4 Things That Truly Matter

What matters most are those things which, in the presence of God, still matters most JoAnna Oblander“It is not living that matters, but living rightly.” ~ Socrates

When we live lives disconnected from those things that truly matter, sidetracked by the unimportant, lost in the frivolous, distracted by the superficial, our lives start to ring hollow, empty and vacant.

When, on the other hand, we live our lives dedicated to those things that matter most, a greater sense of happiness rubs up against us, walks beside us, calls on us, and even moves in and redecorates our bathrooms.

The choice is obvious. But deciding what matters and what doesn’t is sometimes, and for some people, less obvious.

This is especially true in a Hollywood-centric, pop-culture saturated media-driven ethic.

In such a culture, the substanceless can appear heavy with content, the silly can look profound and the meaningless can seem pregnant with meaning.

So what then truly matters? Here’s a few items on my list. See if they match up with yours.

4 Things that Matter

1. Values Matter

Our values identify what’s important to us and how we prioritize our time, energy and attention. They reflect what we stand for. They define the outer limit of what we’re willing to tolerate and what we’re not. They determine the context of what we’re willing to pursue and what we won’t.

We’re set adrift to flounder in the uncertain moral muck of life when we lack a well-defined set of moral values on which to stand.

Values matter because a life without them is ultimately utilitarian, self-absorbed and unhappy. Our values act as anchors in storms and strings on kites, adding the tension that creates lift but also keeps us from nose-diving into trees or flapping aimlessly in the wind to nowhere.

In the absence of values, we’re rudderless in the pull of moral riptides and trapped in the quicksand of “anything goes.” And when anything goes, everything tends to, including things like self-discipline, self-confidence and self-respect.

2. Relationships Matter

How we treat those closest to us is more significant as a measure of our character than how we treat the stranger or the person we want something from.

I’ve seen families where parents treat their children worse than their friends and their spouses worse than strangers. This is sad to me.

The quality of our relationships is a predictor of the quality of our lives because most of life’s meaning lies within the context of other people. We’re mothers and fathers and spouses, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, employers and employees and teachers and students. So it’s in those relationships that we can do the most good and experience the most meaning.

We are at our most noble and decent when we are in the service of others. When we lift people, we are likewise lifted.

Besides, an isolated life is a self-absorbed one. But the irony is that a life exclusively or even mostly focused on the self is a life missing a fundamental ingredient to purpose and happiness.

So love those who are open to being loved and figure out a way to love those who aren’t. In the process of doing both, the rising sense of meaning and purpose and happiness in your life will be a much more constant companion.

3. Faith Matters

We live in an age of growing faithlessness. People have lost faith in tradition and God, in organized religion, in the institution of marriage and in others. There is less faith in governments and programs and ideologies, in political parties and even in humanity.

The problem is that faith is a principle of action. It inspires and leads and directs and moves us to do, to overcome, to believe and accomplish.

What you believe in — what you trust as right and wrong, true and false, good and bad — plays a significant role in how happy you are able to become. Whether we are talking about faith in God or humanity or Truth or yourself, that faith is critical to living life anywhere near its potential.

Faith is the expectant exercise of hope. It is the root to the tree of action. It is the seed of planning and goals and steps taken toward dreams and through challenges and into happiness.

Faithlessness is life at the edge of hopelessness. It is a life untethered from an assurance beyond the obvious, seen and tangible.

Faith propels us into the dark through to the other side of night. It takes us by the hand across the bridge or along the ledge when the next step is obscured and uncertain. It’s what takes us to the heights of possibility because we believe that wherever we rest now, there’s something more, something higher, something greater down the road. That too is the offspring of faith.

For many of us, faith in God is an added bedrock of assurance upon which we can build. That faith becomes a lighthouse in the darkest moments in our lives and a more accurate mirror of who we are and what we can accomplish when we’re thinking very little of ourselves.

4. Self-Respect Matters

Self-disclosure is not the same as self-exposure. This is a strange age we live in when individuals and families go on national TV to display their family’s dirty laundry. Others clamor for their 15 minutes of fame as reality show contestants who reveal all their darkest secrets and character flaws in shameless overkill. Sports stars and others write tell-all autobiographies that open bedroom doors far too wide for propriety or dignity to have place.

As a matter of fact, that’s just the thing that seems to have been lost by a growing number of people – a sense of dignity that knows when self-disclosure has crept into the exhibitionism of self-exposure.

