Divine Guidance – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Divine Guidance – Introduction

Throughout our lives we are faced with choices. Some are yes or no – “should I do X?” Some are choosing between two or more options – “should I do A or B?” These questions aren’t always the choice between right and wrong – we already know the answer to those questions, we just have to have the courage to choose wisely. More often, though, we’re faced with choosing between two rights. In those times, we can feel overwhelmed. We may even say, “there a pluses and minuses to both – I don’t know which way to go.” As a result we may feel as if our future is uncertain. However, we don’t have to go it alone. The choices that are presented to us are much easier made when we trust in God, and when, as a result of that trust, we allow Him to provide Divine Guidance.

Spiritual Quote

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
~Corrie ten Boom

Thoughts

What do you do when you are faced with choices? What if you needed someone to talk to about your deepest secrets or fears? What if you’re trying to figure out whether to buy this car or that car? What if you’re faced with the question, “should I sell my home now, or should I wait?” What if you are faced with the choice of staying in a job or position that is, for the most part, secure, but which leaves you longing for more, or stepping out and taking a chance on a new path which is more in alignment with your desires, but which offers less security? Who do you turn to for advice, who do you trust for guidance?

We’re all faced with choices and, as humans, we have an inherent desire to trust. We grow up trusting our parents, our teachers, our friends and our families. We want to trust our pastors, police, military, and government officials. We want to trust what they have to say, and to trust that they will make decisions that will help rather than harm us. And, when we feel like we have no one to turn to, no one we can “trust,” quite often we’re left trusting in ourselves and feeling like we just have to go it alone. Through the course of our lives we may even have said, “there’s no one I can trust.” We may have forgotten that, no matter what’s going on, there is someone we can trust, and to whom we can turn for guidance.

Scripture assures us that, if we trust in Him, God will guide us:

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and rely not on your own wisdom. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 9:10 “…And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou hast not forsaken them that seek Thee, O Lord.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 62:7-8 “…God is my strength, my refuge, and my hope. Trust in Him at all times; you people, pour out your hearts before Him.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 25:9 “He will guide the meek in judgement, and He will teach the poor His way.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 48:14 “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide until death.” (Aramaic)
  • Isaiah 58:11 “And the Lord shall guide you continually…” (Aramaic)

So, we know that when we trust in Him, He will guide us. But how? Tying back to our discussion last week, He guides us through the power of the Holy Spirit – the Comfortor. In John 16:13 Jesus said, “But when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but what He hears He will speak; and He will make known to you things which are to come in the future.”  (Aramaic) And we gain access to the Divine Guidance of the Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer and meditation, and turning everything over to Him. When we’re faced with choices, and we don’t know what to do, the best thing we can do is to turn it over to God. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Do not worry over things, but always by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” (Aramaic)

And how do we tap into the Holy Spirit’s Divine Guidance? Honestly, it’d be much easier if God would just send us a little note, telling us what to do. You’ve heard me say, half jokingly, “Lord, send me a memo. I have 7 email addresses, two cell phones with text messaging…just send me a memo…” The truth is, in prayer, He does just that. Through prayer and meditation, God will make the right choice clear. There’s even a process we can use through which the Holy Spirit will “send us the memo.” The process involves what’s known as “Imaginative Prayer.” Developed and taught by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests, Imaginative Prayer is used to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture verses. It is also used in what’s become known as The Loyola Discernment Principle or The Loyola Rules for Discernment.

I first learned of the Loyola Discernment Principle over 12 years ago, and have used it ever since.

Admittedly, I haven’t used it as often as I should, and after contemplating, praying over, and writing today’s message, I’ll be using it on a much more regular, if not daily, basis.

You can Google Loyola, Jesuit, and Rules for Discernment and find a ton of information. In researching for today, I found there are as many variations as to how the information is expressed as there are websites; but the basic rules, or principles, remain consistent.

Loyola Discernment Principle

  1. Pray…In the stillness and quietness of prayer and meditation, remember that God is with you. With time and regular practice, you will sense and feel God’s presence. Ask God, through the love and the light of His Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts, remaining open to His influence and direction.
  2. Identify the Issue…Identify the decision or issue you are facing. Take a look at the underlying values and characteristics of the issue – is it physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Look at all sides and list out the pros and cons.
  3. Imagine…In the quiet stillness, imagine in your mind’s eye that you have chosen option A. Let God guide your heart and your mind. Imagine what it “looks like, sounds like, tastes like, smells like, and, most importantly, feels like. What are the advantages and disadvantages? How does this choice make you feel – does it make you happy? Does your decision make you more loving, increase your confidence, enhance your sense of joy, or strengthen relationships? Are you filled with a sense of peace, hope, and excitement? Next, do the same thing with option B. Examine every aspect and let God guide your heart. In your prayerful imagination, also consider questions, as appropriate. Questions such as: How will your family react? What would your closest friend think of your decision? Is your decision in alignment with following the Christian path?

Once you have examined the options and all sides – decide. You may still have some fear or anxiety, and there may be some variables or outside influences beyond your control. Trust that God’s power is at work in your life. In that trust, be assured that, even if things don’t unfold exactly how you imagined them to be, the decision is the right and perfect decision.

Note – sometimes it might be necessary to obtain more information. If so, move to step 4.

  1. Research…Depending on the scope of the decision you are making, you may realize you don’t have enough information to make the best decision. If this is the case, do more research. Ask trusted individuals for input. When you’ve gathered sufficient information, repeat Step 3.

I’ll never forget the first opportunity I had to share this principle. It was an amazing experience; and it truly worked!

