Questions That I Ask Myself (and others)! – Part One

One of the best ways to stay in touch with yourself is to find and use a series of questions for each of five different area of your life …. 

If we find or design these questions and then ask ourselves these questions on a regular basis we will be better able to stay in touch with who we are called by the Lord to be and what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do. 

I believe it was the ancient philosopher Plato who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living!” 

I spend time every month or so taking a look at who I am and where I am at in my journey with Jesus and my journey through life. I usually record my findings in my journal and even, at times, write a blog or two in relation to my findings. I find this discipline to be helpful and healthy. I call it taking a personal inventory.

I will be sharing, over the next couple of days, the lists I use to examine several key areas of my life. It might be helpful if you took some time to go through the questions and honestly answer them for yourself. Or, even better, if you take this idea, run with it, and develop your own list of questions that you will then use to examine your journey. 

TEN QUESTIONS: Relationship with Christ.

    1. What did I learn in God’s Word this week? 
    2. Is my burden for prayer growing or diminishing? 
    3. Does my heart break for the things that break the heart of God? 
    4. Have I grown accustomed to or accepted sin in my life? 
    5. Am I doing ministry out of an overflow of God’s work in my heart or out of my own strength? 
    6. Has my teaching and ministry deepened, changed, or evolved in a positive way in the last year? 
    7. Do I have a sincere peace that I’m living an authentic life of spiritual integrity? 
    8. Is my heart growing larger for people and God or is it shrinking? 
    9. Am I closer to God today than I was a year ago? 
    10. Do others comment that they can clearly see evidence of God’s work in my life? 

TEN QUESTIONS: MINISTRY 

  1. Is my vision of who God is asking me to become and what He is asking me to do for Him so big that I obviously can’t accomplish it without God? 
  2. Am I doing my ministry from memory or from fresh direction from God? 
  3. What ministry – or program or meeting or activity – that I am involved in has lost its effectiveness and should be stopped? 
  4. Is there something that I am involved in that I am no longer excited about and is there something I can do to reengage or should I no longer be active in it? 
  5. What faith risk is God calling me to take? 
  6. Have I examined my heart and life and repented at least once in the last year for any failures in my life?
  7. Have I done everything in my power to make sure that I am living without unconfessed sin? 
  8. Am I expressing love and care for those around me? 
  9. Am I living with delayed obedience toward God in any area of my life and ministry? 
  10. If Jesus my sole motivation for ministry or has my motivation become clouded? 

Further lists tomorrow….

Having a Sabbath?

Most Christians look at the Bible as a sort of “rule book” by which to guide their lives. They see a command in the Bible and assume it is for them to obey. Never mind who the command was originally spoken to, when it was spoken, or why it was spoken (the circumstances). If it is a command then it needs to be obeyed. Right?

But, as odd as it may seem, most biblical laws really are not clear. They may work as general guiding principles, sure, but when God says, “Thou shalt not,” you are really hoping for some specifics.

But readers from ancient time have always understood that keeping a law means more than “doing what it says”; it means deliberating over what the command actually requires in the here and now in which we live.

Discerning how a law is to be obeyed, in other words, is something each generation of believers and every individual believer needs to determine. The Bible is for thinking people who are not afraid to question what is written and why and if it is still applicable today.

Pick any law out of a hat — maybe something from the Ten Commandments. The 4th commandment say, Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). Remembering the sabbath means to observe it, which means, as the following verses explain, to cease from all work (sabbath means “rest” or “cease” in Hebrew). This goes for all who live in the household, from the head on down to children and servants. Even the animals take a day off.

I suppose at first glance this seems clear enough. Just knock off work one day a week as God said. How complicated could that be? Plenty complicated. For one thing, what exactly constitutes “work”?

In the average Christian culture (is there really such a thing these days?) not working might mean not going in on Sunday to that place that gives you a pay cheque. But is work only what we get paid for or is it any task that requires some exertion? Ancient Israelites didn’t collect a pay cheque, and yet they had this command to follow. What about cutting the grass, painting the trim, washing the car? And does it make any difference whether I might actually find cutting the grass relaxing? Is it all relative? How do we know? Will God smite me for emptying the dishwasher or organizing my underwear drawer on a Sunday afternoon?

