Archive for October, 2009

Yesterday’s blog was about choosing to have an unoffendable heart, even when others do things that are meant to harm us. Some would describe that as developing tougher skin. As I began to write this follow-on blog, I realized that it’s not tougher skin, but softer skin – skin that is so conformed to the image of Christ that we ooze His passions and His compassion. Christ’s Number 1 desire is that people come to know Him – that each person accept Him as their Savior. Paul shared Christ’s passion and he rejoiced even when others preached the gospel for the purpose of stirring up trouble that would result in him being treated more harshly in prison. It’s a hard thing to rejoice when others are purposefully trying to harm you. In one sense, Paul’s skin was tough enough to let those assaults roll off him. But in a greater sense, his skin was softened with compassion for even those who assaulted him, wanting to see the Gospel proclaimed to all.

Well, that was yesterday. Today I came to this verse:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 12:1

As I started writing this blog, the phrase that was rolling around in my head was that we need to develop a “tougher skin.” It seems to me that few people accept discipline well these days. It seems that the slightest word of correction brings offense, and in many cases causes people to leave their church and often not find another one. The end result is that the Body of Christ is harmed in a number of ways.

  • Both the person giving correction and the person receiving it are often hurt deeply. The closer the relationship they enjoyed, the deeper the pain.
  • The larger Body of Christ is harmed as those around the people involved grieve and are now in the situation of having friends who are at odds with each other.
  • The larger Body of Christ is also harmed as those not yet a part of the Body watch and walk away discouraged from ever joining themselves from such a group.

Sometimes this leads people to no longer give loving discipline. The results of this are equally devastating. Children who are never disciplined become spoiled and unruly. They develop an attitude of superiority. They grow up believing they can do whatever they want whenever they want, unconcerned about the effect their actions may have on others. Adult “children” are no different.

As I said, my first thought was that “we need to develop tougher skin” so that we are not offended at the slightest correction. We ought to welcome discipline, even seek it out if it helps us to become more like Christ. We ought to talk it out and then take it back to our prayer closets and ask God to reveal the truth in it. If we are the one being disciplined, we probably need to ask an objective brother or sister to pray with us and provide objective counseling based on God’s Word, because we may be too emotionally caught up in the situation and not able to hear God through our emotions.

It was as I sat down to write that I realized it’s not a tougher skin that we need, it’s a softer skin that can be more easily molded into the image of Christ. The attitude required to have tougher skin doesn’t yield itself to being reshaped by the working of Christ in our lives – because that’s what the correction and even the true offenses are – Christ, working in us to mold and shape us into the image of Christ.

Can we agree to have an unoffendable heart and a soft skin? Can we agree to rejoice in offenses and discipline that further the cause of Christ? Can we agree to allow Christ to have His way with us, putting us into situations that require us to humbly be molded into His image so that others see Him through us? Not an easy thing we’re called to, this Christ-likeness. But the payoff is high – seeing the Gospel preached (in word and deed) throughout our world.

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14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:14-18

I love Paul’s attitude here. He’s a prisoner because he preached the Gospel, and he recognizes that because he is in prison, many others are preaching the Gospel with more freedom than they were before. There isn’t the slightest hint of feeling sorry for himself. He rejoices that the Gospel is being proclaimed.

But it goes further than that.

  • Paul understands that the motives of some are pure – to proclaim the Gospel – to share God’s great gift of salvation with others.
  • He also understands that the motives of others are not nearly so pure – their motives are to stir up trouble so that Paul would receive harsher treatment in prison.

Still, Paul rejoices that either way, whether from pure motives or impure motives, the Gospel is being preached. Again, there is not a hint of bitterness or anger, or even frustration, toward those who are preaching out of impure motives. There is simply rejoicing that the Gospel is being preached.

I’m not sure where I first heard the term “unoffendable heart” – perhaps from Francis Frangipane’s teachings. Paul demonstrates an unoffendable heart in this passage – in a situation where others are clearly trying to harm him, he’s saying “it’s all good – they’re furthering the Gospel of Christ.”

