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How Do I Know If It’s God’s Will?

October 11, 2014

Peter

God doesn’t hide His will.

I love my son. I’m not indifferent to the choices he makes. But I care much more about our relationship than him simply doing the specific things that I think are best.

God’s first concerns aren’t usually the same as ours.

No matter what “it” is, it’s not as important as the overall character of your life. God is more concerned with your character than your success. While we tend to focus on the “what” and “where” questions, God draws us back to the “who” and “why” questions.

Intimacy with God leads to faith in God.

        -Intimacy creates knowledge.

        -Intimacy comes through prayer.

        -Knowledge leads to faith.

There are different forms of knowledge. To know God’s will is to hear God’s voice (‘vocation’ comes from Latin vocare meaning ‘voice’). Intimacy creates knowledge.

“The word ‘obedience’ comes from the Latin word ob-audire, which means to listen with great attentiveness.  Without listening, we become ‘deaf’ to the voice of love.  The Latin word for deaf is surdus.  To be completely deaf is to be absurdus, yes, absurd.  When we no longer pray, no longer listen to the voice of love that speaks to us in the moment, our lives become absurd lives in which we are thrown back and forth between the past and the future.” -Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

Without faith it’s impossible to please God.

Why? God gives us promptings, never proof. Doubts aren’t the opposite of faith, in fact, they usually co-exist. You just need more faith than doubt to keep moving forward.

“Don’t’ go with the flow. Flow with the go.” Go where you see God’s blessing.

The vast majority of God’s will for your life is laid out in Scripture.

Embody the counter-cultural virtues in Scripture that reflect the character of God (simplicity, purity, selflessness). God’s version of a blessed life is not a baptized version of the American Dream.

Small steps of obedience lead to larger steps.

Faith is like a muscle and needs to be exercised.

God will meet all of your needs according to His riches in glory. (Phil. 4:19)

“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply!” –Hudson Taylor

The principle of multiplication, as found in Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000:

1)   God must bless something before it can multiply.

2)   It must be given away before it can multiply.

God will never lead you to do something that contradicts the Bible.

Make sure “it” doesn’t contradict Scripture.

There’s great wisdom in a multitude of counselors. (Proverbs 15:22)

Seek the counsel of people who have deep and consistent prayer lives.

Start reading great biographies. Such books help reorient our perspective to God’s kingdom. We’re influenced by our culture in so many ways that we’re unaware of. Such stories provide a beautiful prophetic critique and encouragement to our faith.

Some of the one’s I’ve enjoyed lately:

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

George Muller

“Protestant Saints” by Ernest Gordan.



Once you’ve sought God’s leading in prayer, searched the Scriptures, and laid out your question/hope/dream before wise counsel, feel released to “go unless you get a no,” trusting that “whether you turn left or right, you will hear God’s voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it!'” (Isaiah 30:21)

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Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

Help…They’re Stealing My Peace!

July 22, 2014

conflict resolution strategies

“Help, they’re stealing my peace!” How often have we said this? The day starts out right. Coffee by the pool… A little worship music and a reflective read through a morning devotional…

…but then it quickly spirals into what feels like an all-out assault on our peace.

The phone call.
The words with your spouse.
The kids’ third argument of the day.
The inconsiderate tone, again.

Relationships that are already strained can quickly chip away at the peace you’re “supposed to be able to enjoy in your home.”

When Peace Seems Elusive

That’s good news —especially when we are feeling robbed. There is a higher place than the one we are seeing at the moment.

I have found, after overcoming some great hurdles in my own family, that we can run right to Jesus’ teaching when family difficulties and a clear lack of peace arise.

Pray for Those Stealing Your Peace

Don’t go to other people to talk, vent or validate. Go to God. Search His Word. Pray for them. Pray that God helps you see them as He sees them. Ask God to search your heart, flood you with His love, and renew your mind. Ask God for wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —James 1:5

It’s incredible how often our struggles with people will stop right here. We don’t have to go any further. God softens our heart, changes our perspective, and we’re good.

When that’s not the case and it’s clear that a resolution is needed, it’s time to convene a peace conference.

Convene a Peace Conference

A peace conference is simply going to the person and facing the conflict, in the pursuit of peace.

Despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything. Time can bury things, but buried things can still yield influence. It’s like a field with buried land mines in it, you just hope you know where not to step. It’s there, it’s damaging, and so we avoid it. It’s much better to clear out the land mines and the only way to really resolve conflict is to face it. Hold a peace conference.

