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The 40 Day Journaling Challenge

In our men’s Bible study this past Saturday morning we talked about ‘fear and love’ in the Bible.  I wondered out loud to the group,

‘Do we truly experience a daily tangible relationship with God?‘.

I said, I’m sure we have all had times where we felt close to Him (and multiple heads shook in agreement) but do we have an intimate connection with him daily?  If we did, we probably would better understand what it means to ‘fear’ breaking that relationship with Him.

God, closer, intimacy, journal, walk, relationship

priestlybride.blogspot.com/

I suspect that, despite our efforts, there will always be some days when God feels distant.  As He did to David, when he wrote Psalm 22, and to Jesus when he used it while on the cross:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

But these are likely times of trial in which God is teaching us something.  The problem I have, is that I bring upon myself a dryness (as Gordon MacDonald described in our last post) and this is something I want to try to address.

You see, I’ve been going through a period of discouragement and I desire a closer walk with God.  I want to know His presence more and have a more intimate relationship.  I want it to be more tangible as it was with Moses, David and especially Jesus.

I know a closer walk means both more discipline and more actually walking (doing His will).  Therefore today, I resolve to journal for 40 days starting this coming Sunday, November 11th, through to Friday, December 22nd.  I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the coming of Christ on Christmas!

I have talked to multiple people about this already and some people have agreed to join me, without any prompting.  Therefore I wanted to open this challenge up to all of you.  To our blog readers, our followers on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.  The members of the Westchester Men’s Ministry and the church congregations of Westchester, especially Community Bible Church of Yorktown, NY.

If you would like to join us, make a resolution to do so.  You don’t have to make it public but we recommend you do.  You can leave a comment on this blog post or you can share it on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/NYMensministry

Then keep an eye out for more details on resources to help you during your journaling/quiet time.  In order to make it easier, any resource we use will be available free on-line.  You can use a simple notebook but if you would like to buy a slightly nicer journal, this one is less than $10. http://www.dayspring.com/cross_leather_christian_journal/

God Bless!

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The 40 Day Journaling Challenge by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://nymensministry.com/2012/11/06/journaling-challenge/.

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The Discipline of Journaling

Why Mapping your Private World can bring your soul into focus – Genesis 35:6-7

by Gordon MacDonald   – Reprinted with permission of the Leadership Journal (LeadershipJournal.net)

When I started journaling it was because I needed a “friend,” and I wasn’t doing well with the human kind. I had passed through several weeks of high stress, the kind young pastors are never ready to face. I’d ignored the need for spiritual refreshment; I’d neglected the family; I’d allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the problems of people. There I was, one Saturday morning, crying uncontrollably in the arms of my wife.

It was a scary moment and gave me a taste of the ’empty soul’. This must not happen again, I thought. It came to me that writing each day in a journal would press me to deal more forthrightly with my emotions, with my spiritual state (or lack of same), and with the meaning of my life. I was not disappointed.

Journaling Defined

What was my journal’s purpose? A journal—at least in my book—is a dialogue with the soul. It includes a record of events, but it also attempts to expose the significance of the events. What is God saying through this? What am I learning? How do I feel? What are the principles that ooze from these events?

Beyond that, I wanted the journal to be a story of my own journey and the journey (as much as possible) of those closest to me. The high and low points of my marriage are in the journals. Our children and grandchildren will one day be able to go back and recapture the salient events of their lives as seen through a father’s eyes. They will know how much I have loved them and how proud I am of their life choices. Often I have used my journal to pray and worship. Here and there are the indications of spiritual breakthroughs. And the journal has preserved vivid memories of the most remarkable (good and bad) moments of life.

What Journaling Produces

When journaling is done regularly, several things become possible:

