WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL DAY LONG?

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What do you think about all day long?

My husband, Larry,  and I direct a Leadership Residency program called The Austin Stone Institute.  We recently returned from a retreat with our Residents.  While we were there, I shared a quote Larry and I heard from a speaker many years ago.  It has stuck with me and has reminded me of a significant truth.    J. Sidlow Baxter said “We gradually grow like that at which we most continually look.”  As I shared this with our Residents, I asked them a question “What is it that you look at continually?  Maybe it is not just what we see with our eyes – but what is on our heart? 

What is on your heart all day? Comparison to that other person?  Fears about your children?  Worrying about what comes next? 

What is on your mind all day?  What are you thinking about?  Is it your finances?  Approval from someone? Or just anxiousness about the future?   

I had never noticed this before – but J. Sidlow Baxter used the word “gradually”.   “We GRADUALLY become like that at which we most continually look.”  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It is not instant.  Sometimes we don’t even notice that we have changed.  If you are like me, you don’t even realize that you have been thinking all day about everything EXCEPT Jesus.  

The next sentence in his quote says “Therefore, live looking at JESUS!”  When I started studying the names of Jesus, I was just going through the motions of studying.  But as each day passed, I GRADUALLY began to see Him in a different way.  I GRADUALLY began to worship Him more and more.  If you just started studying the 100 DAYS WITH JESUS – stay consistent!  Don’t give up – your life will GRADUALLY change as you LIVE LOOKING AT JESUS!  On Day 73 as I was studying RANSOM – my heart was pierced with the truth that He “freed me from captivity or punishment” by paying the price for me!  He RANSOMED me!  My life was changed through this study and I will never be the same!

Study the names that describe Jesus with me!  As you think about Him and meditate on who He is – you will be continually LOOKING AT JESUS!  100dayswithjesusbook.com

JESUS IS LIGHT!

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JESUS IS LIGHT!

Jesus, You are the LIGHT!  To be honest, over the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world around me.  The trials that my friends are going through with #Hurricane Harvey, the sin that comes in and shatters lives, or just the struggles that we face daily.   But this morning as I study about who You are as the LIGHT – I realize again that this is why You came!  John 1:1-5 says that You came to overcome the darkness with Your LIGHT!  Jesus, You are the LIGHT!!  And the darkness and brokenness we see all around us CANNOT OVERCOME YOU!!  It is like walking into a dark room and turning on a flashlight or a lamp. The darkness does not overcome the flashlight or the lamp – the LIGHT overcomes the darkness!!  The LIGHT makes it possible for me to see!!   Jesus, You are the LIGHT that has come into the world.  You are the One who has overcome the sin of the world!  Your LIGHT shines truth into this dark and troubled world – and the truth is that You have OVERCOME death and sin and sorrow!  This is why I have to keep studying Your Word – and I have to keep my eyes FIXED on You, Jesus, not on this world.  Join me in studying 100 of the names that describe Him through 100 DAYS WITH JESUS!  Sign up for weekly content that will walk you through the 100 days at http://www.thecottonhouse.com.  100 DAYS WITH JESUS books are also now available anywhere books are sold (see the list on my website)!  I MUST keep studying His word in order to keep my eyes FIXED on Jesus – please study along with me!  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!! 

Are your eyes FIXED on Jesus, or the things of this world?  Worship Him today as the LIGHT that has come into the world to OVERCOME the darkness!  #100dayswithjesus

100 DAYS WITH JESUS!

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Hurricane Harvey has reminded me that Jesus is the only One who never changes and the One I can turn to in times of devastation.  What are you doing to help you fix your eyes on Jesus right now?  Begin today with a 100 day study of the names of Jesus!  My life was completely changed as I began to look day after day at the names that describe Jesus.  I am convinced that you cannot look at Him for 100 days and remain the same!  Invite a friend to study with you – and join me for 100 Days with Jesus! Sign up for weekly content that will walk you through the 100 days at www.thecottonhouse.com and make sure to check out ABOUT THE BOOK on my site, too!  100 Days with Jesus books are available anywhere books are sold (see the list on my website)!  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS #100dayswithjesus

It's All About Jesus!

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IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS!