Peace Conference 101

In the pursuit of peace, we need to be willing to take the first step. It’s not about blame. It’s not about our rights or who was at fault. Only the end goal of resolution should be in mind. It’s about sowing peace. If it’s not, go back to step one (prayer).

This is such a big deal to Jesus that in his first teaching he prioritized it over worship.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. — Matthew 5:23-24

“But leave your offering.” I love that! Reconciliation takes priority over worship. Don’t put it off, don’t wait for them to come around, don’t wait until it’s 6 feet under ground, go, do it today.

When you get there, don’t forget to remain vulnerable. It’s so easy for good intentions to turn into a venting session. Certainly, both grace and truth are necessary. If we’re all grace and no truth, it’s not real. If we’re all truth, no grace, it’s really bitter. We need both, together, interlocked at all times.  It’s not instinctive, but when we can have the humility, love, and courage to face the truth, face the person, and possibly hear some painful truth as well, growth is a certain result.

For further reading, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a practical and insightful book on how to live in this world and walk in the peace we are intended. Another wonderful book is The Healing Presence by LeAnne Payne. Click on the image below for your opportunity to win your copy.

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Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

A Better Way to Ground Your Teen

July 17, 2014

rooted and grounded

In a moment of desperation, have you ever announced to your teenager, “That’s it! You’re grounded for life!” These words are actually a better vision of what we want for our teens than they appear to be at first glance. Teenagers need to be “grounded.” They need deep roots and a strong sense of identity that comes from nurture and structure.

In reality, your teen will become grounded. She will find a place to belong and a community to affirm her identity. Will it be your home? Or will your lose your role to a peer group? The challenge we face as parents is how to ensure that our family remains their home base.

How does this happen? What does this healthy, nurturing soil look like that is conducive to being “grounded?”

Belonging

Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs to feel like he belongs in your family, that he is an insider —never an outsider.  As he naturally starts to pursue this independence, it can translate into family exclusion. Priorities drag them away from the home…Friends, activities, school and family need to be reversed so they remain in proper order (family, school, friends and activities).  It’s essential to hold a healthy tension here, allowing them to grow in independence while preserving a strong emotional bond.

Affirmation

Celebrate and affirm your child’s uniqueness and gifting. Make sure YOU are his biggest cheerleader, not a critic or judge.

Here’s a helpful image: Let’s say you’re teaching someone to ice skate. You’re in front, but you’re moving backward with an open posture and your eyes are on them. At first you are holding their hands, but you soon let go and give them some space, encourage them to stand up and skate on their own. If they fall, that’s okay! You’re encouraging them and not shaming or berating him. They feel safe with you. Safe enough to continue to improve, until they are finally skating on their own.

It’s like this with your teen. They are learning. You can’t allow your discipline to fracture your relationship or bruise them spiritually. Discipline is discipling, teaching. What I have to constantly tell myself is to be patient with repeated failures! Keep calling them up. Never push them down.

parenting teens

Love

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always believes the best in him.
Pray everyday for him, “Father help me to see my child the way You see him. Help me to bless him and affirm him as the man you are calling forth.”

Stay away from lectures. They can be filled with words that communicate disappointment, anger, and rejection. Instead of lecturing. try active listening, re-do’s and natural, consistent consequences.

As your teen becomes more independent an emotional connection becomes more challenging. Always be willing to be “the pursuer” of the relationship. This provides a clear picture of the way our heavenly Father pursues us.

And above all else —never withhold love. Love is not synonymous with approval. We are called to love unconditionally. Learn to make that clear separation that allows you to love and encourage while still upholding the consequences you have laid out.

A secure, consistent and loving space to fly, and occasionally fail are necessary elements to a well grounded teen.

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Healing, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

Your Greatest Enemy In Conflict

July 1, 2014

Remember who the real enemy is.”

It’s one of the most haunting lines from the second Hunger Games movie. Probably because the truth in that line hits us so profoundly. It bothers us how quickly and completely we can forget and allow our perception to become skewed the minute conflict strikes.

remember who the enemy is

Relationship Problems…

Your spouse does something inconsiderate, but it’s not the first time. You’re hurt but you don’t want to say, “That hurt my feelings.” Instead, you speak harshly, emotionally withdraw, or both. The conflict escalates until the peacemaker in the relationship offers a repair attempt and then you’re back to normal.

Like wheels that fall into ruts on a well-worn dirt path, your relationship probably has ruts that you naturally slide into when a conflict rises.