Lord, help us to imitate Paul, even as he imitated Christ – help us to rejoice in the furtherance of the Gospel and not even give the slightest thought if we are offended in the process. Lord, may You have the victory when we think we have a right to be offended and instead choose to bless the offender.

Satan is the one whose desire it is to steal, kill and destroy. Becoming easily offended steals, kills and destroys our relationships with one another and with Christ. It spills over onto those around us, splashing them with the toxic emotions we feel. Don’t let Satan win even the smallest battle. Work hard to develop a heart like Paul’s and Christ’s – choose to be unoffendable.

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Christmas is Coming – Soon!

We’ve planned the Resting at the River’s Edge readings to bring us into the Christmas season with a focus on Christ – prophecies about His coming, His birth, life, death, resurrection and second coming. If you have fallen behind or perhaps have stopped reading along with us, may I encourage you to begin the pre-holiday season by following our recommended reading plan.

In November, you’ll read Isaiah and find the very verses of Scripture that Jesus read aloud in the temple and then declared that He fulfilled:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Isaiah 61:1

20Then he [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:20-21

In Habakkuk, we’ll read that the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), and we’ll end the month with the first eight chapters of Luke – the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus…

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:10-14

…and Jesus’ early life and ministry. It will set the stage for moving into the month of December.

I pray that as you read during the month of November, God prepares your heart to see Christ during the Christmas season in a way that you have never seen Him.

Be blessed as you read!

Be blessed, all!

To download a PDF of November’s reading schedule, click here.

11NovReading


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1Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing eastward from beneath the Temple threshold. This stream then passed to the right of the altar on its south side. 2The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the stream flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. 3Measuring as he went, he led me along the stream for 1,750 feet and told me to go across. At that point the water was up to my ankles. 4He measured off another 1,750 feet and told me to go across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. 5Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to cross without swimming.

6He told me to keep in mind what I had seen; then he led me back along the riverbank. 7Suddenly, to my surprise, many trees were now growing on both sides of the river! 8Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the Jordan Valley, where it enters the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will heal the salty waters of the Dead Sea and make them fresh and pure. 9Everything that touches the water of this river will live. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will be healed. Wherever this water flows, everything will live. 10Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea, fishing all the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim. The shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean! 11But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will be sources of salt. 12All kinds of fruit trees will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, without fail! For they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:1-12 (New Living Translation)

My mom is afraid of water. Almost drowning as a child has left her with a life-long fear of bodies of water. She won’t even jump (or step) into a pool. She’s always game for a good water fight, though!

I thought of mom as I read this passage today. I think many of us are as afraid of God as mom is afraid of water. We’re happy to experience Him as a sprinkling (or even dousing) that might come from a good water fight, but we’re reluctant or even fearful of stepping into the river that flows from His temple.

As we read this passage, we learn that Ezekiel was taken into the river by degrees – first into ankle-deep water, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, then to the place where it was over his head. I appreciate that God doesn’t just drop us into water over our head – even if the water is the River of Life that flows from His temple. Most of us (me included) would be too afraid to jump into the full, raging river without first stepping in at the river’s edge. I am thankful that God allows us to get to know Him and His goodness and His faithfulness before He takes us into the river that is so high it cannot be crossed on foot.

Getting to know God is a lifelong process, though, and many of us get stuck at some point when He wants to take us deeper. May I encourage you to continue walking into the water and let God’s current take you to the dead places and bring His healing to them. That’s what happens – the river flows from the temple of God (that is, the place where He dwells – from His presence) (v1) to the dead places (v8a) and brings life where death has been (v8b-10).

During my ordination service last week, one of our pastors had an image as I was being prayed over. Our senior pastor was praying that God would not only release me into ministry, but to propel me into it. The image that came to our assistant pastor was of me on a huge water slide with the gate about to be opened for me to plunge full speed from the top of the slide. I don’t think he knows that I absolutely love water slides. I become like a little child (Matthew 18:3) on water slides, giggling and screaming with joy all the way from the top to the bottom.

