I have a friend that just wrote in as follows:
You know I’ve noticed that the church as a whole over the years has concentrated on evangelism, “getting you in”, but never spend much time on telling folks how to live the Christian life once they “get in.” ..which the exception of telling them to "read their bible." Imagine with me: “So I’m saved from my trip to Hell now thanks to Christ! Whew… ok… Now, what? What do you mean you don’t know? You’re just going to leave me? Read my bible, ok...how exactly... you don't know? you can't tell me?” That is what a lot of new Christians feel like. And while saving you from Hell is nice, it’s not God’s primary motive for reaching down to you. Hell is just a symptom, a consequence rather, of your sin nature. And that nature is keeping you away from God.
It all comes back to the big picture, God wants to have a relationship with us, like He created us for back with Adam… before he botched that up with the fruit back in Eden. The kingdom is now, the kingdom is here, the kingdom is to come…. but we have to live it…and to do that, we have to understand it. I try to address Christian living in my “Daily Walking” posts and you can always send me a message if there is something you want my thoughts on. Again, I’m not trying to sell anything on here regarding Christianity, but if you want to talk, I’ll do my best to respond.
Ok, so you’re “in”… you’ve been all through “At War With God” or a similar experience and you have recognized how much you suck on your own, you’ve submitted your life to God’s authority, and you’ve recognized and accepted His gift for salvation through Yeshua. Welcome! This is the most rebellious and difficult life you could lead! Living in God’s kingdom means rebelling against the world and that is NOT EASY. So let me give you some tools for kingdom life -->
First thing to remember is that God’s priority is a relationship with you and that relationship comes through spending time together. I can not emphasis enough the importance of spending dedicated time with God! I know because I have been on both sides. When I was first saved, I was “on fire for God” and I had so much energy and so much passion and zeal… then after a while, that faded. Why? Well, I stopped spending dedicated time with Him…. “Life got in the way”. Lame isn’t it. But it happens to most of us. Matter of fact, my pastor, PK, just did a study on the Parable of the Sower that was fresh, new, and eye opening. He suggested that: what if the parable of the sower is a path to maturity in the Christian life.
For those of you that don’t know the parable it’s in the book of Matthew in chapter 13. It’s an illustration used by Yeshua that discusses seeds that fall into different types of soil and the results that follow. In the illustration, the seed is Truth and the soil is the Human Heart.
Through listening to PK’s sermons I realized that I have been through every type of soil mentioned in my walk with God…. Finally and thankfully, I now feel like I am arriving at the 4th soil, but I’ve been through each one. So, that recognition giving the premise validity, I ask you… which soil are you in, Christian? Here they are broken down for you:
Soil #1 – The truth has no impact on you
Soil #2 - On fire for a while, but then it fades – shallow Christianity
Soil #3 – Christian living and joy is choked by the things of this world – sufficating Christianity
Soil #4 – the abundant life Christ promised us, where we are blessed to be a blessing and live in victory
This blog posting is about Soil #2. In the illustration, seed falls on the second soil, takes up root, but then dries up when the sun comes out. Well, let’s make that real world… you are given Truth, you take it in, you flourish, and it goes away because it was not cultivated. I’m not yelling at you, I’m just trying to explain to you why you are where you are. So, next – how do you cultivate the truth… and provide deeper soil. Well, you spend time focusing on your relationship with God and taking on as much truth as He’s giving you… DAILY. Christian living cannot be tackled in one posting and I’ll probably never get to every aspect, I’m sure I don’t know every aspect, but I’ll give you what I know regarding dedicated daily time with God… Now, yes, you are supposed to pray without ceasing, you are supposed to be in constant communication with God… Yes, yes… but I can’t go into know how all God communicates with us, all the ways of prayer, etc. in this little posting, so I’ll just provide the beginning of what I consider essential and an example of what that looks like. Now, you don’t HAVE to do it this way, but it’s what I do, what my wife does, and we’ve seen it work. I do it in written form… in a prayer journal.
Our pastor calls it S.O.A.P… which makes for an easy way to remember it. It’s an example of what a dedicated, daily time would God could look like. Here’s what S.O.A.P. stands for :
Scripture - Read a Bible passage
Observation - Where does the story/writing take place? Who is involved? When is the story/writing happening (time of the day, timeline in history)? What is happening? What is the big idea of the story/passage? What is God trying to say to you through the passage?
Application - What can I learn from it? What action steps do I need to take to apply it to my own life?
Prayer - Give thanks and ask for help. Pray for others and yourself.
