Remembering My Creator – September 2010 – Theme: Dating

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 4

Theme: Dating

In This Issue:

  • “Dating – What is the Goal?” by Randy Sexton
  • “Taking Inventory” by Randy Sexton
  • “Rules For Dating” by Kurt G. Jones

Dating – What is the Goal?

By Randy Sexton

Young people, sometimes dating can be like interviewing for a job. As a “candidate” you try so hard to make an impression that you may appear to be something that you are not. You want to “put your best foot forward” so as to influence your dating partner to continue to go out with you, right? But sometimes this forces you into behavior that is deceitful. James Dobson says in his book, Love For a Lifetime, “Finding the right person to love for a lifetime can be one of the greatest challenges in living. By the time you locate a sane, loyal, mature, disciplined, intelligent, motivated, chaste, kind, unselfish, attractive and godly partner, you’re too worn out to care. Furthermore, merely locating Mr. or Miss Marvelous is only half of the assignment, getting that person interested in you is another matter (p. 19).”

Would you agree with me that the goal of dating is marriage? If this is the goal of dating, shouldn’t it dictate how you select those whom you are going to date? Author Ronald VanOverloop says this:

“Dating is really of recent origin. It is a development of the past few hundred years in Western culture. That is why the Bible says nothing specifically about dating. But this should not keep us from using the Bible when discussing dating, for the principles which must govern our dating are found in the Bible.

I would define dating as the middle stage in the process of finding a suitable mate. Dating comes between being friends and getting engaged.

Young people often send out conflicting signals about the seriousness of their dating. To their parents they often insist that dating is just “for fun.” With their closest of friends, on the other hand, they are more likely to treat dating as pretty serious business. Generally these conflicting signals reflect some of the confusion which they experience within themselves as they deal with and try to understand their own emotions. (And sometimes they may even purposely send out the signal which is most likely to confuse their parents.)

Parents want to respond to both signals. Sometimes they must say that dating is serious business, and other times they may advise that dating should be for fun. Both are true. When young people “fall” quickly head over heels in “love,” then their parents counsel, “Take it easy”; “Don’t get so involved with just one, look around”; “Date in groups”; “Don’t be alone a lot.” But when young people say that dating is just for fun and that they may date whomever they want, then parents must say, “Be careful, because dating does lead to marriage.” In fact, dating is the only thing that leads to marriage.

Because marriage is the goal of dating, you may not date just anyone. You may not date a person who may not be a lifelong mate. Why would you want to go out with an unbeliever? Why go with someone whom you know you should and could never marry? On the other hand, you may date anyone who is one with you “in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39b).” (Source: Sex and Dating in The Christian Life at http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_16.html).

In his workbook for teenagers, Tough Choices, author and teacher David Banning suggests listing the top three qualities that are most important to you when deciding who you will date. He also recommends thinking about and completing these statements…

  • I would never go on a date to …
  • I would insist on going home if my date …
  • When it comes to sex, you know things have gone too far when …

Young friend, I realize that the challenge for you is great. As Jeff Himmel observes, “In our culture, most adults view sex as a natural and inevitable part of dating. Marriage is increasingly regarded as a needless burden. Worse still, many adults not only expect but encourage teenagers to engage in sexual activity. The realities surrounding us make it all the more important that Christians commit themselves to God’s plan for sexual fulfillment — even if that makes us a little odd by the world’s standards.” (“You Shall Not Commit Adultery” in Life Lines at http://www.bibleweb.com/lifelines/2006_05_01_LL_archive.htm). But I encourage you, as Paul encouraged the young man Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. … Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (2nd Timothy 2:22 and 1st Timothy 4:12).

Rules For Dating

By Kurt G. Jones

Dating is a common concern amongst many teenagers, and young people. It can be a sad, sorrowful, blemish on the course of our lives, or it can be a joyous time of fun, and growth both as a person and as a child of God. The decision ultimately is yours. Will you follow the outlined precepts of a loving, caring, and just God? Or, will you allow yourself to give in to temptation and sinfulness? The Bible assures us that we shall be judged according to our works (Revelation 12:20). As we consider this, the application ought to be made as it pertains to relationships we have as we are dating.

The wise man of God, Solomon, said, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of you youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of you eyes; but know that for all theses God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh…” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). In youth, we have the ability to do things we may not be able to do as we get older, yet that is no excuse to reject God’s commands. “For childhood and youth are vanity;” We are going to give an accounting to God for our decisions, thus it is ours to make decisions based on godly principals while we are dating. Let us consider some of God’s precepts.

Adorn Yourself in modest apparel (I Timothy 2:9-10). Children of God must realize that the clothes they wear give signals. Women should adorn themselves with “shamefacedness” and “sobriety” (KJV), in the manner “…which is proper for women professing godliness.” While this passage is addressed to women, it does not give men the right to dress in a sinful manner either.

Stay away from questionable places and situations (2 Thessalonians 5:22). It might be a common thought among some that “I can go to a questionable place and not sin.” While it may be true that you can go to a dance, and remain seated, or go to a bar and not drink, or be alone with the one you are dating and not engage in licentiousness, it still violates God’s principal, to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV). We must be aware of what can be assumed by people based on appearance. If they see our car at the home of our boyfriend/girlfriend, and they know that there are no parents, people may assume the worst. While it may be true that all you did was talk or watch a movie, etc., it is much wiser to follow God’s precepts and not give place for wrong appearances.

Abstain from uncleanness and lewdness (Galatians 5:19). It should be clear that Christians shouldn’t dance, or engage in other activities that incite lust. It is a great temptation for one to follow after their temptations, especially when they engage in lewd behavior. Many have pierced themselves through with many sorrows because they have given in to the temptation to engage in lustful behavior.

Flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). In all actuality, if you have followed the other guidelines mentioned, you have gone along way here at fleeing fornication. By dressing modestly, staying away from questionable places, and from abstaining for lewd behavior, you have greatly lessened your opportunity for temptation to engage in fornication. Paul points out in this passage “…every sin that man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” Great steps ought to be taken to flee sexual immorality. Also, fleeing something, is not flirting with it. Some try to justify their sin by saying, “We didn’t commit fornication, but we got as close as we could.” No, this is not a godly attitude, and in general is speaking of engaging in lewdness.

