Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime X

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The Fourth Step on the Trail – Sharing What You Have in Your Pack

A few years ago I read an article that was titled “Money Talks.” It opened up with the following:

“ I know that money talks, I hear mine say goodbye all the time.”

One of the hardest things in all of life is sharing what we have with others. Whether you are an infant arguing over your stuffed animals, or an adult looking at the balance in your checking account. There are a lot of different motivations for that, but most of them fall back to the ugly specter of greed in our lives.

One of the members of my church shared the blessing of giving with me recently. She recounted how she had arrived at church and realized that what she had committed to give was going to leave her significantly short for the coming week. She struggled with that for a while, but when the time came she gave what she had committed whispering a prayer that God would help meet her needs that coming week. Later that day she found money in her washer, even after having checked pockets and such. She also found money in the seat cushions. In addition she discovered several new items of clothing that were expensive articles that she could give to her grand-daughter further saving her money. God returned what she had given and then some as she was faithful in giving.

I’m not saying that this is the experience all the time. There have been times when we have committed to give something, but we haven’t found money lying around to fill in the gaps. Sometimes we have discovered that the gaps simply are filled in. Sometimes we find that as we are faithful and patient God reveals He had a different plan for us.

There are a wide range of Scriptures concerning sharing our resources with others in giving to God’s work. It’s clearly something that the Lord placed a high priority upon. Here are just a few of the key passages:

Malachi 3:8-10 (NLT)
“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, `What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!

Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)
The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

Proverbs 22:9 (NLT)
Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.

YOU CAN’T OUT-GIVE GOD!

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NLT)
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
7 You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.
8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
9 As the Scriptures say, “Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten.”
10 For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.
12 So two good things will happen—the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanksgiving to God.
13 You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.
14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the wonderful grace of God shown through you.
15 Thank God for his Son—a gift too wonderful for words!

Some Thoughts About Sharing What’s In our Pack

  • Generous Giving is a Response to What has Been Given to Us!
  • Generous Giving is a Reaction to the One who Has Given to Us!
  • Generous Giving is a Revelation of What is a Priority to Us!
  • Generous Giving is a Realization of Who Holds the Deed to Your Heart!
  • Generous Giving is Rewarded as one who Plants is rewarded with a Harvest.

(More to come…)

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Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime IX

REVIEW: Looking Back at Your Third Step on the Trail

Prayer is Important Enough That Jesus Did It

Review these Scriptures and Make Notes about what you read

  •  Matthew 14:23
  •  Mark 1:35
  •  Mark 6:46
  •  Luke 5:16
  • Luke 6:12
  •  Luke 9:18
  •  Luke 9:28
  •  Luke 22:41

Jesus Taught us Many Things About Praying

  •  He taught us to pray at all times and not lose heart (Luke 18.1-8)
  •  He taught us to pray simply and earnestly (Matthew 6.5-13)
  •  He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us pray (Romans 8.26-27)

Using the ACTS acrostic fill in the following in your trail journal

  • A – Adoration
    • Write some words here that you would use to praise the Lord and worship Him.

  • C – Confession
    • Think about words, actions, attitudes, or time when you should have done something but didn’t and confess it to the Lord.

  • T – Thanksgiving
    • Write two or three things here that you are thankful for. Tell God “Thank You” as you pray.

  • S – Supplication
    • Are you aware of something in your life or in someone else’s life that needs to be a matter of prayer?

Something to Consider – Prayer & Quiet Time

Here is a copy of one of the pages I developed for my own quiet time. Feel free to copy it and use it, or take it and change it to fit what you want your quiet time to be.

 

Quiet Time Journal

Date: _________________ Time: ________________

Location: ____________________________________

Beginning Thoughts and Questions

_____________________________________

Scripture Passages

____________________________________

Prayer Time:

My Prayers: ________________________________________

 

God’s Response: ___________________________________

 

Things I’m Wrestling with or Wondering About:

 

Thoughts for Next Quiet Time: ________________________

 

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime VIII

The Priority of Prayer

One of the most awesome passages of Scripture, in my estimation is the following:

Luke 11:1-4

And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”

And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

The thing that I find most awesome about this passage is the question the disciples ask. They could have asked anything. I’m sure that they would have like to know how to walk on water, they were fishermen after all, imagine what they could save by not needing boats. What about being able feed thousands with just a few fish and loaves of bread, that would really cut down on the grocery bills. Or being able to heal the sick and bring sight back to the blind. I think that there were so many things that they could have asked Jesus to teach them. Why prayer?

