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Fear Not

Recently I was studying Haggai and the Lord suddenly stopped me in chapter 2 verse 4.  It states,

Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

As I continued reading, I just kept coming back to these verses, so I started to rewrite the verses into my own words to make sure I truly understood what each word said and what exactly God was trying to teach me.

Be able to withstand great force or pressure, proclaims the Lord.  Work, labor, exert to produce something at a later time, for I am with you, the Lord said in a solemn and emphatic manner,  My Spirit continues in the same state with you in your midst.  Fear, dismay, dread, apprehension, fright, panic, concern NOT.

Something crazy happens when I start defining and rewriting words.  Suddenly, the Lord isn’t just saying be strong and push through life.  He is saying continue in this path I have you on and don’t just continue in it, be so in the Lord’s presence that I can withstand great pressure.  Great pressure.

Lately I’ve often felt that “great pressure” but I’ve not equated it with being strong.  I’ve felt this pressure to act a certain way, be a certain type of friend, run a certain type of ministry, and this morning, the Lord opened my eyes to the connection to when He tells me to “be strong”, He is saying “withstand that great pressure”.

And then the verse goes on to say that in the midst of that great pressure continue to exert forth effort and do what God has called you to do so that something will be produced at a later time.  Don’t just withstand great force and stand there.  Be strong and work for a future benefit.

But God doesn’t stop there, He goes on to point out that the only reason you can withstand great pressure and exert effort to produce what He desire for you is because He is with you and His Spirit will continue to be among you always.

Knowing His Spirit is among you and with you and in your midst results in the final action that says not to fear, be dismayed, scared, or panic.

This whole section is wrecking me.  The “great pressure” that I was worried was telling me I was doing something wrong, that I’m not good enough, that I’m a bad friend, that I need to change, can really just be the ‘great pressure” I need to endure in order to complete what God has called me to do.  I tend to view the “great pressure” as a sign I’m doing something wrong.  The poor me attitude comes on, and I start to think about everywhere that I’m failing my family, my friends, myself, and my church.  Instead of pushing through that “great pressure”, I start to allow it to consume me.

God is calling me to something more.  His word clearly states to exert effort and continue to do what God calls you to do even when life around you isn’t supporting or encouraging you.  Continue to learn to rely on the Spirit to push you forward and help you do this and fear will disappear.

I don’t know about you, but for me there are times in life where it is easy to endure and push forward, and then there are times where all you hear is negative opinions or hurtful comments or life seems to be crumbling around you, and its easy to doubt  you’re  doing what God has called you to do.  When you stop walking forward, relying on the Spirit, and exerting effort to push through the great pressure, a funny thing happens…fear starts to settle in.  Fear of opinions, fear of making the wrong decisions, fear of a lot of things.

But open up the Bible and God practically screams at us to push, to exert effort, to run forward, and to allow the Spirit to lead us.  He reminds us to obey what He has asked of us and to continue on because His Spirit is with us always.

And that TRUTH  gives us the courage to “BE STRONG” and “FEAR NOT”.

 

 

 

Reprimands

Over and over again in the scriptures, I notice how the men of God respond when people sin against God or them.  They don’t gossip or get frustrated or yell or throw fits or cut off all communication with them; the men of God immediately seek God.

As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6 saying: …“And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments… (Ezra 9)

Ezra could have screamed and yelled.  He could have kicked the offending parties out and cut off all communication with them.  He could have reacted a lot like we do when we are offended, hurt, or see someone we are close to chose sin.  But he didn’t.

The minute the sin came to his attention, he fasted and sat with the Lord IN SILENCE.  After seeking the Lord for a significant amount of time, he then sought forgiveness on behalf of the offending parties, and eventually asked the Lord for direction on how to correct the sin.

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if all of us who claimed to love the Lord reacted to other people’s sin in this matter.  We took it as a serious offense against God and not against us.  We weren’t personally offended and defensive but rather immediately sought the Lord and allowed Him to respond to the sin.  We lived in this manner that said, “I trust God to solve this sin issue.  I don’t have to fix it in my own power or strength. I don’t even have to tell God how to fix it.  He is big enough and smart enough.”

