Monday, November 26, 2007

Going Deeper

Deeper Still

“Might we not set ourselves to learn silence, stillness, solitude? It will not be easy to come by. It must be arranged. The Lord Jesus, available to people much of the time, left them, sometimes a great while before day, to go up to the hills. He could commune in solitude with His Father. Job, enduring his friends’ tiresome lectures and accusations, was very much alone in the ash heap, but it was there that he came to know God as never before. When Paul received God’s call to preach the gospel he did not consult anyone. He went into Arabia. The old apostle John, when exiled to Patmos, must sure have known a holy aloneness through which he receive the book of Revelation.” Elisabeth Elliot


Recently I finished writing a book called Deeper Still: Secrets to a Deeper Prayer Life. As I wrestled with what to call this book, after finally deciding a title God gave me several confirmations that this was His choice. Within a very short time I saw the words “deep”, “deeper”, and “deeper still” several times - a street name, a magazine title, a song on a CD, an article title, and many other places! God was showing me that depth is very important to Him and to all of us as we learn the lessons of prayer. The great Biblical characters like Job, Paul, John, and even Jesus had to learn this lesson. God wants to take each one of us deeper still, deeper than we have ever been before. And this requires times of aloneness.

Going deeper in prayer is not always fun. Actually it can be quite difficult, especially when we don’t know what God is doing. We have to give extravagant time to God. We have to close out the noisy world around us and be alone. When I wrote this book, God was wooing me on to a deeper prayer life. I thought to myself, “Haven’t I gone deep enough?” “Do You still want me to go deeper?” He indicated to me that this is what He wanted for me. The difficulties of the end-times require it. You may wonder, “Lord, isn’t it about time that I take action?” But you may not realize the strength that is needed at the foundation of your life in order to stay consistently strong in hard times. Your foundation has to be strong so that no attack from the enemy can penetrate your firm trust in the Lord.

The word “deep” in Webster’s Dictionary means “extending far below the surface, descending far downward, profound, opposed to shallow, piercing a great way, not superficial or obvious, hidden, secret, heartfelt, intricate.” God wants to take us far below the surface in our relationship with Him. Our relationship must not be superficial, but heartfelt, secret, and of great depth. The quality of our aloneness with Him can actually enhance the quality of our time with others. Let’s not get too busy with other things as this Christmas season begins. Let’s cultivate that deep, alone time with God and make it a holy aloneness. Let’s make that relationship of prime importance because this is what Christmas is all about. Someone once told my husband and me, “God is taking you deeper and working intricately with your life so that you can work intricately with the lives of others.”

As God calls many of you to go deeper, I recommend that you do the following:

· Thank Him for what He is doing in you - Live a life of thanksgiving. Choosing to go deeper with God will pay off in the end. Thanksgiving brings contentment.

· Refuse to listen to the devil - He wants you to be shallow so that you will fall in the end times just as those shallow trees fell in the hurricane. Listen to God when He is calling you deeper.

· Be patient and don’t complain - Watch your speech, and guard it carefully. Be one who speaks positive words that bring joy during this time of year.

· Be content with where you are - Thank Him for the depth He is developing in your life through your present circumstances. Let Him work intricately with your life.

· Cultivate holy aloneness with God every day - Plan it in your schedule. Sacrifice in order to give God your time. Make this Christmas season a time where Jesus is central in all that you do.

Your depth with God now is of utmost importance to Him. He knows what is needed. He is working intricately with your life. He knows how strong the winds will be howling in the end-times. He is very purposeful in what He is developing in your life right now. The devil will say it is not important: “Eat, drink and be merry. Nothing will happen. Just live for today.” But God is developing this holy aloneness with Himself for a purpose. Every day of “root building” is beneficial. When you are building depth, often you can’t see anything happening on the surface. It can even feel that all is dead and lifeless, but actually the opposite is true - sustainable life is being built deep down where it really counts. Realize that your root development will one day pay off. Let His song be with you even during the night season.


“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:7-8

Together in the Harvest,

Debbie Przybylski, Intercessors Arise

deb@intercessorsarise.org

www.intercessorsarise.org

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Solitude. Who me?


SOLITUDE

1981-January 25-JOURNAL ENTRY~ Arrived at the Crosier House for a monthly retreat. I’ve been taking one since our study in Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. It’s a struggle to leave home in the evening and tonight is no exception. Yet once I get away, it’s always worth it. Solitude is not a luxury, it is a necessity!!!