My son had made the decision to enlist in the Air Force. He had met with advisors, and with the recruiters. He knew he wanted to serve in the military, he knew the Air Force was the right branch, and he was confident in his choice of career field. He had put together a plan, his path was clear, and he thought he had it all figured out. Then, he met someone, whom he trusted, who offered a different path. Both paths, ultimately, would lead him to the same destination. But, there were significant pluses and minuses to each path. Confused, he came to me for advice. Of course, I couldn’t make the decision for him, but I reminded him that he could turn to God for Divine Guidance. I offered to walk him through the Loyola Discernment Principle and he agreed to give it a try.

During a Reiki session I walked him through the steps. In the quiet stillness he opened his mind and his heart to the flow of the Holy Spirit. When he was ready, I had him identify the issue. When he was clear about the guidance he was seeking, I had him imagine that he had chosen Option A. When he had fully explored that option, what it looked like, sounded like, tasted like, smelled like, and felt like, he withdrew. Then, we repeated the process with Option B. When he was satisfied he had looked at all aspects of the option, he withdrew. Remaining still and quiet, I let him gather his thoughts and come back into himself. I asked him to slowly open his eyes, and, with no further thought, decide. He opened his eyes and immediately said his choice. He was filled with such peace, and he knew, to the very core of his being, that the choice he had made was the right and perfect choice. And, he knew that, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as he had envisioned it, he would never look back and say, “what if I had chosen B?”

Of course, not everything turned out like he had envisioned. But, he had a successful and fulfilling career and, even though it was cut short and he recently retired, he has never once looked back and said, “what if?”

That was my first real experience utilizing Loyola’s Rules for Discernment. Ever since, each and every time I have followed the principle, God, through His Holy Spirit, has led me to the right and perfect decisions.

Closing Thoughts

Our money in the U.S. says, “In God We Trust”…do we really? The Ladies Home Journal (Sept, 1981) asked, “In whom do you trust?” What were the responses? …Walter Cronkite 40%, Pope John Paul 26%, Billy Graham 6%, God 3%!* Now, granted, this is over 30 years ago, but the results are quite telling. We hear people tout “we’re a Christian nation,” or “we’re a God-fearing nation.” Yet, only 3% of the survey respondents trust God! How about us? How would we respond to the question, “In whom do you trust?” Do we trust God with our unknown futures?

We all face choices each and every day; and each choice we make takes us down a path to the next choice. When the right or best choice isn’t immediately clear, we don’t have to go it alone. By our faith we are assured of God’s Divine Guidance. And, if we turn to Him in prayer and meditation, using a method of prayer such as the Loyola Discernment Principle, the right and perfect choice will be revealed to us – God will send us the memo!

I’d like to close with a perfectly timed passage from this month’s edition of The Daily Word titled: God Guides My Way In Every Situation:

“A guide is one who shows the way, who leads and directs. Sherpa mountaineers guide climbers on their mountain trek, quietly leading the way, providing support and direction to ensure that climbers safely reach the top. God is my guide along life’s path. God leads me in right ways, directs my thoughts and actions, and inspires me when I need energy and confidence. I need never feel lost or alone when meeting a challenge, for I have a loving guide with me at all times to lead me through the twists and turns of life. Knowing this, I relax, let go, and enjoy the journey. I trust God, my Guide, to lead me to my good.” And so it is…Amen.

Let us pray…

Scripture

  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Psalms 9:10
  • Psalms 62:7-8
  • Psalms 25:9
  • Psalms 48:14
  • Isaiah 58:11
  • John 16:13
  • Philippians 4:6-7

*Acknowledgements

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Pastor Glenn Robinson for his thoughts on today’s topic.

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If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Divine Guidance – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Divine Guidance – Introduction

Throughout our lives we are faced with choices. Some are yes or no – “should I do X?” Some are choosing between two or more options – “should I do A or B?” These questions aren’t always the choice between right and wrong – we already know the answer to those questions, we just have to have the guts and the courage to choose wisely. More often, we’re faced with choosing between two rights. In those times, we can feel overwhelmed. We may even say, “there a pluses and minuses to both – I don’t know which way to go.” As a result we may feel as if our future is uncertain. However, we don’t have to go it alone. The choices that are presented to us are much easier made when we trust in God, and when, as a result of that trust, we allow Him to provide Divine Guidance.

Spiritual Quote

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
~Corrie ten Boom

Planned Scripture

  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Psalms 9:10
  • Psalms 62:7-8
  • Psalms 25:9
  • Psalms 48:14
  • Isaiah 58:11
  • John 16:13
  • Philippians 4:6-7

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Divine Comfort – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Divine Comfort – Introduction

Living this human experience we all know both good times and tough times. The ups and downs of life are inescapable. During the good times, all is right with our world. During the tough times we may feel unloved – abandoned, alone. For those of faith, however, it’s important to remember we are never truly alone. We know from Scripture that God will never abandon us, He is always with us. No matter what we are experiencing, through our relationship with Him, we always have access to Divine Comfort.

Spiritual Quote

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
~Mother Teresa

Thoughts

We all go through experiences that challenge us – experiences that challenge our resolve, our strength to endure, even our faith. I remember having many conversations with God over the years wherein I said, “Lord, I know you won’t give me any more than my shoulders can bare…but they’re getting mighty tired and hunched over. Can you lighten the load a little, please?”

Of course, with time and prayer, I’ve come through each experience. And, I’ve noticed over the years that, looking back, each experience that I thought was “bad” at the time, moved me further on my journey, and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I experienced a closer and deeper relationship with God, and with Jesus.

Discomfort, turmoil, and tough times propel us forward into a deeper relationship with God through our relationship with Jesus via the Holy Spirit.

