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Simplicity in the End Times: The Believer’s Real Purpose for Becoming Minimalist

 

Jerusalem

“This week I dreamt that I was in Israel in the midst of missiles and I saw them coming right to where I was. What a horrible feeling it was. It felt very real. It felt like I was really there and a voice said: these are signs of the end times, behold I am coming back.”

I read this facebook post by a friend on Sunday, July 20, 2014. Another friend commented on the post shortly thereafter:

…you’re not going to believe this…I had the same dream. The next day I saw the news on tv. Surreal. Let’s pray for Israel.

I read them shortly before leaving to meet with my small group that gets together twice a month.  I was going by myself this time so I was able to meditate on what I had read in the car on the way to the church. I felt a stirring inside me. I felt the Lord speaking to me about my life in the end times.

It is as if I felt a shift in my priorities. All of a sudden so many things that I had been worrying about seemed so small.  My perspective was completely changed and I felt compelled to share it.

How I view my time has changed. How I view certain “problems” in my life has changed. How I make decisions has changed.

The new question or filter that I run everything in my life by is:
Will this action or decision advance the kingdom of God on this earth and have an impact on eternity?

I have been reading about the minimalist movement for at least a year now. It’s kind of hard to miss if you’re on facebook. It emphasizes paring down possessions in your life with the goal of living more simply. The proposed benefits are numerous. You can read more about it here.

My husband and I were forced to “minimalize” our lives a bit when we moved to a new house a couple of years ago. We needed a house with four bedrooms and in the right school district. Our previous house had 1700 square feet, a basement, an attic, and ample closet space. It was twenty years old.

The house we moved to was forty years old, had 1300 square feet, no basement, no attic, and very limited closet space.

Needless to say, we had a big garage sale before we moved.

As our family has grown, so have our expenses. I have looked for ways to minimize our monthly bills.  Our satellite TV contract expired shortly after we moved to this house. We cancelled our service and signed up for Netflix. $8/month for TV is not bad.

Despite our huge garage sale, we still came to this house with way more than would reasonably fit here.

We have rearranged the furniture countless times until we finally came up with something that would be the best use of our space. We still struggle for storage space but we’re not ready to throw away things like the Christmas tree and my old yearbooks.

There are many practical reasons to become minimalist or simplify our lives. However, I believe that as believers living in the end times, there is a much greater purpose to it.

There has been an exponential increase of darkness in the world in recent years. So many things happening in the world point to the coming of Jesus very soon.

So many things have happened that many have started to question if it will happen in our lifetime or at least our children’s lifetime.

It brings a greater sense of urgency to get to work here and now.

It is time to lay down the self-pity, petty arguments, and all other things that take up our precious time and render us useless for His kingdom.

I realized that I have been worrying about many things that have no eternal impact.

Of course, we do live on planet earth and have things that do need taking care of. We can’t be so focused on heaven that we neglect to pay our bills or take care of our bodies.

However, I feel convicted during these times to stop and ask the Lord what His plan really is for our lives now. I feel a much greater peace about hard subjects such as when will we be able to buy a house?

Now when I think about the huge medical bills I racked up last year during my illness, I look at it with different colored glasses. It’s there and something needs to be done, however I refuse to spend my emotional energy worrying about it anymore.

My conviction now is to do the best that I can according to what God has led me and equipped me to do. The rest is up to Him.

You’ve probably heard of a little book that came out in 2000 that became a huge sensation worldwide: The Prayer of Jabez. It received so much attention and acclaim that even Christmas ornaments with the prayer were sold that year.

Have you ever heard of the book Secrets of the Vine that came out a year later? Same author: Bruce Wilkinson.

I liked the first book. I loved the second one and have always preferred it. It explores John 15 and how remaining in Him and allowing Him to prune us will enable us to bear much fruit for his kingdom.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It is a short book and is life-changing.

John 15:1 NKJV I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

I went through a money management seminar at our church recently. There were definitive steps on how to manage your money, get out of debt, and stay out of debt. It was a lot of wonderful information.

However, I finished that seminar feeling guilty and like a failure. I felt like a failure for not being able to implement all the steps that were part of the plan. I have been carrying around this guilt for a long time.

The revelation I had after reading about my friends’ dreams changed all that. I realized that God is not mad at me. I realized that I have done the best I can. I realized that I was trying to make it all up to me when it was really all up to Him.

I also realized that worrying about this kind of thing was a waste of precious time.

My prayers have changed since I read those dreams. I now pray with greater faith, understanding that God has a plan for every one of our “problems”. We must trust Him with these things because He has a plan for us to be about His business while we are here on planet earth. He will take care of the rest.

My challenge to you today is to ask God to show you what things in your life need to be pruned in order for you to be more effective in His kingdom.

