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WHAT IS GOD’S PURPOSE FOR MY LIFE?

Purpose

Finding your divine purpose does not have to be a mystery. Do you chase the question whether you are wasting your life in a certain job, relationship, or church? Most of us are deeply concerned with living meaningful, purposeful lives, yet we spend a lot of energy trying to figure out if we are. This post is meant to help answer the question, “what is God’s purpose for my life?”.

#1. God’s Purpose for Himself

The journey to discovering our purpose is to begin by asking what is God’s purpose. What is God’s goal in creating and governing the world? Why does He exist and what is His reason for being?

Isaiah 43:7
Bring all who claim me as their God,
for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” 

If we are seeking to follow Him it is important to know where He is going. If we don’t know His goal and our lives are not in alignment with it, then we will find ourselves in conflict with God and excluded from fellowship with Him. However, on the other hand, nothing inspires love, joy, and peace for daily living like knowing you are in harmony with God and His purpose for Himself.

Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden tree in order to be like God and independent of Him, the human race has been enslaved to a rebellious heart that hates to rely on God but loves to make a name for itself. We were created from the beginning in God’s image that He might show forth God’s glory. His plan is to multiply and fill the earth so that the knowledge of the glory of God would cover the whole world.

However, ever since the fall of man into sin, people have refused to align themselves with this divine goal. God exists to bring glory to Himself so that all of His creation may know Him. Take a moment now through this link to participate in a brief guided time of reflection that will help you know how to better pray to experience God’s glory around you.

Listen to prayer

Find peace, purpose and strength with Jesus in prayer. Hear daily prayers, choose prayer topics and customize your prayer time.

THIS POST WAS TAKEN FROM THE YOUVERSION BIBLE READING PLAN. https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1421-what-is-gods-purpose-for-my-life
GO HERE AND START YOUR OWN BIBLE READING PLAN.

GO MAKE DISCIPLES

Make Disciples
What is your job as a Christian? If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what would he put on it?

At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

 

The following article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).

Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?

Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.

There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.

What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.

LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES:

Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.

This article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

IS CONTENTMENT POSSIBLE AT CHRISTMAS?

6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

 6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

If you think it’s tough to catch a glimpse of Santa at Christmas, try finding contentment.

Your kids want to add “just one more thing” to their wish lists. Nonstop commercials are trying to sell you more stuff. Your neighbours are in a full-on Christmas lights competition. It’s merry madness!

This re-posted article has some great insights. It was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

We all want to focus more on gratitude and contentment during the holidays, but it’s hard putting that into practice. As a parent, it’s your job to set that tone for your kids. Begin by setting some realistic expectations for Christmas, and then teach them what contentment looks like. We know what you are thinking. That’s easier said than done. And you’re right. But let’s look at some practical ways to make it happen.

Set Expectations

Giving is a huge part of Christmas. As parents, we love to see the joy on our kids’ faces as they tear open their gifts. However, you have to consider where you are in your Baby Steps before you begin buying. If you are super-focused on getting out of debt, you may choose to scale back this year.

As tough as that decision might be for you, talk about it openly with your spouse and kids. Start by sitting down with your spouse, setting a budget, and agreeing to stick to it. Once you have your budget on paper, call a family meeting with your kids and begin setting the expectations for Christmas. There’s no need to tell your kids how much you plan to spend. Just let them know that things may look a little different this year while you are working toward your goals.

Here are some other ways to guide your kids to more realistic expectations:

1. Put it on paper. Have your kids create their wish lists. They can simply write their list on a sheet of paper or they could make a collage using pictures from toy catalogues, paper and glue.

2. Tell them what is doable. Look over the lists with your spouse. If there is something on the list that is too expensive, let your child know that it isn’t in the budget this year. The longer they anticipate a PlayStation or playground set, the more disappointed they’ll be if they don’t get it.

3. Make the big choice. If that big item is in your budget this year, explain to your child that choosing something more pricey may mean fewer presents under the tree. This is a good opportunity for them to consider their choices. If they’d rather have more presents under the tree, they might revise their list.