What would our home look like?  What would our church look like?  What would our heart look like?

I know I struggle with this.  At times, I take it as a personal offense when people are rude or gossip or deliberately choose sin.  I want to talk about their choices and come up with solutions to “fix” them.  My default is to think about the offense against me instead of immediately fasting and seeking the Lord.  But I want my default to change.  Today I’m committing to working hard to change that default and allowing the Holy Spirit to change my mind and heart to trust the Lord,.  To truly seek Him first instead of seeking my own solution to a problem first.

I can only imagine how freeing this will be.

Good Reminder This Morning

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.

2 Chronicles 26:16

Life over the last 8 months has definitely humbled me.  The crazy part is I didn’t even know I needed to be humbled! But as I look back over the last few years, I realize that I really was getting “strong” and felt like I was in control of a lot of my life.  My kids were great, my marriage was great, I worked part time at my favorite job of all time, my students were fantastic, my neighbor constantly was there to encourage and point me to the Lord, we had plenty of friends, Brent and I were able to do Crossfit together,….the list could go on.

Overall, I definitely felt “in control” of life…and I liked it.

Since moving, all of that control has been stripped right out of my hands….and it hurt….a lot.

Then I read about King Uzziah this morning.  He served God wholeheartedly and completely devoted Himself to the Lord; Until he got strong and successful and began to reap the benefits of God blessing him.  Then he began to take control himself and became proud.  This led to him becoming angry at the priests who tried to point him back to God’s rules.  His anger in his heart resulted in God striking him with leprosy.  I’m pretty sure while he sat in isolation for the rest of his life, his pride was shattered, his strength was taken, and he was again able to be dependent on the Lord.

I’m grateful I don’t have to be struck with leprosy to be reminded that strength and control over life isn’t always a good thing.  I’m thankful that God loves me enough to humble me greatly and strip me of all things so that I can rely on Him completely.  I truly am  grateful for the 8 months of turmoil that has keep me dependent on the Lord.

Grateful list:

16.  Thankful for weakness

17. Thankful God is living and active and continually speaks to me and draws me near to Him

18. Thankful I can trust my kids to God and He will protect them and draw them to Himself

19. Thankful for the sun shining through the gym window yesterday

20. Thankful for our Y membership

21. Thankful to be healthy enough to start another Warriorfit session

22. Thankful for a gracious principal that desires for the teachers to succeed

23. Thankful for good students

24. Thankful for the teacher who introduced me to Socratic Seminars 10 years ago

25. Thankful for afternoons spent outside enjoying the fall weather

26. Thankful that God speaks through His Word

27.Thankful for good coffee

28. Thankful for a few minutes alone yesterday

29. Thankful for a husband who will help me fold all the laundry

30. Thankful for a family who is so grateful and appreciates meals I prepare

31. Thankful for Heavenly Homemakers recipies

32. Thankful for Brent making coffee every morning

33. Thankful for the quiet of the 5:00am hour

34. Thankful for random spottings and quick chats with friends

35. Thankful for my sister who will take time to encourage me, love me where I’m at, not try to change me, but simply remind me of truth.

Its Been Awhile

Its been awhile since I’ve written.  Mainly because there are so many changes and transitions that I haven’t been able to even wrap my mind around our life much less write about it.

But I have noticed that with all the transitions and change, my attitude has started to change a bit.  I’m working two jobs and have simply let my exhaustion dictate my mood.  This morning as I was reading Jonah, God pulled this quote out from the text:

“Do you do well to be angry?

I suddenly realized that I was a bit angry at what my daily life was looking like.  I was a bit angry I didn’t have as much time with my kids.  I was a bit angry that it feels like there isn’t much down time in life anymore.  I was a bit angry about how I have been treated by someone.  Overall, I was just a bit angry.

