I was on my way home from meeting a friend for lunch when he sent me this message:
"Thanks again for taking the time to meet me for lunch. I needed that. Go blog about how answering a friend's text can make a difference in their life, spiritually.😁👍"
Bloggers are always looking for things to write about, so to me this was a gift. So, thank you, brother, the Noodles & Co. were fantastic as usual and consider this post as a, "Challenge accepted!"
I'd say about 90% of the time, I will shove my "to do list" to the side if I have the opportunity to meet with someone and have a conversation. What I've found is that the list will still be waiting on me when I get back around to it, the conversation might not. So, when I was given the opportunity to grab lunch, I jumped at the opportunity. As far as making a difference in someone's spiritual life, I try to keep that opportunity on the table, we have to try to have eyes to see what God is up to. Access to God's presence isn't limited to Sunday mornings. I shouldn't be surprised at all that a meal with someone else would be the vehicle for God to speak into our lives. We find that happening in multiple places throughout scripture.
So when we found ourselves asking each other about how our relationship with God was going, it didn’t come as a complete surprise. (*Important note: At the time of this lunch we had already been friends for a couple of years and have had many deep conversations about life and faith. A friendship like this is a true gift from God.) I launched in by asking, “How is your walk with God going right now?” Which provoked laughter because he was just about to ask the same question. Then came the response about wishing he could spend more time with God and have a more disciplined daily Bible reading time.
I’ve heard this a lot over the years in talking with people about how to connect with God on a more regular basis. In fact, it’s something that I regularly evaluate about my own life. But recently I’ve been asking another question altogether: When is enough, enough?
When are we ever going to feel like we’re spending enough time with God in our Bible study or prayer? It seems to leave me wanting on both ends. The days that I miss reading my Bible and praying have me convicted that I missed that opportunity to connect with my Heavenly Father. When I get into a rhythm of spending a solid hour with God, I find that I’m enjoying it so much that I feel like I should just spend more and more time...but there’s so many other things to get done each day as well. So when is enough, enough?
This dilemma is probably why we don’t get a whole lot of details about Jesus’ time alone with God. That was His time; not ours. Our time with God ought to be ours and tailored to refueling us for what the world is going to throw at us in the next 24 hours. So, here’s my non-negotiables to a regular connection with God:
Be present in the presence.
This is my way of saying that I need to put aside anything that is distracting so I can gaze at God. This means that my phone has to be out of reach. This means that I need to carve out time when nobody else can get to me. (Early mornings or Late nights...for me mornings are the best.)
Don’t come with an agenda.
Wouldn’t it be just like the enemy to use that against us in our attempts to connect with God? So don’t give him a seat at your table. Come with the intention to open the Bible. Come with a blank page to record some observations or ways you can apply the Scripture that you’re reading.
Pray for open eyes.
This is the transition from time spent with God to life spent with God. This is where I begin my search for how God wants to use me throughout the day for His purposes. The Scripture that I read (hopefully in the morning) now becomes a ready-made opportunity to speak the truth of Scripture into someone else’s life. Counsel turns into Godly counsel when it’s infused with Scripture. Encouragement becomes enhanced when it’s saturated with the promises of God.
It is a spiritual discipline, to spend regular time with God. When is enough, enough? There’s probably not a set answer, but it’s worth evaluating how our time spent with God is impacting the way we interact with the world around us. I’m curious about what your time with God looks like? How have you found success in connecting with your Heavenly Father?
The greatest gift you can give to the people you lead is your personal holiness. With the honor of being a leader in the church comes the responsibility to put holiness as a top priority and pursue Christ above all else. Unfortunately, I struggle all of the time when it comes to my pursuit of holiness. Holiness is a daily quest to turn more and more of my life and desires over to God as the Holy Spirit makes me more aware of my sin. It is through Scripture and other Godly people that the Holy Spirit shows me what areas I need to grow in personal holiness.
Several years ago, our church was looking for where the scriptures mention holiness as a means to motivate us to pursue holiness. As a result, a resource was created with a list of 40 Motivations for Holiness. This is a powerful resource in looking into God's Word to guide us in our pursuit of holiness.
As I journey through life as a minister, I want the journey to be marked with holiness, so this will be a series of posts, probably not every week, but from time to time they will pop up here with each post focusing on one of the motivations from scripture. The first motivation is Duty.
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind"
Solomon, highly regarded as one of the wisest people ever, concludes his book by describing the duty of all people to fear God and keep his commandments. The word duty means responsibility or obligation. There is a sense in which this is a baseline response for all mankind. This from a man who would allow his own desires to get in the way (check out 1 Kings 11). Does this make Solomon a hypocrite? No, it makes him human, and it doesn't make his assertion that holiness as a duty any less true.
If you think about it, every relationship that we enter into in this life carries with it a set of responsibilities or proper ways to respond to the other party so that the relationship can thrive and explore new depths and possibilities (aka intimacy). I've found that to be true the longer I'm married to Erin. This was dramatically reinforced when I became a father to Eliana and Everett. How true that is in our relationship with God? When we "fear" (not a negative trepidation, but a reverent respect) God and keep his commands out of duty we show up every day in anticipation that God is going to show us more of Himself and take us to greater depths of understanding what it means to pursue Him. Cheap intimacy comes as a result of cutting corners in the realm of duty and responsibility.
Holiness is a journey which requires that we trust God and obey what He says. Each command that we keep is a statement to our Heavenly Father that we trust His ways more than our own. Let's not be naive and think that this is somehow earning any type of status with God...that alone is accomplished by the work of Christ. Rather than earning status with God, our obedience helps us remember that God is in charge and our belief in Him combined with His grace through Jesus Christ sets us apart.
Sometimes the word duty in relationship to God gets shackled with the connotation that God has high demands for us which we can never attain. There is a sense in which that is correct, which is what makes the gift of grace so amazing....but God's grace does not erase the duty of holiness.
Have you ever considered holiness as the duty of a Christian?