Archive for December, 2008

Relive the fun, the food, and the fellowship the storm couldn’t blow away!

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Eighth in the series Get close to God

I don’t want to plan, make goals, or dream up some new things to try this year.  I’ve done that every year in the past and it never gets me very far.  All it does is jump start me once again on yet another self improvement quest that achieves a little, but leaves me disappointed, emotionally and spiritually.  That’s because doing the best I can never seems to be good enough, at least not for me, because I am my biggest critic.  So, I’m not taking on any new self-imposed challenges at this time.  I’m going to continue to do what I feel God has already shown me to do until he steers me in another direction.  I don’t need a new year to make me try harder.

I wonder if Jesus ever made any new year’s resolutions?  One thing we do know is that he never said or did anything that he didn’t get from his Father.  I don’t want to distract myself or get in the way of anything that God may want me to do.  I need to quit trying to produce fruit on my own and concentrate more on abiding in Christ so I will bear fruit.

I’m beginning to see that the only way to fulfill my destiny is to seek my Creator, who not only knows what he made me for but also enables me to carry it out.  True change in our lives comes not through trying to fulfill endless resolutions but rather enlisting the Agent of Change, the Holy Spirit (the part of the Trinity that resides in us) to do what we can’t.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth…you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.  (John 14:16,17)

Charles Stanley explains in The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, “As long as a drowning man is thrashing about trying to save himself, no one can help him.  Until he gives up, he is not in a position to be helped…The Spirit-filled (or Spirit-controlled) life begins with an overwhelming realization that we are absolutely helpless and hopeless apart from a moment by moment relationship characterized by dependency on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.”

I know this is hard to swallow for any of you control freaks who may be reading this, because I’m one as well.  After all, we’re supposed to be independent and self-sufficient Americans, right?  Then again, there was a time when we were a nation under God.  But that’s a topic for another article!

My new year’s resolution for 2009 is to have none.  None of my own, that is.  Well, maybe one.  That would be to try and resolve to surrender my thoughts, my plans, and my dreams to God and learn how to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and empower me to do much bigger things than I could ever dream up myself.  Wow, I may need the Lord’s help with that one…

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.      (Ephesians 3:20.)

That sounds like a good resolution for many years to come.  Maybe forever?

Have a blessed new year!

Seventh in the series Get close to God

bible200If reading God’s word does not cause your heart to burn, then something is wrong.  But I’m not talking about indigestion. 

When Jesus brought up all the things concerning himself in the Scriptures to the couple on their road trip from Jerusalem, they said after he left, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was explaining the Scriptures to us? 

Since I’ve been a Christian for quite a few years now, I’ve become so familiar with Bible passages that I can gloss right over the verses, thinking that I’ve seen them before and know what they mean.  Sometimes I would read a chapter or two without learning anything new.  I would depend on my previously underlined sections to encourage and challenge me once again, but until recently my Bible reading was more of a duty than a delight.  This has all changed since I discovered contemplative prayer.  My friend, Lewis, got me started with this when he would email me prayers using Scriptures.  I then found a DVD on the subject, which fueled me to dive into further research.

Would you like to hear from God?

Lectio Divina is a traditional Christian practice of praying with scripture and is intended to bring about close communion with God by cultivating the art of listening to his still, small, voice.  It is not mystic channeling; rather, it’s inviting the Holy Spirit to help us grasp the revelation we need that’s already contained in the scriptures and to show us how to apply it personally.

Begin by finding a quiet place without distractions and invite God to speak to you through his Word.  Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight the verses he wants to bring to your attention.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law”  Psalm 119:18

READ: You can pick any book of the Bible, but a great place to start is one of the gospels.  Read the passage out loud, or at least read it silently at the same pace as you would out loud.  Speed reading won’t work; that only gets you ahead of God.  It takes time for truth to soak in.  Don’t set a goal to get through a certain amount of chapters.  Just read until something speaks to you in a personal way.

