Spiritual Thermometers

I didn’t know this but I have some spiritual thermometers. One of them is this blog. I can tell when my relationship with God is slipping because I can’t come up with anything to write about. I can skip reading my Bible and praying for days and not realize it but there is something about having a specific set of days to post a blog that makes you look at the calendar and go- CRAP, it’s been over a week since I posted a blog.

I’ll be honest, my relationship with God has gone downhill of late. We haven’t been attending church regularly, nor have I been reading my Bible and praying like I should. Basically I haven’t been spending time with God. You know what? I miss Him. I miss the relationship, I miss the serenity, I miss the calmness in His voice when He speaks to my heart. I have once again let life get in the way. I have reduced my witness to a whimper and my ministry to a crawl.

A lot of it has to do with not having a church home. I have no root. I’m not grounded. But that’s not a good excuse. I still have a Bible, I still have the ability to talk to God anytime I so desire. I just don’t. I wake up early and check Facebook before I check in with God. I read my email before I read God’s word. I am doing life without the giver of life and it really just sucks. My empathy is gone, my compassion is low and my patience is small.

I see it most of all with my kids. I am meaner to them than usual. I snap at them instead of listening to them. I ignore them instead of getting down on their level and listening. I am quick to punish and slow to praise.

I don’t like me when I’m like this. I don’t recognize the man in the mirror. I know the face but the countenance is unfamiliar.

1-3 Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Scrub away my guilt,

soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been;

my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen

it all, seen the full extent of my evil.

You have all the facts before you;

whatever you decide about me is fair.

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,

in the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes,

give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me,

shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash,

or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways

so the lost can find their way home.

Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,

and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

Unbutton my lips, dear God;

I’ll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,

a flawless performance is nothing to you.

I learned God-worship

when my pride was shattered.

Heart-shattered lives ready for love  Psalm 51:1-17 The Message


It’s all about Him,

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Daddy’s Girl

“Daddy, I just want to spend time with you.”          Those words were uttered  by my 4 year old daughter on July 4th as my family and I were watching the fireworks at a friends house.  I was standing behind my wife holding my daughters hand and she started to pull me.  I bent over and asked what she was doing and she said, “I want to take a walk with you Daddy.”  I asked her why she didn’t want to watch the fireworks and that’s when she hit me with, “Daddy, I just want to spend time with you.”  I consider myself a tough guy.  I don’t show or even have a large emotional side.  I rarely cry, once when I got kicked in the no-no’s and twice during a movie, when they shot Old Yeller and when the Mom in Stepmom told her ex she was dying.  I have no idea why I cried at the last one but I thought about what it would be like for my Mom to die and that got me.  I think those are the three exceptions in a guys life to cry about- death of a good dog, being kicked in the groin and thinking about or the actual dying of one’s Mom. 

  At first I was going to tell her no.  I mean, it’s fireworks, stuff is blowing up!  That’s every guys dream, to blow something up.  We like explosions that’s why movies like Diehard and Lethal Weapon 1-4 were such awesome movies.  But more important than explosions is a father’s love of his daughter.  She is a Daddy’s girl and I am quite happy with that.  She has me wrapped around her finger and we both know it and we both like it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my son and my other daughter just as much, but her and I click.  Don’t worry, my Mom and my son click and my youngest daughter and my wife click. 

  As soon as she said she wanted to spend time with me my heart melted.  I bent down just a little farther and whispered in her ear, “Daddy wants to spend time with you to.” and off we went for our walk.  It wasn’t very far and it wasn’t very long but it was very special.  Holding hands and walking.  Not really talking, not really going anywhere, just a father and his daughter spending time together. 

  Sometimes I miss those special moments.  They are there a lot but sometimes I am just “too busy” being alive and not truly living.  Darius Rucker sings a song  called “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”  Check it out at the end of this post.

  I think our relationship with God is similar.  Not that He is to busy to take time for us but that He is just waiting for us to say, “I just want to spend time with you Daddy.”  He loves us so much and wants the relationship we have to be that intimate, that loving.  He wants us to run to Him, jump into His arms and put our arms around His neck and just whisper in His ear, “I just want to spend time with you Daddy.” 

