Useless Thoughts – No Substitute for Communion with God – Devotional for July 1, 2011

I just spent some time on Facebook and Twitter reviewing postings of my “friends.” I am reminded of the words of Brother Lawrence: He said that useless thoughts spoil all – that mischief began there. Boy are there some useless thoughts online. I guess we all have a deep desire to communicate. One pretty good thing I did see online today was this:“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” – Plato I’m afraid there are few “wise men” on line these days. Maybe our compulsion to communicate is generated by our lack of real communication with our Creator. After all, we were created for communion with God. Again from Brother Lawrence:  We ought to reject useless thoughts quickly and return to our communion with God. 
I am encouraged because even Brother Lawrence did not find this easy. His first steps in trying to establish communication with God did not go real well. In the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer in rejecting wandering thoughts and falling right back into them. He could never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. At first, he had practiced meditation but, after some time, he gave up on that.  
It seems the keys to success in this area are persistence and the willingness to spend the time necessary. Before we claim to be “too busy” we should probably spend some time analyzing how we spend our time. I bet if we spend just one day recording how we spend every minute, we would stop claiming to be “too busy” and admit to being “too lazy.”
Are we ready to do what it takes to develop communion with our God?

Nick

Drawn to God – Devotional for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God continually. I find it difficult to keep God continually in mind and His presence constantly at the forefront of my thinking. I have to force myself to think of Him and to turn my thoughts to Him. Thankfully, Brother Lawrence had the same problem. 
I guess it’s like becoming acquainted with a person for the first time and then building a friendship with them. At first it requires some effort. For some people, it requires a lot of effort. We have to remind ourself to call them or talk to them. But as we begin to know them it becomes much easier. We want to have communion with them. We want to be in their presence.
I guess it’s a sign of the superficiality of our relationship with God if we are still at the stage of having to push ourselves to think of Him. It means, does it not, that we don’t really know Him. Because if we did, we would continually seek to spend time with Him and to be in His presence.

It’s not like He doesn’t try to draw us to Himself. He fills the worlds with glimpses of His glory: the beauty of nature, the innocent love of a child, the awesome power of a storm. Yet we think of these things individually and separately from the Creator they are meant to point us to.

I need to allow his reminders to Himself that He has planted in my world, serve their purpose and draw me to Him. Let us resolve to concentrate on our God, to learn of Him, knowing that the more we learn, the more we will want to know and the greater will be our blessing.

Nick

Satan Continually Condemns – Devotional for Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spiritual growth requires the recognition that we are sinners deserving of damnation. That only a loving God provides a means of salvation that we do not deserve. If we never come to that realization, sometimes described as “coming to the Cross,” we can never benefit from salvation. Salvation requires a recognition that we need divine intervention. 
For those humble enough to come to that realization, Satan make work their minds trying to convince the sinner that he is so unworthy of salvation, that such salvation can not be real. Such happened to Brother Lawrence. He said he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned. All the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary. This trouble of mind lasted four years, during which time he suffered greatly. 
This is the point we should strive for: that we act out of love for God no matter what God should do or not do for us. It is an attitude like that of Job, who refused to curse God no matter what God allowed to happen to him. 
Condemnation does not come from God. 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 

Do All for the Love of God – Devotional for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My work in Kairos brings the issue of motivation to mind. Those of us in the ministry will often honestly say that we get as much or more out of the ministry than those served. This is true. It is an incredible blessing to be in place to see God at work. But that should not be the motivation. We should,  with Brother Lawrence, seek to do all things for the love go God. When we are able to do that we are free from relying on the “results” of our ministry. It will matter not to us if we achieve success or if we see any harvest. Our blessing comes from doing all for Him who  is deserving of all we can do for Him.
It takes a lot of practice to have love of God as our motivation. We are tempted to focus on what He has done for us; because He has done so much. It is wiser to focus on who He is. He is worthy or our love and praise because of His very nature, apart from the blessings He has bestowed. 

Do all for the love of God and be greatly blessed.

Nick

Simple Talk – Devotional for Monday, June 27, 2011

Brother Lawrence is considered the great teacher and practitioner of the Practice of the Presence of God. Yet His advice is not complex or deep but simple and straight forwarded. For example, his primary advice for practicing the presence of God is to speak with Him continually, referring all we do to Him. Having been granted entrance into the Holy of Holies without representation. It is obvious that we should exercise this privilege freely. Speaking to God at all times reminds us of His presence and gives that presence the honor it is due. But even more respectful than speaking to Him is listening to Him. The greatest honor we can give another is to listen to him. It is a skill we all could use more of in dealing with our fellow man; all the more so in communing with God. Surely what He has to say is of more importance that anything we might utter.  Our words are unlikely to change much but His can change everything. How much time do we spend quietly listening to our God? Not enough.
Brother Lawrence said we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs just as they happen. God never failed to grant it, as Brother Lawrence had often experienced. When Jesus taught us to speak to God, to pray, He taught us simple words. I guess we believe that since God is so big and awesome that we ought to use big words with Him. This is, of course, foolish. Further, God already knows our thoughts and our words before we utter them. So simplicity of speech when communing with God is not for His sake but for ours. We need to plainly understanding what it is we are telling the Creator of the Universe when we take advantage of the privilege of speaking to Him. 
Getting into the habit of speaking to God concerning what is happening now is great advice for keeping us on track. We tend to let things add up before we go to God. We wait until we have wandered far off the track before looking to our GPS. (God’s Presence Sensor). If we keep that turned on and referred to it frequently we do ourselves a great favor.

