Your Life, Less Complicated: Lisa Whittle
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Lisa WhittleLisa Whittle is the author of eight books, and her wit and bold bottom-line approach have made her a sought-after Bible teacher. She is also the creator of a companion video Bible study for Jesus over Everything. A pastor’s daughter and longtime ministry leader in issues relevant to the church, Lisa is the founder of Ministry Strong and the popular Jesus over Everything podcast, which debuted in the top 25 of Christian podcasts. Her love runs deep to see people pursue Jesus for life, gro...more
Looking for a less complicated version of your life? Author Lisa Whittle offers one critical strategy to simplifying everything—and why it works.
Your Life, Less Complicated: Lisa Whittle
Ann: Oh no!
Dave: What competes in your life for Jesus, like more important than Jesus? What is the biggest competitor to Jesus being the most important person?
Dave: No, it’s not me. [Laughter]
Ann: I said that on purpose.
Dave: What do you think I’m going to think about this?
Ann: You’re going to say grandkids.
Dave: Yes that it.
Ann: And before that it was probably kids.
Dave: Yes, why isn’t it me?
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I want it to be me. It’s always somebody else.
Ann: It is you honey. It is you, it’s just that they’re more demanding but you are always at the top.
Dave: Whatever, you’re just-
Ann: What’s yours? What competes with you?
Dave: What do you think it is?
Ann: Golf. [Laughter]
Dave: Golf? It’s not golf.
Dave: If I was good-
Dave: Tennis. [Laughter] Sounds like all I do is play [Laughter]
Ann: What is yours?
Dave: I thought stuff -
Dave: -stuff and comfort. Anyway why we’re talking about this is - we have Lisa Whittle in the studio. She wrote a book called Jesus Over Everything. Lisa, welcome to FamilyLife Today. We’re so glad you’re here.
Lisa: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Ann: Lisa, we need you. [Laughter] The subtitle is called Uncomplicating the Daily Struggle to Put Jesus First
Ann: I mean we hear that and we think, “Uh,” that is a struggle.
Dave: I want to know what yours is. I mean-
Dave: we sort of bared-
Ann: come on-
Dave: our souls.
Ann: That’s right, lay it down.
Lisa: Yes, family would be mine for sure. That is at the top. Kids. Obviously.
Dave: Your husband and kids?
Lisa: Yes, oh yes for sure.
Dave: Three kids
Ann: You’re saying your husband’s first.
Dave: One of them married?
Ann: Now you’re making me look bad.
Lisa: No, no, no, I have kids. My husband would definitely say, “Let’s be real here, it's the kids.” [Laughter] Um, it used to be shopping. Because I love bargains. I also love decorating my home.
Lisa: I wanted to be an interior decorator at one point. It’s art for me, it really is. People are like, “Oh really, sure it’s art.” No but really [Laughter] like dressing and clothes and things for my home, it’s like art. It’s a creativity for me. Anything that’s great can also become bad. [Laughter]
Lisa: At a certain point.
Dave: The title of your book, Jesus Over Everything, please explain what that all means.
Lisa: First of all, I’m a bottom line person Dave. I kind of in my own life, because things are–there’s so many things that are coming at me every day, whether it be on social media, statements that are thrown at me; I’m a pastor’s daughter so I’ve heard a zillion messages my whole life. And I think I got to the point where I thought, “What, what is it? What do I really want to live? What do I really want to know? What is the statement that not only do I want to be the mark of my life but what really matters here?” And it was the phrase Jesus over everything.
Lisa: He has to be over everything. That’s where even the subtitle of the book Uncomplicating the Daily Struggle to Put Jesus First came, because as He is in that space as Jesus over everything else, your life becomes less complicated. It helps you with decision making. It helps you with priority order. So things become much more clear. And for me I think there’s been a quest in my life to have clarity, to have a real litmus test for making decisions. What is it going to be? Because there’s so many things thrown at you. And so I like to bottom line things in my life, and to me this has become the number one, bottom line decision maker, everything in my life, Jesus over everything. “Is this about Jesus? Is He over this? Is that what the decision is right now?” And it has helped me in so many ways.