What a way to envision serving God – as flowing in the current of the River of Life that goes from His presence to places that are dead – because “everything that touches the water of this river will live” (v9). It’s what you and I are called to – bringing life where there once was death.

Lord, increase our vision and help us be willing to jump into the water that is over our heads so that we might flow in its current, bringing life to all who come in contact with it. Lord, we want to be conduits of Your life to those who are dying.

P.S. Another friend had a different vision – she saw me as a human cannonball about to be shot out of a cannon. I’ve told her and God “no offense, but I prefer the water slide!”

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During the worship time of our church service this morning, several young children picked up small streamers and twirled them around. It was such a picture of purity and joy. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a verse God has highlighted to me many times over the years:

3Then he said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

Lord, help me to worship You with the uninhibited joy of children.

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If you’re anything like me, sometimes you wonder what you can possible get from reading some passages of Scripture. Reading along with the Resting at the River’s Edge plans, we’ve come to Amos this week. Perhaps you wondered what you could possibly glean from Amos.

Here’s a quick look at the verses that jumped out at me from yesterday’s reading of Amos 1-4:

Amos 3:

2 “You only have I chosen
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your sins.”

  • God disciplines those He loves. Thank You, Lord, for disciplining me for my good and Your glory. Thank You, Lord, for not leaving me as I am but helping me to become more than I ever thought I could be.

7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

  • Hallelujah – I can know the plans of God. I can trust that He will reveal them. I can know what God is doing in the earth and I can become a part of that effort.

Amos 4:

13 He who forms the mountains,
creates the wind,
and reveals his thoughts to man,
he who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the earth—
the LORD God Almighty is his name.

  • He is God Almighty! Hallelujah! He is the One who has formed the mountains that rise majestically from the earth. He is the one who created the wind that brings refreshment or devastation. He is the One who chooses to reveal His thoughts to man. He is the only One who can turn dawn into darkness (and darkness to Dawn). He is the One who treads where man cannot go. The Lord God Almighty is His name!

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9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

I love Paul’s prayers, and this is one of my favorites. As I read it this morning, what struck me was that we would be able to discern “what is best” – not just what is good or what is better, but what is best. I love it that God has what is best for me held in reserve just waiting for me to discern and choose it.

I have never wanted to live a mediocre life, and I bet you haven’t either. This Scripture points to an extraordinary life – one that choose the best. A mediocre life makes choices that are OK, but not excellent.

I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, and they flow so well with his words to the Philippians:

12bAnd now I will show you the most excellent way.

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:8, 13:13

The most excellent way is love. It’s what Paul prayed for the Philippians. Go back to our first passage:

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best
Philippians 1:9-10a (emphasis mine)

How is it that they (and we) would be able to discern what is best? It is through love that grows deeper in knowledge and depth of insight! Love is the most excellent way because it never fails. It is never stilled and it never passes away.

To my detriment, when I think about making excellent decisions, I don’t typically ask “which choice represents perfect love?” If I want to lead an extraordinary life, if I want to make the best (most excellent) choices, that life and those choices must be rooted and grounded in an abundance of love.

I think I’ve got some work to do! Father, help me!

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While considering the issue of stopping the misfires of my brain when I’m trying to read God’s Word or enter His presence, God brought to mind several interactions I’ve had with children and young adults over the past few years. I’d like to share them with you.

From the Mouths of Babes…
One young friend came up to me recently and stood looking at me expectantly. When I asked how she was doing, she launched into a long, animated (in my mind, anxiety-producing) discourse about how busy she was. She didn’t say anything wrong, per se, but remembering the conversation hits me like a slap in the face. As I re-hear her words and remember her demeanor I realize that she was reciting her crowded schedule (which included being too busy for breakfast) to impress me and win my approval.

She is not alone. God brought to my mind other interactions in which teens have recited their busy schedules in an attempt to seem more grown-up or to impress the adults in the room. In each case, the things they were doing were good things, but what has come clearly into focus for me is the very high value that has been placed on having a busy schedule, rather than placing the high value on the activities themselves or even lack of activities so that we can spend more time face to face with the eternal God.