But the ability to like yourself, born of a deep respect for who you are and are becoming and the potential that is also part of your identity can radically revolutionize your life.

Self-respecting people therefore simply live differently than those who aren’t. They don’t do the same things. They don’t think the same things. They don’t believe the same things. And they don’t allow the same things from others. They simply live different lives in some fundamental ways.

Don’t get me wrong. They both eat and sleep and love their kids. But what they think about themselves and how they treat themselves and talk to themselves and what they believe about themselves are profoundly different. And that’s a dividing point between those who are happy and those who struggle much more than they need to.

Afterthoughts

When I was young, I had an aunt who liked to wrap empty boxes to make Christmas appear even bigger and grander and more exciting than it already was. Sometimes we would forget which presents under the tree were the extra boxes she had wrapped. Someone would inevitably tear into the wrapping, excited about the prospects waiting inside. But all that would be had was an empty shell of a gift. All ribbon and wrapping; no substance.

That’s what life is like when we spend it in the pursuit of things that don’t matter. The packaging may glitter and sparkle, but there’s nothing inside but emptiness.

Here’s the thing. We can eat the food we buy or we can eat the receipt that shows how much we spent on the food we buy. We can have a meal of the substance or of the packaging the meal comes in.

One satisfies. The other leaves us hungry for something more. One nourishes. The other fails to provide us with the life-sustaining nutrients of meaning and purpose and joy our lives crave to have.

Roller coasters are fun. But at the end of the ride, you’re at the end of the ride. The deeper things of life like service and decency, on the other hand, are not always fun. But at the end of that ride, there is a glow in the heart that keeps on giving long after the event is over.

There’s nothing wrong with roller coasters, of course. But in the end, a roller coaster doesn’t take you anywhere.

So look closely. What have you filled the empty slots of your life with? Take stock. Evaluate. Then go to work focusing more on those things that matter most, pushing the time-wasters further into that background, opening yourself for greater and deeper levels of meaning and opportunity, love, joy and success in those things that truly matter.

You, after all, have inherent value. You’re worth the effort at learning to love the weightier things of life. Find them. Recognize them. Embrace them. And let them take you to a life that is deeply and richly rewarding, meaningful and happy.

Today’s post is shared from the following website: http://meanttobehappy.com/4-things-that-truly-matter/

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The Importance of Character

The final forming of a person's character lies in the their own hands Anne FrankA Matter of the Heart

Numerous men and women throughout history have spoken at length about the importance of having an upright character, especially for those who serve in any type of leadership capacity. A simple search on the topic of character and leadership yields thousands of books, speeches, and quotes. Character is so important to us that we even recognize it as one of the principal requirements of trust, and trust is the essential prerequisite for all meaningful relationships.

Most people would never consider following someone with a past filled with dubious moral or ethical choices. Unfortunately, there appears to be a general incongruity in our society between what we say we value, and what people actually allow. Far too often the media is filled with sordid stories about the ignoble actions of people who are our society’s supposed “role models.” The daily media seems filled with scandalous stories that involve major sports figures, political leaders, religious leaders, and business executives. Stories such as a highly talented (and well paid) football player involved in illegal dog-fighting, a state governor accused of trying to sell a seat in the Senate, and even the former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange pleading guilty to stealing billions of dollars from thousands of investors in a “ponzi” style scheme. Even the highest office of our land is not exempt from disrepute when a sitting President of the United States admits to sexual improprieties with a young intern. Sadly, we far too often learn of sexual misdeeds and other immoral actions by Christian leaders once again resulting in discredit to the Body of Christ. It is almost as if the unspoken message has become, “It’s okay to do what you want as long as you don’t get caught.” Every one of the activities cited above is really nothing more than a character issue.

What is Character?

A person’s character is who they really are. We all think about a lot of things that are not godly, and things we would be ashamed of if they were available for all to know. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” My reputation is what others think of me, which may or may not be true, but my character is who I really am. Your character is the real you in the sense that you cannot separate what you do from who you are.

Everyone has a “public” face and a “private” face. Most of us tend to act with better behavior around others than we do in private. The other day I was at a major retail store when I noticed sophisticated video surveillance equipment. It’s not that I was going to do anything wrong, but just knowing the cameras were there resulted in my thinking, “I need to watch what I am doing because someone could be watching me.” Stories abound of people being caught on camera committing rueful acts. It is sad but true that video cameras reveal what we all know: that a person’s real character is who they are when they think no one is looking. The British writer and politician Thomas Macauly (1800-1859) once said, “The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”

Character is the aggregate of a person’s ethical and moral qualities, and it is demonstrated through the choices we make. So a person of good character is someone who acts morally and ethically upright. Undoubtedly, we are all a mixture of both good and bad, so we are not saying that to have “good” character a person never makes any missteps. Rather, he is someone who is always striving to take the moral high road and, when he recognizes he has done something wrong, does what is necessary to get back on track.

