“1 Talk 8 Parts”

Absorbing God Word

“And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.” Ezekiel 3:1

Applying God’s Word

When I made my original Christians in Commerce retreat in 1987, the weekend experience was one talk broken into 8 twenty-minute presentations. I have been presenting that experience ever since. Like everything else, currently retreat centers and CIC weekends are in a holding pattern.

Before Christmas, I heard God ask me to present an abbreviated version of the CIC experience through this weekly “Challenge”. It would mean reducing each of the eight presentations down to a couple minutes. It also meant that each reader would have to do the reflection question on their own instead of participating in a small group. Knowing my concerns, God said, “Remember, Jack, I write them. You type them.” :>)

The first of the eight presentations started on January 3rd with “Who’s There”. The final three presentations will follow over the next few weeks. Once you have all eight, you can use them for personal reflection, a small group fellowship or to draw someone new to the heart of Jesus. You will find all of them at http://www.act-ministries.org/blog/

Accounting of God’s Word

Am I concerned about what God is asking of me? Do I know His voice?

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“Showing Up”

Absorbing God Word

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Applying God’s Word

I love this scripture, because it speaks to me about the importance of staying in communication with God. I wrote about this last week saying, “Over the years, my faith in God has grown by meeting with Him and meditating on His “Word/Truth”.

Before I gave Jesus my heart, I rationalized that giving Him one hour a week at church was enough. I wouldn’t be married today, if I told my wife I’d see her for one hour each week. When I did decide to make prayer a priority, I started with 5 minutes a day.

Communicating with God has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It has also been one of the most rewarding. There are times when it seems flat, confusing, boring, or frightening. There are other times when it is interesting, exhilarating, mind blowing, and even euphoric. Like any great relationship though, it takes “WORK”.

Accountability in prayer is critical. Presently, Louise and I hold one another accountable. We both use a prayer journal daily, which also helps hold us accountable. We have a format of prayer that we use each morning. I originally used a format called ACTS, which stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. The most important thing though, is showing up. If I don’t show up, nothing happens.

Accounting of God’s Word

Am I keeping my appointment with God each day? Do I have a designated place to meet with God? Am I doing all the talking or have I learned to listen more?

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“Ask”?

Absorbing God Word

“But the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Applying God’s Word

After allowing God’s forgiveness and love to penetrate my entire being, some men prayed over me for the release of God’s Holy Spirit. I didn’t even know it was available to me. And no, I didn’t levitate, speak in tongues or break into holy laughter. I did experience the incredible power of God’s presence, though. That alone, inspired my lasting intimate friendship with Jesus.

Over the years, my faith in God has grown by meeting with Him and meditating on His “Word/Truth”. The fruit of that process has been more of “God’s Love”. If His love is not evident when God is using me, I know that I am probably not operating under the power of His Holy Spirit.

How can we receive more of God’s Holy Spirit? We can do that by asking and by answering three questions. 1) Do I reject Satan and all sin? 2) Do I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior? 3) Do I want God to release in me the full power of His Holy Spirit? Ask and answer from your heart!

Accounting of God’s Word

Am I prepared for the Holy Spirit to pour out His spiritual gifts in and through me?

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“Unforgettable”

Absorbing God Word

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Applying God’s Word

Two weeks ago, God’s “Challenge” was to really know Him not just know about Him. Last week His “Challenge” was to look at the things that keep us separated from Him and to ask His forgiveness. This week, God’s “Challenge” is for us to receive His forgiveness and His love.

Believing in God hasn’t always been easy for me. Believing that God loved me was even more difficult. I was bullied throughout my childhood and molested twice by two different people before the age of nine. I thought if there was a God, He didn’t like me very much.

When I did finally open the door to receiving God’s love, it came in like a flood. It was overwhelming and something I will never forget. I repented of my sin, and said, “I want You to be part of my life, Lord.”

Today is an invitation for each of us to say “Yes” to Jesus. For some it may be the first time. For others it may be an opportunity to renew our original promise.

Accounting of God’s Word

Have I truly surrendered my life to Jesus? Have I invited Him to be part of my life?

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“Wash Your Hands”

Absorbing God Word

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8

Applying God’s Word

True knowledge of God and His plan for me demands true knowledge of myself. Last week the “Challenge” was about opening the door of our hearts to have a relationship with God. The key to doing that is a willingness to know the truth about ourselves, admit our shortcomings and ask God to forgive us.

My sins are what keep me separated from God. Some days it’s laziness, or doubt. Other times it may be anger, jealousy or fear. When I review my failings at the end of each day, pride and selfishness are usually at the top of the list.

Prior to encountering Jesus, my life was a lie. I didn’t like the person looking back at me in the mirror. On the outside, everything looked great, but the inside was a mess. I sacrificed time with loved-ones for worldly success and popularity. I drank too much and tried to find happiness in the things of this world. My life was a living hell; the consequence of my sin.

