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Spending a Day with God in Solitude and Personal Planning
Posted by Clare
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Last week I wrote about the value of having your own Personal Mission Statement.  If you’ve not yet read that blog, I think you’ll want to or this one may not make much sense.

Have you ever spent an entire day all alone with God?

While it’s possible to write a mission statement and set your goals by catching a few hours here and there, but why would you?  Why rob yourself of the opportunity to be alone with God and by doing so telling him that you’re giving him your full attention.  “Speak to me, Lord.  I’m listening.”  Hearing from God requires time alone with him to listen for his direction.  It is his guidance you’ll need to truly live a life that blesses him and pleases you.

You say you just don’t have the time?  Then skip church, take Sunday off, ask your spouse, a friend, or relative to watch the kids.  People have reported that when they’ve asked their spouse for a day off to seek God to be a more godly man or woman, and not just to go to a game, fishing, or shopping, they were surprised at how excited they were to help out.  Who wouldn’t want a spouse more deeply committed to them, their children and God?

So, what does a day alone with God look like?

CHOOSING THE PLACE

Where you take your day isn’t terribly important as long as it’s somewhere you can pray, reflect, and write with few distractions.  Some people have gone to a park, the beach, a friend’s cottage, or a bed and breakfast.  Others have actually gone hiking and will pray and seek God’s guidance as they walk, stopping to write when they sense God speaking to them.

I recommend taking only a Bible, these materials, and a journal or a few blank pages to write out your goals.  Leave your phone, iPad, computer, or books and anything else that will tempt you to “check-in” or “check-out” mentally.  If you’re leaving small children at home and feel the need to be available to babysitters, then covenant with God that you will only receive their messages or calls and no others.

BEFORE YOU GO

If you’ve not read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren yet, or in the last few years, you should.  It’s a wonderful reminder of God’s purpose and plans for all who call themselves his children.  John Eldredge’s book The Epic will also help you get a fresh perspective on God’s purpose for every believer’s life.

YOUR DAY WITH GOD

• Begin your day with an extended time of prayer and Bible reading.  Don’t be in a rush to get at the work.  Filling your mind with God is the work!

• Tell God you’re listening to him and spend perhaps a half-hour saying or reading nothing.  Write down any impressions he gives you as they come even if it doesn’t make much sense at the moment.

• Begin the writing of your mission statement by first answering the questions in the next section.

WRITING YOUR PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT

A mission statement is a written summary of the most important values, relationships, and accomplishments which define for God and for you a life of significance and contentment.

The first series of questions ask, “Who are you presently?”  This isn’t who you want to be, but for better or worse who are you right now.  This is a time for brutal honesty.  I’ve met with people who were courageous enough to write answers like “selfish”, “I want what I want”, or “I’m angry”.  The more honest you are, the easier it will be to identify what must change in your life.  You don’t need to share your answers with anyone unless you choose to do so; therefore, don’t be concerned about what anyone thinks but God and yourself.

There is no suggested time limit on each question, but first impressions are often the best.  If you reflect too long, there’s a temptation to massage the answer into something more flattering.  Go with the first ideas God puts on your mind.  So begin now with prayer, then get started.

WHO ARE YOU PRESENTLY?  A SELF-ANALYSIS:

1. In one word, who are you?  Not who or what you would like to be, but for better or worse, what one word best describes who you presently are.  Perhaps it’s a character trait or even a feeling.  Who are you?

2. Answer that same question, this time using two or three more words to complete a phrase and flesh out who you are when no one but God and yourself is watching.

3. What is the most important virtue, fear, or principle which governs your life?  Who are you when nobody is looking?  It might be something good or something you don’t really like about yourself.

4. Two of your greatest strengths are…

5. Your two greatest weaknesses are…

6. If your family and close friends were to honestly write your epitaph today, in one sentence, what would they say?  How would they summarize your life so far?

7. If God were asked to summarize your life up to this point, what would he say?

THE PERSON YOU WISH TO BECOME

1. Did you have a person who was a role model for you when you were growing up?  What character qualities did you most admire in them?

2. If you could be remembered for having lived by only two principles they would be…

3. At the end of your life, if you could be remembered for having accomplished only three things, what would they be?  (These can be things you have already accomplished or hope to accomplish.)

4. If God were to write a mission statement for what you think he wants your life to be, how do you think it would read?  Write three of four sentences.

5. In one sentence, write your own epitaph for the person you would like to become.  How would you like to be remembered?

Once you’ve done this, you will have completed a rough draft of your Personal Mission Statement.  Over the next few weeks, edit this paragraph down to two or three sentences.  I modified mine several different times in the first year and that’s okay.