Ann: Lisa, why don’t we do that? I think a lot of us can say those words like, “Oh yeah, I want Jesus over everything,” but in the practicality of living out our lives we don’t do it. And what are we afraid of?Y
Lisa: Well okay. You want me to be really honest?
Lisa: I think we think it’s not enough. I think we feel like in some way we can manage it better. I think we think, “Yes, but I can have a little bit of control.” That’s why I wrote the first chapter, The Land of the Deadly Overs, because in some way if we’re having a relationship issue, in some way if we want to manage our own PR, people’s perception of us, right, or something going on in our life, there’s some part of us that thinks, “I can help this situation. I can make things better.” Let’s say somebody invites us to a party and we don’t go. Our first go to is not usually, “You know I’m just going to stay in the space of saying, ‘Hey, I can’t come tonight. I’m so sorry. Thanks for the invitation.’” It is, “Let me over explain this.” [Laughter] “Let me explain why I can’t do that.” Especially for women
Lisa: I’m speaking to women especially. We think, “I need to explain all the reasons I can’t go.” Because in some way I think that it’s not enough to just stand in the space and allow God to be over this relationship that I somehow feel is out of my control. So I’m going to over explain it. I, I think we feel like it’s not enough, that it’s just a statement that Jesus over everything, but it’s actually a biblical idea from Colossians 1, that “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
Lisa: And it is priority order for our entire life. Here’s how it started out. I felt like that my relationship with the Lord was not where it needed to be. So I started investigating why that could be. You know, I've been a believer since I was six years old. I loved Jesus my whole life but I also loved me. And that’s been a rub of my life.
Ann: For all of us.
Lisa: All of us, yes. So I just started thinking, “Why do I not feel like my, my prayer life is not where it needs to be? Why do I feel like there is a breach between the Lord and I?” And I had sensed through some series of events that there was one incident that I had where a girlfriend came over and I was going to go on a TV show, and I needed some help dressing for this TV show and she’s a fashion consultant - and I remember she’s in my closet and said, “Oh my goodness Lisa, you have so many clothes.” And I remember feeling embarrassed and thinking, “I do? I have a lot of clothes?” And so that was like a one little sign, right? And then I went overseas and I remember being in a different country and seeing just the lack thereof - and it wasn’t like I didn’t know there was a lack, but it was seeing it in my face - that I came home and I just looked in my closet, and I looked at the surplus, and it just felt gross you know. There was just different events that happened leading to this place and the Holy Spirit had begun to speak to me about my, my shopping that was kind of just to fill–in that moment what I felt in my life was lax in my own emotions; or if I was bored or whatever. Sometimes people might feel like that with eating, or watching Netflix, or whatever the case may be. For me it was, “I think I’ll just go to Marshalls,” - and the thing that was puzzling about it a little Ann was, I buy things on sale. I don’t buy expensive things, [Laughter] “This is harmless. I’m buying three things and I’m still spending only $38,” or whatever the case may be. But what I had begun to suspect was that it might be coming between the Lord and I.
Lisa: I knew there was only one way to find out, and that was to be without shopping for a little while, to see. I said to the Lord, “Okay, I will do this for six weeks. I will not shop for myself, because that–maybe this is coming between us. I feel like maybe shopping is coming between us, and I don’t want anything between us,”
Lisa: “And I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I–this is what I suspect so I’m going for six weeks not shop.”
Ann: Six weeks.
Lisa: And for me, what were my points of problem I’ll say, was buying things for my home, or buying things for myself in the sense of like clothing, shoes,
Ann: Ah, shoes.
Lisa: hats, things like that. So I’m not talking about deodorant. [Laughter] I’m not talking about things like that. Because that’s not a problem for me. Those were necessities that I would buy when I just needed them. These were things that I didn’t need more shirts. I didn’t need more hats. I didn’t need more pillows. So, for six weeks I didn’t buy anything for myself.
