Archive for December, 2008

Exercise Follow-up: Pathways

I desire for this blog to be an opportunity for me to write and grow as well as encourage others. So, it’s only fair that I don’t give an exercise without doing it myself. This weeks application is to walk through the various paths using flickr images, and think on some of the paths from your past and new past God may have ahead for you. I’ll use some of my favorites and walk you through some of the paths the Christian Life takes in pictures:

Paths:

The start of  the adventure: This path (above) reminds me of a transition from reality into a new world as a believer in Christ. The colors suddenly seem more vibrant; it is the start of an exciting new awareness of God’s love and a hope that maybe it is true that God has a purpose and plan for me. There is a certain naive feeling that a loving God would only want good for my life, so I should now be free from trials and live happily ever after.

The darkness hits: It’s not too long after being saved that the first period of deep trial begins. This is usually a place that many people give up their journey altogether. God has allowed difficulties to help teach and grow us, but when you don’t realize this, it often makes you question God. There is not a deeper valley then when you are in the midst of defeat and are not sure if God can be relied on.  When people hold on and begin to pray out of a new place, a place of emptiness from nearing the end of self and recognizing that you cannot humanly get out of this trial without God showing up in a major way.  This is when God does show up and take you to a new path . . .

God’s Appearance: I noticed a bit of extra grace at the beginning of my journey.  I was very uncertain of what direction to take and made many mistakes (because I was needing to change in so many ways),  but God gently escorted me through the trials and took me to a new summit of His Gloriousness. It was so exciting, because I was learning so much: I can trust Him; He is real; He hears me; He loves me and He does have some plan that He is guiding me toward.  It feels like a heavenly path when we give up our direction and begin to walk in God’s ways.

Valleys / Trials: This life is hard and there is a continuous cycle between times of rest and trial. Just like this path trials can color our vision and make the way in front of us look uncertain. Ironically, trials make me tired and I feel like I’m the most unproductive during these times. The truth is God is growing me and changing me the fastest during times of trial. I often don’t notice how much God has changed me until I go through a similar struggle again and have peace and faith throughout, when I can remember similar seasons when I felt hopeless and worried. I can then smile and realize,  Wow!, God has changed me again – for the better.

Times of Renewal / Cleansing: Another season that often shows up is one of personal renewal – it is a time of overcoming sin and beginning again. It is reminiscent of the beginning days when the adventure began and an awareness of God’s hand was fresh and the freedom in forgiveness was new. There is a path of wisdom that comes from realizing good and bad all must first come through God’s hand and He can be trusted through both. Peace is provided while walking down the path of faith and leaving the guiding and leading to the Lord.

Exercise: Pathways

Let’s Apply It:
Take a walk through flickr image gallery and imagine what God is trying to teach you through the various paths and where they could take you. . .
Think about areas God may desire for you to hand over to him and allow Him to guide you down the right pathway.
Think of some of the paths you’ve been down – can you see evidence of God’s walking with you? Praise Him and Thank Him for his willingness to walk beside and guide us even when we are not wanting to follow.

Tips: Improve Your Prayer Life

Tip for the journey:

I know people pray in many different ways, but I wanted to give some thoughts and helps for improving your prayer life.

Whatever you say is OK!

There is no perfect prayer or prayer style. Often throughout the prayer time I pause , which allow me to listen to see if God is trying to speak, but sometimes I rush through it and just rattle on to God and hardly ever listen (I’m lucky He’s so understanding). When I first became a Christian (5/3/98) I prayed rotely, because I knew I was supposed to, but wasn’t sure what to say.  I think God honored these prayers, because I was wanting to know him more and that pleases Him! So don’t worry about what you say or even if you’re mad at God or confused about His plan – he’ll just be happy to hear from you. I think a sincere honest prayer is what God wants from us – not polished words or perfect poise, but a heart desiring to listen and follow Him.

Keep a notebook in hand:

This is a multipurpose tool, you can right down anything that comes to mind that is distracting you from your prayer time. Most of us have experienced that –  we get quiet to pray, then our mind suddenly fills with a bunch of stuff we should do instead. Take some time and write it down and get it out of your head. You may also notice other things showing up in the quiet, things you are frustrated about from your day and starting to worry about or decisions your not sure what to do about, relationships you need help in, goals that you are wanting to reach, people or things to pray about, etc. Often whatever is stirred up in this initial quiet will both make up your to-do list and your prayer list and that is okay. It is much better to work through it and then pray about everything then simply try to ignore all these thoughts, which should be making up your prayers.