I believe there are a couple things that brought them to that ask that specific thing.

Jesus shows us that Prayer is a Priority

There are several times in the Bible that tell us that Jesus went off to pray. The disciples saw Him doing that. They recognized that this time away in prayer was important to Jesus.

In your Bible look up these verses and fill in the blanks.

(Remember that these are from the New American Standard Bible and may read slightly different than the version you are reading from. Don’t be confused by that.)

Matthew 14:23

And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain ____________ to pray; and when it was evening, He was there ____________________.

Mark 1:35

And in the ____________________________, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and ____________________________, and was ______________________ there.

Mark 6:46

And after bidding them farewell, ___________________________________________.

Luke 5:16

But He Himself _________________________________________________________.

Luke 6:12

And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain ______________, and He spent ___________________________________.

Luke 9:18

And it came about that while _______________________________, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the multitudes say that I am?”

Luke 9:28

And some eight days after these sayings, it came about that He took along Peter and John and James, and went ________________________________________.

Luke 22:41

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and _________________________

___________________________________,

Now, look up John chapter 17 in your Bible and have your highlighter handy.

Click this link to go to the Online Bible:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2017&version=NASB

John 17 is what I consider to be the actual “Lord’s Prayer” because here is the prayer that Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us. Here’s how I want you to read this prayer passage. First, just read through it slowly from start to finish. Then, tell Jesus thank you for praying for you as His follower. Then read through it a second time and using your highlighter mark any parts of the passage that mean something special to you. You may not have the same marks as other group members, and that is ok. You focus on what you see and hear as you read.

Below make some notes based on what you have read and what you have gleaned from this Scripture reading.

Isn’t it awesome to think that Jesus prayed for those who would one day follow Him. (see verse 20) That means us. We are believers because of the word of God that has been passed along through the generations. That also reminds us of our responsibility to continue to pass on Jesus’ words and teaching to the generations that follow ours.

Jesus Taught us to Pray

Not only did Jesus model for us that prayer was a priority, but he also taught us many lessons about prayer. Again, in your Bible, look up the following verses and fill in the blanks.

Luke 18:1-8

Now He was telling them a parable to show that _______________________________ they ought to ___________________________________________, saying, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. “And there was a widow in that city, and ___________________________________________, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out.'”

And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who ____________________________________________, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Matthew 6:5-13

“And when you pray, you are not to be _____________________________________; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order _____________________________________________________. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

“But you, when you pray, go into _______________________________, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you are praying, do not use _____________________

________________________________________, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them; for

_____________________________________________________________________.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father…(write out the rest of the prayer here) __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayer was important to Jesus. It was important enough that he modeled it for the disciples, and taught His followers how to pray. It was also important enough that He did another really significant thing for us.

Jesus Gave us His Spirit to help us Pray

One of the greatest promises for us as we are praying, regardless of whether you are just learning to pray or have been praying for years, is to know that when we don’t know what to pray the Spirit of the Lord is there with us to help us and to take the things we cannot seem to put into words and lift them before the Lord. Read this passage from the book of Romans.

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; FOR WE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO PRAY AS WE SHOULD, BUT THE SPIRIT HIMSELF INTERCEDES FOR US WITH GROANINGS TOO DEEP FOR WORDS; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27emphasis added)

There will be times that you won’t really know what to pray. This isn’t just because it is something that is new to you. Sometimes you will just have a deep burden for someone, a circumstance, or your own life, and you just won’t be able to find the words. The Spirit of the Lord knows where you are and what you need. He knows what you are feeling. That’s a great comfort.