This message was given to me loud and clear a few weeks ago during a time of deep spiritual connectedness. In my meditation I had a vision of a sail boat. The water was perfectly calm, flat and smooth as glass. In the stillness, the boat sat, perfectly still, motionless. I next saw an image like an old chartoon – a bellows being compressed and the swirls of air being forced out the nozzel. As the bellows forced air out, the water began to move and turn choppy – and the sailboat began to move. The faster the water moved, the faster the boat moved. It became so clear to me that we are that sailboat. When everything in our lives is perfectly calm and going smoothly, we become stagnant and still. We become complacent, and we don’t move forward. It’s the tough times, the times of turmoil, that we are propelled forward into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, and with Jesus. And it is in that relationship that we find comfort through the Holy Spirit.

In John 14:16 – Jesus said, “And I will ask of my Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it has not seen Him and does not know Him; but you know Him because He abides with you and is in you.”

And in John 14:26, Jesus specifically calls the Holy Spirit our Comforter when he said, “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in My name…”

One of the areas in which this is spelled out for us is in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Let’s take a look at what he has to say in Chapter 1, verses 2-7:

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we also may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, by the very comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds in Christ. Even though we are oppressed, it is for the sake of your consolation and for the sake of your salvation that we are oppressed; and if we are comforted, it is so that you might be comforted also, to be strength in you that you may be able to bear these sufferings, the same which we suffer. And our hope concerning you is steadfast, for we know that if you are partakers of the sufferings, you are also partakers of the consolation.”

God is the Creator of all there ever was, is, or shall be. Our Lord, Jesus, is His Son. Since God abides in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us, we are also God’s children.

God is the Father of mercy. Scripture often refers to God’s mercy as: manifold (Nehemiah 9:19, “rab” meaning abundant); tender (Psalm 25:6); and great (Numbers 14:19, “godel” meaning magnitude).

And He is the God of all comfort. The Greek words used are “parakaleo,” which means to call near, invite, or be of good comfort; and “parakletos,” and “paraklesis” – which mean consoler, advocate, and comforter. One of the gifts we receive through our faith, belief, and following of Jesus is God sending us His Holy Spirit to comfort us.

Not only does His Holy Spirit comfort us directly, but through each other. Notice the words “so that we may also be able to comfort those who are in any trouble.” God’s Holy Spirit is a source of comfort, and by the Spirit working in and through us, we are able to comfort each other. We share in suffering through tough times, just as Jesus did; we share in His strength and His comfort; and we share the strength and comfort we receive with others, and they with us. God’s love and comfort are, quite literally, channeled through us to one another via His Holy Spirit.

An example of this is given to us in 2 Corinthians 7:6-7:

Nevertheless God, who comforts the meek, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you…”

Whatever we may be going through, we don’t have to go through it alone. God’s Divine Comfort is always available to us – both directly through our relationship and communion with Him, and indirectly through our relationships with each other.

In order to experience His comfort directly, we must spend time with Him. By taking time the still and quiet calm of prayer and meditation, we connect with Him on a spiritual level. And as that relationship is deepened and strengthened, we can, quite literally, see, feel, and hear Him guide us. We can experience His loving arms wrapping around us and comforting us. But this can’t happen in the hustle bustle of our everyday lives. We must take time, each and every day, to nurture and develop that relationship. When we do, we can have some of the most intense and meaningful experiences with Him.

I was blessed to have had one of those experiences recently. In the course of a Reiki session, I connected with the Holy Spirit in an incredibly deep, spiritual way. Spiritually, I left the physical plane and was joined by Archangel Michael, Archangel Gabriel, and Jesus. The four of us sat under an olive tree and talked, bathed in white radiance unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Their presence was so intensely warm and radiant it’s impossible for words to describe. Literally, there are no words adequate to the experience.

And I have no conscious memory of what we talked about. But I can still feel the warmth and the depth of the love that I felt – to very core of my being.

I’m not alone or unique in my experience. Many, many people throughout the ages have had a profound, deeply moving experience with God. Let me share a friend’s story. After coming out, my friend was experiencing incredible turmoil. Much of his family, most of his friends, and the members of the church in which he was raised turned their backs on him. He was shunned, told repeatedly how horrible he was, that God didn’t love him, and he was no longer welcome in their lives or in their church. He was an emotional wreck, which also impacted his physical health. Through it all, he never lost his faith – but he questioned. Were his family and friends right? Was he so terrible that God could no longer love him? And, if God no longer loved him, was he destined to “go it alone,” forever cut off from, not only family and friends, but from God and Jesus, too?

During his struggle, he decided to stop by our church and use one of our prayer rooms. It was here, in our little church, that he had one of the most amazing experiences of his life. When he came out of the room, with tears streaming down his face, he couldn’t yet articulate his experience so he just hugged me and we cried together. Later, he emailed me to give me a glimpse of his experience:

“…This afternoon, while I was trying to quiet my constantly racing mind, I heard God tell me that He loves me. Ever since coming out, I have accepted the fact that God must love me, but I had yet to actually acknowledge it. To my surprise, I felt Him wrap his loving arms around me, like a protective shield, and [He] whispered in my ear, “I love you.” It was one of the most incredible and intimate moments that I have experienced in my relationship with the Lord since I became a Christian. Thank you for allowing this to occur by developing a safe and quiet place. I don’t know of any other time when I have felt such a connection with my Lord…”

We can all experience God’s love, Jesus’ peace, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. All it takes is a deep and intimate relationship borne of faith and belief, and nurtured by time spent in the stillness and quietness of prayer and meditation.