The list of “high value” character traits (those virtues we esteem) is extensive, and includes such things as integrity, courage, honor, honesty, and fortitude. In addition to the many noble traits there are, we Christians would also want to make sure that we are pursuing those virtues that God espouses. Certainly this list for us would incorporate the distinguishing qualities of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. In fact, it has been said that the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 and 23 represent the character of Christ.

Galatians 5:22 and 23a
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23a) gentleness and self-control…

The type of character you have is your choice. This is why it was once said that, “Your character is the sum total of your life choices.” If you make poor choices, such as stealing, lying, or laziness, then you have poor character. I may not have a choice regarding the situations I am confronted with, but I always have a choice concerning how I respond to those situations. When dealing with frustrating or disappointing circumstances, I can respond with anger or with patience. The choice is always mine to make, so my character is always a matter of my choice, and thus it is my responsibility.

What does God Say about Character?

God absolutely cares about character, so much so that it could be said that the Bible is a character textbook. It is filled with instructions on what it means to live righteously, that is, in a “godly” and upright manner. The Bible is also filled with stories of men and women who have done it right, and many who have not. These are for our learning so we can benefit from the examples of others.

One of the very first records in the Bible is about a man (Adam) who failed to heed God’s instructions, resulting in calamity and pain that is reverberating even to this day.

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-

Adam’s story is filled with numerous character lessons. When he sinned, Adam’s character demonstrated rebellion and rejection of God. Although Adam was created physically and morally perfect, he chose to disobey God, and character is always the result of choices. Adam’s actions included disobedience, and a lack of submitting to God, which is what we call P-R-I-D-E. One of the most important traits of godly character is humility, which is the polar opposite of pride. The words of the prophet Obadiah, written thousands of years later, ring as true for Adam as they do for us today.

Obadiah 1:3
The pride of your heart has deceived you…

Since that day of moral failure, God has been directing man back to the path of moral high ground through various means. The Ten Commandments include directives that show people what to do to have godly character. These include, “Thou shall not” lie, steal, commit adultery, covet, or murder (Exod. 20:7-17). Clearly, God’s Word is filled with instructions concerning how a person with godly character is to both think and act.

In the New Testament Paul instructed the first century Christians to put off their ungodly pagan lifestyles and “…become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” (Phil. 2:15). It is not news that the world will always be in conflict with God’s ways. God even tells us that “…friendship with the world is hatred toward God…” and “…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

In contrast to the way of the world, we are to pursue the higher and nobler path.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And, not only are we to think about these things, we are to put them into practice, that is, to do them, and character always involves the doing!

Philippians 4:9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

In the Old Testament, Boaz, speaking about Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, said she was a woman of “noble character” (Ruth 3:11). The word translated “noble character” in this verse is the Hebrew word “chayil” which generally refers to strength and might. In this instance it applies to her inner strength of character. From the record about this wonderful woman we learn many character lessons from her interactions with her mother-in-law. Ruth shows herself to be faithful, kind, merciful, steadfast, industrious, and humble, all of which are wonderful and godly character traits.

Just as there are examples of people with great character in the Bible, there are also records of those who did not do quite so well. King Saul, although looking like the right choice as a king, had some serious character flaws. The prophet Samuel delivered some great promises that should have inspired and encouraged him. Yet despite this, from early in his kingly career he demonstrated fear. In one of the first accounts about him we find that “…he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship” and then later that “…he has hidden himself among the baggage” (1 Sam. 10:16 and 22). Saul’s failure to address this deep issue of his heart continues to show up throughout his royal career, resulting in numerous acts of disobedience, murder, deceit, and pride.

The life of Christ teaches us great practical character lessons. In spite of difficult circumstances and times of severe difficulty, he always responded in a godly manner. He was the epitome of love, kindness, and gentleness. Yet, at the very same time, he was a man of great passion, strength, and fearlessness. And now, we too are told that this is how we can, and should, live.

