The Contemplative Life
[by Debbie... a woman of God on a journey ...]
Why do people shy away from listening to God? Well, for me, it was because I didn’t want to hear how bad I was. I didn’t want Him to tell me to stop doing all the things that I knew were wrong. After all, I have tried countless times to stop some of the bad habits I have. (I call them bad habits, but we all know that there is sin somewhere in those bad habits).
Time and time again, I tried to stop. I’ve confessed them as sin, I’ve made resolutions, and I’ve tried to hold myself accountable. It just wasn’t going to happen. So I decide to live that way. But I’m still a good Christian, right? None of my habits are that bad, right? I don’t physically hurt anyone. I don’t steal. And I do go to church. I pray. I study the bible. I volunteer my time. I try to be nice to people. That’s all good, right? So, is this really the abundant life God promised to those who trust in Jesus? Maybe I should REALLY listen to what He has to say. After all, that’s what my church is doing.
It’s called The Contemplative Life. Spend time at the feet of Jesus. 20 minutes twice a day. Read scripture and listen to God. I am not one for a devotional time every morning. Tried it and I’ve never been able to be consistent for more than a few days. So why bother? Because it would be good for me? Maybe God wants me to? I’m a good church member. I should do what is being asked of me.
On day one I set the timer for 20 minutes and begin reading the Word. Read Psalm 103 and write it down. Next I rewrite it in my own words. Next step – listen. So, now I’m scared. I need to listen and I know He will say stop sinning and all will be well. No, God. I can’t listen because I’m scared. I can’t do it! I can’t stop myself from engaging with these bad habits!
So I don’t want to hear what you are going to say. I’m scared.
God’s words to me: I will give you courage. You will be praising me for what I am doing within you. I will give you a desire for me that will overcome your bad habits.
WOW – that was God talking! My heart embraced those words with all the Love and Compassion He was giving me.
So now what? He said He would overcome my bad habits. So I don’t have to try anymore? Well, Let’s see where that goes!!!!! And now I read more scripture and I listen. He confirms that my eating habits and my sleep pattern interfere in the relationship I have with Him. Yet, He doesn’t say stop. (Interesting- I knew about the eating but I didn’t know about the sleeping). Another day, He confirms that my over use of the TV and wasting a whole lot of time doing nothing is interfering with relationships I have (or could have) with other people. Yet He doesn’t tell me to turn off the tv or get up off the couch! (Still interesting - but not new information!) Gently He says, Yes, I know about all those things you are doing.
So, I find that I am looking forward to my time with Him. He has gotten my attention. He is having a conversation with me. I read scripture and He talks to me. I focus on listening. He is gentle and kind. He is loving and compassionate. I feel no condemnation for my sin. Twenty minutes is not enough time. As a matter of fact, when the timer rings, I am annoyed because it interrupts my thoughts. So I start using the stopwatch feature on my phone. This way, when I feel like it, I can look at how much time I have spent and decide whether or not I’m ready to stop.
One day, I was reading a devotional which talked about Adam and Eve and believing lies. What do I need to do so that I don’t believe Satan’s lies? God led me to Ephesians 5:18. He was telling me to be filled with the Spirit and to be thankful. I was filled with the spirit when I believed in Jesus, but we all need to continue being filled with the spirit. A matter for prayer. My focus went to being Thankful. Each time I come to the Lord, I try to start with listing some things I am thankful for. I might even say, Lord, what did I miss? What did you give me that I should be thankful for? He always answers. I need to be deliberate with my thankfulness. So, I will write thank you notes to the mentors in the Kid’s Hope
Ministry. I work on that for the rest of the week. I seek God’s guidance for each one. This is kinda neat. I think I might like to write notes to other people. Maybe one every day, or maybe a few each week. Whoa! Did you catch what just happened!!!! God is developing within me a new habit!!!! A healthy habit, a habit that will help edify others and strengthen His Kingdom! Yes, indeed, He is working within me!