Yes, dating can be a fun, growing experience. But it also can be a hurtful, mournful experience. The decision is purely up to you. If you choose to follow God’s precepts, there can be in store for you a wealth of friendships, a potential life-long mate, and a time of following after your heart; letting it cheer you in the days of your youth. (Copied by permission from http://www.truthfortodaysyouth.com/dailyissues/dailyissues_rulesfordating.html)

Taking Inventory

by Randy Sexton

The process of dating will allow you, over a period of time, to narrow the field of “candidates.” Finally, when you have that “short list” narrowed to one, and you are pretty certain that this is THE ONE with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, you need to take a pre-marriage inventory with that person. There are two good books, that I am familiar with, that will walk you through this process with the aid of a good marriage counselor. That counselor will probably be the one whom you have chosen to perform your wedding ceremony. It could be your local preacher or one of the elders of the local congregation. You should meet with your counselor and determine which of the following resources you will use:

Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright & Wes Roberts or How Can I Be Sure? By Bob Phillips.

Mr Phillips says in the introduction to his book, “This inventory is not an answer book for marriage problems. Many of those type books have already been written and are available. This inventory is a discussion guide to help couples open up important channels of communication; express their thoughts, desires and feelings to each other; and enhance their growing relationship together.”

My wife and I took a similar inventory prior to our marriage and I can personally testify to the effectiveness of it, as a vehicle to stimulate the needed discussions of important issues. When you get to that point in your dating relationship, please prayerfully consider it.

Thanks for reading with me, Beloved. I pray that you have a Blessed Day!

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 3, Theme: Prayer

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 3

Theme: Prayer

In This Issue:

  • Prayer – Your Direct Line to God by Randy Sexton
  • Keeping Company With God by Phillip Yancey
  • Unraveling the Mysteries by Phillip Yancey
  • The Language of Prayer by Phillip Yancey
  • Prayer Dilemmas by Phillip Yancey
  • The Practice of Prayer by Phillip Yancey

Prayer – Your Direct Line to God

By Randy Sexton

It is easy to lose sight of how available our God is to us. Because we don’t physically see Him every day, we sometimes forget that he is always there! As I read through the Old Testament and read about such great heroes of faith as Moses and David, I am impressed that they “inquired of the Lord” to know His will before they acted.

Notice how David did that before he went to battle against the Philistines (1st Samuel 23: 1-5). Notice again when he did that before allowing them to annoint him king over the house of Judah (2nd Samuel 2:1-4). And this was at a time when it appeared that every action of David was blessed with success and favor of God. But yet David did not presume to have God’s blanket approval to act without consulting him. I am afraid that we sometimes act like my sons do. They presume that because I do not expressly oppose a suggested action that they have presented to me, that I have given my approval.

Have you ever noticed how Moses appeared to have a “direct line” to God. Every step of the way, as recorded in Moses’ journal that we call Exodus, the Lord spoke to Moses and Moses spoke to the Lord. Notice from the time that… “God called to him out of the bush” and said to him “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:4, 10), Moses was able to call freely upon God. Because Moses felt that he was not qualified for this great task, he begged the Lord to send someone else (Exodus 4:13). When the Lord reaffirmed Moses as his choice, Moses went to Him frequently to seek guidance.

One of the best books that I have read on the subject of prayer is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey. Yancey suggests, in the four sections of his book, that prayer involves: keeping company with God, unraveling the mysteries associated with how prayer works, understanding the language of prayer, certain prayer dilemmas in which we find ourselves and the practice of prayer. The balance of this month’s Remembering My Creator will be different in that it will be a review of this book with hopes that it will help you in your prayer life as much as it has helped me. The comments that I have included here were made as part of a book discussion group during February through March 2007. Unless other-wise attributed, the comments are my own. I have also included some comments from Roger Shouse, Jordan Shouse, J.J. Woolf and Trent Ropp.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

By Phillip Yancey

This excellent book is broken into the following four parts:

  • Keeping Company With God
  • Unraveling the Mysteries
  • The Language of Prayer
  • Prayer Dilemmas
  • The Practice of Prayer

Part One – Keeping Company With God

This first part of the book explores the idea that prayer is universal because it speaks to a basic human need to fill a gap of emptiness within all of us. It also presents God as a loving Father who desires a relationship with us. Prayer then is …

Chapter 1 – Our Deepest Longing

The analogy made by Mr. Yancey as he opens this book was very effective. My own prayers often seem like “sending signals from a visible world to an invisible one, in hope that someone receives them.” without really knowing for sure.

I am not always as “connected” with God as I ought to be. I also had to admit that I often approach prayer as a burden rather than as a pleasure. My prayer-life definitely can be improved. I also have had many of the same questions about the nature of prayer.

I have never consciously tracked the amount of time that I spend in prayer but I know that it is not what it should be. So I look forward to improving through the thoughts discovered in this book and the opportunity to share the thoughts of others as they read.

Chapter 2 – View From Above

Life can truly be a struggle at times. I find myself getting so engrossed in the details of daily living that, if I am not careful, I have squeezed out time for God. The principle outlined by the author in this chapter is very relevant to this situation. If I can, through prayer, see things from God’s perspective (what Yancey calls “the corrective vision of prayer,” I will be more apt to “allow God to nourish my inner life.”

It is humbling to “look down at the speck that is myself” but it is reassuring to be reminded that “God already cares about my concerns” and does not need to be reminded of them.

Chapter 3 – Just As We Are

I fully accept the premise of the author that my approach to God must be heartfelt and not a performance, and that I must manifest a “heart attitude” of helplessness and humility. I would be interested to hear some discussion of the application of Mr. Yancey’s statement, “Prayer allows a place for me to bring my doubts and complaints-in sum, my ignorance-and subject them to the blinding light of a reality I cannot comprehend but can haltingly learn to trust.”

I found interesting the concept of the three levels of “the divided self.” It seems to me that the challenge to Christians is to transform our spiritual relationships from the more “shallow level” to a level where we are willing to share our vulnerabilities with one another. Fully understanding that God wants us, in our relationship with Him, to be willing to open “the secret places” of our lives will definitely impact our prayer-life.

Chapter 4- The God Who Is

“Prayer as a transaction rather than a relationship” (p. 46) is another appropriate description used by Yancey to describe that which can hinder my prayers. And the examples from the Nepal, Japan and Taiwan cultures drive this home! I constantly counsel my boys, when they pray, “think about what you are saying and don’t just rattle off some words.” When they are conscious of that, the thought behind their words is evident to both Linda and I. When I lead public prayer, I try to avoid “clichés” that have lost their meaning. I try to say the same thing in a more meaningful way.

