Monday, January 24, 2011

You're Trying Too Hard

"Don't work too hard!"  Ever heard that?  Though it's important to have a good work ethic on the clock, trying to live the Christian life in your own strength is another story.

I consider myself a fairly independent girl.  I like to earn my own money and find my way without asking for directions.  Unfortunately, this carried over into my spiritual life by working my hardest to live for God.  What's wrong with that?  Living the Christian life in our own strength is not just incredibly aggravating, it's impossible.  Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:22-23:

I'm going to take a wild shot in the dark and just assume that if you're reading this, you desire to please God with your life.  My problem was, I was trying too hard.  Because of the law of sin that we're under, any righteousness we can dish out is as filthy rags, fit for nothing.
If you feel like you're constantly running into a brick wall, maybe you should reevaluate who you're relying on to get the job done.  At the time I struggled with this, I was doing everything I knew to go forward spiritually: I read my Bible, prayed, had good friends, and even went on visitation.  Yet, I was still relying on me.  I was doing everything I knew... God wasn't even invited into the picture.  Sure, I was praying to Him, but my prayers were something like, "Please help me to do my best today, so I won't do such-and-such."  Finally I crashed.

I wasn't getting anywhere spiritually.  Actually, everything was getting worse.  I went down by the baseball field by my dorm where it was quiet, sat by a tree, and told God that I was giving up.  I had tried and tried, over and over, and nothing was working.  I did everything I knew to do, but my condition only worsened.  I told God that I couldn't do it.

And that's when things started to change.

All God needs to work in your life is for you to admit that you can't do it on your own.  I might be somewhat independent, but my spiritual health hinges on me being totally dependent on God.  Don't think that just because your New Year's resolution is to improve on a certain area in life that "it'll just come to you."  Victory in the Christian life is victory in Jesus, not in all the labor we put into changing closer into His image.

If you're striving to improve your spiritual life and finding it impossible, you're trying too hard.  Let go and let God!  Victory comes from Him alone, and He is just waiting for you to give the hard stuff to Him.  The day I finally let Him handle my situation, He started working a miracle.  Whatever your problem is, the answer is Christ.  Stop "trying" and let God fight your battles for you.  Victory is guaranteed!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seven Minutes With God

If you know you want to start having morning devotions, but have no idea where to start, I recommend starting with just Seven Minutes with God.  The following text is adapted from the tract "7 Minutes With God" or "The Morning Watch" by Robert D. Foster.

Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart.  Thank Him for the good night of sleep and the opportunities of this new day.  "Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures.  Open my heart.  Fill my heart.  Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive.  Lord, surround me with Your presence during this time.  Amen."

Now take four minutes to read the Bible.  Your greatest need is to hear some word from God.  Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart.  Meet the Author!

One of the Gospels is a good place to begin reading.  Start with the Book of Mark.   Read consecutively - verse after verse, chapter after chapter.  Don't race, but avoid stopping to do a Bible study on some word, thought, or theological problem which presents itself.  Read for the pure joy of reading and allowing God to speak - perhaps just 20 verses, or maybe a complete chapter.  When you have finished Mark, start the Gospel of John.  Soon you'll want to go ahead and read the entire New Testament.

After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him - in prayer.  You now have two and a half minutes left for fellowship with Him in four areas of prayer that you can remember by the word ACTS.

A - Adoration. This is the purest kind of prayer because it's all for God - there's nothing in it for you.  You don't barge into the presence of royalty.   You begin with the proper salutation.  So worship Him.  Tell the Lord that you love Him.  Reflect on His greatness, His power, His majesty, and sovereignty!

C - Confession follows.  Having seen Him you now want to be sure every sin is cleansed and forsaken.  Confession comes from a root word meaning "to agree together with."  Apply this to prayer.  It means to agree with God.  Something happened yesterday you called a slight exaggeration - God calls it a lie!  You call it strong language - God calls it swearing.  You call it telling the truth about somebody in the church - God calls it gossip.  "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18).

T - Thanksgiving.  Express your gratitude to God.  Think of several specific things to thank Him for: your family, your business, your church and ministry responsibilities - even thank Him for hardships.  "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

S - Supplication.  This means to "ask for, earnestly and humbly."  This is the part of your prayer life where you make your petitions known to Him.  Ask for others, then for yourself.  Why not include other people around the world, such as missionaries, students studying abroad, friends in distant places, and above all the people of many lands who have yet to hear about Jesus Christ.