Want to practice the presence of God? Listen to Him and speak simply and continuously to Him of everything in your life.

Nick

Focus on Service – Devotional for Sunday, June 26, 2011

A gentle man of joyful spirit, Brother Lawrence shunned attention and the limelight, knowing that outside distraction “spoils all”. It was not until after his death that a few of his letters were collected. Joseph de Beaufort, counsel to the Paris archbishop, first published the letters in a small pamphlet. The following year, in a second publication which he titled, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, de Beaufort included, as introductory material, the content of four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence. At the end of this first conversation Brother Lawrence said that, if my purpose for the visit was to sincerely discuss how to serve God, I might come to him as often as I pleased; and without any fear of being troublesome. If this was not the case, then I ought visit him no more.
Brother Lawrence was a man of focus. As a lowly brother he was visited by an archbishop’s counsel. He greeted him respectfully but as to further visits, he was interested only in sincere discussion on how to serve God. Just think the impact on our lives if we limited our activities to those which dealt with how to serve God. No watching silly television programs or movies, following sports, or Fox news; just focusing on how to serve God. We would not care about the standing of our acquaintances only what they could teach us about serving God. 
Lawrence left the world and joined a monastery where, he believed, he would have the best opportunity and instruction on how to serve God.  We would probably consider such focus to be “radical” or “extreme.” But doesn’t it simply reflect what is really important?

Think about your day, the last 24 hours. How much of what you did improved your service? How much was a waste? Maybe Brother Lawrence had the right idea or at least a better idea?

Focus and learn to serve.

Nick

Devotional for Saturday, June 25, 2011

10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” Exodus 19:10-13  
Our concept of God isn’t big enough or holy enough. Imagine a God so holy that His people were told not even to touch the mountain on which he visited. It’s true we are privileged to call God, “Abba” or “Daddy” but that should not diminish Him in our eyes; rather it should make His love for us the more remarkable. 
We are privileged to communicate with God and to enter into the Holy of Holies, no longer requiring a High Priest, having Jesus as our Great High Priest. Again this does not reduce who God is; but rather enlarges what our privilege is.
There is no wonder that we struggle to convey the enormity of our God or the horror of sin to a world that we have, somehow, taught that God’s our buddy – that He certainly wouldn’t condemn anyone. If we are ever to properly convey a vision of God to a hurting world; we have to have that vision ourselves.

God’s love for us is not impressive; if we think of God as a buddy. It’s awesome if we remember He is the all holy and powerful creator of the universe. 
Do we fear God yet recognize His love for us? Do we understand the extent of His holiness; yet know that He has made a way for us? Do we really appreciate the enormity of the task we have been given: to go and make disciples? Do we understand the power we have been given, for He would not give us a  task He has not equipped us to perform?
God is great and awesome; and the good news is all the better for it.


Nick


Measuring Growth – Devotional for Friday, June 24, 2011

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-17
Do you remember pencil marks on a door post? It was the way our parents measured the growth of children. How do we measure our spiritual growth? It is dangerous to think that we must be growing just because time is passing. It’s not like when we were kids and physical growth just happened.

 
Here are some signs of growth:

1. A spiritually mature person is increasingly aware of their own sin and weakness. It’s not unusual for Christians to be aware of sin…in others. The mature Christian realizes he is weak and sinful. The more he matures the more that reality grows.

2. A spiritually mature person responds to sin with quick repentance. When we are new as Christians we are slow to recognize sin and slower still to deal with it. We go through a grieving process. At first we deny the sin and then we are shocked by it. We may try to negotiate: Is it really sin? If it is, is it really that bad? The mature Christian recognizes sin for what it is and realizes that the only proper response is repentance.


3. The spiritually mature person has an increased desire to obey and a reduced attraction to sin. This is a secret that Brother Lawrence learned. By practicing the presence of God, by realizing He is with us always, we are reluctant to sin in His presence and desirous of obey His word. 


4. The spiritually mature person experiences an increase in struggle. The walk gets tougher, not easier, as we take it more seriously. The more we are concerned about matters of sin and obedience, the more we recognize our own sin and weakness. 


5. The spiritually mature person experiences an increase in joy. With more struggle and maturity comes more joy. The closer we are conformed to the image of Christ, the closer we are to the person we were meant to be. With that comes more joy in our walk.


Grow in maturity and grow in blessings and joy.


Nick