I like the theme, mentioned in the last chapter and returned to here, that we should want to pursue a more intimate relationship with God so we will “push past the externals to the real person underneath” (p. 47).

I found the following reference interesting: “Etty Hillesum, the young Jewish girl who kept a journal during her stay at Auswitz, wrote of an ‘uninterrupted dialogue’ with God (p. 51).” Over the years I have used “journaling” to help me channel my thoughts. I have never been consistent in keeping a DAILY journal but have found it helpful on occasions to write and then to return later to what I have written as a tool for reflective meditation. While reading The Purpose-Driven Life in conjunction with one of Roger’s classes a couple of years ago, I purchased the Purpose-Driven Journal along with the book but was not consistent in recording daily thoughts. Charles Swindoll in his book on Moses also recommends the practice. The use of a Prayer Journal intrigues me. I agree with those who promote the value of such a practice.

Thanks to all of you who are sharing your thoughts as you read this book! I am finding this to be a very rewarding experience. Not only do I benefit from the mind of an excellent author but I get to share in conversation that builds relationships, and idea which Yancey will develop in Chapter 5.

Chapter 5 – Coming Together

“The main purpose of prayer is… to know God,” says Yancey as he begins this chapter. I think that viewing prayer in this way drives a whole new set of behaviors. If I think of prayer in this way, I will not spend precious time enumerating a “To Do List” for God but rather I will “converse” with him in the most intimate way seeking to assimilate our thought patterns as much as possible.

Yancey also quotes Clement of Alexandria’s definition of prayer as “keeping company with God (p. 62).” I like that thought as well. As I read Yancey’s analogy to talking to his wife, at the end of the day about the events of the day, I get a glimpse of what our time in prayer with God should be. If we can use this example to teach us how to “meditate on the day with each other, in the process bringing its details into a new light,” it should help us to improve our prayer-life.

Charles Swindoll puts it this way in his book, Moses, A Man of Selfless Dedication, (page 280), “Last year you may have entertained some of the most powerful, profound thoughts in your times with the Lord that you have experienced in a lifetime of walking with Him, buy they’re all gone if you never took time to record them.” He also quotes from Elizabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor, about her missionary husband Jim’s reflections as he talked with God, “I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting and delicious to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the heavens hailing your heart and the wind tugging at your coattail. To gaze and glory and give oneself to God, what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, the sheer excitement of knowing God on earth, I cannot, if I never raise my voice again for Him. If only I may love Him and please Him, perhaps in mercy He shall give me a host of children, that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies. But if not, if only I may see Him, touch his garments, and smile into His eyes, ah, then, not stars nor children matter, only Himself.”

Part Two – Unraveling The Mysteries

Chapter 6 – Why Pray?

Brother Jordan Shouse, when he read this book as part of a book discussion club that we were both a part of at Hickman Mills in Kansas City said this about this chapter, “ Chapter 6 was very insightful. Why pray? Well because Jesus did! What an awesome answer. It is hard to make such bold and heavy requests and not have immediate answers. Patience, faith and trust are all major keys of this whole process; all of which Jesus obviously possessed. I’m glad he addressed that question. I think that many still struggle overcoming this uncertainty of prayer.”

Chapter 7 – Wrestling Match

Notice again Brother Jordan’s comments on this chapter, “I’m not even sure where to begin. I became very confused with this chapter. Hopefully someone can help me make some sense of it. There are obviously example of ‘fighting with God’ in the Bible, but are we to actually argue, fight and debate our desires over the will of God. Is it even our right to try and bargain? It seems totally wrong to me. Yes, God is our father and as my dad can agree, fathers and sons disagree at times, but God is also our King and Lord while we are nothing but lowly servants. Who are we to argue our desires over the Lord’s will when we hold no power or authority over God. I may just be seeing this from a weird angle but I just can’t see having reverence and a humble attitude in prayer when I’m trying to fight and argue my own wants over the Lords. HELP!!!”

Roger Shouse, in commenting on Jordan’s words, said this, “I think some of the Psalms seem as if the writer is arguing with God and even demanding a response from God. It is a common thought today among many writers that it is ok to cry, complain and argue with God as you are expressing your emotions to God and that is good. I too, am not comfortable with some of that. In human relationships, we often damage friendships and strain marriages when we argue, complain and fuss with each other. Job was challenged by God for the very fact that he questioned God. Grasping that God has the best in mind will keep someone from losing the reverence with God.”

Chapter 8 – Partnership

Yancey says on page 104, ‘all prayers are heard, though not all prayers are granted.’ In his example of prayer types, and the concept of partnership in prayer, he uses Jesus as the example. How great Jesus was and still is to us today! It is very encouraging and refreshing to think of our savior as having defeated all enemies for us. This knowledge should aid us tremendously in living the Christian life today!

In commenting upon chapters 6-8. Brother Roger Shouse says this, “These three chapters were harder to grasp than the earlier ones. Yancey is driving at the motive of prayer and the purpose of prayer which is not always easy to understand. In the opening paragraph of chapter 6, he seems to connect the care of God with the intervention of God. Those are not necessarily connected. Does God care when we suffer? Yes, does He always intervene and stop it? NO. There are reasons for that. Yancey makes a good observation on page 79, “He (Jesus) prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time de devoted to caring for people.” You see the same thought in Acts 6 when the apostles would not take away from their prayers to feed the neglected widows. Praying was as valuable as feeding the widow. Another good statement: “I learn as much from the prayers Jesus did not pray as from those he did.” Interesting concept. On page 129 Yancey says, “In the end, I learn that God has ordained prayer as a means of getting God’s will done on earth, not ours.” That is the key to understanding prayer. It changes my attitude and motive. God doesn’t serve me, I serve Him.”

Chapter 9 – What Difference Does It Make?

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “I liked the Title to chapter 9: “What difference does it make?” I think that reflects the feelings of the Psalmist on many occasions and it will lead to Yancey’s discourse on “unanswered prayers.” But a song we sing answers that title question: In the song, “Does Jesus care?” the chorus reads, “O yes he cares, I know he cares” That is the difference prayer makes.

