Tag Archives: spiritual habits

What depending on God is really like and how to do it

17 Jul

Image result for tree with strong rootsDo you know how to depend on God?

I think it is very easy to say, “Oh, sure, I depend on God.”

What is much harder is to answer the question: “How do you show that you depend on God?”

I would like to submit that you show you depend on God by the choices in your life.   You cannot depend on God only in your mind.

So how are you showing, by the choices you’ve made, that you depend on God?  I’ve been preaching all summer on the various spiritual disciplines, and I’ve included “How to Depend on God” as a spiritual discipline for this reason.  We must choose to make a habit of it.

I have heard many people reactively depend on God.  Often when we go through difficult times, we find ourselves praying more, reaching out for God more, depending on him more because all of our other options for dealing with life have been exhausted.  And during those tough times, we grow close to God.

But what about proactively depending on God?  What can we actually do or practice to show that we are regularly depending on him?

Jesus once taught that depending on him is not just an option, but a necessity, for his disciples.  Take a look at John 15:1-8, and you’ll see what I mean.  He calls it “remaining” in him, or “abiding” in him.

The beautiful thing about remaining, depending on him, Jesus says in John 15, is that when we depend on him we will bear much fruit.

So let’s look at some practical ways we can depend on God.  As you hear these ideas, remember that Jesus said in John 15 that we have to choose to depend on him or we will not have his power flowing through us.

What if every month you purposefully choose something to do that will require God to come through for you?

It could be practicing a new spiritual discipline such as fasting, or spending half a day in prayer.  Maybe start the day by practicing a spiritual discipline of prayer and Bible study.  You could end the day with the practice of a spiritual discipline, in place of TV Time.  In sermon discussion last month, two people each talked about how they spend a lot of time watching TV at night, and they expressed a desire to spend more time in prayer or reading the Bible.  So we talked about how they could possibly meet up one night per week for an hour, skip TV, and pray together, study the Bible together.

Another way to make a choice to depend on God is to give him a radical gift.  Years ago, before I started at Faith Church, a previous pastor challenged the congregation to attempt a really interesting, proactive way to depend on God.  It was called Give-A-Day, in which people would give the equivalency of one day’s salary for the needs of the church.  It was totally voluntary.  Those who wanted to participate would calculate what one day (8 hours) of salary would be, and give it to the church. Then they would prayerfully watch God work.  Is anyone adventurous enough to stick your neck out and depend on God to get you through?

Reflecting on Give-A-Day, one person told me the story of what happened when they chose to participate.  They calculated what one day’s equivalency of their salary would be, knowing that it was a sacrifice.  A scary one.  At the time they lived paycheck to paycheck, and they needed that money to pay the bills and put food on the table.  But they accepted the challenge, and with nervous joy gave the money to God.  That next week they were surprisingly offered overtime, which never happened, and the overtime income replaced all the income they gave for Give-A-Day.  As they recalled their thoughts and feelings, they said “it was exciting to watch God provide.”  They depended on God.

Another great way to show that you are depending on God is to go on a mission trip.  Get out of your own culture.  Maybe sign up for a week-long mission trip which will mean you have to give up one week of vacation.  Watch what happens as you depend on God.

Or you could serve in a ministry in the church that is asking for volunteers.  Even if it is not your favorite way to serve.  Maybe you’d go so far as to say that you can’t stand serving that way.  Would you be willing to depend on God and go for it?

At Faith Church, we are seeking more instrumental musicians for the musical component of our Sunday worship.  Maybe depending on God could mean refreshing your ability to play that musical instrument that is gathering dust in the attic.  I admit that this idea sticks with me personally.   I have been spending too much time playing games on my phone.  There is very little value to those games.  Time wasters.  What if I pulled out our guitar and practiced it, to get to the point of playing in worship?

Here’s another great idea.  What about just simply trying something new to the glory of God?  I listen to a podcast called Invisibilia.  A recent episode featured a guy, Max, who loved his life.  He enjoyed creative work, was paid well, had wonderful friends, and delicious food.  But he began to realize that even though it was all good, he was in a rut: get up, go to work, come home, go out with friends, get up, go to work, come home, go out with friends.

