Spending Time With God

One thing that I have been trying to do lately is get closer to God.  My prayer life and my quiet time are severely lacking right now so I have been trying to fix that.  Some days I do really good, and other days I don’t.  I normally try to blame it on a busy schedule.  I won’t deny that I have a pretty hectic schedule at times, but I also can’t deny that isn’t a very good reason to be missing my daily dose of God.

I am subscribed to an email listing that sends a prayer to my email every day.  I’m not sure if this is cheating or not, but I have found it very rewarding to be able to add a random topic to my prayers as I go…helping me to give thanks in ALL things, not just the things I am thinking about at the current moment.

About two weeks ago I met with a group of close friends where we sat down and studied through some scripture and just talked about things going on in our lives.  One of the things that we all said was we wanted to get closer to God and put him first.  I don’t really believe in coincidences, I believe that God puts things in front of us exactly when we need it.  So when I received this particular prayer in my email the next morning, it was a Godsend for me.  I have been saying this specific prayer twice a day for the past two weeks.  I’m not saying that everyone should find a prayer and pray the exact same thing over and over again and limit themselves to that, but I am saying that this prayer, in connection with tons of other prayers I have prayed over the past two weeks, has really begun to bring me closer to God again.

I’ve felt closer in the past week than I have in a while.  I’m not going to lie, lately I have been doing so much stuff for people and church that I think I started to forget that I should be doing it for Jesus.  We can have the best intentions in the world, but if they aren’t for the right reasons then they mean nothing.  We can do good things for selfish reasons.

Anyway, I just rambled way more than I intended to…so here is the prayer that I received that has been helping me to get focussed during my daily time with God.

Oh God my Father,
I want to KNOW You.
You are so great and do great things.  I want to spend more time with You.
Help me to make time to sit before Your throne in quiet places,
to read Your Word in order to know You more intimately,
to develop an ear to hear Your voice so that I know when to turn to the right or to the left.
I trust You to guide me in all things.
I thank you for Your gift of the Holy Spirit, my “ever-present help.”
In Jesus’ name I come before You, amen.

*from PrimeTime with God by Churchgrowth.org

What was the purpose of all that?  If you are feeling far from God, or even if you don’t know Jesus personally but you arrived here because you are looking for something and you don’t know what that something is…just say a prayer.  Just sit down by yourself, somewhere quiet, and say a prayer.  It doesn’t matter what you say, you don’t need big fancy words or anything else.  Heck, you don’t even need to know WHAT you are praying for sometimes.  God knows it all, and He just wants to spend time with you.

I sat down a few days ago after work, it had been a long day, I was stressed, I still had a million things to do.  But I took a few minutes to just sit there in silence.  I shut my office door, sat in the floor of my closet, and closed my eyes.  I didn’t know what to say, my mind was so blown from the day that I was just at a loss for words and for thoughts, but I sat there and simply told God I wanted to spend a little time with Him if for no other reason than just to be in His presence.  And it was awesome, I was only in that closer for 10 minutes maybe, and it renewed me for the rest of the afternoon.

I’m not saying that we should never come to God without knowing what we want to speak to Him about.  I firmly believe that praying specifically, intently, passionately, and repeatedly for exactly what you want to say is one of the most powerful ways to pray.  I’m just saying that it’s ok to just sit with God and let Him do the talking if you don’t know what to say.  God wants to spend time with you, not your words.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:5-8

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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Back in the swing!

I used to blog all the time, for some reason I stopped doing it.  I told myself I didn’t have the time, I didn’t know what to write, no one was reading, etc…none of which were true.  Truth is I just got too busy doing other stuff that’s mostly a waste of time (gaming, randomly staring off into space for hours at a time, gaming, procrastinating, gaming, being lazy, gaming…you get the picture).  While none of those things are bad in moderation (I guess one could argue the merits of procrastination…), they certainly lead to a less productive and less meaningful life when they are what you do most of the time.

Recently I had a realization that I need to get things on track and start being a lot more purposeful with my time.  I wish I could say I came to this realization on my own in some sort of easy to swallow manner…but it was more along the lines of realizing that my children normally prefer to ask my wife to do things because I’m too mean or too busy staring at my computer screen, my wife has come to expect me to complain when asked to do anything so she doesn’t even bother anymore, I don’t spend nearly as much time as I need to in my Bible and in Prayer, and I often find myself doing important things at the last minute because I “haven’t had the time” (which is technically true, though the lack of time is a result of my own lack of discipline).  It’s hard to admit my failings, but I tell my children all the time that you can’t get past your limitations if you don’t figure out what they are…and you certainly can’t do it on your own.

So, one of the first steps I’ve decided to take in getting things fixed is to start blogging again.  I enjoy writing, I even think I’m good at it sometimes.  Speaking about my feelings and thoughts in person is often difficult for me to do because my mouth doesn’t move as fast as my mind, and apparently (if you ask those closest to me) I tend to be rather abrasive.  But my fingers seem to be able to keep up with my mind and allow me to flesh out my thoughts a lot easier.

Broken But Free will contain posts pertaining to my growth as a Christian, husband, father, servant, and life events; as well as what I hope to be informative and inspirational posts about specific topics, bible verses, devotionals, etc.  I love to help people however I can, and I believe greatly that sharing personal experiences and knowledge is a huge way to do that, so hopefully this blog will be relevant and helpful to those who happen upon it.

Goals are a large part of succeeding on a new path, without them I’d have no hope of being able to see if I’m progressing or not.  So my first goal for this new endeavor is to post at least weekly, though it could be more depending on my mood :).  Over the next few days and weeks I’ll be adding more pages and content to the site, things like a personal goal listing, links I find useful, books I read/recommend, etc.

Lastly, there’s really nothing like a good conversation to get ideas and friendships flowing.  Please, please, please…if you have an opinion, idea, thought, question, concern, or anything at all to say about something you read on this blog…let me know in the comments!  I reply to all comments, and love a good conversation…but that’s hard to do if you don’t let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading, and hope you come back and share this blog with anyone you think might find it interesting!
Daniel B

I am in the process of setting up email notifications that you can subscribe to if you want to be notified of new posts, but in the meantime feel free to follow me on either Facebook or Twitter, as update notifications will automatically be posted to both.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Lord, I pray that You would use this blog and my words as a tool to reach all those who may be far from You.  I ask that you would be with me always as I write, that the words I use would bring Glory to You and that I don’t get in the way of what You seek to accomplish through them.  I ask that You would provide insight and wisdom to myself as well as those reading, and that You would wrap those who need it in Your loving and comforting embrace.  Use me as a tool to speak to Your people as well as those who have yet to find You.  I have faith that You will bring those who may not yet know You and that something You have said through me will ignite the spark of change in their life.  Allow me to plant the seeds that only You can water.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to write.  Thank you for allowing me to have had the experiences in life that may lead others to You, both the good and the miserable.  Thank you for being You, thank you for Your mercy and grace and for sending Your Son Jesus to die for me and for all the earth.  I ask these things with Faith and in Your name Jesus, Amen.

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