And what if your Sunday leisure causes others to work? If you go to a movie or eat out, are you contributing to someone else’s sin? It’s easy to get paranoid. To be on the safe side you might just want to try standing still and practice shallow-breathing for twenty-four hours.

And what about those who don’t “go to work” in the conventional sense with clearly defined work hours? What if you are, say a collage professor, who only teaches four hours a day, two days a week, but has to prepare whenever they get a chance, which usually involves reading.

To make my point, as a teacher of the Word and an author, reading is part of my job. Should I therefore not read on Sunday? Should I just play it safe and watch television? Although someone has to find the remote and press the button. Is that work? And what do I do when the news ticker crosses my screen and I’m tempted to read it? Do I avert my eyes?

I’m getting silly, I know. But more seriously we are not even getting into whether police, firefighters, surgeons, disaster-relief workers, or Apple customer service should have Sunday off — not to mention whether single mothers who need to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads can afford the luxury of “keeping the sabbath.”

To complicate matters further, although some Christians believe that observing the sabbath is still binding (because it’s a “clear” biblical command), others argue that it’s not, taking their cue from “clear” New Testament passages like Colossians 2:16-17 (sabbaths are a thing of the past) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Jesus Himself “works” on the sabbath by plucking grain). So maybe for Christians sabbath keeping isn’t a thing at all. It’s really not clear either way, though that hardly keeps some Christians from almost coming to blows over it.

I’m not belittling sabbath keeping. I actually think the practice is spiritually and emotionally healthy, and I try to keep at least a different pace on the day I choose to celebrate sabbath. I do respect those who are more intense about it than I am. I’m only pointing out that how (or whether) to keep the sabbath isn’t clear. 

There’s a lot at stake here, but rather than clarity we get ambiguity. The law as written leads its reader to ponder what it means and how to obey it here and now. In other words, we need to be practical and apply the passage to the here and now bringing it into our current culture and circumstance applying it with wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to be black and white when it comes to many of the “laws” in the Bible. They were meant to be interpreted and applied and not just read as hard and fast rules and applied.

We need to not be afraid to question the truths we read in the pages of our Bibles. Christians need to be thinking people who are working hard at understanding and applying the principles and practices of the Scriptures applying them in real and practical ways to the world in which we find ourselves. 

Sound Advice

I have always been a reader. I am one of those annoying people who is constantly reading something – even the back of cereal boxes. I just have this hunger inside to learn, to be informed, to be growing in my knowledge and understanding in just about any field of study or endeavour. Did I mention that I am a reader?

I set aside time every day to read. A fresh cup of hot, strong coffee and a good book is my idea of a good time and time well spent. I carry a book with me – usually an actual physical book – everywhere I go as you never know when you might have five or ten minutes to read. I show up to appointments early just so I can squeeze in some time to read. I read early in the morning as well as late at night and any time I can in-between. Did I mention that I like to read?

I read widely. Of course, I read in my chosen field of work – books about the Bible, theology, church, church growth, discipleship, preaching, intersection of faith and culture … a wide variety of topics, authors, and faith camps. I read history. I love a good novel which I usually read during the summer and at Christmas. I devour biographies and autobiographies of people in all fields – politics, entertainment, the military, missions, the church, and sports. The latter in spite of the fact that I am not a fan of any sport nor do I watch any sport.

I prefer actual books but do have several e-book readers. After all, some books are out of print but available as e-books. Harder to make notes in, underline and highlight but still doable. 

If I am reading a book and can’t engage with it — it is either a book that can be read later (in the right season) and so I put it aside and it waits. Or, it can simply be a dud and needs to be tossed. I don’t want to simply spend time reading. And certainly do not want to waste my time reading a dud. I want to invest my reading time wisely. 

There is inside me a hunger to be learning and growing. If a day or two goes by without an opportunity to read I sense this frustration and hunger inside. I need to read. It is a driving force that motivates me to regain control of my time and schedule my reading back into my life. It needs to be a daily feeding. 

I mark my books up. I want to be able to enjoy my reading; and I do. But I also want to be able to “mine” information and ideas after I have finished reading the book. So, I highlight and underline. I use symbols in the margins indicating a quote I want to record, an idea I want to “borrow,” or a new idea that I need to think about and research further. If it is a new insight into the Bible it gets marked and then added to my electronic Bible program. So, I go through a book after I have finished reading it and pull out everything I have marked and file accordingly. 