“He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:45

REFLECT: Read the passage that affected you three or four times out loud until you can recite it from memory.  Prayerfully ponder what God is trying to teach you.  Write the passage down in your journal to encourage you later.  I also jot it down on a post-it note where I will see it throughout the day.

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”  1 Samuel 3:9

RESPOND: Ask the Lord what he is inviting you to do.  He may convict you to confess or repent of sin.  You might want you to do something, or he might just want to encourage you, to enjoy his presence, and to bask in his love.

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

REST: This can be the most difficult part and requires practice.  God can’t get through to us (or chooses not to) when our mind is racing in many different different directions.  We need to focus entirely on him.  Don’t make requests at this time.  You might begin by reciting the Lord’s prayer or saying short breath prayers, like, “You are my Lord.  I belong to you.”  Most of the time you will not feel or hear anything.  That’s OK.  The silence itself will relax and refresh you. 

After my time of contemplative prayer I like to begin worship and thanksgiving, usually on my knees with my hands raised in front of my study room window.  I follow this up with interceding for others and myself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

God speaks to us in many different ways, and although I’ve seen him work in my life through the years, I have been craving to hear his voice, not realizing that all along he was trying to speak to me with words that were already waiting for me in the Scriptures.  The Word of God is a lot more powerful than just language written on paper.  His words spoke the world into existence and calmed the sea.  Whatever God promises, happens.  It has to.  The Bible is not just an ancient book for people way back then.  It can be used for every situation we face today.  It’s the same as him speaking to us right now!

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.”  Hebrews 4:12

Since I started praying the Scriptures and meditating in this way I have not failed to receive a teaching from the Lord every time I try it (and it’s usually not in my underlined verses!)  I’m looking forward to having many more bouts of “heartburn” from which I never want to be cured!

 

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Click here for the entire Get Close to God series

Topher Teague’s Losing Ground on the DVD Somebody’s Daughter, now available from Music for the Soul. 

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Christmas Reunion 2008 Video

Posted: December 9, 2008 in Videos

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Sixth in the series Get close to God

magiEver since the quest of the Magi, people all over the globe have been drawn toward the creator of the universe.  We want to know who we are, where we came from, and where we fit in.  Is there a higher power, a force, or a supreme being we can get some answers from?  Debates have always raged over these issues, but I’m convinced that the only way to find out for sure is to ask God for yourself.  Unfortunately, for many of us, we are not always in the right position to hear from our maker.

Since God is omnipresent, he is “not far from each of us,” as Paul explained in Acts 17:27.  But just like when you can’t hear someone talking right next to you in a room with loud music, we can tune out God with our fast paced, busy, and hectic lives.  For example, we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of radio signals we cannot hear unless we have a receiver tuned precisely to the right frequency.

It’s all a matter of receptivity on our part.

God is closer than you think.  If you have accepted Christ, his spirit resides in you.  Like the landowner who is unaware that he is sitting on an oil field, we can be missing out on the fruits of the Spirit because we are either unaware or unsure how to appropriate it.

Maybe you used to be on fire for the Lord but now your spiritual life has been reduced to smoldering embers.  As Andrew Murray explains in Abide in Christ, “The blessings you once enjoyed were lost; the love and joy of your first meeting with the saviour, instead of deepening, have become faint and feeble.  And often you have wondered what the reason could be, that with such a saviour, so mighty and so loving, your experience of salvation should not have been a fuller one.  The answer is simple.  You wandered from him.”  He didn’t leave-you did.  God is calling out to us as he did to Adam in the garden, “Where are you?”  As Isaiah and later Jesus said of Israel, “Their heart is far from me.”

  The question is not “where is God?”  It’s “where are we?”

If you grew up in the church like I did, you might have thought that you already had all of God there was to have.  A. W. Tozer said the problem with the Christian church today is “now that we have found God, we no longer seek him.”

If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.  (2nd Chronicles 15:2)

Seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search with all your heart and all your soul.  (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Join me for the next chapter and we’ll take a look at how contemplative prayer helps us hear from God.  See you then!