Character, a Matter of the Heart

One of the great lessons Jesus taught his followers is that a man’s or woman’s character is always a matter of what is in his or her heart. If a person commits adultery it is because that is what he has living in his heart, and a person’s heart is always his responsibility. This is why God tells us that we are to guard our hearts, to protect them with the greatest of care.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

A wellspring is a source of water that bubbles up and comes forth from the ground. In a similar way, what we do is the result of what we hold and think upon in our hearts, the wellspring, or source, of our actions. When I lie, steal, or act immorally, it is because that is what I have fostered and nurtured in my heart. God will not only judge us concerning whether we do wrong or evil deeds, but also if there is wickedness in our hearts. A person may choose not to actually commit a wrong only because the evil in the heart merely lacks the opportunity to express itself. A person may have adultery in his heart, but lacking the opportunity, may never have been able to act upon it. This is why Jesus told his disciples that a man committed adultery even if he lusted after a woman in his heart.

Matthew 5:27 and 28
(27) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’
(28) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If a person with evil in his heart is presented with the opportunity, he will act on it. This is why we are often surprised and dismayed when we hear of someone doing a serious wrong, having no idea that he was that “type of person.” It is because we had no cognizance of the “evil” that was in his heart. Sinful behavior often happens because people fail to guard their hearts, so when presented with the opportunity to sin, the temptation is too strong for them to resist. They have not trained their hearts to do good, but have instead harbored evil. Above all else, we must guard our hearts because it is our hearts that will be judged.

Proverbs 21:2
All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.

1 Corinthians 4:5b
…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts…

In the parable of the sower in Luke 8, Jesus makes the point that the “good soil” stands for those with a noble and good heart. A person who has a noble and good heart is a person with upright character. Throughout the Scriptures there are hundreds of lessons about a person’s heart because it is our hearts, our character, which will be examined before his throne, judged and rewarded accordingly.

With the exception of random thoughts and instinctive reactions, everything a person thinks about and does is an issue of the heart. When we speak (which is an action) we are merely vocalizing a thought, and our character is always a matter of our thoughts and actions.

Matthew 15:18 and 19
(18) But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’
(19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Every evil action Jesus listed above is a character issue, which is why God weighs (will judge) our hearts. Each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where our hearts, our character (all of our thoughts and deeds), will be exposed.

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

We do not believe, as some teach, that Christians will only appear at the judgment seat to receive rewards. Rather, the word “appear”, which is “phaneroo” in the Greek text, should properly be translated “made visible” or “exposed” here. What will be exposed? Our heart, our character, will be revealed and known for what they are. This is why it is so important for us to guard and purify our hearts (James 4:8).

The great news is that because character is a choice, you can choose to change it! I have a younger sister who once said, “If you don’t like who you are, then reinvent yourself.” That struck a chord deep inside me the minute she said it. There was a time in my life that I made some seriously wrong choices. As I reflect back on those times, I realize now that bitterness and other nasty things were brooding in my heart. I decided I did not like who I was, so I began to address the issues of my heart, and changed. The transformation did not happen overnight, and it was not easy, but I changed, one step at a time. I held a picture in my mind of the kind of person I wanted to be and then I began to behave in a manner consistent with that picture. Over time I changed my heart, and my character. Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” We can change our character, but it takes work (effort), a lot of hard work (persistence), and time (perseverance).

Create in Me a Perfect Heart

No one has a perfect heart. We all make mistakes all the time. The question is never whether or not we make mistakes, but, “Are we deliberately sinning, acting pridefully, insisting on doing things our way, and not walking in humble submission to God and others?” Everyone is a mixed bag of both good and bad; we are a complex mixture of thoughts, motives, and actions. We all sin and will continue to do so, most probably on a daily basis (Rom. 3:23 and 5:12).  Because of Adam’s rebellion against God, the struggle against sin and ungodly character is something that all mankind is cursed with, and will be until the day of our redemption. In Romans chapter 7 Paul describes the struggle that wars within him between his carnal self, and the new spiritual man inside him.

Romans 7:15-24
(15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
(16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
(17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
(18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
(19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
(20) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
(22) For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
(23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
(24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

The gift of holy spirit literally provides us with a new spiritual nature. We received it as a gift from God, so now it becomes our responsibility to act in a way that conforms to this new holy nature. We are to transform our character so it mimics the character of Christ. We actually have an obligation, a moral responsibility, to change our character so that it is aligned with the reality of the spiritual holiness that we now have.

