How to Be Productive and Reduce Stress (at the same time)

Have you ever been doing something and had the heavy, frustrating feeling that you should be doing something else? Have you ever been talking with someone and wished you were talking with someone else? Not only do I think we all have this experience, I tend to believe many of us spend much of our lives in this state!

Two very costly things happen when we find ourselves often in this situation:

1)         The first cost is STRESS. It is so stressful to feel trapped doing something, when you know or wish you were doing something else. Our minds and bodies put up with a constant tension of trying to be in two places at once. Our mind and hearts are not where we are!

2)        The second cost is UNPRODUCTIVITY. Here are two examples:

I recently heard this statement: “Love is attention.” When someone is talking with you, and his or her heart is not there in the conversation, you can tell! The relationship is not growing and the conversation is not effective. What a waste of time!

Another example is the daily experience we have of trying to accomplish a task that requires attention and thought, and we are continually interrupted. This is frustrating! We lose much time and energy when we have to refocus ourselves on the task. We have to figure out where we were so we can begin again. We lose momentum! What a waste of time.

Paul tells the Ephesians, “Make the best use of the time, for the days are evil” (Eph 5:16 ESV).

One of the major ways we make the best use of time is FOCUS! The reason this is important is that “the days are evil.” There is a spiritual battle taking place and there is much at stake. We cannot afford to waste time!

One of the keys to giving something your full attention is to be convinced you are doing the right thing. Here is the rest of the verse --->

So, here is what we should do:

1)         Carefully select what you are going to do, making sure it is the best and most important thing at the time to do. Be willing to say no to the many other things that you could do. When you find yourself doing something that is not the Lord’s will or best, STOP.

2)        Give yourself fully to what you are doing. This can be done because you have a conviction that it is the thing you should be doing. Give your whole mind and heart to it.

3)         Relentlessly resist distractions. Now there is the possibility, of course, that an interruption may trump the current activity in urgency and importance. A person who has clearly delineated his priorities and goals will quickly be able to assess whether an interruption should trump the current activity or not. MOST things can wait.

Ahhhhhhh! What peace to know I am doing what is best and give myself to it. And so much can be accomplished when I am focused! Have a peaceful and productive day.

Five Ingredients for a Dynamic Time with God

Bible study and prayer. Most every believer knows they should do it, but . . .

Why is it so hard to stick to it? Why does it seem so dry and unproductive? What am I missing?

I would like to suggest to you five important ingredients for a powerful, intimate, life changing time with God.

  1. Faith - Do you believe this simple promise: "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8a). Or how about this one: "When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you" (Jer 29:13-14). When you meet God, are expecting him to show up? Faith is what pleases God; He responds to faith (Heb 11:6).
  2. Heart - The purpose of Bible study and prayer is not to check off our religious boxes. That is why I call it "time with God." I am spending time with someone who loves me. God is not interested in people who "draw near with their mouth . . . while their hearts are far from me" (Isa 29:13-14; see also Psalm 51:16-17).
  3. Submission - Many attempt to be a "Christian" without surrendering their lives to Christ. Many try to relate to God on their own terms, with their own agenda. If you are trying to relate to God, but you are still holding on to sin and refusing to give him every part of your life, then you cannot come to him. ALL of you for ALL of him. Those are his terms (James 4:6-10).
  4. Choice - A bumper sticker says, "If it feels good, do it." A concise summary of our cultural thinking. We are chained to our feelings. When something is hard and we "don't feel like it," then we don't do it. If we don't "feel" God's presence or "feel" like we had a good prayer time, we get discouraged. Faith is not a feeling, it is a choice. Choose to believe God exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:6). Act on that faith; don't worry about your feelings.
  5. Steadfastness - How easily we are derailed! How quickly we are discouraged and give up. How often we settle for mediocrity. If I fail a thousand times in my attempt to meet God faithfully, I will not give up. I will never give up! (Heb 12:1-2)

Here is a teaching on spending time with God that includes a discussion of these five points.

Awesome App for Prayer

I recently wrote a post on How to Create a Weekly Prayer List on Your iPhone. I know, I know, I should have known: there's an app for that.

I heard a story on The World and Everything In It news and commentary podcast (which I highly recommend) on the app called PrayerMate. I was skeptical at first. I just failed to see how it could really do more than I had already created. WOW, was I wrong! I have been using it for several weeks now, and I love it!

It has so many great features:

  • add any number of topics, subjects, and notes
  • connect people on your list with your contacts (photos are imported and you can contact them right from the app)
  • set any topic or list to appear as often as you like and PrayerMate puts together a prayer list as often as you want, according to your preferences
  • RSS feeds are available (for example, I subscribe to the Operation World prayer feed)
  • you can also create your own prayer feed others can subscribe to
  • intuitive and easy to use
  • it is FREE

A New Tool for Parents' MOST Important Job

What is THE most important thing you can do as a parent?

