SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 6 – Listening)

August 19, 2015

“She had a sister called Mary,
who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”
(Luke 10:38)

According to Marriage Counselors, one of the keys to a healthy marriage relationship is communication. You cannot build a healthy relationship without it. In order to know and be known, communication is crucial. The more we communicate, the better we get to know each other. The deeper we communicate, the deeper our relationship grows. But communication is more than talking. Communication is as much about listening and understanding as it is about talking. In fact, God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Maybe He intended for us to listen twice as much as we talk.

Communication is also crucial in our relationship with God. If we want to get to know God better, we need to spend more time communicating with Him. But once again; communication with God is more than talking; it’s more than praying. We need to listen to God, as well.

God speaks to His children in three ways: (1) through His Word, (2) through the circumstances of life, and (3) through His Holy Spirit.

Remember the prophet Elijah? He was discouraged and hiding out in a cave. As he sat moping in the cave, he experienced a powerful windstorm, an earthquake, and a fire. But God did not speak through these circumstances. Instead, God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper.

God still speaks in gentle whispers today; through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Here’s the catch. If we want to hear the gentle whispers of God, we may need to sit still a little longer. Instead of rushing through our prayers in five or ten minutes and quickly moving on to the next thing on our “to do” list; we may need to slow down a little. Sit quietly. Tune in to Jesus. And listen. Just listen. Keep listening.

Dear Lord,
Busyness seems to be the standard of life today.
As a result I tend to rush my quiet time with You.
Today, I renew my commitment to slow down.
Please quiet my spirit that I may hear Your Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 5 – Journaling)

August 12, 2015

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.”
(Psalm 116:1)

When Barb and I were young and dating, believe it or not, we had no computers and no cell phones. That means that we could not communicate to each other by way of social media, texting, instant messaging, or even emails. Wow! I know that’s hard to imagine these days, but it’s true. So, if we were away from each other for a period of time, we actually wrote letters with a pen and paper and mailed them in an envelope with a stamp on it via US mail (snail mail).

These kinds of letters are affectionately referred to as love notes or love letters. Some people have even been known to save all their love notes in a shoe box, and look back at them from time-to-time.

Have you ever written a letter to God or a love note to Jesus? Most people refer to this as journaling. It’s simply another way to communicate with God.

So, how do I journal? I began journaling a couple years ago. I now write a journal entry 2 or 3 times per week. I actually have a notebook and write out my journal entries by hand. They are not long – usually only one page. I used to be afraid somebody might read it, but my handwriting is so bad, I can’t even read what I wrote myself a day later. If you don’t like writing by hand, you could easily write your journal entries on your computer and save them in a file.

Is there a biblical precedence for journaling? You bet! The book of Psalms has 150 journal entries – mostly by David.

So, what do I write in my journal? David serves as a great example   He included a wide variety of journal entries – prayers, praises, adoration, worship, confession, complaints, questions, pleas for help, and much more. Just write a note to God. Share with Him what’s on your heart. If you’re excited, tell him. If you’re discouraged, tell him. If you are wrestling with some issues, wrestle with him.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Write a few short letters to God. It may do wonders for your soul and your relationship with God.

Dear Lord,
Thank You for Your love letter – The Bible.
As I begin writing my own letters to You,
I just want to say, I love You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 4: Memorizing)

August 5, 2015

“If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

Do you ever get discouraged? Do you ever doubt God’s love and grace? Do you ever wrestle with guilt & shame? Do you ever feel alone? Do you wrestle with worry or feelings of despair? I do.

Let me share with you how I deal with those feelings. I have outright wrestling matches with God. Sometimes we wrestle for a few hours. Many times we wrestle for days. I complain. He listens. I complain again. He lets me vent. I complain some more. Sometimes I cry, other times I shout. Eventually, God gently reminds me of some truth from His Word. Once I begin reflecting and meditating on His truth, He turns my despair into joy and my doubts into trust. His truth sets me free – free from discouragement and despair; free from doubts, guilt, and shame. Truth is the path to victory.

I have also found that the truth the Holy Spirit reminds me of is usually a verse or passage that I have memorized sometime in my life. In fact, it is most often a verse that I have recently memorized or re-memorized. As we put God’s Word to memory, we give the Holy Spirit some tools to work with in our lives. God’s Word and God’s Spirit work together.

What good is a quarterback without a football? What good is an artist without a canvas and brushes? What good is a builder without a hammer? Likewise, the verses we memorize are powerful tools in the hands of the Holy Spirit. He uses them to mold and shape our hearts.