Teach Contentment

If you are scaling back this year on Christmas spending, then you have a great chance to teach your kids about contentment. “Stuff” is fun, but it won’t make you happy. When a child learns to give to others and not be attached to their stuff, they are filled with a spirit of gratitude. And gratitude leads to contentment. So how do you get there? Here are some ways to teach this to your child:

4. Volunteer. Spend a day with your kids at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other type of charity. Your kids will see the faces of people who have little. And hopefully they’ll be less likely to complain about the gifts that don’t show up under the tree on Christmas morning.

5. Pass it down. This works best with younger children. Odds are that clothes get passed down. So why not do that with toys? Have the older sibling select a couple of their old toys that they know the younger one likes, wrap them up, and place them under the tree. The younger child will love the presents. Even better, the older child will get to see their little brother or sister’s reaction. This will help them understand the power of giving.

6. Get one. Give one. Encourage contentment while reducing clutter. Tell your child that for every toy they receive, they’ll give one away. They’ll learn to not hold onto their stuff too tightly. But, more importantly, they’ll learn to share.

The most important key to setting expectations and teaching contentment is communication. Talk to your spouse and kids often throughout the holiday season. You might even choose to tell the grandparents, extended family and friends what Christmas is going to look like for your family this year. When everyone knows what to expect, you’ll all have a merrier holiday season.

This is a re-posted article that was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

🙂

IS THERE ROOM FOR ANXIETY IN OUR LIVES?

“Letting go and letting God” isn’t always comfortable.

Dude
It is more than likely that if you have ever taken the risk to share your anxiety within the Christian community, you have heard some counsel in the form of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:6. Paul says to the “holy people” at Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything.” It’s a very powerful verse, a favourite of mine, and one that Christians have turned to time and time again when they experience anxiety. But what if it’s just not that simple?

I believe that when we cite this as the cure-all to one’s anxiety, we mean very well. In fact, many find comfort with the recitation of these six simple words. But in our attempts to help others and perhaps deflect our own anxiety and feelings of helplessness, we can inadvertently communicate the wrong message.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

Rhett Smith says; often in my counselling practice, a Christian will come in to tell me they have tried to follow the “biblical counsel” of others to not be anxious, but their anxiety doesn’t quite seem to dissipate.

“Is something wrong with me? Am I a bad Christian?” they desperately ask me. “No, nothing is wrong with you,” I tell them. “What if God is using your anxiety to speak to you? What might God be saying to you?”

When we discourage others from safely expressing their anxiety, then we are essentially saying to them that anxiety is a bad emotion and that it is something to be done away with. It communicates to them that perhaps something is wrong with their Christian faith, and they begin to internalize the message, “I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to be anxious.”

ANXIETY RE-IMAGINED
Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.

We are not the first people to struggle with anxiety and the emotions that surround it. In fact, as Christians, we come from a long line of people who have struggled with anxiety and have gone into hiding, putting on masks, in the process becoming less of who God created them to be. In the opening pages of Scripture we see that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge, both of their eyes were opened. In that moment, their instinct was to fight or flee, which is what most of us do when we are faced with anxiety. In their anxiety, Adam and Eve chose to blame each other, flee from the scene, hide and cover themselves up. I can only imagine the anxiety that the two of them must have felt as they hid from the Lord, waiting to be found out. Every sound coming from the Lord as He made His way toward them must have filled them with a growing sense of dread. As Scripture records: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:7-10)

When faced with anxiety, we feel exposed, naked and vulnerable. Hiding and covering up is typically how we respond when we feel those things.

God has not only created us, but He has created us as free beings, and in our freedom we are given possibility and choice. I would like for you, for a moment, to imagine God freely calling you toward His good purposes. And as you journey in that direction, you may find yourself caught between the present and the future. That in-between place of the present and the future can create all kinds of anxiety because of the freedom of choice God has given us in our life. Perhaps we are anxious because the experiences of our past have shaped us in such a way that we dread making a free and deliberate choice. Or perhaps the mere possibility of making a wrong choice has left you feeling anxious.

Anxiety is, therefore, both the cost and gift of our identity as free creatures in relationship to God. We have choices. Without freedom, and the anxiety it entails, we are just slaves—yearning for safety and security and grumbling at God rather than living the anxious journey through the wilderness toward freedom.