Yancey’s section on pg 118-119 “Free at Last” by Sergeey, especially the last two paragraphs (the section in grey) is very gripping. It is also very telling when he speaks of growing complacent. This chapter refers to some very political figures. Yancey seems to be impressed by that. I think the prayers of an unknown pheasant are as powerful as that of a world leader. The statement on pg 127: “Sometimes, like the boy who asks his parents to solve a math problem while he plays video games, we ask God for things we should be doing ourselves.” Great statement. We could include here growth, teaching the lost, connecting with each other.

Chapter 10 – Does Prayer Change God?

Trent Ropp comments on this chapter, “I enjoyed this chapter, as this has been a question of mine for some time. I have read CS Lewis so I appreciate Yancey’s quoting him in his book. I have always enjoyed CS Lewis analogies and comparisons. I like Lewis’s thought on prayer on pg 137. ‘Prayer is a designated instrument of God’s power, as real and as “natural” as any other power God may use.’

This chapter made me appreciate that God wants a relationship with me. He wants the intimacy with me. He is aware of everything and knows the outcome of everything, but God wants us to bring our cares and our concerns to him. God created us with a void in

our heart, and as humans we look to fill that void with carnality and materialism. We even go so far as to put our hope in these things. The void was put there by GOD and only he can fill it, that is where he wants our hope. God knows prayer will bring us closer to him, and the closer we get to God the void will disappear. Once that has happened God has our WHOLE heart, we are in line with God and his will, and then

I feel God is willing to change.”

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “This is a natural follow up to the last chapter. If prayer doesn’t move God, then ‘What difference does it make?’ As important as wanting to know if God changes because of my prayer, it is equally important to consider, ‘Do I change because of my prayer?’

A good thought is on pg 133: ‘We do not have to work to gain God’s attention, we don’t have to convince God of our sincerity or our needs. We already have the Father’s ear as it were.’ It makes you wonder about the statement we sometimes use, ‘Lord we come to you with humble hearts’ That doesn’t sound very humble if we have to tell God we are humble!

I like how Yancey pulls together examples from the Bible: the number of times God repented or changed his mind. That’s good to see.”

Chapter 11 – Ask, Seek, Knock

Trent Ropp says of this chapter, “This chapter just motivates me further to keep praying more and more not matter how redundant I (emphasis on I) feel I am being (i.e. Canaanite women).

 

I enjoyed a benefit (one of many) that Yancey says he gets from praying. ’What I learn from spending time with God then better equips me to discern what God wants to

do on earth, as well as my role in that plan.’ I think this statement goes along with my last comment above on chapter 10. This relationship you are building with God and the discerning of God’s will and your role in that on earth is what leads to God making

changes.”

Roger Shouse says of this chapter, “A powerful thought that could trouble us: ‘Generations may pass before persistent prayer receives it’s answer’ (pg 150). Prayers for our children or grandchildren may be answered after we have passed away. Remember, it’s not our seeing the prayers answered that is important; it is the hearts that have reached out for God.

On page 152 Yancey gives several benefits of persistent prayer. Those are worthy to consider. “

Part Three – The Language of Prayer

 

Chapter 12 – Yearning For Fluency

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “Yancey’s description of recounting answered prayers (157-158) or “Testimonials” has the potential for one to out due the other as he said and can lead to sensationalism. Do we need to hear what God has done for us to believe that he is active? Do we walk by faith or by sight? The stories of others can be encouraging, but connecting to the last chapter, what about those whose prayers may not be answered for another generation or two. What are they to think when they have no story to tell?

 

Chapter 13 – Prayer Grammar

I am a “book marker.” That is I like to highlight main points as I read. My wife finds it amusing that, sometimes when I read, I have more of a page highlighted than un-highlighted. I am having that problem with this book. There are so many insightful comments and quotes, that I find myself wanting to soak it all up. I have found, since I began reading this book and participating in this forum, that my prayer-life has improved and that I am less self-centered. I spend a great deal of my time (traveling in my car, running, sitting in the steam room at the fitness center, etc.) in prayers of intercession for the special needs of my brethren and of my family.

I have put into practice a few of the ideas presented in this chapter. Rewriting the psalms in my own words and substituting my name and particulars of thanks or anguish or petition for the original words (p. 176) is a very uplifting exercise for me. Using the Psalms as a practicum in prayer has added a new dimension to my prayers. I have also used the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) (p. 182) as a skeleton outline to help me organize my thoughts in prayer

I plan to memorize Bible prayers (pp. 178-179) for future recall at appropriate times. I love this concept of stocking up on the words of the Bible. I have also begun meditating on the prayers of the Apostle Paul with the view to stirring passion for the spiritual welfare of my friends and family (p. 178).

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “I like the reference on pg 171: ‘The Bible includes around 650 prayers.’ There are more prayers in the Bible than sermons. On pg 177 he says, ‘Of Paul’s letters, all but Titus contain at least one prayer.’ Later, ‘I get the sense, reading Paul’s prayers, that he cares more for others’ well-being than for his own.’ This conclusion is obvious because Paul’s prayers are about other people more than himself. Again, that is worthy for us to consider. Who do we pray the most about? Ourselves or others?

On pg 178 Yancey gives a list of 14 prayers found throughout the Bible. Some we may not think of as prayers, like Abraham’s pleading for Sodom, but He was talking with the Lord. I thought this would be good to read one of these prayers before I prayed.”

Chapter 14 – Tongue-Tied

Yancey’s description of distractions that have hindered his prayer and study time sounded very familiar and I appreciated his suggestions on how to minimize these distractions. But he really got to the heart of the matter with the statement, PEOPLE ON SINKING SHIPS DO NOT COMPLAIN OF DISTRACTIONS DURING THEIR PRAYER.

One thing I appreciate about Yancey’s writing is his reference to and quotation of other excellent works. This chapter is no exception, as he quotes from Plass, Green, Kempis, Donne, St. John Damascene, McCabe, St. Mary’s Press series on written prayers, Bondi and many others. I have added several of these works to my reading list for this year. I also find his insertion of applications in the lives of individuals such as Ron (p.188) and Lynn (p. 204).

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “This chapter begins with the problem of prayer “ staying focused. Who doesn’t have that problem? He lists several scattering thoughts that his mind drifts to. It may be helpful to try to capture those thoughts and incorporate them in prayer. Those things are our life ‘good, and bad. They concern us’ they cause us to worry. Let your thoughts that drift, be led back into prayer.

In saying, ‘the main requirement in prayer is honesty, approaching God ‘Just as we are’ (pg 185) should also include faith.

