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My apologies. After posting and distributing last week’s article, I realized that I had broken one of my cardinal rules: Information and encouragement is incomplete when it is not accompanied by application. It is not good discipleship to leave the reader wondering what to do next. So, here is an addendum to The Discipline of Solitude.

I must also confess that the “discipline of solitude” I am encouraging is somewhat different from the traditional practice, where one separates themselves from all human contact for hours or days. Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines provides a great overview of the traditional practice (pp. 160-162). As with all spiritual disciplines, one must be careful when seeking instruction on the subject. A good place to start would be two authors Willard references: Thomas Merton and Thomas a Kempis.

Recognizing the importance of the traditional discipline of solitude, I am suggesting here that finding solitude on a daily basis is also profitable and possible. Essentially, solitude is getting alone with and resting our minds in God. Like all disciplines, solitude involves commitment and practice; but once developed, it requires little effort, eventually becoming a continual mental attitude. The peace of mind that transcends all understanding, once developed in our prayer closet, goes with us into the world.

Most Christians (myself included) struggle with solitude simply because they cannot quiet their minds long enough to communicate, much less commune, with God. Graciously, God has given us the method by which we may quiet our minds; we do so by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). While this is perhaps easier said (or written) than done, it is not a complicated practice. I can personally testify to God’s blessing in its exercise.

Here is how it works: Read the rest of this entry »

The Lord is trying in this life – during our time on Earth – to prepare us for the age to come, to guide our investments for the most heavenly gain, and to secure the greatest opportunity for service in the kingdom of God for all of eternity (Matthew 25:14-30). We have limited time to benefit from God’s good work in us, individually and corporately.

Faith is given in measure (Romans 12:3). God is a generous giver, but I dare say He is not wasteful. Perhaps we receive in proportion to the measure we give back in surrender, submission, sacrifice, obedience, etc. Our participation with Him requires time and attention. We do not understand the opportunity cost of earthly distractions, or we are simply foolish Christians (you can think immature, if you wish).

…we have such a short time to prepare for such a long time. By that I mean we have now to prepare for then. We have an hour to prepare for eternity. To fail to prepare is an act of moral folly. For anyone to have a day given to prepare, it is an act of inexcusable folly to let anything hinder that preparation. A. W. Tozer

For example, why do we labor to make more money than we need on this side of eternity? Not to dismiss the potential value of inheritance, but how much is enough? Only God knows what will benefit or harm those that remain. As with all important decisions, we must leave our vocation and its length in God’s hands. We are in desperate need of spiritual ears that recognize God’s voice.

Personally, I will be 60 years old this year. Jesus has been my savior for almost 50 years, and I have been submitted to the Father’s work for more that 35 of those. That seems like a long time. Still, I have not matured as much as I would like. I have allowed too much distraction and compromise.

I wonder how much I have missed and squandered. Paul encourages us to run the race to win. I feel as though I must pick up the pace if I am to finish anywhere near what winning looks like. Based on the promises and expectations revealed in Scripture (e.g., John 14:12), I am under-achieving by a considerable margin.

By the way, we are not competing against others for the winner’s prize, but with ourselves, with what God has determined is our potential (one, five, or ten talents).

This may be heard as a “do more” injunction. That is a dangerous notion (and I am not exaggerating). The Bible’s encouragement is to know God more and to participate more in what He is doing. There is an “even more” life (Romans 5:8-10). Seeking God with our whole heart requires time and attention, not more doing. Read the rest of this entry »

As we have asserted in the past, God is a process-oriented problem solver. Salvation, transformation, sanctification, etc. – all the ways of God are processes, not events. This is a critical paradigm shift for anyone determined to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

In the New Covenant, God has taken responsibility for the lion’s share of these processes.

  • We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
  • He is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13b).

Our responsibility is to do what we can to participate with Him in the processes. His grace is appropriated by our faith. We must walk in the good works He has prepared for us (not do them, as most translations have it). We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:13a).

Let me stop here and quickly acknowledge that God has grace (i.e., enabling power) for even our part in the processes He has created and prescribed. We are left with little more than choosing Him and His ways. This includes the process of faith.

The Process

Faith is our entry point into every one of God’s processes. The righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17); and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We do ourselves great harm in thinking that faith is passive and/or simply an event. The Scriptures are clear on this matter: the process of faith consists of three progressive phases.

