Archive for 'Growth'

Review: Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas

Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas (ISBN: 978-0-310-29081-0)

I had the privilege of getting a review copy of Gary Thomas’ latest book Every Body Matters. I was eager to read this book, since Thomas is the author of one of my all-time favorite books “Sacred Pathways”.

Since, 66% of the US population is overweight (and many more struggle without being overweight), this is a very timely message that needs to be discussed. The very real battle in maintaining our temples has profound spiritual implications. This book in many ways is the start of a conversation, asking “Have you considered the spiritual impact of your diet / fitness habits? “Are you engaged in the battle to present your best self to be used by God?” “Do you believe that God desires to use you for noble purposes?” “Where should health / fitness be on our priority list?” As Christians, we should wrestle with how the answers to these questions should impact our daily routines / habits.

Mr. Thomas passion for this topic is penetrating, it practically jumps off the page screaming “Please Listen — your temple matters, start the journey, begin to fight, don’t give up, God wants to use you!” This is not the kind of book you should just read, nod your head in agreement and go on with your day. No, it’s a book that asks you to wrestle with the topic and start fighting the battle on a daily moment-by-moment basis. God’s spirit can use this message to encourage, convict and empower the reader.

I got a lot out of this book, both in encouragement and motivation to continue on my life journey closer to Christ. I thought the most important starting place is asking ourselves:
Do I believe God when he says he has a plan for my life? Do I believe He wants to use me for noble purposes? What is my part in making myself a more usable instrument? Our temple is a great starting place to show that we are faithful stewards of our lives (body, mind and spirit).

Thomas talks about this point on pg. 20 saying:

Christians who don’t take their health seriously don’t take their mission seriously. What we’re saying by our action is, “My life doesn’t really matter.” But because of the ability of God to work powerfully in any repentant sinner’s life, every body does matter.

There were many good points and takeaways that can be directly applied to ones life, such as:

Gain a future mindset: (Pg. 96)

Bad habits provide instantaneous gratification vs’ the slow reward of good habits. This is the challenge that this battle is fought in the moment, but the rewards (weight loss, energy, clarity of mind, spiritual depth) may not be observed for many months later. That’s a lot of fighting, stress, battle when the reward for giving in to temptation is immediate. So, we have to focus our minds on the hope of the future reward.

Take advantage of positive momentum in building new habits: (pg.162)

Most of us when attempting to wrestle with our health struggles — try for a couple weeks with new healthy habits (perhaps as part of a new years resolution) and then give up accepting the fight can’t be won. However, if we had just persevered for a few more days or weeks to make the 3 or so week threshold the fight will get easier. Positive momentum will begin to build as the new behaviors are no longer struggles but habits on auto-pilot. The battle is not over, but is considerably lessened.

Create Boundaries around New Habits: (Pg. 162)

Don’t go more than two days slipping into old behaviors (skipping exercise, overeating, excess snacking, etc.) or you will be on the road to making them daily habits. The longer you slip into old patterns the harder it is again to break free.

Begin the Process of “Sin Killing”: (pg. 178-180) (I thought this was very helpful regardless of what the sin is. ).

Taste the Bitterness of Sin
– Think and feel the remorse, shame, pain and bitter ugliness of sin.

Examine the Deceit behind sin
– Ask yourself the question: What is the lasting value in Sin? We are deceived into believing that the instantaneous gratification is better than the lasting value of obedience.

Consider the circumstances of your sin?
– What scenario makes it more likely that you’ll be weak / vulnerable to a particular sin? Is it how you feel? Your circumstances? Time of the day? Then become prepared for this inevitable battle, before it defeats you — again!

Use the exposure that sin provides to gain a more accurate view of the conditioning of your soul
– Gain an accurate assessment of yourself based on the sinful behavior to fully recognize how contrary it is to what God wants for us.

Consider the strength of your sin
– Did this sin occur in a rare weak moment or are you out of control in this area (and risk being destroyed by it)? If this is a very strong sin in your life seek help to make the chance for freedom greater.

Find a Holy Substitute
– Replace the sin with a positive alternative. Being prepared with an alternative activity, food or approach will make winning the battle easier.

Fortify your soul
– Adopt habits that will nurture your soul, such as spiritual disciplines, meditating on scripture, listening to sermons, reading books, etc. Create a “spiritual workout” for your soul.

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I ended up with many quotes and tips captured in my notes from the book; I think this book makes a great reference on the topic of our “temple”. Some of the takeaways for me were simple actions, like memorizing 2 Timothy 2:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to adding in new boundaries in my life through the “Sin Killing” process, such as: I won’t use the internet until I’ve completed my Bible Study and Exercise for the day, since I could see that was an area I could waste time in instead of using my time more wisely. I also have been careful not to miss more than 2 days in a row in my new habits, because I can see more clearly how that creates a trend of bad habits.