Foster writes, “Four times a year withdraw for three to four hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals. Find a quiet place (away from your daily distractions). What do you want to have accomplished one year from now? Be willing to dream, to stretch. Keep a journal record of what comes to you.”

2007-November 15-REFLECTION~ There are times when God is very silent. . . .such times mean patient obedience and keeping busy with the task at hand. Active waiting! At other times He speaks, almost with thunder and repeats His message over and over. Not in a voice, like a man, but an inner assurance. Confirmation comes by the Word of God, counsel of trusted friends and last of all, outward circumstances. An inner peace follows, which allows us to move through doors as He opens them.

Jesus often spent alone time with the Father. In solitude, He prayed and sought the Father’s will. From there He went out to gather the results of prayer. John records these words of our Lord, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:28-29)

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Monday, November 05, 2007

A Humble Prayer for Humility

II Chronicles 7:14

Many of us have been taught to strive for success, but if we do not put God in to the equation, where does it get us? What God wants is for us to follow His way of humility, then our success will come from Him.

The Lord instructs us to be humble in II Chronicles 7:14. Humility should be our prayer. I believe we should consider a prayer like the following:

Lord, lead me in humbleness. Teach me not to judge, because in judgment in my heart limits your work. Let me find forgiveness through humbleness. As you lead in humility may mercy be companion, and grace my covering. Through humility, may love be seen in me. May I find god’s truth, Jesus Christ in humility. Lord, help me wear the cloak of humility. May it be my mantle. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Are You Praying with a Clock or a Compass?

Compass or Clock?

By Rick Ezell


"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands" (Psalm 31:14-15 NIV).


A friend said, "My problem is that I have surrendered my time to work, to other people, and to bad habits."


Then truly that is the problem. We should first surrender our time to God. God owns it anyway. Our task is to manage properly what has been entrusted to us until he returns or wants it back, including our time.


Think about a compass and a clock. Two very important tools, but two very different instruments. One would be wise not to confuse the two. To surrender our time to God is to be governed by a compass rather than to be controlled by a clock. A compass provides a sense of direction, purpose, vision, perspective, and balance. A clock measures duration, the expenditure of time. A compass determines effectiveness-doing the right tasks. A clock determines efficiency-how long it takes to accomplish a task. Both have their place. But, the compass must come before the clock, therefore, effectiveness before efficiency. The "mega priorities" of the compass subordinate the "mini priorities" of the clock.


A compass, therefore, becomes a symbol of an internal guidance system that provides us with our values and convictions based on God's Word. This non-negotiable governs our lives. In the same manner that the gravitational force pulls the compass needle; it is God that governs the drive of our lives. We surrender to his force.


Our time should be surrendered to God daily. I asked a friend who is engaged in many pursuits successfully, how he managed it all. He said, "I give my first minutes to God, then I commit the remainder of the day to his Lordship. And amazingly I work more effectively and efficiently."


Have you surrendered your time to God? Is your time in his hands?


Dr. Rick Ezell is a husband, father, author, pastor, consultant, coach, conference leader, and communicator. Rick has a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Master of Theology in Preaching from Southern Baptist Seminary. He has published over 450 articles and sermons in various Christian publications. While authoring six books he has served over twenty years in pastoral ministry. Rick, Cindy, and Bailey currently reside in Greer, South Carolina.


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Prayer Relieves Toxic Stress & Worry

Prayer That Relieves Stress and Worry

By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
Book cover

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- I'm a compulsive worrier, so when I see a book titled "Prayer That Relieves Stress and Worry," I pay attention.

I'll be honest with you. I worry about continuing funding for Joy Junction, the homeless shelter I founded and of which I am the CEO. I worry about aging and getting sick (I just turned 50), and I worry that I worry so much.

With that in mind, you can see why Eddie Ensley's book about Prayer, Stress and Worry (Contemplative Press) was a good choice for me.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eddie by e-mail. (I didn't ask him if he was worried whether or not the book would be a success (just kidding!)

Eddie told me that it took him about nine months to write the book but he used materials he had already developed over a number of years.

Eddie said that the best part of the book was writing and dictating the first draft. The worst part, he said, was the copyediting.