The hearing of faith: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Genuine followers of Christ have been given ears to hear (Matthew 13:16). It is time we used them (Matthew 11:13). Hearing requires listening; listening takes time and requires attention.

Obedience to the faith: The preposition here is important. Our faith does not produce obedience (of). We must choose to obey the word of God that we are given for faith. We present our body as a living sacrifice and allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2), reckoning the truth of God’s word as true for ourselves – that we are instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:11-14).

The work of faith: The work of faith is an inward (Philippians 2:13) and an outward work (Ephesians 3:20). Faith without work is dead (James 2:14-26). The work of faith associated with the word of God is more than a product of faith; it is the catalyst that brings our faith to life. Read the rest of this entry »

The following is written particularly for my United Methodist friends and family members who are entering into the pastor reassignment season. However, there is encouragement here for anyone facing a difficult transition; and let’s face it: most transitions are difficult.

For those of you that don’t know, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has a practice of moving its pastors on a regular basis. While the local church fellowship has some say in the process, the denominational hierarchy – as the ordained authority – ultimately decides where pastors will serve. Growing up in the UMC, and serving in various local leadership roles, I have experienced the confusion and heartache that comes with losing a pastor to the reassignment process. My heart goes out to those that are experiencing it now.

When I was younger, transitions of this sort were difficult – perhaps mostly because I did not have a say in the decision that was so negatively affecting me, my family, and my fellowship. Of course, this was not unlike other transitions I have been forced to navigate; the loss of a job and my daughter moving away from home come quickly to mind.

Others have suffered the loss of parents, spouses, and children. They have had to learn to move on to a life that is significantly different. Transitions are difficult… but they do not have to be defeating. God has a way for us to navigate the most difficult transitions of life, and help others do the same. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently read a small book that has given me hope for evangelism and discipleship in America. The book – God Guides, by Mary Geegh – chronicles her experiences as a missionary to India from 1924 to 1962. While on the mission field, she learned how to have the power of the Holy Spirit in her daily life and in her evangelistic outreach to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and fellow Christians.

A visiting missionary told her, “The first step is to ‘wait’… ‘be still’… ‘listen’. Then be definite about your sins – daily; with notebook and pencil write down the thing the Holy Spirit speaks to your mind; determine to obey. Then share with others who come to you for help how the power of Christ changes you.”

Mary disciplined herself to this practice, and applied it to every problem she faced. She taught others the same way: to hear from the God Who Speaks. I will leave it to you to get the book and read her stories and the many lessons she learned. My purpose here is to share an epiphany and the hope it has given me for the church in America. I suspect this applies more broadly, and would love to hear from my international readers about this subject.

Mary Geegh’s approach to evangelism was based on a very simple statement made by Jesus during one of His more profound and mysterious messages (perhaps this is why it has been overlooked).

It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.  John 6:45

I feel the need to encourage you to resist the temptation to dismiss what you are about to read. You may do so for two reasons: it may seem too simple to be important, and/or it may not fit your doctrine or mindset for ministry. There is no danger in giving serious consideration to something that makes us uncomfortable. I too had to press through my initial reservations. If Jesus had not said it Himself, I would have difficulty accepting that:

People hear and learn from the Father before they come to Jesus!

Some may say, “Of course, the Father (or Holy Spirit) must draw them.” This is true; Jesus speaks of it in the previous verse. However, what many have failed to understand (myself included) is the method of that drawing; it is not some mysterious tugging at our heart.

The Father draws the unsaved by speaking to them, and teaching them!!

Individuals with a dead spirit and a heart of stone, without the Holy Spirit within them, and who worship other gods, hear and are taught by the Father… as a preliminary step to them coming to Jesus Christ. This is not a strange interpretation of the verse. The verse would have to be strangely interpreted to say anything else.

Please note: I am not suggesting a replacement for belief in Jesus, repentance, and baptism. The matter at hand is God’s method for drawing people to the Savior and our responsibility to that part of the salvation process. Is this not Biblical prescription? Why is it not being taught and practiced? What are we missing? Read the rest of this entry »

My experience in pursuing God has shown me that the farther down the difficult path we run, and the deeper we search out the mysteries of the kingdom, the more we discover things we do not have which He has either promised His children or He expects of us. This includes hearing, direction, discipline, fruit, gifts, faith, and understanding – just to name a few.