Its not a huge raging anger; it is more subtle.  The kind you don’t notice until it starts bubbling out of your mouth when exhaustion hits its highest point.

This morning God opened my eyes to my anger, and I’m left with a decision:  do I deal with it or ignore it?  I’m choosing to deal with it, confess it, repent of it, and shift my focus to what God HAS given me instead of where I’m disappointed.  So today begins again my journey of thankfulness.   Its hard to be angry when your heart is continually looking at life through grateful eyes.

Grateful List:

1. A job where I pour into teenagers every day

2. A team of people willing to help me plan the women’s retreat

3. Furniture to sit on

4. A puppy who likes to cuddle and is relatively calm

5. A patient husband who serves me and waits calmly for me to adjust to all the changes in life

6. Kids who are resiliant

7. God pulling Justus’ heart toward Him

8. An electric blanket (it was freezing last night!)

9. A fireplace that works

10. Our own house with plenty of space

11. A fence in the backyard

12. Beautiful sunsets over the bean field at the end of the street

13. Great neighbors

14. Most of the boxes being unpacked

15. A rainy day to get schoolwork done

Silence and Solitude

I can hardly believe we are at week 6 of this study!  Last night at our small group we all agreed that out of all of the weeks, this week may be the hardest.  Being silent to pursue God is different than being silent so I can think or plan.  I’m excited to see how God draws me to Himself in greater ways this week!

 

Week 6: Silence and Solitude

In quietness and trust is your strength Isaiah 30:15

“By periodically distancing ourselves from schedules, noises, and crowds, we become less captivated by the demands and expectations of others and more captivated by the purposes of God.  In this way, we measure and define ourselves in terms of what God thinks rather than what people think..” -Kenneth Boa

Silence involves learning to keep our mouth quiet while solitude is simply abstaining from people’s company.  Both these disciplines were seen multiple times through Jesus’ ministry on earth.  He began his ministry by retreating to the desert for 40 days.  He spent the night alone in the hills before He began choosing His disciples. He fed the 5000 and then he retreated to pray.  Over and over again we see Jesus retreating into solitude and silence so that He can communicate and listen to God.  If Jesus saw the need for time away, we can definitely understand the importance of practicing solitude and silence.

Silence is defined as setting aside regular times to be quiet and always involves the act of listening.  This could be as little as 10 minutes a day or as much as a whole month!  This type of silence is simply a time for us to quiet the thoughts that seem to shout at us during the day and listen to God.

But silence doesn’t just have to be in time increments.  We can also practice situational silence.  Situational silence teaches us how to speak in moderation.  This involves making an effort to control your tongue and simply be silent instead of having the last word in a discussion,  or making sure our opinion is heard, or interrupting others to tell our thoughts, or even silencing the mind and truly paying attention to what others are saying.   Situational silence is an excellent way to learn wisdom about when to speak and when to hold your tongue.

Both solitude and silence are essential as we pursue Christ simply because it quiets our soul and gets us out of the way so we can begin to hear God.  Richard Foster describes solitude as “inner fulfillment”.

And don’t get stuck thinking that solitude is a place you must go to!  Solitude is more of a state of mind and heart than it is a place.  Once you learn to quiet your heart and mind, you can practice solitude anywhere!

 

Activity #1: Discovering Our Fears

  • Spend time praying and asking God to reveal any fears you may have about being alone.  Are you lonely, afraid of losing control, feeling helpless when you don’t speak, afraid of what others will think of you if you don’t speak?  Are these fears driving you to pursue crowds and noise instead of time with God?  Talk with God about your fears and surrender them to Him.  Ask Him to teach you how to be alone and silent and learn to trust Him more.

 

Activity #2: Taking Advantage of the Small Moments

  • Take “little” steps into solitude today.  The few moments when you wake up but before you get out of bed, quiet your mind and heart before God.  The drive to work, shut the radio off and enjoy the silence and solitude of your car. The few moments when all the kids mouths are full of food and they are quiet, enjoy the few minutes of silence.  There are many little moments of silence throughout the day that we often miss.  Make an effort to find those moments today and use them to quiet yourself before the Lord.

