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Spiritual Practices

October 9th, 2015

“The Father has blessed us . . with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual practices.”

Days can be busy and noisy, leaving you over-stimulated and weary. Everything seems rushed and everyone hurried. All too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of our lives and the noise of our surroundings diminish things vital to our well-being. More tragically, you can lose something of yourself somewhere in the noise and busyness. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. A conviction of spiritual identity provides: certainty about purpose, clarity of direction, and sufficiency of your God-given gifts and abilities. So much depends upon a true sense of your God-given identity.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude. We are so much like the disciples – often busy and tired. Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV. Time alone with God is where you rediscover your identity in Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. In his epistles, Paul wrote prolifically about your life, “in Christ.” Read Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV.

Let me suggest Biblical disciplines that strengthen your spiritual identity. Begin with this. Practice Sabbath rest. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to reorient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that encourage and celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence. “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” Psalm 131:1-2 NIV. Prioritize time in God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Regular attention to the reading and meditation of Scripture is critically important. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV. Prioritize prayer with thanksgiving. Communicating your heart and gratitude to God results in communion with God. “In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

Prioritize Praise and Worship. Grow comfortable expressing your heart in joyful adoration. Psalm 100 NIV. Prioritize edifying Fellowship. You were made for community. Acts 2:46-47 NKJV. That is where you grow and serve best. “Let us not neglect our meeting together . . but encourage and warn one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT. Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is rooted and built up in Christ Jesus.

Christian Communications

Bible

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Empty Lives

September 16th, 2015

“And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16 NKJV.

Life without Jesus will never be all that life should be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “empty lives.”

As a child, life is exciting, exhilarating, and filled with anticipation – Christmas as a child – first day of school – first date – finally, your driver’s license – falling in love – being married – starting your career – raising a family. Life too quickly fills with responsibilities and routines, each day wearing away a little of the mysteries and wonder. School becomes homework and hard work. Dating becomes complicated, even confusing. A driver’s license involves gasoline, and insurance, and repairs. Falling in love eventually brings rent or mortgage, and bills.

Too soon, spontaneity yields to a schedule that becomes repetitive, and you find yourself trudging through life feeling that emptiness – a sense of “same old, same old” – with something deep inside telling you that life is not meant to be that way. A better life is waiting for you. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16 NKJV. Jesus replaces empty lives with full hearts.

Life without Jesus as its center will never be all that you long for life to be. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can take His place or fill that void. You see, that emptiness you feel in your soul runs so deep. You cannot fill empty lives with stuff; you cannot silence it with noise; you cannot ignore it with busyness. “Man has a purpose – to be in relationship with God . . when he forgets his purpose he forgets who he is and what life means.” Francis Schaeffer, Theologian and Christian philosopher. Life does not work well when you forget who you are and what life means.

Life cannot be what it is meant to be if you leave God out. God alone makes sense of everything else about your life. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV. God makes what you have enough. God makes relationships enriching. God makes who you are meaningful and satisfying. God makes what you do fulfilling. God fills your future with hope and unlimited possibilities. See Jeremiah 29:11 NLT.

The Bible narrative begins with these words, “In the beginning . . the earth was without form, and void, and darkness covered . . and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV. That is the way anyone’s life is until Jesus is invited to come in and set it right, and fill it with life and fullness, and give light and understanding. He is there, waiting for your invitation to do so today and every day that follows. “Until we all come to the knowledge of the Son of God . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV.

The Apostle Paul described where you find a full heart and full life, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you may know the love of Christ that passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:14-19 NKJV. Don’t try to live life – even a moment of it – without Jesus filling your heart.

Today, I pray for you to make room for Jesus in everything you are and all you do.

Christian Communications 11309

 Empty Lives

Empty Lives

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Stress and Stillness

July 15th, 2014

“Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV.

The pace of schedules and noise of surroundings generate stress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “stress and stillness.”

Stress is your body’s reaction to challenges, the impulse of “fight or flight.” Hurry, worry and weariness will leave you vulnerable to stress. Its negative and debilitating effects are cumulative, diminishing your joy and optimism and even damaging health. Stress can result from concerns about health, relationships, pressures, finances, past mistakes, or future fears.

In daily life, stress is heightened by the frantic pace of our schedules and the deafening noise of our surroundings. Prolonged, those are wearying to body, soul, and spirit. The effects manifest interpersonally in relationships, marriages, or families, as well as intrapersonally, affecting yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually. Your spiritual life and personal relationship with God is diminished and less satisfying.

Isaiah discovered, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength . . they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not became weary.” Read Isaiah 40:28-31 NAS. There is so much that you miss when you fail to take the necessary time to be quiet before God. Job, in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences and the confusion he felt, received wise counsel, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV. Life makes better sense when you place God at the center of it all.

There are two concerns that I have. First, the pace of your schedule compromises the priority of God’s voice. See Exodus 3:1-10 NKJV. You will not hear the voice of God in your heart without quieting your spirit to wait and listen. Secondly, the noise of your surroundings competes with the clarity of God’s voice. See 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NKJV. Any time but especially when life is unclear and uncertain, spend time with God’s Word, quietly in His presence.

The Psalmist David was deliberate, I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2 NLT. At all times, you need to learn this truth, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46. Be intentional; it is important.

Some years ago, a book, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion (Gordon MacDonald, author) influenced my spiritual disciplines. MacDonald named three things essential to recovering passion when experiencing lost purpose, clouded vision, or confused direction: an address book with the names of “special friends who encourage you to obey God,” a map indicating the location of “safe places where you rediscover who God is,” and a calendar marking “still times when you hear what God says.” Respectively, each corresponds to three vital, Biblical principles of Fellowship, Sanctuary, and Sabbath.

