Seeking God’s Direction

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With my son about to enter college next year, one daughter moving to boarding school to finish her last year, and one fresh(wo)man who is trying to decide which direction to take, the question ‘what does GOd want me to do’ is often heard in our house. Amidst the many voices telling them which way they should go, I’ve often said to them ‘don’t worry, follow your heart and your passion, use your strengths and talents and god will show you the rest. This is a wonderful article for those seeking Gods direction for their lives!!

Use Your Creativity to Change the Culture
Whitney Hopler
If you want to make a powerful and lasting impact on the culture, you’ve got to do more than just consume it, critique it, condemn it, or copy it. The only way to truly change the culture is to create something new for it – something that will inspire people enough to start to reshape their world.

Here’s how you can use your creativity to change the culture:

Engage the culture. Forget about trying to withdraw from the surrounding culture; that effort is ultimately futile because you can’t help but be influenced on some level by your culture. Instead, choose to participate in the culture. Rather than worrying about the culture influencing you in negative ways, do all you can to influence the culture in positive ways.

Don’t separate your faith from the rest of your life. Integrate your faith fully into your lifestyle by following God’s guidance in every part of your life. Remember that your faith isn’t just about what you do at any given time or place; it shapes who you are and who you’re becoming as a whole person. As you interact with the culture, your faith should naturally influence all of your decisions.

Embrace your calling. God has given you the desire you have to take what exists in the world and make something more of it. Take your calling to be creative seriously by pursuing it with passion. Pay attention to your interests and develop and use your talents to the fullest. Ask God to help you discover what contributions He wants you to make to the world. Then do your best to do so.

Cultivate culture. Take care of the good things that your culture has already given you. Preserve and nourish the best of what people before you have contributed to the culture.

Dare to take risks. Be willing to think and do things that have never been thought of or done before – things that make the world a better place. Ask God to help you overcome your fears so they won’t block you from using your creativity to the fullest.

Tap into the Gospel’s power to transform culture. The Gospel’s power can’t be contained in any particular culture; it reaches into every culture and changes it by changing the lives of the people within. It doesn’t just abandon the old and replace it with the new. Instead, it transforms it from the inside out. With God’s power at work to make even the impossible gloriously possible, every culture can be changed for the better. So make a daily habit of inviting God to work through your life to change the culture, rather than trying to change it yourself. Rely on God’s unlimited power instead of your own limited efforts.

Be specific. Instead of pursuing a vague and naïve general idea of changing the world, think and pray about the specific ways God wants to use you to do His redemptive work at particular times and in particular places. Remember that all it takes for you to change the world is to change the culture right around you. Be humble about the scale of your creative work, but be assured that even work on the smallest scale is hugely significant if God has called you to do it. Trust God to accomplish something great through your creative efforts.

Notice where God is already at work, and join Him there. Look for ways in which God is bringing about something new and better throughout your culture – at your company, school, church, stores, neighborhood, parks, and anywhere else you go. Ask yourself where the impossible is becoming possible, and realize that God is at work there. Consider how you can join God’s work. Think about specific ways in which you can empower people by helping to meet their spiritual and physical needs.

Use your power well. The awesome creative power you have at your disposal is a gift from God that you can either use for great good or abuse in ways that lead to destruction. Resist the temptation to engage your power in the wrong ways by humbling yourself to serve other people on a regular basis, genuinely listening to other people’s concerns, investing your resources into the lives of people who aren’t as powerful as you, and making it your goal to accomplish God’s purposes rather than your personal goals. Regularly check yourself to honestly evaluate whether or not you’re trusting in God’s power rather than your own.

Work with other people. Your contributions to the culture will have a greater impact if you work on them together with a group of other people than just by yourself. Look for people you know and trust; with whom you share passion and conviction and commitment; and whose gifts, talents, and needs complement yours. Work as a community toward common goals.

Discern the impact of your work. Regularly examine how much your creative work is impacting the culture, and in what ways it’s doing so. Where are you experiencing God’s grace at work to multiply your efforts? How can you focus your efforts on the most fruitful areas to produce the most positive change?