It may be a monthly expense that is not really necessary. It may simply be stuff that you (or your kids) don’t really need. It might be something in your schedule that is taking time that God wants to use elsewhere.

It may be in your heart. There may be pruning that needs to be done there.

As believers, we must be kingdom-minded, especially in these times. It is a challenge for those of us who live in prosperous, consumerist, developed countries.

The goal for being minimalist as a believer should never be just to lead simpler lives and have less stress. It has taken on a greater significance in these end times: to be the most useful we can for His kingdom here and now.

Image courtesy: Pixabay

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Christian Living

 

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I had my cake and ate it two…

Coconut Cake_Edit

Yep, that’s it.  That’s the one.  It is the one of which I was going to have “one small slice”.

The good news is that the box didn’t go into the trash completely empty.  The bad news is that it was almost full when I got started on it.

If you read my recent post about the brownies, you know that I concluded that temptation is not a battle to stay and fight.  It is a place to run from.

So how did this happen?

It all started with an invitation to a pool party to watch the World Cup Final. The host and other guests would be providing meat to grill and sides. I was asked to bring dessert.

I procured said dessert at Publix that morning. The crowd would be mostly Brazilian. The occasion would be outdoors in the July heat. What could be better than an icebox coconut cake?

I wasn’t the only one with that idea. A Brazilian partygoer had brought a homemade coconut cake made with sweetened condensed milk. (Oh yes, Brazilians know how to make seriously good cakes.)

We decided not to even open mine, and when it was time to leave, my gracious host gave the box back to me, untouched.

I had a small slice that night we got home from the pool party. It was good, but the Brazilian cake was better, and this one was too sweet.

I thought to myself at the time that I would have no problem resisting the temptation of this cake, as it was too sweet for me.

So I kept it in the fridge.

The next night (tonight), after dinner and around the time the kids were going to bed, I decided to have a “forkful” of cake. I then decided to have a small slice. I then had another small slice. And another.

Pretty soon, I gave up all pretense and just put my fork directly in the cake. Suddenly, it wasn’t too sweet for me anymore. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough.

I finally put the fork down and asked my husband if he would be eating any of the cake. Fortunately, he said no.

Into the garbage went the box.

There were a couple of ways I could have responded to this incident. I could have interpreted it as my complete failure to control myself and thus evidence that I cannot and never will be able to be at peace with food.

However, I knew that road would take me to a dangerous, defeated place.

My recent revelation on temptation reminded me that I had been placed in a battle that I could not have won. God didn’t expect me to be there in the first place.

I recognized that at the time I dove fork-first into that cake, I had been experiencing anxiety on numerous levels. I had lots of things on my mind.

I withdrew to a quiet place to hand it all over to the Lord.

I asked for His forgiveness and received it.

I am thankful that He has forgiven me and that this moment of failure was just that: a moment. It is not something that has to define me or become my identity.

Thank you Jesus.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Christian Living, Temptation

 

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What are you hungry for?

forain buffet kunstkopie

Forain: The Buffet

How many times a day do I find myself asking my kids this very question?  Their little bodies sometimes crave one thing while their minds seek out something else.  Their body whispers “green beans” while their mind shouts “chocolate chip cookies”!

One of my prayers every morning before I start my day is that God will help me seek Him out in every “anxious moment” and in every “hungry heart moment” (so that He will have those instead of the chocolate chip cookies having me).

You’ve heard there is a void in our souls that can only be filled by God.  You also hear repeatedly that only God can fill that hunger in your heart.

However, until this weekend, I never stopped to ask myself what my heart was actually hungering for.

We sometimes agonize over snack time or mealtime about exactly what will satisfy that craving.  Do I feel like a good salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing? Or do I feel like I grilled burger with all the fixins?

We spend lots of time and energy thinking about what we want to eat, where to get it, or how to prepare it.

As I began this journey of laying down sugar and excess food, I made it my goal to let God fill me when I was hungry of heart.

I never thought to get specific about what I was hungry for.

The weekends are especially challenging for me.  It is a time where I am not only taking care of kids (in partnership with my husband), but also trying to get caught up on housework.

I am very eager to do right by my kids.  Ok, let’s get real. What I really want is not to screw my kids up. Can I get an amen from parents out there?

As I was pondering this desire to treat my kids the right way this weekend, I realized that my heart was indeed very hungry.  I felt my soul weaken.  I needed God to come fill my hungry soul.

A verse then came to my mind:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.  Matt: 5-6 NKJV

I was able to connect the dots at that moment.

I have been hungering for righteousness my whole life.  Even as a Christian.

I realized that one of the reasons that I have been running around empty trying to fill the void has been my desire for righteousness.

Jesus could have stopped at the word “hunger”.  We know what hunger represents.  We could skip a meal if we had to.  We could go a few days without food if we had to.

He goes beyond hunger and adds the word “thirst”.  To be thirsty is a deeper level of desperation.