Knowing that some writers enjoy special snacks or drinks while they're putting together a book I asked Eddie if he enjoyed anything in particular. He said that diet soda, "lots of it," was his beverage of choice.

Then I moved onto the more serious questions.

Toxic Worry

I asked Eddie how what he called the cycle of "toxic worry" can be broken.

He responded by saying that toxic worry is different from normal, daily worry. Toxic worry, Eddie said, is when worry and stress severely interfere with our lives, relationships or our work.

Eddie said that when our worries become unmanageable, it is essential to go see a trained doctor or therapist. Talking to a family member or trusted friend can also help, he said.

But, Eddie added, "Talking with God about our concerns is every bit as important if we truly want to gain a sense of peaceful perspective. Generations have found prayer to be a huge antidote to worry. Prayer breaks the cycle of constantly digging up our worries and chewing on
them over and over again."

Eddie surprised me at first when he said that in some cases worry can be good for us. I asked him to clarify what he meant. He explained that, for example, if students didn't worry about tests, they may not bother studying. And if parents don't have a healthy amount of worry about an infant, the child may be inadequately taken care of.

However, he cautioned, "The problem comes when worry becomes excessive and eats at us and won't let go of us."

I asked Eddie if prayer had helped him deal with loss and illness. He said it had - countless times - like the time his father was taken ill and died of a heart attack.

Another time prayer helped him, Eddie said, was when he faced dying from cancer.

He said, "I had always thought I would take the news of approaching death calmly. After all, as a Christian I believed death was not an ending, but a beginning; the start of everlasting life with our Lord Jesus. But instead of calm, a nearly overpowering sense of terror filled me. That whole week before surgery, stress so tied me up that I found prayer impossible. However, toward the end of that week, through sheer will power I forced myself to open a conversation with God."

Eddie said he was finally able to squeeze out the words, "'Dear Jesus, I am scared and terrified.'"

He said he repeated those same words for 15 or 20 minutes. He added, "It surely was not an eloquent prayer, but at least I wasn't holding back. The raw honesty of the prayer slowly quieted my soul."

Eddie said as he continued talking to the Lord, other words came to his mind. He said he told the Lord, "'Lord, I know you love me tenderly. You have walked at my side throughout my life. You have helped me through so many rough spots. Please ease my soul, and let me know what You hold in store for me as I go through this suffering.'"

Just talking with the Lord helped, Eddie said. He said at least now he knew he wasn't alone. As he put it, Eddie said, "I rested awhile in the tranquility of God's nearness. God's presence warmed me, as if He were whispering to me, 'I love you with an everlasting love, I will never let go of you.'"

The day before the surgery Eddie said he met with the surgeon, who smiled and said he would be going home as the CT scan indicated it wasn't cancer. Eddie was understandably relieved, but that relief, he said, only lasted three years.

In June of this year a follow-up CT scan showed that Eddie had a tumor growing. Surgery removed one tumor and a part of his right lung, but there was still a problem.

His lung had stage four carcinoid cancer. Eddie said, "However, carcinoid cancer is the slowest growing of all cancers and it could take five years for it to come back, if it ever comes back. I'm not out of the woods, but I likely have several more healthy years, at least."

But here's the miracle. Eddie said, "This time around, the terror and tension were not present. I was in constant prayer, it seemed, before the surgery and in the aftermath. I did the only thing possible; give myself over into God's hands. God's peace and God's love surrounded me."

But that sense of God's peace and love doesn't always come when you ask. I've had many dry periods in my Christian life and I asked Eddie if that was normal. He said yes; everyone goes through dry periods when they pray.

Eddie added, "At times we will abundantly feel God's presence, at other times we will not. Those dry times are often times God is working an unseen work in our hearts deeper than our feelings. The test of prayer is where we live our lives. If our prayer is full of feeling ,and we hear angels singing the Hallelujah chorus and our prayer does not help us to love others better, then we hardly prayed at all. Then if our prayer time is dry and we feel nothing while we prayed but can love our families and our fellow humans better, then our prayer reached beyond the heavens."

Forgiveness and Gratitude

I asked Eddie to tell me about the healing power of forgiveness and gratitude about which he writes. He was quick to answer, saying that they can often chase away worry. He referred to the old saying, "When you forgive you set a prisoner free, and then find out that the prisoner was yourself."

