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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual formation’

new-year-resolution

A New Year is like a blank page of paper, just waiting for the words to be written. It is full of hope and endless possibility. As you consider items for your resolution list, here are five items that can strengthen your faith in 2017.

Meditate on the Bible. You can read the text, receive an email, or listen to Scripture on your smart phone. Once you have a mode that is meaningful to you, make it a routine. Spending time with God’s Word is vital to any Christian. It encourages and educates us. It provides direction when we feel lost. It reminds us that God is near. Allow God’s Word to shape and mold you in 2017.

Strengthen a relationship. Odds are good you live a busy life and have allowed some personal relationships to wither on the vine. Reach out to a family member or friend you have not contacted recently. Make an effort to renew and strengthen the relationship. If you see each other for lunch even once a month, it can forge a strong bond. When we sharpen one another in real Christian fellowship, we are more effective and useful in God’s service.

Be more grateful. It is easy to get in a mental rut. Our human nature is always focusing on the next task, another event, or something else that needs to be done. It often seems that we are never happy or pleased with what we have. Slow down and focus on the people and blessings around you. Practice gratitude in your life. Every day, express thankfulness to the Lord and to others. Seeing the good in your life will allow you to keep your heart compassionate and loving.

Answer Softly. I enjoy a good debate, but one that is respectful and considerate. Our conversations can promote unity, remove tension, and demonstrate spiritual maturity even when difficult topics arise. What we say and how we say it should reflect our faith. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The way you respond to distention can do much to either quiet it or stir it up even more.

Volunteer your time. You can make a huge difference in someone’s life by investing just minutes a day. Take time to volunteer at a local charity, non-profit, or ministry organization. Live your faith and demonstrate that you are a servant of Christ. There are programs designed to help pregnant girls, teenage parents, and their children. There are programs to feed the hungry. There are programs to mentor married couples. All of these programs need volunteers to strengthen people in need.  Your time as a volunteer can make an eternal impact.

As we prepare for 2017, make faith a part of your New Year resolution list. Make a plan to strengthen your faith today and watch how God uses you in the year to come.

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lent cross

Lent can be a great time of discovery.  It is often viewed as a time to focus on what is truly important in life.  We also need to examine what is truly important in our Christian walk.

Jesus performs a miracle at the Bethesda pool in John 5:1-15.  Scripture records that a man was healed after being ill for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks the man if he would like to get well and then commands him to, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”

All these events were done on the Sabbath, a day set aside for worship.  Many people saw this previously crippled man walking through their streets. While there should be shouts of joy, exclamations of praise, hand shakes, back slapping, and chaotic rejoicing people instead focus on our recently healed walker carrying a cot.

Tradition did not allow people to “perform work” on the Sabbath.  Carrying a cot would fall into that category.  It was not the law of Moses but their interpretation of it that prohibited carrying loads of any kind on the Sabbath. Folks were so fearful of ever breaking the Law that they built an artificial “hedge” around it, comprising volumes of extra rules and stipulations. In fact, this hedge created an additional 613 provisions so that people could avoid breaking a commandment. While this was done to avoid offending God, it only drove a wedge between the people and God.  It created an atmosphere where the people focus on works and wrongs instead of the message and ministry of Jesus their Savior.  In short, they missed the miracle.

Jesus was present.  He was in their midst.  The Messiah was alive, active, and at work in Jerusalem.  Jesus was just footsteps from their door.  The Lord performed an incredible miracle where a man’s life was transformed and physically healed.  A crippled man was able to walk, perhaps for the very first time in his life.  But people could only see a Sabbath infraction instead of the Savior.

Let us rejoice when a family shows up to worship instead of snickering that they are fifteen minutes late.  Let us be joyful when a man arrives in the sanctuary instead of judging the clothes on his back.  Let us celebrate the future when a criminal accepts Christ instead of focusing on the past.  Let us see the miracle.  Let us see the Savior.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

 

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Bible open

It is that time of year when everyone starts to think about new year resolutions. Do something different this year. Instead of focusing on your diet or exercise plan, take time to consider your spiritual condition and how it can improve.

Here is a list of challenging ways to strengthen your faith in 2014.

First, read your Bible on a daily basis.  This may seem daunting to many, but it is a worthy practice.  Take an honest look at your schedule to determine the best time and place to read scripture.  It is okay to block out the time on your calendar.  You can even set an appointment reminder on your computer or phone.  Try to eliminate potential distractions and interruptions on the front end.  Once you find the right time and place, stick to your plan.  Feed your faith.  Make time to hear the message of Jesus.  Allow it to sustain and encourage you in all things. Remember that reading the Bible is a valuable practice.  Every time you do so, you are making time to meet with God.  That is no trivial event.  Each meeting changes us, develops strength in tough times, and allows believers to grow in the example of Christ.

Second, keep a prayer journal.  As you pray for people, life events, and direction, write what you pray for.  How many prayer lists did you throw in the trash this year?  Too often we turn prayer lists into a “one and done” event with no follow through.  Carry these prayer needs over into the next week or next month.  We need to provide greater support to our brothers and sisters by praying them through the tough times of life.  Prayer needs to be more consistent in our lives.  A prayer journal helps us make the practice more constant and genuine.  It is okay to track prayer requests and organize them as you see fit.  This allows us to be more intentional in our petitions to God.  A prayer journal also allows you to see the progress and changes that take place over time.  Odds are that you will discover being transformed as well.

Third, discover your spiritual gifts.  We all have different gifts and abilities.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 shares, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  God has made us all unique, but we are called to use our talents and abilities to glorify God. Discover how God has gifted you.  Take a spiritual gift inventory.  There are plenty of surveys, tests, assessments, and analysis guides online or at your local Christian bookstore.  Remember that there are no wrong answers.  Each survey is a way to discover what characteristics and traits God has implanted in you for service. Once you have completed the survey, pray for God to reveal the best way to use your gifts and talents for the body of Christ.  Seek wisdom and opportunities to use the gifts that you have received from God.

As we prepare for 2014, remember to include God in your personal improvement plan.  These simple steps can strengthen your faith and build the spiritual muscle God wants you to have for the year ahead.

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