Closing Thoughts

We all experience tough times – whether physical, emotional, mental, financial, or spiritual. And, like Mother Teresa, sometimes we really wish God didn’t trust us quite so much. Still, no matter what we’re experiencing, God will always be there. Whether experienced directly or channeled through others, His Holy Spirit is always with us, and is our source of Divine Comfort. And so it is…Amen.

Scripture

  • John 14:16
  • John 14:26
  • 2 Corinthians 1:2-7
  • 2 Corinthians 7:6-7

Acknowledgements

I like to thank and acknowledge Pastor Byron Hand for his thoughts on today’s subject.

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Divine Comfort – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Divine Comfort – Introduction

Living this human experience we all know both good times and tough times. The ups and downs of life are inescapable. During the good times, all is right with our world. During the tough times we may feel unloved – abandoned, alone. For those of faith, however, it’s important to remember we are never truly alone. We know from Scripture that God will never abandon us, He is always with us. No matter what we are experiencing, through our relationship with Him, we always have access to Divine Comfort.

Spiritual Quote

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
~Mother Teresa

Planned Scripture

  • John 14:16
  • John 14:26
  • 2 Corinthians 1:2-7
  • 2 Corinthians 7:6-7

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Courage – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Courage – Introduction

Who hasn’t faced moments of fear at some point or other? The truth is, we, as a society, tend to operate from a standpoint of fear. We lock our cars out of fear of theft. We lock our homes out of fear of theft and fear for our safety. Many of us live in fear of losing our jobs, fear of losing a relationship, fear of illness, etc. We buy insurance to minimize and assuage our fear of losing our homes or property to theft, fire, or accident. We even buy life insurance out of fear of leaving our loved ones in a state of financial ruin in the event of our death. We hear reports of horrifying events around the globe, and we fear violence, disease, the collapse of the world’s monetary systems.

The question before us is, do we live our lives and look to our futures with a sense of dread, or with a sense of wonder, excitement, and hope? Do we let our fears control us, or do we step out and experience life with courage?

Spiritual Quote

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
~Ambrose Redmoon

Thoughts

Much of what we fear never actually comes to pass. And, many of our fears are easily laid to rest with a little planning, like buying insurance. We don’t stay up at night in worry – we realize a potential risk, we take steps to minimize the risk, and we go about our lives. But, sometimes, our fears become debilitating and paralyzing. Maybe we’ve been so severely hurt in the past that we fear ever being hurt to that extent again, and so we close ourselves off. We build walls around ourselves so high and so strong that we isolate ourselves to the extent we merely exist – never truly living life.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a certain amount of fear is a good thing. It can guide us to make decisions that are ultimately in our best interest. For example, most of us didn’t have reason to truly fear our parents. But, we had a healthy fear of the consequence should we misbehave. As adults, a certain level of fear can keep us from taking unnecessary risks, putting ourselves or others in danger.

In order to have a discussion about fear and courage, we should understand what the two words mean.

Fear is defined as: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.

Courage is defined as: the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to deal with or face danger, fear, or pain.

Notice that fear is based in emotion – distressing emotion, feelings of dread, apprehension, anticipation. Courage, on the other hand, is more spiritual in nature – state of mind, quality of spirit. Having courage doesn’t mean there is an absence of fear, it means that, in spite of dangers, fears, or pain, we press on and experience life in ways we could not if paralyzed by fear. Courage is what allows us to move forward and to grow. It is that next step, that growth, that we determine to be more important than the fear. If we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear, we get stuck, we don’t move forward, we don’t grow – we simply exist.

While some of our fears may be justified, God wants more for us than simply existing. So, how do we break out of the bonds of fear and face the challenges of life with courage? For those who don’t have a relationship with God, it can be difficult. They are largely on their own. They must turn inward and try to find ways within themselves; or they must look outward, to someone or something that will inspire them. On the other hand, since courage is largely spiritual in nature, people of faith, who have a relationship with God, can turn to Him.

Scripture instructs us to have courage because we have the assurance that God is always with us.

  • Joshua 1:9 – “Behold, I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage; fear not, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Aramaic)
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor tremble before them; for it is the Lord you God who goes with you; He will not fail you, nor forsake you.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalm 31:24 “Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart, all you that trust in the Lord.” (Aramaic)
  • Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I have strengthened you, and have also helped you, yea, I will also uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Aramaic)

We can all think of times in our past when we were fearful, and God was with us. When we’re fearful, we must remind ourselves that God has seen us through in the past, and He will again. He will strengthen us and He will guide us. Turning to Him in prayer and meditation and, in the stillness of our hearts, He will let us know how to proceed, whether to move forward or wait, which decisions to make, or what actions to take. Scripture assures us that God is always with us and will not fail us, but we must remember to turn to Him and ask for the guidance we seek. He will give us the strength to forge ahead, despite the challenges we may face.

For those without faith, or if we of faith forget to turn to Him, we may feel like we have to face our fears alone. But God doesn’t expect us to be strong without Him. With a relationship with Jesus, however, we don’t have to face our fears alone.

  • Mark 5:36 – “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”” (ESV)
  • Hebrews 13:5-6 – “…for the Lord Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear…” (Aramaic)

It is by our faith (trust) and our belief (knowing) we are assured that the Lord will help us along the way. However, we must remember to turn to Him and give our fears over to Him. How do we know? If we turn to Scripture the answer is set before us.