Stay closely connected to God through spiritual disciplines. Make sure you’re practicing spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible reading, meditation, and study on a regular basis to maintain the close connection with God that you need to rely on His power daily. Get a fresh dose of spiritual power every day to help you engage and change the culture around you.

Sustain hope when you fail and celebrate your successes. When your creative work fails, ask God to help you learn all He wants you to learn from the experience. Trust that, if you follow where He leads, He will ultimately bring about good results from your work somehow. When your creative work succeeds in changing the culture, thank God and celebrate the positive changes you’ve helped to bring about. Let the memories of your successes so far inspire you to keep giving your best effort to your work.

Adapted from Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, copyright 2008 by Andy Crouch. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., http://www.ivpress.com.

A Soul Resolution

When I first read this devotion today I blew it off. I don’t want another thing to think of, be, do! And I have no desire to strive to be anything particular this year, just as any other. But when I read my next devotional, God was indeed bidding me listen!

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What Is Your One Word For 2012? { A Soul Resolution }
Bonnie Gray

When you make new year resolutions, do you think of who you are becoming more than what you want to be doing?

You wouldn’t think it’d be so difficult. To choose one word. For the new year. But, it was. I’ve been asking God for a word to focus my spiritual walk in 2012, like a madwoman in a dressing room trying on clothes. Right before summer.

Does this fit right?

Is it me?

How in the heck do you wear this thing?

My first thought was to stick with last year’s One Word: confidence. I definitely need a continuing refill on that. But, is this what God wants me to wear new this year? …Back to trying on more words.

A Soul Resolution

I don’t make new year resolutions. They’re great for setting goals at work or getting things done. But at the end of the year, my life isn’t about what I’ve done, but who I’ve become. I developed an yearly habit way that goes back in college, that’s continued to my adulthood — from student to working woman, singleness to marrie — to life now as a mother and a writer.

I take time out to reflect on my spiritual journey. I look back on the past year to see where I’ve been, then I pray and read Scripture to ask God where he’s pointing me in the coming year.

Soul resolutions are not about what I’m doing, but who I’m becoming in Christ.

I call it my New Year’s “Soul Resolution”, because it’s more about living it out in my heart, rather than striving to accomplish a goal.

This year, I flipped through my recent journals entries and looked at where my faith journey is pointing next. I whittled it down to two. Which one is it? I made the decision to go with the one I feel least confident about. The one that takes greater faith. It’s not one I can easily do, but it’s one I wished was really true. My One Word for 2012 is taken from Isaiah 62:4 —

“It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,”… For the Lord delights in you.”

His Answer

My One Word is: Delightful. I am Delightful? I came across this word in my friend Holley Gerth’s book, God’s Heart For You. I couldn’t even say that sentence out loud: “In God’s heart, I am delightful.” Here’s what Holley said —

“I frequently ask… What brings you joy? Delight, which is a synonym for joy, is powerful. If you asked God the same question, what do you think He would say? As amazing as it may sound one of His answers would be “You”.
Not The Same

We’ve all got some mountains to climb this year, even though we all walk through different seasons of faith. After an extended season of letting go, God is calling me to step out in new circles, friendships and adventures. With each new beginning, I face my old giants again. Insecurities return. I feel the scar of the past. It takes faith to walk out into the open fields again. But, it’s different this time, God says. You are not the same Bonnie. Faith has rebuilt my heart. God’s love has healed me and I know He is strong enough to carry me through. I feel the joy of His goodness and He’s brought me faith friends who understand and encourage me. This time through, I want Jesus to make me new this way — Delightful.

A Faith Dare

Like my boys who toddled their walk with first steps, I am opening my heart to learn too. I am daring to walk as a woman who God tenderly whispers, “You are my delight.” How will this happen? I am not sure, but I am confident He knows. I am praying His word will settle deep in my soul and become a living part of me. I’m asking myself how would I do life differently, if I really believed this were true? I’ve begun brainstorming a list — A Faith Dare of Delight —

how I’d do things differently,

preferences I’d adopt,

what I’ll say no to,

what I’ll say yes,

things to enjoy, and

things to try.

