Thursday, March 25, 2010

How To Begin A Relationship With God, Part 5

The series of posts for this week have been adapted from an article by Rick Warren entitled, "How To Have A Meaningful Time With God." I pray that each post has been helpful and that you'll take the leap and experience your Creator in a new and fresh way! To read the article in its entirety, simply click here!

CONCLUSION

What if you miss a day? Don't worry about it if it only happens occasionally. Don't go on a guilt trip. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NIV)

Don't get legalistic because missing one day does not make it a flop. BUT don't give up. If you miss a meal, it does not mean that you should give up eating because you're inconsistent. You simply eat a little more at the next meal and go on from there. This same principle is true with your quiet time.

Psychologists tell us that it usually takes three weeks to get familiar with some new task or habit; it takes another three weeks before it becomes a habit. The reason why many people are not successful in their quiet times is because they have never made it past that six-week barrier. For your quiet time to become a habit, you must have had one daily for at least six weeks.

Make a strong resolution (vow). You must always start with a strong initiative. If you begin halfheartedly, you'll never make it. Make a public declaration by telling others about your decision. Never allow an exception to occur until the new habit is securely rooted in your life. A habit is like a ball of twine. Every time you drop it, many strands are unwound. So never allow the "just this once" to occur. The act of yielding weakens the will and strengthens the lack of self -control.
Seize every opportunity and inclination to practice your new habit. Whenever you get the slightest urge to practice your new habit, do it right then. Don't wait, but use every opportunity to reinforce your habit. It does not hurt to overdo a new habit when you are first starting.

To these suggestions I would add one more:
Rely on the power of God. When it is all said and done, you must realize that you are in a spiritual battle, and you can only succeed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. So pray that God will strengthen you and depend on Him to help you develop this habit for His glory.

A PRAYER OF COMMITMENT
If you have been convinced that this is what you need to do, would you pray the following:
"Lord I commit myself to spending a definite time with You every day, no matter what the cost. I am depending on Your strength to help me to be consistent."

How To Begin A Relationship With God, Part 4

FOLLOW A SIMPLE PLAN (adapted from Rick Warren)

Someone has said, "If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!" To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need a plan or some kind of general outline to follow. The main rule is this: Keep your plan simple.

You will need the following three items for your planned quiet times:
1. A Bible - a contemporary translation (not a paraphrase) with good print, preferably without notes.
2. A notebook- for writing down what the Lord shows you, and for making a prayer list.
3. A worship C.D., ipod, hymnbook - sometimes you may want to sing in your praise time (see Colossians 3:16).

The 5 R's are foundational elements of a great quiet time with God! (Relax, Request, Read, Reflect & Remember, Record)

Wait on God (Relax). Be still for a minute; don't come running into God's presence and start talking immediately. Follow God's admonition: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10; see also Isaiah 30:15; 40:31) Be quiet for a short while to put yourself into a reverent mood.
Pray briefly(Request). This is not your prayer time, but a short opening prayer to ask God to cleanse your heart and guide you into the time together. Two good passages of Scripture to memorize are:
"Search me, OGod, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24; see also 1 John 1:9)
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law [the Word] ." (Psalm 119:18; see also John 16:13)
You need to be in tune with the Author before you can understand His Book!
Read a section of the Scripture (Read). This is where your conversation with God begins. He speaks to you through His Word, and you speak with Him in prayer. Read your Bible …
-Slowly. Don’t be in a hurry; don’t try to read too large an amount; don’t race through it.
-Repeatedly. Read a passage over and over until you start to picture it in your mind. The reason more people don't get more out of their Bible reading is that they do not read the Scriptures repeatedly.
-Without stopping. Don't stop in the middle of a passage, read it in full context. Remember that your goal here is not to gain information, but to feed on the Word and get to know Christ better.
-Aloud but quietly. Reading it aloud will improve your concentration.
-Systematically. Read through a book at a time in an orderly method.
Meditate and memorize (Reflect and Remember). In order to have the Scriptures speak to you meaningfully, you should meditate on what you are reading and memorize verses that particularly speak to you. Meditation is "seriously contemplating a thought over and over in your mind." Out of your meditation you might select and memorize a verse that is particularly meaningful to you.
Write down what God has shown you (Record). When God speaks to you through His Word, record what you have discovered. Writing it down will enable you both to remember what God revealed to you and to check up on your biblical discoveries. Recording what God has shown you is the way of applying what you see in the Scripture that pertains to your life.
Have your time of prayer (Request). After God has spoken to you through His Word, speak to Him in prayer. This is your part of the conversation with the Lord.