…Come the Values of the Adults
Children learn to value what the adults around them value. Our children are learning that busy-ness carries a high value. I wonder if they also see that quietness is a high value. I wonder if they see that sitting at the feet of God is a high value. I think in many cases they do not, because they see the adults around them willing to overload their schedules and adjust their time with God to do any of a number of things, most of which do not rise to the level of interrupting our time with God.

As I recall these conversations, I’m convicted about the part I’ve played in reinforcing the value of a busy schedule for these young followers of God. I’ve reinforced it by the way I’ve responded to them and by the example that I’ve set. I’ve communicated that having a busy schedule carries a high value. Perhaps more to the point, I’m convicted about what my over-busy schedule says about me.

What Does Your Over-Busy Schedule Say About You?
Our over-busy schedules may say a variety of things about us:

  • We need to be busy and involved in many things to feel important.
  • We need to fill every moment of every day so that we don’t have time to deal with the hurt that’s inside.
  • We don’t know how to identify those things God has called us to so we jump into everything without first attempting to discern how God wants us to spend our time.
  • We know what God has called us to, but we don’t know how to say “no” to those things He hasn’t put on our plate.
  • We have a large appetite for activity – we enjoy many things – but we haven’t disciplined ourselves to make only the best choices.
  • We are unwilling to trust the results to anyone else, including God.

The list surely isn’t comprehensive, but I get stuck on that last one.

Is God All Sufficient or Isn’t He?
An over-busy schedule sometimes denies the sufficiency of God. Too often I realize that my schedule becomes over-busy because I feel like I have to do it all myself. If I don’t do this, who will? If I don’t work on Sunday, who will put food on the table or how will everything else get done? If I don’t plan this church event, who will? If I don’t take the kids to this ball game, how will they get there? The answers may very well be:

  • God will provide it or maybe I need to do with less food, things, or activities!
  • Someone will step up or the event won’t take place (and that’s OK)! (If no one wants to plan the event, perhaps it’s just another activity that increases our over-busy schedules instead of bringing us closer to the peace of God.)
  • Another child’s mom or dad will take the kids to the event or maybe they shouldn’t go! (We begin teaching our children about wise schedule choices when we choose wisely between activities, not attend all events.)

I like most of the things in my schedule. They are there because they have value. But sometimes the value of God is eclipsed by the clutter in my life. And when my highest value is blocked by the clutter, my life gets scrambled and the misfires in my brain increase exponentially.

God Has a Solution
God woke me up early one day last week while and I found myself with a whole extra hour and a half before I had to leave the house. I spent it with Him. It changed the course of my day. I confess that when I got out of bed, I was afraid that getting up so early would cause me to collapse before the day was over, but I consciously trusted God to carry me through the day. I was fine all day. God is speaking to me and demonstrating to me the value of an uncluttered life. It allows me to REST in His sufficiency. It allows me to walk in peace through stressful situations because the responsibility isn’t really on my shoulders.

I’m certain this is the beginning of many blogs about de-cluttering our lives and trusting God with what we can’t do –because we can’t do it all and still keep an uncluttered life. Peace eludes us when we rush franticly from one activity to the next. At least it eludes me. You can’t chase after peace, you must wait for it.

I invite you to join me in this journey toward God’s peace. I’m not sure where it’s leading, but I know that God has grace to carry us through.

And an Assignment
De-clutter assignment for this week: Pick a day during which you will purposefully set aside everything that screams to be done and everything else that you want to do, and sit before the Lord for longer than you would typically spend in devotions. Be sure it’s a place and time that is quiet. Trust God to handle all that needs to be done while you rest with Him for awhile. Read a little more Scripture than you normally would. Listen to the quiet. Breathe in the quiet. Whisper prayers to God. Seek His peace. If you like, play soft worship music in the background (that puts me to sleep, so I don’t do it). Don’t come with a long prayer list. Don’t spend the whole time reading Scripture. Just rest with God. This is a time for you to be restored and refreshed by the peacefulness of God’s presence. Resist the temptation to leave God’s presence too soon. Your goal (for those goal-setters out there) is to experience the peace God can bring into a cluttered life if you push away the clutter to focus on Him.