Ann: Okay, what was it like?
Ann: It’s almost like a fast. When you feel hungry you pray.
Lisa: hmm hmm
Ann: What did you do when you wanted to go shopping?
Lisa: I would not allow myself to go to any stores physically that were a trigger. At the time online shopping wasn’t that big of a deal for me because this was back in 2013, so that wasn’t as prevalent. There were a few times that I would, after the six weeks, which I’ll tell you about that in a minute, that when I’d go I put things in my cart and I would have to abandon my cart and just leave it. Which I know is irresponsible people, [Laughter] but it was better to do that than to go buy something. But I’ll tell you one of the things I did was, I wasn’t going to announce it publicly. I wasn’t going to–at the time I was blogging. I wasn’t going to announce it, because I wanted it to be a private thing between God and I, but He really put it on my heart to put it on my blog so that I would have accountability,
Lisa: so that if someone in my city who maybe knew who I was or who read my blog were to see me it would be embarrassing. So I actually did put it on my blog for accountability that I was going to do this fast, but what happened after six weeks was the Lord said to me, “You’re not done.” And I said, “Okay, I’m not done.” And it ended up that I knew that He wanted me to do it for a year. And I swallowed hard and I said, “Okay, we’ll do it.”
Ann: How did you know you were done?
Lisa: I because the year was over and I felt closure on it. I felt the reason why I also knew I was done was I felt that the, the grip on me had loosened to the point where I now could be in recovery mode - and I had a system the Lord and I had really worked through what it was going to be like after because we knew that after that–I knew that after that there needed to be a process of what I would do then. And I still live by the process. When I buy one piece of clothing, I have to get rid of five others in my closet. It has become something that I live with now that is very important for me. And I’ve had to go on shorter fasts from that time if I felt like I was slipping back into it.
Ann: Ah, see, that's so good and it’s also so convicting. But asking the question, “Lord, is there anything I put in place before you?”
Ann: I’m in Chronicles right now and am reading all about the kings that had so many idols and they were worshiping idols, and I just wrote in the margin of my Bible, “God, what are my idols?”
Ann: And for you it was shopping. It was like, “Uh, this is my quick fix.” And I think we all have those fixes that we go to that thing before we go to Jesus.
Lisa: Yes. It’s been very powerful for families and this book has been given out to a lot of kids going into college because it is such a core, faith practice and it’s something that we don’t talk about enough. I mean this is a biblical idea. It’s also, you know, talking about idolatry, and I talk about Joshua 24 in here. It’s so important you know when Joshua was giving this sort of the last speech in Joshua 23 I believe. But in Joshua 24 he’s talking about the fact of, “Hey if you want to know what to do because the people are saying, ‘Oh we want to serve the Lord, we are determined to serve the Lord,’ he’s saying, “Okay, put away your idols, and serve God.’” That’s what you do. I mean listen, the thing is, all day long we can come up with strategies. But it is about putting away all idols
Lisa: to serve God. And it is very simple. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it is very simple. And priority order is everything of the faith. It is literally from where else we go, whether it be in our marriages, whether it be in our families, whether it be surviving in this difficult world. This is the core. If we don’t have priority order right, we’re going to struggle in every other area in our life.
Ann: You’re an author, you’re a blogger, you’ve been writing Bible studies for women for years. What is it when they hear these principles of this book, what is it they have resonated with the most?
Lisa: You know that’s a great question. I mean you know these chapters are really interesting because I talk about everything from service over spotlight, steady over hype, commitment over mood.I think the last chapter that I inserted in this book was a chapter that I didn’t want to write, but yet I felt the most compelled by. It was holiness over freedom. That chapter has continued to be the one that people ask me about the most, talk about the most, share about the most, because it is probably the most important chapter in this book.