So he created a Facebook app which picked out random events for him to attend.  He went to whatever event the app randomly selected.  It forced himself out of his comfort zone.

It was scary and felt a bit risky.  But it added a new dynamic to his life.  One Christmas Day he used the app. He and a friend showed up at a random people’s house for Christmas dinner.  Max says that he and his friend were nervous as they rang the doorbell.  The host opened the door and welcomed them in. They ended up having a great time.

Depending on God is like that.  Scary, risky, getting us out of our comfort zone, but so vital.  Get out of your comfort zone specifically to depend on God.

The very act of our dependence forces us to give up a little bit of our lives over to him.  Depending on him becomes more and more of a joy, more and more of a delight.

How will you show that you depend on God?

Do you want to learn how to pray?

2 Jun

Image result for i don't know how to pray

Do you know how to pray?

Before we talk about that important question, let me back up a bit.  It took me a while to find this image. To be honest, it almost always takes longer than I want to find the right image for my posts, or for the PowerPoint slides I make to illustrate my sermons.  I use Google Image Search, and often the results returned are not quite what I’m looking for.  So I have to refine the search multiple times and scroll through row after row of images.  Sometimes the images help me think about my blog posts or sermons in a new way, and I decide to change the sermon.  But more often, I tire of not finding the right image.

This time, though, I had one phrase I was looking for: “I don’t know how to pray.”  I have heard people express that sentiment or something like it many times over the years.  That’s why my sermon this coming Sunday is called “How to Pray”.

All I wanted was one picture that said “I don’t know how to pray” or “How do I pray?”  As you can see the one I found is close.  Close enough for me.  I was surprised because I thought “How to Pray” would be a popular topic, and thus result in loads of images to choose from.

What was interesting, though, was that another result filled the page with images.  That other result was the question “What to Pray?”  It seems that people are talking about “What to Pray” rather than “How to Pray.”  Or at least people are posting more images about “What to Pray” than they are posting images about “How to Pray.”  The exception is that there were a few images referring to how to pray in specific circumstances.  I would suggest that “How to Pray (in a specific situation)” is just a variation of “What to Pray”.  So I didn’t want to use a picture that described, for example, “How to pray for your kids”.

I also didn’t want an image that referred to “What to Pray”; I wanted one about “How to Pray.”  If you learn how to pray, it will be much, much easier to determine what to pray.  Furthermore, I suspect that people, based on the input I have received from our Faith Church family, want to learn how to pray.

This morning I was talking with someone who mentioned prayer times before extended family meals. One older member of the family always does the praying.  They are not rote prayers.  But this person seems to be able to speak with eloquence in his prayers.  So that person always prays.

Is that the answer to “How to pray?”  Eloquence?  Do you have to be a good public speaker in order to pray?

Or what about those rote prayers?  I mentioned rote prayers above because that is another way people answer “How to pray?”  A rote prayer is a memorized prayer that is recited.  For example, The Lord’s Prayer which starts “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…”  There are mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, and so on.  Among the various religious traditions there are loads of rote prayers. Are rote prayers the answer to “How to pray?”  I would say “Yes.”  But only partially.  I love The Book of Common Prayer, as it helps us pray in many situations.  You can read and inhabit one of its meaningful prayers for a host of common life situations.  I believe we that we would do well to memorize and recite, or at least read, these pre-written prayers often.  But I also believe there is more to prayer.  Much more.

How about you?  Do you feel you have a good handle on prayer?  Are you wondering “How to Pray”?

At Faith Church on Sunday we begin a summer teaching series called Spiritual Exercises, and if you don’t have a church family, we invite you to join us at 9:00am.  For the next few months we’re going to be talking about the following habits/disciplines/exercises which are vital for helping us live eternal life now.  How to:  pray, read the Bible, fast (deny yourself), talk about God, worship, be humble, depend on God, serve, give, make disciples, have solitude, love God with your mind.

We start off tomorrow trying to answer the question: How to pray?