IT’S TIME TO GET UNSTUCK
Maybe during your life journey, you feel as if the plans and purposes that God has for your life are not congruent with the life you are leading. And no matter how many times someone quotes to you Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”), you just don’t feel at peace in your heart. What many people forget to tell you is that in verse 10 of that same chapter, the Lord says that Israel will go through 70 years of exile and slavery in Babylon. Talk about anxiety! But God would use their time of trouble to draw Israel closer to Him. It was during that time of exile that God continually reminded His people that He was their God and that when they sought Him with all their heart, He would listen and deliver them out of captivity.

Anxiety beckons us to not allow our lives to get stuck in a rut. If God gives us freedom and allows possibility, then just maybe God has hardwired anxiety into us as part of those choices. Perhaps anxiety is a paradoxical feeling offered up to us as a gift that propels us to seek after Him and to continually grow in the process.

Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

HALLOWEEN: 3 VIEWS & 1 OPINION

Pumpkins in a Row
OCTOBER 31ST APPROACHES (AGAIN)

Our city wants to become the “Haunt Capital of the World”. Each year local businesses award large prizes to the ‘best dressed home’ (or school) in keeping with haunted Halloween traditions. It’s impossible to not notice the darkened transformation of our town especially in the days leading up to end of the month. As ghoulishness and gore are amplified, sometimes literally, most shrug off the deathly horror scenes and say “Oh, well” yet a number respond with “Oh, hell”.

LET ME ILLUSTRATE
Most of the following article first appeared on Intoxicated Life by Luke Gilkerson. I edited  this piece for brevity and clarity.

Across the street, a mother dresses her kids for Trick-or-Treat. Her daughter is dressed like a pirate. Her son looks like Dracula, complete with blood stains on the sides of his mouth. Their house is highlighted with typical Halloween decor: grave stones, skeletons emerging from the earth, jack-o-lantern on the porch, and bed-sheet ghosts hanging from the trees. This family also regularly attends church and calls Jesus Lord.

Down the road a mother hides her kids inside a lightless home for the evening. She even forbids the use of any decorations, including pumpkins, in order to not associate with Halloween. Her children neither take-in nor hand-out candy. Every year she reminds her children about the demonic elements of Halloween and warns them that there is nothing ‘happy’ about ‘Happy Halloween’. She religiously rebukes any fellow Christian who would even attend a local “harvest party” or anything that remotely resembles a festival held on October 31. Her family also faithfully goes to church and calls Jesus Lord.

I believe neither of these views is the best way for Christian families to navigate the day called Halloween. I will expand that thought later but first…

3 VIEWS
When dealing with anything in human cultures, Christians have a number of choices. Here is a helpful way to discern cultural issues: receive, reject, or redeem.

• Receive — There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people. These are things Christians can freely receive. Paul and Silas could walk the same Roman roads and sail in Roman ships alongside any pagan without any tarnish on their consciences. Today, I can appreciate the electric lights in my home just like my neighbour and not feel guilty that the power company isn’t owned by Christian people. I can buy my produce from the grocery store without the concern that the farmers are heathens.

• Reject — There are some things in culture that are inherently sinful and cannot be transformed to be used for the Lord’s purposes. Paul might have eaten pagan meat sold in the marketplace, but he would not attend a pagan temple and drink the cup of demons. This is not a perfect example but nonetheless, today, a building that once was a gambling casino can be bought and turned into a Christian bookstore, but a casino can never become a “Christian casino.” The very nature of this kind of enterprise furthers sinful activity, and this must be rejected by Christians completely.

• Redeem — There are other elements of culture that are often used for sinful purposes but Christians can mine these elements for truths that can be celebrated, reclaimed, and redeemed for God’s purposes. During his speech in Athens, one of the most polytheistic cities in the world, Paul could quote from pagan poets and prophets and even make use of a pagan altar. Paul was redeeming—taking back—from paganism truths latent in their religious celebrations and cultural customs and using them for God’s glory.

This three-fold outline can help Christians navigate cultural events like Halloween.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF ALL HALLOWS EVE
The name “Halloween” comes from “Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve.”

