Summer is an important time for rest and relaxation, a time to be refreshed and recharged. It is also a wonderful time to focus on some spiritual disciplines that tend to be pushed aside during our regular schedules. These practices are able to give us the spiritual renewal we need to face the hectic fall schedules and responsibilities. There are many activities that are considered spiritual disciplines. Prayer, fasting, meditating on God and His Word, worship, and concentrated Bible study are some that come to mind. Three of these are on my heart today; extended times of prayer, biblical fasting, and in-depth Bible study.
Extended Time of Prayer
A good friend of mine has a ministry in our area to encourage and bless women. Once a month she opens her home for five women to come for a Personal Prayer Retreat. She offers a time and place that allows women to set aside the cares and demands of the world, and focus completely on God’s Word and what He is saying to them. It’s a time to bring life’s problems and cares to the feet of Jesus. The better part of one day is made available to be still and hear God’s voice. Ellen always begins the day by sharing what God has been teaching her. It never ceases to amaze me how her words are always so relevant to me. She often addresses an area of my life that I had not even been focusing on.
Although it helps to go away from your own home environment, away from the temptations of responsibilities and distractions, with great effort and discipline, you can have a Personal Prayer Retreat right in your own space. If you are not accustomed to long sessions of prayer, add several minutes to your normal prayer time. Do that again several days in a row. Begin your prayer time by reading from God’s word, and then move to your prayer list. After several days you will notice that time is going very quickly. A search on the internet may give you ideas for your personal prayer time. However, be careful not to allow this time to become rigid. Allow God to guide your thoughts according to His agenda for you.
Fasting added to the discipline of prayer is powerful. But it is one of the hardest disciplines for me to implement. When I put it into practice God speaks to me very specifically, and more powerfully than at any other time. If I am earnestly seeking Him, and listening, He reveals areas that I need to confess, and areas where He wants to help me to be more like Him. As I write this blog, I realize that it has been too long since I have put this discipline into practice. I found the following website which I am going to use to determine just how I will begin my fast. I know that the link speaks of “women”; however, as I read the article I see that it is not for women only, it will be helpful to men as well. http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/the-different-types-of-fasts-11626299.html
In-depth Bible Study
Psalm 119 describes numerous benefits to the study of God’s Word as it becomes ingrained deep within our mind, soul and spirit. Some benefits are promises that have conditions to be met before the promises can be fulfilled:
I am sure you would be able to add to both of these lists, and perhaps you can think of even more benefits of in-depth Bible study.
What portion of scripture should you delve deeply into? I suggest that you go to a passage of scripture that resonates with you. Read it over many times over several days. Stay with that passage and let the Lord really work it through into your life. Be sure to journal what God is saying to you over those days.
In these last days of summer, consider carving out some extended periods of time for a Personal Spiritual Retreat. Is there a special need in your life that you should be Fasting about? Determine to spend extra time in Bible Study. See how God prepares your heart and renews your mind, body, and spirit for the days ahead.
I would love to hear how God renews your soul. (email@example.com)
In Canada, summertime brings us opportunities for a variety of activities unavailable during the other seasons of the year. Popular ones are frequent quick trips to close by cottages or campsites. These times allow families to reconnect, spouses to deepen their relationships, and friends to relax and have fun. We all need time away. Our Lord modeled this. He slipped away for quiet time, away from the throngs and responsibilities to rest and pray.
Several years ago Weyburn and I found ourselves between churches. When summer came that year we found that we did not have any church responsibilities for the first time in our marriage. We had no church duties that required us to be at service every week. We could plan our summer without considering when we needed to be at our church attending to our obligations. We had never felt the freedom to do that before. It was a gift from God to us that summer. We needed the break and a time to heal. However, it was a pattern that was easily repeated the next few years, and unchecked, it started a habit that was hard to break.
We had to step back and realize that if everyone spent most of their time away from their home church during the summer, our church family would suffer. We have since adjusted our schedule to reflect the love and thankfulness we say we have for the Lord and for the church family He has provided for us.
We have always made sure that our tithes and offerings were given to our home church even if we were not able to be in service, but we are now intentional about the days we allow ourselves to be away, and the days we will be in our home church. Our regular attendance is for our benefit, but we trust it also serves as an encouragement to our church family. We hope that our presence helps them to know that we love them, and want to contribute to a healthy church community.