Don’t Forget to Listen:

Often we ask and ask and ask . . . but do not stop to listen for directions or answers. It’s like stopping to ask someone for directions, telling them what a difficult situation you are in, tell them how much you need to find the right direction, tell them more and more about your hopeless spot, but not stopping to listen for the directions. That would obviously be foolish. We are also foolish to ask God to guide us, but never stop and listen for His guidance. What is God trying to say to you. Has there been a theme threaded through many areas of life, bible study, conversations, music, sermons? Are you wondering,  is this just a strange coincidence? No, more than likely, it is not a coincidence and is,  perhaps, God trying to tell you something (as long as it does not go against his revealed will through the Bible.) This is the opportunity to ask, Hey God, it seems like everywhere I turn I keep getting the same message is that you? Then give Him the opportunity to answer.

Pray through the Bible

Occasionally make the habit of combining your Bible Study and Prayer Time. When you read about a Bible Character and know that you are tempted to fail in similar ways, pray for strength, pray for the ability to overcome and stand under the temptation. If you see a characteristic that you would like to have more of in your life – ask for it. Let God know that you desire to be like ______ and what you are learning. If you are reminded of a character about God that you appreciate, let Him know and Praise Him for it.

Find Creative Prayer Times:

Our lives are so busy that it is useful to create a sanctuary out of the ordinary. You can redeem various times by combining prayers with other activities. I’ve heard many people say that their best prayer times are in a car during a long commute, while waiting in line or cleaning the house. Often activities that are mainly physical in form, but don’t require a great deal of mental processing make for perfect prayer times. These are all items that may be good times to include prayer in: Gardening, Exercising, Brushing your Teeth, Doing Dishes, Cleaning, . . . feel free to add to comments any others that you can think of.

Prayer: Proverbs 3:5-6

Today is a day to simply pause and talk to God: ask him to guide you down the right paths, listen to what he is saying and seek his strength for all the pathways you are led down in life. We will also use Proverbs 3:5-6 as a meditative thought before beginning to pray:

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

An example of a prayer I might pray as I read and reflect on this verse is as follows:

Father God – As I read the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 I can’t help but come before you humbled. You have been such a wonderful father to me, yet I still struggle to trust in you without wanting to lean on my own understanding , logic and reason. The longer we walk together, the more I am aware and challenged to allow you to lead and control more and more areas of my life.  I am so thankful for your patience, as I learn to lean on and trust you more, you’ve given me an abundance of grace. Help me to also be willing to give others grace for their minor infractions. Cleanse my heart from the pride that often gets in my way from fulling trusting your guidance.

Oh Lord, Please show me, what am I holding back from you? Which parts of my life am I  still trying to lead or seek my own understanding? Help me, when I’m confused by the outcome not always going my way and want to try and understand – Why?

You know that I am very guilty of trying to seek understanding, even when I walk in your ways. Please forgive me for . . .  [ this is where I would just talk to the Lord about real things going on in my life and ask guidance on how to improve how I handle them. I also will seek Wisdom on upcoming issues. Anything I can think of that I really would like the Lord to help with — these are the things I’d talk to him about. Maybe people I’d see in the upcoming days, problems that I foresee and don’t want to worry about, etc. ]

Help to change me Lord. Please work in me so I will have a good testimony in all areas of my life. Allow me to acknowledge your works as you lead me in the right paths. Alert me to anythings I may be hanging onto and trying to lead on my own.  Thanks for allowing me to be your child and being my father – I love you! I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to walk toward the purpose you have for me. In Jesus Name,
Amen

Verse: Proverbs 3:5-6

The First Verse is . . .

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

I know it’s quoted all the time, but for good reason – this is where the journey with God begins.

Just like the Robert Frost Poem – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

God has given us a choice – we have two paths to pick from. One, where we get to ‘lead’ the way; we can trust in our own wisdom and guide ourselves down all the pathways of life OR we can stop leaning on self and instead seek God to guide us. We simply acknowledge that we are clueless in where to go next and ask (and trust) God to direct our paths.

I don’t know about you, but I often try and do things on my own and inevitably end up making mistakes that could have been avoided. As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace – when I was running down the wrong path and he often put barriers in my way so I couldn’t keep going far down the way as I was headed. Trust me you don’t have to make as many mistakes as I have to learn – trusting in God to lead is the way to go.

Verse Card:

Printable Version (a sheet of verse cards):  Color or Greyscale

I chose this picture for the verse card, because the man looks like he’s been down a tough road and is starting down a new much brighter path. This is where we all are when we start this journey. Regardless of our economic or social standing – we are all poor in spirit when we begin the journey and change from our path to God’s path.

Take some time today to practice memorizing Proverbs 3:5-6. Even if you’ve already memorized it, reread it a few times and think about how it has been applied to your journey.

Theme: Pathways of Life

My desire is to begin a new journey, both in my life and for anyone who wants to read this blog.

Where should I start?

Do you ever feel that way?

I do . . . the Bible is 1000+ pages  – I often get confused on ‘where’ I should be reading. How often have we all started back in Bible reading/study, so we  began again at Genesis and started to get lost along with the Israelites in the wilderness and had a full fledge stumble somewhere in the middle of the laws of the priesthood.

