Meditation

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Meditation has a different meaning to different people.  For some it’s emptying your mind and focusing on yourself, for others it is focusing on a higher power or something they think is good.  I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and so what I meditate on is God’s Word or the Bible.  For me this is one of the most powerful and helpful things I have ever done.    There is now a lot of scientific proof that meditating on good things like Scripture actually renews and changes our brains.  Brain science shows us the benefits of this focused thinking. The Bible talks about renewing your mind and taking your thoughts captive.  God designed our brains to be able to be changed depending on what it takes in.  The mind controls the brain and can make positive or negative changes.

To me meditation is considering and pondering a part of Scripture, a story in the Bible or a chapter or even sometimes a few words or one word.  What I try to do is pick something to focus on and then read through it 10-15 times in different ways.  I’ll read it silently several times, then out loud, then with a different emphasis on certain words and sometimes even adding my name.  Then I think about or ponder what I read.  I will then bring it back up a different times of the day for just a few moments.

The Bible talks about the power of meditation in Psalm 1:1-3 it says this: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-whatever they do prospers.”

Did you catch that?  Biblical meditation is so powerful that God promises that everything you do will prosper if you meditate on His Word day and night.  That may sound a bit intimidating or too hard to do.  For me meditating day and night does not mean 24/7 it means that in those times where I’m idle, waiting, resting, driving or by myself I need to meditate on God’s Word.  Those are the times that I am most tempted or that my thoughts are most likely to be negative or sinful.  So in those moments if I’m able to chew on a Biblical idea or a story from the Bible I can renew my mind and gain incredible strength, encouragement and hope.

Meditation is similar to a cow chewing the cud or rumination, which means to chew, swallow then regurgitate and chew again.  A cow does this several times to get all the nutrition out of the food and to digest it in a healthy way.  Biblical meditation is similar, in that we take it into our minds ponder it and then keep bringing it back up and chewing some more.

I have started on a 21 day journey leading up to Christmas Eve of meditating daily on a Scripture and reading through a document of Biblical Truth Statements.  It will only be about 7-10 minutes a day, but I believe God will use that time to strengthen my mind and nourish my soul in a powerful life-changing way.  The Scripture I have chosen is one I memorized 15 years ago.  It’s 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all.  In your hands are power and might; in Your hands it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

I want to encourage you to pick a Scripture or two and meditate on it over the next 21 days.  Chew on it over and over again and pull out all the nourishment you can get.  Then pick another Scripture and do it again for another 21 days and then do it one more time.  If you can do that for 63 days in a row, it will be habit and you will be able to continue to meditate on God’s Word day and night for the rest of your life.

Lessons Learned at Eight Days of Hope

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Last week I went on a mission trip to Tupelo MS with the organization Eight Days of Hope.  This was the second time I’ve gone on one of these trips with 8DOH.  Back in late April of 2014 Tupelo was hit with a devastating tornado.  The damage was far reaching and the city is still trying to rebuild and regroup.

Basically 8DOH goes into a community and works with local churches, non-profits and the government officials.  They only go to communities that want the help and are open to a Christian organization.  They focus on homeowners that are uninsured, under insured or that need help beyond what insurance will pay.

3,023 volunteers from 37 states served at Eight Days of Hope XI. There were around 60 people from NewPointe Community Church that went.  We worked on 235 homes, multiple churches and multiple parks. We finished 451 jobs with 159 homes being completed. Three homes were built from the ground up. Total amount of work done exceeded $4.4 million dollars. BUT…the most important thing was we had a chance to share the joy, the hope the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Here are some lesson’s from this trip:

  • Team work is vital in accomplishing big things – This trip showed me once again how important teamwork and unity are in getting a lot of work done.  It takes humility, patience and trust to make it all happen. It takes multiple leaders, taking responsibility and working toward the same goal.
  • When planning and hard work meet up with God amazing things happen – A lot of planning and preparation happened before and during those eight days, but God was invited into the process and He accomplished more than anyone would have expected. God moments happened every day.
  • Every job is important – I was reminded that every project was important because it touched a person or a family.  Whether it was cleaning up a yard, building a fence, roofing a house, building a deck or fixing a door, it’s all important. No job was too small or too big, it all mattered, because it was an expression of love.
  • It’s important to serve the volunteers and minister to them as well – 8DOH did a great job of serving the 3,000 volunteers and focusing on ministry to the many people that were giving such a significant amount of time and energy.  They had programmed times for worship, fellowship, entertainment and free time.
  • People love to tell their story – I heard several stories from the local people about how this storm had impacted their lives and how 8DOH brought hope back to them and their families.  Talking about their story helped the people to move forward and get past the tragic event of the past. I also got to hear stories from other volunteers and got to know them better.  Ask questions and find out more about the people around you.
  • You get to know people much better when you work along side them – on a trip like this you get to see the real person.  You get to see them when they are tired, frustrated hungry and uncertain.  You also get to see the fun side of people when they let down their defenses and be themselves. I encourage everyone to consider going on a mission trip at some time in their life.  Here is a picture of the group from Millersburg:10559719_10202362331839757_1586175141656029044_n
  • It’s all because of Jesus – The reason people give up their vacation or personal time to go on a trip like this is because they love Jesus and want to help other people. We are the hands and feet of Jesus and this is one way we as followers of Christ can show love to other people.

I’ve been on many mission trips and every time I have been deeply impacted in a positive way.  I have gotten to know other cultures and other people in different parts of the world.  I gotten to talk with people I would never have met, if I wouldn’t have taken the risk and decided to go.  Maybe God has been nudging you to consider go on a trip like 8DOH or maybe another mission trip.  But the cool thing is we don’t need to go on a mission trip to love and serve people.  There are many people in our own communities that are in need that we can serve and love and help.  All it takes is a willingness to give some time and talent and muscle or to listen and encourage.

If you would like to get involved in changing your local community or want to go on a mission trip, please contact me via email – cstutzman@newpointe.org

 

Life Verse

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NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”.  A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life.  As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind.  As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about.  I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples.  This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.

It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is.  It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses.  So here it is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”

I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love.  So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.

  • Love is a verb not a noun – This passage is all about the actions that we take not thoughts that we have.  It deals with what kinds of emotions direct our lives and what kind of behaviors come out of us.  Love is all about doing and showing the people around us that we love them.  To be patient, kind and trusting takes actions that show those traits.
  • Love is others focused – When it comes to understanding love it’s all about being focused on the people around us and not on ourselves.  It’s paying attention to the people in our lives and taking the time and energy to love them and serve them.
  • Love is powerful – If love is your base, it can overpower all the negative emotions we struggle with.  Love brings us back to the way God designed us.  It fights against the resistance that pushes us to be selfish, self-centered and negative.  Everyone wants to experience love whether they admit it or not. When we love it shows strength and character.
  • Love is long-term – When we love the way this Scripture says to love it keeps us focused on the big picture and the long-term health of all our relationships.  It looks beyond the current situation or pain and sees how things could and should be.  It allows us to be patient and to trust when the situation doesn’t feel like we should.  Love is what gets us through the dark times in our lives. Love is what picks us up and gets us through.
  • Love Works – We all want to be around people that love well. We are drawn to people that live out these actions.  Jesus was the perfect example of love.  When we put his name in place of love we can say yes that’s Jesus.  I think that is why people were so drawn to him and why so many people are still following him today.  Love really does work, love gets results and changes lives.

So here is the challenge.  We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains.  Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives.  When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.

If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart.  If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.

Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.”  God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us.  Love Well!

Thoughts on Prayer

I have been reading a couple of books on the subject of prayer. Both are very good, one is an older book originally written in 1937 by Oswald Chambers called “If You Will Ask”. I am reading the 1989 edition. I am also reading a new devotional book by Mark Batterson called “Draw the Circle”. Both have inspired me and challenged me. I find myself praying differently, more often and more boldly. There are so many take-aways I could share, but I want to focus on one part of Chambers book entitled The Submission of Life.