As far as the Christian back-story of Halloween is concerned, the day has its origins in the earliest centuries of the church. As early as the mid-second century, the church celebrated and remembered its martyrs, at times dedicating special days to remember their deaths. As the number of special commemorations multiplied; the idea of having a common day for all martyrs gradually evolved.

The earliest known celebration of “the Feast of All Martyrs” was in Antioch in mid-fourth century, falling on the first Sunday after the feast of Pentecost (which is, by the way, the same day the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates All Saints’ Day). Similar festivals were celebrated in other locations on different days. Over time, this celebration started to embrace not just martyrs but all saints. It was a time when the church celebrated Jesus’ victory over death by remembering the faithful saints who had gone before them.

On May 13th, 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon, the old pagan temple, to the Virgin Mary and “all Christian martyrs.” He removed all its Roman idols and hauled 28 cartloads the bones of various martyrs and saints from the catacombs to a huge basin beneath the altar of the building. As ghastly as that seems, he dedicated that day as “All Saints’ Day.”

Over a century later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) moved All Saints’ (Hallows) Day to November 1 to honour the saints of St. Peter’s church. In 835, Pope Gregory IV officially fixed the date for worldwide observance. Some believe this move was made to coincide with Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival celebrated at the same time, though others doubt the Pope was even aware of this celebration. This pagan festival was held during this season as it was believed that the veil between our world and the spirit world was very thin, allowing the demonic spirits to easily move back and forth. Rituals and feasts were held and the souls of departed relatives were invited to come. Regardless of the Pope’s intentions, in time Samhain and All Hallows Eve eventually co-mingled, leading away from the original intent into the variety of Halloween traditions we have today.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO ‘REDEEM’ HALLOWEEN?
For some Christians, the notion of “redeeming” Halloween will sound ridiculous. How can something so rife with demonic symbolism be redeemed? Perhaps this is just one of those things that fits into the “reject” category. Is there anything positive to redeem? Bare with me and please keep reading.

Undoubtedly, Halloween’s pagan roots, Druid led pagan sacrifices, rituals to commune with the dead, Celtic deities, and the questionable origins of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns are all ungodly and dark. I’m quite aware of all these facts and I’m not asking you to embrace any of these pagan practices.

IN MY OPINION
1. Almost all modern Halloween traditions are rooted in ungodliness. However, the mere fact that our modern Halloween practices are distant echoes of pagan traditions does not, therefore, mean Halloween as a cultural holiday is unredeemable. Remember, to “redeem” something in our culture means to admit it has been used for evil but to reclaim the truth within it, utilizing it for God’s purposes. Not all Halloween activities are redeemable, but in my opinion some possibly are.
2. Modern Halloween traditions are a far cry from their ancient or medieval origins. There are a few elements of Halloween that, in my opinion, have already been ripped away from paganism and redeemed as something wholesome. Let’s face it, the connection between Druids dressing as ghouls and our children dressing up as a character from Veggie Tales is tenuous, at best.
3. It’s important to note that this issue is a matter of conscience. If you read Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, it seems clear to me that Halloween is a “disputable matter,” and it will probably continue to be so.
4. Do not become prideful about our approach on the subject. While we should feel free to discern ourselves and discuss these opinions, we should remember that looking down in a prideful way towards other Christians for differing views is just as sinful in my opinion as a child dressing up as a demonic vampire.

Many Christians reject Halloween outright for very good reasons; others attempt to redeem it, but do so in questionable ways; others have altered the holiday in ways that demonstrate the mindset of a missionary to our modern era.

Do you believe Halloween can be redeemed? Does your family do anything special on October 31st that honours the Lord and reaches out to others?

DEAR FEARFUL AND TEARFUL PARENT

With the shockingly tearful news from Ottawa yesterday, fear is making headlines again in Canada and whether or not the incidents today are related to the ISIS terrorists, it still was a terrifying day for our nation. My eldest son who is presently in Law School near the Ottawa core was in lock-down for a good part of his day. When I heard the breaking news a phone call and a number of texts brought assurance to this dad that he was both safe and sound. Take it from me it is easy for fear to rear it’s ugly head.

Fearful Tearful Parenting

I hope this following letter from Erik Raymond will be an encouragement to you in raising fearless children in an age of fearfulness.