Now, what I do in my dedicated, daily time with God is in a little different in order than what PK lays out, but all the elements are still there… I actually start in P, prayer, and stay in prayer the whole time…throughout S. O. & A. I start out praying, and for those of your that may not know what prayer looks like, PK has a trusty little acronym for an example of prayer as well: ACTS. Here is what A.C.T.S. stands for:
Adoration - Praise God for who He is. Corresponding Psalms: Psalm 100, Psalm 103, Psalm 150
Confession - Confess your sins to God. Corresponding Psalms: Psalm 32, Psalm 51
Thanksgiving - Thank God for all the good (and the not so good) things in your life. Corresponding Psalms: Psalm 118, Psalm 136
Stuff of my Life - Tell God, what’s going on and ask for help and support. Corresponding Psalms: Psalm 42, Psalm 59
So I start off with Adoration, that is praising God for who He is…I serve the greatest power ever, the creator of everything, the sovereign ruler of everything, and the compassionate, loving Father of all. So I marvel about just how awesome he is… in my journal. I pray in writing. Praying in writing helps me in several ways.. it helps me to stay focused because there is a physical, as well as mental, activity that is going on at the same time. It also provides a way for me to review my prayers at a later date and praise God for what he’s done in my life.
The next step is confession… I admit to God anything that I might have done that is sinful or wrong, unloving or selfish. Anything that stands out.
Then I thank Him for everything He has done in my life, what he’s brought me through and what He’s set into motion, what He is going to do, how His ways are always what is best for us, etc.
Next is what PK calls “stuff”… most pastors would call it “petition”… it’s where you bring God your needs. I used to feel like nothing I brought was worthy, but then I realized that as a father, I love it when my kids bring their petitions to me so that I can help them…. So therefore, God loves it when He hears my petitions and can know what is in my heart, on my mind, and what I confess needing “help” with. Now, a few things here --> priorities and perspective. Our motives and desires must be pure, having no hate towards others, etc….we must also keep perspective… “Not mine but His will be done”. Sometimes we want things that we don’t need or that would hurt us or that may be against God’s sovereign plan…and since all things work out for good to those who love Him, I don’t want to mess that up by praying to get “my way”. So I start, very humbly, by asking God, in light of prayer step #2 – confession, if there is anything in me that is not pure or that is selfish, or that needs correction in His eyes… that He would show it to me… because it is my desire to be pure before Him and to live a God honoring, righteous life. Often, the Spirit will tell me of things I’d rather left unsaid! lol but it is truly better to know and address those areas of your life. Then I petition my desires, my needs, my passions, the needs of others, my prayers for others, etc. Then I ask God to speak to me in my scripture reading.
THEN I go to the “S” in S.O.A.P….. but P.S.O.A. wouldn’t work as an acronym… and again these are examples…not formulas. I read from the scriptures and continue reading until I have a revelation in what I am reading…sometimes it’s 3 verses, sometimes it’s 3 chapters. I listen for the Spirit to bring new Truth to me through what I am reading and I’m looking for observations that I may not have recognized before in the passage. Often, I will be lead in my reading to further study a certain aspect or thought. I use a study bible and there are often study notes and other verses that I can refer to about what I am reading… so I go through all of that, eager for what God has for me to learn right now! Often, I come away amazed at how he has placed a specific reading, a specific truth in what I am reading for me on that specific day in my life. It’s amazing how God works. I then, still in prayer, write to God about what I’ve just come across or what He just said to me… and we discuss it…in writing in my journal. What it means to me, how it will effect my life, the changes I will make as a result of knowing that new truth… this is the O. – Observation, in S.O.A.P… it’s often very exciting… those times when God reveals something new to me…. Then there are times when it is not so exciting…sometimes I observe some where I need correction, or instruction… sometimes I feel guilty about what I’ve observed in my life in comparison to Scripture. Sometimes, what I observe may seem mundane… a simple “Oh, I didn’t realize that” and that’s it. The point is, I’m pressing into God, desiring to further my relationship with Him by communicating in one of the ways that I know He speaks to us… through His word, scripture. (I generally just pick a book and continue reading and throughout my days until I feel moved to pick a different book or what every… I don’t start with a different book every day.)
Next is A. for application in S.O.A.P….. I then write out, as I said, how I will apply what I’ve learned to my life in my prayer journal. Then I close my prayer… but A does not end through. I carry A will me throughout the weeks and look for ways to apply it to my life… Why did God say it to me today, last week, last month… there is a reason, so I look for it.
This method of dedicated, daily time with God has radically changed my relationship with the Father. Was I Christian before I started doing it? Yes.. I was “in”…. was I living an abundant, joy filled life? No. The joy of the Lord comes from closeness with Him…and that closeness comes from spending time with him. Like I said, this is not a formula or the “only thing you HAVE to do”… it’s simply an example of dedicated time with God that I use in my Daily Walking…. And I’ve seen the results because I haven’t always done it…and if I get away from it, I can see/feel the difference that it makes in my life.
I recommend listing to the Parable of the Sower series online at: www.12Stone.com. The series is called “Down and Dirty; the math of maturity”. This blog post is from the “Addition” message and will not be the only posting I do from this message…I have another planned when we get the video blogging going :)
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