He starts the chapter with this: “We are not built for ourselves, but for God. Not for service for God, but for God. That explains the submission of life.” Submission is one of the most difficult things to do and yet one of the most powerful things we can do. It seems odd that submission is powerful, but with true submission comes peace, unity and rightness with God. Chambers goes on to say this: “God is not concerned about our aims. He does not say, “Do you want to go through this bereavement, this upset?” He allows these things for his purpose. We may say what we like, but God does allow the devil, He does allow sin, He does allow bad men to triumph and tyrants to rule, and these things either make us fiends or they make us saints. It depends entirely on our relationship with God. If we say, “Your will be done,” we get the tremendous consolation of knowing that our Father is working everything according to His own wisdom. If we understand what God is after, we shall be saved from being mean and cynical.”

God isn’t checking in with us to see if his plan is ok. God sees all things and knows all things, therefore he knows what is best and how to work all things for good. When we fully submit to his will we can stop worrying about everything in the world around us and focus on how we are responding to the things in our lives. We can look to what God wants to do in us. Listen to what else Chambers says:

“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they are making us more captious, more insistent on our own way. We are either getting more like our Father in heaven, or we are getting more mean and intensely selfish. How are we behaving ourselves in our circumstances? Do we understand the purpose of our life as never before? God does not exist to answer our prayers, but by our prayers we come to discern the mind of God, and that is declared in John 17:22 “That they may be one just as We are one.” Am I as close to Jesus as that? God will not leave me alone until I am.”

When I read that I said Wow outloud. Prayer is really about getting to know God, becoming more intimate with him and understanding his heart. The more we pray the more we change. God wants to be one with us, but that can only happen if we submit to His will and His ways. The more time spent in prayer the more clear our purpose in life becomes. What would happen if we would start praying for God’s will to be done in our lives, for us to become one with Him and see as He sees and think as He thinks. What would happen if we would do what He says and be obedient to His will. God’s will is that we become one with Him as Jesus was one with Him. To become more like Him in all our ways.

How People Change

I have been studying a workbook called “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp with a group of people. This is the material we use to prepare mentors for ministry at NewPointe Community Church. The material is great but the conversations we have is even better. We finished up last night and everyone in the group agreed they had grown a lot and experienced a sense of community with the other people.

Here are some quotes that really stood out in this last session:

“God does more than deliver us from the Heat (hardships of life), he delivers us from ourselves so that we can stand up under the heat and not merely survive but bear good fruit. Under the pressure of family difficulty, love can grow. Under the heat of unappreciated sacrifice, perseverance grow. In the middle of suffering, peace and sturdy faith can blossom. In the midst of want, giving can grow where thorns of greed and selfishness once lived. Under the heat of life in a fallen world, new and surprising fruit can and does grow.”

That is some amazing insight. That God does some of the most incredible work in our lives in the midst of the most difficult times. We all face challenges, hardship, struggle and even celebration moments. That is part of life in this world. Keeping God in the center of our lives during these times allows him to work deep within us. Only when our hearts are changed will our behavior and responses change. So if you are in the middle of a great struggle, look inside your own heart and ask God to do a work there.

Here is another great quote: “We all know that sin causes us to be more committed to ourselves than anything else. It causes us to love ourselves more than anything else. Sin makes us self-centered and self-indulgent as we give in to desires of the sinful nature and feed its cravings. Such selfish living destroys relationships and harms people. Our chief problem in relationships is not the fallen world we live in, but the fact that we ourselves are deeply self-centered and have trouble loving one another.”

Wow, that is very convicting. This speaks to the importance of understanding our human nature and how much we need God to transform our hearts. Only when we surrender to God and allow the Holy Spirit to flow inside our hearts can we change all of that. Our relationship suffer when we allow self-centered behavior or thinking to rule.

It is important to remember that Jesus asked us to follow him. He didn’t say follow these rules or go and do these certain things. He said simply follow me no matter where you are at. If you stumble and fall, Jesus waits for us to get up and continue following him. God has provided the Holy Spirit to help us follow him and help us get back up when we fall. If you want to change, it starts in your heart.