Dear Fearful and Tearful Parent,
As Christian parents we are called to help our children to think about, interact with, and evaluate current issues from a biblical perspective. Cultivating a Christian worldview is one of the main components of child training.

Besides the news of late, in the last few months ISIS has been increasingly in the news, we have had a few discussions as a family about what has been happening. Our daughter like your child is aware and our children who range in age and maturity need us to appropriately address the concern. So there needs to be thoughtful care given to the details of our discussion. However, it is quite near impossible to tame down the atrocities of ISIS to a general discussion.

Our children have become quite concerned—and with good reason. The barbaric beheadings speak of ancient tribal savagery rather than modern military battles. Most of the conflicts they have heard of have involved airplanes, ships, and soldiers. Now these guys come along with a fearlessness that is only matched by their thirst for blood. Of course our kids are concerned—we are concerned.

In talking with our children who may or may not admit concern, they may even fear about them taking over the world, which my daughter did express. I gave her the following advice.

1. ISIS is a group of very evil and bad people. They don’t love God or want to honour him. This is why they are doing these things (Col. 1:21;Titus 3:3). Remember that this is what comes out of an unbelieving heart. All of us have sinful hearts and need to turn to and trust Jesus (Eph. 2:1-3). Not all of us do the same wicked things as ISIS but we all need a Saviour, we are all suffering from the same problem: sin.

2. The world has a lot of bad guys in it who love to do sinful things for the same reason (John 3:19-20). Even in Canada there are horrible, unspeakable things happening every day (murder, abortion, abuse, etc.). This is because we live in a fallen, broken world (Rom. 1:18-25, cf. #1).

3. This type of thing has been going on throughout history, and even throughout your young life. There have been lots of bad guys and terrorists doing evil things since even before you were a baby.

4. Our security does not ultimately come from Canada or even our ability to protect ourselves, but from God (Ps. 20:7Ps. 121:2).

5. God has given you a Daddy to protect you and I will do it with all of my strength and resolve.

6. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders and all of those given charge over us that we may lead quiet peaceable lives (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

7. Pray that God would save some members of this terrorist group. Remember the Apostle Paul, he was basically a terrorist, like ISIS, who killed Christians. God saved him and used him very powerfully for the gospel.

8. Pray for the Christians being persecuted. Pray that they would be comforted by the Holy Spirit and that they would be faithful, even if it means unto death.

9. Remember that Jesus is coming back again. He will punish all evil and set up his kingdom and reign forever. He will make all things new and there will be no more tears, suffering or death. There will be no more bad guys there (Rev. 21:1-5).

10. Jesus told us to pray that God’s name would be honored, his kingdom would come, his will would be done (Mt. 6:9-13). Let’s pray for this with confidence and anticipation because we know this day is coming. Maybe even soon!
I hope this is helpful to you and encourages you and your family as you raise fearless world changers in a fearful and ever changing world.

___________________________________

 This edited article was originally posted by Erik Raymond. He is the author of a previous blog post called ‘What do you tell your children about ISIS?’ It can be found at Ordinary Pastor.

THE PRACTICE OF STILLNESS

 

Person Sitting Quietly on the Edge of a Dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean, Image #7706240

The Practice of Stillness by Michael Hyatt was first published here (michaelhyatt.com)
A
ccording to the popular StrengthsFinder assessment, my top strength is “Achiever.” The report that summarized my test results says,

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

This strength has served me well, but it also has a dark side.

It means I have a difficult time turning off my mind and just being still. I seem to be more of a human doing than a human being.

Recently, my wife Gail recommended that I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. She said, “You won’t agree with everything in this book, but I think it will really challenge you—especially the first chapter.”

Intrigued, I decided to read the book on my recent vacation.

The first chapter is entitled, “Nothing.” In summarizing the chapter, Beck says, “to begin the Joy Diet, you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.”

I was so challenged by this chapter, that I haven’t gotten beyond it. I have now read it four times. I have also practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row.

Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.

What Is Stillness?

Beck’s premise is that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” By doing nothing, she means literally doing nothing.

  • This is not prayer (at least not in the sense of talking to God)
  • It is not problem-solving.
  • It is not planning.

