Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Taking Inventory

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we're facing one of the most challenging times in the history of Revive Our Hearts, one simple act can make a huge difference.

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Typically about 40% of the donations that Revive Our Hearts needs for the entire year arrives in the month of December. As we come to the end of this year, we're facing some unusually great needs. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that this is the most financially stretching time that Revive Our Hearts has experienced in our 10 year history.

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You can make your donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or just give us a call at 1-800-569-5959. Your gift by this Friday, December 31 really will make a difference

Leslie Basham: Think for a minute with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the way you spend your time.

Nancy: Based on how you use your time, what are your real priorities? Are they the right ones? Or do you need to make some adjustments? And by the way, that is something we all need to do periodically—to make those adjustments.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 29.

This week Nancy’s been teaching in a series on setting priorities and using time wisely for God’s glory. In a series like this, there is a question that a lot of women naturally ask: Is it okay for me to work outside of the home? Nancy has some thoughts on that in the series First Things First.

Nancy: We’ve been talking all this week about something that every one of us needs help with, and that is the matter of our priorities. How do we establish and live by God’s priorities for our lives? How do we order our lives in such a way that they are fulfilling those priorities?

We’re looking at the word priorities by each letter. We started a couple of days ago by talking about the letter “P”—pray; ask God for wisdom. Then the letter “R”—review God’s priorities for our lives based on the Word of God.

Now we come today to the letter “I.” P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-E-S. That’s the word inventory. Take inventory. This requires that we stop and think about what our priorities really are and what our schedule really is like.

We ask tough questions like:

  • Am I living out God’s priorities for my life?
  • Am I fulfilling God’s priorities for my life?
  • Are there any priorities or responsibilities that I’m neglecting?

Let me suggest two practical exercises at this point that have been helpful to me at different seasons of my life.

Number one: Make a list of all your current responsibilities. Put on there everything that you’re doing at this season of life—everything that is on your “to do” list.

Another little exercise that will be helpful to take inventory is to keep a time log for a week. Keep track of what you are actually doing with your time—in 15- or 30-minute increments at the most. Now, if you’re a mom, maybe use three-minute increments because it may change that often! But in some small measure of time, keep track for a week of what you are actually doing with your time.

What you find may surprise you. You may think that you are spending most of your time in certain areas of responsibility and find out that, really, you’re spending more time in areas you didn’t realize.

Now, as you do these exercises, as you have this list in front of you of your responsibilities—your “to do” list—and the way that you’ve actually been utilizing your time, then you can begin to evaluate. You’re taking inventory; you’re evaluating. Based on how you’re using your time, what are your real priorities? Are they the right ones? Or do you need to make some adjustments?

This is where you start to ask some hard questions about the activities that are consuming your time—as well, I might add, as the activities that are consuming the time of your children, because that is going to have a lot of bearing on your time.

Ask yourself as you look at your list: How is each of these activities contributing to, or helping me fulfill, the priorities that God has established for my life and for our family?

We talked about the priorities of the relationship with the Lord, your relationship with your husband, your relationship with your children, and then being a keeper of your home. How are each of these responsibilities—these things on my “to do” list—helping me to fulfill those priorities, or whatever are the priorities are at your season of life?

Then ask yourself as you look at this list—ask yourself about everything on that list: Is this something that God wants me, or that God wants our family, to be doing at this season of life? It may be something that is okay at a different season of life, but something that is not appropriate or best or necessary for this season of life.

Ask yourself as you look at the things on that list: Am I involved in any activities currently that are not on God’s agenda for this season of my life? Have I accepted any responsibilities that I just said “yes” to, but I didn’t check with the Lord first? I didn’t inquire of the Lord to find out if it is what He wanted me to do.

Maybe there are some things on my list that are good things, but things that God intends for someone else to do. By the way, if you fulfill someone else’s job description, not only will you be frustrated, but they won’t be able to fulfill the purpose for which God made them.