  • 1 John 4:8 – “…God is love.” (Aramaic)
  • 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear is tormenting…” (Aramaic)

Fear and love cannot co-exist. The key to courage, then, is love. The more one moves into love, the more fear is pushed out. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more we experience His love, and the more we express His love to those around us. The more we express His love to others, the deeper our relationship with Him grows.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “…If you abide by My word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and that very truth will make you free.” (Aramaic) What’s the truth? John 14:6 gives the answer – “…I am the way and the truth and the life…”(Aramaic) Basically, Jesus is telling us He wants us to get to know Him, to have a relationship with Him. And, when we do, when we think as He wants us to think, behave as He wants us to behave, live as He wants us to live, and love as He wants us to love, the deeper our relationship with Him will be. The deeper our relationship with Him grows, the more we are set free – set free from sin (thoughts, words, and actions that move us away from God), free from fear.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve all known fear – whether real or imagined. It doesn’t take a lack of fear to live fully and experience all that life has to offer; it takes courage to face those fears and move past them. Courage is borne of love, and love is borne of God. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to it, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Aramaic) If we truly love God with all of our hearts and minds, body and soul, what happens? We experience His love. Since His love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear, through a deep and abiding relationship with Him, as is made possible through His Son, Jesus Christ, we will find the courage to face any challenge that might come our way.

Let us Pray…

Scripture

  • Joshua 1:9
  • Deuteronomy 31:6
  • Psalm 31:24
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Mark 5:36
  • Hebrews 13:5-6
  • 1 John 4:8
  • 1 John 4:18
  • John 8:31-32
  • John 14:6
  • Matthew 22:37-39

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Courage – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Courage – Introduction

Who hasn’t faced moments of fear at some point or other? The question before us is, do we live our lives and look to our futures with a sense of dread, or with a sense of wonder, excitement, and hope? Do we let our fears control us, or do we step out and experience life with courage?

Spiritual Quote

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
~Ambrose Redmoon

Planned Scripture

  • Joshua 1:9
  • Deuteronomy 31:6
  • Psalm 31:24
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Mark 5:36
  • Hebrews 13:5-6
  • 1 John 4:8
  • 1 John 4:18
  • John 8:31-32
  • John 14:6
  • Matthew 22:37-39

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Contentment – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Contentment – Introduction

In our gotta have bigger, gotta have better, gotta have more society, we tend to look outward for happiness. We generally believe we’ll be happy if could just get “X”…whatever “X” is. We live our lives in search of that illusive “X” that will, when obtained, bring us happiness. Unfortunately, all to often, even when “X” is obtained, the happiness derived from external sources is short-lived – there’s always another new “X” that we believe will bring us happiness. Worse, if we lose “X,” or “X” is taken away, our happiness goes right along with it. Contentment, on the other hand, is inward, and deeply spiritual. And, because contentment spiritual in nature, it’s a choice, a state of being that can never be lost or taken away.

Spiritual Quote

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
~ Socrates

Thoughts

We tend to use many words interchangeably. Often, though, the words that we interchange with others have very different meanings. For instance, happiness and contentment are often interchanged. But they have very different meanings.

Happiness means: the state of being delighted, pleased, or glad.

Contentment means: the state of being satisfied with what one is or has.

Proverbs 15:16 tells us, “Better is a little with reverence for the Lord than the great treasures of the wicked.” (Aramaic) In Hebrews 13:5, Paul advises, “Do not be carried away by the love of money; but be content with what you have…” (Aramaic)

In our search for happiness, we tend to always look for what is coming next. We want a job, or a better job, or a better boss, or more money. We want better relationships, a new relationship, a new car, or a better car. We work during the week looking to the next weekend, the next vacation, the next thing we can buy, or the next experience. In short, in our quest for happiness, we’re never truly satisfied, and we’re often envious of what others have and we do not. Even when we do get what we’ve wanted, the happiness soon fades, and is replaced by a new want – some “thing” that, if we could just obtain it, would make us happy. Things, by their very nature, come and go – nothing lasts forever. When our focus is some elusive state of happiness, our journey is a cyclic, endless ride of highs and lows.

Contentment, however, being spiritual in nature, is achieved through faith. Unlike happiness, contentment is not tied to the accumulation or acquisition of “things.” Once a state of contentment is achieved, it remains constant. It is always a choice – we can choose contentment or we can choose discontentment; but it can never be purchased or supplied by another, nor can it be lost or taken away by another.

Contentment Stems From Faith

In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (New King James)

Remember, when he wrote his letter, Paul was a Roman prisoner. Remember, there was no cable TV, no air conditioning, no comfy bed, no indoor plumbing. It wasn’t “three hots and a cot.” I’m sure Paul wasn’t deliriously happy about being chained to a wall in what was probably a cold, damp cell with a brick or dirt floor. So, how could he make such a bold statement about being content? Because he knew that contentment is a deeply spiritual state of being brought about by faith.

Pastor Rick Ezell puts it this way*:

“When I come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, I understand whose I am and what I have. A lack of contentment causes me to look horizontally – at what others have so I am never satisfied. Contentment invites me to look vertically – at God. When I look in his direction, regardless of my possessions or lack of or status or lack of, I know that he is enough.

A man once went to a minister for counseling. He was in the midst of a financial collapse. “I’ve lost everything,” he bemoaned.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve lost your faith.’

“No,” the man corrected him, “I haven’t lost my faith.”

“Well, then I’m sad to hear that you’ve lost your character.”

“I didn’t say that,” he corrected. “I still have my character.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost your salvation.”

“That’s not what I said,” the man objected. “I haven’t lost my salvation.”

“You have your faith, your character, your salvation. Seems to me,” the minister observed, “that you’ve lost none of the things that really matter.”

We haven’t either. You and I could pray like the Puritan. He sat down to a meal of bread and water. He bowed his head and declared, “All this and Jesus too?”

John Stott wrote, “Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It remembers the stark truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. Life, in fact, is a pilgrimage from one moment of nakedness to another. So we should travel light and live simply. Our enemy is not possessions, but excess. Our battle cry is not ‘Nothing!’ but ‘Enough!’ We’ve got enough. Simplicity says, if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.””