Romans 8:11 and 12
(11) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(12) Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

Most people remember King David for his valiant exploits, like his defeat of the giant Goliath, or his profound sins, such as his adultery with Bathsheba. Like King Saul, David had some serious sins including lust, adultery, deceit, manipulation, murder, cover-up, pride, and hypocrisy. Yet the testimony about David is that he was a man after God’s very heart. How can this be? It is not because David was perfect, or never did wrong, but rather, that when he did sin, he repented, changed, and corrected his heart.

Acts 13:22b
‘…I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

David recognized his sinfulness, yet he passionately pursued God with his whole heart.

Psalm 51:5, 6 and 10a
(5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
(6) Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
(10a) Create in me a pure heart, O God,…

As the king of Israel, God placed David in a position of tremendous importance. He was undoubtedly gifted in many ways and had an important calling on his life. Yet David, like us, will not be rewarded for his gift or the position he held, rather he will be rewarded for what he did with those things. In other words, he will be rewarded for his character.

David’s son, Solomon, was also very gifted, specifically with wisdom, yet it was Solomon’s character deficiencies that allowed him to disobey God by taking many foreign wives, amassing great personal wealth, and going to Egypt to build up his army with horses and chariots. God specially forbade the kings of Israel to do those things (Deut. 17:16 and 17). Solomon’s character was wrong and the record of the Bible shows that his heart was turned from God.

1 Kings 11:4
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

1 Kings 11:9
The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.

Despite Solomon’s great gifting, it was his character flaws that caused his downfall. This should serve as a sober reminder to everyone that we must put our focus on our character, and not on our gifts and callings. The fact is we have all received gifts of grace (Rom. 12:6a), but what is important is what we do with those gifts (and our doing always flows out from our character), not that we have the gift. The record of Scripture shows that God never promotes a gifting over a person’s character. This is in direct contrast to the way the world works. In the world, people with great giftings get promoted, become “superstars,” and often rise to the top of their area of expertise, despite their character. A person can be mean-spirited, a substance abuser, sexually immoral, a thief, a liar, and more, but if they are good at what they do, the world still promotes them. Not so with God.

Our giftings are just that—gifts from God, and they do not impress Him. What impresses God, and thus what should impress Christians, is when someone has godly character. We must remember that we are not rewarded for our gifts, but for our character. We can be sure that good character is what will count at the Judgment.

God tells us that He will discipline us like a father. He disciplines us because He wants us to correct our character. He is referred to as the Gardener who seeks to prune us so we can be more fruitful. He prunes us by removing the things in our lives that interfere with our godliness, so that He can make us more fruitful.

In many ways our lives are like a garden plot. God has given us the plot (our life) and it includes our gifts and talents. We had no choice in what we were given (the location of the land, or the quality of the soil), just like we had no part in the gifts and talents we received. We can think of God as the sun because “God is light,” and like the sunlight, it is the source of all life. His Word is the good seed that will grow if the soil is right, and the gift of holy spirit is the water. My garden will grow wonderfully if I continue to do the work necessary to make it good, fertile soil. But, just like my life, I have a choice about the soil. I can ignore my heart and let it become devoid of nutrients, or I can fill it with weeds by not guarding it from worldly influences. It is my choice to do the hard work of weeding (discipline), and cultivating the soil. Farming, like character development, takes a lot of time and effort. As author Stephen Covey says, “Could you ever “cram” on the farm—forget to plant in the spring, play all summer, and then race in the fall to bring in the harvest? No, because the farm is a natural system. You must pay the price and follow the process. You reap what you sow, there is no short cut.”  No matter what I choose to do, the day will come when the soil will have produced a crop, and if I have done my work well, the fruit that is reaped will be godly fruit.

God is always attempting to get us to change our character. We must do what we can today to conform to His image, the image of Jesus Christ. Our character is important because it is a demonstration of our heart, and just like my garden, I will reap a bountiful harvest of righteousness on The Day if I tend to my character. It is always a matter of the heart!

Character Quotes to Consider:

“Live your life in such a way that when you die they can give your pet parrot to the town gossip.” Will Rogers, humorist.

“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.” Horace Greeley (1811-1872) — New York newspaper editor.

 

Today’s article was shared from the following website: http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/the-importance-of-character

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How to Get Closer to God & to Know God Personally

We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness Francis Chan

Are you looking for deep spiritual meaning in your life and to learn how to get closer to God?

The good news is that God loves you (yes, you!) and He wants to get to know you too! He wants to show you how to have a peaceful, joyful life… right where you’re at.

Growing closer to God can include a Bible study for women (I’ll show you my simple Bible study method), but at its core, learning how to be closer to God starts with an open heart ready to welcome in God’s loving spirit.

