Growing in Your Relationship with the LORD

Using the spiritual disciplines to grow in your knowledge and love for God!

Throughout 2018, we will be taking a closer look at how you can use the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, and service to grow in your knowledge and love for God!  Each month, we will focus on a different spiritual discipline.  You can find the articles below or in the monthly newsletter for the New Hope & Retreat UMC's - SHINE!  May the use of these disciplines help you grow in your relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! 


 

Service

Service

Service... the act of helping or doing work for someone. We see it each and every day. We DO it each and every day... often without realizing it! But WHY do you do it? Are your motives pure or are you seeking something? Here are some tips to perform service in a Biblical light:

  • Serve God and others first and foremost. Put others needs and wants ahead of your own. Don’t let a selfish pride take over. Show others they matter by serving them before yourself!
  • Serve joyfully and lovingly. If you are serving out of obligation, you are not actually being a servant... you’re just a worker. Serve others with a sense of joy, showing the love of God to others around you. This will have a lasting impact on those you serve, making their day brighter and possibly sparking a conversation about your faith!
  • Serve as if you are serving the Lord. Whatever you do, do it as for the Lord! Give it your all and see it through to completion. Don’t leave them hanging... leave them wanting more of the love of God you are dishing out!
  • Serve not for earthly rewards. When you serve one another, do not expect something in return. Don’t expect payment or a favor in turn. The things of this world will fade away. The Lord sees your service and will richly reward you when He calls you to be with Him in Heaven! His eternal blessings have no end!

Give some of these ideas a try and practice serving God, your church, your neighbors, family and friends! It will help strengthen your relationship with Him!

Submission

Submission

Okay… I know this one may be a hard pill to swallow, but bear with me. Submission does not completely mean letting someone else totally run your life. Submission is an act of being humble or compliant with another, showing them respect and authority. Done properly, submission can be a healthy act that builds relationships!

Throughout the Bible, God calls us to submit to one another, but how do we do it the proper way? Here are some tips:

  • Submission is a personal decision. Submission is a doctrine you apply to yourself. Notice Paul doesn't say, "Husbands, tell your wife to submit"—or, "Wives, tell your husband to step up and be spiritual head of the home." Instead, he speaks to each person and asks each
    to work on his or her own attitude.
  • Submission is a spiritual decision. Unless you're filled with the Spirit of God, it makes zero sense to submit to another person. Why would you ever do that? In Ephesians 5:21, when Paul says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ," the word submit in Greek isn't a command. The command is back in verse 18: "Be filled with the Spirit."
  • Submission is a mutual decision. Instead of making all the decisions, ask the other person what they think. Making mutual decisions shows respect to one another and allows the other person to have a say!
  • Submission means forgiving the past. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of the past. But in order to properly submit to one another, there can be no grudges… no lingering bitterness. Forget, forgive, and move on!Give some of these ideas a try and practice submitting to your neighbors & God. It will help strengthen your relationship with Him!
Solitude

Solitude

Any more these days, it seems like there is always something wanting our attention. Whether its people, technology, or items on our to-do list, it can often be hard to find time for quiet alone time.  However, there are some things you can do! Try out these tips to get away from it all and spend some one-on-one time with God!

  • Unplug. How many hours a day do you spend staring at some form of technology? Whether its television, your computer, or your smart phone, unplug and spend some time away from the screen.
  • Embrace alone time before everyone wakes up. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and watch the sunrise while the house is still quiet.  Finding some quiet time in the morning with God is a great way to gain focus and prepare for the day!
  • Make lists! Keep a to-do list handy and prioritize items. Don’t spend all day on a project, but try tackling it in smaller chunks throughout the week.
  • Stick to a schedule. We all have a lot going on. Try to schedule appointments, work, and meetings with friends & neighbors and stick to it. If you’re always on the go, you may have a hard time slowing down to spend some time alone with God!
  • End your day in the dark. There is nothing like sitting in a dark quiet room before going to sleep at the end of the day. The world can seem so quiet and still that it helps you to focus on your relationship with the Lord. Plus, others may not know you’re in the room if they see it’s dark!Give some of these ideas a try and spend some alone time with God this summer. It will strengthen your relationship with Him!
Simplicity

Simplicity

Sometimes our lives can get extremely complicated and cluttered with distractions.  All of this “stuff” often gets in the way of our relationship with God, making it very difficult to keep the communication lines between you and Him open.  Therefore, in order to grow closer in your relationship to the Lord, it is often necessary to clear the clutter and simplify your life.  Here are a few tips to get you started:  

•  Unplug.  We are surrounded by technology each and every day.  Not only does it get in the way of our relationship with God, it affects our relationship with each other.  Take some time each day and put your electronics and television aside and spend some time with God.
•  Spend time outdoors. God created this world for you to enjoy.  What better way to reconnect with God than spending time in His creation.  Take a long walk outdoors, grow a garden, listen to the birds sing, stop and smell the roses, and pay close attention to the world around you.  Look for His fingerprints in everything you see.
•  Declutter your life.  Too often, material possessions (or the simply the act of keeping them) can become idols to people.   Get rid of items you don’t need/use any more.  Show God’s love and donate them to help others in need.
•  Avoid Negativity. Most negative emotions are completely useless. Resentment, bitterness, hate, & jealousy have never improved the quality of life for a single human being and get in the way of our relationship with the Lord. Take responsibility for your mind. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Give these ideas a try and start simplifying your life to reconnect with God!

