A Strong Relationship

I have been focussing on my relationship with God a lot lately.  I’ve mentioned it in a previous post recently, but I’ve just really had it laid on my heart that all of the things I see in my life that need a little bit of fixing up can all be solved through my relationship with God.  I know this, and have known this, but for some reason it’s just hard to put in the effort to do it sometimes!  Whether it’s the busyness of every day life, the temptations of procrastination or general laziness.  Something always comes up to replace God Time it seems.  As part of my new philosophy of changing the underlying reasons instead of feeling guilty, I figured it was time to put a stop to all that mess.

For some reason, most people, myself definitely included, don’t put in the effort required to maintain a relationship with God.  If you will notice the word I used there…effort.

Think about your closest friend.  It could be your wife, your girlfriend, one of your parents, someone you’ve known for years, etc.  Whoever it is, think about how much time you spend with them.  How much do you call them?  How much do you text them?  How often and for how long do you talk to them?  Do you go to the movies?  Dinner? Hangout until the middle of the night?  What about their passions and desires, I bet you know them.  I bet you know what makes them tick and I bet you can tell almost instantly when something is wrong with them before they even say a word.  You are trained like a hawk to notice their mannerisms and body language.  You do LIFE with them.

Now, about that relationship with God that you care so deeply about.  Does it compare?

Relationships require effort, and for some reason, beyond my comprehension, humans just don’t seem to easily understand the fact that you can’t have a “God First” relationship unless you are willing to put in the effort.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

I’m going to go more in-depth about this in a future post, but I wanted to mention it briefly here since it pertains to this topic.  God wants us to seek him first.  Notice what Matthew says in the verse above.  It specifically says the word first.  This isn’t the only place the Bible says this.  There are so many examples of God saying that he wants to be our everything, he wants to be the first thing in our life, he doesn’t want our leftovers.

Another issue we have in our relationship with God is that we don’t treat him the way he deserves to be treated.  While he wants a personal relationship with us, he also demands our reverence.  And if you think about it that makes a lot of sense…who would want to be friends with someone that didn’t respect them?

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.  My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. – Psalm 25:14-16 (ESV)

A slightly different translation of the same scripture words it a little differently, showing the real meaning of the use of the word “fear” above.  To fear the Lord is to honor and respect him, to give reverence.

Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him.  With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises.  My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me.  Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I am helpless, overwhelmed, in deep distress. – Psalm 25:14-16 (TLB)

And yet another stumbling block we experience on our road to building our relationship with God is not hearing him.  And it isn’t that he isn’t speaking to us; it’s that most of the time we are too busy or their is too much noise in our life to hear him.

“Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

“Be still” – that is a hard thing for us to do, but it is something that is necessary to building a relationship with God.  How do we be still?  The first way would be to make sure you are spending some quiet time alone with God.  Just like any other friend, relationships get better when you spend time together.  And just like any other friend, it’s a lot easier to do that when it is one on one and you are listening intently to each other.  Getting to know someone in a crowded and noisy place is no easy task, that’s why God specifically tells us to “be still…and know that I am God”.  Be still, and know Me…

I have struggled with this, I still do.  And I tell myself that I have a valid reason, I mean, I am busy!  Just look at a normal day for me:

  • Wake up early
  • Read the news for a few minutes while the coffee is brewing
  • Do the morning requirements…
  • Catch the bus to work
  • Work all day
  • Catch the bus home
  • Do some overtime for my second employer from home
  • Find some time to hang with the kids and wife (I fail at this a lot too…)
  • Maybe eat dinner somewhere in there
  • Work on things for Church
  • Play some video games, watch some youtube, etc…have some me time
  • Go to bed

Seriously…this is pretty normal for most of us these days, where is the time to spend with God?  I will just use my own list for example since I’ve told myself quite often that I just don’t have time.  I could read my bible instead of the news.  I’m on the bus for at least an hour both ways (I’m writing this post on the bus right now actually), plenty of time to spend there.  Those video games and “me time.”  These are things that I do.  I am used to them and they make me happy.  I am putting them before God, when all he wants is to be first.  Luckily it’s a simple fix, but simple isn’t always easy.

You have to MAKE time for it.  You have to actively choose to spend time with God.  Believe me, God is a wonderful and powerful God.  He has built time into your day to spend with him, all you have to do is choose to use it for what he intended it for.  I guarantee you there isn’t a single person that could prove to me they don’t have time to spend some time alone with God today.  The time is there if you choose to use it.

