Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Experience Revival in Your Own Heart

Do you want live life to its fullest? Do you desire to be spiritually awakened? You can live in the presence of God and hear His voice. Many have learned how to have a wonderfully viable Christian life. If you follow these suggested steps, which anyone can do, God will not disappoint you. You will experience revival in your own heart, and have a moment by moment life in God's presence.

1. Have Faith in God.
That seems simple enough, but how few really live life like they believe what God says and promises. We will have faith to be saved from hell, where we would be eternally separated from God, but do we have faith to live life according to His perfect will. To have faith is merely to believe God. Say, "I believe God!" and anticipate. Begin to expect God to fulfill His Word. You need to fight the good fight of faith, and to not believe any lies.

Our faith and hope always has an object in which we place our faith. Some have faith and hope in their hard work, others' place it in a person, a lottery ticket, an organization or even the government. We can have faith in our pastor, a counselor or friend. Children put their faith in their parents and teachers.

There is but one person that deserves our faith and hope, and who will never disappoint us, and that is Jesus, our Lord and God.

Who are you trusting to help you in life? Who do you turn to when times get hard? Who are you hoping can give you a better life? Who do you believe in? If it isn't Jesus, first, foremost and completely, you need to re-examine your faith.

People, organizations, governments and churches will all fail us at some point. Only to God can we sing, "Great is Your Faithfulness, Great is Your Faithfulness."

2. Stir up the gift of God that is in you.
We often tend to move toward complacency, discouraged with our circumstances and inconsistent with our time we devote to rest in the presence of God. You are uniquely created by God with a purpose and spiritual gifts. God is more concerned with your growth than He is with your comfort and contentment. Seek God to discern how He has distinctively designed you for service in Kingdom work to bring Him utmost glory.

What do you feel naturally inclined to do that is not a natural ability to everyone? I am not talking about a talent, while these sure can be used to bring God glory, and God did give the ability to you. A talent is not a spiritual gift.

God is not limited to the spiritual gifts listed in Scripture but here are some of them for you to consider whether you have been blessed with after your complete faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior: Pastor-teacher, healing, mercy, encouragement (edification), discernment, prophet, evangelist, teacher, tongues, administration, and giving.

I love to witness to people and tell them about Jesus. I jump at the chance to share what God has done in my life to show by my testimony how remarkably changed I am since my day of accepting Jesus as God, who I wanted to follow His every Word with all my heart. Most people are scared silly to witness, to me it is a delight, an urgency, a call to mission work (yes, I have been to Africa), and very natural. I know without a doubt that this is one of my supernatural gifts given to me by God that I need to keep stirred up for His use in Kingdom work.

3. Position yourself in the way of God's blessings.

Grace is not some kind of magical windfall of good luck. Find where God is working and join Him. Don't look for some kind of important, high place of service. Be willing to do anything God may be asking you to do. So often we want to do things are own way, but God's paths of obedience are plainly marked by testimonies of godly believers that have gone before you. Walk in the ways that you know lead to blessing, such as tithing, honoring parents, establishing God to be first, and reading your Bible with an open, listening heart.

Every day we have to make decisions about how we are going to live. We are constantly having to determine if we are going to be truthful, giving, forgiving, tenderhearted, loving and responsible. Obedience puts us in the way of God's blessing. God blessed Israel when they obeyed Him and trusted Him for their life. If I want to be blessed, I have to be obeying Him.

4. Thoroughly pursue repentance and restitution.

Take considerable time to allow God to examine your heart for sin, such as unforgiveness, resentment, dishonesty, slander/gossip, apathy, blaming, complaining, or selfishness on a daily basis. A honest believer with an open Bible, journal and pen will be sure to find out what is wrong with her heart quickly.

Don't let the seed of sin have time to germinate and take root. Hasty repentance leads to whole life of shallow spiritual experience. Allow godly sorrow to bring healing to your soul. A habit of tolerating areas of sin in your life will leave you ineffective and worn out. Whenever possible, make restitution. If you have had cross words with someone, try to reconcile. If you owe a debt, pay it. If you have borrowed an item, return it. Make any crooked areas in your life as straight by lining it up to God's Word and His standards.

Who has really hurt you or continues to bring pain or grief in your life? You need to forgive them. You don't need to allow that person to keep mistreating you. You can set boundaries for your health and peace of mind, and theirs. But no matter what they have done, or are doing, you will have to forgive them, if you want to experience forgiveness and revival in your own heart.