Don’t worry. I don’t plan to do them all. Maybe one or two?

Who knows what ups and downs the new year will bring? It doesn’t really matter.

Because after all, in God’s heart — I am delightful. So are you. And that’s all that matters.

I’m curious what the year ahead has in store for us. Together, we can share the journey. We can encourage each other in our One Words for 2012 — our Faith Dares for the year.

Romans 8:14-17

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Together with Jesus, we will be glorified in the end!

When you put your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, God says that you were united with Christ. Jesus became intertwined with your past, bearing the guilt of your failings before God. But in the same connection, you became intertwined with His future!

You are so valuable and significant to Jesus that He is willing to share His incredible relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit with you (John 17:19-20).

Your life experiences may have given you a depressed view of your worth in life. But listen to what God is saying to you in this passage today. To Him, you are so very valuable. He has made you a fellow heir with Christ—an heir of His glory, of His love, of His promises. Don’t ignore what God is saying to you about your true worth.

How to pray for the soul – yours and another.

My son at his wrestling conference yesterday.

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How to Pray for the Soul – Yours or Another
John Piper

For thoughtful people, how they pray for the soul is governed by how they believe God acts. So, for example, if they believe God changes people’s souls so that they make new and right choices, then they will ask God to make those soul-changes through evangelism and nurture. But not everybody is thoughtful about the way they pray. They don’t think about what view of God is behind their praying.

So what I suggest is that we learn first to pray for the soul from the way the Bible prays for the soul. If we do that, then our prayers will probably be good prayers, and in the process we will also learn about how God acts. Here is the way I pray for my soul. I use these prayers over and over again—for myself and my children and wife and for the staff and the elders and for all the church. This is the meat and potatoes of my prayer life.
The first thing my soul needs is an inclination to God and his word. Without that, nothing else will happen of any value in my life. I must want to know God and read his word and draw near to him. Where does that “want to” come from? It comes from God. So Psalm 119:36 teaches us to pray, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain.”

Next I need to have the eyes of my heart opened, so that when my inclination leads me to the word I see what is really there and not just my own ideas. Who opens the eyes of the heart? God does. So Psalm 119:18 teaches us to pray, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”

Then I need for my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.” I need to perceive glory in them and not just interesting facts. Who enlightens the heart? God does. So Ephesians 1:18 teaches us to pray “That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.”

Then I am concerned that my heart is fragmented and that parts of it might remain in the dark while other parts are enlightened. So I long for my heart to be united for God. Where does that wholeness and unity come from? From God. So Psalm 86:11 teaches us to pray, “O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

What I really want from all this engagement with the Word of God and the work of his Spirit in answer to my prayers is that my heart will be satisfied with God and not with the world. Where does that satisfaction come from? It comes from God. So Psalm 90:14 teaches us to pray, “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

But I don’t just want to be happy in my own little private world with God. I want my happiness to be as full as possible for spreading and expanding for others. I want to be strong in joy. This will make me durable in the face of threats or adversity. Where does that strength and durability come from? It comes from God. So Ephesians 3:16 teaches us to pray, “That God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.”

Finally, I want my strength in Christ to produce good deeds for others so that the glory of God will be seen in my life. Who produces these good deeds? God does. So Colossians 1:10 teaches us to pray, “That [we] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord . . . bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

All this I pray “in Jesus’ name,” because God gives these things to my soul only because Jesus died for me and removed the wrath of God so that the Father might “freely give me all things” (Romans 8:32).

To remember some of these prayers, I use an acronym—IOUS—almost every day in praying for those I love, asking God to give us an inclination to his Word and not to money or fame or power (Psalm 119:36), and to open our eyes to see wonderful things when we read his Word (Psalm 119:18), and to have hearts united in the fear of God rather than fragmented over a dozen concerns (Psalm 86:11), and to be satisfied in his steadfast love (Psalm 90:14).