The other day, Bonnie and I had a small “disruption,” and I chose the emotional withdrawal approach. As soon as we get into bed, I turn my back to her and offer a disingenuous “good night.” I then start to think about all the comforting reasons why truth was on my side.

Bonnie then puts her hand on my shoulder, pulls me over to face her, and starts to kiss my arm without saying a word. In this instance, I was the one who should have made a repair attempt, not her. I was the one who overreacted, she didn’t even have anything to apologize for. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t going to allow pride to get in the way of love.

Our greatest enemy in conflict isn’t the other person, it’s our own pride. That is a wall that we must be ruthless to recognize and to tear down.

Pride insidiously masquerades as truth.

Pride, not truth, is what escalates and perpetuates conflicts.

God’s love however, is not self-seeking and it doesn’t insist on it’s own way.

It doesn’t wait for the offending party to make everything right before it’s offered again.

The problem is that we seldom recognize our own pride.

Are You Struggling With Pride?

Here’s a quick litmus test:

  • Are you quick to repent?
  • Do you forgive those who sin against you?
  • Do those who know you best occasionally confront you with your sin and in response, you acknowledge it, repent, and strive to strengthen the relationship?
  • Are most of your relationships healthy or, when you look behind you, are there a lot of broken relationships left in your wake?

If you’re slow to repent, struggle to forgive people, and live with a lot of broken relationships, truth is not on your side. Jesus elevates reconciliation higher than worship (Matthew 5) and Paul reminds us that, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

In the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), one of the clearest distinguishing factors between wisdom and foolishness is how we respond to correction.

pride

If our posture isn’t humble and we don’t practice regular repentance, there’s a good chance that our view of God is just a glorified version of ourselves.

Tear down your pride before your pride tears down another relationship!

That night, Bonnie loved me by first setting aside her pride. I didn’t say it at the time, but it made me want to love her the same way the next time we’re in a conflict. It’s a thousand reasons like this that the apostle Paul writes that such love, “does not fail.”

love never fails

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Spiritual Formation

3 Lost Words that Need to Be Recovered

June 20, 2014

growth words

I love words…

There’s often a hidden world of meaning behind them just waiting to be discovered. For instance, enthusiasm means, “filled with God” while amusement means, “without mind.” Wealth and luxury are actually opposites rather than synonyms. Wealth means, “well being,” while luxury (luxus) means “dislocated.” Ambition means “going around,” and conveys the idea of feverishly striving for honor. It’s been viewed as a vice until only recently. Hazard comes from the Arabic al zahr, which means “the dice.”

Here are 3 significant words related to growth that need to be recovered…

Sensucht:

Life’s longing, yearning, craving, or, in a deeper sense, intensely missing, “the well at the world’s end.” It’s a compound word, originating from an “ardent longing” and “addiction,” however the deep emotional sense of the word is hard to capture.  C.S. Lewis calls it “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” Walt Whitman closes the “Song of the Universal” with his description of sensucht:

“Is it a dream? Nay but the lack of it the dream, And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream, And all the world a dream.”

Thlipsis:

Pressure, and often translated tribulation. In a few cases it refers to the anguish of childbirth. Thlipsis described the act of squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil. During the first century, it was also a Roman torture technique where a large boulder was placed on someone’s chest until they suffocated. The apostle Paul uses it 22 times to describe necessary and redemptive pain.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in thlipsis, and faithful in prayer.” Something great will come through thlipsis, but you have to press through the pain in order to know and experience it.

Acedia:

A state of restlessness or apathy. The Greek root is negligence, literally, an absence of care. It is caused by a deep and tragic disconnect between one’s will and his being. Kierkegaard called it, a “despairing refusal to be oneself.” Acedia neglects the fundamental insight that our restless hearts are only put to rest in He who is the source of rest. —Augustine

We can be very busy, demonstrating strong active virtues, but if our work is an attempt to escape ourselves or secure identity through achievements, it will only increase our restlessness.  Henri Nouwen offers a great corrective to acedia in contrasting two Latin words, audire and surdus:

“The word ‘obedience’ comes from the Latin word ob-audire, which means to listen with great attentiveness. Without listening, we become ‘deaf’ to the voice of love.  The Latin word for deaf is surdus. To be completely deaf is to be absurdus, yes, absurd.  When we no longer pray, no longer listen to the voice of love that speaks to us in the moment, our lives become absurd lives in which we are thrown back and forth between the past and the future.” —Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

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