So, onward. What’s next? He says, Not just Thankful, but thoughtful. Ok. Lord, to whom should I be thoughtful? He gives me a name. So Lord, What should I give her? He gives me an answer - flowers. (I must mention, this wasn’t a normal conversation. I asked but the answer might not have come for several hours - Maybe even the next day). I could wait for Sunday to give my friend the flowers, but I don’t want to draw attention to what I am doing. So, I go to my friend’s house and deliver the gift. She thanks me and I tell her to ask the Lord what He wants to say to her. On Sunday, she thanks me again and confirms that God did speak to her. He confirmed to her something she had been praying about. I shared with her what God was doing with me and we both rejoiced in God’s Goodness. How special!
The Contemplative Life series is now over. My commitment to participate was for two weeks. This is probably the longest time I’ve ever had a consistent quiet time. I experienced much more during this time – some things are too personal to discuss (they involve other people) and others things are just hard to explain. Before I started, it was just too hard to spend quality time with the Lord. I justified it by saying that it was ok that I didn’t have a quiet time because, after all, I talk to Him all the time throughout the day. Now, my quiet time has no limit. I don’t bother with a timer or a stop watch. Now, I look forward to my focused time with the Lord, and He talks to ME all the time throughout the day. I think about Him often and I want to do things that will further His Kingdom. I think twice before I grab for the junk food.
Some of the shows I watch on tv don’t interest me anymore. I don’t care if I miss them. My sleep hasn’t changed much but that will come in time. It looks to me like those bad habits, those sins, are just fading away. Now I feel like God has me by the hand and is leading me somewhere. I wonder, “Where are we going”. And I’m very curious to find out. True confession, I’m a little nervous because He might want me to do something I can’t imagine doing. Good thing He isn’t telling me what it is. For Now I will trust.
7 Minutes With Jesus
What would God say to you if someone arranged a 7 minute encounter between you and Jesus? I was blessed to have had that opportunity. During a prayer service, the Pastor of my church gave us 7 minutes to listen to God. No talking, no music. Just me and the Lord. The instruction: listen. Here’s what happened:
As I began my time with Jesus, I felt peace, comfort, warmth, and love. I knew God was saying He loved me. Then I saw an image of Jesus on the cross. He was telling me He went to the cross for me. This was personal; He went to the cross for me, Debbie! As I meditated on that image, I sensed Him saying He was delighted to go to the cross for me. My heart melted. He did it with delight! All that pain. All that suffering. Nothing could have stopped Him. Even if He was given the opportunity, He wouldn’t have changed His mind. He was delighted to go to the cross for me. It brought Him great pleasure. It brought Him Joy. . . to go to the cross. . . to go to the cross for me! Tears began to flow. Would anyone else have done that for me? I think not.
Next, I heard Him say that he wanted to spend time with me. I saw an image of something between me and God –something like a big black box. I was confident that God was saying that He didn’t want anything to be between us. He didn’t want there to be . . . but there was . . . there still is something between us. God could still talk to me with this obstacle in the way. But it would be so much better if it weren’t there. The thing is. . .He died for me. He died so that I could have a relationship with Him. He died so that sin would no longer control me. . . No longer affect my life. He has done all the work. It is finished. Why is that barrier still there? It’s there because I keep it there. I keep it there because I don’t have the strength to stop doing the things that I shouldn’t do. I know now that I have not fully understood living the life controlled by the Spirit. That box isn’t attached to me. There is no chain keeping it there. All I need to do is let
Jesus take it away by living a life controlled by the Spirit.
Even though I have allowed sin to stand between me and God, I sensed that Jesus was saying, despite the sin in my life today, He still wants to spend eternity with me. I saw an image of a barrier free, eternal life where nothing stands between me and God. It’s His intention to spend eternity with me. That’s why He was delighted to go to the cross for me. He was delighted because He knew the end result would be eternity with me. WOW.