Study

Study

If you have ever been a student, the word “study” is all too familiar to you. Study of a subject is necessary in order to pass a coming test.  Without study, you are left to your own resources... a scary thought.  In life, we encounter many challenges and tests and each is different from the ones that precede it. To better prepare yourself for your journey through these “tests”, the study of God’s Word is the best tool at your disposal! Here are a few tips to get you started:

•  Pray first. Before you read the first verse, take a moment to ask for God’s guidance. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth and teaches us how to understand (John 14). We need Him to open our eyes to the meaning of Scripture so that it can transform our lives.
•  Don’t get discouraged. Studying the Bible is a lifelong process.  When you first embark on the journey, the landscape may seem unfamiliar—confusing even. But the more you read, pray, and study, the more you’ll grow accustomed to the contours of Scripture. You’ll see how books and ideas connect; you’ll see the history of God’s
redeeming love. Be patient and keep at it.
•  Take notes. You’re more likely to engage with God’s Word if you make notes. When you have questions, write them down so that you can look for answers. When you realize something about God’s nature, write it down and study it later. Write out your prayers and thoughts.
•  Take action. The point of studying the Bible isn’t just to accumulate knowledge. As the writer of Hebrews says, Scripture is alive and cuts deep to transform us (Hebrews 4:12). Read, take notes, pray, and let God use His living book to cause real change in your attitudes. You’ll be blown away by what He can do.

Fasting

Fasting

If you’re like me, when you hear the word “fasting”, you likely think of abstaining from food... or starvation. However you can fast from so much more than food. The idea is to abstain from anything that occupies our time and takes our focus off the Lord.  It can be anything like television, social media, bad habits, food, so on and so forth.  I realize that taking a fast from some of these can be quite difficult so here are a few tips to get you started:

•  Consider your schedule. While a fast, by nature, is inconvenient, it should be an inconvenience to you – not to those around you. Don’t obligate your family to be a part of your fast... it takes away the personal nature of fasting.
•  Tell only the people you must. Your spouse & family will need to know you are fasting, but beyond that you’re better off not telling many people. Most won’t understand. Plus fasting can become a source of pride and boasting as you spread the news to more and more people! Yikes!
•  Wean yourself off beforehand. Several days before your fast begins, start weaning yourself off. It will make the transition easier and you’ll be less tempted when you start your fast.
•  Be still and focus on God. Fasting is a time to study God’s Word, meditate and pray. To help with this, plan a specific Bible passage or topic you want to study during your fast. Look for verses you want to memorize and meditate upon. Fasting by Jesus and the disciples was always accompanied by prayer.  Spend time talking to God and allowing Him to reveal Himself to you in His Word.

Meditation

Meditation

If you’re like me, when you hear the word “meditation”, you think of someone sitting on the floor with their eyes closed and mind clear of thought. But there are many forms of meditation... and you likely do it in your day to day life without even realizing it!

But how do I meditate on God’s Word? Here are a few tips to get you started:
•  Begin first thing in the morning. This will give you time to meditate on the scriptures as you head throughout your day!
•  Digest each word, thinking about its meaning and how it applies to the entire verse or section.
•  Silence electronic devices. It’s better not to look at your phone or computer before beginning your meditation or your mind will be gone before you can reel it back in!
•  Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. When weather permits, try going for a walk. Being in God’s creation can do wonders to get you in tune with His will.
•  Read a few verses, then turn any part that impresses you into a word of prayer, praise, thanks, or petition to the Lord.  You may even sing them with your own song.
•  Re-speak the Word you enjoyed in the morning, throughout the day. This is to “ruminate” on God’s Word.
•  Speak the Word to others. You can text it, share it on Facebook or other forms of social media. But it’s even better to find someone in your daily life to whom you can speak the word you are meditating on. This is a great way to confess your faith in Christ with your friends!

Prayer

Prayer

Prayer is simply having a conversation with God. There are many different thoughts on what you should and shouldn’t say when you pray... and there is some merit to many of these ideas. But try to make your prayer life a simple conversation with your Heavenly Father.  Here are just a few tips to help you as you begin the journey of
praying faithfully to God:

•  Find a quiet place to pray. Our world is filled with distractions. Find a quiet room and stay there to pray. If you’re driving, turn off the radio. And put your phone on silent! Focus on talking with God!
•  Make a prayer list. Create a list that you carry with you or in a prayer journal where you can note specific prayer requests that people mention. When someone ask you to pray for them, write it down. Don’t trust your memory.
•  Use a guide. A prayer guide is a short list of reminders of what types of things you should pray for. Such a guide can be found right in your Bible. They’re called Psalms. Use them to guide you through your conversations!
•  Keep a prayer journal. Write down what you prayed for and when (and how) God answered your prayers. It will help to remind you of the prayer answering God that we serve. He’s eager to hear and answer our prayers according to His will.
•  Pray aloud. God will hear you if you pray silently, but praying aloud helps you to stay focused. Praying silently is a quick way to zone out and lose focus & intensity in your prayer.
•  Talk with God. Don’t make prayer complicated. Talk with God as if you are having a conversation with a friend. Yes, He is the King of creation, but He is also a caring and loving Father.