  • The invisible and the ephemeral are forced into reality. Once feelings, fears, and dreams are named, they can be dealt with, prayed for, and surrendered to God. They come under control, no longer existing in a way that pollutes the soul and the mind.
  • Learning experiences are preserved. If I record and reflect on the experiences of each day, I add to my base of wisdom. Things usually forgotten or lost in the unconscious now, like books on a library shelf, wait to be tapped when parallel moments arise in the future.
  • Memories of God’s great and gracious acts are preserved. “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it,” God said to Moses after a great victory. As Israel wandered through the wilderness and experienced God’s providential care, he had them build monuments so they could remember. One day, I realized that my journal writing was a memorial to God’s sufficiency.
  • I can chart areas where I need most to grow and mature. As I look at journals of 30 years ago, I realize I have struggled with the same knot of issues throughout the years. The good news: the steps I took in the early days as I wrote of these issues turned into disciplines. And today, while issues remain, my “overcoming” rate is substantially higher. I wouldn’t have spotted many of these issues if I’d not written about them day after day.
  • It brings dreams alive. As ideas have flooded my mind over the years, I have written about them. Putting them into words helped me to discern the foolish ideas and develop the good ones. Many things I’ve done in the last few years had origins I can find in earlier journals.

—Gordon MacDonald; excerpted from our sister publication LEADERSHIP Journal, © 2004 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit LeadershipJournal.net.

Discussion:

  1. Have you ever kept a journal? Was it a positive or negative experience?
  2. What appeals to you most about keeping a regular journal? What appeals to you least?
  3. Which of the products of journaling above seem the most beneficial?

Challenge:

We would like to challenge all of our readers and followers to join us in resolving to journal for 40 days starting this coming Sunday, November 11th, through to December 22nd.  More details to follow in our next blog on Tuesday, November 6th.

Pictures of journals we found on-line that have inspired us:

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Is Anxiety a Sin?

Anxiety, anxious, fear, stress, faith, God,

I struggle with anxiety. I guess this isn’t too hard to admit here, since many of you don’t know my name.  My guess is that I’m not the only Christian that does.  According to recent statistics about 18% of people over 18 suffer from some form of anxiety.   That’s about 40 million adults in the US.  Actually, anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem in America, surpassing even depression in numbers.  So, I’m clearly not alone.

Embarrassed by Anxiety

That said, once my anxiety became a true problem a few years ago, I started to also feel guilty.  I thought, if I had more faith, I wouldn’t be anxious.   I felt that my anxiety was a verdict on the state of my walk with God.  It took me a long time to realize that this might not be true.

I read all the scriptures that said we should “be anxious for nothing…” (Phil 4:6) but trust in the Lord who is sovereign.  I tried – but I remained anxious.  Through this experience I realized two things:

  1. God is very compassionate, in scripture, to those that are anxious
  2. Although we are to trust God there are practical things we can do

God is Compassionate to the Anxious Christian

I believe the Bible speaks about anxiety so much because it is one of satan’s tools and God knows that it can cripple us.  (Bible versus on anxiety: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/anxiety.html).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” – Romans 8:26

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6-7

Scripture doesn’t condemn anxiety, it seems to compassionately try to help you avoid it and overcome it.  This is an important difference.  I don’t believe anxiety is a sin, still God doesn’t desire us to be anxious.  He wants us to turn to Him in everything and trust him.

Actually, it is interesting that many famous Christians have suffered from anxiety including Abraham Lincoln, Rick Warren, John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) and even Charles Spurgeon (known as the ‘Prince of Preachers’) may have struggled with it.  They all had a huge impact and therefore anxiety doesn’t need to stop us.

Practical Solutions to Anxiety

God says that we should trust him with our finances but that doesn’t mean we don’t create a budget.  He tells us that He will always be with us, but that doesn’t mean we should haphazardly walk through a terrible area of town.  Likewise, there are practical things we can do, and avoid when it comes to anxiety.

Please note, there are many reasons for anxiety and sometimes professional help and medication is the best answer.  What I’ve found is that I need to know what I’m trusting God for, and therefore thinking through and journaling about it helps.

In our next blog, we are going to go through two tools.  A simple breathing exercise and what is called cognitive restructuring which is closely linked to journaling but with a focus on dealing with the anxiety of the moment.  Look for this blog on Thursday, November 1st

Let us know your thoughts; does this subject resonate with you?  Have you felt guilty because of anxiety?  What has helped you to overcome your anxiety?  We want to hear what you have to say!

God bless

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Is Anxiety a Sin? by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://nymensministry.com/2012/10/30/is-anxiety-a-sin/.

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These Inward Trials, by John Newton

trials suffering lead to reliance on God One of my favorite poems/hymns. It has been a comfort for me during many dark times.

If there is no God there is no reason for your suffering.  It is only God that we can have hope that our suffering has a purpose.  God even redeems our suffering.