Why do we expect our relationship with God to be awesome when we aren’t willing to make the time to spend with him.  We are willing to drop items from our todo lists to go hangout with friends if they ask us.  Maybe a new movie just came out that we want to go watch really bad but it’s only showing during that one meeting with those people…that’s ok, we can move the meeting.  But for God?  No, can’t move the meeting for God.  We rationalize this by saying, “God loves me and doesn’t mind because he wants me to enjoy life”, “God understands that I will pray later (even though we don’t…).  But he doesn’t!  He wants us to put him FIRST!  Real life friends get offended if they don’t come first…how much more so do you think God feels to be second place when he wants to be your Everything.

Can you imagine keeping your friends if you have no time?  I’m sure we have all experienced it too.  What happens when you run out of time to spend with friends for long periods of time?  Things change.  Things get awkward.  Eventually you get to the point where you are talking once a month or less.  The relationship fades and things aren’t the same anymore.  But, if you start talking again, spending time together again, all of a sudden the old days are back and things are awesome again.  It’s the same way with God!  You have to spend time with him to have that awesome relationship.  There is no way around it.  And if you truly do want that awesome and strong relationship with God, you are going to want to spend time with him too.  You are going to want to spend more time with him than you do with other things…and you are going to start putting him first.

So, stop being busy.  Stop making excuses.  Stop putting him second.  And I know that’s easier said than done…but it shouldn’t be…it should be the easiest thing in the world!


Lord, I pray to you today to open up my eyes to see all of the time that you have built into my life to spend with you.  I pray that you would increase my desire and willingness to be in your presence more than you already are.  I don’t want anything to get in the way of our relationship, I want you to be the center and first of my life.  I want to get to the point that nothing else matters to me, I want to die to myself so that I can serve you more fully.

I pray that through my words today someone else is feeling the same thing I am feeling.  That there is someone out there who is lost and searching, searching for something to make them whole.  I know that something is you Lord, and I pray that you would lead them here, that the words that I have written here today have come from your direction and not my own.  I believe that you intend to see people changed through the power of words and through the power of these words.  I pray that you would use me in whatever way you see fit, and that I would have the courage to say yes, no matter what the cost.

FacebooktwitterredditFacebooktwitterreddit

No More Guilt. Only Change.

It has been almost a year since I restarted this blog with the intention of posting at least weekly.  So at a minimum, there should be 49 posts already.  Sadly, this is only the 3rd.  I’ve been feeling guilty about that for a while; which makes me not want to write because I don’t want people to see my failure yet again.  I had a re-awakening last night in which I rediscovered something I already knew.  I realized that I don’t need to feel guilty about it, I just need to make a change and move on from here.

If you have the time, go read my first post, almost nothing has changed in my life since I wrote it.  Normally that would upset me and make me feel guilty about it.  While I’m certainly not happy that I haven’t changed in all the ways that I’ve wanted over the past year, I’m not going to be guilty about it…I’m just going to change.

A quick list of a few of my goals and how they normally make me feel when I don’t quite hit them:

  • Pray. Every. Single. Day. – guilt
  • Read the Bible, even if it’s only one verse – guilt
  • Don’t yell at my kids, correct them in love – guilt
  • Do the dishes (seriously, this is HARD for me…I have no clue why) – guilt
  • Manage my time better – guilt
  • Don’t procrastinate, DO IT NOW! – guilt

Some of these goals affect more than just myself when I fail at them.  Sometimes people that are relying on me get nervous because I’ve waited until the last minute to do something they needed.  I hate when this happens, because I have always prided myself on being reliable!  I affect my children negatively when I yell at them.  I’m not talking a stern talking to here; I mean full on at the top of my lungs yelling.

Some of them affect my relationship with God, which should be the most important thing in my life all the time.  But if I’m honest, my relationship there struggles just as much as the rest of my relationships.  And then there is my wife, who has more work to do when I don’t help out around the house.  I am sure it makes her bitter with me at times, which is completely understandable.

I’m not going to list every single way I fail at these goals, but I think you get the point.  I am not perfect, both you and me know it.  But one thing they all have in common is that they make me feel guilty when I fail at them.

Guilt puts most people into a never-ending cycle of inaction.  For me especially, I’ve come to realize that when I feel guilty about something I end up avoiding it and then I feel even more guilty about it.  “Now I’m behind on my devotions and have to catch up”, “my kids won’t love me because I’ve been mean too often”, “it’s too late to fix it so I might as well keep it up”, etc.  Lies that fill my head to prevent me from doing the only thing that can fix it…CHANGE!