Yancey is so honest and revealing in this chapter. This is one reason he appeals to me. He doesn’t sugar coat things nor appear what he is not. How true the statement, ‘People on sinking ships do not complain of distractions during their prayer.’ (Pg 188)

He also shows the contrast to scheduled regular prayers and a person who is more spontaneous with their prayers. The summation on pg 191 is awesome: KEEP IT HONEST, KEEP IT SIMPLE, KEEP IT UP.”

Chapter 15 – The Sound of Silence

As one who has experienced more than normal mood swings in his life, I appreciated the reference in this chapter and the previous one to the use of the Psalms as a good model for combating spiritual depression (p. 197) and the suggestion of survival strategies (pp. 202-207) in dealing with the silence of God. Using seasons of spiritual dryness as a time of preparing for future growth is an encouraging thought, as is the notion that PRAYER INVITES US TO REST IN THE FACT THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL, AND THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS ARE ULTIMATELY GOD’S, NOT OURS.

There is much more that I could say about these three chapters. They are chocked full of rich thoughts and encouraging illustrations and admonitions. Thank God for His love and for allowing us to approach Him with our petitions!

JJ Woolf comments on this chapter, “I really have enjoyed this online book study. It has really helped me keep accountable and push me to read more, and I have really enjoyed this book
Great point, prayer IS our strongest weapon against invisible forces. God can and will give us the strength to overcome out adversary! That is part of the promise of the New Covenant.
How do those who believe in predestination tackle the question of why bad things happen? I know I personally take for granted our freedom to worship at times (similar to those in Eastern Europe who finally gained their freedom), and I pray God renews me with a thankfulness and a desire to give Him my best every time.
We live in such a fast paced society, we need to be careful not to leave out time for God (alone time with Him). I know when I do, it does bring things back into perspective.
Question for the group – (with thinking about the thought on p. 130 ‘what would happen if we followed literally Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?’) – what things can we do through our jobs and everyday life to truly do this?
As I read I learned more about the goodness of God, the greatness of God, and my place on earth, than I think I did about prayer per se. We are His vessels, we are here for Him, not for ourselves. I get this backwards at times. My prayer is that I can do more for the Lord, not to earn anything, but because He is The Potter and I am a cracked pot.

‘We pray in order to see the world with God’s eyes.’ If I do this, I won’t be as hard on my wife, I will think the best of others, I will reach out to help those in need. ‘What else can we do??’ (p.125) I will resolve this week to try to look for opportunities God puts in my path, and let His light shine, through my cracked pot.”

Roger Shouse comments, “Silence is hard to deal with. We at first blame ourselves. When the Syro-Phoencian woman came to Jesus she asked him to have mercy on her daughter. The Gospels say that Jesus did not answer her. Even “no” could be received better than nothing! This begins a great section of study by Yancey.

Pg 210 ‘Prayer invites us to rest in the fact that God is in control, and that the world’s problems are ultimately God’s, not ours.’ Couldn’t we even say that about our problems as well?

There will be much more to say about this in coming chapters.

Part Four – Prayer Dilemmas

Chapter 16 – Unanswered Prayer: Whose Fault?

I believe what scripture tells me about God being concerned about me even to the point of numbering the hairs on my head. So I struggle to understand this fact and to harmonize it with the feeling that it trivializes prayer to ask for things that are important to me but that are not very important in the BIG PICTURE. I see the real problem for one who has the power to grant requests, when He receives requests from His children that conflict with one another. Yancey has done a great job of defining the dilemma but after all the human words have been written, I am not certain we still understand the mystery!

 

Chapter 17 – Unanswered Prayer: Living with the Mystery

Again, Yancey does a great job of describing the human struggle with the “sweeping promises” made in scripture about prayer in light of unanswered prayer. But the answer is not satisfying to the human yearning for understanding.

My father used to say about himself, “I am a pretty simple fella.” I feel the same way about myself and perhaps that helps explain the myriad of things in life that I don’t understand. There will be a whole host of things that I will want to ask about “when in the better land before the bar we stand…” One of these is the dilemma presented in this chapter. When I contemplate this and many other “conundrums” I am consoled by these words, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why; Cheer up, my brother live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.” Yancey has done a great job of stating the dilemma in these two chapters, but in the end “the only final solution” is that faith gets us through, faith causes us to “wait and trust.”

Chapter 18 – Prayer and Physical Healing

Yancey’s reference in this chapter to the work of Dr. Harold G. Koenig so peaked my interest that I have begun reading The Healing Power of Faith along side his book. I find the implications so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored. The best thing that we can do to treat any type of malady in our lives is to get our faith life and our prayer life in order! Koenig closes his book with the following statement, “I firmly believe that we are on the brink of a great new era in medicine: a time when health professionals will begin to help people regain control over their lives by providing them with spiritual tools to maintain health and wellness, and thus enable them to take maximum advantage of the healing power that faith can give us all.”

Many references have been made in this book to depression. In this chapter, Vince is quoted on page 252 as saying that the events of his life could get him stuck in a “mud-pit of depression” if he would let them. My experience with depression has taught me that happiness is a choice. WE determine whether we will be happy or depressed. It is not the EVENTS of our life that determine but how we react to those events. There are definitely some physical factors (in the form of imbalances to some of the brain’s chemicals) that can contribute and these must be corrected. But in conjunction, one must learn not to the malady as a crutch and to understand the part that a strong, healthy faith can play in recovery.

I identified strongly with the statement on page 254, “People who take quiet times during the day and force themselves to relax learn to control stress in a way that fosters health.” I have used “songs, hymns and spiritual songs” for this purpose for years. If I am having a stressed filled day at work, I will play one of these CDs followed by time spent in prayer and Bible reading over lunch. That quiet time is usually successful in settling the nerves and putting me in a mind-set to tackle the rest of the day.

Chapter 19 – What to Pray For

In this chapter Yancey provides a “template of how to pray.” I found his suggestions to be very helpful. Heart Desire, Lament, Confession, Peace, God’s Presence, Compassion, Gratitude, Faith, and Grace offer for me a useful way of forming the content of prayer.