I encourage you – if you are not already doing so – to start memorizing God’s Word. Start with a verse or two each month. After a while, increase to a verse per week.

How do I memorize Scripture? Here are a few tips…

– Read the verse aloud several times
– Write out the verse on a flash card (3×5 card or business card)
– Carry some “memory” cards with you for review
– Break the verse into natural phrases
– Emphasize key words
– Review it several times during the day
– Get a partner & check on each other

Don’t know where to start – I have suggested three verses in our Summer Challenge – one each month. Check out our Summer Challenge below.

Dear Lord,
Your Word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
It is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like an overview or my Summer Challenge, click here.


SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 3 – Sabbath)

July 22, 2015

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28)

In last week’s e-votional, I mentioned that Barb and I went to different colleges while we were dating and didn’t see each other much during the week. We went to classes, studied, and worked.

However, Mondays were our day. We both had classes in the mornings, and I had the day off work. So every Monday afternoon, I picked Barb up at school and we hung out together for the day. I usually got her back to the dorm a minute or two before curfew.

We didn’t do much on Mondays. We were college students and didn’t have much money. We studied at a park, went to a mall, watched TV and had dinner at my house or her house (with our parents). Occasionally, we splurged and went out for a hamburger at Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant. But it really didn’t matter what we did. We were together for the day. Mondays were the highlight of the week. We looked forward to Mondays! It was our day!

That’s what Sabbath is all about: a day to hang out with Jesus. No work, just hanging out. You can read your Bible, pray, journal, study, read a book, listen to praise music, go for a drive, or enjoy nature. It doesn’t much matter what you do – it’s who you do it with that matters.

Jesus looks forward to Sabbath every week, as well. He longs to spend time with us. He loves hanging out with us. Unfortunately, there are many other courters vying for our attention on Sabbath Day – work, projects, ball games, hobbies, leisure activities, etc. Jesus is saddened when we miss our time with Him. And we miss out dearly, as well – we forfeit the physical rest, emotional restoration, and spiritual renewal that Sabbath brings in life.

I encourage you this month to spend at least a half-day of Sabbath with Jesus. No TV. No computers. No cell phones. No devices. Just you and Jesus. Read your Bible. Talk to Jesus. Listen to His Holy Spirit.

You may enjoy it so much; you may want to make it a regular weekly date!

Dear Lord,
I’m sorry for missing our weekly dates so often.
I recommit myself to Sabbath.
I look forward to spending more time with You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 2 – Prayer)

July 15, 2015

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
(Luke 5:16)

Do you remember what life was like before cell phones? Some of you may have no clue what the world was like without cell phones or smart phones. But when I was a teenager, there were only land lines. We even had to share the phone with everyone else in the family

When Barb and I were dating, I lived at home and she lived in the dormitory at college. None of the students in Barb’s dorm had cell phones (since they weren’t in existence yet), and they didn’t even have land lines in their respective dorm rooms. There was only one phone for a whole floor of girls in the dorm – about 30 girls. Did you catch that? One phone for 30 girls. So in order for everyone to have equal access to the phone, a 10-minute time-limit was imposed on each call.

Since Barb and I went to different colleges, we didn’t see each other much during the week. So I called her every evening. We just wanted to hear each other’s voice and visit for a while. Even though we didn’t have much to talk about sometimes, we still insisted on using our full 10 minutes every evening. Occasionally there were some rather awkward and lengthy periods of silence, but we were spending time together (kinda).  We both looked forward to our phone nightly calls.

As part of our Summer Challenge this year, I encourage you to spend at least 5-7 minutes each day in prayer. Think of it as your daily phone call to Jesus. Spend some time talking to Jesus. Spend some time listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. If there are some moments of silence, that’s okay too. You’re still spending time with Jesus.

By the way, you certainly don’t have to limit yourself to 5-7 minutes. That’s only a suggested starting point.   Feel free to increase to 10 or 15 minutes – or however long you want.  No one is imposing a time-limit on your prayers.

Dear Lord,
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for You, the living God
When can I go and meet with You?
(Psalm 42:1-2)


SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS (Part 1)

July 8, 2015

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said….
At once they left their nets and followed Him.
(Mark 1:17-18)

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples?

