‘Spending time with God’

Crying Out to God

June 20th, 2012

I was reading in Lamentations 3 this morning.

Here is a man who is suffering and crying out to God as his only hope.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

How genuine are the cries of a desperate man! There have been times in my life where the Lord was so dear to me – times where “The LORD is my portion” really packed some punch.

What struck me this time, though, was how much more powerful would those words be in times of suffering if we actually said them with such sincerity in times of peace as well?

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. – Lamentations 3:25

Our God is UNfair!

April 6th, 2012

This morning I woke up with a ton of things on my mind. This week has been particularly busy. I worked late last night, and woke up eager to get back to it. There was not any time to stop to spend time with the Lord. “The Lord will understand”, I thought, before reminding myself that time with Him is not an obligation for which I need a “pass” from the Lord to skip. It is a privilege and a joy to bask in the presence of Almighty God!

“You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:11)

So, I stilled my mind, and intentionally entered into a relational dialog with God while reading some Scripture. Now, I admit, there are times I “stop to spend time with God”, but my mind does not settle down – I’m still in the obligatory mode. I put the Bible down, go back to “my” business and promptly forget whatever it was that the Lord tried to show me. But there are other times, like this morning, when I discipline by thoughts, surrender my anxieties, and breath in His greatness.

What does this have to do with fairness? My heavenly Father once again proved the unfairness of His love. No sooner did I connect, truly connect, with Him, did He unleash my mind from the tangled non-productivity of worry. Immediately after worship, He returned to me such clarity, purpose, joy, peace, and efficiency! His return to me far exceeds the small token I gave to Him.

I have witnessed this unfairness time and time again in my life. How about you? Share in the comments below.

Thoughts on Church Attendance

November 8th, 2010

It’s a good time for me to post this since the members of The Point have been attending church very faithfully lately :-).

I absolutely do not want people attending out of pressure, guilt, because of what others might think, or what the pastor might say.
I would rather people consider instead the spirit of the matter, not the legalism of it.  I feel it’s a good time because our people are doing well in this area, so you’ll know I’m not trying to guilt anyone out by sharing this! 

In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:24-25 states:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

A short “rabbit trail” about the Sabbath.

This discussion is not one about the Sabbath, but the association may come up for you, so let me offer a few brief thoughts.  If you want a more complete discussion of the sabbath, post a comment below.

Keeping the Sabbath is the 3rd commandment.  I do understand that church attendance is not the same as “keeping the Sabbath”; and it is true we are not under law but under grace.  Yet, I don’t know any Christian who argues that it’s ok to violate the other 9 commandments on the basis of “we’re not under law anymore”.  In addition, keeping the Sabbath has many underlying principles which are of benefit to us, regardless of the technical, legal details which were given to Israel and not to us.
God himself certainly has no need of being legalistic or bound to any law, yet He Himself demonstrated the Sabbath principle on the seventh day of creation.
Incidentally, the first two commandments are: have no other gods before me and don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.  If we do these first two, this third one is easier.  If we aren’t doing the third, are we really doing the first two?

I don’t believe we must follow the Mosaic legal code regarding the Sabbath, (which, by the way, called for the stoning of anyone who violated it!).  However, I do believe God knew what he was doing and had wise principles in mind when setting up this law.

Some Questions about Church Attendance:
(be honest!)

  • What do you believe about the Sabbath, or a day of rest?
  • Are your actions consistent with that belief?
  • Do your actions agree with the “spirit of the law”?
  • How frequently do the “just this once” diversions really occur for you?  Be honest, what does your attendance record really look like?  What sorts of things replaced this sacred time?
  • How will you hear what the Lord so lovingly prepared through the diligence of his workers if you aren’t present?
  • How will others receive the benefit of your presence if you are not present?
  • If you are not giving the Lord the firstfruits of the week, what are you giving him during the week?
  • If we can’t figure out how to give Him something so small, in obedience to Him, are we really giving Him anything?
  • At the same time, what are we still expecting from Him?
  • Is it really that hard to schedule around such a small window of time – only 2hrs, and it’s consistently scheduled week-in and week out?

The Beauty of God’s Design

When we obey God in this matter, trust Him with our time and give it to Him faithfully, He rewards us with many benefits.  Here are some of them.

  • The Lord has something for the body from you every single Sunday Even a “warm body” can still raise the temperature of the room!
  • The Lord has something for you every single Sunday!
  • Ephesians 4:16 “…Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
  • The workers/volunteers are especially energized when you are blessed!
  • Celebrations are more enjoyable when everyone is there!
  • A crowd draws a crowd
  • Visitors want to be part of a living/breathing vibrant ministry
    • This is true regardless of size! Raw numbers do not matter here, but the % participation does.  A church of 5000 with only 2500 in attendance is not fully alive and visitors will know it.  A church of 50 with only 25 in attendance is half dead and people will sense it!

Whatever your track record, make a committment today to make some extra time for the Lord this coming Sunday.  If you come for the sermon but not the Bible study, you are missing a big part of church life.  If you come to church but immediately leave to get back to your busy life, you are missing out on God’s principle of rest and recovery.  If you are faithful in all these areas, praise the Lord!  Keep up the good work and tell others why you think it’s worth it!

How to spend time with God

October 31st, 2009

AbbyI wanted to post some thoughts on spending time with God. Some people call this “quiet time” or “devotions”, but whatever you call it, make sure you strive for a regular, uninterrupted, quiet, devotional, and personal time with your heavenly Father.