So, from now on instead of feeling guilty about my failures, I’m going to attempt to change the underlying cause of them.  Without that effort how can I, or anyone else, expect something to change?  There is an old saying that makes perfect sense and I’ve always applied it to specific areas in life (technology problems mostly) instead of to life itself.  “You can’t do the same thing multiple times and expect different results.”  It’s time to apply it to life.

Read the below verse a few times and let it sink in.  It doesn’t say “I will forgive them yet still hold their sins in my mind”, it specifically says that “I will remember their sins no more.”  As in, you are forgiven…and then it’s gone.  There is no list of “well you did this that one time”…the slate is completely wiped clean.  God isn’t limited to our human view of justice that requires payback and memories of the past.  Don’t let your guilt weigh you down when all you have to do is repent and it’s completely erased.

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12 ESV

FacebooktwitterredditFacebooktwitterreddit

Send

So much has happened over the past few days that I don’t even know where to start this post, or where to end it, or what to say between those two points…but I figure I’ll just put my fingers over the keys and see where it goes from there.

7 weeks ago I sat down in my living room, opened my heart to Jesus, and asked Him what my next steps needed to be to break a habit of apathy I was beginning to experience more and more.   Almost instantly I felt the need to begin getting the words out of my mouth onto paper (or screen in this case).  I setup the site, I wrote a post, I started 9 more drafts of other posts, I felt refreshed, I felt excited.  I set a goal to sit down at least weekly to continue this outpouring of my soul into a readable form, to daily come before Jesus in prayer, to change my life for the better.  7 weeks ago I decided to restart blogging.  7 weeks ago I decided to break the chain of apathy that had been forming in me.  6 weeks ago I failed yet again.

For the past 6 weeks I have not done what I set out to do.  Simple proof of that is this post…6 weeks have gone by since I set a goal of posting weekly…6 failures right there.  49 days ago I said I would start every day with time before my Lord.  To be honest…I’ve done that maybe twice since then; tack on another 47 failures.  I said I was going to focus on getting things accomplished and not wasting all my time on things that don’t matter…yup, you guessed it…more failure.  I’m not trying to belittle myself or be super negative…I’m just saying all this to show that I’m not perfect, I’m just an ordinary person that makes mistakes on a daily basis.

Over the past two days I’ve been blessed to be able to attend the Send North America Conference, a conference filled with awesome music and awesome speakers that decided to come spill out their experiences and knowledge to 13,000 people in attendance to help ignite a movement of missions in the Church again.  While I took a lot away from this, some of which I’ll be telling you about shortly…one of the most refreshing things I heard was a rather simple statement by David Platt.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but he said that a lot of times at conferences like this they will end with a call to be extraordinary people doing extraordinary things for God…but that’s not something he would do.  He said that we aren’t extraordinary people, we are just ordinary people…and that’s how it’s supposed to be.  Ordinary people, people with jobs, people with lives and family, people with issues…just people.  It’s not our job to be extraordinary…that’s God’s job. We just have to be ordinary…which is awesome, because I’m really good at doing that.  Ordinary people that listen to the words of Jesus and just step out to DO what He has told us to do…God will take it from there.  Let God be extraordinary, don’t take the glory from Him by trying to do it yourself.

I can’t name all the speakers, or even talk about every single aspect of the things that were flowing through my mind and heart over the past few days…it would take many, many posts to get an accurate description of everything that I’m feeling right now…and even then it might not even be accurate because truthfully I still haven’t processed it all.  You can checkout a list of the speakers here…you might know a few.  While all of the speakers were excellent, I have to say that David Platt (one of my all time favorite pastors to begin with) and Vance Pitman were the two that really hit my heart the most.  I think I got the most out of what they spoke about because they were two topics that I realize I need to work on a lot.  Coming to the Lord in prayer often and always, and having a heart for people in need.

I’ve always thought that I had a huge heart for people in need.  For a long time I’ve had a desire to help the homeless, the poor, the hungry, the needy, the downtrodden, etc…but I’ve always thought about them as groups of people instead of individuals…I unintentially detached my desire to help from my feelings.  While I’ve cared about them, I’ve never wept for them…I’ve never had my heart broken for them to the extent that I would drop everything to do whatever I could to help a single individual or the entire cause.  I’ve always thought I was doing all I can to help those in need but I realize now that it’s only when it suits me, only when I have the time, only when it won’t affect the plans that I already have.  I feel like I’ve been doing what I can to help in order to make myself feel good rather than just to help them.  I let pride get in the way of what I was really trying to accompish by offering help.