 

Activity #3: Situational Silence

  • Think through the idea of situational silence.  Do you have a tendency or feel the need to always state your opinion?  Do you find yourself not really listening when others are talking?  Spend a few quiet moments with the Lord and ask Him to reveal to you areas where you need to practice situational silence.

  • Then all day long, make an effort to only speak when ABSOLUTELY necessary.   At the end of the day, journal your thoughts and feelings as you held your tongue.  Was it freeing?  Did it make you feel helpless?  Try doing this activity every day this week and see if your feelings and thoughts change as the week progresses.

Activity #4: Extended Solitude

  • Find 1-3 hours this week where you can escape from all people and responsibilities.  Turn your phone off and simply be still before the Lord.  It may feel uncomfortable and awkward at first because we have programmed ourselves to need noise and constant communication, but don’t give up!

  • Write down your dreams and goals for the next week, month, or year.  Talk to God about those dreams and listen for His voice as you seek refreshment in His presence.

 

Fasting

Week 4: Fasting

“The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things.”  -Ole Hallesby

Fasting is such a great way to abstain from food or certain activities (such as watching TV or participating in other activities) IN ORDER to replace that time with pursuing God.  By denying our self and our own desires, God will not only begin to reveal sin in our life we may not even know was there, we will also begin to learn to be content with God when we don’t get what we want and to rely on Him to meet our needs.

Fasting is essentially dying to self and learning to trust God.  We need to learn to still be cheerful and content by the power of the Holy Spirit instead of by the power of chocolate, or FB comments, or instagrams likes.

The danger of fasting is that it can quickly become more about you than about God because you are the one who will feel the sting of fasting.  So start small and daily check your heart and remind yourself you are fasting SO THAT you can meet with God.

Activity #1:  Time Audit:

  • Every 30 minutes write down what you did.  Include every time you check your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, search the web, watch TV, text,  or eat snacks.  At the end of the day, notice what you spend the majority of your time doing or eating.  Is there something that seems to consume most of your time or thoughts?  Pray and ask God if there is something on your list He desires you to “fast” from so that you can seek Him instead of the “thing” you have been doing.

Activity #2: Fasting

  • Decide on one thing you are going to “fast” from and how long you will fast from it.  Every time you start to crave what you are fasting from (either an activity or food), go through one of the prayer or meditation activities from the previous 2 weeks.  Remember, we are fasting in order to seek God so train yourself to look to Him and rely on Him when fasting gets difficult.

Activity #3:  Breathe Prayers

  • Throughout your fast, practice “breathe prayers”.  As you breathe out, you pray short phrases reminding you of God’s goodness and character.  “strong and cheerful”   “trusting God today”  “God will sustain me”

Activity #4: Journal

  • At the end of every day you fast, journal your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and anything you learned.  Spend time talking with God about what you felt during the day.

 

This week begins a week of intentionally denying something in order to seek God more.  As I spent a week meditating and memorizing God’s word last week, it was already really clear to me I needed to fast from FB, twitter, and games on my phone.  The Lord quickly revealed to me this past week how I turn to those things when I get stressed.  So this week I’m focusing on turning to God, instead of those things, when life gets crazy.  What about you?

Meditation

I am not sure what it is about the area we live in, but the internet is very unreliable here.  In fact, over the past 48 hours, EVERY time I have opened my computer to post this, the internet has died in the middle of the post.  You don’t realize how much you use the internet until its unavailable =)  But here is Week 3…better late than never.

Week 3: Meditation

“What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart.” -Richard Foster

Sometimes when we hear the word “meditation”, we think of all the Eastern religions in the world.  We picture humming, legs crossed, eyes closed, and an attempt to empty our mind of everything.  This is NOT what Christian meditation is all about!

