feel as if you have much of a choice. In reality, you do. You’re choosing one thing over another or one thing over consequences of not doing that thing. It’s still a choice.

Some things that draw your attention are fillers. Whether you’re avoiding something or having trouble focusing, you piddle, not really accomplishing much of anything but feeling as if you’re doing something as the time slips past.

I’m not sure why we struggle with the whole “What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to balance everything?” quandary. It’s not as much of a quandary as we make it. God’s pretty clear on the subject.

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women. Pay attention to the word of His mouth. (Jeremiah 9:20a)

That doesn’t mean you have to be reading the Bible all the time. (Although you certainly shouldn’t avoid it.) God speaks in many ways. Are you hearing? Are you paying attention? Or are you hearing what’s screaming the loudest in your life, or paying attention to what’s right in front of you?

Hearing God means knowing His voice and knowing who He is, so you recognize and acknowledge Him. Just because you don’t hear or see Him around you doesn’t mean He isn’t present. How much of His presence are you missing or denying?

Paying attention isn’t the easy choice of what’s right in front of you. Seeking God takes effort and focus. It takes attention and wisdom.

So, are you hearing the word of the Lord and paying attention to Him?

How well…or, why not?

When Self-Help Isn’t About Self

wordAll Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Scripture is about God, not us. What God wants to say about Himself to you is more important than telling you what to do. We often look at God’s Word as a self-help book. We use the concordance to look up key words so that we can cull through all the verses that include the one word that describes our situation or what we think we need (or need to get rid of).

God can speak to us through His Word in any way He chooses, so even when we’re looking for something specific that we don’t need, He can pour into us in ways we don’t expect. We can’t wait to seek Him until we think we’ve figured out how to seek Him. Our need for understanding or perfection will paralyze us. We need to seek Him the best we can.

So, am I contradicting myself by saying we shouldn’t go to God’s Word with certain intents but we should go to God’s Word with any intent? I’m just saying God, in His sovereignty, is able to work through our intents, even when ill-willed or misguided. However, that doesn’t give us the excuse to neglect the purity of our intent.

God wants us to seek Him. He wants us to know Him. He wants our humility, and when we seek Him only for the answers we think we need for ourselves, we aren’t humble. We will always wrestle with our selfishness. I’ve actually grown to appreciate the need for such wrestling, because it’s not a one-time choice. It requires continual yielding, recognizing who I am in relationship with God. He is God. I am not. I am His.

And His Word is a gift. Get to know Him through His Word.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Let Us Trust

Index-Card-StackLet us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold firmly to the hope that we have confessed, because we can trust God to do what he promised. Hebrews 10:22-23

We can be resolute in our faith. We can determine to live it out daily, allowing God to make a difference in every aspect of our lives: actions, thoughts, attitudes, words. It’s all God’s when we yield to him.

Closely consider how God is challenging you as he pours his Word into you.

Come near to God. Come indicates God as the reference point. You don’t need to go; you need to come. Let God be the center. He’s the reference point of your life, but you need to intentionally move toward him.

Sincere heart. Faith isn’t about going through the motions. Your faith will deepen as you give every corner of your heart and life to God.

Sure faith. There are a lot of uncertainties in life, and we can become overwhelmed by them. We don’t have to be unsure of our faith. God is reliable, and we can stand firm on his promises no matter what is going on around us.

Made free…with pure water. We’re not going to feel completely free while on this earth. We’re limited by our bodies as well as the tension of living godly lives while in the world. Just because we don’t feel free doesn’t make us not free. Our freedom is eternal. We need to extend our vision to the horizon to get the true perspective of where we are and where we’re headed.

Hold firmly to the hope. God wants you to loosen your grip on many things in life, but hope in him is certainly not one of them. Godly hope is not the wishy-washy stuff of childhood dreams. Hope in God is based in the truth of who he is.

We can trust God to do what he promised. There’s no question or debate. This statement is as clear as it can be. Are you claiming it?

Live It. Sometimes it helps to divide verses into pieces in order to claim the power of each phrase. Write each of the phrases on individual index cards, and read them each time you are paused: at the bus stop, in the elevator, at the laundry mat or grocery line. Let each phrase soak into you.

Big Girl Panties

Guess who’s tired of her big girl panties? She wants her diaper back!

One of my Facebook friends posted what so many of us have thought at some point. “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it” sounds like a mature way to deal with the frustrations of life, but it’s more difficult to put into practice.

Another Facebook friend posted a photo of her young daughter collapsed in a fit with a “Put your big girl panties” sign hanging around her neck. I thought the mom had strategically placed the sign as a photo op. No, she gave the sign to her fit-throwing daughter and told her to read it aloud. After pausing the fit long enough to spit out the words, the daughter placed the sign around her own neck and collapsed in a continued fit.

Some days are just rough. The anticipation of “when I grow up” meets the reality of “I’m a big kid now” and living as a grown-up doesn’t match our imaginative childhood play as a grown-up.

Growing up comes with a lot of benefits – alongside responsibilities and pressure. But God never intended for us to remain childish. While he loves the wonder and trust of childlike faith, he wants us to feast on solid spiritual food. In order to fulfill our calling, we must grow, which means we have to work through the tough stuff. We have to seek God and let him convict us of the stuff in which we have wrongly placed our trust. We have to invite him to reveal himself to us, which means we have to pay attention. As we do, we must look with his perspective, taking off our own tainted glasses, no matter how “right” we think we are. We have to set ourselves aside and trust who God says we are instead of who we want to be. He created us, and he knows us better than we know ourselves. We have to get into, stay in, and live out God’s Word. We can’t simply search Scripture for what we want to find, what will confirm what we already believe. We have to ask God to reveal his character and truth to us as we search even if it means dispelling incorrect assumptions and misguided beliefs. We then have to live it out. It’s tough. Living out God’s Word often feels like walking barefoot on hot pavement. God knows our discomfort, but he’s more concerned about our growth.