As Christians, our contentment comes from knowing that if we have Jesus, we have enough.

How Can We Be Content?

We attain a state of contentment when we, like Paul, can say, “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret – whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Contentment cannot be purchased, acquired, or given. We’re not born with it. Contentment is learned. And we learn contentment through our faith in Jesus.

Let me share an example (also from Pastor Ezell*):

“Doug McKnight could say those (Paul’s) words. At the age of thirty-two he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over the next sixteen years it would cost him his career, his mobility, and eventually his life. Because of MS, he couldn’t feed himself or walk; he battled depression and fear. But through it all, Doug never lost his sense of gratitude. Evidence of this was seen in his prayer list. Friends in his congregation asked him to compile a list of requests so they could intercede for him. His response included eighteen blessings for which to be grateful and six concerns for which to be prayerful. His blessings outweighed his needs by three times. Doug McKnight had learned to be content.”

Contentment Resides In The Heart

It’s not wrong to want or desire something more than what we have. Contentment isn’t about denying those feelings. Instead, contentment is a spiritual state of being that frees us from being controlled by those feelings. It’s not about pretending things are wonderful when they’re not, or pretending to be happy when we’re not. Contentment is about living in a state of inner peace that comes from having a deep relationship with God without being contingent on external circumstances or situations. Contentment resides in the heart.

“The majority of people in our society is like thermometers and suffers from pseudo happiness – a counterfeit high that quickly evaporates. They hope the next superficial satisfaction will last, but external happiness is like cotton candy. It’s sweet for a moment and dissolves an instant later. A person who is happy because she is vacationing on Maui is a person who has only a few days to be happy. But a person who has learned to cultivate deep-down contentment will be a consistently joyful person wherever they are.

Most people thirst for what the apostle Paul had: enduring contentment, a deep-down, soul-satisfying contentment. That kind of contentment can only come from within. Contentment is always an inside job. It has everything to do with what is going on inside you, not what is going on outside. It has only one source. That source is found in a soul satisfying relationship with our Heavenly Father that cares for us and promises to meet us where we are.”*

What’s The Secret?

Contentment is not something attained through money, relationships, or status. Contentment is a deep, heartfelt state of being born of our faith. There are, however, things we can do, as Paul put it, to be content in all things.

1. Stay Close To God

God will always provide for our needs. Spending time with Him every day, letting Jesus’ teaching guide us, and the Holy Spirit inspire us deepens and strengthens our relationship with Him. The stronger our relationship with Him, the more we realize that the spiritual is eternal, and the material/physical is temporary.

We then focus more on what’s really important, and we focus less on what is transitory. In Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus put it this way, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

2. Appreciate What We Have

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we should appreciate what we do have. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul advises, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Paul is saying that, in all circumstances, there are things to appreciate. He’s not saying that God’s will is that we have tough times. He’s saying that God’s will is that we live our lives with an attitude of appreciation.

My dad was a living example of appreciation. When times are tough, I think of him, and the example he set. When he was diagnosed with cancer, and throughout his treatment, Dad certainly wasn’t thankful for the cancer, or the horrible effects of the radiation. Now, he could have sat around feeling sorry for himself, and he could have played the “why me” game. Instead, he remained, and focused on, what he did have – he was married to the woman he had loved all his life, he had had a fulfilling career, he had children and grandchildren who filled his life with joy, and he had the opportunity to live where he had always wanted to live – here, in Grants Pass, in the midst of the forest and the mountains and the trees.

3. Let Go Of The Past

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). We’ll never attain a state of contentment by focusing on mistakes, decisions, or events of the past – ours or someone else’s. We must learn to forgive the past, and let it go. We can’t change it anyway.

We can’t move forward by always looking in the rear view mirror of our lives. Dredging up the past only keeps us tied to the past. And all that does is stir up our heart in ways that prevent us from attaining contentment. And that discontentment can lead us down a pretty dark path of greed and covetousness.

I have a relative who has had many disappointments in the past, many of her own making. Rather than acknowledging her mistakes, and the mistakes made by others, forgiving them, and moving forward, she constantly dwells on and talks about all of the awful and mean-spirited things of her past. She’s lost so many material possessions that she is deathly afraid someone will get something that she feels entitled to – not because she has any particular right to it, but simply because she wants it. When going through my Dad’s things, I came across some items that were very important to one of my brothers, and my dad had wanted him to have. This particular relative decided she wanted them, and she stole them. She was the only one there at the time, and the only one who could have taken them. And, of course, she denies even seeing the items, much less taking them. She’s so afraid someone might get something she wants, and feels entitled to, she resorts to theft and dishonesty. Until she let’s go of her past and what she’s lost, and develops a sense of appreciation for what she has, she will never be content.

4. Day By Day

Psalm 37:7 reminds us, “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” And Paul, in Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We must spend devoted time each day in fellowship with God. And we must remember that all things happen at exactly the right time. We may want certain things about our life to be different, but sometimes something else in our lives needs to change before what we want can be actualized. We must be patient, taking things one day at a time. If we focus on our spiritual needs, the physical needs will come; and in the meantime, we will live contentedly.

5. Find Sufficiency In Jesus Christ

In Philippians 4:13, Paul tells us, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Through the powerful presence of Jesus dwelling in our hearts we experience His peace. It is through that peace that we gain unlimited strength. He gives us the strength to make it through the tough times like job loss, health issues, financial difficulties, and relationship problems. In order for that to happen, though, we must go back to living Day by Day and spending time with Him. Philippians 4:7 tells us, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Through communion with Him, we experience His peace; and it is His peace that brings contentment.