This is a real painful area that I have been tested. I was horribly abused as a child. The abusive relationships continued into my adulthood. I had to learn how to forgive evil, wicked people. God says in His Word, "Vengeance is God's." I had to trust God that He will deal with those who have hurt me. It was not my place to hold them in a prison of guilty unforgiveness or to retaliate against them. In trusting God, leaving the punishment up to Him, I know justice will be done.

5. Narrow your interest, stop busy-ness.

When we agree to get involved in too many areas of service or activities, we end up exhausted. Projects, clubs, meetings, events and programs have a way of using up our time and energy without bringing us nearer to God. If you narrow your interest to be centered on "Jesus alone", God will enlarge your heart. Surrendered Christians will openly testify that living for Jesus with the attitude of "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain," will bring yourself and others closer to God.

As a family we have stopped running all over the place doing activities. I stopped all my little monthly meetings, "parties", and clubs. Even doing one activity a week can, mixed with church on Wednesday and Sunday, and work/school events, a family of five is on the go. We let each of our children keep one activity, such as voice, drums, sports. We go to church and participate in a small family community group. Our children usually visit friends weekly and monthly spend the night or have a friend over. This is such a better pace than what we were trying to keep. We eat breakfast and dinner together on most nights, and at 8:15 we have milk and cookies before we go to bed. We have learned that you can't have a calming schedule without consistently being at home.

What activities are you doing? How many days a week are you running around getting to clubs, sports, meetings, parties, doctor/dentist, lessons and church? Are you getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night? Do you have sit down meals that are cooked at home? Are you stressed because of too many commitments? Do you always say, "yes" when asked to do something? Do you have time to be still and know that He is God daily?

In Christ is all wisdom, peace, joy, virtue and beauty, therefore to know Him is to experience every good and beautiful thing life has to offer. You can take to heaven anything you do for the kingdom of God. It is eternal, lasting work. Throw your whole soul into desiring Jesus, allowing God to transform your life.

Revival of the church can only come through the revived individual. Will you let God start with you?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Success Awaits - Learning to Soar

Success! Everyone wants it. Countless books have been written about how to achieve it. We have often found it in winning a ball season, being awarded a bonus, handed a diploma, owning the best, but success seems to be there for a moment...before it slips away and we are back working toward the next success. The big question is - "How do you achieve permanent success?" Can a person really learn to soar successfully in life? Absolutely, yes!

I was totally amazed. I buy old books all the time. I picked up a yellowed copy of Stephen Covey's 1990 paperback edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I purchased a year ago at some second hand store. Now, I have to confess, I am one of those rare people who was introduced to the Franklin Covey Organizer Store before I even knew there was a book. In my search for a better organizing system, I stumbled upon the store and in the store found the daily pages that had tips or quotes from the book. It was only then that I even knew there was a book.

I must also confess that I steer away from #1 bestsellers and the lastest and newest gimmick coming down that pike. I just don't like following the crowd. I figure if masses of people are following it - it might be mindless. So I guess this is why it takes me 20 years to find some books.

The word, paradigm, in the first chapter intrigued me. First, I didn't know what it meant and honestly I am not sure I had ever seen it before. I like to know if someone is using a word in its original intended meaning or if they are re-coining it for their purpose or point which is done so frequently today, for example tolerant, diversity, race. Second, I consider myself pretty educated so I like to know words to understand what a person is explaining or saying.

Stephen Covey stated that both "...Character Ethic and the Personality Ethics are examples of social paradigms." I was highly pleased that he went on to write "....the word paradigm comes from Greek. It was originally a scientific term, and is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception, assumption or frame of reference." My handy old Webster from 1951 that is falling apart from its seams and greatly cherished, stated that paradigm "...is a model or pattern...from the Greek word paradeiknynai meaning to set up as an example, to show...".

What surprised me is, once again, I come to see that there is nothing new under the sun, as is concluded by King Solomon in Ecclesiastics thousands of years ago! The popular word being thrown around today is worldview. What Covey was describing as his 'power of a paradigm' really was what we might call today his worldview.

He taught that a paradigm is "... the way we 'see' the world - not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting." In his continuing paragraphs he illustrated how a person's behavior and attitude could be worked on continually, but without a different map, paradigm, worldview, a person would only get ..."to the wrong place faster" and "...still not get to the right place..."

