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Journaling Challenge: Is it 40 days yet!

40 days in desert

cupandcross.com/

A friend of mine asked me that yesterday.  I told him that we are more than half way there (today is day 22).   But we also talked about falling into the trap of journaling out of obligation.  We both shared that we have a sense of relief once we have something written down.  I told him that when I persevered and continued in quiet time and journaling, not out of obligation (I had met my obligation) but on my own – God rewarded me with insights I wouldn’t have received otherwise.  He quickly responded, ‘Don’t try to make me feel guilty now!’.   We both smiled.

If you are going through this journey with us – fantastic!   My hope is not that you will become a person that journals daily, necessarily, but that you will realize the value of spending time with God and listening for His word.  I pray that you gain a greater hunger for more of Him.

Why did we choose 40 days anyway!?

The period of 40 days is significant in the Bible and used multiple times.  This included the 40 days and nights that it rained on Noah and the ark, the time Moses spent on the mountain, the numbers of days Goliath came out against the Israelites before David killed him, and especially the time Jesus fasted in the wilderness.  This time is always a period of testing and trial, and it ends with a period of restoration, revival, or renewal.

May these 40 days, through December 21st, end with a period of restoration that makes the true meaning of Christmas that much more pronounced this year.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8a

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Journaling Challenge: Is it 40 days yet! by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://nymensministry.com.

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Christmas Prayer Request

I received this prayer request from one of the men in our ministry and he said that I could share it here.  I would bet that we can all agree with the sentiments of this prayer.  May the true meaning of Christmas shine through this season, for all of us!

Men, Christmas, true meaning of Christmas
My prayer is that coming into this holiday season, we not forget the true meaning of our celebration and that we guard our hearts and minds from distractions, subtle behaviors and not so subtle behaviors that could pull us away from God and grieve the Holy Spirit. 

I know in the past, it has been very easy for me to conform to the world’s point of view and start setting up and worshiping idols. It is in these times that Screwtape gets a hold of me and says it’s okay to participate in certain behaviors and attitudes because it’s the holidays and it won’t offend the Lord. That leads to a very slow and steady decent into self deception and before I know it I am far far away from God.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 NIV

Three wise menDo not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil. ”      -Proverbs 4:14-27 NIV

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Christmas Prayer Request by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://nymensministry.com.

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I Take It Back: Why I’m Journaling Again

JOURNALING

By  on his blog titled “Confessions of a Former Preacher: Reflections on life in the mission of God” (Re-posted with permission)

Some time back I blogged about my many failed attempts to practice spiritual journaling. It was entitled Why I Don’t Journal: The Danger of Words and it was basically about how easy it is to practice self-deception and posture even in our journals. I found I used language as a tool to manage my life and keep me from God rather than become vulnerable to God.

My sub-point was that not all spiritual disciplines work for everyone, which is why we need so many. For much of my life, I’ve needed to practice silence before God more than journaling. My job required that I prepare to preach and teach multiple lessons each week, write bulletin articles, lead multiple meetings, and generally use words in a way that put me in a controlling position. Creating more words, more writing, was not helpful to me. I needed to shut up and listen.

Then something changed. Or maybe it was me that changed. Maybe it is because I’m not a preacher per se anymore. While I still do some preaching, I’m not writing new material every week, and I’m not upfront talking nearly as much. Other than my occasional blog entry, which takes a fraction of the time a sermon takes, I don’t put words together like I once did.  Or maybe I’m in another season of life. I don’t know, but I’ve taken up journaling again and, for the first time since I was an undergraduate, I’m finding it a refreshing and life-producing way to connect with God.

It started by reading Brene Brown’s books. She suggested that people who live the fullest lives practice gratitude in an intentional way and suggested creating a gratitude journal. Then I attended our MRN board and staff retreat where Rhonda Lowry and Earl Lavender both talked about how journaling enriches their faith walk. I thought about it more and found myself drawn to the practice again.