With Prayer We Have a 24/7 Link to the Lord

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – pray without ceasing;

I remember the days of dial up internet. When I first hooked up with America Online years ago I couldn’t believe how fast I could get things done. It amazed me the vast amount of information that was at my finger-tips as I logged on to the world wide web. Now I chuckle to think of how naïve I was, and how far we have come in such a short time. Now we use a cable modem at my house. We have access to the internet 24/7 because of the connection we have.

This is what our connection to the Lord is when you stop to think about it. Praying without ceasing means that we have that kind of connection—a 24/7 availability. We can pray anywhere, anytime. Most significantly, it reminds us that we are invited to take a moment out of our day and spend time with the Lord. He wants us to get connected with Him.

This acrostic might help you get started as you are beginning to pray.

A – Adoration – Praise God for who He is.

C – Confession – Know that you have done wrong, and it means daily cleansing

T – Thanksgiving – Give Him thanks for whatever comes to mind

S – Supplication – Ask for specific things for you, your family, whoever

Prayer will be a great part of the adventure of the journey you are on. It will help you get your bearings, and keep you on course. In prayer God will hear you and will speak to you. It’s getting connected with the GPS of your soul. Connect with God right now.

(to be continued)

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime VII

PRAYER – Getting Your Bearings

The Priority of Prayer

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I’m officially a child of a previous generation. I have enjoyed technology, and I think I do fairly well on my computer. However, text messaging on my cell phone is still pretty illusive. I watch the kids texting whole paragraphs in the time it takes me to type in a sentence. I remember with great fondness when a phone was just a phone.

The other piece of technology that I find I am warring against is the GPS navigator. So far I have been able to avoid getting one. It’s not so much that I am against it, I just don’t see the need. My aunt and uncle–several years my senior–have one now. I was quite surprised by the addition to their windshield when they came to visit us in Florida a couple years ago.

My first experience following the directions of their GPS didn’t help my doubts about the device. We were heading to Florida from Vermont and following behind them as they listened to the directions the little box dictated. Everything was going well until we hit New Jersey. For some reason the device sent us off the interstate into downtown Newark. Within a few minutes of getting off the interstate my car was involved in an accident that forced me to leave my car in New Jersey for three weeks. I was, needless to say, less than thrilled with the performance of the gadget.

However, the same device did bring me and my uncle directly to the body shop three weeks later when I returned for my recently repaired car. In fact, that trip was so easy and smooth that I actually stop now and look over the instruments in the display at the electronics store. I have not bought one yet.

imageAs a young man hiking we had a very primitive form of GPS. It was called a compass. The compass functioned by keying in on magnetic north. We learned how to use the compass to identify direction and to keep tabs on the way we had traveled so that we would be able to find our way back to the beginning of the trail if we needed to. Our last minivan actually had a built in digital compass. That came in handy a few times when I was caught “taking the scenic route” traveling with my family.

These navigational instruments are intended to help us in our journey by keeping us on the right course. However, you have to make use of them if you want to benefit from having them. It does not good to have the compass in your pack, but never pull it out to get your bearings. There is no benefit in having the GPS device in your glove box, but refusing to make use of it.  In fact, as I think about that scenario I can’t help but wonder if that might become one of the arguments that my wife and might eventually have. Instead of, “why don’t you stop to ask directions?” she would instead be lamenting, “why don’t you plug in the GPS.” To which I, being a red blooded American man, would respond with that most used of lies, “I don’t need to do that, because I know exactly where I am and where I am going.”

(Next Post – Where Prayer Fits in for Getting our Bearings)

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime VI

Something to Consider – Your Bible

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Bible Versions

People often ask me what the best Bible version is. My somewhat coy response is, “Whatever version you will read is the best version.” I mean that, but I want to spend a little more time helping you answer this as a concluding part of this study.

My Versions of Choice

Primarily I use one of three versions in my quiet time. Most often I read from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) New Living Translation (NLT) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB). In preaching these are the three versions I use most frequently as well. I refer to others as well, but find I am most comfortable with these.