Then write your Life Goals, which are mini-mission statements for your life for the following applicable areas:  Spiritual Growth, My Spouse, Our Children, Vocation and Finances, Friends and Extended Family and Physical and Emotional Wellness. Review last week’s blog for more details on Life Goals.

Praise God in song or prayer for any new insights.  Then go on to write some One-Year and Quarterly Goals, which will help you move to forward with intentionality.  (You will find some help in doing this by reviewing my blogs on Accountability in December.)

The first time I took a day alone with God it was one of the most empowering days of my life.  I left to go home believing I had heard from God and was ready to live more purposefully than I ever had!

If you sense God calling you to get more serious about this process, I’ve written a workbook of nearly 40 pages entitled, Discovering Your Life’s Purpose (DYLP) with a lot more detail, guiding you through the steps I’ve outlined above.  It contains many more pages of additional questions to ask of yourself as you write your Mission Statement, your Life Goals, and One year Goals – there are even ideas for goals you might want to consider setting.  Even more importantly, I spend considerable time discussing how to use the mentoring and accountability groups I’ve been blogging about to keep your feet to the fire to accomplish all that God and you have determined you want for yourself.  You’ll find more information about DYLP on our RESOURCES page.

Questions:  Have you tried to spend a day alone with God?  How did it go?  What worked or didn’t work?

Following Jesus in Real Life.

 

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The Value of Having a Personal Mission Statement
Posted by Clare
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Decades ago I felt like my life was out of control.  I was busy in ministry, we were raising five children, trying to keep our marriage fresh and I felt like I was not doing any of them well.  Life was a blur.

So, I signed up for a time management course.  I thought that was how I would find more balance: just be more efficient.  The first words out of the seminar presenter’s mouth were two questions and then a quote.

“How many of you have a written Personal Mission Statement?”

Then, following a long, very uncomfortable silence…

“How many of you have ever taken an entire day in your whole life for the sole purpose of thinking through what you and God want most out of your life?”

The only sound in the room was the hum of the air conditioner.  Then the presenter quoted this;

“If a man (woman) doesn’t know what harbor he’s headed for, no harbor is the right harbor.” Lucius Seneca, a Roman Senator

Silently I answered “no” to both questions and immediately felt two competing emotions – I felt both foolish and encouraged.

I felt foolish because I had always taken several days every year with my management team to plan the future of my business.  Likewise, the ministries I served almost always had annual planning meetings to chart their course.  Both my business and these ministries also had written mission statements that guided all of our decisions.  Yet here I was, a child of God, just winging it and wondering why I was burning out.  I felt foolish.

But, I also felt encouraged because I sensed I was about to be introduced to a path that would change my life.  And so are you.

Do you have a written Personal Mission Statement?

If you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re not accomplishing some very good things in your life.  Most of us are serving God and others, trying to raise our children right, working in a meaningful job, volunteering in our churches and communities, giving, worshipping – in short, being productive citizens and good Christians.  But for what purpose?  Of course we’re going to heaven, so that’s our final destination.  But should going to heaven someday really be the purpose of our life now?

Think of the present kingdom of God as the rule of God in heaven and on earth.  God, through Jesus has entrusted each of us with a sub-kingdom within his.  Our sub-kingdom is all the people and resources over whom we’ve been given authority, or with whom we have an influence.  You have a sub-kingdom, and your mission in life is to manage it for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom.  But, how do we do that and where do we start?

Designing Your Life with the End in Mind

When an architect designs a house, he begins with the most important objectives in mind first.  What do the owners want and need?  What do they want their home to look like?  Will it work for them 25 years from now?  What are their resources?  What can they afford?

Both the architect and owner begin with the end in mind.  Once they visualized that, the architect can begin work on the more specific details to make the owners dream a reality.  We, you and I belong to God. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but God owns you and me.  As you let God reveal to you his design for your life, you’re letting God be both the owner and architect, allowing you the privilege of putting his plans on paper – beginning with the following three steps:

STEP ONE:  Make plans to spend a retreat day in solitude and personal planning.

Solitude is the experience of spending time alone with God to pray, reflect, appreciate, and plan your life at its deepest personal and spiritual level.  This is a time for remembering the most important things in life and making critical choices to make sure that lesser things don’t rob of you of the best things.

STEP TWO:  Begin writing your Personal Mission Statement.

Your Personal Mission Statement will answer the fundamental question, “When you get to the end of your life and look back, what would define for God and yourself a life worth having lived?”  It’s the very reason for your existence and a Personal Mission Statement will become the foundation for evaluating all your future priorities and plans.

STEP THREE:  Write your Life Goals.