Learning to pray and learning how God acts,
Pastor John.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org.

Our daily bread

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Our Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

Today’s verse is taken from what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray, He gave them this prayer as a model. Matthew 6 and Luke 11 record this prayer in its entirety. Like many people, I learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child and I have prayed it thousands of times. But how many of us really think about what we are praying when we recite this prayer? How often do I ask for my daily bread?

I guess a better question might be: what exactly is “our daily bread?” Certainly our daily bread consists of those things that we need to survive, to live on. We need food, water, clothing and shelter. We need financial resources to get the things we need. So, we must pray that the Lord will meet those needs and give us our daily provisions. There is another type of “daily bread” that applies here as well – our spiritual bread. We cannot live abundant spiritual lives without a daily portion of God’s Word. Learning to feed on His Word every day will give us the spiritual nourishment we need to live a victorious Christian life.

Ask the Lord today to give you His bread of life: to meet your physical needs here on earth, and to also meet your spiritual needs as you walk with Him. When you allow the Word of God to penetrate your heart and mind daily, you will be transformed. Make time for reading your Bible today and let the Lord feed you with His amazing Word. Start the transformation today.

Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc

Setting goals for a fruitful year.

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Setting Goals for Fruitful Living
2 Samuel 7:18-22
In the 70s, I experiencedo a turning point in my walk with Christ. It started with 2 Samuel 7, which inspired me to follow in King David’s footsteps. He spent time alone with God, offering praise and thanksgiving. He would also listen as the Lord revealed truth and offered insight about the future. Because of what he learned, David was able to set goals and stay aligned with them.
Desiring that kind of solitude, I spent several days alone in a camper at Georgia’s Stone Mountain. Most of the time, I was silent, listening intently for God’s voice. I asked Him to speak to me regarding my future, and He answered. Using a journal, I recorded the goals He inspired. The things He communicated so impacted my choices and so greatly blessed me that I continued the discipline every couple of months.
Let’s discuss how to establish aims in this manner. First, come before the throne of Almighty God with a repentant heart, praise, and thanksgiving. Then, ask Him for direction in areas such as spiritual life, career, and family. In silence, wait patiently and attentively—as you read and meditate upon God’s Word, He will speak. Most often, His guidance is experienced as a prodding or conviction in the heart. When that happens, be sure to write down what you’re “hearing” so you can review it later.
In order to stay on the path God intends for our lives, we should plan times to stop, ask, and listen for guidance. The world throws confusing messages at us all day long, and we need to check our course frequently. These conversations with the Lord are vital for a thriving life of godly impact.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit http://www.intouch.org.

Helping our children seek out God’s will

Oh to be a kid again…they had so much fun at this playground. Carter spent almost 1 hr going up and down on the slide by himself for the first time.

Seeking God’s Will
1 John 5:14-15
Parents train their children to do many tasks—from knowing which clothes match to handling money. Perhaps the most important skill we can teach is how to follow God’s direction.
We are blessed that our omniscient and mighty Father is willing to make His way known to us. He wants to reveal exactly what to do in every situation. In fact, He promises this: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Ps. 32:8). Let’s explore how to discern God’s will at each crossroad of life.
The first step is to make sure that we have repented of all sin. Listening to God while holding onto iniquity in our heart is like using a foggy and unreadable compass. After confessing and repenting, we can ask for direction.
Next, we should read Scripture regularly with a seeking, open heart. The Bible is like a lamp on a dark path (Ps. 119:105). The last step involves God’s indwelling Holy Spirit—the wonderful gift that the heavenly Father has given each of His children. The Spirit provides truth and guidance as we read the Word and pray. We should listen patiently for His leading, which is often communicated quietly to our hearts as we spend time with Him.
When asking the Lord to reveal His will, we shouldn’t expect instant answers. The discipline of waiting builds character, and besides, rushing the process may lead to a path that misses God’s best. Take the time to seek Jesus’ plan for your life, remembering He’ll provide all you need to follow Him.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit http://www.intouch.org.