I was also made vividly aware of how horrible my prayer life is.  I read about prayer, I know I need prayer, I know the power of prayer…but for some reason I don’t get down on my knees nearly enough.  A lot of times I find myself praying reactively instead of proactively.  I guess I’ve always thought that as long as I’m praying a little bit I’m good.  Praying is praying right?  Even though I know that’s not really true, that God doesn’t listen to prayers if they aren’t coming from the right motivation, I’ve done it anyway.  While I can’t say that all of my prayers have been filled with selfish motivation…they have been filled with things that don’t really put God first.  I guess you could say I am sometimes selfish with the needs of others…which seems good on the surface but when that’s the ONLY thing you are praying about it’s most certainly not good.  99% of my prayers are in reaction to the pain of others, to the need of others, etc.  I don’t often start a prayer with praising God.  I don’t often thank God just for being God…thank him for his Grace, for his Glory.  That is something I would really like to change…and I think the number one thing that I’m going to focus on going foward…because with that, with getting my prayer life straighted out I can come before my Father in the right way, in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Vance Pitman told a story about how a woman that he didn’t even know existed had been praying specifically for his sending church to send a church planter to her city to start a church because she knew that that church would be a gospel centered church aimed at furthering the mission of the Gospel first and foremost.  She prayed for a year and a half.  Every.  Single.  Day.  That church has now been furthering the Kingdom of God in awesome ways for more than 15 years now…because of one persons prayers.  To see a pastor drop to his knees in tears during a sermon because he is so in awe of seeing the Glory of God in person is eye opening.  It made me realize just how little faith I have sometimes.  Sure I pray, sure I believe that God can do anything.  But I usually pray once and that’s that…I leave it alone, because it’s done.  I believe God CAN do something…but a lot of times I realize that I don’t believe he WILL do something.  That needs to be the first thing that changes in my life…and I think tons of things would only look up from there.  I talk to people that are having problems and tell them “God First” and I give advice about having an unwaivering prayer life…but I haven’t been doing it myself.  That changes today.

I learned so much more than this over the past two days.  But these are the two that stood out to me the most and what I felt that I really need to fix before I focus on other things.  Starting with a heart change just seems like the most common sense thing to do.

———-

That’s enough of the deep stuff, now to talk a bit about the conference itself!

Me and 7 other people from The Pines came out to experience an awesome move of God and to learn things that we can take back to Summerville and to change our lives so we can lead by
example.  I certainly believe we accomplished this!

So many awesome speakers, so many awesome singers and bands.  I knew David Crowder was going to be there, but I thought he was only going to do a song or two…much to my surprise he did an entire concert on Monday night.  That was an awesome experience in itself!

I got to see one of my favorite speakers, David Platt, in person and to see the passion that God has given to some people is just amazing and inspiring.

Certainly not least was the time I’ve gotten to hang out with a group of people that I’m living life with on a daily basis.  From attending the conference, to escaping from a locked room, to cliff diving…it’s been an awesome experience.  Amber, Brad, BJ, John, Mary, Nikki, Tara…I’m so thankful for you all and the things that we are doing as we live life on mission together.  I can’t imagine where I would be today without you…and can’t wait to see what awesome things God has in store!

11800248_10204926495508402_3624172031410480427_n

11855713_10204926054337373_8295815248446728484_n

11209735_10204926055977414_6664272178319858530_n

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. – Psalm 34:15

Heavenly Father, I come to You today in amazement of the vastness of Your Love and Grace.  I thank You for the forgiveness that You so willingly gave to me through the death and resurrection of Your Son.  Over the past few days I’ve felt a need to come closer to You.  I pray that You would give me the strength to do this without hesitation.  I pray that You would help me overcome the apathy, the laziness, and the procrastination that I so often put ahead of You.  I ask that You would just empower me to come before You in any and all situations.  That I would grow in awe of You and that I would just fall on my face in front of You in sheer amazement of Your Glory.  Help me to put You first in EVERYTHING that I do.  Use me for Your will, no matter what that is.  Make my life point only to You.  Remove me from my own thoughts and point them to You.  Move so greatly in my life that others will have no doubt that it is You and only You that could have accomplished it all.  Lead Lord, and I WILL follow.

 

FacebooktwitterredditFacebooktwitterreddit