Ask yourself: Am I doing these things for the right reasons?

  • Why am I doing each of these activities?
  • What are my motives?
  • Am I doing this out of guilt?
  • Am I doing this out of peer pressure because every other mother says, “This is what you are supposed to do with your children”?
  • Is it performance—trying to win God’s favor, trying to impress someone else, or trying to please people rather than God?
  • Is it comparison?

Jesus was accountable during His earthly life to one person: His heavenly Father. His only motivation was to please God. He could live with being misunderstood and rejected by others because all that mattered to Him was: Is God pleased?

When you know that God is pleased with what you’re doing with your priorities and your schedule, then you’ll be able to live with other people who don’t understand. It may be your mother who doesn’t understand some priorities that you’re making with your children. Now, listen to her counsel, but ultimately, you’ve got to be accountable to the Lord.

Let me step back here again and repeat in a little different way something I said yesterday—that one of the greatest reasons for stress and pressure in many women’s lives today is that they are wives and mothers who are also trying to juggle a career or a job outside of their home.

Now, I know that as soon as I say that, there are some who are going to feel that I am attacking them. I am not attacking anyone. I love the women that God has brought into my life, and He has given me the privilege to minister to many women.

But I’m listening to these women; I’m listening to their heart-cries, to their stories, and I’m realizing that one of the major reasons that so many wives and mothers are stressed out of their minds is because they are fulfilling some responsibilities that God did not intend for them to fulfill.

First of all, it is God’s plan that the husband be the primary provider for the family. Some women may say, “But my husband doesn’t provide for our family.” Now, it may be a situation where your husband can’t provide for your family. Then God will give you grace to deal with that situation. But in some situations, I think women have not discovered what God might do in motivating their husbands to provide if the wife wasn’t stepping in to fill the vacuum.

There are times when we don’t see what God could do because we don’t act in faith and give Him an opportunity to prove Himself great. We’ve bought into this lie that we can do it all. The fact is, God didn’t make us to do everything there is to do. And He doesn’t give grace to do anything except what He has called me to do.

So I need to take inventory and say, “Are my activities, are my choices the ones God has for this season of my life?” Women who subconsciously believe they need to juggle all these acts, all these roles, are going to end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated by all the demands.

There is no woman who can wear all these hats effectively. And the great thing is, you don’t have to! God didn’t intend for you to wear all those hats.

Those are not easy words to hear for women who are living those stressed-out lives but are afraid to make the necessary adjustments. It’s not just famous people who go through this tension.

I received a note recently from a woman who said, “This month is crazy for me. I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old at home. I’m in graduate school—feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, childcare, wife-work, housework. I’m feeling overwhelmed in life. I’m not doing anything well. Help me get back on track.”

The most helpful thing I could say to that woman whom I don’t know—I got this in a note—is: Take inventory. Ask God, “Am I supposed to be going to grad school while I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old at home?”

Now, I can’t answer that question for her, but I have a hunch how God will answer that question for her. Take inventory and say, “Am I living out the priorities and the agenda God has for this season of my life?”

Some people may be saying, “Well, I want to come home. I don’t want to be out in the marketplace. I want to be home with my family, but my husband doesn’t agree. What do I do?” I just say, start with the letter “P”—that is, pray.

Submit the request to the Lord. Tell the Lord your heart.

  • Ask God to move your husband’s heart.
  • Ask God to show you some creative ways to appeal to your husband without nagging or annoying him.
  • Ask God to show you some creative ways that that income you’re making outside the home . . . how the difference could be made up if you were inside your home.

There are resources that will help you as a woman think through how you can come into the home. If it is a matter of the husband who’s not willing for you to come into the home, then submit it to the Lord and wait on God to act. Trust God for grace in the meantime until God does change the heart of your husband.

Now, I realize we live in a fallen world, and there are some situations where the ideal may not be possible because of multiple wrong choices. There may have been wrong choices that have been made. One of the reasons there are a lot of two-income families today is because of debt. It may be wrong choices in the past that have forced a woman out into the marketplace.