Lisa: I talk about my own choice not to drink alcohol in that chapter. I didn’t really want to talk about that, because people have a lot of different opinions about that. But it was about the idea of holiness - and what I wanted people to understand that it wasn’t this process of strict rules and regulations, that it was all about the better life. And it was all about having so much freedom in your relationship with Christ that you actually are choosing to do things that your freedom would allow, but at the end of the day doesn’t make you more holy. So you forgo those things just because the better life is the freedom life of holiness over here. I wanted people to understand what that was. Freedom of the Spirit, freedom in the Spirit, all of those things that chapter continues to be the most compelling. And I am the most changed by my own study of that.
Ann: It’s almost like when you were talking about your shopping fast, I’m thinking there’s so much study now on the brain science and what’s happening, you had developed a neurological pathway of this is where you go to get comfort.
Ann: And instead you did it for a year, it’s like you formed this new neurological pathway of you went to the Father. You went to God to fill those needs that may be your shopping need would fill. And I’m thinking about that–I think so many of us just naturally go to what’s comfortable, or what you’ve always done and you’re saying, “No,” when you choose Jesus over everything, He has a way of shaping and changing things - and that can be scary.
Lisa: Yes, it can be scary, but at the same time it is the way that we experience freedom in our life.
Ann: The best of freedom.
Lisa: Yes and Ann also I think a lot of us are living with lives that feel very complex. You know I can’t think of a person that I’ve talked to in the last six months that doesn’t say, “My life is very complicated.” I just feel like this is a mess over here and this is a mess over here, and this is – and again, our life is still going to be hard because John 16:33 says, “In this world there will be trouble.” That is not an ‘if’ statement, that is a ‘when’ statement, right? But we know of course the second part of that verse, “take heart, He’s overcome the world.” The thing about Colossians 1:17 through really 20, is the idea that priority order is His idea, and that’s the way our life will work the best. This is not a Lisa Whittle idea by any stretch. [Laughter] It is the fact that He says, “If you put me in first place the rest of your life, the rest of your decisions, the rest of the things that you do will give you an ease that other people don’t have. They will make your decisions easier. They will make your relationships different. There will be a different type of perspective and I’ll tell you one of the great struggles of writing this book was how do you put Jesus over everything into chapters? [Laughter] That’s kind of hard. Listen, I’m a glutton for punishment, I write hard books. I will just tell you that right now. It’s not easy but this is such an important thing that I knew I needed to write about this. So for me I thought, “What are we really dealing with here? What are the things that people find complicated in this day and time?” And I think we find it complicated to be honest. We find it complicated to, you know, be committed to something. So you know that was another chapter that I thought was very important, the commitment over mood, because most of us have these temporary bursts of faithfulness and we call that really a win, you know. And it’s really the idea of commitment over that. Like how can we have that? Because in this day and time, it’s going to take commitment, not our mood, not these temporary bursts of faithfulness to God. I wanted to break it down into chapters where people could understand what a Jesus over everything lifestyle looks like. It won’t be perfection. We will not be perfect in this. But as we put Him in His rightful place where He belongs, these things fall in line in a different way.
Dave: And it also reminds me of Matthew 6, which I know you know well,
Lisa: hmm hmm
Dave: where Jesus says, “If you seek first He and His Kingdom, all these other things…” and it’s interesting where He identifies in that culture are still the things in our culture. We started there. The shopping fast is probably about, “What am I going to wear, where am I going to live, how am I going to be taken care of?” I mean I don’t know if women deal with it this way as men do, but when I think Jesus over everything, one of the things I immediately think of, probably because I’m a pastor as well, is money.
Dave: I mean especially in our world in America we’re very wealthy, even though we don’t think we are,
Dave: we are. And as a pastor I knew for 30 years, 80 percent of my church does not give financially.
Dave: 20 percent give sacrificially. Most of them don’t. Probably alot of us would say, “Jesus is over everything,” but if we don’t give. I think that’s like a fast. It’s like it shows us, “Uh this is what is really my god.”
Dave: I’m unwilling to give 5, 10–I mean we hear 10 percent. If I ever preach that people get mad.