How to stop the drama in your life

16 Jan

Image result for how to stop dramaAre you a drama magnet?  A drama queen?  None of us likes to admit it, so maybe I should ask “Has anyone ever told you that you are a drama queen?”  Have you ever looked at your life and thought, “Why does drama seem to follow me around?”  In my post last week, I shared some suggestions for determining if you are a drama magnet.  The first step is to open your mind to the possibility.  Would you do that?  Would you open your mind to the possibility?  Read the post to learn more.

Even if you still conclude that you are not a drama magnet, I would venture a guess that most of us on this planet feel like we have too much drama in our lives.  We’d like to deal with it.  We’d like to remove it from our lives.  Know this, it is possible to stop the drama.

Yesterday, we continued our teaching series through the Apostle Paul’s letter to a young pastor Timothy, which is why the letter is called 1st Timothy.  Last Sunday we looked at the introduction, and yesterday we studied Paul’s first instructions, which you can read in 1st Timothy 1:3-11.  He has a command for Timothy.  Simply put, the command is “Timothy, I’ve been hearing about the drama queens in the church, and you must stop them.”

That might sound harsh, but we must remember that Paul started this church.  He knew these people well, as he had spent nearly three years with them.  He loved them, and he wanted them to thrive as a church.  When he hears about the drama, he knows that is not in their best interest, and worse, it has a strong chance of ruining the life-changing work that God wants to do in their town.  The drama has to stop.

But how?

In this passage Paul reminds Timothy that the people in the church need to have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith, which will lead to love.  Basically Paul is saying that we need to be transformed within, because what is inside us what matters. These qualities turn our lives into fertile soil from which love grows.

As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  We need to remove the junk from inside and place goodness within.  Then love will flow from our lives rather than controversy.  We’ll notice that we are starting drama much less as we love more. And when drama enters into our lives, as it almost surely will, we will be prepared to respond to it with love rather than more drama.

Paul teaches Timothy a powerful principle about Christian faith.  Disciples of Jesus stop the drama because they have been inwardly transformed.  Disciples of Jesus have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith, all of which work together to build a solid foundation of love in their lives.  It is a foundation that cannot be shaken by controversy and drama that so often seeks to throw us off kilter.

The question, then, is this: how do we change from the inside?  How do we transform a dirty heart into a pure heart, an faulty conscience into a good one, weak faith into sincere faith?

We had a good discussion about this very question at sermon discussion group yesterday.  Let’s keep that discussion going in the comments below!  Please share your practical suggestions for how to change your inner life.

I have a few suggestions that I believe are basic.  When I played soccer in college, our coach required us to start every practice with 10-15 minutes of working on basic ball control skills.  You’d think that a college-level player should be way beyond that, right?  You’d think that in college we had the basics mastered long ago, so we could spend time on advanced skills and tactics.

My coach was on to something important, though.  We should see the basics as important all the time.  Just as practicing the basics is vital in sports, in music, it is in faith.  So I recommend that if you want to move on to a more sincere faith, if you want to move on to a purer heart and good conscience, then first ask yourself how you are doing with the basic habits of faith?

Basic Habit #1 – Prayer.  Are you praying that God will change you?  How often are you praying?  How can you go deeper in prayer, spend more time in prayer?  Will you need to get someone to help you pray?  Will you need to stop doing something, like watching TV, in order to make more room in your life to pray?

Basic Habit #2 – Study.  Are you reading the Bible?  Are you thinking about what you read?  How often do you read the Bible?  And when you read, how much do you read?  Do you need to get someone to help you understand what you are reading?  Most importantly of all, are applying what you read to your life?

Basic Habit #3 – Accountability.  Are you talking about your inner life with anyone?  Are you isolated?  Who can you talk to about the purity level of your heart?  Who can you talk to about your conscience?  About how to have a more sincere faith?  Disciples of Jesus are not meant to go it alone.  Instead we grow through relationship.  Just like Paul is staying in touch with Timothy through this letter, we need people in our lives to help us grow. This is also why a church family is so important.

What are other habits have you used that help you grow?