The realities of those extreme situations and the prevalence of divorce and of working moms and single moms should not make us throw out the ideal. It should make us more conscious of the desirability of God’s plan and God’s ideal. What we’ve got to do is resist caving in to the culture.

I know this is a subject that can make us defensive. I’m just saying, take it to the Lord. Say, “Lord, what are Your priorities?” Be willing to step out in faith as you take inventory. Say, “Lord, I’m willing to walk by faith though this doesn’t make sense. I can’t imagine how we can make it on one income in this season of our lives, but if this is Your will and Your way, I know there will be grace to live out those priorities.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss showing us why living according to God’s priorities may require a substantial change in lifestyle. She’ll be right back with more of this series, First Things First.

A topic like today’s is going to generate a lot of comments, and there’s a place where you can easily make them. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com and open our listener blog. There you can read what others have to say about today’s message and join in the discussion.

Let’s get back to Nancy as she continues giving a point for each letter in the word priorities.

Nancy: You may have heard this story. I received it on email a little while ago. It says:

One day a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house.

Proceeding into the entry, he found even a bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and a throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room, a TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various  items of clothing.

In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. [Do you get the picture?]

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried that she may be ill or that something serious had happened.

He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled up in the bed in her pajamas reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her, bewildered, and asked, “What happened here today?”

She again smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world I did today?”

“Yes,” was his incredulous reply.

She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”

We’re talking about priorities and ordering our days—ordering our time—according to the job description God has given us for our lives. Once you know your job description, then we need to make sure that’s what we are doing.

Now we come to the letter “O.” P-R-I-O. We want to learn to order our schedule and our activities according to God’s priorities for our lives—God’s priorities for that season of our lives. Order our schedule according to the priorities that we have discovered in God’s Word.

Now, God’s Word won’t tell you specifically what your schedule should be in a given day. It will tell you what your priorities should be. Then you need wisdom from the Lord to order your schedule according to those priorities.

Determine what is really important, and then live your life accordingly. Choose your priorities according to God’s Word, and then live by them.

I think it is important that we make our priorities determine our schedule because, if we don’t, our schedule is going to determine our priorities. Then we are going to look at the end of the day—or a week or a year or, worse yet, a lifetime—and say, “I’ve done a lot of good things, but I didn’t fulfill the purpose for which God put me here on earth.”

Frustration in our lives will be the byproduct of trying to fulfill responsibilities that God doesn’t intend for us to carry.

I love that prayer in Psalm 119, verse 133, where the psalmist says, “Order my steps by your word.” I need not only to have God order the big picture in my life—what are my major priorities—but I need Him to order the steps of my day, my daily schedule.

When it comes to our schedule—our daily schedule, our weekly schedule, the activities of our lives—we need to always be trying to put first things first.

We talked about what those priorities are: the relationship with God. If you are a married woman, the relationship with your husband is your next most important priority. Then comes your responsibility as a mom to your children, the care of your home. Then ministry in acts of mercy that God may give you to the poor and needy. Those are your first priorities. Put the first things first.

Be ruthless in going through your activity list—your “to do” list—and saying, “Are these things fulfilling the first priorities?” Once you fulfill those other priorities, if you can fit other things in, then do that.

I got an email last week from a friend. She had just written about a paragraph, and then it ended abruptly, saying, “I’ve got to go.” It didn’t say why. The next day I got another email from her. She said, “Sorry I had to end that email so quickly, but my teenage daughter came in, and she needed her mom.” That’s a woman who’s learning to order her day according to her priorities—first things first.

Some of you are wondering what this setup is here on this table. For those of you who aren’t with us and are listening, I’ve got two empty glass containers and a bag of split peas. No, this is not what I had for lunch. Then I have a bag of larger balls.