I liked Bud’s suggestion of prayer as “the process of becoming available for what God wants to do on earth through us” (p. 276). I find myself hard pressed to approach God as aggressively as indicated by Yancey’s words, “I have learned to tell God exactly what I want regardless of how impossible it may sound” (p. 267) and “Not only does God tolerate complaint in our prayers, the Scriptures fill in the words for us” (p. 269). Yes, I have read Psalm 13, 22, 42 and 143. And I struggle with how to complement this attitude with the idea expressed by Stephen Schmidt that he “had to be healed of the need to be healed” (p. 278)

What Yancey wrote under the heading of “Preparations” touched my heart. I have always appreciated the faith and confidence expressed in Paul’s statements in 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Phil. 1:20-26 and 2 Tim. 4:6-8. In the brief time that my father was in hospice care and the days leading up to it, when he knew his time was short, those sentiments expressed in my Dad’s own words came home to me. My father told many of the doctors and nurses, in his last hours, “I am going home to get my dessert and I want you to come there too!”

I communed with my dad’s spirit in those final hours as we listened together to the words of songs, I Am a Poor Wayfaring Pilgrim, We Shall Behold Him, Enter In, Son of Man, There Stood a Lamb and Sheltered in the Arms of God. Dad let go of a body riddled with cancer in anticipation of a new beginning in the presence of God.

 

Part Five – The Practice of Prayer

 

Chapter 20 – Prayer and Me

The idea of “wasting time with God,” presented by Yancey from the writings of Klaus Issler, is an oxymoron and as such is similar to the Apostle Paul’s use of the term “foolishness of preaching.” The terms are really mutually exclusive and do not belong on the same continent, much less in the same phrase! God forbid that I become so wrapped up in my own little world that I think that being with God is a waste of time or that time spent in preaching is a foolish pursuit! I am really sending that message when I fail to be active in both prayer and preaching!

I appreciate Yancey’s suggestion, from Dr. Alex Carrel (page 288), that “Prayer helps us resolve emotional conflicts, purge guilt, and overcome negativism. And by verbalizing what goes on inside, the pray-er practices a kind of self-induced therapy.” I can personally testify to receiving this benefit to intensified prayer, in just the time that I have been reading this book. If I have ill feelings toward another person, one of the surest ways to resolve those feelings, is to make that person the object of my heart-felt prayers. I would also concur heartily with his suggestion that “Whom we pray to matters more than how or what we pray.”

The statement made by Ben that “90% of prayer is showing up” (page 289) is so true. And the “whirling spirit” referred to by one writer as Spiritus vertiginis can also be a hindrance to prayer. If we never “show up,” or if when we do, we are so overwhelmed by anxiety to be doing something else, we will not receive the benefit that should accrue to being in God’s presence! I like the way Yancey identifies the peace that can come from time spent in prayer. On page 295 he says, “Prayer offers a time to set aside that list of concerns – or rather to present them to God – to relax, to let the mind roam freely, to drink deeply, to insert a pause in the day, to trust.”

Yancey’s statement on page 296 that begins, “I tend to bring a tangled mess of problems to God…” leads me to commend this book to those who are hurting and don’t quite know how to express that hurt to
God. Yancey’s references throughout this book to prayers of complaint and prayers of lament have helped me to better understand the value of prayer in finding resolution to the struggles and battles we sometimes face in life on this planet.

Yancey refers extensively to Anthony Bloom’s book, Beginning to Pray, commending his discipline and then concludes on page 300, “When I sense that my activity means something and has worth, and so move faster and faster trying to accomplish more and more, at that moment I give in to pride and a feeling that all depends on me. What a foolish thought. My heart could stop beating within the hour, my brain could fail from an aneurysm. This present moment itself is a gift from God – I would live more realistically, and at the same time accomplish far more, if I allowed that fundamental truth to pervade my day.”

Chapter 21 – Prayer and Others

Again Yancey nails a dilemma that has puzzled me as well; “How does God deal with a host of prayers that conflict with one another?” He deals with the question. His view of sickness, pain, suffering and death as “something … interfering with God’s ideal for this planet …” is helpful to me. Thinking about intercessory prayer as, “praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person” (page 303) sheds new light upon my attempts to help those who are hurting! It also opens up for me objects of prayer whom I did not think readily of before. He describes workplace prayer and how praying for those with whom you work transforms how you relate to them (page 304). This gives me ideas that might work in my situation. I have six direct reports that I view differently when they and their families become the objects of my prayers.

One thing that has characterized my prayers in the past is the lack of specificity. As a result of focusing, these last several weeks on prayer, I NOW pray for the specific needs and circumstances of those that I lift up to God. I also pray for sensitivity to be open to other needs.

Chapter 22 – Prayer and God

Yancey has again stimulated my thinking in an area that I wish to do more reading and study. His mention of Teresa of Avila’s “interior castle model” of prayer and the idea of starting with “what really energizes you and touches your heart…” are concepts that I will dig more deeply into.

I like his statement on page 315, “I am learning the difference between “saying prayers,” which is an activity and “praying” which is a soul attitude, a “lifting up of the mind to God.” The section on Inappropriate Prayers contain much food for thought that can be of benefit to us when we are hurting and do not know where else to turn. What a great way to end the book! The prayer titled, “O Gracious and Holy Father,” will become a part of my speakers’ sourcebook material.

As with most of the chapters in this book, I could say much more but will close here. I will repeat again how much I have appreciated the book, of sharing thoughts with all of you and for Roger facilitating such an effort. I commend the exercise to all who have not yet been engaged. I believe my prayers have deepened in their intensity, in their frequency and in the effects that they have on me and on my outlook of life. God bless you all!

Remembering My Creator, Volume 1, Number 2, July 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 2

Theme: Influences of the World

In This Issue:

  • The Influence of Fear in Our Faith by Shannon Harden
  • Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See by Jordan Shouse
  • Let Us … Yield Not to Temptation by Ian Harmon

The Influence of Fear in Our Faith

By Shannon Harden

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” – Mary Manin Morrissey

Adults say young people are easily influenced – music, movies, television, clothing, and our peers. I do not doubt this is true, but I wanted to think about something else we’re influenced by – which usually comes from within ourselves. Would you consider yourself someone who is easily scared away of doing things you want or should do? I don’t like discussing obvious ideas, so I started thinking about how fear influences our lives.

A few years ago at a bible study, we were going around saying what we admired in the other people in the room. Several people told me they admired my lack of fear and my ability to do many things. At the time I inwardly thought, “Wow, I must really have them fooled.” But as I’ve become more aware of people and the world around me, they may actually be right. The fact is – I do get scared – a lot actually. But I choose not to let that stop me and in some cases, it drives me to push through that fear. The way I look at it, fear is the absence of faith. When talking with my mom about this article she reminded me of the acronym for FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real (Neal Donald Walsch). So I think she agrees with me.