So, I wanted to give you some verses that will help you on your own journeys . . . since I have a whole Bible worth of verses to pick from – how do I choose?

These are the types of verses that I want to share with you — the one’s that have had special meaning or purpose in my life:

  • Verses that carried me through difficult days.
  • Verses that allowed me to hang on to hope – when I was at the end of mine.
  • Verses that cut into my heart and allowed me to awaken to areas I need to change.
  • Verses that gave me a deeper understand of who God is and a greater love for him.
  • Verses that just made me laugh and realize God’s great sense of humor.
  • Verses that let me learn from others mistakes without having to make them myself.
  • Verses that inspired me to obey and follow God by seeing the example of holy living within the lives of others.
  • Verses that helped me hold onto my hopes and dreams . . .
  • Verses that filled me with God’s Wisdom . . .
  • Oh, the sweet delightful verses that God has given, to equip, guide and help us survive the challenge of living in a fallen world.

As you can see, as I’ve walked through the pages of the Bible – it has not just been God’s story, but slowly is becoming more and more my story as well. As my life has inter-twined with God’s word, it is exciting to see how much He has changed me and continuous to teach me.

The theme of this first lesson is simply the Pathways of Life. Often a journey is best started by understanding where we are and how God is working in our life.

Take some time today to reflect on the paths you’ve taken in life, good and bad.

Do you see areas where God has guided you, inspite of yourself.

Have you had God’s word impact your life and help you to change?

Can you see decisions that significantly impacted your life (for better or worse)?

Have you seen God use even our bad decisions and turn them around for good?

Starting down God’s pathway:

My desire is to begin a new journey, both in my life and for anyone who wants to read this blog.

Where should I start – since I have a whole Bible’s worth of verses to pick from – how do I choose?

  • There are verses that carried me through difficult days.
  • There are verses that allowed me to hang on to hope – when I was at the end of mine.
  • There are verses that cut into my heart and allowed me to awaken to areas I need to change.
  • There are even verses that just made me laugh and realize God’s great sense of humor.

As I’ve walked through the pages of the Bible – it has not just been God’s story, but slowly is becoming more and more my story as well. As my life has inter-twined with God’s word, it is exciting to see how much He has changed me and continuous to teach me.

The First Verse is . . .

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

I know it’s quoted all the time, but for good reason – this is where the journey with God begins.

Just like the Robert Frost Poem – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

God has given us a choice – we have two paths to pick from. One, where we get to ‘lead’ the way; we can trust in our own wisdom and guide ourselves down all the pathways of life OR we can stop leaning on self and instead seek God to guide us. We simply acknowledge that we are clueless in where to go next and ask (and trust) God to direct our paths.

I don’t know about you, but I often try and do things on my own and inevitably end up making mistakes that could have been avoided. As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace – when I was running down the wrong path and he often put barriers in my way so I couldn’t go as far down the way as I was headed. Trust me you don’t have to make as many mistakes as I have to learn – trusting in God to lead is the way to go.

An example of a prayer I might pray as I read and reflect on this verse is as follows:
Father God – As I read the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 I am always challenged to reflect on what areas in my life am I not fully given up to you. What am I holding back, which pathways am I trying to still lead – or seek my own understanding for why things don’t seem to be going my way. You know that I am very guilty of trying to seek understanding, even when I walk in your ways. Please forgive me and help to change me. Please work in me so I will have an eager testimony in all areas of my life. Allow me to acknowledge your works on leading me in the right paths. Alert me to anythings I may be hanging onto and trying to lead on my own.  Thanks for allowing me to be your child and being my father – I love you! Amen
Tip for the journey: I know people pray in many different ways, but I wanted to give some thoughts and helps for improving your prayer life.
#1. Whatever you say is OK! There is no perfect prayer or prayer style. Often throughout the prayer time I pause , which allow me to listen to see if God is trying to speak, but sometimes I rush through it and just rattle on to God and hardly ever listen (I’m lucky He’s so understanding). When I first became a Christian (5/3/98) I prayed rotely, because I knew I was supposed to, but wasn’t sure what to say.  I think God honored these prayers, because I was wanting to know him more and that pleases Him! So don’t worry about what you say or even if your mad at God or confused about His plan – he’ll just be happy to hear from you. I think a sincere honest prayer is what God wants from us – not polished words or perfect poise, but a heart desiring to listen and follow Him.

Verse Card:

Printable Version (a sheet of verse cards):  Color or Greyscale

I chose this picture for the verse card, because the man looks like he’s been down a tough road and is starting down a new much brighter path. This is where we all are when we start this journey. Regardless of our economic or social standing – we are all poor in spirit when we begin the journey and change from our path to God’s path.

Let’s Apply It:
Take a walk through flickr image gallery and imagine what God is trying to teach you through the various paths and where they could take you. Think about areas God may desire for you to hand over to him and allow Him to guide you down the right pathway.
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