God has a way for us to receive and be faithful in all He has offered and commanded. He is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). His Son is making us and the Holy Spirit is transforming us through the renewing of our minds (Mark 1:17, Romans 12:2). It is by grace, through faith, that we are saved – to walk in the Father’s good work (Ephesians 2:8-10).

There is truly very little that we, the sons and daughters of God, bring to the table. We are not sufficient for such things. Knowing this, God has made provision. So, why is it so hard?

Most of us have a favorite and ready answer (e.g., “dying to self is hard”; or “our enemies are fighting us tooth-and-nail”). A dozen or more responses would be correct, but that’s not the direction we are trying to go with this. Here we hope to offer three spiritually practical steps every Christian can take to join the Godhead in the good work They are doing to save, sanctify, and transform us.

So, how do we lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of us (Philippians 3:12))? How do we become faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1)? How do we partake of the greater-than life (John 14:12)?

The following steps are God’s way for the deeper Christian life: Read the rest of this entry »

The following includes excerpts from a recently released eBook, An Enemy Lies Within, which is available from each of the major distributors (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness… Romans 10:10

The heart of man desires – perhaps more than anything else – to be filled with faith. Consequently, the Christian heart is hungry for the (rhema; spoken) word of God.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Jesus explained to His disciples that our ability to hear and understand God’s voice was proof of our belonging to Him.

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Luke 8:10

However, having ears to hear does not guarantee hearing. Sixteen times in the New Testament, Jesus encouraged His listeners with:

He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Matthew 11:15

It is the heartfelt desire of everyone involved – Father, Son, and children – to know, hear and understand God’s voice. So, why are so few hearing and understanding? Why are so many disappointed and frustrated regarding their ability to know it is God’s voice? Should it really be this difficult?

How do we respond to Jesus’ command to let ourselves hear? Consider the following three simple and easy keys for our knowing, hearing, and understanding the word of God.

Hearing – even for those blessed with ears to hear – is not a passive exercise. As with any conversation, the hearer must give attention to the one speaking (Mark 4:24). Perhaps we do not hear more from God because we fail in this area. Who would continue speaking to someone that is obviously disinterested or unaffected by what is being said?

Key #1: Become an active listener during quiet times of prayer.

Hearing God’s voice has been compared to listening to the radio, as if God is continually talking to us, waiting for us to “tune in”. The comparison is preposterous; an insult to the Living God. He is far too relational to communicate in this way. He waits for us to turn a listening ear and attentive mind to His words of faith.

Consequently, the carnal mind seeks to distract, discourage, and discredit. It distracts us with a thousand other thoughts, discourages us when we fail to hear, and discredits God for seemingly ignoring our pleas for attention and asking impossible things of us. The carnal mind seeks to convince us that investment in hearing from our Creator is a waste of time and energy.

Key #2: Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5).

If God speaks to you and you are not obedient, then you have sinned against Him, and 1John 1:9 is your only recourse. It does not matter that you did not hear, or you were distracted, or you did not understand. God does not speak to be ignored or misunderstood. Excuse-making, deflection, and blame-shifting are tactics of our carnal mind in its war against God and His children.

Key #3: Take responsibility for your obedience to God.

If you are feeling uneasy about hearing and understanding, receive that feeling as loving conviction to pay more attention, and/or clean your ears of whatever is messing with the message, and/or spend more time listening for clarification. If you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him. God truly loves speaking with His children.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

Have you ever thought, “I don’t have time to manage my time?” You are not alone. It is ironic how little time people invest in making sure they are making good use of their time. Worst still, the busier we are, the less time we invest to make sure our busy-ness is worthwhile and profitable. I recognize this is not news; just consider it a reminder that time is the one thing we cannot get back, or produce.

