Be Prepared

Prepared 1“Got your food bar and water bottle?”

“Yep.”

“What about your spikes?”

“Yep.”

So went the conversation just before my son left for school the day of his first track meet of the season. I wanted him to be prepared to do his best, and that meant not having to stress over forgetting something. This conversation really just represents one of the many I’ve had with my boys.

My husband, knowing I’m not a morning person, has told me more than once that he’ll see the boys off to school in the mornings while I get a bit more sleep. But, I just can’t release the need to make sure my boys are prepared for the day ahead. I remind them often to prepare the night before, but being teenagers and also boys, they usually don’t. While my husband is a terrific father, and good at many things, planning ahead is not his strong suit. Plus, he just doesn’t have mom radar.

Being unprepared can be frustrating and embarrassing. It can turn an ordinary day into a bad one very quickly. And too many unprepared days usually lead to an overwhelmed life as getting by consumes any best that might otherwise exist. A habit of unpreparedness eventually creates a reactionary, drama-filled life. And that sort of life comes characterized by relentless stress and exhausting overhwelm.

The Value of Preparedness

Prepared 2I want my boys to learn the value of being prepared because I know this habit sets them up for an effective and successful life. Vastly more important, though, is them knowing the concept of preparedness as it relates to their spiritual states. I want them to know that their heavenly Father also values being prepared and wants them to always stand ready.

Matthew 24 conveys God’s preparedness message aptly. In it, we have Jesus’ words telling us to not panic and to instead prepare to endure to the end. The idea of panic and endurance tells us the situation will be dire and feel desperate at times.

Jesus also tells us what to pay attention to and what not to let steal our focus. In that, he directs us to…

  • Know the Truth (His words, Scripture, prophecy, etc.)
  • Know what’s coming
  • Know what you don’t know (the exact timing)
  • Know your responsibility as these events unfold

This chapter in Matthew ends with a call to preparedness, to

“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (Matthew 24:44)

Jesus gave us what we need to be prepared, and called us to a continual state of preparedness.

A Habit of Preparedness

Living with a habit of preparedness based on the information you have creates the mindset necessary to be ready for THE event of all time — Jesus’ return. This is ultimately why I teach my boys the mindset of preparedness. My hope is that doing so will create a way of thinking that flows into every area of their lives, from the small events like track meets to the big ones later in life, but most importantly to the only thing that ultimately matters — their individual relationship with their Savior.

Seeing the connection of everyday habits to our eternal perspective helps us better see the truth in how all we do can truly be to His glory.

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Preparedness is, for me, one of the most powerful examples of this principle.

DISCUSSION: How would you describe your level of preparedness, both in life and eternally?

Dress for Success in Relationships

494936_88709934While my13-year-old may not always, hopefully most of us put on clean clothing regularly. Feeling clean and fresh often motivates in a positive direction for the day ahead. In fact, one of the main suggestions for recovery from depression involves showering and putting on clean clothes every day.

Wearing clothing appropriate for the situation is also important. I won’t exercise in a dress, and I don’t wear my exercise clothes to church. Also, consider the fact that students often perform better on tests when they dress up. Appropriateness in what we wear impacts how we feel about ourselves and shows the importance we place on an activity.

Another example involves getting new clothes, which often revives a stale season of life. Most women (along with their husbands) understand that a new piece of clothing can brighten a woman’s day.

While these changes of clothing are temporary, many seek long-term happiness in changing what they wear physically. In reality, though, our physical clothing has limited impact on our long-term reality.

New Nature Clothing

Our spiritual clothing works in similar ways to our physical clothing, but it holds far greater and more long-term impact. In fact, when our internal clothing reflects that of our new nature in Christ, we discover an eternal perspective that transforms our living, growing and connecting.

Consider how, based on Colossians 3, our new nature clothing impacts us not only individually but also in every relationship.

  • New nature clothing represents a growing knowledge of Christ. (v. 10)
  • The right spiritual clothing creates peace that rules the heart. (v. 15)
  • Style and social position don’t matter with new nature clothing. (v. 11)
  • Continued thankfulness renews & refreshes the “outfit.” (vv. 15-17)
  • Love completes the “look,” bringing unity to the whole “outfit.” (v. 14)

We don’t make our own clothing much anymore but instead have to purchase what we want to wear. Our new nature clothing was also purchased and not something we make on our own. Only through Christ do we have this “clothing” to wear. And not only did He purchase this clothing for us, it never wears out… it never needs replaced.

