6 Steps Toward A Richer Spiritual Life!

New Life Ministries

1. Learn to fast. Whether it’s denial of food or some other pleasure for a period of time, deny yourself in order to find yourself in a greater relationship with God. Fasting can satisfy various spiritual needs, not the least of which is as scripture says ‘humble your souls.’

2. Use a journal to note your spiritual journey. Spend a few minutes at the end or beginning of the day to pour out your thoughts to God in writing (or on your PC). By reviewing what you’ve written, you can discover how much you’ve grown or not in your walk with God.

3. Go on a pilgrimage or retreat. Look for retreat opportunities, visit holy places, sacred sites, and spend extended time in prayer, meditation, and conversation with God. Retreats offer time away from our routine, and we can learn new ways to connect with God.

4. Create a place of prayer in your congregation. Designate an area in the building that is quiet and private, that can be an open door to people who are seeking to connect with God. Do the same at home, find a quiet place to meet God regularly.

5. Practice acts of kindness. Look around your neighborhood, read your newspaper about those who are hurting, be alert to the needs of the down-and-out, the poor, the shunned. Then do what you can to help with a kind word, a helping hand, a donation. Commit to do at least one such act a day. In doing so, your focus will be less on your needs and wants and more on others.

6. Read God’s word daily. When you fill yourself with the wisdom of God at the beginning of your day, you don’t look around to other people, things, and activities to fill your life. God will satisfy the needs of your lives if only you will seek him.

Spiritual Loneliness: When the Lord Seems Far Away

Brad Stenberg

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” – Psalms 13:1-2

Spiritual loneliness is an experience we’d like to avoid because we feel excluded, punished, and abandoned by God. Still, there are times when we all experience that strange inner gnawing or hunger, that unsettling unrest that makes us say, O God, where are you? Few struggles are as acute as our soul’s search for God. We so desperately want His attention as we grope for answers, support, and relief.

You might have felt it when your prayers went unanswered, making God seem remote and uncaring. You may have felt it when you heard a friend’s experience of God’s presence in ways you’ve longed for, but never had. You might have felt it when your attempt to hold on to a word or promise from the Lord was not enough to keep you from acting out. You likely felt it when your sin separated you from God and the experience of His grace.

So what can we do? Spiritual loneliness is maintained by passivity, so it’s important that you get up and do something about it. Here are some things to consider.

Connect with others. Spiritual loneliness is a problem of relationships. People who feel like God is distant usually disconnect with others because a part of their soul is hidden, isolated, and lost. So the commands to love God and others as ourselves are not being realized. 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God whom we haven’t seen if we don’t love others whom we have seen. So begin with the deficiencies in your relationship with others. Find out where you’re hiding from relationships and seek to connect with others. In the process God will find you and restore the connections.

Draw near to God. Though God may at times remove His presence to develop our faith, it is usually us that has moved, not God. Richard Foster says that ‘God aches over our distance and mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He longs for our presence’ (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 1). So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:4)

Listen to what God is saying. Embrace this time as an opportunity for listening prayer. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) Be intentional. Like Jacob, seek the blessing that comes from a spiritual battle fought alone. (Gen. 32:26) Turn off the radio, TV, cell phone, pager, PDA, fax machine, computer, and take time to listen. Reflect on what is happening to you. God will meet you and speak to your heart.

Focus on who God is. He is with you. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) He knows what you’re going through because He has been there too. Jesus experienced a painful spiritual loneliness at Calvary when God forsook him for a time. So, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathized with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ‘ yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) God cares about you. Knowing would be empty if God did not also care with His concrete love. “He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Ps. 72:12)Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

Tell God how you feel. Our honest, candid complaint to God leads to a more authentic relationship with Him. Prayer is not about “theological correctness,” but about a real relationship in real life with a real God who really wants to know the real you. Pious words will not fool the One who knows the attitude of our hearts. Thus, Job cried out: I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter: I have to speak!’ (Job 7:11)