How To Begin A Relationship With God, Part 3

As you're beginning to build your relationship with God, it's important that you carve out time to be with Him. That you find a place to connect with Him in prayer and His Word (the Bible). Rick Warren says that you should find a "secluded and sacred place" that you can always run to and escape the busy world all around you to meet with God. Here's what He has to say about this topic...

CHOOSE A SPECIAL PLACE

The location where you have your quiet time is also important. The Bible indicates that Abraham had a regular place where he met with God (Genesis 19:27). Jesus had a custom of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him." (Luke 22:39, emphasis added)

Your place ought to be a secluded place. This is a place where you can be alone, where it's quiet, and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. In today's noisy Western World, this may take some ingenuity, but it is necessary. It ought to be a place …

where you can pray aloud without disturbing others;
where you have good lighting for reading (a desk, perhaps);
where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your quiet time in bed. That's too comfortable!)

Your place ought to be a special place. Wherever you decide to meet with the Lord, make it a special place for you and Him. As the days go by, that place will come to mean a lot to you because of the wonderful times you have there with Jesus Christ.

Your place ought to be a sacred place. This is where you meet with the living God. Where you meet the Lord can be just as holy as the place where Abraham met God. You don't have to be in a church building. People have had their quiet times in their cars parked in a quiet place, in an empty closet at home, in their backyards, and even in a baseball dugout. Each of these places has become sacred to them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How To Begin A Relationship With God, Part 2

SELECT A SPECIFIC TIME

The specific time has to do with when you should have your quiet time and how long it should be. The general rule is this: The best time is when you are at your best! Give God the best part of your day - when you are the freshest and most alert. Don't try to serve God with your leftovers (leftover time). Remember, too, that your best time may be different from someone else's.

For most of us, however, early in the morning seems to be the best time. It was Jesus' own practice to rise early to pray and meet with the Father: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35)

In the Bible many godly men and women rose early to meet with God. Some of these were:

Abraham - Genesis 19:27 Moses - Exodus 34:4
Job - Job 1:5 Hannah and Elkanah - 1 Samuel 1:19
Jacob - Genesis 28:18 David - Psalms 5:3, 57:7,8
(See also Psalm 143:8; Isaiah 26:9; Ezekiel 12:8.)


Throughout church history many Christians who were used most by God met with Him early in the morning. Hudson Taylor said, "You don't tune up the instruments after the concert is over. That's stupid. It's logical to tune them up before you start." The great revival among British college students in the late 19th century began those historic words: "Remember the Morning Watch!" So we need to tune ourselves up at the start of each day as we remember the Morning Watch.

If Jesus is really in first place in our lives, we ought to give Him the first part of our day . We are to seek His Kingdom first (see Matthew 6:33). Doctors tell us that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. It often determines our energy levels, alertness, and even moods for the day. Likewise, we need a "spiritual breakfast" to start our day off right.

Finally, in the morning our minds are uncluttered from the day's activities. Our thoughts are fresh, we're rested; tensions have not yet come on us, and it's usually the quietest time. One mother sets her alarm clock for 4 a.m., has her quiet time, goes back to bed, and then rises when everyone else in the household gets up. Her explanation is that with kids around the house all day, early morning is the only time when it is quiet and she can be alone with God. It works for her; you need to select a time that will work for you...

The question is often asked, "How much time should I spend with the Lord?" If you've never had a consistent quiet time before, you may want to start with seven minutes (Robert D. Foster, Seven Minutes with God, NavPress, 1997) and let it grow naturally. You should aim to eventually spend not less than 15 minutes a day with the Lord. Out of 168 hours we all have during a given week, 1 hour and 45 minutes seems terribly small when you consider that you were created to have fellowship with God. Here are some additional guidelines:

Don't try for a two-hour quiet time at first. You'll only get discouraged. You must grow in this relationship as you do in any other. So begin with a consistent seven minutes and let it grow; it's better to be consistent with a short time than to meet for an hour every other week.
Don't watch the clock. Clock-watching can ruin your quiet time faster than almost anything else. Decide what you can do in the Word and prayer during the time you have selected; then do it. Sometimes it will take longer than you have set aside, and sometimes less time. But don't keep looking at your watch.
Don't emphasize on quantity, emphasize on quality. There is nothing super spiritual about have a two-hour quiet time. It's what you do during your time - 15 minutes or two hours or anything in between - that's important. Aim for a quality relationship with the Lord.

How To Begin A Relationship With God, Part 1

This week we I will be re-posting an article from Rick Warren entitled, "How to have meaningful time with God." If you want to develop a relationship with God, here are some helps that will get you there! Enjoy!