Renewed

Renewal & Relationships

So how does this continued renewal of our new natures by the spiritual clothing we put on impact our relationships? Our new nature clothing affects the atmosphere of the inner self which then creates the pervading mood that others see and that governs our relationships. In other words, how we dress our hearts determines how we live out love through our relationships.

Relationships provide the opportunity to express the love that our relationship with Christ generates. Only when we clothe ourselves in the new nature clothing of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, thankfulness and love that only come through knowing Jesus do we then have a demeanor that serves to positively cultivate New Nature Relationships.

DISCUSSION: How does your new nature clothing impact your relationships?

Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part V

Now that I am more aware of the role boredom plays in my faith (Part I & Part IV) as well as alerted to the pinholes of lack of connection (Part II) and a focus on comparisons (Part III) that have led to a flat faith, I can get back on track to living and experiencing a vibrant and alive faith.

My Boredom Battle Plan

God has promised to continue the good work He has started in me until the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6). Trusting on that promise, I move forward in the battle plan the Holy Spirit has laid out as the path for that good work.

  1. 4-16-13 wavesFind variety in sameness. The wind and the waves appear to exist in monotony, yet they are not boring. Instead, they are obediently beautiful (Matthew 8:27). While my life’s routine needs to exist for a reason, I must realize that there is usually more than one way to accomplish a task.
  2. Connect more. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). Connecting allows me increased opportunity to live love and to practice that which the Holy Spirit teaches me in times of solitude.
  3. Find ways to just be. Constantly occupying my mind distracts me from hearing the still small voice of God. In Fed Up with Flat Faith, Kathy Howard writes that “only the Holy Spirit can transform our faith, but we can obediently position ourselves to be in the center of His activity.” When I find ways to just be, I find that often places me where He is active.
  4. Regularly evaluate my habits. In Fed Up with Flat Faith, Kathy also talks about Eli the priest and how “his habit of faith got in the way.” This is contrasted with Samuel who grew “in stature and favor with God and man” (1 Samuel 2:26) and who “enjoyed a full, dynamic relationship with God.” As I am still before God, He will transform me by correcting bad habits, establishing new ones, and confirming what to continue.
  5. Gather tinder. Do you regularly remember your past experiences with God along with times you witnessed His glory?  Kathy calls doing so “gathering tinder” to fuel the fire of our faith. Kathy reminds us that if we are children of God, “His presence is not based on our feelings, but on His promises.” So, no matter how I feel, even when boredom becomes intense, I can know that He promises to always be with me (Matthew 28:20). As I deliberately review God’s presence in my life, I can dwell in the memories of His ever-abiding presence.

4-16-13 Flat FaithAn Eternal Perspective

As I went through my battle with boredom and my struggle with flat faith, another unexpected change took place within me. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, my perspective began to change. What once was more of focus on the here and now has turned toward more of an eternal focus.

Kathy also talks about how “living with an eternal perspective can generate an excitement and passion your faith has been missing.” As we remember who gave us our resources and as we use periodic self-evaluation to foster an eternal perspective, we can discover a “consistent eternal perspective” that leads us to “fulfillment and excitement in the things that last beyond the physical.”

A key element to maintaining and increasing an eternal perspective lies with obedience. Kathy notes that “obedience keeps the lines of communication open and fosters our dependence on God. Disobedience builds walls and cultivates stubborn independence from God.”

As I learn obedience and as the Holy Spirit fosters an eternal perspective in me, my faith will grow to be healthy and vibrant. This journey has developed a desire in me to leave, as Kathy puts it so well, my “safe faith” my “flat and dry” faith behind and to have it replaced with a “risky faith – a faith that yields all to God,” a faith that is “ready to burn.”

Thank you for taking this journey with me through my battle with boredom and struggle with flat faith. The Holy Spirit has certainly led me through the exact journey I needed to take. I pray the same happened for you!

DISCUSSION: How is the Holy Spirit working in your life to create “a faith that yields all to God”?

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, quotes are taken from Fed Up with Flat Faith by Kathy Howard. Also, be sure to heck out Kathy’s guest posts Flat Spots Here and There – Part I and Flat Spots Here and There – Part II.

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