Doing nothing is being still, quieting your mind (and the cacophony of voices), and simply being.

All the ancient wisdom literature points to the importance of this practice. Psalm 46:10 is representative: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Why You Need Stillness

I doubt you need convinced that you need some measure of what I am describing in your life. As I have shared about this topic with others, they inevitably say, “Oh, I so need that in my life! How do I start?”

Nevertheless, here are three of my own reasons for practicing the discipline of stillness:

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

How to Practice Stillness

This is not something I have enough experience with to write. In fact, I feel pretentious for even attempting it.

But perhaps that is the value I can add to the conversation. I am not so experienced that I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner.

So in that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions for how you can practice stillness in your own journey and reclaim some interior margin.

  1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.
  2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat on the dock by the lake. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study and shut the door. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Set a timer. I am following Beck’s admonition to set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.
  4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. Beck says that if you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water. I also play a recording I have of the ocean.
  5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. Beck offers several techniques for practicing “nonjudgmental observation,” a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.
  6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.
  7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness. For me, I go back to a time I stood on the balcony of a monastery in Greece, looking out on the Aegean Sea. I wrote about it here.

Perhaps the most important thing is just to start. It’s easy to blow the discipline of stillness off as something you don’t have time for. Don’t. The busier you are the more important it is.

You need this in your life more than you know. Even if you can only set aside five minutes a day, do it. And if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

Questions: Have you ever practiced stillness? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what is keeping you from starting? You can leave a comment below.

IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Here’s an awesome opportunity to do something (insert guilt) we should have been doing all year long, me included: Stop and pause to express our thanks to our pastors.

Dear Pastor

This is an original, true story written by Bill Allison. It’s very powerful.

If you are a pastor, consider this my small token of appreciation to you for your commitment to ministry.

If you’re not a pastor, why don’t you forward this blog post to your pastor today with a personal note of thanks?

 
IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS
My Encounter with “Moses”

By Bill Allison

Something crazy and God-like happened to me on Sunday, September 12, 2004, during my ministry to the community of Chrisman, IL (population 1,200). The churches in that town rallied together for a combined church service in the city square in the morning–and later at an evening youth service. God showed up…and he was looking for me.

The scene: After the morning community service. I’ve finished speaking, and I am simply connecting with the people of Chrisman in the city square:

“Ninety-eight years old tomorrow?” I asked incredulously.

“That’s right, I’ll be ninety-eight years old tomorrow,” said the man in a voice that could barely be heard. He looked much stronger than his voice sounded.

“What did you do for work?” I asked.

“I was in the ministry for seventy-two years. That’s why you can barely hear me. Over the years, I preached so much that I preached my voice out.”

I don’t know exactly what happened in my heart at that moment other than to say that it was like an electrical shock ran through my body. God got my attention. Here was the man that I hope to be some day–a man who faithfully preached God’s Word until his voice finally gave out.

I asked curiously, “Were you married?”

He said, “I was married to the best minister’s wife in the world. We were married and did ministry together for seventy years.” He looked away from me for a moment and continued, “She has been in Heaven now for the last four years.” He looked to his right and left and said, “Two of my sons are with me today.”

It began to dawn on me that I was in the presence of a man I want to be like with all my heart. I was not about to lose this opportunity. So I went into sponge/learner mode as fast as I could–determined not to lose one bit of this opportunity to sit at the feet of this experienced godly man. “What advice would you give to a young preacher like me?” I asked sincerely.

Without a second of hesitation, he said, “Preach the Word! That is exactly what I tried to do my whole life. So I say preach the Word!” I’ve read this exhortation in Scripture many, many times. Even at my official commissioning and licensing for the ministry, the same words were said. And they were meaningful to me then. But somehow, coming from this gentle senior saint, it felt like it was coming from Moses himself!

Thinking back to a conversation I had with a very discouraged ministry friend last week, and knowing that the number one reason many leave vocational ministry is because of discouragement, I asked, “Were you ever deeply discouraged during your seventy-two years of ministry?”

“Yes, I was discouraged from time to time. But it was God’s Word that kept me going. I knew God wanted me to preach his Word since I was fourteen. I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen. Throughout my life, God’s Word has sustained me–even during the discouraging times.”

