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Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

Don’t Act Your Age

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As I continue reading “A Praying Life”, I have come to a chapter called “Become Like A Little Child”. If I want to improve my prayer life than I need to act a little more like a little child in my relationship toward God.  This may seem strange. After all, when older kids and adults act like little children it is not particularly cute, attractive or appealing.  Yet, in Mark 10:14-15 and Mark 9:33-37 Jesus tells the disciples that if they want to be a part of his kingdom they need to become like a child.

So  what exactly is Miller getting at? Little kids ask about everything, and they ask often.  They can be very persistent about something they think they want. Little children are very real and blunt in their asking. They don’t beat around the bush or phrase their requests in clever or cunning ways. If they want something or are unhappy about things they blurt it right out. There is not a fake bone in their body and that is how Jesus wants us to come to him. But we are uncomfortable with this kind of authenticity – especially with God. Instead we try to approach God with well organized and thought out prayers and we get frustrated when our minds get sidetracked or when our prayers come out sounding spiritually inept. We need to learn to be real.

Miller says that,

the difficulty of coming just as we are is that we are messy. When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God. We don’t know how bad we are until we try to be good.

In contrast, little children never get frozen by their selfishness. Like the disciples, they come just as the are, totally self-absorbed. They seldom get it right.   Jesus does not say” Come to me, all you who have learned  how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wonder, and I will give you rest.”

Instead Jesus wants us to come to him when we are happy, excited, fearful, weary, overwhelmed, disorganized in our minds. Well, messy.

The author makes the point that we should stop trying to get prayer right. We need to be real in our prayer life otherwise we are no better than the Pharisees. “Rarely did they tell Jesus directly what they were thinking.”

“Tell him where you are weary. If you don’t begin with where you are, then where you are will sneak in the back door. Your mind will wander to where you are weary. We are often so busy and overwhelmed that when we slow down to pray, we don’t know where our hearts are. We don’t know what troubles us. So, oddly, enough, we might need to worry before we pray. Then our prayers will make sense. They will be about our real lives.”

Later on we are reminded that when we pray we are talking to a person. We are having a conversation and sometimes when we talk to a close friend we comfortably jump from one topic to another often times getting sidetracked for a while before getting back to the main conversation. Instead of getting frustrated when our minds begin to wander, we should pray about the things that our minds wander to. That might be more spiritual than you realize.  Maybe that is the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

So far this has been the best book on prayer I have ever read. Get it and read it!

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A Praying Life

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Last night I started a book on prayer called “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. Here is what I have figured out: I stink at prayer. Do I like to pray?  Yes, most of the time I do, but I don’t feel like I am any good at it.

Here are some of my issues: After only a few seconds I find myself distracted and I really have to work hard to pay attention to my own prayers. In the end I feel a little guilty that I wasn’t able to focus on God for more than a couple of minutes. I often wonder if I have prayed long or hard enough. If I have enough faith or the right words. Sometimes I am afraid that I am nagging, or whining. Other times I worry that I come across as complaining or being unthankful.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way, and Miller unpacks more reasons so many of us struggle with the discipline of prayer.

He says that some, “in a burst if spiritual enthusiasm put together a prayer list,” but those end up boring us and “nothing seems to happen…. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list.”

Miller also point out that, “praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith not to pray. After only a few minutes our prayers are in shambles, barely out of the staring gate, we collapse on the sidelines – cynical, guilty, and hopeless.”

Here is an observation Mr. Miller makes about the culture we live in and how it effects our prayer. He says,

American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray.  We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.”

We might never say that out loud, but isn’t it so true?  Don’t we often feel like we need to hurry up and pray so we can scratch it off of our to-do list and move on to something else? Even though we know Christ, our relationship with God is still a little dysfunctional. Communicating with God is hard and sometimes awkward.

All of this came out of the first chapter of the book. His insight into how we mess up prayer is so accurate, and I can’t wait to find out what he has to say positively about prayer. Actually I am hopeful that this book will help me to learn to love praying, to look forward to it and to be excited about talking to God without feeling rushed or guilty.