And this is my favorite quote of the whole book so far:
The point is, you'd still be lost.

Billy Graham couldn't have explained it better. The problem that people have is not that they are trying too little to improve their attitude and behavior. The problem is they are living life by the wrong map! Does this not ring familiarity to anyone but me? Maybe I have been in church for the last twenty year, listening to too many sermons and doing one too many Bible studies, but Covey is clearly laying out Biblical principles in his first part of his initial chapter.

Your paradigm, worldview, is completely influenced by what you are taught, how you are educated, what you come to believe as facts, how you are conditioned.

I usually make notes in the margins of books as I read. When I read, I read slowly and allow myself to think (what a novel idea) about what is being said. Covey came across his paradigm through his research and in-depth study of 200 years of success literature that had been published in United States. As I read this fact, I turned back to see the copyright date was originally 1989, so I rounded it to 1990. He discovered that "success literature" in the more recent 50 years had been superficial dealing with issues on the surface instead of to the core.

I began subtracting 50 years from the copyright date and gave extra time for writing, and published material for him to use in his research. I made a note on the first paragraph stating "after WWI self-help".

Covey also discovered in his research that the first 150 years (which he called Character Ethics) were founded on things like "...integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule." Covey may not have realized it, but he actually uncovered in his research was the ingredients of a Biblical Worldview that had permeated United States for its first 150 years.

Yes, he was right, there was a shift in American way of thinking, and also in the way we conditioned or educated our children. People left the Biblical Worldview (character ethics) for a man-centered worldview, often called humanistic, but labeled "Personality Ethics" that taught the importance of a positive mental attitude (PMA) and public relating techniques.

Covey even noted that this shift occurred shortly after WWI, which confirmed my previous calculations and margin notes. At least I know I was following his logic and thinking. I thought it was quite interesting that he saw that people began to compartmentalize. Mind games, manipulation, deception and lip service replaced Character Ethics (God's Biblical Worldview). People no longer dealt with the condition of their soul, they were wrapped up in their public image, looking good, and social comparison.

Covey wrote that "...through deep thought and the exercise of faith and prayers" he began to see differently. I am sure most people miss this little statement. I wonder what was the details of Covey's deep thoughts, faith and prayers. Did he encounter the living God? What was his new faith in? All faith has an object. Who were his prayers to? You pray to someone or something. I will again admit that I am behind times when it comes to this discovery and Covey may testify to these answers in later books or interviews. He does hint to a faith in the Bible when he quotes "The Psalmist expressed our convictions well: 'Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.' " Although Covey, does not state the source is God's Holy Bible.

The Psalmist (King David) says:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart and my spirit makes diligent search. (Psalm 77:6)

The Psalmist's son (Solomon) wrote this:

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Listen to the whole paragraph that these sentence is taken from:

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead And your eyelids look right before you. ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

Covey tells his reader to return to God's way and Biblical principles, but doesn't come out and say it. He claims he knew to be true some things he had been taught many years ago as a child and things that were deep in his own inner sense of value were in a sharp contrast to what was being taught in 1990 (and the previous 50 years). He realized that society could not hold up without this truthful foundation. Human techniques are surface level, band-aid fixes, to what ails us personally and as a society. When we have a weak, false, deceptive foundation, we will never have lasting success that we seek for in life.

Focusing on behavior and technique does not change the core foundation inside of a person. The change may be seen for a season but it is never lasting unless it begins with a permanent change of heart (being born from God a second time) to be enabled to live life a fundamentally different way. We all have habits. Some are good and some are bad. Some are effective and some are not. Covey realized that a person had to be changed from the inside out.

But there was one point he forgot to write in this chapter, people can not change permanently without or apart from the one true living God. Highly effective habits comes from a repented heart that has realized he/she does not have the answers for life in the empty, shallow teachings of humanistic beliefs. When a person turns from himself, and turn to God, then he will discover success in life, and all the ways he needs to live to be a highly effective person in the eyes of God. He will have feelings of worth, security and success.

I look forward to reading more in this book and seeing how the 7 habits (I have heard there are even 8 now) compare with Biblical Principles.

Just remember there is nothing new under the sun and if you are looking for permanent success the first book you might want to pick up is the Holy Bible.