Again, I’ve heard this, knew this, and even said similar things. But somehow, because of his years of experience with walking with God, his authentic words drilled deep into my heart.

Other people from the community began to approach our small circle and engage me in conversation. I watched out of the corner of my eye as this man and his two sons slowly walked away. My heart began to race. I was filled with urgency. I MUST ASK THIS MAN TO PRAY FOR ME! The man and his sons were about twenty-five yards away from me when I suddenly ran to them. I did not mean to be rude to the people who had gathered around me, but I HAD to do this. When I caught up with them, I said from behind them, “Sir, will you please put your hands on me and pray for me?” I could not believe those words came out of my mouth. But I felt COMPELLED to have this man pray for me.

He turned around to look me right in the eyes. His eyes widened and he immediately placed his hands on my shoulders and, in that sweet, raspy, and worn out voice prayed the most beautiful quiet prayer of blessing I have ever heard. He prayed that I would flourish in my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids. He prayed I would be faithful to preach the Word. He prayed God would bless me and my ministry beyond all I could ever ask or think–for God’s glory. As he prayed I quietly began to weep. I was thinking two things: 1) This must be what it was like to receive the blessing of a patriarch in the Old Testament, and 2) Am I nuts? Am I starting to unravel emotionally here? The answer to this last question–yes. But as crazy as this whole deal was–I KNEW God was in it–and I am glad I listened to the Spirit’s voice and promptings.

When he pronounced the “amen,” his two sons and I looked up–and I could see one was weeping like I was–and the other was also glassy-eyed. I made eye contact with the man of God and as I went to say “thank you” I could not get the words out because a flood of new tears came. I finally regained my composure, shook the man’s hand in gratitude, and watched them walk away.

Frankly, God did something so deep in my heart in this brief encounter with this senior saint that I am still processing it. But it was deep and it was God–and I will never forget it. In some strange God-way, I feel like I received a blessing from Moses himself.

As is often the case, I went to minister, but ended up getting ministered to.
Copyright 2004 Bill Allison. Permission is granted to copy and send this to others, but not for commercial purposes.

HOW TAKING A DAY OFF CHANGED OUR LIVES

How Taking a Day Off Changed Our Lives (3DM Stories)Today’s story is from Tim and Sara Harvey, whose life was transformed when they decided to take a day off once a week. They recently moved from Indiana to California, and this is Tim’s reflection on the journey.

Originally Posted by – August 25, 2014

 

It all started with taking a day off

A few years ago we found ourselves struggling along with the needs of a busy family and the relentless pace of life. Weeks sped by and despite feeling like many of the things we gave our time to were meaningful, it didn’t feel like the net result was terribly valuable and we were often very, very tired.

Granted, three kids under the age of 5 will do that to you on its own ;) But it was more than that. Our life wasn’t sustainable and I wouldn’t wish our life’s pace on anyone else.

Despite their own busy schedules, we noticed that our dear friends the Sternkes and the folks they spent time with didn’t have the harried look in their eyes that we did. Rather than try to figure out our own way of doing life, they encouraged us to try imitating their lives (just as they had imitated others) and see what would happen. “Why not?” we thought.

So we started by trying to establish some rhythm to our life, first making time during the week to work, and taking time off. As we looked at our schedule, it was clear that the weekend was our only hope and we had enough commitments on Sunday that it was out.

So Saturday was going to be our day off. We’d do everything we could to relax and leave chores and responsibilities for another day.

Why is it so hard to rest?

Taking a day off seems like it would be an easy thing to do. But let me tell you, for a recovering workaholic like me, it… was… hard.

Some weeks were great, and some (maybe even most) were a struggle. We’d get to the end of the day and feel more worked up and anxious about all there was to do. I couldn’t even begin to figure out what would be restful.

I’d sometimes walk around the house (wander, really) and see all that needed to be done. Our friends were so patient and encouraged us to come along with them as they lived life. There are people you hang out with, but this was different. They really invited us to experience what life was like for them at a much deeper level.

It’s a pretty powerful and scary thing (on both sides) to have someone invite you into their life. Not just the “I just vacuumed and picked up and put my happy face on and told the kids they better not mess up” life. The nitty-gritty, real, messy, dirty, sometimes angry, joyful, legit life.