Fear comes in many different forms – we may be fearful of love, death, living up to our potential, different cultures, unfamiliar situations, rejection, doing God’s will, and what others might think of us. Everyone is afraid of something, so fill in the blank for whatever scares you, and be honest with yourself. Acceptance and honesty is the first step in combating a fear, sin, or failure. I have seen so many people overcome with their fear that instead of doing what they should they either make excuses or just give up. Is that the way God wants us to live our lives? After you accept and understand, you must then become proactive.

So how do you get past your fear? Yes, there are some people who live fearlessly through life and end up doing foolish or dangerous things. That’s not what I’m talking about. Of course I’ve done a few foolish things in my life, but I’m also VERY thoughtful about my decisions. Here’s how I remain “fearless” (remember it’s not that I’m fearless, just that I trust in God more than men). I live with two philosophies to get me through life. Maybe it can help you get through your fear.

First, I have completely adopted 1 Corinthians 13. I believe Love is a verb. I don’t believe love is defined the way the world defines it. It involves the actions of patience, kindness, humility, perseverance, and forgiveness. Godly love never fails, the world’s view of love does. This is VERY important in understanding love. I can love to the best of my ability, but I’m not perfect and neither are people. They will disappoint you, hurt you, take advantage of you, etc. But, I believe in choosing to love others even despite all that. Remember love is selfless and without understanding and accepting that people are imperfect, you won’t truly be able to do this effectively. With “my enemies” or people who choose not to treat me in a loving way, I have to CONSISTENTLY remind myself of my role of being a humble, forgiving, and selfless person. Choosing to love, as God describes it, is GREAT practice for getting rid of fear. If you can love without fear of rejection, what other people think of you, pain, and strife you will be able to diminish fear of other things in your life! But I caution you – your faith can not be in men, they will fail you every time. You must love in spite of men (or women) and their inability to sometimes love you back.

Second, I trust in God. No matter the pain or strife that comes my way, I fully believe that the people and situations that come into my life are there for a reason. Maybe I’m supposed to help that person grow or maybe they are meant to help me grow. Remember we’ve been told that we may have trials which will be a testing of our faith (1 Pet 1:6-7). Not only that, we’re told to rejoice in our sufferings for what it produces – endurance, character, and hope.

We must change our attitude from that of fear, to one who is truly filled with hope. Through Christ we can achieve great things (Philippians 4:13). God has made us to do great things, and we can’t allow our fears to diminish our potential and possibilities.

Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

By Jordan Shouse

A great influencer from the world comes through our eyes. You wouldn’t think much harm could come from eyes, but truthfully they can lead to a great amount of spiritual damage. Jesus spoke about eyes in the famous Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:22-23, Jesus illuminates the importance of our eyes. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Jesus shows us the importance of a clear eye. An eye which produces light is clear of sinfulness, error, and wrong. It is an eye which looks upon wholesome, pure, and honorable things. It doesn’t spend its time in front of junk. However, let your eyes gaze upon those things which are sinful, wicked, and filthy in nature, and you’ll find yourself filled with darkness. Do you know why that is? Let me ask you this, what is one of the greatest influences for your thoughts? It is what you see. What my eyes take in influences what my mind dwells upon. When you finish watching a movie or a show or a concert, what does your mind think about for the next few hours? In one way, our eyes are the windows to our mind.

Satan knows this. The world knows this. Why is it there are countless TV shows and movies filled with sinfulness and darkness? Why are there so many billboards along the side of the road with models half dressed? What you see affects your soul. Gazing upon sinful things produces sinful thoughts. John exhorts us to avoid the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16). We are told to set our mind on things above (Col. 3:2), to renew our mind (Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2). Pure thoughts, holy thoughts, righteous and godly thoughts all come from setting our eyes on godly things. If my goal is to think godly thoughts, I shouldn’t sit in front of shows which are saturated in sin and lustful temptation. Instead of spending hours looking at that which only brings darkness, what if I spent my time dwelling upon the word (Col. 3:16). The Hebrew writer encouraged us to fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). You will be tempted and pressured to go to sinful shows or places where people are improperly dressed. For the sake of purity, for the sake of holiness, for the sake of obedience to your God, you must learn to say no. Jesus said that if our eye causes us to stumble, to tear it out (Matt. 5:29). I’m Heaven bound, my goal is God, and NOTHING must cause me to fail. Let’s learn to keep pure and holy in our minds by guarding our eyes. “We are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chron. 20:12)

Let Us…Yield Not to Temptation

By Ian Harmon

There’s an old hymn in our hymnal, written by Horatio R. Palmer in 1868, entitled “Yield Not to Temptation.” This hymn was written in response to why an individual must not yield to temptation, how we must conduct our lives, and what we have to look forward to if we overcome sin. In this article, I would like to touch briefly on these three topics.

First, we must not yield to temptation because yielding to it is sin. In Matthew 4:1, we read that after Jesus was baptized, he “was led up by the Spirit…to be tempted by the devil.” We are given three separate accounts in which the devil tempted Jesus after already being in the desert for forty days and nights, and having not eaten anything. Jesus combated all three temptations with a weapon that we all have at our disposal: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). James tells us that we are tempted when we are “drawn away by [our] own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). LET US yield not to temptation for the fear of death that it may bring.

Second, we must not associate ourselves with evil companions, nor do anything which may impede our chances of making it to heaven. If we allow ourselves to be in the company of those who may be stumbling blocks to us, and cause us to sin, then we are doing nothing but harm against our souls. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthian brethren of this in I Corinthians 15:33-34. He tells them to “not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” He wanted them to come to their senses and realize that in keeping with bad company, they were bringing shame upon themselves. In keeping with this, we must also guard our speech, and make sure that nothing unwholesome leaves our mouths. James tells us that we must “bridle” our tongues because it “is a fire” that can easily burn out of control (James 1:26; 3:6). He tells us that we must make sure that we are not praising God with the same mouth that we curse men. LET US not associate with evil companions nor do or say anything that may impede our chances of making it to heaven.

And finally, we must look forward to what will happen to us if we overcome sin. Through our faith in God, we know that if we overcome temptation, God will give us a crown. James tells us that “blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (1:12). God will always to faithful to his promise of eternal life to those who not only love the Lord but also to those who obey his commandments. LET US always look forward to our crown that awaits us, strive to shun evil companions, do and say what is right, and yield not to temptation.