So I bought a blank journal and starting carrying it around with me. I note something that happens for which I’m thankful. I write down any reflections from my daily time in the Word that seems like a prompting of the Spirit, a fresh idea, or insight. I note things that happen throughout the day that I want to remember or think about later. I record quotes from others or ideas people share I find helpful. I use the journal like a written memory (which is important now that I’ve misplaced my other one). I don’t require myself to use my journal in a slavish way. I write when I have something to write and leave it blank when I don’t. Most nights I jot down some reflections on the day. Some nights I’m too tired to write and start my morning by recording what I wake up pondering from the day before.

myBadWhy bother blogging about this? Well, I had a young preacher tell me my earlier blog entry was the reason he stopped journaling. That idea didn’t set well with me. My point wasn’t to discourage others from journaling, but merely to encourage people to embrace the spiritual practices that helped them and not assume we all need the same kinds of connection points with God. In addition, I wanted to reaffirm the understanding that different seasons of life require different habits and practices. Our ten year old daughter doesn’t need the same kind of work-out routine I do because she does gymnastics and is more active in general, not to mention younger. I can’t do the kind of work-out I did in my 30’s. My body can’t take it now. Our spiritual lives are similar.  What we need changes as our life stage and circumstances change. If we are going to keep growing, we need to be learning, experimenting, observing others, imitating, modeling, and sharing life with others on the same journey. What did not help us at one stage of life may at another. The day you stop growing is the day you stop living.

So, I’m journaling again and loving it. It helps that I’m not trying to do it right. Nothing kills doing things well like trying to do them right. I also am not writing for posterity. I don’t need anyone else to find these journals and read them. My kids probably won’t ever pour over what I write to seek insights and inspiration. I’ve given up that silly pretension I once maintained with myself. I doubt anyone could read my journals even if they wanted to. My hand-writing is so bad it’s cryptic. This is for me and God. This helps me be more grateful, more mindful, and more faithful.

Now, what helps you?

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40 Day Journey Begins!

Journaling Bible Discipline

blog.sdrock.com

I’m really excited that many people have told me that they want to commit to journaling for 40 days with us! I know God will bless the time we commit to being with Him.

We’ve decided to allow as much flexibility as possible.  We encourage you to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed then:

  1. Pray – Ask God to quiet your mind of any worries or tasks that have to be done.  Ask Him to be with you and to speak with you.   “Come into His presence”
  2. Scripture – God often talks through His scripture and He never talks contrary to it!  You may want to follow a Bible plan or read the scripture for the coming Sunday.  We have some recommendations below but this is entirely up to you.
  3. Meditate / Journal – You may find yourself stopping midway through your Bible reading because a phrase or image struck you.  Write it down; why did it resonate with you?  Is there something going on in your life or a desire of your heart that you want to share with God?

Resources:

One final thing to remember, our goal isn’t to finish a book, or read a lot of scripture in these 40 days although we may do some of both.  It is to hear God and to ‘chase after Him’.  To become more in tune with His voice and respond to His prompting.

Another Example:

We hope to have a few people share a little of their journaling over these 40 days.  As, I’ve been doing through Twitter and this blog, I thought I would share another good example.   Pastor Ronnie in this blog shows that it doesn’t have to be complex.  He simply writes a thought, a scripture, and a prayer.  Take a look here: http://blog.sdrock.com/pastors/2012/06/11/listening-to-his-voice-a-journal-63-69/

Chasing After You

Someone shared this video with me recently and I think it is perfect for us, as we embark on ‘chasing after God’.

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Special Note for Community Bible Church members:

In Sunday’s Sermon, we saw from Psalm 55 some healthy ways of dealing with our negative emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, depression. If you missed the sermon, you can watch it here: http://cbcnw.sermon.tv/

You can find scripture readings for each day of the week in the bulletin.  Here are some questions for you to consider as you journal this week:

What stood out to you? Have you experienced any negative emotions lately? How did you deal with them? Did you pay attention to them? Can you pay attention to them now? What might God be trying to teach you about yourself or Him through them?