Closing Thoughts

Contentment is a state of being – it resides in the heart. It is a choice – we can choose, like Paul, to be content in all things. In closing, I’d like to share a personal example of true contentment that has served to inspire me.

My father had a very deep faith. He never really spoke of it. Instead, he lived it.

When he was diagnosed with cancer…

When he was undergoing radiation…

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his memory began to fade…

No matter what was going on, even in the darkest of times, whenever someone asked, “how are you today?”, his response was “I’m wonderful.” And he was.

Like Paul sitting in a Roman prison, Dad wasn’t thrilled with having cancer. The radiation left him internally scarred for the rest of his life, causing extreme pain and discomfort. The Alzheimer’s slowly took away every memory of his entire life. But his contentment was so much a part of him that, even when he couldn’t remember that I was his son, he couldn’t write his name, and he had no idea who his wife was…when asked how he was, he would respond with, “I’m wonderful.” For him, it was a state of mind so powerful that it was his state of being. Regardless of what he was experiencing externally, his response never changed. Even when Alzheimer’s took every memory he had, it couldn’t take away to core of his being – He was wonderful.

Happiness is largely gained or lost through external things, situations, or circumstances. As a result, happiness is fleeting. Contentment, on the other hand, is available to us regardless of external circumstances, through our faith in Christ. Through our faith in Him, we learn that He is enough. In knowing Jesus, we know that God hears us, loves us, and is always with us. He is our anchor, our compass, and our light. With Him, we have everything we need.

Let us Pray…

Acknowledgements

I’d like to acknowledge Pastor Rick Ezell for his thoughts and basic outline for today’s message.

Scripture

  • Proverbs 15:16
  • Philippians 4:11-13
  • Matthew 6:31-34
  • Philippians 3:13
  • Philippians 4:19
  • Psalm 37:7
  • Philippians 4:13
  • Philippians 4:7
  • Hebrews 13:5

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Contentment – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Contentment – Introduction

In our gotta have bigger, gotta have better, gotta have more society, we tend to look outward for happiness. We generally believe we’ll be happy if could just get “X”…whatever “X” is. We live our lives in search of that illusive “X” that will, when obtained, bring us happiness. Unfortunately, all to often, even when “X” is obtained, the happiness derived from external sources is short-lived – there’s always another new “X” that we believe will bring us happiness. Worse, if we lose “X,” or “X” is taken away, our happiness goes right along with it. Contentment, on the other hand, is inward, and deeply spiritual. And, because contentment spiritual in nature, it’s a choice, a state of being that can never be lost or taken away.

Spiritual Quote

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
~ Socrates

Planned Scripture

  • Proverbs 15:16
  • Philippians 4:11-13
  • Philippians 1:21
  • Philippians 3:13
  • Philippians 4:19
  • Philippians 4:13
  • Hebrews 13:5

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

The Process of Change – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

The Process of Change – Introduction

Last week we spoke about following the Christian path – Seeing how Jesus Saw, Speaking as Jesus Spoke, Loving as Jesus Loved, and Serving as Jesus Served. We also discussed how, for many, truly living up these ideals may require a change in our behavior. We also discovered that many of our actions and behaviors are basically habits and, in order to truly live as Christ lived, we may need to change some of those habits. The question then became, How?

Spiritual Quote

“We are what we repeatedly do.”
~Aristotle

Thoughts

Before we can discuss changing behaviors and developing new habits, particular, we must understand what a habit is. Habit is defined as: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: for example, the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street. This is a great example. When we’re young, and first learning to venture out into the world, we had to consciously think about our parent’s instructions – look both ways before you cross the street. Over time, however, that act became a habit – it’s so ingrained that now we simply do it without giving it any thought at all. It’s become a part of us.

Our spiritual walk with God, and with Jesus, must also become a habit. At first, we may have to give it a lot of thought – specifically scheduling a time for prayer and meditation every day, setting a time to read Scripture, etc. We may even need to actually write it on our calendars or “to do” lists.

The same is true for behaviors we wish to change. At first, we may need to give it a lot of thought. But, over time, if done consistently, we can replace unwanted behaviors with behaviors that align us with the Spirit of God. Like looking both ways before crossing the street, practicing the things of the Spirit will eventually become automatic. They will simply become part of who we are.

Habits And The Brain

To quote a science website called HowStuffWorks:

“Anyone who’s ever tried to start an exercise routine, quit smoking, or change a sleep pattern knows how powerful a habit can be. Habits seem to be more than behaviors — they seem to be part of who we are.

And in a way, habits are just that — part of us. Habits are essentially patterns of behavior that become “worn in” to our brains. Someone who wakes up every morning, pours a cup of coffee and lights a cigarette, in that order, every morning, has that pattern built in to his or her brain, in the form of well-used synaptic pathways.

Everything we do (and think, for that matter) is governed by impulses firing across synapses, or spaces between certain cells that guide communication in the brain. When any behavior or pattern is repeated enough, the synaptic pathways associated with that pattern get used to being accessed. As a result, it becomes easier for impulses to travel along those pathways, and the behavior seems “natural.” In other words, to the brain, wake-coffee-cigarette, in that order, is practically instinctive. One action triggers the next.”

How Long Does It Take?

So, how long does it take for something to become a habit? Over the years, we’ve all heard various amounts of time – 7, 10, 14, 21, or 30 days are the most common. In doing research I came across some very interesting information. Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, studied how long it actually takes to form a habit. Her findings were published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. When I post the blog of today’s message, I’ll include the links so you can read the full articles. For our purposes today, the important thing to know is that her research showed that, on average, it takes 66 days of repeated behavior in order for that behavior to become a habit. And, although 66 days was the average, depending on the person, the behavior in question, and the circumstances, the amount of time can vary from 18 days to 254 days!