We pray that we are the example spoken of in Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Recently my dear friend, Carrie, and her family lost their dog unexpectedly. Through Facebook I saw the happiness when Elmer joined their family a few short years ago. Carrie would share pictures of Elmer taking part in family fun, and show us Elmer in his daily life. When I see pictures of Carrie and Elmer together, there is joy on her face seen through the light in her eyes. I enjoyed seeing Elmer with his family and especially with Carrie.
As Carrie shared her heart’s hurt the other morning, my heart hurt for her also. My friend was unhappy and my reaction that morning was just as scripture teaches in Galatians 6:2:
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
In context, this particular verse directs us to share the burden when a friend is living in sin. But there are numerous scriptures that teach us to love as Christ loved. Another verse tells us that a “friend loves at all times,” not just when we agree with them. The other morning I actually had tears in my eyes, and my heart was heavy for Carrie. Now, that may sound normal to you, but my family and close friends will understand.
I am not a pet person. Yes, we allowed our children to have a pet on occasion, but I soon tired of cleaning up after five children and a pet. They never lasted long in our home…the pet that is. Losing a pet never bothered me. Would you believe it, every one of our children now has at least one pet in their home!
However, Sunday morning, when Carrie was sharing her heart, God opened up my heart to her. I can still feel her sadness, and I pray for her and her family at this time of loss. Do I understand their connection to “a dog”? No. But that does not mean I am not capable of having compassion for them in their time of grief.
As I think about others who come into my life I know that many do not share the same beliefs, convictions and points of view that I have. However, I am to love them unconditionally. I don’t need to agree with them on everything, but I do need to love and care for them. It should not matter who they are, where they live, where they were born, the color of their skin, or what they believe. I am to love them and treat them with kindness.
The following verse has become very important to me over the past year. I have written it out here as I have prayed it for our pastors and many missionary friends over the last many months. (The words in italics are those I have adapted for my prayer)
Lord, help them to "devote themselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And I pray ... that God may open a door for their message, so that they may proclaim the mystery of Christ, ... I Pray that they may proclaim it clearly, as they should. May they Be wise in the way they act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let their conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that they may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:2-6
That’s a tall order! So in review, here is how I am to show compassion and love even to those I don’t agree with:
My compassion for pet owners and pets grew very unexpectedly this week. It is God’s intent that my compassion is to grow even more for others, no matter who they are.
How will they be drawn to the love of Christ if I am not an example of His undeserved, unconditional and unfailing love?
Please go to the following broadcast from Focus on the Family to read a powerful testimony of compassion by Linda Seiler. I listened to this broadcast after I wrote the above article.
These words from Fanny Crosby’s song of the same title came to mind this morning after I read the scripture and devotional reading for today. The scripture was Numbers 14:1-4, 31. The Israelites were grumbling (again) about the conditions in the desert and their fear of the future. It didn’t matter that they had seen God’s faithfulness by providing food, water and protection. They had trouble trusting God for their future. They said they were also afraid for their children. It was at this point that God told the parents that the children would “enjoy the land that you have rejected” but they would not. Because of their lack of faith and trust in the words of God the parents lost the opportunity to move into the Promised Land; however, their children lived to experience God’s promises.
It’s natural to put the needs and concerns of our children first. God gave them to us to care for, and to nurture. However, there comes a time when we need to begin the process of letting go, and it comes much sooner than some of us would like. Along with allowing them to make some “controlled” choices at a young age we need to let them experience making mistakes. With this we need to begin to give them the tools to make wise choices. Knowing God’s Word is the best tool they can be equipped with. We don’t want to raise children who become adults not able to live on their own, contribute to society, and make wise biblically-based decisions. There are good books that give suggestions as to how to guide the child through the process of becoming independent. They suggest the types of chores for certain ages, and the types of freedoms and responsibilities that might be appropriate for certain ages.
One area that concerns me is the decline in the importance that we as parents and churches are putting on higher Christian Education. The knowledge that comes from a school and teachers who are well grounded in God’s Word will last a lifetime. The skills to be obtained from “secular” schools can always be added later. The Bible training obtained first will equip the students to face the many attacks that will come against their Christian training and beliefs. They will be much better equipped to deal with important and difficult issues.
The wellbeing of our child is always in our hearts and minds, from infancy and up through adulthood as they take their first steps, enter first grade, obtain their driver’s licences, and go on their first date. They are in our thoughts through sicknesses, job interviews, and career changes. But oh the joy and peace we can have knowing God loves our children infinitely more than we ever could. He has their wellbeing firmly in His care. Our children could never be in a better place than “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.
Mark 10:16 “And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”
Debi Snider... more
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