I painted this board to put in my home - mainly to remind me that “It’s not about me - it’s all about Jesus!” I forget it so often - and am focused on myself. But truly - I am learning that it really is “All about Jesus!” He is the answer to every question, He is the solution to every problem, He is the hope for every hopeless situation. If there is a need – He will meet it. If there is sickness – He will eventually heal it. If there is death – those who know Him will live with Him in eternity forever. I am learning that all of life is answered in the person of Jesus. He is the only reason to live – and He is our hope in death. He is the only One who came to earth as a baby - to humble Himself to die and pay the debt for my sin. I read this morning in John 18:4 the account of Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The thing that continually blows me away is that Jesus KNEW - He KNEW everything He would face. It says “Then Jesus, KNOWING all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek”? They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I AM HE.” He KNEW all that He would suffer and yet He bravely and courageously GAVE Himself to die - for me, and for you. What are you trying to face alone? Jesus is the answer to every problem you face. He loved you enough to come to earth and die in your place. Run to Him! IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS! #100dayswithjesus http://bit.ly/100DaysWithJesusBook

100 DAYS WITH JESUS

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Friends, 100 DAYS WITH JESUS will be released again on September 1st!! Many of you have walked with me through 100 DAYS WITH JESUS and I've been so thankful to have you along for the journey! If you've felt that 100 DAYS WITH JESUS has increased your love and affection for Him, would you help us launch the 100 DAYS WITH JESUS book? We'd love for you to share some images about it as it launches in September and to review a few chapters. Sound fun to you? Fill out this form to be a part of the team (http://bit.ly/100DaysLaunchTeam)!! Thank you so much!! IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS!! #100dayswithjesus

SLOWING MY PACE

SLOWING MY PACE

Like a runner must feel who slows down while the others pass - it was so good to slow my pace this summer. I was able to watch the world running by at a frantic pace – and not feel that I had to keep up.  We recently were given a time of Sabbatical from our ministry.  We are very blessed to work at a church that values the long term health of their staff and provides an opportunity to take a Sabbatical.   We planned some intentional time with our family, time of study and time to accomplish some projects we wanted to finish.  I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned on this Sabbatical:

One of the first things I did during this time was to go to a coffee shop and just read through the Gospels.   I saw Jesus in a different way that day.  I think I realized for the first time how difficult it must have been for Jesus to leave His throne in heaven - and come to a broken world.  He left the perfection of heaven - the place we all long to be - where there is no pain or tears or sorrow or evil - to come to a broken world.  He experienced opposition, lies, betrayal by His friends, demons, hardness of heart, anger, cruelty, death of His friends, greed, sickness and disease, accusations -   and all of the pain He went through at His trial and crucifixion. He was bound, condemned, spat on, struck, slapped, beaten, stripped of His clothes, and murdered on the cross.  He knew that He would endure all of these things on earth - and He came anyway!  As I read through the Gospels - I was gripped again by His love for me.

I realized that He experienced all of this - for me.    

All because I slowed down and spent time reading His word.  Nothing complicated…just allowing God’s word to speak to my heart.   Hebrews 4:12 says "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  Wow - His word is able to pierce my soul and to discern my thoughts and intentions!  His Word has so much power! 

I just have to take the time to read it.

How have you slowed down this summer?   Have you taken time to rest and read His Word?  We still have a few days of summer – take some time to rest and hear from Him through His word!  He wants to speak to you! 

 

WORSHIP

WORSHIP

The last thing I do each morning is to WORSHIP.  It is all about Jesus - and I thank Him and worship Him for spending time with me each morning.

Mary did the ONE thing that was important.   She sat at Jesus' feet.  She was WORSHIPPING!  She was sitting at His feet, hanging on His every word!  She was showing Him that He had her full devotion, her full affection and her WORSHIP!  She wanted to KNOW Him MORE!  She wanted to be with Him more than anything else on the earth.  She knew that there were other things pulling at her attention - but she chose the ONE most important thing that would last forever.

I can only worship someone if I really know them.  Why would I worship Jesus if I didn't know Him?  My time with Jesus each day is to get to KNOW Him.  He reveals Himself to me, speaks to me, comforts me, guides me, encourages me, corrects me.  I get to know Him better.  I may not come away with a huge revelation from Him or an emotional feeling, but I have spent time getting to know Him through His Word to me.  Just like being with a friend, I am spending time getting to know Him.  

What about you?   How can you add this into your day?  Don't worry about how long you spend, or the exact order you use - just BE WITH JESUS.  He is your Comforter, your Healer, your Friend!  Spend time asking Him to show Himself to you.  Pour out your heart to Him - in worship and in adoration of who He is!  The time you INVEST will last for eternity!  

REQUEST

REQUEST:

Next, I pray.

