Archives for posts with tag: Quiet Time

GRATITUDE

In a recent bible study, we had a great discussion about Gratitude.  The sharing was super and we got into a long discussion about the role that gratitude plays in our lives  . . .  in the level of joy that we each live with . . .  or don’t.  After a lot of discussion and turning this subject all around I think we all agreed that the main thing that having gratitude does is bring us closer to God.

Think about it.  If we believe that all things came from God then it would make sense that He is responsible for the things that we have to be thankful for.  Now, this can open up a new discussion on whole different track . . . is God responsible for everything that happens . . . our getting that promotion  . . . having a healthy baby . . .  our mom getting cancer . . . uncle Fred dying in a car crash?!?!  That is a track I will discuss in a future posting, but in short; my thought on this is that there are natural laws of our universe and there are natural consequences to decisions we make.  And let’s face it; bad things happen to good people!

I don’t believe that God causes these bad things to happen.  I do think that He allows them to happen . . . but He will use even the bad stuff for good.  See James: 1, 2-5 (again, another blog post subject!)

Anyway, back to our discussion on gratitude: It is helpful for us to explore the things that we have and experience in our lives that we can give God thanks for . . . in nature . . . in our relationships . . . in our work.  It really helps us to tie things back to Him . . . Our Creator.

For me, I find that gratitude or thankfulness is a muscle all in and of itself.  Like any muscle in our body, if we go long enough periods of time without using them they will atrophy . . . lose their tone and not function as well.  When I go through times when I am not actively exploring and searching out the things I have to be thankful to God for . . . my attitude starts to go downhill . . . and pretty soon negativity starts to creep in and that is not a healthy track for any of us.

This discussion could go on forever and I would welcome any of you reading this to keep it going by way of posting your comments to this blog.

For now, I want to close with this: Several years ago when Kris and I were so busy in our lives that we could scarcely see ourselves coming or going,  I ran across a book which made a radical change in my prayer life:  “Too Busy NOT to Pray” by Bill Hybels.  This is a great book in many aspects but the thing that got my attention and continues to influence my prayer life was Bill sharing the A.C.T.S. model for prayer.  Here is an excerpt of Bill’s book and his discussion on A.C.T.S..  Hopefully it will have a nugget or two that you can hold on to:

Excerpt from His Book: “Too Busy NOT to Pray” by Bill Hybels
A.C.T.S. Model for Prayer

I. A doration.

In adoration we focus on our God who has dreams for us rather than beginning by focusing on our problems. It is good for us to be reminded that God is bigger than our problems and difficulties.

What is meant by adore? Webster defines adore as “regard with utmost love, esteem, or respect, to worship as divine.” We usually call Sunday morning services in our churches at R-S, worship services. Just calling a service worship, does not necessarily mean that worship takes place. Adoration, in private prayer or in a gathering of Christians, requires our involvement.

Have you ever thought about how you adore God? You might think about the many attributes or qualities of God or focus on a particular attribute of God you are especially aware of at that time. To help me do this I may use a Psalm of praise or another scripture which tells of the qualities of God. I may sing a great hymn of praise or a praise chorus. You may notice that I often plan our Sunday morning services to spend some time in adoration of God, frequently having us join together in hymns or praise choruses. We have already sung our theme song. (8:30) Let’s adore our Lord with some more songs of praise. (10:30) Our choir is going to sing an anthem of praise and then we ask you to join in singing a couple of hymns of praise.

II. C onfession.

Confession may be a neglected area of public and personal prayer. We become aware of our sin and confess it to Jesus Christ as we are born into life with Christ. Jesus died to forgive us for our sins and when we confess our sin and ask for His forgiveness, He does indeed forgive us and cleanse us.

If you have made this vitally important step in your life, let me ask? Have you sinned since then? Have you confessed that sin to God? Notice I said, “That sin, not all your sins.” We certainly should confess them all, but naming specific sins privately to God is a much more effective means of confession than lumping them together and saying, “Lord, Please forgive me for all these ways I have failed to please You.” Be honest with God. He knows the truth about you and me anyway. Our conversation with God is so much better when are open and honest with our Lord. Think about honesty in other relationships, too. If I am trying to hide something I have done against you, what kind of relationship can we really have?

Some people, including some church attenders don’t like to think about sin. Pastor Bill Hybels tells this story.

Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man-I’ll call him Harry-who regularly attended my church. I had given a message on our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. Harry came to my office and said, “All this talk about sin is making me feel really bad. I for one don’t consider myself a sinner.”

Harry was a guy I could shoot straight with, so I said, “Well, maybe you’re not. Let me ask you a few questions. You’ve been married twenty-five years. Have you been absolutely one hundred per cent faithful to your wife the whole time?”