So we started hanging out with these guys on their day off just to see how it worked, because we couldn’t figure even that much out on our own. ;) We found that they did adventures together, spent time alone, and did whatever seemed to strike their fancy.

Dad would play video games with the kids and sometimes the kids’ crazy requests were met with, “Sure! Let’s try that!” Sara and I slowly began to get the picture and found our footing. Our days off began to really ready us for the week and left us much-needed time to ponder life and consider what was most valuable to invest in.

Predictable patterns for life

Our season of life living down the road from these guys (we actually moved to be closer to them) led to numerous patterns in our life that we’ll probably never give up. The rhythm of work and rest now permeates our week, our year, our seasons, and more recently we’ve even found a solid way to see that in each day (hint…we generally stop doing anything productive after the kids go to bed).

As we did life with our friends, it wasn’t just our two families. We grew extraordinarily close with what became an extended family. We still had plenty of biological family in the area that we deeply loved and spent lots of time with. But in addition there were other families that helped us when we were down and were a crucial part of our kids’ lives.

When we started exploring the idea of moving to California, we just knew that our mission was to bring all that we learned and experienced to an area rife with overwork and isolated families. It was extraordinarily hard to leave and we knew it would be costly (on a variety of levels), but it was what we felt was right. Even more so, our community was with us every step of the way as we pondered whether this was the right direction. As all the doors opened up, we felt that it was meant to be.

All that time and investment paid off big time as we’ve settled into California this year.

When the going gets tough, stick to your rhythms

When we found ourselves in California, the thing that held us steady was our rhythms. When the going gets rough, fall back on what you know and stick with it. While there were times that felt pretty lonely and we wondered if we paid too high a price, our pattern of life kept us steady.

As the months went by, our first order of business was to begin seeking out and building our new extended family here. To really make an impact, especially in the area of lonely overworked families, we needed support and friends! (Our extended families in Indiana didn’t go away, but the orbit–which used to be measured in days–widened considerably to be once or twice a year.)

Our first apartment building in California proved a great place to start searching for an extended family. Because many of the families who lived there were transplants like us, they there were hungry for friends. We found people tremendously receptive and warm. We met some great folks who have been treasured friends this year.

One of our favorite activities has been Open Dinner, an accidentally great experiment from our days in Indiana. Every Wednesday over the summer, we’d set out a table with lunch meat and bread and invite anyone and everyone to stop by for dinner. People generally brought something to share and it was always a great time. We kept it lightweight and low-maintenance so that we never felt like it was a burden, even if no one came.

But most weeks, there were 2-3 other couples and plenty of kids. Eventually, some friends started to host and we moved around and everyone had the joy of sharing a meal and feeling included. When we met someone, rather than the usual “we should get together”, we had a concrete “Come join us for Open Dinner on Wednesday!” So fun.

Another rhythm is that we regularly have several families over for our Friday night Pizza and Movie Night, and have started sending out several couples (leaving a few behind with a bottle of wine and the kids) for date night. The off-weeks, we’ve been visiting a local nursing home to do game night. It’s been a blast and the kids are falling in love with the residents.

In fact, now the neighbors tend to stop by so much that we’ve instituted the “10-minute rule” we used to have in Indiana with our friends. The rule says that neighbors are welcome to drop by someone else’s house anytime (even if we’re in the middle of dishes, laundry, etc) and stay for up to 10 minutes without feeling like a bother. If you don’t get the invite to stay longer, you enjoy a few minutes of chit-chat and then carry on your way. It’s been a perfect way to open life up to others without feeling drained when you just need some time to yourself.

We’ve really learned a lot about what it means to cultivate an extended family on mission with Jesus, and the going hasn’t always been easy. But it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

For us it all started with one thing: taking a day off!

CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENT NOT CELEBRITY

Base jumper Vincent Philippe Benjamin Re

You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.

Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.

What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.

We are wired for significance through achievement.

The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.

In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.

The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.

God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’

This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.

From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.

On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’

In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.

‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.

Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’

Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.

They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.

In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.

If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.

 

Photo credit: Guardian UK