 Philippians 4:6 says "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your REQUESTS be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  At the end of my study time, I pray and give everything to Him.   I have created prayer pages that look like this in my journal. (see insert below).  I have a place for the REQUEST and then a place for His ANSWER!  (He always answers!  It may be yes, no... or wait).   You can do this on any page - just title the columns and write your request.  Always date it so that you can go back and write His answer!  Sometimes I forget that I even prayed a specific prayer and as I look back, I realize that He has answered it already!  He is always working and answering my prayers - even when I forget!

 

 I have done this for years and I can't tell you how encouraging it is to go back and see how many prayers He has answered!   (My daughter and I have created a resource "MY JESUS JOURNAL - A Simple Tool to Create Daily Habits" which contains space for Bible Study, Journaling and Prayer - all in one book!   You can purchase it through her business, http://www.marrymeinspring.com/prints/my-jesus-journal, if you are interested.)

You can pray for different areas on specific days - like family on Monday, friends on Tuesday, government officials on Wednesday..., etc.  Make it personal and specific.   

As you make requests, don't forget to listen.  This is not a one way conversation.  God is going to speak to you through this time.  Listen for His voice!  It may be as you study His Scripture, as you pray or journal.  

This is just one way to study the Bible and spend time with Jesus.  You may have another way that works for you.  You may do it in a different order than I do.  Do what works for you!  If you want to journal first and talk with Him, do that.  If you want to pray first and then study His word - great!  

Try to be consistent and daily.  Even if it is just for a short time.  Soon you won't be able to imagine a day without meeting with Him first!  He just wants us to sit at His feet - and to keep Him FIRST!  Whatever time we spend INVESTING in His Word and sitting at His feet - will last for eternity!

The last and most important thing I do is to....

 

 

JOURNAL

JOURNAL

The next thing I do is to journal.  As I am studying God's Word, many things come to my mind.  Maybe it is something I am not trusting Him with.  Or a frustration I am experiencing.   I turn to my empty journal pages and write a letter to Jesus.  I usually start it "Dear Jesus,".  I write it just like a letter to Him.  This is a personal, honest letter to Jesus.  I pour out my heart and am completely honest with Him!  He already knows every thought in my heart - He is not surprised!  My time with Jesus is all about my relationship with Him.  This is a time with the dearest friend I have - the One who asks me to sit at His feet and be with Him.  It is not a duty or a task - it is a relationship.  He knows me better than anyone else, He loves me more than anyone else could and He knows what is best for me.  

I write out my frustrations, worries, concerns, things I am excited about or things I need to trust Him with.  I write out the dreams and desires that I am entrusting to Him.  Usually by the end, I am thanking Him for all He has done already and realizing areas where I am not trusting Him.  I have done this for countless years - and now have a record of all He has brought me through.

I usually end my time with Jesus by......

 

 

 

STUDY

STUDY

There are many methods to study God's Word!  I have tried many different ways, but I want to share the one I have been using for the last several years.  I love this method because it focuses me on Jesus - and what He has done to rescue and redeem me!  I always come away from my time with Him by focusing on Jesus and what He has done.  This is how I do it.

I usually choose a complete book to study.   I just began studying the book of John.   I am not in any rush to get through it - I usually study 3 to 4 verses a day.  I open up my journal and on the left side of the page - I write out the verses completely.  Just 3 or 4 verses at a time.   On the opposite page - I put a line down about 3/4 of the middle of the page (see image below) and write BROKEN over the column on the left, and FIX over the column on the right.  I take each verse and see what is BROKEN in our world.  It could be unbelief, disease, hatred, selfishness, lying.  The sin that lies beneath the story.  I write those out for each verse in the BROKEN column.  Then I go across to the FIX column.  How has Jesus FIXED this brokenness?  Jesus came to live in our world to FIX the BROKENNESS!!  He may have done it by healing someone immediately, forgiving their sin, calming the storm or providing wine when it runs out at a wedding!  Or He may have ultimately fixed it when He died on the cross by providing eternal life for us!  Whatever He has done to FIX the brokenness, goes in that column.  

Then I come down about 3/4  on the page and write:

BECAUSE JESUS...

I write... healed, forgave, taught, understood, performed a miracle, died for my sin...whatever it is that Jesus did .....

Then underneath this, I write:

I CAN:

 I write out what it means to my life that Jesus FIXED this BROKENNESS.  Maybe I can trust Him, believe in Him, count on Him, depend on Him, pray to Him because of what He has done!  It is not about ME - IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE!  I worship and thank Him for what He has done and is doing in our world!

I come away from my time with Jesus, in awe of Him!   It is not about me and what I need to DO - it is all about Jesus and what He has already DONE and is DOING in our broken world!  The focus is not on me - it is on HIM!  