Christian meditation is an attempt to fill our mind with Christ.  We meditate in order to detach from the world around us and attach to God.  It is in this “attaching”, that we are able to make heart changes which allow us to begin to think the thoughts of God, delight in His presence, and desire His way and His truth in our life.

But meditation is not easy.  You must truly dedicate yourself this week to this practice while removing those things that may distract you.  Meditation is different than Bible study.  It is a slow process.  One of my favorite authors, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  states, “often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns that it may take a long time before God’s Word has swept aside and come through…This is the very reason why we begin our meditation with the prayer God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us.”

By committing to meditate on God’s word this week, you are committing to hear and obey God.  He will speak to you as you sit with Him.  Not because you have special abilities or because you do things right, but simply because you are willing to listen to him!

Begin each activity by praying and asking God to give you the desire and ability to meditate.  Then find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted! (no TV, no phone, no husband, no kids) I know it may be difficult to find a quiet space, but really try this week!  Ask your husband, your neighbor, or your family for help.  Get up early or stay up late.  Do the activities in the shower when you are by yourself.  Lock yourself in a closet.  Get desperate and truly make an effort to connect to God through meditation this week.

Activity #1: Using Your Imagination

  • Take a single event, parable, or simply a few verses in one of the Gospels and read it multiple times.  Close your eyes and let your imagination truly experience the passage.  Think through the emotions you would have felt if you have been present during this event.  Truly engage your senses as you visualize this scripture passage.

Activity #2: Turning things Over to God/Receiving from God

  • Sit or stand in a quiet place and quiet your heart before the Lord.  Think about something that is bothering you, causing anxiety, or is simply on your mind multiple times throughout the day.  Place your palms down and state (either aloud or in your thoughts) “I realize _____ is consuming me.  I give _____ to you Lord.”   Then turn your hands palm up and tell God you are ready to receive from him what He desires for you.  This is something that may need to be done throughout the day whenever you feel the concern, the emotion, or the stressor creeping into your thoughts.

Activity #3: Connecting to God Through Nature

  • Talk a long walk through God’s creation.  While you are walking, truly notice how intricate  and beautiful God has created all things.  Spend time in His presence just marveling at His beauty.

Activity #4: Meditating on Scripture

  • The scripture tells us to hide God’s word in our heart THAT we might not sin against Him. (Ps 119:11)  Simply memorizing and meditating on scripture can keep us from choosing sin throughout the day.  It also gives us access to God’s thoughts, wisdom, and ideas as we walk through our day!

  • Pick a short passage of scripture.  Try  Ps 121 and memorize and meditate on God’s glory.  Or use your concordance and pick verses that directly deal with a specific topic of your choice.  The choice of the passage is up to you.  The point is to have God’s word in your mind continually throughout the day.

    • Helpful hints when trying to memorize

      • If you have a smartphone, you can use the verse as your screen lock. Your phone is usually with you, so you can review the verse throughout the day on your phone.   If you don’t have a smartphone, write the verse on various notecards and place them in your car, on your mirror, outside your shower, on the fridge, at your desk, on your computer screen, etc…

      • Every time you stop at a red light, review your verse.

      • Before you open your computer to check email, FB, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever, review your verse.

      • Before you go to sleep at night, review your verse.

Activity #5: End of the evening meditation:

  • Let the last thought of the day be of Christ.  Instead of watching TV or playing on the computer, decide to let the last thoughts of your night be ones focused on Christ.  As you lay down in your bed, picture yourself wrapped in the peace of Christ.  You might even want to go through a prayer such as the one below….

 

“In peace I will lie down, for it is you, O Lord, You alone who makes me to rest secure.”

 

Two weeks of intentionally seeking God and meeting with a group of women who hold me accountable and push me towards a deeper relationship with Christ has been incredible.  I have noticed my thought patterns and my attitude/frustration level has radically changed.  Cannot wait to jump into week 3 and watch God continue to work in me and through me!