What was it like to sit on the hill beside the Sea of Galilee and listen to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? What was it like to witness Jesus turn water into wine? What was it like to help feed over 5,000 people with just 5 rolls and 2 fish? What was it like to be in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee?   What was it like to watch Jesus heal the blind, the lame, and the sick? What was it like to witness Jesus cast out demons?   What was it like to watch the religious leaders (Pharisees) squirm when Jesus confronted them?

And what would it have been like to witness Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion?   How awful! But then, what would it have been like to see Him and talk to Him after the resurrection? How awesome!

The best way to get to know anybody is to spend time with them. So, I encourage you to spend some time with Jesus this summer. One good way to do so is to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and picture yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples. Place yourself in the disciples’ shoes.   Imagine yourself in each scene of Jesus’ life and ministry.

My challenge to you this summer is to read the first thee Gospels during the three months of summer – Matthew in July, Mark in August, and Luke in September. Each Gospel covers many of the same events in Jesus’ life, but from a slightly different perspective.

I will discuss more ways to spend time with Jesus in the weeks ahead, but this is a great start. So start reading! Walk with Jesus. Observe His miracles. Listen to Him teach. Just hang out with Jesus for a while.

Dear Lord,
I want to know Jesus better.
As I spend time with Jesus this summer,
may I continue to grow in faith and in my love for You.
What a privilege to be one of Your disciples.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like an overview or my Summer Challenge, click here.


A SUMMER WITH JESUS

June 24, 2015

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
(Mark 6:31)

Last Sunday was the first official day of summer. Of course, in Phoenix, summer always begins unofficially long before June 21st.

I always looked forward to summers as a kid. No school and lots of free time. I remember riding my bike all over the neighborhood with my friends. We went swimming at the public pool a couple miles away. We built forts and tree houses. We played baseball, flag football, capture the flag, kick the can, and lots of other fun neighborhood games. And our family always went on a summer vacation to escape the Phoenix heat – usually camping and fishing at Oak Creek, Woods Canyon Lake, or Greer. Summers are for kids. They are great fun!

Does God get a summer break? From what I can tell, in the thousands of years since God created the world, He has never taken a summer break. In fact, with all the kids running around and enjoying summer breaks today, His guardian angels probably have to work some overtime.

I want to encourage you this summer; instead of leaving God out of your summer plans, how about spending some extra time with Him? Spend the summer with Jesus this year. Include Jesus in your summer plans. How? Here are a few suggestions…

– Take some extended Sabbath with Jesus (just you and Jesus)
– Keep a spiritual journal for the summer
– Read through the Gospels (the accounts of Jesus) – one each month
– Memorize some extra verses
– While on vacation, visit another church
– If you’re camping, include family devotions each evening

Summer breaks are good. We all need a change-of-pace once-in-awhile. But don’t leave God out. Spend this summer with Jesus.

And if you are in town on Sunday – I’ll see you in church!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for your faithfulness.
Your mercies are new every morning.
I look forward to some extended Sabbath with Jesus this summer.
May Your Spirit refresh my soul.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


LOVE IS RISKY

June 17, 2015

“Love … always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
(I Corinthians 13:7)

As teenagers, when you “fall in love” with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you take the risk of being hurt someday. They may break up with you, or they may fall in love with your best friend.

As you grow older, you eventually find that special person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. You repeat marriage vows, pledging your loyalty and faithfulness to the love or your life. Does that pledge guarantee a perfect marriage? A fairy-tale, “happily-ever after” ending? Long work hours, career changes, major moves, bankruptcy, car accidents, major illness, affairs, and divorce all threaten good marriages. Marriage comes with the risk of suffering and pain.

After you get married, you may choose to have children, and you will love them dearly. Are there any guarantees they will be model children? No. Not even if you are the model parent. Children have wills of their own. Some choose to rebel against their parents. Some choose to turn their backs on God and on everything you have taught them. Will you still love them? Absolutely! Will it hurt? You bet!

– Love always protects – Love says, I will support you and defend you.
– Love always trusts – Love says, I believe in you.
– Love always hopes – Love says, I see potential in you.
– Love always perseveres – Love says, I will never give up on you.

Love is risky. Any time you choose to love, you run the risk of pain and anguish. To love is to risk being hurt. To love deeply is to risk being hurt deeply. But the alternative is much worse; for without risk, you will never experience the depths of real love.

Love is risky business. But true love is willing and eager to take the risk?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for taking a risk on me.
Thank you for believing in me.  Thank you for not giving up on me.
May I love others as You have loved me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.