For Your Use

I would recommend that you use a version that is easy to read and comprehend. In addition I would recommend that you get a study Bible. I recommend the Life Application Study Bible to most people when they ask. This study Bible has notes at the bottom of each page referring to verses on that page. By using those notes it helps you understand what you have been reading in the context of the time it was written. There are helpful insights and lessons that you can apply to your life directly from the Scriptures.

Christianbook.com Logo - Phone: 1-800-CHRISTIAN

(http://cbd.com is a great place to purchase Bibles and Christian books)

How to Choose

If you would like to compare Bibles this is what I would encourage you to do. In each Bible you are going to look at read the first chapter of John. Compare each version considering how you are able to read it and understand it. You might also consider reading the pages in the beginning of the Bible. Many translations offer you information about the scholarship behind that particular translation in the front of the Bible.

Some Less Academic Considerations

Size Matters

As you are picking out a Bible you are probably looking for a Bible that you are going to want to carry to church, pack in your suitcase when traveling, and bring to Bible studies and small groups that you are attending. You probably don’t want to get a ten pounder.

It’s Ok to Carry a Bible Cover

In addition you may want to look for a good Bible cover. Many of these covers provide a way to carry a small notebook, pens, and highlighters along with your Bible. There are covers for women and for men. (Take a look at www.cbd.com to find a selection of Bible covers). In thinking about taking notes you may also want to take a look at the space available in your Bible for writing note, for example in the margins.

Read it…Read it…Read it…

Most important of all is that you take the time and make the commitment to read it.

Enjoy the Journey!

Next step on the trail – Getting your Bearing through Prayer

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime V

Tools that Make for a Great Quiet Time

Some Dynamics for Your Quiet Time

This quiet time with the Lord—the pause along the trail—will allow you to experience some things that will have a real impact on your travel.

  •  You will be Refueled
  •  You will be Refreshed
  •  You will be Renewed
  •  You will be Revived

Some Ideas for Your Quiet Time

There is no real right or wrong when it comes to your quiet time. The priority is not on the steps or techniques as much as it is in the taking of the time. You will need to determine what will work best for you as you travel the trail. What I want to share with you here are just some ideas. These may work for you, but don’t feel like you ned to follow this plan alone.image

Getting Started

 Set aside a Quiet Time

 Select a Quiet Place

 Seek to have a Quiet Heart

Here’s what these things mean. Set aside a time that will work for you in your life. For me it most often has been late at night. I would get everyone else settled in to bed and then, often with a loud sigh, sit and open my Bible. The danger with the late at night quiet time is that it is easy to become so restful that you actually doze off. I think God may be alright with that too at times.

Selecting a quiet place is more than finding a place without noise around. For me a quiet place needs to be a place that doesn’t need to be picked up. I can’t tell you how many times I have started my quiet time and become fixated on something that is out of place and before I know it I’m cleaning the room so I can actually sit and focus on my quiet time. For you to have a quiet place you may need to take the phone off the hook, put the kids to bed or in the yard, and put a do not disturb sign on the door. Mark my words, as soon as you determine that you are going to have a quiet time the phone will ring, a knock will come on the door, the dog will start barking, and your child(ren) will begin throwing a fit. Be ready for it and don’t let it derail you.

Seeking to have a quiet heart is probably the most difficult thing for most of us. Having a quiet heart means letting go of everything else that we might be trying to focus on, think about, worry over. That’s important for a couple of reasons. First, because God wants our attention, and we can’t fully give him our attention if we are listening to the other voices in our heart. Second, if we are not careful, the noise of our lives may define an agenda for our quiet time with God. The things we are worrying over or thinking about can easily become steering factors in our time. We start focusing more on what we want to hear from God instead of simply wanting to hear from Him.image

Gathering Your Tools

 Your Bible

 A Notebook and Pen

 A Devotional Book

Having your Bible probably goes without saying. The notebook and pen is so you can journal your quiet time experience and write down anything you might hear God speak. A devotional book will sometimes help you find a place to begin. Many devotional books offer a reading plan to help you read through the Bible.

