Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category


As a pastor and now as a counselor, I have dealt with a lot of end of life and bereavement situations.  Many times I have heard well-meaning people giving bereaved people advice similar to “just give it some time, after all ‘time heals all wounds.’” It is as if these well-meaning people are saying: “You just have to wait and in time your sadness, anguish, yearning, guilt, , and fear will just fade away, and you’ll be fine.” But hold on a minute, that approach to grieving raises the question how long is “some time” – two months, one year, two years, five years? Having been on the hurting side of grief myself, it is my belief that while time helps, time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.”

Instead of sitting back and hoping that time will heal, the Bible tells us to turn to God for strength.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that we don’t think we can go on, we just want to quit. At that exact moment we are exactly where God can do his best work.

Once, when the apostle Paul was facing a very painful situation in his life, he begged God to take it away.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [NIV]

It’s our weakness that we find it easier to allow God to be strong in us. But what exactly do we need to do to make that become a reality in our lives?

Andrew Murray, a preacher and writer the end of the last century experienced an injury to his back early in his life that left him with deep pain for most of his life. At one point, he was bedridden and lying on his back at home and he would do his writing there from the bed.

One morning he had been writing in his journal and his maid came in to announce a visitor. “There’s a woman downstairs,” she said, “and she’s got great trouble in her life and she would like to know if you have any advice, anything you could share with her.”

Murray removed from his book the page he had been writing in his own journal and he handed it to the maid and said, “Share this with her; I wrote it for myself.”

The words he handed to her were these: “In times of trouble, say these four things:

1. He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place; and in that, I rest.

2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

4. In His good time He can bring me out again how and when He knows.

Therefore, say, ‘I am here, one, by God’s appointment, two, in His keeping, three, under His training, and four, for His time.’

Question – as you deal with your pain and grief, are you trying to buck up and get through it on your own? Or are you turning to God and laying the issue at his feet. It’s not easy to do this, by the way, but it makes a huge difference in our attitude.

Well, that’s a plan for good grief: express the pain, accept the reality and turn to God for strength.

Some of us are in the middle of a lot of pain right now. We’ve got a choice to make. And that choice will take us to one of two very difference destinations. One is a destination of hopelessness and numbness and just going through the motions. The other is a place of joy and dancing, even in spite of the sorrow.

You have turned my  into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11 [NLT]

That’s my hope for you. And it’s God’s promise, that if we’ll manage grief His way, one day we will be able to dance again.


Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, “Today is going to be different, only to realize that by lunch you have fallen back into those same old ways of relating to people and those same old bad habits.  You feel like there’s a tug of war going on inside of you.  You feel like your life could be summed up in one word – disappointment.  I have tried everything from prayer, to resolutions, to self-help tapes and even hypnosis.  But you end up frustrated because you can’t seem to stop making the same mistakes? 

Have you ever felt that way?  The truth is good intentions are never good enough to change us.  It takes more than just desire to change.  If desire was all you needed to change I’d wear size medium shirts and size 32 waist pants right now but it takes more than desire and it takes more than good intentions to change. 

We get stuck in a cycle that goes like this: Good intentions – Failure – Guilt – Good intentions – Failure – Guilt – Good intentions – Failure – Guilt … and round and round and round the Merry-Go-Round we go!  We can all relate when Paul talks about this in Romans 7:  “I don’t understand myself at all for I really want to do what is right but I don’t do it.  Instead I do the very things I hate.”  He says, “All the things I want to do I end up not doing and all the things I know are wrong I end up doing.  I’m a mess”

If you’ve ever felt that way then you are going to be very thankful you found this blog this week.  This week I am going to share with you a plan that will help you defeat those stubborn, persistent, lifelong temptations that keep dragging you down.  Those struggles that no matter how much you’ve tried to stop, no matter how much you’ve tried to change they just keep coming back and coming back.  And you’ve struggled with them all your life.

The Bible gives us the pathway to freedom but before we look at this five point plan I am going to ask you to prepare the ground of your heart to receive them.  Sometimes we get so used to the Merry-Go-Round that we would rather stay in the cycle than risk what is outside the carnival of pain and slavery.  So today’s assignment is to:

  1. Ask yourself if where you are is where you want to spend the rest of your life.  Most people won’t risk change unless the pain of the present is greater than the fear of change.
  2. Pray that God would empower you to act on what you learn.  The power for change comes from the same One who supplies the power for salvation… God.  You say yes and He says let’s go!
  3. If you know of someone who is trapped in the cycle mentioned above, direct them to this blog this week.  Friends who care share (Hey, that’s pretty good.  I may have to share that again!).