Life Goals are essentially mini-mission statements, drawn from your Personal Mission Statement, which define your aspirations for six specific, major areas of most people’s lives: spiritual, spouse, children, vocation and finances, friends and extended family, and physical and mental wellness.

I thought it would be helpful to give you a snap shot of what a typical Personal Mission Statement and Life Goals actually looks like when finished, so here’s a sample:

MY PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT:

My life’s goal is to enjoy Jesus, be content with who He has made me and with the resources and gifts I’ve been given, be a godly example to my wife, children, and friends.

MY LIFE GOALS:

Spiritual Growth

I desire to be a godly man, ever growing in my love for God and his truth, living a life of kindness in service to others, and leaving behind people whose lives are better off because I openly followed Jesus.

My Wife

My life’s goal is to be a loving husband, willing to invest time and energy in our relationship so that she feels cherished and secure.  I want our relationship to be open, intimate, and caring even as I understand life’s pressures and my ego will work to undermine these objectives.

Our Children

I want to be their definition of a godly man.  I want to teach them biblical truths both from Scripture and by example, and have them grow into spiritually, emotionally, and relationally healthy adults.

Vocation and Finances

I would like to be remembered as a man of integrity, vision, and courage who never sacrificed his principles to advance himself.  I want to pursue excellence in all I do, see my work place as my mission field, and use the resources I’ve been given to advance the work of the kingdom.

Friends and Extended Family

I want to have several close friends, not just buddies.  I desire a healthy relationship with my parents and siblings.  I want to be known as an encourager among my friends.

Physical and Emotional Wellness

I want to maintain my health without vanity and have enough recreation to be refreshed without detracting from accomplishing my other Life Goals.

Next Week: I’ll give you some ideas to help make your day alone with God more productive and also a few questions to get you started on writing your own personal mission statement.

My question for you:  If you have a Personal Mission Statement, would please you share it with us?

Following Jesus in Real Life.

 

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Our Mission from God
Posted by Clare
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A week ago we celebrated Easter – remembering what Jesus did for us. I wrote the following story for our older grandchildren to remind them, “why?” Why did Jesus come and die for us besides guaranteeing our salvation and heaven someday? Is salvation really all about us, or about others, or God? The answer is “Yes!”

Consider reading this story to your children or grandchildren and then discussing the questions at the end with them.

The Mission

There once was a beautiful country ruled by a good and just king who loved his people deeply. He cared for their every need. Therefore, his faithful subjects simply called him Father.

There was also in that land a terrible Prince they called The Evil One. Many centuries ago, The Evil One deceived the subjects of the Father’s kingdom and most became his slaves. As the centuries passed, this population of slaves grew until there was a vast slave camp encircled by a high fence and barbed wire, encompassing millions and millions of people.

Humans had lived in the camp so long they began to think of themselves not as slaves, but simply as people who were destined to lives of frustration, purposeless, and fear. Over the generations, the inhabitants of the camp worked at trying to make a normal life for themselves. They built houses, started businesses, established schools, and life had a certain rhythm. Most had forgotten about the Father King and were unaware of The Evil One’s influence on them.

But the Father had not forgotten about his subjects. In fact, he loved them deeply. In every generation he called out men and women to follow only him, to live in his kingdom, and participate in his purposes and plans. Over the years, he also sent messengers into the camp to declare that one day he would send his son to personally rescue them.

One day someone cried out “he’s here!”, and a young woman hearing these cries followed the crowd and went to the fence at the edge of the camp. On the other side was a man with the kindest face she had ever seen. As she stood at the fence, her fingers intertwined in the wire, he began to speak.

“My name is Jesus and I’ve been sent by your true king, my Father, to set you free. This is not the life my father and I intended for you. He has a kingdom and all who live in that kingdom love one another and love my Father and me. You no longer have to live as slaves. In fact, the Father loves you so much he sent me years ago to give my very life for you, which I did on a cross.”

Several in the crowd asked aloud, “What do we need to do to be free and live in your father’s kingdom?” Jesus said, “Simply believe that I am the Son of the King and that I’ve already paid the price for your sin which now holds you captive, and come follow me.”

But others in the crowd laughed. Many of them had heard Jesus’ offer before. The woman’s friends said, “Come on, let’s go.  We’ve heard enough of this fool. Nobody is going to set us free. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s a trick.” The crowd melted away until only the young woman remained, staring into the eyes of Jesus.

After what seemed an eternity, something in the woman moved her to believe Jesus. Quietly and almost tentatively she said, “Yes, I believe you. What do you want me to do next?”