Seven minutes was almost up. Jesus had one last thing to say. He impressed upon me that all the years I have been learning about Him, and doing my best to please Him, whether it was in the flesh or in the spirit . . . none of those years were wasted. He used everything to bring me to this place where I am open to receive more of Him.
I wonder what He would have said if we were given eight minutes. . . .
What would He say to you?
Today With Jesus
What strikes me about this vision is the comparison between Today with Jesus, and Eternity with Jesus. I can look forward to spending eternity with Him where nothing will interfere with our relationship. Sin will be totally eliminated from my life. I will be free to Worship Him unencumbered. I am assured of this fabulous life after I die. But what about today? Today we live in a fallen world and there is a barrier that prevents us from getting closer to Jesus. The barrier is the sin that creeps into our lives, sometimes without us even noticing. Jesus died so that we might have victory in our lives today and He can start to tear down the barrier even before we get to heaven. He will if we let Him.
Although the 7 minutes I spent with Jesus was very personal and very meaningful to me, you must know that the message really isn’t just for me. If you read your Bible, you will know that Jesus was delighted to die for you too! And He has so much more for you this side of eternity. No matter where you are in your Christian life, there is something more
He wants to say to you. So much more He wants to do for you. And So much more life He wants to give you. His death on the cross opened the way for you to experience more of Him. You have had many encounters with Jesus throughout the years. You have learned about Him, You talk to Him, He guides you and tells you what to do. Everything you have learned and everything you have done in his name has been used by God to bring you to the place you are in now. Do you know what He has next for you? Or are you living the same life you have been living for many years?
With an open heart, we can approach him and ask him for more. Let this prayer be your prayer.
Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for me. I’m not sure you were delighted to do it, but the fact remains that you DID do it. And now I know you offer me more than I have today. All I have to do is ask. Lord, you are my creator and you know me like no other. Please speak to me. Speak to me in a way that I will understand. Tell me what I need to know in order for me to continue or maybe even to begin to live a spirit filled life. Help me to hear the words you want to say and I will do my best to keep listening. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen
So What’s Next?
So for me, He isn’t done speaking. He brought up the next ‘bad habit’. In my time with the Lord, He impressed upon me that I don’t always keep my promises – promises to other people and promises to myself. This goes back to my long term problem of procrastination. I say I’m going to do something and I really mean it at the time. Somehow, it just doesn’t get done. It takes a long time if it does. I don’t know why it takes such an effort on my part to do what I say I will do. It’s not like I don’t have the time. As we discussed it, I realized that I don’t value the people that I make a promise to.
I don’t put them above myself. I don’t love them like I should. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet showing them that in humility they should serve one another. That’s what I need to do. I need to view their needs as important and I need to show them that I value them by doing what I say I will do. I need to show them that I love them. Along side of that insight, I am convicted of being selfish. So, procrastination is just dripping with sin. I confess my sin and ask for God’s deliverance. I look for ways to follow the spirit. I will continue to be filled with the spirit, to be deliberate with being thankful and thoughtful.
I have started a list of things that I have never finished. . . Promises that I haven’t kept. I’m asking God’s guidance on doing what I have told people I would do. Maybe finishing one thing each day, or a few things a week (the list is long!).
Maybe asking for forgiveness. Maybe writing a thank you note and telling the person how much I appreciate them and I thank God for them. All this in God’s timing.
But what happens when you need to have victory over procrastination and your procrastination gets in the way of the solution? A couple weeks have past and I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I need to overcome this problem because it interferes with much of my life. It interferes with friendships, with ministry and with maintaining my home. What am I still missing? God’s love never fails! He is still there for me and He led me to a group of women reading the book Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. Sounds like something I need. The key here is “renewing the mind”. So, I will learn how to cooperate with the Spirit and change my thinking. I don’t know how long it will take, but I know that I can’t stop now. Joyce Meyer introduces a concept I am not familiar with: mind binding spirits.
Maybe that is a problem for me. I will pray against these spirits and see what happens.