 

 

Pursuing the Study of God’s Word

Week 2: Study

“I have never known someone leading a spiritually transformed life who has not been deeply saturated in scripture” -John Ortberg

Reading Scripture is a discipline that is so vitally important but yet is often pushed to the side.  However, studying God’s words is what will transform our minds.  Paul urges us in Philippians 4:8 to think about whatever is noble, true, pure, praiseworthy, or excellent.  The analyzing of scripture is one of the first ways that we can begin to condition our mind to really think these thoughts.

As we truly concentrate on scripture and then comprehend a verse or verses in a new way, we begin to understand God’s desire for us and can discern His will for our life more.  Study leads to a freedom that only comes from a deeper knowledge of who God is. So before you start the activities this week, take some time to pray and ask the Lord to open your mind to comprehend what He wants to say to you this week.

Why Do We Study the Bible:

  • We desperately need to know how the Bible intersects with our life

  • We don’t want just head knowledge ABOUT God, we want to truly come to know the God of the scriptures which will lead us to fall more in love with Him which in turn makes us live with a deeper commitment to God.

  • We engage our minds and focus our attention on the scriptures in order to understand and apply the truth of the scriptures to our lives

  • We desire to live in freedom.  The “truth” of the scriptures permeating our souls is what will set us free.   “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”  John 8:32

  • Study produces joy.  It may be difficult at first, but given practice you will find great joy in a deliberate, intentional, focused study of God’s Word.

 

This Week’s Activities:

 

Activity #1: Set Aside Study Time

  • Think through your week and pick a time during the day when you will put aside everything else that vies for your attention and will spend time in the Word.  Make it the same time every day so you will remember,  and it will become part of your daily schedule.  Be very careful to not just check it off your daily list though!  Really enter into your study time with a humble heart seeking after God.

  • After you have picked a time, text your group members and tell them when you will be intentionally studying the scriptures this week so they can be praying for you.  Make sure you pray for your group members during their designated time as well!!

Activity #2: Pick a New Method to Study Scripture

  • Experiment with new ways to read the scriptures this week. Pick one of the methods below or try them all!

    • Artist Method:  Pick a short passage of scripture and slowly read it three or more times.  Try reading it aloud, rewriting it in your own words, or simply visualizing the scene as you read the passage. Then, read your passage a final time and draw a heart around the word that speaks to your heart.  Draw a light bulb next to the new thought or idea that occurs as a result of your reading.  Draw a hand beside the words that push you to action.

    • Detective Method:  Read a short narrative passage from the gospels. Imagine the scene.  Observe the facts.  Ask the questions who, when, where, and what.  Once you have the facts, interpret the facts and ask the why and how questions.  Decide what the characters’ actions means.  Then apply all that knowledge to you….how does this change your life today?

    • Lectio Divina:  (You can do this on www.examen.me on any of their scripture examens or you may write in your journal)

  1. Start with silence before the Lord.  Simply sit in His presence and focus on Him.

  2. Read a short passage of scripture slowly out loud.  Stop on any word or phrase that resonates with you.  Think about that word or phrase knowing those are God’s words for you today.

  3. Read the passage again and listen for how this passage can apply to your life today.  Use your imagination and all your senses to put yourself in the scene as you think through what it would have been like to experience this passage first hand.

  4. Read the passage a third time and listen closely to see if God is calling you to respond in a particular way.  Allow the Word of God to lead you in an honest and open time of prayer.

Activity #3: Concentrating on One Book

  • Pick one book of the Bible and read through the entire book every day this week.  If this is a new practice for you, start in a smaller book such as Philemon or I, II, or III John.

  • Every day as you read, make a note in your journal of anything you noticed or things that stood out.

  • Read expecting to find new thoughts or ideas every day.

  • Really concentrate on the words and take your time as you read.  Read the entire book in one sitting as well.  Don’t just read a few verses throughout the day.

  • At the end of the week, go back through your observations from each day and note anything you learned or experienced.