  Check this verse out-

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What’s next, Papa?" God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  Romans 8:15-16  (The Message)

Papa!  Daddy!  Intimate names used during times of intimate conversations.  Sometimes my son calls me Dad, usually when He is in trouble or wants something.  Other times he calls me Daddy, usually when he is hurt or scared.  We use different names at different times.  Don’t worry about talking to God like you would talk to the President or a king.  Sometimes that is justified, but when we are alone with God, just spending time with Him, we can call Him Daddy. 

What’s your time alone with God like?  Can you call Him Daddy or do you stick to formal names like Lord, God and Father?

 

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Separation Stinks

Right now I am a little over 300 miles from my family.  I am in a motel room on an Air Force Base just outside Panamaseparation-stinks1 City, Fl.  I am separated from my Wife and three children.  I get to see them every other weekend and let me tell you, it stinks.  I love my family.  I love my wife and I love my three rugrats.

My wife keeps excitement in my life.  She is the crazy one, I am the boring one.  She wants to go out and she brings up crazy off the wall subjects.  She wants to go shopping and to the beach and to the park, and, and, and……  I would sit on the couch and watch SportsCenter all day.  I like to relax, she can’t relax.  I fall asleep the instant my head hits the pillow and she is awake for four more hours reading or watching T.V. because she can’t turn her brain off.

My kids also keep excitement in my life.  They run, they jump, they scream, they break stuff.  But no matter what, between the three of them there is always something happening, good or not so good!

Right now I get Snippets of Chaos.  Slices of Craziness.  Chunks of  Insanity.  And all of it is on the phone.  Cell phones are great, but at the same time they are so impersonal.  I can hear the chaos but I can’t see it.  I get the gist of the craziness but I can’t feel it.  I realize the insanity but I can’t know it.  Why, because I am not with them.

expanse1A lot of times my relationship with God is like that.  It’s like I am talking to Him on a cell phone.  I know He loves me but I can’t feel it.  I know He is interested in my life but I can’t see it.  I know He wants to console me but I don’t know it.  But, and it’s a big but, that is not the way it is supposed to be.

Psalm 46:10a says- Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. (Amplified Bible)

The New American Standard Bible says it this way- Cease striving and know that I am God

God tells us the best way to know Him is to quit trying so hard.  Make an effort sure, but don’t get so stressed out that you focus on all the reasons you can’t know Him better.

Most of the time the reason we don’t know God better is simply time.

Learn to Listen to The Holy Spirit

Part 4 on Obedience

big-ear3.jpg     Yesterday we looked at meditating on the Bible and spending time with God. This in itself is great but lets face it, what we really want is to hear God speak to us. I mean, what’s a relationship if only one person does all the talking? I read a joke the other day, please don’t be offended ladies.

Here it goes. “Two guys were in a boat fishing. One of the men says to his friend, “Joe, I think I am gonna divorce Martha.” “Why?” asks Joe. “Because she hasn’t spoken to me in 6 months.” Joe pauses a second and then says, “You might want to rethink that decision, a woman like that is hard to find.”

While funny, and maybe a little true sometimes (you know I am right ladies.) It does illustrate a great truth, a relationship where only one person does all the talking stinks. My wife and I have been married for going on 5 years now. Most of the time we have nothing new to tell each other. She has heard all my stupid jokes and she tells me the same childhood stories over and over. We have to find things to talk about. We both are well read, she like celebrity gossip and I like sports gossip. We share the same life. We talk about our kids, our house, our church and our hobbies. Sometimes we go days without anything substantial to talk about, not that we don’t want to talk, we just know everything about the other person. However, occasionally, something pops up that we didn’t know about the other person. When that happens we talk. Or maybe one of us will see a truth about God that we had never seen before and we will discuss it. But more often than not our conversation revolves around what medicines the kids are on, what the doctor said about the kids or which medicines the kids need to be on. (I often tell my wife that were she to die on me I would have to marry a pediatrician)

Our relationship with God is the same but at the same time, different. We get to know God the longer we are following Him. He shows us the basics and we no longer need to pray about certain things. We know it is His will to go to church, to read our Bible, to give to the poor etc… But while I can know my wife to the point where I don’t learn new things about her as often, God is so amazing and so big that there is never a time where I can’t learn if I am listening.

I must admit that I struggle with this as well. It is hard for me to settle down long enough to listen. But when I do, He shows up and I see something new.