Once you’re convinced that a daily quiet time is necessary for spiritual growth, then how do you go about having one? You may be motivated to do it but may not know how. You need to consider four essentials elements of a good quiet time:

Start with the proper attitudes.
Select a specific time.
Choose a special place.
Follow a simple plan.


START WITH THE PROPER ATTITUDES
In God's eyes, why you do something is far more important than what you do. On one occasion God told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7, NIV*) It is quite possible to do the right thing but with the wrong attitude. This was Amaziah's problem, for “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly.”(2 Chronicles 25:2)

When you come to meet with God in the quiet time, you should have these proper attitudes:

Expectancy - Come before God with anticipation and eagerness. Expect to have a good time of fellowship with Him and receive a blessing from your time together. That was what David expected: "O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You." (Psalm 63:1)
Reverence - Don't rush into God's presence, but prepare your heart by being still before Him and letting the quietness clear away the thoughts of the world. Listen to the prophet Habakkuk: "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20; see also Psalm 89:7) Coming into the presence of the Lord is not like going to a football game or some other form of entertainment.
Alertness - Get wide-awake first. Remember that you are meeting with the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Redeemer of men. Be thoroughly rested and alert. The best preparation for a quiet time in the morning begins the night before. Get to bed early so you will be in good shape to meet God in the morning; He deserves your full attention.
Willingness to obey - This attitude is crucial: you don't come to your quiet time to choose what you will do or not do, but with the purpose of doing anything and everything that God wants you to do. Jesus said, "If anyone chooses to do God’s will he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own." (John 7:17) So come to meet the Lord having already chosen to do His will no matter what.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mid-Week, How To Manage Your Mouth

The average American has 30 conversations a day and you'll spend 1/5 of your life talking. In one year your conversations will fill 66 books of 800 pages a book. If you're a man you speak an average of 20,000 words a day. If you're a woman you speak 30,000 words a day. Every word that you speak originates in your mind with a thought.
Did you know that your mind is capable of storing over 100 trillion thoughts? It can handle enormous things. You have been given by God the freedom to choose what you think about. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is." Whatever dominates your mind will dominate your life. The question is simply this, what do you think about the most? The root cause of stress, low self-esteem, depression and so on is the way that we choose to think. Whatever I think about is what I am becoming. What I am becoming is reflected by what I am SPEAKING. Your mind & your words are interconnected and they have incredible power! The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 18:21 that, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
Here's the deal, our mouths get us into a lot of trouble. In the Bible, the book of James talks more about the tongue more than any other book in the New Testament. Every chapter in the book of James says something about managing your mouth. He says, if you can control your mouth, you're perfect. He's not talking about sinless. The word "perfection" in Greek literally means "mature, healthy". We become healthy & mature by learning how to manage our minds & our mouths! At our mid-week service last night I continued our series on the book of James that we are adapting from Rick Warren. Here are some thoughts that I shared on why we must watch what we say...
1. MY TONGUE DIRECTS WHERE I GO . (James 3:3-4)
"When we put bits in the mouths of horses ... we can turn the whole animal." (vs. 3)
2. MY TONGUE CAN DESTROY WHAT I HAVE . (James 3:5-8)
Prov. 21:23 (GN) "If you want to stay out of trouble be careful what you say!"
3. MY TONGUE DISPLAYS WHO I AM . (James 3:9-12)
"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matt. 12:34 (see also Matt. 15:18-19)

SO WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
1. GET A NEW MIND & HEART
"Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit!" Ezekiel 18:31 (see also 2 Cor. 5:17)
2. ASK GOD FOR HELP EVERYDAY
"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3 (see also Psalms 19:14)
3. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." James 1:19
You can change what you think about. Remember, all change is a matter of choice. Change the direction of your thought life & everything else will follow. Proverbs 4:23 says, “be careful what you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are. Remember, repentance (metanoia) means to change your mind. When we memorize, meditate (thought digestion) & confess God's Word over our lives we will be prospered & blessed. Ultimately our mind & hearts will change & we will be able to manage our mouths!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Life's Healing Choices, Part 6- Repairing Relationships

Week 6: REPAIRING RELATIONSHIPS- THE RELATIONSHIP CHOICE:
I evaluate all my relationships, offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me, and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

“Happy are those who are merciful to others... Happy are those who work for peace.” Matthew 5:7,9 (TEV)

1. I can FORGIVE others because God has FORGIVEN me.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S. Lewis
“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 (LB); Matt. 6:12; Matt. 6:14-15; Luke 6:37; James 2:13
“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25 (NLT)

Key thought- I will need forgiveness in the future

2. BITTERNESS doesn’t work.
“To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do." Job 5:2 (GNT)
“Some people stay healthy till the day they die... Others have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts.” Job 21:23-25

It's an amazing thing that bitterness does to us. If you don't release that person through forgiveness, if you don't release them, you're going to start to resemble them. Because that's what bitterness does to you. "I'm never going to be like ...." and you fill in the blank "my dad, my mother, my brother, my sister, my ex spouse. "I'm never going to be like...." and who are you focusing on the whole time you say that? The Bible teaches that what we focus on we move toward and what we move toward, we become. You've got to let it go for your own sake.