There are many different methods of Bible Study - but this one has been especially helpful in focusing my attention on Jesus and what He has done to rescue and redeem a broken world!  And a broken me!

Try it - and see that  IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS!

After Bible Study - I begin.... 

 

FOCUS

FOCUS

Even though I want Jesus to be my main FOCUS,  I come to my time with Him with many things on my mind.    It can be worries from the day before, anxious thoughts about the day ahead of me, guilt about something I have done or stressing about a decision that lies ahead.  I have PREPARED a place to meet with Him, but now I need to PREPARE MY HEART.  The first thing I do is pray.  I tell Him all about it.  I ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind anything that I need to confess.  Is there anything I have thought or done that needs to come out in the open?  In John 16:7-8 Jesus said,   "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;"  It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict me of sin and to bring it to my mind.  If He does bring something to mind, I confess it (agree with Him about my sin) and I acknowledge that Jesus has already died on the cross for that sin.  I realize that my sin is what He  suffered and paid for on the cross.  I confess my sorrow at my sin - and I thank Him that it is paid for already! (Oh Jesus, thank You for dying for me!!)  I don't have to live in guilt and shame - because He has already paid for my sin!  ("There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1) I give thanks and worship Him for dying for me!

Sometimes I listen to worship music on my phone (through headphones if there are others around) and spend some time worshipping Jesus.  Just like listening to the worship music before the sermon in church, the music prepares my heart to spend time with Jesus.  It helps me to FOCUS on Him and to get my mind where it needs to be.   As I sing and worship, it helps me to focus on Jesus.  When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, He started with "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name..." (Matthew 6:9).  He focused them on the One they were praying to FIRST.

Then I ask His Holy Spirit to teach me from His Word.  Jesus said "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."  (John 14:26)  I need His Spirit, who lives within me, to teach me what He wants me to know.  To bring to my mind what He wants to teach me.  

Then I open His Word to begin to study.  This is how I study....

(How do you prepare your heart to spend time with Jesus?)

 

 

PREPARE

PREPARE

I love a good coffee shop.  One that has just the right environment.  That has a place for me when I walk in.  A great cup of coffee.  I feel like it was PREPARED just for me.  

Do you have a place PREPARED for Jesus in your home?  If you are meeting wth Jesus - the One who loves you and knows you better than anyone else - where do you want to meet with Him?  Just like setting up a time to meet with a friend - after you ASK, you decide WHERE.  Where do you want to meet together?

PREPARE a place.  A chair in your room or a sofa that is in a private place.  A closet or back porch.  Have a basket or table close by with your Bible, journal, pen and a note pad.  If you love coffee in the morning, PREPARE it the night before - and put it on a timer to start 10 minutes before you get up.  Don't get distracted by the coffee and to-do's.  Get up, get your coffee, or tea (or nothing if you prefer) and  go to your appointment with Jesus.  I try not to look at my Instagram, emails, twitter or anything that would DISTRACT me from Jesus.  I want to meet with Him FIRST!  

Make sure you have your Bible, Journal and pen available.  You can use a moleskine, notebook or journal to write in.   (The note pad is there in case you are DISTRACTED by some to-do.  Just write it down and keep your focus on Jesus!)

Your time with Jesus is all about your relationship with Him.  This is a relationship that will last for eternity.  This is not a duty or a to-do.  This is the most important meeting of your day - the one that He says is the ONE most important thing you can do today!  

Got your coffee, your Bible, journal and pen - and a special place to meet with Him?  Now what?

ASK

ASK

If I could tell you ONE thing you could do that would help you sit at Jesus' feet ...would you do it?  

It is very simple.  ASK.

ASK Him to wake you up in order to make Him FIRST in your day. 

For me, if Jesus says spending time at His feet is the ONE most necessary thing in life - then it makes sense that it should come FIRST in my day.  

But how?

I am not a morning person.  I hate the alarm clock.  My kids are always amazed - but I have never once hit the "snooze" button.  It is not because I am disciplined - it is because I hate the alarm clock!  I would never want to hit the button and hear it go off again!  But, I have found the secret to getting up early to spend time with Jesus.  It is this:  ASK.  I ASK Him to wake me up in the morning.  When I was writing 100 DAYS WITH JESUS, I knew that He wanted me to get up earlier than usual to spend time hearing from Him and writing.  I would set my alarm clock the night before, and then ASK Him to wake me up BEFORE it went off.   The first day, He woke me up 5 minutes before the alarm clock.  When you look at your clock and it says _:55 - you KNOW that the God of the Universe just woke you up - and it is hard to go back to sleep!   Jesus said sitting at His feet is  the ONE most important thing - so He must want me to do it!  