You might not accomplish your goal! If you’re new at pushing away the clutter, it might be difficult for you to rest in quiet with the Lord. That’s OK. Try it again next week. Spiritual formation is a process. You will get better at it if you commit to it. You will begin to experience the peace God can bring and that peace will do two things:

  1. Enable you to face the cluttered life with more purpose and peace.
  2. Cause you to desire a less-cluttered life so that you can more easily find God’s peace regularly.

Those are things I want in my life. They outshine the having a brain that misfires because it’s going in too many directions at once. They come with a price – a weeding out of the clutter in our lives. Is it worth the price? You bet!

Grace & peace, friends.

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In my last blog, I confessed how frantic my brain can be sometimes when I’m trying to spend time with God. That blog stated the “problem,” and I ended it by saying that I was trusting God to give some “solutions” to share in this blog. Well, the reason I’m late in posting this blog is because God took me in a different direction. I ended up with a blog of more than 2000 words! Rather than subject you to all that at one sitting, I’m going to give you the first part today and the second part later in the week. The next blog won’t be “Unplugging! Part 3” because God shifted gears a bit on me, and it’s a subject that I suspect will yield more blogs in the coming days (or weeks or months). So today it’s practical ideas to help control a misfiring brain – to help you focus on God and enter into His presence. The next blog will be the beginning of a discussion on more underlying lifestyle issues (be afraid, be very afraid!).

Controlling the Misfires
If you’re like me, you sometimes sit down to be with God and your mind repeatedly interrupts your reading or prayer. I refer to these distractions as “misfires.” Sometimes the misfires are of God, but usually they’re a result of my mind moving forward to all the things of the day, instead of resting with and before the Holy One, because, quite frankly, most of us are much better at moving than we are at resting. Here are some basics to help you quiet yourself so that you can enter God’s presence more regularly:

  • Have a consistent time where you meet with God. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day. Although consistency works best, if your schedule doesn’t allow it your “God time” might be at 6am on Mondays and Wednesdays, and at 3pm every other day.
  • Have a consistent place where you meet God. I have two. During the week, I usually meet with God at my desk in my home office. On weekends, I have a reclining chair in which I sit when I meet with God. It doesn’t have to be a place that is exclusively for meeting with God.
  • Be “legalistic” about meeting with God in your scheduled time and place. (For all you anti-legalistic “freedom” folks, relax, I’ll get to you.) Consistency establishes lifestyle patterns. Over time, you will come to anticipate meeting with God at your “scheduled” time and place. The location and time become “set apart” – holy to the Lord – and simply going there begins to set your mind, heart and spirit in a mode that is receptive to hearing from God.
  • Keep the distractions in your meeting place to a minimum. For example, when I meet with God at my desk, it’s important that I NOT open e-mail or look at my to-do list when I sit down. On days when I am more distracted than others, I sometimes cover up papers on my desk that might take my mind elsewhere. When I meet with God in my recliner, I let the answering machine take phone messages for me.
  • Deal with distractions creatively. It’s the enemy who is distracting you from meeting with God. Use the distractions for good. When I meet with God in my reclining chair, I can easily be distracted by pictures on the wall or books on the shelves or any of a number of other things in our living room. I can use those distractions as reminders to pray for family members or life situations.
  • Find a pattern for meeting with God that works for you. This may require trying several different things over a period of time before you find that pattern that draws you into God’s presence. Don’t be discouraged, don’t quit trying, and don’t limit yourself. The time and place are just the first two elements of the pattern.
    • I like to have a cup of tea and a piece of toast during my quiet time. God and I have breakfast together.
    • You might relax with God better with soft music in the background. For me, that’s usually distracting or it puts me to sleep.
    • You might want to begin with vibrant worship. I love to do this, but I usually can’t make the transition from vibrant worship to quietly sitting with God, so I don’t begin my quiet time with vibrant worship, but it sometimes ends with it.
    • Maybe sitting with a drawing tablet or at an easel puts you in a place to hear God easily.
    • Lighting a candle helps some people quiet their spirit and focus on the Lord.
    • Think about how God has created you. You are probably most easily able to hear from God when you are relaxing in your area of gifting.
  • Be sure to have some kind of visual cue that draws you toward God in the place that you meet with Him. This visual cue can help you get back on track when your brain misfires.
  • ALWAYS begin with prayer. ALWAYS begin with prayer. ALWAYS begin with prayer. It can be so easy for me to plop down in my place, begin munching on my toast and reading Scripture, just as if I’ve dived into a novel. Ouch! It’s great that I look forward to being with God, but hey, at least be polite enough to greet Him! I’m not saying your beginning prayer has to be a long, drawn out intercession for the world in crisis. I’m just saying that you don’t take God’s presence for granted. Greet Him as if he were sitting beside or across from you, because He wants to have real fellowship with you, not just watch you go through the motions.
  • Be honest with God. Struggling today? He already knows it! He’s waiting for you to confess it and ask for His help. You know what? My husband usually knows when I’m struggling, too, but there’s something magical that happens when I turn to him and say, “Babe, I can’t do it today. Will you help me?” Phil might see me struggling, but until I ask for help, any help he gives me will probably be rebuffed because it’s getting in the way of trying to do it myself! Humble yourself and God will honor it by giving His grace.
  • Some suggest that you have a piece of paper and pen to jot notes about your brain misfires – making quick notes frees your mind to return to the Lord. This doesn’t usually work so well for me. I find that the act of writing the note takes my mind out of the spirit world and into the daily world of “to-do’s” and my quiet time with God disintegrates after that. I am usually more successful at sharing the distraction with God and asking Him to bring it to mind after we’re done. I am learning to trust that God will bring to mind those things I need to remember. But sometimes I do stop to make notes. And sometimes that’s OK.
  • Which brings me to my last point – don’t be too legalistic about your time with God. I am “unlegalistically legalistic” about my time with God. If I’m not legalistic about it, it too easily falls from my schedule. But if I’m too legalistic about it, I get into a rut of “doing” rather than “being.” So sometimes I have to mix it up a bit – change my pattern.

Dealing with our misfires is part science and part art. It’s part spiritual and part nature. So science, art, spirit and nature all shaken together mean that there is no “set” way that you should enter God’s presence. Hopefully, this list helps you find a place in the spirit that pulls you away from the world and into God’s presence.

We often have the misconception that after we come to know the Lord, that things of the spirit should come naturally. Not so, my friend. We must learn and practice spiritual disciplines that draw us deeper into God. It’s not natural for me to sit quietly and wait for God’s presence. I’m the first-born, with a Type A personality. God is rubbing, shaving and chiseling the rough edges off that natural personality, but He does so in such a way that I don’t lose “me.” Who I am in Christ, who He has designed me to be, is “me” way better than I can ever be on my own. But it is still “me,” so the way I meet with God will differ some from the way you meet with God. That means we must each learn on our own (with God’s help, of course), how best to enter His presence.

One final and important thought: Look upon your quest for entering God’s presence as a wonderful adventure. He wants to meet with you. It might take a little effort on your part – no, it will definitely take effort on your part – to have a growing relationship with Him, but what an adventure! The treasure at the end is beyond our expectations and anticipations – but the journey is also the journey of a lifetime! Enjoy it!

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Here’s a paragraph I wrote back in July for a blog that I never published:
How do you unplug? I’ve just joined facebook. I’m also a member of two business online networking groups. I’m a little addicted to e-mail.  I maintain my work and personal calendar online using Google Calendar. And after a morning of updating my various “in touch” media, I’m sitting down to study and my head feels a bit buzzed. I realize my significant need to unplug before I turn my attention to studying. Hence, the question, “how do you unplug?”