Of course, I read my Bible usually for several hours a day. I read it ‘devotionally’ as part of my God-time each day. But I also spend 90 minutes or more studying the Word and marking up the bibles that I use in my studying. I read a wide variety of versions although I do have my favourite version which I fall back on when writing. 

I do not listen to audio books. Nothing against them. I just find my mind does not engage with them and so I come to a point where I am listening to chapter seven and don’t remember anything after chapter one. I simply don’t focus when listening to an audio book. Maybe I should try harder until it becomes a discipline because many of those I relate to in ministry do a lot of listening when driving and doing odd chores around the house. 

I am disappointed that many in the younger generation are not readers. It makes discipling and mentoring someone a tad bit more difficult because often there is a book that can help them in their journey and it simply is not read and thus the help is missed. Some in the younger generation will listen to a book and so I work to recommend books that are also available in audio format. 

I am a reader! And proud to be one. After I finished 10 years of university and three degrees I just continued on with my education by constantly being engaged in a book. And, it has been and is time well invested. 

So, some sound advice — become a reader and invest some time each day improving your understanding of the world and becoming a wiser person. 

  Sometimes I Don’t Pray Boldly

Click here to hear the audio teaching

 

I want to talk about seizing the life God has planned for us

Too many believers play it safe and never seize real life

Last time we were talking about boldness and we learned… I hope we learned that:

BOLDNESS is behaviour born out of belief

In other words: If you believe in a powerful and sovereign God then you will be bold in your life as a disciple of Jesus

Today let’s look at boldness as it relates to prayer

Key thought: How you pray reflects what you believe about God

Key insight: Most of us need the spiritual gift of spunk Read more

Pointing A Finger

Saw an advertisement for KFC and their “finger lickin’ good” slogan…. And though about what God likes to do with His fingers: run them across the earth out west to form the Grand Canyon. Or pinch some dirt together and form Mount Everest. It’s true! Here’s what the Bible says: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

God is so big that all He needed to create the universe were His fingers.

Actually, He didn’t literally use His fingers to create stuff. David wrote about God’s fingers because He knew that humans cannot really comprehend how big God is, and so he used human characteristics to describe Him. It’s a literary technique called anthropomorphism, something poets used to help us wrap our human minds around the divine. In another psalm, David said that God spoke the universe into existence. I really don’t know how the earth was formed; even the smartest scientists who study these things don’t know for sure. What I do know for sure is that it took a really big God to give us the universe.

Consider this one planet we call home. Scientists estimate the weight of the earth to be six sextillion tons. If you are wondering how much six sextillion is, it’s a six followed by twenty-one zeroes. By any stretch of the imagination, six sextillion tons is heavy. Yet as heavy as the earth is, it’s not plummeting uncontrollably through space. All six sextillion tons is suspended in nothingness, held in place by an unseen force scientists call gravity; but in reality it’s held in place by our big God. According to the Scriptures, “He stretches out the north over the void

and hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7).

And not only does He suspend the earth over nothing, God tilted the earth at a twenty-three degree angle so we can experience winter, spring, summer, and fall. He also spins the earth on an invisible axis at the rate of one thousand miles an hour so we can have night and day. Then He orbits this sextillion ton behemoth we can home around the sun at the rate of sixty-seven thousand miles an hour. At that speed it’s a wonder none of us have been blown off the earth! 

Jupiter, one of our nearest neighbours is more than 390 million miles away. Yet we have discovered that this largest planet in our solar system has sixty-three moons. A few are visible from earth with a telescope. Jupiter and the earth are just two planets in a universe of billions of galaxies that God created and that He suspends over nothingness.

Brennan Manning wrote in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel  that if you held out a dime at arm’s length while gazing at the night sky, the coin would block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes had the power to see that far into space. Manning’s observation reminds me of what God said to Abraham: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them” (Genesis 15:5). After looking up, Abraham surely must have concluded that God is big, and that He has big fingers. 

We worship and serve a big God! An amazing and powerful God! A loving and gentle God who knows each one of us by name! Never let a day go by that you don’t marvel at all that He has created and give Him thanks for still intimately knowing your every thought and feeling.