Why is this important? It’s important because it helps us to set realistic expectations. If we hold to the old notion that it takes 7 or 10 or even 21 days to form a new habit, and the desired habit isn’t formed in that amount of time, we will get discouraged and give up. Anything worth while takes time. Think about it. If we have a habit of using vulgar language, we didn’t begin speaking that way the moment we began forming words and sentences. The words and phrases we use took time to develop. If we smoke cigarettes, we didn’t turn into pack-a-day smokers in the first week. The pack-a-day habit is one that developed over a long period of time.

The same holds true for replacing those “bad” or “negative” habits with healthier or more “positive” ones. When we begin the Process of Change, we must set realistic expectations for ourselves so that we don’t get discouraged and give up.

Finding Inspiration

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the inspiration to make the change, especially given the time it may take. According to one article I read, there are three reasons why this research can inspire rather than dishearten us.

First, there is no reason to get down on yourself if you try something for a few weeks and it doesn’t become a habit. It’s supposed to take longer than that! There is no need to judge yourself if you can’t master a behavior in 21 short days.

Second, you don’t have to be perfect. Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term habits. This is why you should treat failure like a scientist, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.

And third, embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event. All of the “21 Days” hype can make it really easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just do this and it’ll be done.” But habits never work that way. You have to embrace the process. You have to commit to the system.

Understanding this from the beginning makes it easier to manage your expectations and commit to making small, incremental improvements — rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to do it all at once.

Ties To Our Faith

As people of faith, we can also turn to Scripture for inspiration and support. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” This is in complete alignment with Henry Ford’s quote, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Our thoughts become actualized in our reality. If we want to change our behavior, we must first give it thought. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 advises us to, “Pray without ceasing.” These two Scriptures go very well together.

Our thoughts are silent prayers. Personally, I use constant affirmations as prayers to bring about the life I wish to live. Many of the affirmations I use have now become simply part of who I am. For instance, throughout the day, I say, “Lord, I desire joy and beauty in my life.” And you know what? I’ve done it long enough that it’s simply part of who I am – and my life is filled with His peace and joy.

As we go through the Process of Change, will we be tempted to backslide? You bet. And sometimes we will. And when we do, we can forgive ourselves and begin again. Through the process, there is another Scripture we can turn to: 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Ensuring Success

In addition to turning to Scripture for support, there are some things we can do to help ensure our success. Again, from the How Stuff Works website:

  • Take small steps. Don’t try to do everything at once. (So, instead of “I’m going to exercise every day,” start with “I’m going to exercise twice a week.”)
  • Only try to change one habit at a time. (Instead of “I’m going to quit eating junk food, start exercising, and go to sleep at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.,” start with “I’m going to quit eating junk food.”)
  • Write down the habit you want to change, and write down specific plans for achieving that goal. (Rather than writing “I will exercise,” write, “I will start walking 30 minutes twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, and I will wake up at 7 a.m., so I can walk before work on those days.”)
  • Repeat the behavior you’re aiming for as often as you can. The more a behavior is repeated, the more likely it is that it will become “instinctive.”

Another thing I’ve learned, which has helped me immensely, is to change the thought from what I don’t want to what I do want. Using prayerful affirmations, I reinforce what I want in order to eliminate what I don’t want.

A Practical Example

Let me give you an example. Most of you know that I have struggled with giving up smoking. I’ve been sober for 14 years, never had an issue with drugs, got my diet under control, lost almost 100 pounds. I don’t use vulgar language, I’ve virtually eliminated feelings of road rage, and, though I sometimes fall short, I truly strive to live and love as Jesus did. But, smoking has been the bain of my existence for years. I’ve tried everything – patches, lozenges, quitting cold turkey, even Chantex. This week, after researching today’s topic, I made a commitment to myself to give it another go. I began by setting a realistic first goal – to stop smoking throughout the day – only smoking at home (in the backyard, of course). When I felt like having a cigarette, and periodically throughout the day, I have been focusing on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” And, I add an affirmation. I realized, however, that when my affirmation was focused on what I don’t want, i.e., I don’t want to smoke, all it did was make me want to smoke all the more. So, I changed the affirmation to focus on what I do want – Lord, I pray that you replace the desire for cigarettes with a healthier option. As a beginning “healthier” option, I began using an eCigarette.

I began this exercise Monday. It’s now Sunday. For the last four days I have only smoked in the morning before leaving the house, and in the evening when I return. I have cut down from 20-30 cigarettes a day to less than 10. Soon, I’ll move to the next goal, either replacing the morning or the evening cigarettes. From there, I’ll replace the remaining time and, shortly thereafter, I will truly be a former smoker. Holding to prayer and focusing on what I want rather than what I don’t want has been the key.

Closing Thoughts

In order to fully live our lives as Jesus lived, we may need to make some changes – changes in our thoughts, in our behaviors and actions, and in the words we choose to use. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it. Will we make mistakes, will be backslide? Probably. And that’s okay. What’s important is that we recognize it, forgive ourselves, and begin again.

And, if we get discouraged, remember, there is one Scripture in particular we can turn to, and hold on to for dear life: Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

And now, I’d like you to have an opportunity to share. If you’re willing, briefly tell what behavior you’d like to change, and what ideas you have of things you can do to help you go through the Process of Change. And, together, lets try to come up with a prayerful affirmation to use in the process.

Acknowledgements

Huffington Post – Forming New Habits

Brain Pickings – How Long It Takes To Form A New Habit

How Stuff Woks – Form A Habit

Scripture

  • Proverbs 23:7
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Philippians 4:13

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!