Take control of your mind. It takes an inner determination and discipline of spirit to take the reins of your mind, speak to your situation, and choose to praise God. The psalmist repetitively did this: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:4, 11; 43:5)

Also See:
Transformation

The Courage to Come Out of Hiding

Sam Fraser

One of the consequences of the fall is that shame makes us hide. It is the natural outcome of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we sexually act out, instead of turning to the Father and asking for help we run 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Moving out of the light to conceal our secret into the darkness to hide our shame and sin. We put on our fig leaves and hide our nakedness. We prefer the wilderness instead of remaining in the garden in His Presence. We know we have sinned and have done wrong and our first impulse is to hide. That is what shame makes us feel. We judge and condemn ourselves.

Then there is the self-talk: you did it again, how could you? Was it worth it, the bad feeling in the pit of our stomach? How dare you ask for forgiveness again? We can get depressed. We beat ourselves up. Often many of us will essentially voluntarily isolate ourselves, feeling unworthy and deserving of banishment. Our sex drive seems impossible to overcome. As rebellious reprobates, we deserve judgment and punishment for our failings and shortcomings. So we feel we have no other choice but to do what Adam and Eve did–we’re naked so we hide and cover ourselves. We stay exiled, self-imposed. Because of our shame we feel we have no other place to turn. Even though we know there is good news because of what Jesus has done on the cross, it no longer seems to apply. We may feel that we have already used up all of the grace from what Jesus had done on the cross. Even though mentally we know this is not true, it feels like it is true.

Let’s spend some time unpacking that spiritual truth in this context because what good is this truth if we can’t apply it to real life situations? And this qualifies as a real life situation. It takes trust to believe that we are forgiven. That this latest acting out or series of failures is under the blood as well. Particularly after we have failed for the umpteen thousand millionth time. The audacity to believe that God’s love for us can once again be extended to us takes real bravery of the most spiritual kind. It takes trust that His love is still greater than our self-condemnation. It takes faith that this is true. We know that mentally, but to let it minister to our hearts is more difficult.

For some of us, we can accept that the Lord has forgiven us. We can believe that alone with the Lord, but to share it with someone else can be frightening. It takes courage to once again confess our acting out and the resulting shame and humiliation time after time. Feeling hopeless and full of despair we often prefer to quit than to open up to someone else and risk humiliation. We feel like quitting since there is nowhere to turn, and we can’t seem to resist this powerful drive. We may feel that there is no hope, and we are to remain as an outcast. We can play church, but as a hypocrite, in our shame and guilt, concealed by our fig leaves. To be exposed in our naked state and remain there takes courage of the most spiritual kind.

We need to realize that we have gone as far as we can alone by ourselves in isolation. We have to choose disclosure. The isolation of trying to wrestle with this issue alone only result in more of the same, bondage. We have to come out of hiding. It is important to find other men that will provide a safe compassionate place for us to confess our sin and shame and allow them to be Jesus with skin on for our repentance. Being associated with Every Man’s Battle, the workshop, we have seen over and over again the power of God being ministered one to another because of the fellowship that takes place there. The information and tools that can help us move into recovery is important. But by far the most common feedback we get is how powerful it is to be in the fellowship of other men who struggle with this same issue. The experience of being with other men who love God and love their wives and at the same time are shamed by this bondage is extremely salutary. Almost to a man the report is that they thought they were the only one. The healing power of being in the presence of other men and finding a common bond in the sharing the shame and humiliation of this addiction and having other men confirm their own struggle is very redemptive.

It is sin that many of us act out in isolation, or if it is acted out with someone else, we dare not share with people who care about us. It is a precarious situation. There are men and groups that can offer that place of mercy and compassion. We may have to spend some time and energy to seek out these individuals or groups. Sex addicts need the body of Christ for support and encouragement to experience victory. At this point we cannot do it alone anymore. My prayer is that you will find such a place. If you cannot, maybe the workshop is the place to start. There is also a roster of men that have been to Every Man’s Battle, the workshop who are willing to make themselves available for contact. You can also call 1-800- NEW LIFE to find other resources.