Amen Lord.  My trust is in you!

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How to begin Praying

No need to clean up your thoughts before going to God in prayer. The Holy Spirit will do that during the conversation. Amen!

ALAN FADLING

[Excuse the male-centered language. It is a 50-year-old quotation]

“Let a man begin in prayer where he is, and that means anywhere, with any problem, with any desire. If what he asks for has him in its grip, that means that God can meet him there. If he has a ruling passion to be liked by others, to be selected to an important post, to be able to hold his marriage together, to recover the confidence of a son or daughter, why should this not come squarely into his prayer? We can begin anywhere in petitionary prayer.” (Steere, Douglas V. Dimensions of Prayer. New York: Women’s Division of Christian Service, 1962, p. 67.)

“How do I start praying?,” the question comes. I start praying exactly where I am. But I may have to begin by admitting that I’m not quite sure where I’m at. I may feel I’m standing in…

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Christian Suffering … Hope!

Great post for 9/11 by Doug Plank at Crossway Life

Crossway Life

In the middle of one of the most incredible chapters in all the Bible sits a very unsettling verse. Romans 8 comes at us with a torrent of promises and reveals to us the heights of Christ’s love and the depths of God’s immovable purposes. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God the Spirit pens this treasure of a chapter. At the end of the chapter we read the following:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (8:35)

Beautiful. I’m with you, Paul. This is a great hypothetical question that obviously is answered by a resounding “no!”

Then comes verse 36:

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Many times when I’ve read this chapter and get…

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Christian Olympians

Since our last post was so successful, it inspired this one.  I thought I would list a few Olympians who have shared their Christian faith.  This is not intended to be a full list so please feel free to add a comment, if you know others.  Thanks!

Gabby Douglas  Gabby Douglas, 2 Gold Medals, Gymnast

“I meditate on scripture” said Gabby Douglas to the reporter when asked about how she deals with the pressure and the nerves of being a gymnast on the biggest stage in the world

“I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”

Allyson Felix Christian

 Allyson Felix, 3 Gold Medals, Track and Field (100 and 200 meters)

“It’s official…I’m going to London!! All glory to God! I’m so thankful for the love, support & encouragement,”

“My faith inspires me so much. It is the very reason that I run. I feel that my running is completely a gift from God and it is my responsibility to use it to glorify him. My faith also helps me not be consumed with winning, but to see the big picture and what life is really all about.”

David Boudia Christian

David Boudia, Gold Medal, Diving

“It’s all about glorifying God. I approach the practices and the competitions the same. I’m at peace when I’m doing those things and it’s for God and His glory.”

“Whatever happens at the end of this Olympic Games is completely out of my control, God is totally sovereign over everything.”  (This realization also helped him overcome depression)

 

 

 

William Reid Priddy Christian

 William Reid Priddy, Gold medal, Men’s Volleyball

“I believe that God is most glorified when I use the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability, whether I am on international TV or just training,”

Christians should be “to pursue greatness (no matter what you are doing) in the name of God and clinging to the strength He provides. Not with the end goal of winning – though it can be a goal and is part of the process – but rather to become more like God and glorify Him.”

Lauren Cheney Christian

Lauren Cheney, Gold Medal, Women’s Soccer

“We weren’t given these talents to be mediocre. Our God is great – He deserves greatness.”

(After losing the 2011 World Cup) “It was a rollercoaster ride, but it was neat to just see (God’s) hand on that (situation),” Heath said. “It’s more than just winning or losing. There are so many relationships that go deeper than that. He has a plan in it all. You have to trust that. Even though it’s not the ideal outcome—I mean, everybody wants to be winners—you have to trust that God has a greater plan for this even when you can’t see it.”

Jacob Wukie Christian

 Jacob Wukie, Silver medal, Archery

“I will be living my life for Christ, seeking to know Him more, and seeking to be used by Him to influence the lives of those around me so that they might know Him as well.”

 

 

Lolo Jones Lori (Lolo) Jones, 4th, Track and Field (100 meters)

“It’s just a gift (virginity) I want to give my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. There are virgins out there and I want to let them know that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

“As I arrive in London for the Olympics, I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Thank you Lord for another chance and for holding me as I waited.”

 

Ryan hall Christian Ryan Hall, DNF – injury, Track and Field (Marathon)

God as his coach.