For your personal study, I suggest consideration of events in the lives of Elijah, Jehoshaphat, and Moses. (1) “Be still when you need to hear a word from God.” Read 1 Kings 19:7-16 KJV. (2) “Be still when you need to know the plans of God.” Read 2 Chronicles 20:10-22 NKJV. (3) “Be still when you need to see the power of God.” Exodus 14:10-16/30-31 NKJV.

Today, my prayer for you is to truly know God in a deep and personal way.

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Listening

September 24th, 2013

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV.

The noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair listening.

My thoughts and comments today are about “listening.”

You live in an increasingly noisy, busy world filled with a myriad of voices that will not be ignored. You can’t help but hear them. They make themselves heard, no matter how much you wish to avoid them.  Eventually, the noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair your carefulness to listen closely and hear accurately. That is unfortunate, especially to your spiritual life.

Hearing and listening are similar, not identical. Hearing is a natural, physical capacity, whereas listening is a skill acquired and practiced intentionally. Learning to recognize and respond to God’s voice is vital to spiritual life and growth. Jesus said, “The words that I speak are spirit and life . . man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” John 6:63/Matthew 4:4. Peter seemed to understand this when he answered Jesus, “To whom shall we go, for You alone have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

Give importance to hearing from God. God’s voice is seldom heard when you are too busy to listen or preoccupied with lesser things.

Be purposeful about listening to God. God may speak to you through Scripture, or words of a friend, or a circumstance of life, or through a song or sermon, but always as a gentle voice in your heart.

Take time to listen for God. You give time and attention to what you consider personally beneficial. Nothing else that engages your time is as beneficial as listening for God. Read Psalm 1:2-3 NIV.

Quiet your heart to listen to God. Living in a noisy, busy world is spiritually challenging. Every other voice and human activity can diminish the clarity of His voice in your heart. Lower the volume of turmoil around you; slow the hectic pace of unrelenting busyness. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46:1-3/9-11 NKJV. With a quiet heart before God, listen closely; you will hear God’s voice whatever the surrounding circumstance or chaos.

Listen with intention to obey. In the New Testament, Paul related the words, “obedience and disobedience,” to the words, “to hear under/hupokoe,“ or “to hear alongside/parakoe.” See Romans 8:19 NKJV. Submitting what you think or feel under what God says empowers obedience. Equating what you think or feel alongside what God says enables disobedience. How you hear has everything to do with your response to God. Listen to God carefully, as though everything depends on that; it does!

The young child, Samuel, illustrates the posture and practice of listening to God. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening . . and the Lord said to Samuel . . as Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and everything Samuel said was wise and helpful.” Read 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NIV/19 NLT. When God’s words matter to you, God values and inspires your words on His behalf. Samuel identified himself to God as, “Your servant,” implying his attention with intention to obey. Obedience is the prerequisite for hearing God accurately. God does not volunteer to disclose His will, if obedience is not your intention.

My prayer for you today is that you have a heart to listen and ability to hear.

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Words Matter

May 30th, 2012

“No man ever spoke like this man.” John 7:46 NKJV

Popular culture is content with a plethora of words bearing a paucity of relevance.

My thoughts and comments today are that “words matter.”

Words really do matter, or at least they should. They are the tools of communication and the building blocks of understanding. They have the power to inspire or dishearten, to intrigue or confuse. Solomon viewed words that edify as, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” appropriate, valuable, and beautiful. Proverbs 25:11-13 NKJV.

Your world is daily bombarded with words, too many words too loud too much of the time, it often seems to me. This was Solomon’s conclusion, “The more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish . . In the multitude of words sin is not lacking.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 TEV/ Proverbs 10:19 NKJV. Due to a failure to value the quiet of one’s own thoughts and reflection, people surround themselves with uninterrupted noise as background, whether music or political commentary or their own voice. Whatever happened to the relaxation of sitting quietly and reading a good book?

Be advised that much of the words you hear are no more than opinions, too many of which are ill-formed or ill-informed. Opinionated voices seem to presume authority an ordinary person is not usually given, simply because they have the celebrity of a larger audience and more recognized reputation. People of some cultural notoriety – from fame or wealth or success – are not necessarily right or wise outside the parameters of their limited arena of achievement. Celebrity should not equate credibility. Popular culture is content with a plethora of words bearing a paucity of relevance. You cannot afford that to be true of you. Your words matter.

Jesus, “the Living Word,” understood that words matter. Jesus said, “The words I speak unto you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63 NKJV. God’s Word is sovereign; His voice is singular, not to be compared or confused with any others. When Jesus’ teachings drew larger and larger enthusiastic crowds, the Pharisees felt threatened. To silence Him they sent Temple guards to arrest Him. At the Priests’ questioning of them upon returning without Jesus, the soldiers’ only explanation was, “No man ever spoke like this Man.” John 7:46 NKJV. How very true!

Jesus’ words made eternal difference in lives during His ministry, and the Word of God still has that same anointing today in hearts that love and obey truth. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the Law.” Matthew 7:28-29 NIV. When Jesus spoke, His words carried Heaven’s authority. Jesus’ words matter because He could say, “I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father . . gave Me His own instructions as to what I should say. And I know His instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” John 12:49-50 NLT. Do that and you will never go wrong. Don’t speak for God; let God speak through you.

Your voice matters to God; make sure your words bear His authority of truth. Intending to silence the young church, Jerusalem’s Jewish council, “They realized [Peter and John] had been with Jesus . . they commanded them not to speak at all in the name of Jesus.” Their response was as ours should be. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:13-20 NKJV. God’s Word should be so soundly and firmly in your heart that your words have the eternal consequence they could and should have.

My prayer for you today is that your words are life-giving and of eternal truth.

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