What are you doing to mature spiritually right now?

What are you doing to remain spiritually immature?

You’re expending energy to do one or the other (or both at the same time). Consider which will be a better investment for you in the long run, not what’s easiest today.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are so slow to understand. By now you should be teachers, but you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s message. You still need the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still a baby and knows nothing about right teaching.  But solid food is for those who are grown up. They are mature enough to know the difference between good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14)

One more thing. Putting your big girl panties on isn’t just about you. Your spiritual maturity impacts those around you. There are plenty of people who are willing to serve in the nursery, rocking spiritual infants, because (1) helping others grow is hard work, and (2) maintaining a community of spiritual infants makes it easier to avoid personal spiritual maturity.

There will always be spiritual infants, because it’s an unavoidable stage of faith, but it’s not a permanent stage of faith. Get out of the nursery and help those in it to graduate into a more advanced class. It’s time to put your big girl panties on and do the life God intends for you.

This Week’s 7 – Verses to Encourage

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week features pure encouragement. Read it. Speak it. Declare it. God’s Word is powerful.

  1. I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world. John 16:33
  2. So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you. Isaiah 41:10
  3. God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
  4.  I keep the Lord before me always. Because he is close by my side, I will not be hurt. Psalm 16:8
  5. Give your worries to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will never let good people down. Psalm 55:22
  6. The Lord is good, giving protection in times of trouble. He knows who trusts in him. Nahum 1:7
  7. Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Leave a comment with another verse that encourages you. Share the encouragement!

Word!

Word = used casually for slang as affirmation, acknowledgement, agreement; and indication something has impressed you favorably.

At a recent women’s retreat, some of us stayed up way beyond our usual bedtimes. As we played Scattergories, we got sillier and sillier. Things that weren’t funny became hilarious. Several women ended up with stomach-aches and headaches from laughing so hard. At some point, the word word became the funniest word of the evening.

  • “Word!” indicated someone came up with the same word for the same category (and therefore couldn’t be counted).
  • “Word!” emphasized a point, particularly when someone won a debate about whether or not a word counted.
  • “Word!” declared, “We haven’t laughed in two minutes, so let’s get it started again with our silly word of the night!”

We talked about songs the word word reminded us of, such as Birds the Word and Word Up. I began to wonder about the word word.  Apparently, we could all understand what it meant with little context. We spoke a simple word but communicated full phrases and sentences. What is so powerful about word?

I dug a bit to figure out where the slang usage originated. Obviously, we know what a word is, but what about the short expression, “Word!”, which seems to expand into many words when spoken? Apparently, it’s a shortened version of the phrase, “My word is my bond,” which originated by prison inmates.  It was shortened to “Word is bond” before being pared to “Word,” which is now the most commonly used. It basically means “truth,” or “to speak the truth.”

Hhmm. Sounds familiar.

In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpoweredit.

There was a man named John who was sent by God. He came to tell people the truth about the Light so that through him all people could hear about the Light and believe. John was not the Light, but he came to tell people the truth about the Light.The true Light that gives light to all was coming into the world!

The Word was in the world, and the world was made by him, but the world did not know him. John 1:1-10

The problem is we’ve come to believe our own words more than the Word. If we believe what we’re saying, we declare “Word” to emphasize truth. We say “Word” so the person listening to us believes our commitment or promise.  We say “Word” to convince someone of our truth. I wonder how often we’re trying to convince ourselves as well?

I’m painfully aware that not everyone claims God’s Word as absolute truth. In the short-run, it seems easier to set absolute truth aside. Seeking, finding and living by absolute truth takes effort, discipline and sacrifice. It’s easier to make up our own rules, so we can be comfortable. We can shift what we believe and how we live based on a whim. We can change as our life seasons change.

It might seem easier to live by word. It might seem more comfortable. Sacrificing our own word might seem like the most difficult thing in the world to do. Yielding isn’t easy. Submitting to authority – even recognizing authority – isn’t easy.

Yet in a twist of reality only God can explain and fully understand, living by the Word, God’s Word, is absolute whether we choose it or not. We’re given choice, and we fully embrace choice. We crave choice. We want rights. We fight for options. But our choices don’t negate absolutes. Our choices only acknowledge the reality of absolutes or not. There are consequences to every choice we make, including whether we accept the absolute truth of God’s Word – or not.

I haven’t always chosen it. I’ve declared my own word. I’ve looked within myself and searched for what was “right for me.” I’ve even thought I was comfortable with the process. The problem is something was missing even in the times I thought I had it all together. God created me in his image, which means there are gaps in me that can only be filled with God-shaped pieces, those characteristics of himself that he most wants me to reflect while I’m on this short journey called life.

I’m still learning. I’m still growing.

In the process, I’m replaced word with the Word. I’m declaring Truth. Because of it, I can grow with intentional direction. My growth isn’t depending on what I believe at the time. I don’t grow in one area to discover I no longer believe in what I was working toward. I’m taking intentional steps – wrong steps sometimes, but only on the journey to discovering the steps, the path, of Truth.

Lord, teach me what you want me to do,  and I will live by your truth.  Teach me to respect you completely. Psalm 86:11