Activity #4: Word Study

  • Look at a passage of scripture.  Preferably one that is a bit familiar to you.   Read through the passage slowly and pick one word in that passage that seems to stand out to you.

  • Use either the concordance in the back of your Bible or an online concordance and find where that word is used in other places in scripture.

  • Notice how the word is used in different verses.  After reading many verses containing the same word, do you notice any patterns?  themes? Did you get a deeper understanding of what that word really means?

  • Journal what you discovered about your word

Activity #5: Character Study

  • Pick a character from the Bible

  • Using a concordance, read every verse that mentions this person in the Bible.

  • Write out verses that stand out

  • Note in your journal what you noticed, discovered, and came to understand about this particular person.

 

Some websites you may want to use to study:   www.biblestudytools.com,   www.biblegateway.com,   www.biblesuite.com,  www.blueletterbible.org

 

Prayer

“The person who wants to arrive at…spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus” -Thomas Kemp

Summer sets itself up to be a lazy, relaxful, vacation filled few weeks.  I don’t know about you, but summer also becomes the few weeks out of the year where my spiritual and physical discipline seem to fade.  There’s just something about summer that makes me want to sleep late, schedule nothing, and completely live in a spontaneous, do whatever I feel like at that moment, state.

Which I’m not entirely sure is a bad thing.  Relaxing and just enjoying God’s creation is good…as long as you continue to pursue the One who truly gives you rest.

So this week I’m pursuing Christ by focusing on prayer.   I’ve been making prayer cards, setting the timer throughout the day to remind me to pray, and ending my day with prayer…all things that can be done around a swimming pool, on the back porch, or sitting in my PJs sipping a cup of coffee.  A perfect study for lazy summer days!

I shared the study with you last week, but I’m going to post each week’s focus every Tuesday as well.  I hope you will join me as I learn to truly seek Christ’s presence every second of every day so that Christ can continue to change me to be more like Him.

Week 1: Prayer:

“Prayer-secret, fervent, believing prayer-lies at the root of all personal goodness” William Carey

What is Prayer: Prayer can be bringing requests to God, being quiet with God, listening to God, waiting on God, or even bringing questions to God.  Simply put it is “thinking in the presence of God”.  It is not difficult to pray.  Prayer does not require a lot of words or emotions or feelings.  It is simply honest and open communication with God about whatever is on your heart or occupying your mind.  Prayer is what pushes us into communion with God.

And communion with God is what we are desiring!  So as you practice this week’s activities, learn to still yourself and pray as you feel God leads you.  Don’t be intimidated, and even if it feels weird at first, keep going!  We must never wait until we feel like praying or even like we are good at praying.  Just pray!  And trust that God hears you, loves you, and is listening.

 

Activity #1:  Prayer cards

  • Get 5 note cards/sticky notes/ or small pieces of paper.

  • On the front side of each card, write an activity you do daily that does not require you to talk to someone else (shower, load/unload dishwasher, brush teeth, drive, cook, eat, etc…) You should have 5 different cards with 5 different activities (1 activity per card)

  • Now flip the cards over to the back.  On each card, write 1 prayer request.  (a different prayer request per card)

You have now just attached a prayer to 5 different daily activities you complete.  Today as you walk through your day, every time you do one of the activities, pray the prayer you attached to it.  (For Example:  Shower = marriage….As I shower, I focus my mind on God and pray for my marriage)

Activity #2: Moments of Prayer

  • Today, set an alarm on your phone, microwave, computer, etc… to go off every 4 hours.  When the alarm goes off, stop for 3-5  minutes and simply focus your heart and mind on God and talk or listen to Him.

  • The next day, set the alarm to go off every 2-3 hrs and repeat the same activity

  • The third day, set the alarm to go off every hour to remind you to pray.

Make note of how easy/hard it is to stop throughout the day to pray.  The more we practice, the more we desire to be in God’s presence, and the easier it becomes to pray throughout the day.  Don’t give up if day 1 is hard! Simply wake up and try again.