Remembering My Creator, Volume 1, Number 1, June 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 1

Theme: Daily Bible Reading

In This Issue:

• Daily Appointments With God by Randy Sexton

• Try a Bible Study Buddy by Shannon Harden

• Daily Meditation upon the Word by Jordan Shouse

Daily Appointments With God

By Randy Sexton

Recently I bought for my Son, Ryan, who just became a Christian, a little book by Michael Kast titled My Faith: Getting To Know God, His Son and His Word, Appointments With God – 150 daily encounters with the Word. On the back cover it says,

“He knows you’re busy. Some days you’re just trying to survive. But what would happen if you took part of every day and met just with him? You know, sort of an ‘appointment with God.’ An encounter with his Word.

Meet with God each day and discover his incredible promises, his charac6ter and his love for you. He’s the One who created time. The One who manages the universe. The One who knows your doubts, your struggles and your heart.

Use this book in your time with God to take an honest look at your faith. You’ll get to know Jesus’ life and teachings. His power. His sacrifice for you. And, you’ll dig into some unbelievably cool stories in his Word. It’s all true.

HE’S WAITING

In each encounter, you’ll write about:

Things to remember

Things God is teaching you

Things to act on

Things to pray about

So, grab your Bible, a pen and this journal. Choose a time and place that work for you. You’ve got a divine appointment. He’s waiting.”

I don’t know anything about Mr. Kast’s religious background or his positions on theological issues. What he says here “resonates” with me and I appreciate what he has attempted to do in his two Appointments With God journals that I have seen. I have incorporated his approach in my Reflections on My Daily Bible Readings column.

As we launch this new Remembering My Creator page, we invite you to read along! This page is targeted to young people, especially those new in the faith. We have several young Christians who have committed to writing for this page. Writers will include Jordan Shouse, Ian Harmon, and Shannon Harden. We encourage you to launch your own daily appointment with God. Get in the habit of early morning bible reading/journaling and see if it does not improve your prayer life and strengthen your faith!

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them… (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Please continue to read with me young people and post your comments or send your private comments to me at randy.sexton@achristiansvoice.com. Have a blessed day!

Try a Bible Study Buddy

By Shannon Harden

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Matt 4:4

Reading God’s word is an important aspect of growing as a Christian. But in our day and time it can sometimes seem like something that gets forgotten about. So, the question is: How do you keep up with your daily bible schedule and grow from reading God’s word?

To be honest, keeping up with my reading is the greatest struggle that I have. Not only do I have to remind myself that I’m not too busy to do anything I set my mind to, but I don’t have the personality that can do a “normal” bible reading schedule. I think it’s important in our life to figure out what personalities God has given us. Some love to study independently; some can rise at dawn and do their studying before they start their day. I am not one of those people. Feeding ourselves daily with God’s word is so important that we must reflect on what we need to accomplish our goal. Often we can get into the mindset that we are “too busy” or we just become lazy.

So for me, the thing that helps me the most is finding a bible study “buddy.” I realized a long time ago that I need encouragement to do many things in my life. I just flat out don’t like doing things on my own. I no longer see this as a weakness, just reality. God made us as social people, which is why he created another being for Adam in the garden and I believe that’s why we have the church. We need encouragement and for people to help keep us be accountable. I personally need that encouragement and accountability in various aspects of my life. So in a lot of things that I do, I like to find a “buddy.” I find travel buddies and exercise buddies… why not a bible study buddy?

So if you struggle with having a consistent bible study maybe finding a friend who will just check in with you to keep you accountable or you can discuss what you’ve learned – will help you to get your spiritual nourishment. But be forewarned: you must find a good buddy. Finding someone who is not encouraging and doesn’t hold you accountable will not help you to improve your daily reading habits.

Daily Meditation upon the Word

by Jordan Shouse

What comes to mind when you think of the word strength? Some may be led to think of body builders who can lift immense weights with ease. Some think of powerful beasts like lions and bears, strong forceful animals. The Kentucky Derby passed by a few months ago. Noticing the horses as they pounded around the course, one could not help but notice the concept of strength. What about a tree? For many, trees are probably low on the list as that which characterizes the concept of strength. However, in the 1st Psalm, the tree is what the writer uses to talk about one who is strong. Notice the passage. Psalm 1:1-3.

While the beginning of this Psalm is a series of actions, built up with a stark contrast, what I want us to focus upon is the tree. Did you notice the detail the writer gave about the tree? It is firmly planted by the water. It yields its fruit. It does not wither. Whatever it does it prospers. Think about the truth behind this symbolism. A tree firmly planted is much like a wall; concrete, solid, and immovable. Cars have wrecked into trees going racing speeds which leaves the car in millions of pieces yet the tree unmoved. Strong winds blow houses to bits, yet the mighty tree with its large roots stands firm. The tree truly is a strong force. But in this passage, the writer is not focusing on trees. He attributes this concept of strength to one who “delights in the law of the Lord. And in His law he meditates day and night.”

I would venture to say that a common goal as Christians is to become strong. I don’t believe anyone has the desire to be weak or feeble. We want strong bodies, strong minds, strong houses; likewise wouldn’t we want strong faith? The Psalmist said that strength is the product of one who meditates in the Word daily. Do you know what that word meditate means? It doesn’t mean to sit cross legged and hum. Meditate is a lot like chewing. When we chew, we take our time with that which is in our mouths, enjoying the tastes and flavors we are receiving. To meditate upon the Word is to think about the passages I’ve read. Throughout my day, I’m thinking about those verses, allowing them to run through my mind and produce congruent thoughts and attitudes. When I read of the passage in Genesis 6, of God’s command to Noah for the construction of the ark, through my day I may be thinking thoughts like, “What would I have said, or how would I have reacted to such an enormous task and yet a strange command?”

Did you catch the other phrase from the Psalmist in our passage: “day and night.” The Word of God is my fuel for the soul just as food is for the body. Imagine going a day without food. The same is with the Word. The Bible is my source for encouragement, support and strength. The Bible is my firm reminder of my responsibility to the will of God. The Bible is the only source of faith. Stronger faith, deeper faith, grounded faith, just like the mighty roots of a large tree; it all comes from daily reading and meditation of the Bible. Have you read today?