God’s 2019 Gifts

My Advent devotional this morning focused on this verse:
But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. Luke 2:19 CSB
The devotion challenged that it is important to store up the mountaintop experiences in life in order to recall them for the tough experiences. Mary seemed to realize this at a young age.
In the hardest moments of our lives, we need to remember the victory of Jesus and recall all the ways we’ve seen His goodness. When you experience God’s faithfulness in your life, take a step back and store it up as treasure in your heart. Think of it often. When your toughest days come, like Mary, you will be able to endure. @youversion reading plan
I took this challenge and created an exercise. The exercise was to write down all the gifts God has given me this year. To help me remember, I looked back through my journal (an example of why journaling is a good thing). At completion, my list was twenty deep and filled up the page. That’s a lot of goodness. This exercise could be very encouraging and even worshipful. What gifts has God given you this year? How will you treasure them?

Heard

(Final post in a 5-part series collaboration)

In the first four posts of this series, my guests have shared how they hear from God. Here’s a recap with a link to their post:

Dawn: worship, prayer, personal devotions, preaching, meditation, relationships

Bob: putting God first, asking Him to speak, aligning priorities, talking about him with others

Erin: peace from God after season of prayer, Spirit conviction, through others

Aaron: vision from within (words, peace), scripture

Before I answer the question, I believe it’s helpful to answer another question: What might be keeping me from hearing God’s voice? I believe that can be answered with this word-Noise. God is always present and available, but it’s quite possible he can’t be heard over all the other noise. And if I’m honest with myself, all that noise is entirely within my control.

“If I’m moving at an insane pace and there is no room in my life for quiet, I will miss God’s voice.” –Lance Witt, Replenish

So if I earnestly want to hear from God, I have to control the noise. And what that most likely means is tuning it out. Tuning out:

  • Distractions like social media
  • Voices contrary to godly dialogue (in my own head, lies from the enemy, subtleties in media/entertainment, misguided thinking or content from well-meaning people)
  • By slowing down
  • By scheduling quiet

Once I’ve handled the noise, then I’m ready to tune in to hear from God. Dawn, Bob, Erin, and Aaron have told us how they tune in. Here are five ways I tune in:

  1. Community. As an introvert, a community of one sounds fine to me. But I’ve learned that I rob myself and tune out the voice of God when I resist being in community. So my community consists of small groups from church, routine meet ups with like-minded men, being coached, and engaging in Sunday services by expecting to receive a personal message from God to me.
  2. Journaling. I’m not legalistic about it, but often journaling is a helpful exercise during or after reading scripture. When a thought or challenge surfaces that needs some exploring, that’s what guides how I approach my journal entry. Sometimes it looks like a paraphrase of what I read, putting into my own words or applying it to a current situation. Sometimes it ends up being a written prayer. Sometimes it’s bullet points. Sometimes it’s an outline for future teaching use. If you haven’t tried it and would like some direction, I suggest reading The Divine Mentor by  Wayne Cordeiro. Journaling has the potential of opening up an avenue of conversation that otherwise may not happen.
  3. Prayer. In order to hear from God, prayer should be viewed as an ongoing dialogue, a two-way conversation.  You might say a paraphrase of “pray without ceasing” would be “never hang up the phone.”
  4. Asking and Expecting. Similar to dinner conversation or an email thread, the dialogue of prayer should include more than input from one party. For my part of the conversation, I try to include questions that require an answer only God could give, such as:
    • “How did I do with that interaction with my coworker today?”
    • “What are you trying to say to me through that verse that just came to mind?”
    • “What encouraging words do you want me to share with the grocery cashier?” Ask the question and wait for the answer. He’ll answer the email when it’s time. Or it may wait until the next meal. That’s part of recognizing his sovereignty.  But it’s up to my end of the conversation to ask the question.
  5. Responding. Since all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is little doubt that he speaks to us. I have found that one of the best ways to tune in is to simply respond when he speaks. Much like a child who has been called to dinner or given any other direction from their parent, a respectful, “Heard,” helps both parties know they are connected.  And a “Thank you” can’t hurt either.

So what’s your answer? How do you hear from God? A DJ on thejoyfm Tuesday said he got a message from God through feeding his fish. One thing is true-God’s ability to be heard is unlimited. We five writers would like to hear how God is heard by you.

Building Trust

This quote came from my @youversion devotion this morning:

“My perspective of every situation will either encourage or dishearten my trust in God.”

I believe that. So to put it to a test, here’s a simple exercise I started as a journal entry. You might give it a try also.

Make two headings on the page: Dishearten & Encourage

Under dishearten, write a perspective that clearly lacks trust in God.  Maybe something like, “God doesn’t care.”

Then under encourage, write the perspective that counters this statement. Possibly, “God is always at work.”

So far I’ve written four competing perspectives on my page. I’m going to review it daily and add to it throughout the week.  The goal-build trust instead of sabotage it.

What exercise might help you build your trust in God?

When Has God Spoken to You (Journal Exercise Suggestion)

The back was too tight to do a morning run this morning (that’s what stretching and treadmill runs later in the day are for); so instead, God and I had a longer than usual conversation.

During the conversation I got a pretty clear message of something I am to do this week. Receiving that message made me ask this question, “If I made a list of the ‘big, writing-on-the-wall’ messages I’ve gotten from God in my life, what would that include?” 

Seemed like a good exercise, so I did it before I left for the office. As it turns out, in 30 years of adult living, I’d say I’ve received nine such messages. To be clear, “Be nice to idiots is not a ‘big’ message.” The daily messages we receive from the Holy Spirit are nothing more than atuning ourselves to communicating with Him regularly. A big message is something like, “Change your career path,” “I promise you if you’ll stop saying ‘no’ to me about this direction you’ll be 100% satisfied,” or “You’ve been waiting for the green light. Here it is.”

You might call these markers. Markers are specific times or places in our lives where significant things happen. Sure, your wedding day, your child’s birthday, and other physical events are markers. This intentional, spiritual exercise makes you think about your conversations-with-God markers. They can remind you who has been for you, where he has been with you, and what he has done through you.

So what are you waiting for? Get a blank page in front of you. Answer the question. You never know; another “big” message might be ready to get marked.

2 Love Questions

Unintentionally, I’ve read quite a bit on the subject of love in the last few weeks-more specifically, the impacts of love versus fear on one’s life-the good, the bad, the ugly. Guess which one produces the good?

Most of this reading was in Timothy Jenning’s book entitled The God-Shaped Brain. Jennings presents convincing psychological, neurological and biblical evidence of the rewards of receiving and giving the love of God. Then I read the last chapter entitled “Love is All We Need” in a coaching book, an assignment for a class. The coauthors trump the value of love for a healthy, well-lived, fruitful life.

I’ve been focusing on the discipline of journaling since the beginning of the year. As a response to these readings, I’ve let this subject of love be my jumping off spot this week. And I’ve unearthed a powerful exercise. It’s simple but thought provoking. If followed daily, it could change how each day is reviewed and how the next day is lived. The exercise includes answering the following two questions at the end of the day:

  • How did God show me his love today?

This could be in an answered prayer, through someone else’s actions, through my observation of nature, or through scripture reading and meditation.

  • How did I show his love today?

This is the more challenging question. If you are aware of the coming question, it should put you in the mindset that you want to have something to report. It doesn’t reflect well on receiving God’s love by not showing his love. This question has the potential of changing a day’s course for you and therefore for others.

Yesterday, a friend noted the good mentioned in a prayer that made them aware of God’s activity. Your focus on him, his love, his goodness will make a difference. Give these two love questions some thought and see how aware you can become of his love.