Inviting God to have an intimate friendship with us is one thing, but being honest with Him about our shortcomings is yet another. I remember the day I put all my sins before God and asked Him to forgive me. I was in tears and made aware of my greatest sin; not doing it sooner.

Accounting of God’s Word

Am I a Christian in name only? Have I been honest with God about who I really am? What sins are keeping me separated from God. Have I asked God’s forgiveness?

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“Who’s There?”

Absorbing God Word

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

Applying God’s Word

God is at our door, knocking. What door? The door of our hearts and souls. It is said that the human heart and mind are like a parachute. They function best when they are open. If we hear God’s voice and let Him in, we can be part of something magnificent.

I’ve known about God since I was a little boy, but I didn’t open the door to knowing Him personally until thirty-three years ago. That change came after a wise man told me, “God is not going to force himself into your heart, Jack. He’s waiting for you to open the door and invite Him into your life.”

I never intentionally ignored God. I just didn’t know I could have an intimate relationship with Him. Opening that door has allowed me to be part of something magnificent ever since.

Accounting of God’s Word

Do I know about God or do I actually know God?

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“Our Older Brother”

Absorbing God Word

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29

Applying God’s Word

As I type this Challenge, our nativity scene is just a few feet away. Some Christmases, I’ve been Joseph, Mary, the Magi or a shepherd. Two days before Christmas, I was awakened by a message requesting that I be Jesus this year.

After praying about it, I realized that Jesus is portrayed as a newborn, surrounded by those who love Him. When I was spiritually reborn, I was surrounded by those who love me, too. You and I were predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus, that He (our older brother) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Jesus doesn’t remain an infant and He doesn’t want us to either. He is calling us to grow and mature spiritually; to follow the example of our older brother (Him). He invites us to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely we have received and freely we should give. (Matthew 10:8). He wants each of us to be Him this Christmas and every day for the rest of our lives.

Accounting of God’s Word

Have I accepted His “Challenge” to be Him?

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“How Much Love”?

Absorbing God Word

“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Applying God’s Word

The three wise men had traveled long and far to be in the presence of Jesus. They did not come empty handed either. They brought their treasures with them. Think about the time invested and the God given talent it took to make that courageous journey.

We are all very much like the three Magi. We too will come face to face with Jesus between now and Christmas morning. He may be disguised as a shepherd boy, a Mary, a Joseph, a relative, a friend or a stranger. Will we share our treasures, our time and our talents with Him?

Jesus appreciates whatever we can give, but more than anything He appreciates it when we give with much love.

Louise and I found Jesus in a small church that’s in need of far more than we can give. We decided to give what we have and to do so with much love.

Accounting of God’s Word

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa  – Merry Christmas!

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“In The End”

Absorbing God’s Word

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong; that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”  Romans 1:11-12

Applying God’s Word

It was my birthday this week and I received three incredible notes from my granddaughters. The first said, “Grandpa, thank you for always being such a positive role model. Your faith inspires me to find God in each day.” The second said, “Grandpa, you always influence me to be a better version of myself, which also helps me be nearer to God.” The third said, “Grandpa, you have done so much for me and have brought me closer to God.”

Talk about imparting some spiritual gifts to make me strong. Talk about being encouraged by a younger generation’s faith. I was touched, to say the least. I was left without words, which is very rare. Then my oldest granddaughter said, “Grandpa, I’d like to write and edit all your “Challenges” for publication.” That has been suggested by others, but I’ve never acted on it. 

Some think that faith and belief in God is slowly slipping away. Historically, people of faith have always been under attack and/or persecution. Many have died to keep the name of Jesus alive and to impart spiritual gifts that will strengthen the faith of future generations. Be encouraged! In the end, Jesus wins!

Accounting of God’s Word

Am I doing all I can do to encourage and strengthen other Christians?

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“A Thousand Times”?

Absorbing God Word

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Applying God’s Word

This Monday, I will turn seventy-four. It’s hard not to think about my own mortality and/or what heaven will be like. I find it exciting to think about seeing the face of God and meeting Jesus.

Over the years, though, I have seen God, met Jesus and experienced heaven numerous times, through all of you and so many others.

Documenting the numerous encounters has become so life giving to me. Every holy moment is special, because it’s evidence that God’s presence is manifest in each situation and relived again when He has had me type the weekly Challenge.

This month marks twenty years that God has empowered me share the “Challenge”. God has shown up over 1,000 times with a scripture and a story for me to share. He’s never missed a week and neither have I. It blows my mind, because it could only happen by His grace and power.

What now? I’m not sure. I sense that He wants to keep using me, possibly by way of a different venue/format. We’ll see. Please pray for me.

Accounting of God’s Word

Have I experienced heaven and the presence of God and Jesus in this life?

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