Activity #3: Prayer of Examen

  • You can do this activity online or in your journal.  The Prayer of Examen is designed to be done at night after you have finished most of your day.  It is a time to simply sit with God and allow God to show you where you lived out what He has taught you and where you need to submit to Him a bit more.  It is amazing how peaceful your sleep will be when you end your evening this way!

  • Log on to www.EXAMEN.me.  This website is free and completely confidential.  NO ONE can see what you write.  If you create an account, it will save all your journal entries for you.  If you don’t want to create an account, simply scroll to the bottom of the screen and click, “start an Examen” and then choose “Prayer of Examen”.

  • Don’t want to go online?  Then answer the following questions in your journal

    • Begin by praying and asking the Lord to draw you into His presence

    • Next, look back over your day and thank the Lord for all the blessings He gave you throughout the day

    • Next, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the eyes to see your day as God saw it and not as your emotions or feelings would like it to be

    • Think back through your day and list all the areas where you lived out what Christ has asked of you.  Also note any areas where Christ may be teaching you.

    • Now, look for any areas where you may have fallen short or pursued your own agenda instead of God’s.  Spend some time confessing and talking to God about this.

    • Finally, end your prayer with The Lord’s Prayer.

 

Pushing Forward

Working out is one of my favorite pastimes.  I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself and the feeling of complete exhaustion and utter satisfaction when finished.

Yesterday’s workout was one of those grueling workouts where you think to yourself you kind of wish you would pass out so you didn’t have to finish.  Plus there were burpees….burpees are my workout nemesis.  Burpees in small amounts I can handle, but you start getting up into the hundreds amount, and I ALWAYS struggle.

The struggle first starts in my head…”I’ll  just not do them all…I really should listen to my body and just stop…”  Then the struggle goes physical and my legs start screaming and my stomach begins to feel like I need to start looking for a trash can.

Its crazy.  I could do the same workout with similar moves for a longer amount of time and not have any trouble.  But throw in those burpees, and I start to break down.

So back to yesterdays workout….120 Burpees thrown at the end of a grueling workout.  I truly didn’t want to finish.  I mean I had already done a pretty intense 40 minute workout; it wouldn’t be too bad if I just left out the burpees. But then my workout buddy stepped up next to me, and we started to do them together.  We got in this rythmn and just kept going until we finished.

What seemed impossible just moments earlier was now an accomplishment.  And the accomplishment was due to a sidekick; someone to step up next to me and take my mind off myself and push me to reach a goal.

I so often think of all the workout analagies that Paul uses throughout the Bible when I’m in the midst of one of these intense workouts.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

The workouts are hard, I have to push myself to keep going, and most often I need a friend working out next to me in order for me to accomplish all I need to at that moment. The same is true for our walk with the Lord. We have to decide we want to pursue Christ, push ourselves to keep pursuing Him, and allow our friends around us to keep us going when life gets tough.

Its so easy to be content where we are spiritually.  Oftentimes, we fail to realize how much more God has to offer to us if we would just learn to walk with Him continually.  But it takes dedication and discipline to focus our hearts and minds on God continually.  You have to push yourself to get out of bed, to shut off the TV, to put Christ first when life seems to scream distractions at you. And most often, if you have a friend pushing toward Christ with you, you will keep walking forward and wouldn’t even think about standing still in your relationship with Christ.

That’s one of the reason I wrote this Bible study for the women at our church. I want us to join together, to discipline our hearts and minds, to chase hard after God, to learn to walk in His presence continually, and to do it in a group of women who will push us forward even when our minds and bodies want to quit.

So this summer, the women of Westwind are breaking up into small groups, meeting all over the city of Des Moines, and truly pushing into Christ as they intentionally add some spiritual disciplines in their life.  We are purposefully putting ourselves into a position where we can meet God, seek Him continually, and be changed by Him.

And we invite you to join us.

Just think what God could do in us and through us as we join together across the states and seek God.

What do you say?  You in?

 

“The Summer 7: in Pursuit of His Presence”


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