Why do I bring this up now? Here’s a few paragraphs I wrote this morning:
It’s 11am –  I started reading my Bible an hour ago…and I’ve just finished my first chapter. Not because it was a long chapter, mind you, or because I stopped often to reflect on what God was saying, or even because I stopped after reading a single verse or two to write a blog. Nope. It took me so long because it was interrupted so often by my brain misfiring in other directions.

Usually I ignore the misfires – mentally set them aside until I’ve finished reading. Sometimes I sense that they aren’t really misfires – sure, they’re headed in a different direction than my planned journey, but they seem to be a “God direction.” Those can be great misfires (obviously making the term “misfire” a misnomer, but I’m going with it just the same). Then there are times like today when it seems that each misfire “needs” to be acted upon, or acting upon a God-directed misfire, I get distracted with other things.

Here’s today’s example: I’m reading along in Ezekiel and I come to this great verse:

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Ezekiel 18:23 – What a gracious God we serve!

I knew I wanted to post it in Facebook. I don’t typically post Scripture in FB, but I suspected this was a God-directed misfire, so I went with it. I made my post, then of course, glanced over the page. There was a comment from one cousin to another about some pictures of her skydiving adventure.  Wow! Of course I had to go look at them – twice! Then I had to add a note to her FB page. I returned to my FB page and saw another entry about a “God-moment.” I had to respond to that. Then I checked e-mail (because, hey, I was in an on-line moment…). That reminded me that I’m going to be out of my office a lot more than usual during the coming week so I sent an e-mail to employees about my crazy schedule. After that I glanced at the time and saw it was getting later, so I did a quick calculation about when I needed to put dinner in the slow cooker (pork roast tonight – yum – but only if I get it in the slow cooker!). Finally, I went back to Ezekiel. A few verses later and I realized that I’ve read…one chapter in one hour! And trying to start the next chapter, my brain is still misfiring. Aargh. So I remembered the blog I started back in July and it seems to be time to revisit it. (While typing this my computer kept clicking – turns out I hadn’t left FB and a friend was IM-ing me from her vacation. I stopped to visit…then closed FB.)

Do you suffer from a misfiring brain when you want to spend time with God?
I imagine we all do at times and sometimes those times are God-ordained (God-directed misfires, as I’ve called them). Most of the time, though, it’s a result of our frantic lifestyle and patterns – slowing down and stopping are things we learn with practice. They do not come naturally to most of us.

How do you unplug?
I unplug in a number of ways, not the least of which is writing. It helps to clear and to clarify my jumbled thoughts. It also provides a record that helps me to see how I ended up where I am. I like that.

I also unplug by becoming a vegetable in front of the television. I don’t like that so much, but obviously haven’t made the decision to change it. Writing has way more benefits than television, but it also requires that I use my mind and sometimes my mind just doesn’t want to be used! Even so, vegging in front of the tube isn’t very edifying and it’s not going to put me in a place to hear from God (usually).

I love to worship and would like to develop the pattern of releasing my mind with worship music in the background – but I’m not very good at that…yet.

Obviously, my cousin unplugs by jumping out of airplanes! Hmmm….I don’t think so.

Purposes of Unplugging
It occurs to me that there are multiple purposes in unplugging and that we might have different methods of unplugging for each purpose.

  • To enter God’s presence.
  • To focus on any task at hand.
  • To release the tensions of the day.

OK, this blog is certainly a reflection of my scattered brain this morning. Unlike my attempt in July, I’m going to publish the blog this time, as a starting point for the blog I’m trusting God will give me to publish on Monday. I’ll pick up with purposes for and approaches to unplugging (I think.) In the meantime, feel free to leave your own suggestions here and I’ll include them in the next blog.

Now I think I’m going to go put the pork roast in the slow cooker.

Oh, BTW, the title of this blog – “Unplugging! Part 1” – that’s a “by faith” title – I don’t have “Part 2” yet, but I’m trusting God has a “Part 2” in mind. Pray that I’ll be able to hear it!

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