Dave: I’m like God says keep nine and just give me one out of the ten I give you, and people are–is that an indication? It’s like, okay, that’s one we’ve got to look at.
Lisa: 100 percent, I say this in the book. We, we say a lot of things but our life tells the truth.
Lisa: I mean our life tells the truth.
Ann: hmm hmm
Lisa: I guess for me a lot of this comes down to really plain and simple things. What do you want in your life? Do you want your life to continue to be complicated? Do you want to continue to have, decisions that are really tough to maneuver? I just think that when you start talking about things like priority order, Jesus over everything, it becomes very simple. It becomes very practical, and you know of course Satan would love for us to think in much more complicated terms. “Well, this is so hard for you to understand what to do over here. And how do you do this? And how do you____? He is the master of confusion, right? God is not that way. These things that God has put in His Word for us are for us.
Lisa: They are for our simplicity. They are for our life. Sure money is important obviously and it’s not in and of itself a bad thing we know.
Lisa: But when it becomes a god over our life I mean we have seen the destruction it can cause.
Lisa: Same with sex. Same with shopping. Same with food. You know in and of these things, what? I mean God has given us the beauty in all of those things.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Lisa Whittle on FamilyLife Today. You know Ann’s got a few thoughts on thinking you know more than Jesus and tandem bikes. You’ll want to stick around to hear how those things go together. But first, Lisa Whittle has written a book called Jesus Over Everything: Uncomplicating the Daily Struggle to Put Jesus First. You can get your copy at FamilyLifeToday.com. Just click on today’s resources or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That’s 800, ‘F’ as in family, ‘L’ as in life, and then the word TODAY. And some guests that we had on previously this week on FamilyLife Today were Shaunti Feldhahn and Dr. Michael Sytsma. They’ve written a book called Secrets of Sex and Marriage: Eight Surprises That Make all the Difference. We’d love to send you a copy of that along with Family Life’s online course called The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. You’ll get both as our thanks when you partner together financially with FamilyLife. You’ll help more families hear conversations just like today’s. Conversations that point to the hope found in Jesus Christ. You can give at FamilyLifeToday.com or again you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That’s 800, ‘F’ as in family ‘L’ as in life and then the word TODAY.
Alright here’s Ann with thoughts on tandem bikes and thinking we know better than Jesus.
Ann: I’m a visual learner,
Lisa: hmm hmm
Ann: and I usually have visual ideas that come to my mind when we teach about stuff. And maybe some of our listeners have seen this illustration that I use, a tandem [bike]. And I talk about before I knew Jesus I was in the front seat of that tandem. When I heard the gospel for the first time I was 16, and I wasn’t really sure what that looked like, “Yes I want Jesus in my life, get on the back of the tandem Jesus,” and that wasn’t really going well, because I was controlling my life. I was making the decisions. But the day that I was fully surrendered, it’s the Romans 12:1 of, “Lay your bodies before God as a living sacrifice,” that was scary for me.
Ann: –because I didn’t know that He was a good God yet. I didn’t know if He was a loving God. I thought that He might make me marry a pastor, [Laughter] live in Detroit, you never know what He’s going to do. But I’ll never forget the day I told God, “I am all in. I don’t want anything before You. I want to be Your servant. I’ll serve You and love You the best I can the rest of my life.” And man when I got on that backseat of that tandem and I put Jesus in the front, for a while I didn’t like where He was going. I didn’t like where He was taking me at times. But then, just as you said Lisa, I started to realize He knows me; He loves me; He created me; He knows what path I should take and there is a freedom in that. And I think of every day of my life when I wake up, my prayer is, “God I give You my life.”
Ann: “I give You all of me. I want You to be before everything.” And there is joy and freedom. It’s not easy, and it’s not easy to put Him there. Because I think sometimes I know better than Jesus, but I don’t.
Shelby: Tomorrow Dave and Ann are joined again with Lisa Whittle where she goes over the changes and miracles that happen when we place Jesus first. That’s tomorrow.
Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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