If you read this book and are willing to make an honest assessment of your life, I think you too will find it has many practical applications that will prove to be life changing.

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I received a review copy from the publisher, Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Create a devotional plan:

Bible Study Pic from the Journey Guy - http://www.flickr.com/photos/journeyguy/

©2011 - The Journey Guy (http://www.flickr.com/photos/journeyguy/)

Now that you’ve decided on a time and place, you’ll need to put together some thoughts on what you will do during your time with God. Time with God should be some-what organic and constantly change and shift as you grow in your relationship with Him.

Some things to think about:

How to transition into devotional time:

Often going from waking up or the hustle of daily life to quieting ones mind takes a strategy. Below are some things I’ve found helpful to make this transition from a chaotic mind to quiet and ready to hear from God.

Music

This is as simple as picking a favorite praise songs that help to slow you down and begin the transition to quieting the mind, body and spirit.  I create a playlist on my ipod just for devotional songs.

Some of my favorites are:

Chris Rice – Hymn Project or The Living Room Sessions

Ginny Owens – Say Amen or my personal favorite: Be Still My Soul

Bible Reading Plans

A structured Bible reading plan helps with consistency and knowing what to read. I’ve used a variety of different ones over the years, such as:

The One Year Bible (NIV)

A Chronological Daily Bible (NIV):

But, Nowadays I use the YouVersion Bible Reading Plans: Currently for 2012 I’m doing: Project 345 Plus

Devotional Books:

I like using devotional books and have a large assortment that I’ve used at different times in my life. Like music they provide a transition and a spiritual thought to start my devotional time.

An easy option is simply – Our Daily Bread

Other favorites of mine are:

One Year Book of Hymns

Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life

The Complete Personalized Promise Bible

Quiet Time Notebook:

Sometimes starting out with a devotional / quiet time is tricky to know what to do — Catherine Martin has a very great quiet time resource: The Quiet Time Notebook

I’ve always developed my own quiet time process, but this year decided to give Catherine Martin’s notebook a try. I bought it many years ago and just never used it. I like the structure of it and she’s like a friend whispering encouragement and helpful thoughts throughout the notebook. I think this is a nice resource for people just starting out in quiet time or someone like me who has had a regular time with God for many years, but wanted to get new ideas and a fresh perspective from someone else.

Journal

I’m a natural journal writer and love how writing slows my mind and allows me to listen to the rhythm of my heart. It also allows me to see what God has been teaching me and be nourished through his continued working in my life. The majority of great men and women of the faith are journal writers, because it is a powerful tool for continued growth in Christ. When I go through a spiritual drought the journals from my journey nourish and refresh me to keep journeying deeper with Christ.

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Original Posted on: January 15, 2011 at 23:49
Edited / Updated on: 1/13/2012 at 22:50 

Create a Devotional Plan for 2011 – #1

So often, we rush through life wanting to change, but are too busy to make plans. Life ends up being a whirlwind of busyness without moving toward the better future that we all hope and dream of living.

The most powerful method (that I’ve found) to produce lasting life change  is being strategic about my devotional life. Creating a strategic plan to grow closer to God and become more Christ-like. Christian’s hate to talk like this, because it seems so ungodly to speak of God like an item on a to-do list. Yet, by not adding God time as a must do item it ends up being a rarely do item. God wants us to actively and passionately pursue Him, which means being strategic about our time together. He wants us to desire to know him more and more . . . while becoming more like him each day.

The best way to actively pursue God is to make sure you are spending regular time with Him.

Tip #1: Decide on the amount of time you will give God daily.

Schedule an appointment with God like you would any other VIP. Decide on how much time you’ll spend with God and where you will meet with Him.

Be Prepared, there are going to be days when you ‘really’ don’t feel like waking up early or taking time away from something else to spend time with God (because it doesn’t ‘feel’ productive). That’s normal, but often these are the times when we need God most — and feel refreshed or more at peace afterwards.

The amazing part about spending time with God is that he slowly changes us to be more like Him in the process. It’s not magic, but you’ll soon begin to notice a change in yourself. This will usually be expressed in how you react or don’t react to stressful situations. Other changes may be in your words, your compassion for others, decreased anger or frustrations and a general greater sense of peace and patience.

Wanna Grow? Listen to Sermons Online

The main point of this blog is to encourage people in their walk with God and help them . . . Journey Deeper in Christ.

So, I’m going to include various things I do that encourage me in my faith and help me grow closer to Christ.

One of the things I often do is listen to sermons online. I’ve gained a lot of insight from different perspectives that I’ve found invaluable for growing in my faith.

My favorite churches to regularly listen to sermons from are:

Lifechurch.tv (Craig Groeschel) – I’ve been a loyal e-ttender since 2007! I have learned and grown so very much through the teaching of Pastor Craig that I couldn’t possibly recommend lifechurch.tv and their resources highly enough.

