Tag Archives: BigSisterKnows

Medal in What Matters: A Bride-to-Be’s Perspective on “Stuff,” Living Generously, and Holiday Giving

Standard

Where are your treasures? Where do you spend your time and resources? In the following guest post, my friend, author Kristen Hogrefe, shares some encouraging (and convicting) insight on how we can focus on what matters this holiday season and throughout the year. 


My walk-in guest closet had become a black hole of catch-all, and the time had come to face it. The less “stuff” I have to move after my wedding, the better!

Most of the boxes stacked there centered on my childhood, so maybe that’s why I had put off going through them. Don’t ask me why tossing childhood memorabilia is so hard for me, but it just is.

As I opened a heavy cardboard box, I found myself facing my high school Bible quizzing trophies. I had worked hard to earn them and been so proud of them! However, they’ve been boxed up for years, and I never plan to set them out on a bookshelf again.

Maybe you have your own trophies or keepsakes, and if you’re not ready to part with them yet, that’s okay! Tangible motivation has its time and place. But cleaning out my closet reminded me of a truth or two I don’t want to forget.

 

Realize what matters in the long run.

What matters more than the medals themselves is what they represent. I spent my high school years memorizing chapters and books of God’s Word. Today, I can’t quote the Bible like I used to, but I believe that these Scriptures will not return to me “void” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV) but that the Holy Spirit will bring to my “remembrance” those promises just when I need them (John 14:26).

These medals will ultimately deteriorate (faster now that I’m contributing them to the trash), but those Bible verses will resound in my memory. As Isaiah 40:8 says,

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (NKJV).

 

Choose wisely what we treasure.

As a visual society, we often focus on the tangible. We see our cars, our houses, our vacation (or wedding) plans, and our Christmas gifts under the tree. While those things have their place—and I’m certainly grateful for them—they’re just a shell compared to what’s more important: the spiritual conditions of our hearts.

What do we truly treasure? Oftentimes, we can find the answer by watching how we spend our time and money. That’s some self-examination we all need to do. As we consider our answers, let’s remember Jesus’ words:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

 

Live generously and enjoy God’s blessings today.

Yes, the holidays are upon us, and most of us enjoy giving and receiving presents. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and enjoying gifts, as long as those “things” don’t claim a higher place in our hearts than they should. Regardless of our financial status, we should keep our trust in God alone and enjoy what He has given us. I like how Timothy poses this challenge to his readers:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17 NKJV).

Wow! God gives us all things “richly” to enjoy. Really, that’s no surprise, considering He has also called us to live abundantly (John 10:10 NKVJ).

Paychecks aside, let’s consider how we can bless others this Christmas. Sometimes, the best gift is our time or simple ways we can express thoughtfulness and God’s love.

This holiday season and every day, let’s medal in what really matters: living for God with everything we have.

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

Standard

Last week, author Kristen Hogrefe shared with us how we can love God volitionally. This week, she wraps up this two-part series by explaining how we can love God with all our strength. If these posts have encouraged your walk with the Lord, please let us know by leaving a comment below.


In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My boyfriend, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, we looked at loving God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my boyfriend chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

 

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

 

Loving God with Our Minds

During one of my friend’s weddings, the bride asked me to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which begins this way:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments …”

That phrase, “the marriage of true minds,” sticks with me, because it suggests a unified purpose, set of values, and life focus. So too, when we love God with our minds, we’re saying we want to live “on the same page” with him.

Once again, Scripture sheds some light on what this unified mindset looks like:

  • We are to bring “every thought” into “captivity” or obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • We are to exercise humility, following Christ’s example (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We are to focus our thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • We are to guard our minds by not looking at something that will tempt us to stumble (Psalm 119:37).
  • We are to study God’s Word, the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sure, there will be days we fall short, way short. That’s why Paul wrote that the goal here on earth is not perfection but to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

 

Desiring to Love God More

When we seek to love God with our all, we love him with every part of ourselves. Preacher and poet Isaac Watts expressed this idea eloquently in his closing lines to the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” He develops the idea of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate love. How can our response be anything less than everything?

“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Lord, may I love you with all that I am, all that I have, and all I can be. 

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 1 of 2)

Standard

This week, author Kristen Hogrefe shares her insights on how we can love God more fully. She’ll share Part 2 of this post next week, so be sure to check back in for more encouragement then.


One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially).” (NKJV, parenthesis added)

The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)

Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.

 

Love God Volitionally

When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]

In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.

In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:

  • Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
  • Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
  • Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).

 

Love God Wholeheartedly

The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.

When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to dictionary.com, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”

Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”

I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23:

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)

In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as Ashley often reminds us, with gusto!

Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?

[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.