Jesus replied in a soft voice, “Trust me. Follow my instructions. First, you must renounce your life of slavery and admit that the bad habits you’ve developed as a slave are wrong and make a decision to leave that life behind. Walk over to the gate, push on it, believe that I can open it, then step through and follow me.”

Immediately doubt began to flood her mind. “It can’t be that easy,” she thought to herself. “If it were, everyone would do it.” Even then the power of The Evil One was tempting her to not believe. He whispered, almost in a hiss, “If you leave, you leave your fun, your family, and your friends behind.” That thought unsettled her and for a moment she hesitated, uncertain.

But another voice, an inner voice, a voice of hope, kept calling to her and encouraging her. She moved slowly toward the gate, put her hand on the bars, and looking directly into the face of Jesus, gently pushed as the gate swung open. The ease of its opening startled her, so much so that she stood for a moment unsure what to do next.

“Now, swear your allegiance to me and my teachings, and come follow me,” Jesus said. And she did.

Jesus led her to meet his Father. “This one is mine Father. For my sake, accept her into our family.” As she came into his presence, the voices of the millions who had chosen as she did, drowned out all other sound and they cheered her on and sung praises to the Father. She was indeed free and happier than she had ever been in her entire life.

She was introduced to new friends who also loved Jesus, and was taught from the Bible what it meant to live in the Kingdom of God. She loved learning and living this new life.

One day Jesus called her and again said, “Come follow me.” After hours of walking and talking, they climbed a high hill. As they came over the crest, the woman saw spread out below her the camp from which she had been set free. It startled her and frightened her to see the camp again and she grabbed Jesus’ arm.

Jesus turned to her and broke her thoughts by saying, “I need you to go back.” “No!”, the woman almost cried out, but she caught herself and listened. She had learned to trust Jesus even when it made no rational sense to her. “There are many like you who are still slaves, who need to know that the Father and I love them.”

Slowly she began to remember that there had been groups of people in the camp who went to places called churches. Occasionally they would talk about Jesus to their neighbors, but for the most part they just stuck to themselves. Surely Jesus wanted her to go to them and join with them. Jesus, reading her thoughts, said, “While I do want you to find your spiritual brothers and sisters and gather together regularly to encourage each other and worship my Father and me, that’s not the primary reason you are returning. The reason I’m sending you back is to rescue those still in slavery. To do that, you’re going to have to hang out in places and with people many religious people will not. I want you to tell them about me.”

“But there is one thing that will give your message real credibility and will truly bring glory to the Father and to me: impersonate me in character and behavior. Everything you’ve learned about me and from me put into practice every day. I want you to love your enemies, even my enemies. I want you to care for the poor and forgive everyone generously and graciously. You are to be my living billboard. I want people to be so enamored by your good character, behavior, and attitude toward people and life that they are drawn to come to the fence like you did and follow me out of slavery also. That is your mission for the balance of your life in the camp.”

The woman finally understood. She had been rescued to be a rescuer herself. She slowly began walking down the mountain toward the camp, unsure of herself, but obedient to Jesus. Each step brought her more confidence and peace. She was not alone. Jesus had sent with her the Holy Spirit to teach and guide her and keep her true to him. Together they would do it. Her mission was to both, bring the good news and be the good news of the Kingdom of God to everyone she met.

Because she was faithful, she, and many she led to the fence to meet and follow Jesus, lived happily ever after.

________________________________________

Discussion Questions

Q. Can you remember ever asking Jesus to forgive your sins and telling him you want to live for him?

Q. What do you think that means, “to live for him”?

Q. What did you learn from this story about why Christians are saved? What does Jesus want us to do with our lives?

Q. What are some specific ways you could “imitate Jesus” or “be the gospel” this week?

Next Week:  I’ll begin a two week series on the importance of having a written, personal mission statement to begin putting flesh on the specific mission God has given you!

Following Jesus in Real Life

 

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Family Patriarchs
Posted by Clare
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What does a modern-day Christian patriarch look like?

That was the question my accountability group chose to tackle on one of our retreats a year ago.  The term patriarch sounds so archaic and yet the patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.) are so revered in scripture it felt like we owed it to ourselves to examine what made them “men after God’s own heart” and what would one look like today?

What is a modern-day patriarch?

A patriarch is a man who’s won the respect of God, as well as the love and respect of his own family and friends.  They intuitively look to him as one of their primary examples of godliness and godly wisdom.

Why the patriarchs were loved by God.

Noah: “These are the records of the generations of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:9

Abraham: “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:9-10

Job: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” Job 1:1

Moses: “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin; he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasurers of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:25-26

David: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78:72

Where are the real men?