He chuckled and said, “Well, you know I’m in sales. I travel a lot…” We both knew what he was admitting to.

“Okay,” I said, ‘when you fill out our expense account, do you ever add something that wasn’t strictly business?”

“Everybody does that.” he relied.

“And when you are out there selling your product, do you ever exaggerate-say it will do something it won’t, or promise to ship it tomorrow when you know it won’t go out until next Tuesday?”

“That’s the industry standard.” he said.

I looked straight at him and said, “You have just told me that you are an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar. Repeat those words after me-I am an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar.”

He looked as if his eyes were going to pop out. “Don’t use those awful words!” he said. “I only said that there was a little something on the side, a little this and a little that…”

“No,” I said. “Just say it like it is. You’re an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar. To me that means you’re a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.”

Your sin may be different from Harry’s, but are you willing to call it what it is before God and ask for His forgiveness? That’s what confession really is, saying the same thing about sin as God says. Don’t try to rationalize it because others do. Let’s take a few moments right now to privately confess our sin to God, after we confess together using 890.

III. T hanksgiving.

Repeatedly the scriptures call us to thanksgiving, not merely a holiday we observe once a year. In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica he wrote (5:18), “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Pray thanking God for who He is, for what He has done for us through Christ, for how we can find Him actively at work among us each day.

Some of us as parents know how wonderful it makes us feel to have a daughter or son freely thank us for something we have done for them! That really blesses me when Rachael or Jonathan says, “Dad, Thanks for taking me to the ball game or the playground!” Don’t you think God, our heavenly Father is also deeply moved when we express our gratitude to Him?

Let’s take a few moments to thank God now, maybe share some God hunts, but please don’t share prayer concerns yet. Then we will share communion, thanking God for the wonderful gift of His Son to give us salvation.

IV. S upplication.

Supplications, that’s the aspect of praying that most of us do better than the previous three. After we have adored Him, confessed our sin to Him, and thanked Him for the delightful things He has done for us, then it is time for supplication, for telling God what we need, for making our requests to the source of all our blessings. We’ll do this now.

As always thank you for reading.  I pray that this posting has ministered to you in some way.

Please feel free to comment or open up discussions on this or any other subject you are interested in.

Blessings,

Pat

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Last time we talked about how God has strengthened His people and that we need to rely on Him to strengthen us.  Well, that’s all great but how does all that happen?  How do we receive strength from God?

Let’s look at the first part of our scripture again:

12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things by just sucking it up?!?! I can do all things by pulling myself up by my boot straps?!?!?
Oh wait, I think it says,  I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-20 New King James Version (NKJV

The elements of sucking it up and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps are important if we are going to allow God to strengthen us but . . . they are not central to the idea.  Trusting God is the central idea.

So how does this all work?
FIRST – We have to be in touch with God; through prayer and spending time with Christ in a daily quiet time.  It doesn’t matter what part of the day you do this or how long you spend.  As they say in the popular ad campaign: “Just Do It!” .
I happen to be a morning person and it just makes sense in my mind for me not to start my day without direction from God.  Consequently, I have my quiet time in the morning.  I have a good friend who does the opposite; she has her quiet time before she goes to bed at night.  She feel that it helps to unwind the day and put her in a place of peace and of God’s contemplations before she sleeps.

You will just need to experiment and see when the best time is for you.

I find that it just seems to make sense to talk to my creator each day.  It is like He offers me a gift (talking with Him) each day.  On the days I don’t take time for it, I can see a big difference in my day . . .  things don’t seem to fit together well & I’m more anxious.  It’s as if I got locked into seeing the micro small version of my day.  Without my time with God, I don’t seem to be able to see His big picture very well.  I’t  as if I am grounded when I don’t have my quiet time.  When I do . . . I am able to get off the ground and see the aerial/overall view.

Spending quiet time with God moves you from a religion with God to a relationship with God.  When you spend a consistent quiet time with God it won’t be long before you will discover that the rituals of your religion have started to give way to your desire just to talk to God and hear from Him.

Now, am I talking about being a pious religious person who spends hours in prayer?  Not really.  Now, sometimes life may require that of us but on a regular basis, I will spend anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes . . . depending on my needs and . . . how much of a priority I have made my quiet time for that day.

So how do you do your quiet time with God?  You will have to find what works best for you.  For me, I start my time with what I call my centering prayer.  Then I move into putting God’s thoughts and ideas into my mind by reading a devotional or some scripture in the bible.  Then I pray.

