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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.

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Stillness

January 25th, 2013

There is a quality of spiritual life that is found only in solitude and stillness.

“Stand still first . . to hear the Word of God.” 1 Samuel 9:27 Amplified Bible.

While young Saul unsuccessfully searched for his father’s lost donkeys, God spoke to Samuel of Saul’s coming and of God’s purpose for him. Read 1 Samuel 9. Little did Saul know that Samuel’s intention was to anoint a king for Israel, and Saul was to be the one. As Saul prepared to continue on his quest, Samuel interrupted him, “Stand still first, that I may cause you to hear the Word of God.” 1 Samuel 9:27 Amplified Bible. God’s Word to Saul would direct his success, provide sustenance on his journey, offer assuring confirmation, and divine empowering for his calling. “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you . . and you will be turned into another man . . God gave [Saul] another heart.” 1 Samuel 10:6/9 NKJV. A different man with a new heart because he took time to listen to the word of God! Like Saul, you cannot afford moments when busyness would otherwise engage you. Maybe today you need to hear someone remind you to “stand still . . to hear the Word of God.”

In a busy and noisy world, lives are hurried and listening is impaired. The problems are these: temporal busyness can distract from things and times of eternal importance, and without respite, noise drowns out God’s hushed voice to the heart. The psalmist writes of natural calamities, nations in conflict, and civil unrest but concludes with God’s assuring instruction, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NKJV. There is truth you cannot know in your desperate situations unless you silence questions and complaints, and settle your heart quiet and still before Him. There and then, in your storm and struggle Jesus will say with indisputable authority, “’Peace, be still!’ and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39 NKJV.

The prophet Elijah panicked, running from angry, wicked Jezebel until exhausted, where in fear and fatigue he met God. Read 1 Kings 19:11-21. The prophet faced a howling wind, then a ground-rattling earthquake, and afterward a consuming fire, but the Lord was not present in any of those. “And after the fire a still small voice . . and the Lord said unto him . .” There was a new assignment, and a divine commission to accomplish it. Drama and activity are not where you find God. In your rush for God to “fix it,” you can refuse to see how God is already working. While you once again tell God every detail about your need, you are not listening to His gentle wisdom and direction for the path ahead. A content heart and quiet spirit hear God’s voice and understand His will best. Consider God’s explanation of how life works best, “In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 NIV.

There is both physical and spiritual stillness. I think the latter necessitates the first, and the latter is the more important. There is a quality of spiritual life that is only found in solitude and stillness. David understood the importance of such moments; “I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother . . [so] is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:1-2 NLT. But sometimes the occasion and situation do not seem to allow that. What do you do then? Again, David discovered God in the context of dark times, fearful evil, and surrounding enemies, “He leads me beside the still[ed] waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will take time to listen for God with your heart.

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Knowing God

November 2nd, 2012

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NIV.

Knowing anyone requires significant investments of your heart and time.

My thoughts and comments today are about “knowing God.”

How do you actually get to know someone, really know them? There have been times I thought I knew a person, only to be surprised to find how little I knew them and how little they knew me. Acquaintances are many; friends are few. Facebook reinforces our fuzzy concept of friends. But it takes more than clicking “Confirm” to become a friend.  Friendships are the product of significant investments of heart and time with one another.  Sufficient time and shared experiences are essential to truly know and trust one another and by those, enduring friendships are formed. Relationship is the process of welcoming and sharing life with others.

But my thoughts today are about a relationship unlike any other – a lifelong pursuit of knowing God personally and intimately. Knowing God is so much more than having intellectual knowledge about God. The Bible advises, “Acquaint yourself with [God] and be at peace. Thereby good will come to you.” Job 22:21 NKJV. Knowing God requires time and meaningful interaction; it is more about your heart than your head. There are many who know about God; you can truly know God in life-changing ways. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 NKJV.

In fact, you cannot really know God without willingness for life-change to occur. From personal experience Paul wrote, “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun. All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to Himself through what Christ did . . for God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NLT.

God invites you to know Him, “Be still and know that I am God.“ Psalm 46:10 NIV. Time and attention are essential elements for knowing God. God says, “Be still.” See also Psalm 131:1-2 NLT. But our lives are anything but still. The business and busyness of your world competes with the inner poise necessary for knowing God. Knowing God requires slowing your pace deliberately, and hearing God demands the practiced discipline of listening with your heart. Isaiah’s prophetic words are clear, “The Sovereign Lord says, ‘Only in returning to Me and waiting for Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.’” Read Isaiah 30:15-18 NLT.

In college, my life verse and heart’s cry was and remains, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10 NKJV. I don’t claim to have achieved that, but I know my heart still yearns to know Him. I want to know God, and I want you to know Him in a real and personal way. See Daniel 11:32 NKJV. Do not be as those Paul describes, “Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live.” Titus 1:16 NLT. Know God and let the evidence be “to walk just as [Jesus] walked.” See 1 John 2:3-6/4:8 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will invest your heart and time to know God a little more every day.

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