Hanging onto anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness only hurts you! You need to forgive for your own good!

3. How do I become a FORGIVER?
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Remember, forgiveness is not resuming a relationship without change. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. They're two different issues. Forgiveness is not the same thing as rebuilding or restoring a relationship. Forgiveness is instant, but trust has to be rebuilt over time. If you want to have a restored relationship with someone, first comes forgiveness -- that's your part if you've been hurt. But on their part it takes three other things:
1) repentance, demonstrating genuine repentance
2) restitution where and when possible
3) rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust takes time.
In a relationship that has been harmed or damaged, if you've been hurt, forgiveness is the part you do. But they have to show some other things to show that repentance and restoration has taken place.

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20 (AMP)

Nail it to the cross by...
*REVEALING my HURT.
*RELEASING my OFFENDER.
*REPLACING my hurt with God’s PEACE.


“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Choose to forgive today, to forgive completely & to forgive generously!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How To Make Changes That Last! Part 2

GOD WANTS TO GIVE YOU TRANSFORMATIONAL THOUGHTS FOR OLD FEELINGS
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord...” Isaiah 55:8-9

You make changes that last when you exchange your thoughts for God's thoughts. When you change your thoughts you will change your actions and ultimately your feelings. Here are some examples of how you can change your thoughts for God's!

I’m isolated and I feel all alone. Solution: Build new, godly relationships.
Psalm 92:13-14, “... planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green...”
Proverbs 22:11, “He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.”
I’m too depressed and discouraged. Solution: Focus on God’s strength.
Romans 8:28, “... we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...”
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
1 John 4:4, “You... are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”(see also Joshua 1:8-9)
I’m not as good as everyone else. Solution: Stop making comparisons.
2 Corinthians 10:12, “For we dare not... compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Psalm 139:14, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...”
I’ll never get it right and I’ll never be happy. Solution: Remember God is working in you.
Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Romans 8:28
The future scares me, what if I mess up? Solution: Fear not-- God is leading you!
Psalm 37:23, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
I just don’t think that I can do it. Solution: Doubt your doubts & believe your beliefs.
Mark 11:22, “And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God.”
Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

How To Make Changes That Last! Part 1

HOW TO MAKE CHANGES THAT LAST
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Every lasting change in your life begins with God’s POWER, not your WILLPOWER.
“Can... a leopard take away his spots?  Nor can you who are so used to doing evil now start being good.”  Jeremiah 13:23 (LB)
“’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord.” Zech. 4:6

1. ALL BEHAVIOR IS BASED ON BELIEF.
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Pr 4:23 (TEV)
“Out of the mind come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and speaking evil of others.” Matt. 15:19 (NCV)
2. BEHIND EVERY SIN IS A LIE THAT YOU’RE BELIEVING.
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures." Titus 3:3 (NIV)
“For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He… has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 (NLT)
3. CHANGES THAT LAST COME FROM CHANGING YOUR MIND. (THINK, FEEL, ACT)
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (NIV)
4. TRYING TO CHANGE THE WAY THAT YOU FEEL WITHOUT CHANGING THE WAY THAT YOU BELIEVE IS A WASTE OF TIME.
“What people say with their mouths comes from the way they think; and these are the things that make people unclean.” Matt. 15:18 (NCV)
“...Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” Galatians 5:16

KEY THOUGHT- Focus on DOING good not FEELING good.

5. THE BIBLE TERM FOR "CHANGING YOUR MIND" IS REPENTANCE.
The greek word for repentance is metanoia = it means "to change your mind!"
“... I will put a new way of thinking inside you. I will take out the stubborn hearts of stone from your bodies, and I will give you obedient hearts of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
“Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy's strong places... We capture every thought and make it give up and OBEY Christ.”  2 Cor. 10:4-5
6. CHANGING THE WAY I ACT IS THE FRUIT & PROOF OF REPENTANCE.
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matt. 3:8 (NIV)
“I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” Acts 26:20b (NIV)

KEY THOUGHT- YOU ONLY BELIEVE THE PARTS OF THE BIBLE THAT YOU DO!

GOD WANTS TO GIVE YOU TRANSFORMATIONAL THOUGHTS FOR OLD FEELINGS
 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord...” Isaiah 55:8-9