I want to be clear that when I say that I want to be righteous, it doesn’t mean that I want to be “holier than thou”, and “self-righteous” in the negative connotation that is often associated with those terms.

For me to want to be righteous means that I want to do right! I want to do right by my God.  I want to do right by my spouse.  I want to do right by my kids.

Why?

Because what I do has an impact on everyone around me.  If I choose to give in to selfish desires and wants (which is the essence of sin), then I will end up hurting someone around me.

I have felt especially weary this weekend.  I felt weary of this very intense, non-stop journey called parenting of young children.

I get tempted to complain sometimes. Lord, I’m tired of being woken up at 6am every day.  I’m tired of cleaning dried Spaghettios off the dishes.  I’m tired of washing bibs off all the time.  I’m tired of endless conversations beginning with the phrase “Why?”

However, in my desire to do right by my kids, another verse came to my mind this weekend:
And let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap
if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 NKJV

This verse came to my mind, and when I went to look it up, I couldn’t help but notice the verse before it:
 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,
but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Gal. 6:8

This verse reminded me again of the consequences of choosing to do what I want.  It reminded me again of how much I must be filled with righteousness in order to do right.

In order to get that righteousness, we must first hunger and thirst for it.  We must be desperate for it.

The word of God shows us that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness and persevere with doing the right things which He has enabled us to do, we will:
Reap in due season
and
Reap everlasting life.

Photo: The Buffet-Jean Forain Buffet PD-1923 Courtesy Wikimedia

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Christian Living

 

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Hurricane Martha and Me

Hurrican Flickr

Today was one of those days that if I wasn’t looking for a muzzle to put on my mouth to prevent me from saying (or yelling) something stupid, I was looking for my foot to put it in afterwards.

Everything my kids were doing or saying seemed to get on my nerves.

Today was one of those days where my best just wasn’t good enough, and where my to-do list seemed to have a hole in it.

Today was one of those days that I spent hours doing backbreaking cleaning work in the house, yet it looked like I did nothing at all.

Today was one of those days that I felt as in one of those dreams where you try to run and it’s like running underwater.  I seemed not to have any grace to look at a messy house and be okay with it.

I know that while my kids are little, I sometimes have to choose between having happy kids or a clean house.

My husband graciously spent much of the day caring for the kids while I meticulously cleaned the baseboards around the house of dust that has accumulated during our two years tenure here.

I worked hard all day on it, taking short breaks in between rooms. When it was time to do the last (and dirtiest) room, I had to give up and give in. I was too tired to go on.

I am that person who has a hard time starting a project and leaving it unfinished. I have a hard time letting go when it’s time to let go.

You could say that of Mary and Martha, I am Martha. A friend recently related on her blog that what God showed her about Martha was that what she was doing was not wrong, but rather when she was doing it.

My kids were playing in the living room all day with some fun toys that their cousins gave them the day before at our family’s 4th of July gathering. I really did not want to stop my massive cleaning project to play ball with them.

Playing with little kids all day does not come naturally to me. I enjoy it in small spurts. My mind was preoccupied with cleaning; however, I did stop what I was doing a few times to spend that time with them.

It wasn’t the same thing as spending time at Jesus’ feet; however, it was time to be His hands and His feet.

After throwing in the cleaning towel, I stopped to rest and watch the World Cup game with my husband while the kids played. As the game went into extra time, it was time to get ready to go to church.

Our pastor spoke on adversity tonight. He spoke about what happens when there is a major hurricane in our lives. He said we have two choices. We can lengthen that hurricane by drowning ourselves in self-pity, or we can shorten it by asking the Lord to use that hurricane to draw us closer to Him.

We have been going through a Category 5 lately and I have felt myself really struggling to have faith during this time.

I was meditating on Hebrews 11:1 last night:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
(NKJV)

I have read or heard this verse hundreds of times during my Christian walk. However, last night the “things not seen” part of the verse particularly struck me.

I had always interpreted this verse to mean we need to have hope that the future will bring us better things.  However, things not seen does not talk about the future. It talks about what presently exists but we are blind to.

What that meant for me is that faith is evidence of truths we are not presently able to see.

The enemy works primarily in our minds, trying to lie to us about our life. I need faith to have my eyes opened to all of God’s truth about my life.

My prayer tonight is that God would open my eyes to see the beautiful truths that I have been unable to see in my present situation.

I pray the same prayer for you tonight, friend.

July 6, 2014 Update:

I found the following scripture verse this morning that expounds on the verse on faith a bit:

1 Corinthians 4:17: Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. (NKJV)

Therefore that which is unseen is deathless and everlasting. This verse makes me hunger even more for my eyes to be opened to that which is unseen!

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Image: Hurricane Jeanne; Courtesy Kakela Flckr

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Parenting

 

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