Looking Back at Your Second Step on the Trail

  • Having a Daily Quiet Time is a Priority on the Journey
  •  There is no Substitute for time Spent PERSONALLY with God
  •  If you don’t Pause on the trail you may give up the journey
  •  Every believer has to go to the well of Living Water themselves
  • Your Quiet Time Will Allow you to Experience
    • Refueling
    • Refreshing
    • Renewing
    • Reviving

1 – When will I set aside my Quiet Time

2 – Where will I select a Quiet Place

3 – How will I seek a Quiet Heart

Psalms 46:10
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

————–In the next post:—————

Have you ever asked: “What version of the Bible should I use?” 

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime IV

Forgetting to Take a Break from the Trail to Rest

For me it happened most vividly while I was a student at Bible college. I was taking a full load of courses in my first semester, serving a church that was 65 miles away, and trying to be a good husband and father in my home. I had Old Testament, New Testament, Preaching, A Bible Intensive, and Theology for courses. In addition I had three messages to prepare every week. Needless to say I spent a lot…I mean A LOT…of time reading and studying my Bible. It would not be impossible to say that there were days, especially Saturdays, that I was in God’s Word from the time I got up until I would finally drag myself to bed.

With all of the time I was spending with my Bible open before me you would think that I would evolve into some sort of Spiritual giant in the faith. However, I was slowly and surely sliding in the opposite direction. It became evident in a number of ways in my life. I was becoming impatient with my wife and kids. I was making really poor decisions in a multitude of arenas. I struggled to drive myself to do the things that I had once found so much pleasure and fulfillment in doing.image

Looking back on it now I understand what was happening. It’s like a peace lily that we had at our home in Florida. We have an unwritten rule in our home that we don’t buy plants. People who don’t know us real well may give us a plant from time to time, but we don’t buy them. We believe that it is unfair to knowingly subject a helpless piece of vegetation to the abuse and torture that living—or attempting to live—in our home would bring. However, if we are going to have a plant it is best to have one that tells us what it needs and when it needs it.

Such was the case with this peace lily. One day this poor plant had become so dehydrated that when I stopped to notice it every leaf and stem looked like it had melted and was slipping out of the pot it was planted in. This poor thing needed water in a critical way. I don’t know how many days it had been, but clearly it had been too long. I was sure it was dead and there was little hope for any recovery. I put the water on it, not so much in mercy, but more to quell my own guilt figuring at least I could say I tried. To my surprise the plant bounced back. It’s recovery was so swift that I was literally shocked. Now, if I were to buy a plant—which remains unlikely—I would buy one of these plants.

Now, here’s the lesson I’m trying to get across. The plant was in the house. There was water in the house. The plant had every advantage of being there with the water in the shelter. However, it had to receive the water personally. That’s what was happening to me at Bible college. I was there studying and reading the Word of God. I was able to sit under men of God who brought deep truths to life for me. I had all of the advantages of being in a place like that with the opportunities I had, but I wasn’t personally receiving “the water” myself. I wasn’t taking time to hear what God wanted to tell me personally. God wanted more that my sermon preparation time. More than the time I was putting in to prepare for the next exam, quiz, paper, or study. God wanted me to come to the well and drink and enjoy what He had provided especially for me. I needed to come and just be quiet with Him. When I started to do that my spiritual strength began to return. The tasks that had become a drudgery took on a new life and vitality. Like that peace lily I made a swift and magnificent recovery.

I wish I could tell you that I never had to relearn that lesson from those days. It would be a lie. Seems like the things that matter most, the things that make the most difference for us, are the things that are so easily swept away in the high speed course of our lives. So, it takes a determination that you are going to pause along the trail and rest with Jesus. It means planning ahead and not allowing things to get in the way of that quiet time with Him.

I hope that I have begun to persuade you that you are going to need to stop along the trail that is before you as a follower of Jesus. Watch for those tell-tale signs (the wilting leaves) that often appear in our attitudes within our relationships. You might well be engaged in some really good things, perhaps great things for the kingdom of God. The thing that matters most however is the quiet time you spend at the feet of Jesus and rest in His presence.

(Next, some tools for making your quiet time the best)