As I was thinking about this matter of ordering our schedule—ordering our days—and trying to do it around priorities, I want to demonstrate two ways of ordering our schedule.

The first is the way that I found myself living many, many days. I’m going to take this bag of tiny little split peas and pour it into the one empty container. I find myself getting up in the morning many days and starting to hit the day running, with all the little responsibilities and demands and calls that may be involved in my life: answering phone calls, answering emails, rearranging my desk, getting the clutter off my desk.

I get to about two or three o’clock in the afternoon, having done all these little things all day long that are good things—and that, at the moment, I think are important things. Then, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, I realize there are some really important things that I need to do in my day.

I’m taking out these bigger balls now. As you can see, these split peas have filled the jar about half-full, and I’m about halfway through my day. I realize there are some major things that I haven’t yet done in my day—things like spend time with the Lord, get in the Word. So I say, “I’ve got to get some time to cultivate my relationship with the Lord today. After all, that is my first priority: my relationship with Him.”

So I put that ball into my day (this jar symbolizing what I'm filling my day with). Then I think, “I’ve got radio programs to prepare for next week. I’ve got to be studying on the matter of priorities!” By this time, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m exhausted from all these little things that I’ve been filling my day with. But I say, “I’ve just got to get to this because we are recording radio next week.”

So I put another ball in my day. And you can see, now that glass jar is quite full. Then I realize there’s a deadline I have for tomorrow. I have an article I’ve got to finish writing. It’s another major priority in the list of things God has given me to do, but there is no more time in my day. There is no more room in my day. My jar is full.

What if, when I get up in the morning—thinking, as we all are tempted to do, “There is just no way to fit everything that needs to be done in my day”—I start by saying, “Lord, would You order my steps in Your Word? Would You show me what are the first things and help me to put the first things first?”

So what am I going to start my day with? I want to start my day with my relationship with the Lord. So I’m going to take this large ball and put it into the empty glass jar. I’ve got an empty day. I’m starting out into the day, and I start by saying, “Lord, I need to spend time in Your Word, time in Your presence, time in prayer seeking You and getting Your marching orders for my day.” That’s the first thing first.

Then I say, “I have radio programs to prepare for next week, so how about I put the first things first.” I put another ball into my day that’s the hard thing—the study time, the hours that that requires.

Then there’s perhaps something else big in my day. There’s somebody in my family who has a need. I need to take time to cultivate that relationship, to minister to them—as I made a phone call last night to my mother, knowing that it had been several days since we had talked. That’s a big thing in my life: cultivating my relationship, honoring her. I put that ball into my day—the first things.

Then maybe there’s another big thing in my day: a letter that I’ve been needing to write. I’ve been putting it off, but I need to get that into my day. So now I’ve got four big balls in my day. Now, in this other jar I was only able to fit two big balls. Now I’ve got four of these in my day. So how am I going to fit in all those other things?

Well, I’m going to take this bag of split peas, representing the many, many other things that cry for my attention. They are not the first things, but they are good things. They are things that I agree fall into the priorities of my life—not the most important ones. I start pouring them into my day.

Watch how they fit around and all fit into the jar that already has the balls—the four major balls—in it. And there’s room, except for the few that fell on the floor, to put all of those small things that need to go into my day. What are they doing? They are fitting in around the major things. They’re fitting around the big things.

Put the first things first. Lord, order my steps according to Your Word.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss pointing out the best source for setting priorities: the Bible.

We hope you’ll make Bible reading a priority in 2011. Nancy wants to encourage listeners to read the Bible every single day. If you can brush your teeth every day and get dressed every day, you can read the Bible every day.

Would you commit to reading at least some portion of Scripture each day in 2011? If you’d like to take on a bigger challenge, you can download some of the Bible reading plans available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

What gets in the way of priorities? Phone calls, emails, homework, chauffeuring, a one-day sale at the department store, and other little urgent interruptions. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will help you break through some of those time-stealers with an important word about the tyranny of the urgent, tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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