That reminder suggests two opening words of encouragement. First, though He is timeless, God is the producer and owner of time. Secular self-help books and articles are not the place to turn for help with time management – particularly when you have access to the Author. Second, God will do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think with the time we surrender to His good work.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

As a conscientious leader, you are already making plans for next year (if not, you should be). Regardless of your success in 2018, you may be thinking about taking things to the next level (it is the American way). Before you do that, consider some time management strategies that will help you focus 2019 on the One Who has given you that time:

  1. Establish your calendar before the chaos begins – daily, weekly, monthly, etc. If the Lord is your CEO, then lay your calendar out before Him (as an offering). Allow Him to manage your time in His supernatural ways.
  2. Put to-do items on your calendar. Treat them like meetings with important clients. Don’t allow interruptions. Stay focused. You have been given the gift of self-control. Use it.
  3. Don’t let your smart phone manage you. Set your attention towards God’s voice, rather than that of men. Return phone calls when you cannot do anything else (e.g., driving). If necessary, allocate 30 minutes in the middle and at the end of your day to return calls.

Remember, business and spiritual growth are processes. Be patient with yourself and those in your spheres of influence. Also, decisions are more important than actions. Setting aside time to make good decisions is one of the most profitable things you can do.

Finally, consider this: Read the rest of this entry »

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1John 5:3

No command of God is burdensome. If it seems so, then something is wrong with our thinking. We can dismiss or avoid considering this reality – to our spiritual harm. If you are sensing that inclination rising up in your mind, beware; for that is exactly what our carnal mind would encourage us to do.

Beware, indeed; for our love of the LORD is at stake here – the first and greatest commandment. Like His Father, the Son encourages, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 15:14).” Our obedience should be motivated by love.

Loving the LORD with all our heart, mind, soul and strength is not a burdensome exercise. Quite the opposite, it should be accompanied by joy and thanksgiving.

Out of enmity with God, our carnal mind would have us disobey; or, failing that, obey grudgingly. If we are not careful, our love will turn to burdensome obligation.

Resistance is warranted. We must overcome our carnal mind!

What does it say about our Christian walk if our lives are burdensome? If we are living under His reign – only doing what He commands – should we be so burdened?

  • Perhaps we are doing more than He commands – introducing unnecessary burdens.
  • Perhaps our love for God is inhibited in some way – the burden we feel is due to disobedience.
  • Perhaps we are allowing our carnal mind, in vulnerable moments, to convince us that His commands are burdensome.
  • Perhaps we have not come to believe the reality of 1John 5:3.

Read the rest of this entry »

You may recall the images from Iraq during the onset of Desert Storm. Having done their reconnaissance, American forces were bombing Bagdad, seemingly without mercy. The military commentator explained that we were trying to kill Saddam Hussein – which was unlikely – and/or destroy his command and communication centers. In other words, we were trying to separate the snake’s head and its body.

As it turns out, this is the strategy of every offensive force, in every war. Separate the commanders from the troops and you create a decided advantage for yourself and your allies. Consequently, threatened nations go to great length to protect their communication centers.

Regrettably, our enemies have made significant progress is cutting off the Western church from its High Command. Communication centers have been destroyed. Little effort is being made to rebuild and retrench. Consequently, we are separated from God and each other. Our efforts are disorganized, even divisive.

While it would be easy to blame the devil, those of us in leadership know better. In many respects, we are our own worst enemy. We have allowed the world to distract us and our carnal minds to deceive us into thinking we can get by with our own strategies, plans and programs.

Reestablishing communication is where we must start. Sacrifices will have to be made, but they will be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. God has all the grace we need to turn the tide in this war.

As hard a time as we seem to be having with prayer, prayer is not hard. The Father is standing by waiting on our attention. He loves speaking with His children.

Much has been said about the decline of prayer in the Western Church. We have simply lost site of the importance of personal and corporate communion with God. This is so obvious, it hardly seems worth the time and effort to say it again. Just how much encouragement is enough?

Fortunately, God has not given up on us. He is aware of our weaknesses in this area. We are not the first generation of church leaders who have needed an attitude (re)adjustment about prayer.

Now, I’m no expert on prayer; but I know some people who are. I don’t know them in-person personally; in fact, quite a few of them are dead. I know them personally through the books they have written on prayer. You can learn a lot about a person through their attitude towards prayer. After all, prayer is their heart tie with God; a connection to the center of their being.

I learned from a dear friend and mentor that giving away books is a great way to disciple someone. This is particularly true with subjects like prayer. Better to let the authors speak than try to speak for them.

So, what I would like to do here is introduce three of my favorite books on prayer. I will include some thoughts and encouragement in the way they will help you and those in your spheres of influence renew your minds regarding the importance of personal and corporate prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

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