Eddie added, "Forgiveness does for the human heart what sunshine does for a plant; it warms it and stimulates growth. When we let go of entrenched resentment, we let go of a weight that was dragging us down and we can move more freely and joyfully in God's world."

Eddie said it is also important to get our mind off ourselves.

He said there was a well known New York psychoanalyst told the story about one of his patients, a middle-aged woman who was so self absorbed that everything she talked about in therapy was about her woes. Finally, in exasperation, he told her to spend a couple of days at Niagra Falls, get absorbed in its beauty, and get her mind off herself.

"When we give thanks to God," Eddie said, "we can become absorbed in his beauty and our problems and worries seem tiny in comparison with the vastness of His love for us."

Eddie said he has a good prescription for relieving stress. He said during those times it's a good idea to get out a pen and paper and begin a prayer of thanks.

He said, "Start with the phrase, 'I thank you, Lord, for . . .' Next write out, item by item, all the people and things for which you are thankful. Next, unhurriedly and prayerfully read what you have written. If a phrase (stands out), just repeat it over and over again and let that carry you into the stillness.

Resentment

I wondered why Eddie compares resentment to a "drug that inebriates" He said it's because of power and control.

"Few things deliver the mighty rush of power that hurting others can deliver," Eddie said. "Resentment also rips us apart. It wrecks our relationships. When we resent, we no longer have time to breathe in the freshness of each moment. We cease to see the beauty in the world. Hatred leaves little room for love of any sort."

He added, "When we resent, we push away those who love us, even those who have never hurt us and never will. At times we can even push away God with our resentment. The first step in breaking this pattern and forgiving others is to realize how much God has forgiven us personally. God is a lavish forgiver. Coming to Him often to be forgiven teaches us about how we should forgive others."

Conversational Prayer

Conversational prayer, I realized, can be very helpful in resolving worry. But some people don't really know what it is.

Eddie defined "conversational prayer" as "an intimate communication between friends. Jesus listens to us; we listen to Him. Hardly anything comforts and eases us more that someone who lovingly listens. Jesus -- the greatest listener, the greatest friend -- experienced our fears, our stresses and worries."

In conversational prayer, Eddie said, not only do we talk to the Lord but He talks to us. "Not only do we speak with God in conversational prayer; God speaks to us. God will not make himself heard by you in a voice that reaches your ears but rather in a voice that only your heart knows well."

Wandering Thoughts

I asked Eddie what advice he could offer about the multitude of wandering thoughts that arise during times of prayer.

He said that wandering thoughts are part of being human. Eddie added, "I'm sure Jesus had wandering thoughts when he prayed; He was human, after all. Wandering thoughts in prayer are not sinful; they are natural. You didn't will to have these thoughts; they came unbidden. Wandering thoughts in prayer are a symptom of pent-up stress; the thoughts were with us all along, suppressed, pushed down and locked inside."

Eddie gave the example of what happens when a capped bottle of cola is shaken. "The bottled-up fizz creates great pressure inside the bottle," he said. "Finally, when the cap is taken off, the fizz spews out the top, relieving the pressure. Our busyness and preoccupations cap the thoughts within us. When we pray we take the cap off and the thoughts, which were with us all along, but hidden, emerge into our consciousness."

If you worry, Eddie's book is a great investment. I recommend it. (If you don't, it's still a great buy). You can obtain "Prayer That Relieves Stress and Worry" by going to www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/002-2429036-7333669?initialSearch=1&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=eddie+ensley


Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org or http://www.christianity.com/joyjunction. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City: A Call to Service." Additional details about "Homeless" are available at http://www.HomelessBook.com He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at jeremyreynalds@comcast.net. Tel: (505) 877-6967 or (505) 400-7145. Note: A higher resolution JPEG picture of Jeremy Reynalds is available on request from Dan Wooding at danjuma1@aol.com.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Gospel for Asia. GFA's Bridge of Hope program is designed to rescue thousands of children in Asia from a life of poverty and hopelessness by giving them an education and introducing them to the love of Christ. For only $28 a month, you can cover the cost of one child's tuition, books, uniforms, one or two meals a day and a yearly medical checkup-and your child, his family and community will hear the Gospel as a result. To learn more about Gospel for Asia's Bridge of Hope program, visit our website at www.gfa.org/child or call 1-800-WIN-ASIA (United States) or 1-888-WIN-ASIA (Canada).

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