“Real men are an increasingly hard thing to find.  We seem to live in a society of boys.  Twenty… thirty… forty… fifty… sixty year-old boys.  The goal of many guys today appears to be to maintain a high school mentality all the way through life.  The ultimate seems to be to retire, still a boy, to a life of golf, vacations, and few responsibilities.  I find few guys today who want to become men, real men, godly men, in a word – a patriarch.

A modern-day patriarch is the most exciting, fulfilling, challenging and rewarding expression of manhood I can think of.  A patriarch is not a retired grandfather simply reacting to his children and his grandchildren’s ideas – old, autocratic, set in his ways, and basically out of it.  A patriarch is intentional.  He’s plugged into his culture, leading his children, and eventually his grandchildren, keenly aware of life’s ever-changing challenges.  He’s spiritual, inventive, alert, and constantly thinking of ways to inspire his wife, children, and his extended family around him as he himself continues to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of his God.”

Edited from The Mature Man, by David DeWitt

A Modern-Day Patriarch:

1. Is open and unashamed about his love for God and the things of God.

2. Is a student of scripture, and has developed such a confidence in its trustworthiness, that it informs every moral decision he makes whether he’s conscience of it or not.

3. Prays regularly for and with his family.

4. Seeks to win the love and respect of his family by his selfless devotion to their spiritual, relational, emotional and physical welfare.

5. Is intentional about teaching his family to think and live generously, graciously and biblically.

6. Exercises discipline appropriately and fairly.

7. As his family grows, he nurtures his sons and daughters-in-laws without superimposing his will on their marriage or undermining a husband’s authority.

8. He intentionally works to become a godly influence to his grandchildren, without ever undermining the authority or respect of their parents.

9. He serves God by serving others with grace and generosity.

10. He leaves a legacy of godliness to the next generation.

“He said to them, Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.  They are not just idle words for you – they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:46-47a

Learning to be a patriarch

Begin by asking God to bring to mind the name of someone you know, who you consider a Christian patriarch.  Call them and interview them and ask them what they do and how they do it.  In many ways the requirements for a patriarch are the same as a spiritual mentor.  Look for a man whose family reveres him.  (A Guide for Finding and Being a Spiritual Mentor is available as a download on my website.)

Set aside time to speak with your wife and get her thoughts about how she perceives you currently in this role.  Give her permission to be honest and be prepared to receive her comments without defense or offense.  With her, pray about how both of you can inspire your children or grandchildren more.  A true patriarch is never a threat to his wife and never lords it over her.  He should be what every Christian woman dreams of for a husband and father for their children.

Now take some time away, even if only for a few hours and pray for wisdom for your next moves.  Try to imagine yourself surrounded by your family.  What would you like to tell them or share with them most?  What spiritual legacy would you like to leave behind?  Write ideas down as God gives you ideas or impressions.

Specific ways you as a patriarch can serve your family:

1. Teach them the Bible, how to study the Bible and how to think critically about contemporary issues and all things Christian.  Ask them for the questions they have and if you aren’t sure of the answers, get with someone who can help you.

2. Expose your family to godly people doing the work of God in a variety of settings.  (People working with the homeless, in missions, evangelism, prison ministry, social justice, etc.)

3. Teach them how to pray and pray with them.

4. Take your family on mission trips or invite them to work alongside of you in some ministry.

5. Get to know and be a godly influence with your children, or grandchildren’s friends.  Invite them to do something fun just to build relationships.  (A concert, a hobby, out for a meal, anything!)

6. Warn your children about the unintended consequences of sinful or unwise behavior and be transparent about the consequences of sin or foolish choices you’ve made in your own life.  Tell them stories of your life that taught you a lesson.  Kids love stories!

7. Inspire them with stories of faithful followers of Jesus you personally know or have heard of.  Take them out to dinner or coffee with godly people you know, just so they can observe what people who love God talk about.

8. Teach your children to be wary of religious traditions that can actually stunt true spirituality and experiment doing with them other spiritual practices used by godly men and women over the centuries.  (Fasting, meditation, solitude, etc.)

9. Share with them what you’re constantly learning about life, relationships and truth.  Look for newspaper articles or YouTube videos to send to your children or discuss with them to stimulate discussions.

10. Meet occasionally with your youth or college pastor to find out what big issues kids are struggling with today.  Why not invite this person to meet with a group of your friends so you can help them be the patriarchs of their own families?

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11

Question:  Would you please share with us “patriarch” things you have done, or you’ve seen done?

Next Week:  The Mission, a story I wrote for our older grandchildren to remind them of “the rest of the story” of why Jesus died for us.  Then in two weeks, how to write a personal mission statement and really put flesh on our mission.

Following Jesus in Real Life.


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