Let’s get practical. How do you hear God? First, there is no magic formula, know set way or place. Here is how it works for me. I get up early. I wake up at 4:30am and get a cup of coffee. I sit in my lazy boy and read my devotion and then the Bible, right now I am in Psalms. Sometimes I get 3 or 4 chapters read, sometimes only a few verses. As I read I am trying to discipline myself to read it as a prayer to God and to find how the verses that I am reading apply to my life. If something hits me, (I describe it as God’s Holy Highlighter because the verse looks like it jumps off the page) I stop and pray about it. I mentally chew it up and savor it. I mull it over and try to get as much from it as I can. I pray about what it is saying and then I either read some more or quit. Next I move into prayer time. I do this on my knees, not because I am holier than you, it just helps me stay awake. I have fallen asleep before while praying.

Sometimes God speaks to me and sometimes He doesn’t, or at least I don’t hear Him.  Sometimes He chooses to speak to me through someone that day.  Maybe I hear something on the radio or I read something later that brings a Bible verse back to my mind.  The three ways God has spoken to me are: through the Bible, through other people and through circumstances.  Some people say they receive visions but I have never had one.  I am not saying they didn’t, I just haven’t.  God speaks in many ways just like my wife, verbal, body language and the occasional frying pan (just kidding).  There is one thing that you can take to the bank though.  If you feel like God is telling you to do something the He expressly forbid in the Bible then you can rest assured that it is not Him that is telling you that.  God will never go against His own word.

Listening to God is not easy.  It takes time and practice.  There is nothing uber-spiritual about it.  It is no more mystical than listening to your friend.   The hard part is cutting out the distractions i.e. kids, sports, soap operas, spouses, bills, surgeries, basically life in general.  God won’t take a back seat to anything.  He wants your undivided attention, and you know what?  He deserves it.

Remember- Learning to listen takes more time and effort than learning to talk, but the reward is worth it.

Is There More?

book.jpg     Recently I have been wondering if there is more. I mean, I have a good life, a beautiful wife, three great kids, a good job, make that good job(s). I have some friends, live close to my family. My van runs pretty well. I have it better than a lot of people in this world. But still I wonder if there is more. I don’t mean more stuff, but more to the Christian life.

I have a relationship with God. I believe in Jesus as my only way to get to God. I believe Jesus is God. I believe the Holy Spirit is inside me. I am a Christ-Follower. But yet somehow I am not satisfied. I want more. I want something deeper.

I am reading a new book titled, “I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt” by Vince Antonucci. So far he is talking about the same thing I have been wondering. So I am going to blog about what I learn as I read it. Here is what I got so far.

Most church people fall into one of two categories- Religion and Relationship. To me religion is basically just behavior modification. It is about how you act and what you do. Be good and help others. Go to church and put some cash in the plate. Do those things and you will be a good person. Thats religion. A system of beliefs and actions designed to make you a better person.

How about relationship? I hear that thrown around a lot in churches now. “God doesn’t want you to have religion, He wants a relationship.” Here is the problem with this, again, just my opinion, but relationship is still pretty shallow. I mean, I have relationships with lots of people, but in all honesty, I could live without them. I love my Mom, she is a great lady. But, if she leaves either this life or my life I will not cease to exist. I don’t depend on her for my life. How about my wife Amy? I love her, she is the largest part of my life on planet Earth. Everyday I am altered because of her. However, if she left me or left this life I would still be able to function. I would be devastated, but eventually I would recover. I have had several best friends, I still have three I consider to be my inner circle, Andy, Nathan and Scott. I spent years with each one, consider them as close as a brother, but we sometimes go months even years without talking. So if that is relationship it doesn’t seem adequate to me. Did Jesus really go through torture and death on a cross for this? If so He got the short end of the stick.

But maybe, just maybe there is a third option. Maybe there are stages, first we get religion then relationship then…..? Or maybe there in the wrong order, we get relationship and then it gets kind of boring, or we move away from time with God and the relationship fizzles and we slip into religion, just going through the motions, but inside we’re spiritually dying.

Read these passages from the Bible, it is what has me thinging that there is more-

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 and this one

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

These passages make me wonder if I have it all. Am I remaining in God. What does that mean? Kind of like a baby in the womb relying on Mom to provide everything. What is life to the full? Do I have that? I don’t feel that I do.

So here it is, I am going to blog my way through the book. Not every day will be about this, but if you want to get the whole adventure I will keep each one in this series named the same- “Is There More”

Let me know what you think. Is there more than religion and relationship, or is that it?

To be continued……….