The centering prayer for me, is a very important part of this process.  So what is it and where did it come from?  Well, many years ago our small group decided to study two books written by Charles Stanley: “Talking to God” and “Listening to God”.  The Talking to God one was easy for me, many times that is all I do and don’t give God a turn to talk.  That’s where the second book came into play.  “Listening to God” walks you through many ways for us to listen to God and I highly recommend that you add that book to your reading list for spiritual growth.  Among a ot of great content, the one thing that I got from this book and study has stayed with me for a long time and that was my centering prayer and here it is:

  •  “Father, I ask that you open my heart and mind that I can receive your message for me today.”
  •  “Father, I ask that you unclutter my heart and mind so that I can focus on your message for me today.”
  •  “Father, I pray that you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can understand your message for me today.”

Let me put this into perspective for you; I think the opening and uncluttering of our hearts is pretty self explanatory.  On any given day, at any given time, our hearts and minds are so over burdened with ideas, thoughts, worries and reaction to the incredible stimulus all of our minds and hearts take in each day, it just takes a moment for us to have God open and unclutter our hearts and minds so we can receive and focus on the gift or ideas He has for us.  But the understanding part?  That is quite another thing!  The Holy Spirit is the part of God that helps us to understand Him and His thoughts for us.  The creator of the universe is more complex than we know and the Holy Spirit helps us to make sense of Him.

Let me give you an example of this.  When we lived in California, we had a woman in our small group named Daisy.  Daisy only moved here from China a few years ago and has been diligently working on speaking English.  Now, I can be totally willing to listen (or to receive) to Daisy and be totally focused on what she is saying to me but if Daisy is speaking in Chinese (which I do not speak a word of) then I have no chance of understanding her.  I will need an interpreter or all is for not.  In the same way, we need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds so that we will know what it is God wants for us.

Here is an example of one of my prayers when I haven’t gone through this centering process:  Father, thank you for blessing our business with the Guesthouses . . . gee, I wonder what time our guest will be coming in this afternoon . . . I wonder if it will conflict with our cooking class . . . wow, I can’t wait to try that artichoke dip . . . boy am I hungry . . .

I think we all have an issue of our mind wandering when we are praying and the centering prayer won’t completely stop it.  I believe that God is working on our concentration but we all still have our free will to allow our minds to go from place to place.  On another level, this process puts a message into your sub conscious mind that God is there working behind the scenes and that you will be more focused and intent on hearing what God has to say to you.

Now that you have made the commitment to talk to god and listen for His message for you, is this going to be a Noah or Moses deal?  I mean, when you ask God about something, is the house going to shake under his thunderous voice when the Creator of the universe gives you His answer?  I think uh . . . not so much.  That’s not to say that He couldn’t if He wanted to.  And, who is to say that God may not choose to speak to you in an audible way.  Now, just so you don’t feel singled out, I have heard folks like Dr. Robert H. Schuller at The Crystal Cathedral, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and many other of our country’s spiritual leaders talk about the fact that they have never heard an “audible” voice from God.

Now, most folks talk about hearing from God in their heart.   What does that mean?  I call it an “inkling”  Just one of those things inside of you when you know the direction you are supposed to go or what you should do . . . in your gut.  Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Chicago has written an entire book on this subject: “The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond ”.   Bill talks about hearing from God in the form of Whispers.  I strongly recommend that you read his book.  It really helps to clarify a lot on this subject.

Next, you may not hear from God right away.  Just because we decided when we want to hear from God doesn’t necessarily mean that is when He will choose to let you hear from Him.  Typically, God will use many different forms to get His message to you.  He will use our spouses, significant others, circumstances, books and scripture just to name a few.  I think we have all had similar experiences when we have been praying about something and then meet with a friend and the same subject comes up.   Or the times when you are sitting in church and you wonder how the pastor knew the exact message you needed that day!  What can I say . . . it’s a God thing!

I think we have heard the message that God wants us to pray without ceasing.    Here is what The Message Paraphrased Bible says about it:

16-18Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – the Message)

Does this mean that we should gather up our provisions . . . food and water and lock ourselves in our little prayer closet 24/7 and never stop praying?  Well, I can tell you, that is not how I interpret this!  I think that this means for us to be continually mindful of what God is doing in our lives.  How He is working behind the scenes in our lives.  And how He just continually works to provide a wonderful place for us to live . . . our planet.

We just need to notice and continually thank Him for the pretty flowers, for our small change s in attitude, for a new idea, for an idea to change something in our life . . . a habit . . . a hurt or a hang-up . . . reconciling  with someone . . . starting a global ministry for widows and orphans . . . everything.

If you will give God His reign, you will be shocked at the ideas He will bring to your mind.  Just let them flow!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

Stay tuned for part three – There Will Be Spiritual Battles

Thank you for following and reading,

Blessings,

Pat