Let's put these seven minutes together:

1/2 min
  Prayer for guidance (Psalm 143:8)
4 min
  Reading the Bible (Psalm 119:18)
2 1/2 min
·                                 Adoration (I Chronicles 29:11)
·                                 Confession (I John 1:9)
·                                 Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20)
·                                 Supplication (Matthew 7:7)
7 min total

This is simply a guide.  Very soon you will discover that it is impossible to spend only seven minutes with the Lord.  An amazing thing happens - seven minutes become 20, and it's not long before you're spending 30 precious minutes with Him.  Do not become devoted to the habit, but to the Savior.

Do it not because other men are doing it - not as a spiritless duty every morning, nor merely as an end in itself, but because God has granted the priceless privilege of fellowship with Himself.  Covenant with Him now to guard, nourish, and maintain your morning watch of seven minutes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Come Visit "My Other Blog!"

I have a new blog!  Actually, I've had it since last year, but I'm just now making it public.  So it's new to you! =)  I only have a few posts so far, so please don't be too disappointed when you visit.  I probably won't post there as much as here, but check it every week or so to see what random thoughts are running through my head.  I might expand it to include reviews and recipes, like my mom does in her blog, but for now, bring on the randomness!  

Click here to visit the World According to Suzette!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Starting Out the Semester Right, Part 2

At an early age, I remember asking my mom a deep, theological question: Why do we pray?  After all, if God knows everything (including what you're about to ask Him), then why pray?  My mom gave a very simple but true answer, "Well, I suppose it's because He wants us to talk to Him!"

Precisely.  God knows every answer to every prayer you'll ever pray, but that doesn't take away from His desire for fellowship with you.  He loves you, made you, and wants to spend time with you.  Not only does it bring the Lord joy to commune with His children, but it helps us out in a number of ways.

What exactly do we accomplish by having daily devotions?  

1.  We're putting our armor on.  Imagine being thrust into battle, exactly as you are at this moment.  No gun, no helmet, no bulletproof vest, no boots... just everyday clothes.  It's just as ridiculous to send a soldier into battle without his armor as it is for you to face temptations from the world, Satan, and you're own flesh without help from the Most High.

2.  We're sharpening our ax.  Imagine trying to cut down a huge tree with a dull ax.  It would be much easier to accomplish your task if you stopped for five minutes and sharpened your tool.  How often do we attempt to hack away at life without preparing ourselves through prayer?  It's amazing how much smoother a day will go after asking God for strength.

3.  We're plugging into the Power Source.  I want to assign a science experiment to each of you.  Try to make a lamp work without plugging it in.  What?  You mean it can't do it in its' own strength?  John 15:5 says that without the Lord, we can do nothing.  What makes us think we can accomplish everything we have planned this semester in our own strength?  We must plug into the Power Source, because we are insufficient in of ourselves.

Also note Matthew 19:26, which states that with God, all things are possible!
                              without Him = nothing
                              with Him = anything
The difference is whether we choose to plug into God's power, or just decide that we can handle it on our own.  Cultivating a relationship with the Lord not only makes Him happy; we greatly benefit from it, as well!  In the next post, I will give some ideas on starting a daily walk with God.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Starting Out the Semester Right, Part 1

Have you ever gotten the shock of your life?  I did -- here at Bible college!  Coming from a church that preaches standards, I started to think that my standards were the measure of my spirituality.  Now don't get me wrong, music and dress are important areas in life that need to be addressed, but these do not determine how healthy you are spiritually.

Remember the story of Mary and Martha?  Even though Martha could be awarded "Miss Multi-Task," Jesus commented that Mary had chosen "that good part" (Luke 10:42).  All she did was sit at Jesus' feet and hear His word!  Martha probably juggled most of the cleaning and meal preparation, yet obviously she missed something.

This story shows two important points:  Even though serving the Lord is extremely important, He would rather you spend time with Him than do something for Him.  Also, we can become so "careful and troubled about many things" that we neglect personal time with the One we're supposed to be pleasing.  Being involved in ministry and going on visitation are good things, but don't put so much emphasis on them that you forget the best things.

If prayer and time in the Word are indeed the measure of your spirituality, then how healthy are you?  Do you feast daily?  Are you malnourished?  You might be wondering, "What's the big deal?"  In the next post, I will explain what exactly we accomplish by having daily devotions.  I'll even answer the question, "If God knows our prayers before we even ask, then what's the point of praying?"  I pray that through this series, you will see how to start out the semester right!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Psalm 55

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