Saturday, March 10, 2012

Week Four

The Discipline of Study

Interestingly enough... I spent more time studying this discipline than I did actually applying it to my daily routine this week. With that irony stated, I feel as though I owed it that much... and perhaps learned more this way. It also seemed like every sermon I listened to, book I read, or training manual I looked over had to do with the importance of study and gave me very valuable tools on how to go about it properly.

You see, most of us never even scratch the surface of what 'intentionally studying something' has to offer. Rather, most of us I presume... are reaping the harvest of studying things 'unintentionally'. Whether we like it or not..."ingrained habits of thought that are formed in our brain WILL conform to the order of the thing being studied. What we study determines the kind of habits that are formed, which is why Paul urges us to focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious, " according to Foster. Therefore it is beneficial and crucial for us to a
ll know... before picking up just any book, watching just any flick, listening in on just any conversation, or getting 'involved' with jus
t anyone... the mind will always conform upon which it concentrates.

So then.. if concentrating means: to focus one's attention of mental efforts on a particular object or activity, I'd like to pose a simple question to start. What objects or activities are we most interested in, and second- what is taking up most of our time? Whether it be work, kids, television, sports... I encourage you to write some of these things out now. This may help us identify things that perhaps we didn't even realize our mind was susceptible to conforming to. It may also be useful in guiding us in the direc
tion of finding more truthful, honorable, purifying, and nourishing things to concentrate on or study.

As for me, I have always had the best of intentions in life. But all of my hopes, desires, dreams and goals amounted to nothing without the proper steps in that direction. At the moment I'm also reading "The principle of the path" by Andy Stanley. Talk about a wake up call... man. I'm beginning to see how many years I spent making 'un-intentional' mistakes which quickly led me down a path of destruction and discomfort making it a lot easier to walk in the flesh rather than in the spirit. I always prayed that I would be 'used by the Lord' and that 'He would lead me to the right jobs and relationships, etc'... yet I was making very poor decisions in life then wondering where God was in the outcomes.

Now I see that the "temporarily satisfying" decisions I was making for myself were all based on the very things I spent most of my time concentrating on. Sure, I was attending church on sundays and going to a home group... but in my spare time I was going to parties looking for someone to pay unhealthy attention to me, or watching filth on television, or having meaningless shallow conversations with people I'd probably never see again. Now that I've become a little older, my eyes are being opened to the "predictable predicaments" we can easily get ourselves into because of lack in understanding our responsibility in the daily decisions as well as the habits formed by our concentration of choice.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 Thank God that His grace gives us the means by which our inner spirit is changed! If we desire to know the will of God then we must choose to be transformed by Him daily by what we eat, think, watch, read, hear, and spend time doing. Obviously, God is the one who will change us... but He so lovingly gives us the power of decision because of His awesome character and nature.

Now, rather than be overwhelmed with the great responsibility He's given, all we have to do is begin by being still and listening.... resting in His presence. Ask God to reveal things in this world that are nourishing for your soul and that will build you up in the spirit and give God the ability to transform you to His likeness. Also ask the Lord to reveal the toxic things in your life that are impairing your judgement thus making you weak... as the enemy would have it. The word of God is FULL of all the wholesome nourishment you could ever need... but it will have little or no power in our lives if we don't read it. It's also so beneficial to observe God in other things which we'll get to shortly....

According to Foster the discipline of Study involves four steps. 1- Repetition: Initially it is not even important that the person believe or understand what they are repeating because the inner mind is being trained and will eventually respond by modifying behavior to conform to the affirmation. (Works equally with truths being told or lies being heard). 2-Concentration: the human mind has an incredible ability to center the mind, this natural ability is enhanced when, with singleness of purpose, we center our attention upon a desired object or study. (Unfortunately, we live in a culture that does not value this but rather distraction and hurry). 3- Comprehension: this step focuses on the knowledge of truth which catapults us into a new level of growth and freedom leading to insight and discernment providing the basis for a TRUE perception of reality. 4- Reflection: defines the significance of what we are studying. When we ponder the meaning, we come to hear and see in a new way... this demands humility.

"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jesus, in John 8:31 &32 I don't know about you guys... but i wanna be FREE! Therefore, I wanna know the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And yes, we CAN handle the truth! We desperately need the truth.

Foster gives other helpful hints as we study books of the bible, schooling, or others. We must first understand: what is the author saying? Then we need to interpret: what does the author mean? Lastly we should evaluate: is the author right or wrong? It's so important to remember as we enter into reading or studying that we need to be a student- listening to what God wants to say to us, not just what we want to hear... because if we search shallow enough we will definitely find some temporarily statisfying feelings. But what we are REALLY dying for is something God REALLY desires to give us: LIFE-transforming truth.

Last but not least Foster asks that we also pay close attention to the reverent observation of God in nature. This Chapter was one of my fav's because I have such an innate love for God's creation and find so much energy and joy when I am able to sit and reflect on everything beautiful He has made for His kids. I encourage you to spend more time studying every living thing... from trees, to animals, to people, to the sunset, to the flowing river. God so desperately wants us to hear His voice and see His fingerprint in EVERYTHING He created... so let us watch, listen and learn.

"For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Is 55:12

Earlier this week I rented the film Hugo that won all sorts of awards this year. One of my favorite moments was when the boy was talking about His father's purpose in life that was to fix broken things. As the little girl asked the boy what His purpose was... you could see that He was less worried about what his title was and more concerned about knowing who is father is and was. My revelation? Well, the more you know your Father... the more confident you become in your purpose because basically our purpose is to know Him more. And when we fall in love with Him and make decisions that glorify and honor Him... we conform to His likeness as our minds become renewed by His truth and can't help but overflow with His authentic love to the world.

The life of James, son of Alphaeus

Unfortunately, there is not much written about this James and what is written about him may even be confused with the other James' in the bible. This James was the brother of Matthew (the other Apostle) and son of one of the Mary's. It has been said that he was stoned in Jerusalem for preaching Christ and buried by the sanctuary.

What I find very interesting is what little facts I can find about this man. This makes his life even more mysterious to me. Since He was not one of the more noted disciples or "famous ones", I'm almost attracted even more to his story... which may never be known on this earth.

Our modern day culture seems to drive this ever increasing pressure to "be somebody" or more of an individualistic way of thinking. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a reason there were twelve of the disciples and that every imperfect one of them had a part to do that made a beautiful whole. Yes, we must individually seek a lifestyle of truth, wholeness, purity, and honor while collectively coming together for the cause of Christ agreeing with one another in unity and love.... or else, we'll wait unnecessary amounts of time for true revival.

This man may not be "known" but he has a story. He followed Christ, was part of a group of men that helped spread the gospel all over the world and was one of the few willing to die for it. We've got to have a greater desire to make HIM known than our efforts put forth in trying to make some sort of a name for ourselves in this world that will fade away. Thank you James for unintentionally changing lives thousands of years later by your silent example- no words necessary :)

Training for half-marathon

So far this week I've run about four days. I can already feel my endurance building... and I'm actually getting to the place where I like it!!! Crazy huh? I went 5 miles in one day only stopping for a few walking breaks in between... I was so ecstatic!

Unfortunately I found out today I have some sort of infection in my body and may have to get a root canal soon. It's been awhile since I've experienced pain like this so I'd really appreciate your prayers. I hope to move through this quickly to gain all of my strength back and continue running according to schedule, but I know God's got it! Excited about the lessons in this one as well, looking forward to the rest of my training season.

Please let me know if I can be praying for you in any way!! Love all of you so much, I hope you were encouraged somehow today.

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