I think that when I ASK, it shows that I am OPEN and WILLING to do what He wants me to do.  If I am not open and willing - I definitely won't ASK Him.  I will just avoid the issue and pretend He doesn't know about it.  But when I ASK, I am allowing Him into this area of my life.  I am giving Him permission to guide me - and not shutting Him out.  

ASK Him to wake you up.  Try it.  Before you go to sleep tonight, ASK Him to wake you up to spend time with Him early in the morning.  When He does - get up!  The God of the Universe wants to meet with you - and He has something to say to you!!

Try it and see what He will do!

*(If you have a newborn baby, work nights, or are taking care of a sick child, etc., you may not be able to do this FIRST thing in the morning.  But make it the FIRST thing you do when they are taking a nap, or when you get a break.  ASK Jesus to provide a time for you - and then keep Him as the top priority during that time, before you are distracted by other things!)

Ok - I am up, now what do I do?

 

 

BEGIN

BEGIN  

I love a new year.  A new beginning.  A chance to start over and BEGIN again.  But it is now the middle of January - and all the hopes and dreams I had at the beginning of January are playing out.  Life is busy - demanding my attention at every turn.  The reality of my goals and plans are now before me.  

You may be asking these questions along with me:

How do I INVEST my life in what is really important - when things are pulling at me from every direction?  

How do I really do the things that I dream of doing - and the things that I wish I had the self-discipline to accomplish?

If INVESTING in God's Word lasts for eternity, how do I do it?   How do I spend time in the Word each day?   You may be saying "I have tried, but I fail.  Or I quit.  Or I don't know what to do or read."  

I am going to share some SIMPLE TOOLS that help me do what is most important.

It says in Luke 10:38 "Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, SEATED AT HIS FEET.  But Martha was DISTRACTED with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me."  But the Lord answered and said to her,  "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only ONE, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

I am sure you have heard this story many times.  But what is Jesus saying?  Didn't someone have to fix the food and serve the meal?  Wasn't there much to accomplish?  

But He said, "Only a few things are necessary, really only ONE."  

What would you say is the ONE most necessary thing in your life?  

What can you not live without?  food, water, sleep?

What DISTRACTS you from eating or drinking?  Not much!  When my sons were starting their own business, they would FORGET to eat.  I was always astounded by this - but it was because they were DISTRACTED by something that was taking their full attention. 

What DISTRACTS you from doing the ONE most necessary thing?  Social media, the news, tasks to accomplish, worrying, the needs of your family.  The list can go on and on...

But Jesus says that sitting at His feet is the ONE most necessary thing - that cannot be taken away from you.  When you INVEST in time at His feet - it will last for eternity.  

But how?  

I am convinced that we often don't spend time with Him because we don't know what to do when we have set aside the time.  What do we do?  What do we study?  How is it "supposed" to look?

Without even knowing it, we ask these questions: 

What would I do if I did have the time?  What if I don't get anything out of it?  What if He asks me to do something I don't want to do?  What if.....

The "what if's" can keep us from doing what is most important.  The thing that will last for eternity.

What are the "what if's" that keep you from sitting at Jesus' feet?

What if I could give you some simple tools to give you tracks to run on?  Some simple tools to help you do the ONE thing that Jesus says is most important.  

Would you be willing to try?     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INVEST

Just like you, I long to live my life well!  To INVEST it wisely.  

Whether I realize it or not, I am investing my life in something.  It could be my family, my work, my dreams, money, comfort.  At the end of my life, what I have invested in will become evident.  Just like the statement on a bank account, my life will reveal what I have invested it in.  

Will I have invested it in something worthy?  or in temporary gain?  Time will tell.  I already wish I had done MORE - I have spent too much time on temporary things.  I have allowed too many fears to hold me back.  

But it is never too late!  I know that there are two things from this earth that are eternal. That last forever.   The Word of God - and people.  

Will I invest 2017 in the Word of God and people?  If I do, those investments will last into eternity.  

I want to spend a few weeks with you exploring HOW we can invest time in the two things that will last into eternity. 

1.  How do I invest time in His word? 

2.  How do I invest in people?  

Jesus said in John 17:4, "I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do."   How I long to be able to say those words at the end of my life!  I have spent most of my adult life trying to figure out what He wants to accomplish through me.     

I want to share how I study God's word - and how He has been working in my life to show me the work He wants me to accomplish.  Join me for the next few weeks - and ask God to allow you to INVEST this year, 2017, in the work that He has for you!

What is holding you back?