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joshua Becker of becomingaminimalist.

 

“Only in quiet waters do thing mirror themselves undistorted.  Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius

It’s no secret that we are bombarded everyday with countless messages. In America alone, advertising is a $412 billion/year industry that is constantly telling us what to watch, where to go, and what to purchase. Their messages fill our televisions, radios, computers, newspapers, magazines, and morning commutes. Industry gladly spends this money because they know that over time, they will shape our minds, hearts, and spending habits. Add all of the political pundits and experts filling our airwaves telling us how we should think… and it becomes increasingly clear that we are bombarded nearly every moment of our lives with messages that others want us to hear and believe.

All of these messages inevitably begin to shape our lives. Our heart and mind is indeed influenced by the messages that enter through our eyes and ears. And our life is slowly whittled away and re-formed by the loudest voices that get through (it’s no reason they are shouting so loud for our attention).

Whether you are pursuing a “less is more” lifestyle or just trying to find more health and fulfillment in your life, you will find countless benefits from embracing a discipline of solitude.

Solitude provides opportunity to rediscover our lives. By ”electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time,” we are able to remove the shaping influence of others and recenter our hearts on our deepest values. We are able to evaluate the assumptions, claims, and messages of our culture. Often times, we realize that these shaping forces have been incorrect all along. And we have lost our lives because of them.

Consider that when we embrace solitude…

  • We intentionally remove the influence of others for period of time.
  • We intentionally remove the expectations of others.
  • We are able to hear our own heart speak.
  • We find rest and refreshment.
  • We discover that others can live without us.
  • We find that the world does not rest on our shoulders.
  • We can adequately reflect on our past and chart our future.
  • We break the cycle of busyness in our lives.
  • We become better equipped to show patience with others.
  • We feed our souls.

While anyone can practice solitude at any given time by just finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found these tips to be particularly helpful in developing a discipline of concentrated solitude:

  1. Give yourself enough time. If you are just starting, try 30 minutes. Typically, the first 15 minutes are filled with a busy mind still running fast. But after about 15 minutes, your mind will slow down enough to offer you deep reflection. And the longer you give it, the deeper it will go.
  2. Schedule time. If you are just hoping for an extra 30-45 minutes to show up in your day for solitude, it’ll never come. Time for solitude must be desired, scheduled, and created.
  3. Find a calm location. Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.
  4. Take as little as possible with you.
  5. Just allow your mind to wander. There are no set rules concerning what you should be thinking about. Just let your mind wander. As I mentioned, it will skip around at the very beginning. But eventually, your mind will settle in on something that your heart has been trying to tell you all along.
  6. Don’t quit just because you don’t like what you find. The journey into our heart is not always a pretty one. Sometimes when we start pulling back the layers of our heart and realize our deepest motivations, we don’t like what we see. This can be difficult for some and cause even more to stop altogether. But, don’t. A richer, fuller life is just around the corner.
  7. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. While solitude is different than napping, if you consistently find yourself falling asleep during these quiet periods, your mind may be trying to tell you something. And you should probably listen.
  8. Pray. If you are spiritual, certainly use this time to connect with God. If you are not spiritual, solitude just may put you more in touch with God if you are open to it. Because God often speaks with a small voice that is drowned out by the world’s noise, we can’t hear it until we intentionally listen for it.

Give solitude a chance. You’ve got nothing to lose. And your life to gain back.


I am writing this week about how to manage your life in a way that will help you reach your goals and accomplish things that last far beyond your lifetime. Maybe you wasted yesterday—maybe you wasted all your yesterdays—but today is yours. Today you can take charge of today, and begin doing things to ensure that you get the most out of today, and in the process you will make your future what you want it to be. Over the next couple of days I want to humbly offer three things you can do to build a life without regrets. First of all…

1. Make up your mind what kind of person you want to be–and do something today to make it true.

What kind of person do you want to be? If someone were to speak at your funeral, what would you want them to be able to say truthfully about you? What values are most important to you?

As we read the writings of Paul the Apostle, it is obvious that he placed a great deal of importance on consistency and faithfulness. Near the end of his ministry he wrote… “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Earlier in his ministry Paul said… “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24)

If you were to ask Paul the question “What do you want to be true about you?” he would most likely say, “I want to be faithful to the very end.” How did he make sure that it happened? He knew what kind of person he wanted to be, and everyday he did something to make it true. That’s why he said… “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Paul is obviously using a metaphor in this verse. The point he is making is in order to be found faithful at the end of his race, he had to be faithful today. He lived everyday like it has eternal significance.