North Point Community Church – (Andy Stanley) – Andy Stanley is another favorite  pastor of mine, I’ve also learned a lot from his teaching.

Elevation Church (Steven Furtick) – young, fresh, inspiring, need I say more.

Church of the Highlands (Chris Hodges) – There’s something real humble and likable about Christ Hodges, so I also add him into the mix from time-to-time.

Another great place for sermons and Christian broadcasting Oneplace.com.

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For fun, I also listen to listen to Children’s radio programs. Even though it’s for kids, they can be really fun and useful to the kid in all of us  🙂

Your Story Time (I first listened to these when I was a kid, they bring back memories, but are also quite good!)

Adventure’s in Odyssey (radio theater by focus on the family)

 

 

Lesson 1: Pray over it . . . and through it.

How to Delight in God’s Word — Prayer

Printable Overview of Lesson 01

Printable Leaders Guide to Lesson 01

This seems simple and obvious, but I always considered prayer and Bible Study separate disciplines and never realized how important they were to be incorporated together.

I begin my quiet time by simply praying and asking God for wisdom and guidance and for him to soften my heart to receive his truths. Just by adding prayer before studying the Bible I found that God was faithful to hear my prayer and give me a deeper understanding of his Word.

1 John 5:14-15 (NLT): 14And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. 15And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.

So we know that if we ask God for something AND it’s according to his will, he will be faithful to give it to us.

James 1:5 (NIV) tells us: 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

We can see in this verse that wisdom is something that God tells us to ask for and he promises to give it generously, but we must believe and not doubt that God will provide it to us. This gives us confirmation that praying for wisdom and guidance before we study the Bible is indeed a prayer according to God’s will that He will answer.

The second thing I learned was to pray as I read the Bible. As I read God might reveal an area I need to change or I might learn something new from God and I pray immediately to respond to the message I have received. It may be that I need to ask for forgiveness; I’ll want to stop and praise him, to thank him, or whatever I feel I want to tell him, I do it right then and there.

Have any of you ever had a pen pal or other long distance relationship through the mail?

Did you find it more difficult to sustain a deep and meaningful relationship compared to in- person communication?

This is what my relationship to God was like a loving, but long-distance relationship through letters. I would tell him everything I wanted to say in prayer and then at a later time I would read what He had to say. It was never immediate or back and forth like a real in-person relationship is and therefore I could not reach a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Him.

Have you ever felt like God was distant?

New Series: How to Delight in God’s Word

Introduction:

When I became a Christian at 21 (in 1998), I was the only Christian in my immediate family, so I didn’t have anyone to teach me the basics about studying the Bible or the Christian Life. As many people have experienced I went to Church but was still confused on how to go from accepting Christ to knowing how to live for Christ day-to-day in my ‘real’ life.

I went on a journey at the School of Hard Knocks and I tried a wide-variety of things hoping to grow closer to God and some worked way better than others. Through this trial and error process I found 7 things that helped to take my study of the Bible and my relationship to God to a deeper and more intimate level.  This is what this Bible Study Series is upon — Learning to Delight in God’s Word.

These are not rules or anything everyone should do, but simply tips and tools that I found helpful that may or may not be helpful to you, but are worth contemplating and trying to see if it helps to increase the joy in your own walk with the Lord.

Question – “Have any of you  had a period of time where you didn’t feel like you were enjoying studying the Bible or had hit a dry period?”

If you said yes, then you are human and in the right place. Hopefully these tools will be helpful to you during these periods.

The Following is a list of the topics that will be covered in the series:

How to Delight in God’s Word!

1. ) Pray over it and through it. Begin with prayer and continue to communicate with God as he speaks to you through His Word.

2.) Read it. Devote time to reading the Bible.

3.) Study it. Find a passage to study: observe, interpret and apply it to your life.

4.) Obey it. Obey the Bible to grow in your love for and understanding of God.

5.) Memorize it. Store it in your heart, so that it will always be with you to guide your way.

6.) Write about it. Record your journey to ‘remember’ where you’ve come from and how God continues to work in your life.

7.) Share it. Share what you’ve learned with others and recieve a double-blessing by learning from one another.

Here’s a bookmark that includes all the topics for the series:


PDF version of Bookmark

Note: I will also be including some Bible Study Printable Sheets with each lesson, so if any of you want to share them with friends or want to teach the topics you will be able to easily do so.

This Bible Study was the first study I ever wrote and taught. It was over five years ago and I remember how God seemed to really direct me in the writing. Even as I’m re-organizing it to post here I’ve been nourished and refreshed through this teaching. My prayer is that God will use it to help encourage and grow you as He has used it in my life.


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