God Bless!

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40 Day Journey Begins 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/2012/11/09/40-day-journey-begins/.

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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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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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Small Group Men’s Bible Studies Forming!!

 Have you desired to just be around a few good friends that know you?  You might share a joke,  or something your kids are going through, or anything in between.  Then you’ve come to the  right place.

We are establishing small groups for the new year.  Small groups are the essence of this ministry and they are what allows us to ‘do life together’.  The setting might be different but we always spend some time in fellowship, Bible study, and prayer.

Interested?  Well, let us know by adding a comment to this post!

Image courtesy of: http://www.clovisevfree.org/

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Listening to God’s Word

 

“Did not our hearts burn within us?” – Luke 24:32

From “My Utmost for His Highest” for March 22nd

“… the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be. … if it is something God would condemn then put a stop to it immediately …(but) if the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will …

We can not kindle when we will the fire which in the heart resides, the Spirit bloweth and is still, In mystery our soul abides; But tasks in hours of insight willed, Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled.”
– Oswald Chambers

I’ve been journaling through Lent and I’m in a dry spot.  I have been amazed by God’s word and upset that I haven’t written it down earlier.  Then my oldest brother died and things changed.  Over the last few days, it has been very hard to hear God.  It seemed clear that I had piled my concerns, anxieties, list of tasks, and many other things on top of God’s word, crowding Him out.

The last sentence of this entry really got to me.  We can’t control when God will inspire us and talk to us but we can control our faithfulness even when we can’t hear him “hours of gloom”.

God Bless!

image courtesy of: developingyourspirit.blogspot.com

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How to Ascertain the Will of God

From “Answers to Prayer from George Müller’s Narratives”Prayer

1.  I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.  Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here.  Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.  When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

2.  Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression.  If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

3.  I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.  The Spirit and the Word must be combined.  If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.  If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

4. Next I take into account providential circumstances.  These often plainly indicate God’s Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.

6. Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgement according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.  In trivial matters, and in transactions involving more important issues, I have found this method always effective.


George Müller


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Recommitting to Prayer

About three weeks ago, we discussed prayer (see below post) and multiple people committed to trying to pray 3 times a day throughout Lent.  Many have mentioned that they, just like me, have struggled to get into this rhythm of stopping, breathing, and spending time with God.  Therefore since we are nearly exactly in the middle of Lent, we decided to recommit ourselves to this effort for the second half of Lent.  Why not join us and let us know your thoughts by adding comments below.

(Image courtesy: www.treasureschristianbooks.com)

I thought I would share a few comments that I have shared with others over the last few weeks with the hope that they may be an encouragement to you as you attempt to get into the practice of communing with God.  God Bless!


About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’  – Matthew 27:46

 

Jesus was on the cross for 6 hours at this point.  He had already been flogged, had nails put through his hands and feet, and has been insulted all throughout.  Why would Jesus make this proclamation at this time and be silent through everything else?  Have you ever wondered this? Well it is important to note that in Jewish tradition, the Passover lamb was slaughtered at the 9th hour.  So you see, Jesus is our Passover lamb.  So at the ninth hour he became sin for us and was cut off from God.  For the first time (in all time), he couldn’t commune with God and the loneliness and abandonment he felt made him yell out. I think this gives us some appreciation for the blessing we have in being able to commune with God.  Jesus was cutoff so we wouldn’t have to be.  I know I want to value that.

This hymn is from Claudia Hernaman:

“Lord, who throughout these forty days for us did fast and pray,
Teach us with you to mourn our sins, and close by you to stay.

As You with Satan did contend and did the victory win,
O give us strength in you to fight, in you to conquer sin.

As you bore hunger and your thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live by your most holy Word.

And through the days of penitence, and through your Passion-tide,
Yes, evermore, in life and death, Jesus! With us abide.

Abide with us, that so, this life of suffering over-past,
An Easter of unending joy we may attain at last!”