Teach your children to follow Jesus.

What is one of THE most important ways to do this? Read the Bible to your children and teach them from it.

There are many wonderful ways to do this. One of the ways we have done this is to gather the whole family into the living room in the evening before bedtime and read the Bible in Stories. The Bible in Stories is a unique, high quality, three-volume set of illustrated Bible stories.

For the first time EVER, the Bible in Stories is for sale online TODAY! They will be available for purchase Nov 6 through Nov 13th. That is only one week to check it out and buy!

If you are interested in learning more, here is how to do it: go to this link and sign up with your email address. You will have FREE immediate access to several valuable items:

  • a set of videos recorded by a good friend of mine who shares the history of Bible in Stories and other tips about keeping our priorities straight and time management.
  • a free download of the C.H. Spurgeon's daily devotional Morning & Evening.
  • a demo video and explanation of the Bible in Stories.

What God Wants from Us the Most

I explained to Dana early on in our friendship that I liked long distance relationships. Yes, I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to live with her. I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to have to talk with her all that much. I wasn’t interested in having to share my stuff or my space or my time.

I think you get my point. What is marriage without relationship? And this is where I want to go with this analogy:

What does it mean to be a Christian, or to be religious, or to believe in God without a RELATIONSHIP with him? It means nothing. Here is the basic principle I want to talk about.

God created us to have a loving relationship with him.

There are vast numbers of passages in Scripture that reveal this to us. The whole Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of relationship to God. From God’s relationship with the Patriarchs, to God’s covenant with Israel and hatred of idolatry, to the sending of his own Son take our punishment and provide forgiveness, to the personal, indwelling presence of God by his Spirit, to the fulfillment of all creation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, uniting Christ and his Bride, the Church.

For now, I will only mention a few specific passages. The most decisive is where Jesus answers this all-important question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Of all the things that God has said he wants us to do, which is the most important? Jesus answers by quoting the Shema (Deut 6:4-6), “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Love. Not mere obedience. Not religious activity. Love. Love is relationship.

Here is another decisive verse that answers the question: “What does God want from us?” Heb 11:6 say, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Our basic belief in God is that he desires for us to draw close to him and seek to know him. This is relationship.

This is what makes knowing Christ much more than “religion,” if it can be called religion at all. Jesus made it clear that the religious people of his day had no hope without love for God (they even had the “right” religion). Knowing about Christ, believing in the fact of Christ or the gospel, and going to church OFFER NO HOPE FOR SALVATION! “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). Faith without works will not save you (James 2:14, 17), and the work of faith begins with drawing near and seeking God (Heb 11:6).

What we believe IS important. Salvation is only in the work of Christ when he satisfied God’s wrath for our sin on the cross. But be sure of this, a person’s faith in Christ’s saving work will result in LOVE.

So, this is the question I leave with you. How is your relationship with God?

Are you close to God? Are you drawing near to him? Are you seeking to know and love him? Have you settled for “religion?” Do you have false hope in your religious service or your mental acceptance of the facts of Christ?

How to Stop Arguing with Your Kids

Kathryn, age 6

Kathryn, age 6

Even after I have (often) promised myself I was going to stop, I still argue with my children. And I don’t mean a calm, reasoned discussion (a possible definition of argument). I mean a heated, frustrating quarrel!

I want to be kind and gentle, but I still find myself becoming irritated and impatient. Here are a few things I am learning about how to be calm, gentle, and loving in my interactions with my children:

1.  Don’t take it personally.

I have noticed that I most often get irritated and upset because my pride has been ruffled. I don’t like being ignored, disregarded, or disrespected. Jesus expects me to be able (and he enables me!) to love those who mistreat me. It is strange to apply that to my children, but it works. I must respond in love to those around me no matter how they treat me. Love is patient and kind.

2.  Get over your plans.

Another reason I get irritated and impatient is that things are not going like I want them to! I have a plan. I have a lot to do. Why can’t everyone just cooperate!

It helps when I get over my plans and get lined up with God’s purpose for me. Second to loving God (which really helps me stay calm), we are to love each other. My overriding agenda is to love the people I encounter, no matter what my plans are. Would the interactions I have with my children looks different if my greatest goal was to love them and help them follow Jesus?

3.  Stop being a people-pleaser.

It bothers me when people are unhappy with me or don’t approve of what I do. I have recently discovered that this applies to my children too (they are people!!). I sometimes fall into the trap of trying to appease them, argue with them, or even compromise in order to make peace. When this doe not work (and it usually doesn’t), I get sucked further into a frustrating argument.

It may be counter intuitive, but I have learned that I can be more loving and gentle when I decide that it doesn’t matter if my children are pleased with me. Since my job is to teach and train them, it is an absolute certainty that they will not be happy with me. I must patiently accept that as part of my job.

What have you learned? Will you share some helpful tips for how to interact with our children in a calm and gentle way?