Do you want to live a life of significance? Do something significant today. Do you want to be generous? Give today. Do you want to be known as a kind person? Be kind today. Whatever you want to be true about you, do something today to start making it true. In fact, I would like to give you a little homework assignment to work on this week. Think of the three most important character qualities you would like to develop over the course of your life. For the rest of this week, do at least one thing each day that will move you in the direction of making that character quality a reality in your life.

For example, if you want to be a caring person, then for the next seven days go out of your way to be caring AT LEAST ONCE each day. This seems simple, but it works. People who live lives of significance don’t get there by accident, they get there by effort. The Bible says… “A prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15)

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Who is up for a little journey today? We’re going to a funeral; yours.  I know you’re thinking, “Just what I need on a Monday, to attend my own funeral!”  

As you slip in the back door and take your seat, you see that the altar is covered with flowers, the organ is playing softly, and the church is full of people who have come to bid you farewell.

Four people have been asked to make a few remarks about you. The first is a member of your family. The second is one of your friends. The third is someone you work with. The fourth is someone from church. They’re all going to say a few things about you, but there’s a catch that will make this funeral different from some: everything they say about you will be true.

Now, think for a minute. What would you like each speaker to be able to say about you? What kind of person do you want them to say that you were? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother? What kind of friend or fellow worker? What would you want them to say about your character? Which achievements you would you want them to mention? As you look around at the people who are there, what difference would you like to have made in their lives? What phrases would you like to hear? Maybe…

  • “He was a hard-worker.”
  • “She always had a smile.”
  • “You could depend on him for anything…He never let me down.”
  • “I’ve never met a more honest person.”
  • “She was generous and caring.”

Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that thinking through these questions–deciding what you would want people to say at your funeral–can help you determine your purpose in life. Thinking through these questions will also help you make plans for the future so that you don’t find yourself someday looking back on your life and regret those things you did and didn’t do.

Let me sound a warning today as you plan the rest of your life.  There are two mistakes to avoid. One is to be so future focused that you miss out on the important matters of today. The other is to spend your life living only for today with total disregard for the future. The Bible warns against both. There is, however, a happy medium–a balance that can be achieved. This is it: Live Today Like It Matters For All Eternity–because it does. Each day of our lives has eternal significance. What you do today will make a difference in how you perceive the value of your life when your time on earth is through. What’s more, what you do today will continue to be significant even thousands of years from now.

The Bible says… The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways. (Proverbs 14:8)  I’ve never met a person who says, “I really don’t want my life to count for anything.  I just want to live my life, die, and be forgotten.”  This week I want to think about ways to make our life count; ways to make a positive impact on the world around us. 

Start today working on your eulogy.  I know, I’m weird… but work with me here people.

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Several times this week I have talked with people who are dissatisfied with the current state of their spiritual life.  I will take a chance here to suggest that many more of us, if we are honest can relate.  Concern over our spiritual condition is not enough to change the situation.  I am sharing with you an outline of what I shared with the people I spoke to this week.  I believe it is a good plan to get one moving toward a rich, rewarding spiritual life.  Not because it is from me but because it is biblical.

1. SORT IT OUT.

Take an honest assessment of your life. Are you happy with your life or do you want a better life?

2. TOSS IT OUT.

It’s time to toss out the garbage. It is here that you need to ask yourself what in your life is building you up and what is bringing you down. Are you aware of the fact that the Bible teaches that you can add value to your life by taking some things away?

Think about your own life. What clutters your soul? You can add value by throwing off your old life.

Ephesians 4:21-23 Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.  Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.

It’s time to get rid of some things. Get rid of the old, embrace a new way of living. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that when we put our faith in Him, He gives us a brand new start. That’s our next point.

3. START IT OUT.

Romans 6:4b (NLT) … And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

With Christ, you can have a fresh start, a new life. Your sins can be forgiven. Your past can be absolved. You can be made new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

4. ESTABLISH NEW PRIORITIES.

If you are going to grow in your faith, you have to re-order your life. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. Like a garden, you have plant seeds, water them, fertilize them and eventually you will see growth. This may require you to make some tough decisions. You will need to stop letting other people and culture determine the direction of your life.  Many times the best is crowded out by the good.  You need to give serious attention to what is most important on your priority list.  If you don’t, others will.

5. PASS ALONG THE BLESSING.

Be a friend. Share your good fortune and your faith. For some of us, the greatest thing that we can do is simply forgive those who have hurt us. Christ forgives you and he wants you to forgive those who have hurt you.

Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologizes or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Eventually the truth will come out. You do your part and put everything else in God’s hand.

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