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Ending The Day Well

Vasily Perov Children Sleeping

Here is some more advice from Baxter and Scudder about how to end the day with God.

Before returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins.

This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity. (Richard Baxter)

All this being done, yet while you are putting off your apparel, when you are lying down, and when you are in bed, before you sleep, it is good that you commune with your own heart, (Ps. 4:4). If other good and fit meditations offer not themselves, some of these will be seasonable:

When you see yourself without your apparel, consider what you were at your birth, and what you shall be at your death, when you put off this earthly tabernacle… how that you brought nothing into this world, nor shall carry any thing out (1 Tim. 6:7)… This will be an excellent means to give you sweet content in any thing you have (1 Tim. 6:8)… (Henry Scudder).

If you want to be challenged then pick up the book “The Christian’s Daily Walk” by Henry Scudder or look up the Works of Richard Baxter online and read a little of these great men who have a lot of wisdom to share.


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How To Begin Your Day

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Years ago I came across some writings by Richard Baxter (1615-1691) and Henry Scudder (1743-1822) that talked about how to begin and end our day with God. Here are a few quotes that have stuck with me over the years about beginning our day with our focus on God.

“Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.” (Richard Baxter)

“In the instant of awaking let your heart be lifted up to God with a thankful acknowledgment of his mercy to you. For it is he that gives his beloved sleep, who kept you both in soul and body while you slept, who renews his mercies every morning. For, while you sleep, you are as it were out of actual possession of yourself, and all things else . Now, it was God that kept you, and all that you had, and restored them to you again, with many new mercies, when you awaked.” (Henry Scudder)

Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.”
(Richard Baxter)

“Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.

Familiarize yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night’s rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonizing pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.

“When you arise and dress yourself, lose not that precious time with impertinent and fruitless thoughts. This is a fit time to think upon the cause of why you need apparel … namely your sin. It will likewise be of good purpose to consider what the wise providence of God hath appointed to be the substance of your apparel, the rinds of plants, skins, hair, wool of brute beasts, and the bowels of the silkworm. It does magnify the wisdom, power and goodness of God in choosing and turning such mean things to such excellent use. So it should humble and suppress the pride of man. For what man in his senses would be proud of the badge of his shame.” (Henry Scudder)

I don’t know about you, but before I even open my eyes, my mind races ahead to all the things I need to accomplish that day, of the lists I need to make, errands I need to run. and what I am going to wear. I wish I could be so single minded first thing in the morning, realizing that without God I cannot accomplish even the smallest task. Definitely something I need to work on.

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All I have is Christ

I came across this song a couple weeks ago and just love it. I like the music, but I especially love the lyrics. There is a video of the song attached below.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

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Sovereign Grace has come out with another CD for children and once again it does not disappoint. I have always been a Sovereign Grace fan because everything they do points to the gospel and this CD is no different. The lyrics are awesome and even the adults will enjoy its music. The theme of this album is the fruit of the Spirit, and has songs about self control, kindness, faithfulness and being like Jesus. Check out some of the song samples and get this for your kids. (I do believe it is on sale right now!)

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praying

Every morning I receive a little devotional reading from Grace Gems. This morning’s was from Henry Law’s “Family Prayers” (1797-1884).  This is my prayer for my children.

We commend our young to Your tenderest care. How deep, how abiding are early impressions! While the soil is yet tender –may seeds of godliness be sown.

Before Satan with his legion stealthily creeps in,
before the world with its bewitching vanities allures,
before corrup examples beckon to destructions way

— do, O blessed Jesus, enter and win their first affections, and mold their pliant wills. Show them in life’s dawn — Your beauty and Your glory, the peaceful charms of godly walk, and seal them by Your Spirit as Your own forever.

May Your Holy Spirit be the great teacher, to instruct them that Christ is the mine containing all the treasures if wisdom and knoweldge. May they early learn that the fear of the Lord is true wisdom, that to depart from evil is right understanding, and that to be brave for Christ is the noblest heroism.

Holy Father, turn not away from the desire of our hearts, humbly presented in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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