“I like to start off every morning by asking God how He sees me,”

 

 

 

 

 

James Nieto Christian

Jamie Nieto, 6th place, Track & Field (Men’s High Jump)

“Your only limitations are what you believe them to be, and as long as you put God first, you can achieve   all things through Him,”

“I need God in every aspect to help me move forward in my career and being here at the Olympics is a testament.”

 

And a few others:

Brady Ellison, Archer – “Here we go four years of sweat and blood and hard work to prepare for today. Thank you Lord for lettin me [be] here this week. Lets do it.”

Jesse Williams, track and Field (High jump) – “Praise the Lord Jesus Christ he is good!”

Marquise Goodwin, track and Field (Long jump) – “All this wouldn’t be possible without you! #God.”

Bryan Clay, track and Field (Decathalon) – “God first. Family second. Track third.”

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Christian Olympians by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://nymensministry.com/2012/08/13/christian-olympians/ .

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Olympians and Christians

Olympics Medal London 2012    I was watching the Olympics and it wasn’t long before I heard one of the personal stories that the games have become known for over the years.  A story of sacrifice and suffering characterizes the very different life of an Olympian.

I then saw a commercial in which various different athletes declared small sacrifices they have made: “I haven’t watched TV since last summer,” ” I haven’t had dessert in a year,” “I missed my school prom,”  etc.

As I thought about these sacrifices, I reflected on the Christian life and how, in many ways, the life of an aspiring Olympian is similar.   Christian men sacrifice daily for their wives, family and for God.  They don’t do what they want to do.  They stand out.  They are different from everyone else and that is difficult.   It takes strength, courage, and most of all, faith!

Purity ring men

I was told recently about a young relative who wears a purity ring.  The ring reminds him that he is saving himself for marriage.  So, when he is tempted, when he has desires, he can stop and realize that there is something better in store for him.  I’m sure this faith in God’s promises strengthens him.  In many ways this ring is a reminder of the medal (or the crown as the Bible calls it) that we ought to strive for in the race of our lives.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. ” –  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If we do anything to further the kingdom of God, we may expect to find what Christ found on that road – abuse, indifference, injustice, misunderstanding, trouble of some kind. Take it. Why not? To that you were called. In Latin America someone who feels sorry for himself is said to look like a donkey in a downpour. If we think of the glorious fact that we are on the same path with Jesus, we might see a rainbow. ” – Elisabeth Elliot

“To take up the cross of Christ is no great action done once for all; it consists in the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us.” – John Henry Newman

“You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:20

“If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love. ” – Amy Carmichael

You see our sacrifices are nothing, as Paul said so well in Philippians 3:8: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

May we gain the prize, Christ!!

Amen!

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Summer Reading List – 2012

I thought I would share a few books that I’ve either started reading or hope to read this summer.  I’ve been so focused on finishing the Bible in a year (just a few days left) that I haven’t had time to reach much of anything else.

Please let us know what you are hoping to read this summer and if you decide to buy any of the below books, please click on the image so that the Westchester Men’s Ministry gets a donation for your purchase (through our Amazon Associates program).  Thanks!

Have a great summer!

Created for Community      Deep Things of God      I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist     The Confessions of St. Augustine     God, Freedom and Evil    King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus     Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships

I’ve already read a few chapters of ‘Created for Community’ and ‘God, Freedom, and Evil’ and I would recommend them both.  Plantinga is harder to read but very insightful.

Both ‘The Deep Things of God’ and ‘The Confessions of Saint Augustine’ were recommended by people I trust and I have no doubt they will be worth reading.

I choose ‘I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist’ and ‘Muslim, Christians, and Jesus’ without others feedback, and I haven’t opened them yet, so I really can’t vouch for them.   If there is interest, I will add an update once I start reading them.

As far as Tim Keller’s book is concerned, I’m a huge fan of Keller’s and I loved his first book.  This is his second (or third) book and he has already come out with another one on marriage.  So I’m behind but I have no concerns about recommending him.  I would also encourage you visit Redeemer Presbyterian’s website to hear some of his sermons.  He is a fantastic speaker.

So, your reading list may not be as ambitious as mine but What Are You Reading?  I’d be very interested to know.  Thanks in advance for sharing!