I initially wrote this as an email for a couple members in the church and I decided it would be helpful for everyone.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all this, go with whatever you think fits you the best; then come back to this from time to time to get a new idea. It’s good to keep things fresh!

Like any relationship, there are suggestions and guidelines but what you ultimately do will be living, dynamic and unique to you and the Lord.

The right mindset and worship

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains how things from God are spiritually discerned so keep that in mind as you read. When we go to God’s word to learn more about him, we should do so in spirit. It’s not just about learning facts. Learning facts are important but that’s only a piece. Just like the facts you learned about each other when you were dating were important, but if that’s all there had been you wouldn’t have ever gone further in your relationship.

To have this spiritual mindset it is helpful to include worship in your quiet time. This is a big area for further discussion, but basically it’s the idea of attributing worth to God and setting your mind on Him. You can utilize music, or looking at creation, or photos, or reflecting on God’s attributes, or anything to help you focus on who He is.

Since worship is appreciating who God is, you must learn who God is so you have something to appreciate! This is where Bible reading comes in.

The book of Psalms is a great place to start to incorporate learning about the attributes of God and also worshipping. The psalms were written to be songs so they have a musical, lyrical feel to them and are mostly easy to read. David is the main author of Psalms and you can journey with him through the full range of emotions – from sheer delight, to anger, to confusion, loneliness, persecution, celebration, gratitude, confidence, doubt, etc.

Bible Reading

Again Psalms is good for many reasons. Just skim around until something jumps out at you and read that Psalm, then spend some time reflecting.

For your questions, simply keep a notebook with your Bible and jot the question down for later and keep on going. This will help you keep your quiet time as primarily relational, connection time with you and God. Of course if pursuing the question is part of that, then by all means pursue it right then and there. But if it’s more of an intellectual curiosity or something you need to ask someone about, write it down. Then, whenever you’re with someone you think might know the answer, you can bring it up. I love getting questions by email, so that’s always an option too.

There are many techniques that you may try. I mix and match and even come up with new ones.

  • Read until something stops you, then stop and talk to the Lord about why it stopped you. What does He want you to learn? Ask questions about what you read like “What does God want me do get from this? What is the point?”, “Who is God? What is He like? What does this passage tell me about Him?”
  • Read a single verse or two in a book of your choice (I suggest books by the Apostle Paul first), really digesting every word. Read it over and over emphasizing a different word each time. For example using Rom 5:8:
    • For GOD demonstrates his love for us, that…
    • For God DEMONSTRATES his love for us, that…
    • For God demonstrates his LOVE for us, that…
    • For God demonstrates his love for US, that…
    • etc.
  • Go through a large passage at once, read for the big picture. Read an epistle such as Ephesians as a letter (just like if you get a letter in the mail, you read the whole thing)
  • Listen to the Bible. Or listen and read at the same time. Or listen, read, and journal at the same time. This is one of my favorites. I use www.biblegateway.com and listen in the NIV while I read in the NKJV.
  • Read a Psalm corresponding to the date. There are thirty days avg in each month. Begin with whatever the current date and read the corresponding psalm. Then add 30 to that date and read that psalm. Keep adding 30 until you have read five psalms. For example, if it were the 7th of the month, you would read Psalm 7, 37, 67, 97 and 127. Tip: Psalm 119 is long. You may find it helpful to save it for the thirty-first day of the month.
  • Read a chapter in Proverbs corresponding to the date. There are 31 chapters in proverbs.
  • Use a devotional guide. Read whatever scripture is on that day’s page along with the devotional text. There are several in The Point library you may check out.
  • Read through the Bible in a year (or two years). www.oneyearbibleonline.com
  • Develop a “portfolio” of favorite passages. go to them according to your mood.
  • Pick something you have always wanted to know more about and study it. I can give you some pointers on doing this.
  • I try to meditate on some key passages related to the Christian life regularly, regardless of where else I am reading.
  • Galatians 5
  • Ephesians 5
  • Philippians 3:12-16, 20
  • Colossians 3
  • Romans 6-8 (ch 8 is easier to understand than 6-7)

Prayer

  • Praying the Psalms is nice, since many of them were prayers to begin with. Just say them out loud and personalize them a bit as you go.
  • Write your prayers. This is my favorite because it helps my concentration. Sometimes I’ll write what I think the Lord is saying to me to, like a little back-and-forth dialog – very helpful.
  • Pray out loud and pray quietly, both have different benefits.
  • There are different kinds of prayers, make sure to have a balance. Praise, adoration/worship, thanksgiving, requests, needs, intercession (requests on behalf of other people), confession, wants, questions, simple conversation / small talk (that’s fun too!).
  • Keep a prayer journal. Note the requests you are making. Go back every so often and write down any answers you’ve seen.

Other Considerations

  • A good thing to remember is all the Bible is for us, and Paul’s books are specifically to us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Colossians 1:25. I’m eager to see your questions about this!
  • Take a topical journey for a few days or weeks. For example, every day at the beginning of your quiet time write “God is…” at the top of your journal page. Fill it out with whatever you find in your reading that day. You can do something similar for any topic you want to explore.
  • Try various times of the day (upon waking up, before work, lunch time, after work, at mealtime, before bedtime, in the middle of the night)
  • Ask others how they do it.

A great pattern to start with is prayer, Bible reading, then prayer again. You might add journaling and some exercises in worship too. Mix it up whenever you feel like you’re starting to get in a rut. Please post any follow-up questions as comments below.


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