Let’s learn about how to become closer to God, including the #1 spiritual growth skill that will help you better understand the Bible and apply God’s truth to your life.

DO YOU KNOW GOD PERSONALLY?

Do you know God? I don’t mean do you know “of” God. I mean, do you have an authentic personal relationship with the One who created you?

I’m not asking if you go to church every week or if you grew up in a home where God was talked about frequently. Honestly, that doesn’t guarantee that you actually know God at all.

I’m talking about “knowing God” in the sense of a friendship. A relationship founded on grace (not a religion based on rules and regulations).

I’m asking if you’ve had an opportunity to be forgiven for the bad things you’ve done (and yes, according to Romans 3:23, we’ve all done bad things) and made new through the power of Christ’s forgiveness on the cross.

I’m asking if you’ve experienced (even a taste) of God’s great love for you (Ephesians 3:19) and chosen to surrender your life to His plans and His ways.

Perhaps it seems strange to ask you this (since we’ve probably never met in person and choosing to enter into a relationship with God is a very personal decision) but…

Would you like to have a relationship with God?

Would you like to know how to discover that vibrant, full life that only He can show you (John 10:10) when you choose to surrender your heart to Him?

Let me show you how to start that relationship right now.

HOW TO KNOW GOD PERSONALLY

  1. Understand that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16, John 10:10).
  2. Know that all of us sin and that our sin has separated us from God (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23).
  3. Understand that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin (Romans 5:8, John 14:6).
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our savior so that we can experience God’s love and know His plans for us (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9, Revelation 3:20).

If you believe these truths about God and would like to have a life that is led by Christ (instead of your own plans), you can start that personal relationship with God right now!

Simply pray something like this:

“God, I recognize that I’m not perfect. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’d like to ask your forgiveness for them. I realize now that your death on the cross is the only way that I can be made right with God and to atone for the wrongs I’ve done.

I want my life to be led by you. I want to learn more about you and to discover your good plans for my life.

I want you to show me how to have that abundant, full life that I’m craving. Please come into my life and take control. Please shape me into the person that you want me to be.”

If these words are the desire of your heart and your prayed something similar to this, then you can be assured that you are now in a personal relationship with Christ!

Today’s post is shared from the following website: https://yourvibrantfamily.com/get-closer-to-god/. I love this article and believe in what it shares. However, a portion of the post has been excluded. That portion infers that only faith is needed and not works. I have omitted it because my near-death experience clearly taught and showed me that our works are a vital part of our relationship with God and to success in our lives – from an eternal perspective. I love sharing the inspirational words that others share but I also feel a responsibility to make sure what I share is complete truth!

Have a great day!

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The Awesome Power of 4 Tiny Family Traditions

A Family doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be united

No room in your family’s hectic schedule for “quality time”? These mini rituals make it easier to carve out special bonding moments.

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How To Use The Power of Gratitude; An Easy Way To Feel Happier Everyday

Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy Fred DeWitt Van Amburgh

In my book Nothing Changes Until You Do, I tell the story of a simple but powerful conversation I had with a cabdriver a few years back that had a profound impact on me. I was in Houston, Texas, on my way back to the airport to fly home after speaking at a conference. The driver and I began talking. He had a beautiful accent. Based on how he looked and sounded, I assumed he was from somewhere in Africa, but I couldn’t tell exactly where. It didn’t come up in what we were talking about, so I didn’t ask.

Right before we got to the airport, however, there was a pause in our conversation, so I inquired, “By the way, where are you from originally?”

“I’m from Ethiopia,” he said. He then proudly stated, “I’ve been here in the U.S. for twenty years. I’m an American citizen now; so are both of my boys and my wife.”

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me, but I then asked him, “What’s your perspective on American culture, given that you didn’t grow up here?”

At first he didn’t say anything, and I thought maybe I had offended him. We were just arriving at the airport. He pulled up to the curb, put the cab in park, turned around, and looked me right in the eye.

“Can I be honest with you?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “I think most people in this culture act like spoiled brats.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Look, I’m from Ethiopia,” he said. “Every day here is a good day.”

I was taken aback by the simplicity, wisdom, and power of his statement. And, I was grateful for the reminder.

Gratitude is a Practice, Not A Concept
I’ve been speaking and writing about gratitude for many years, and I’m still amazed at how challenging it can be to focus on what I’m grateful for at times. We live in a culture that has an obsession with negativity, and it’s easy for us to get caught up in how “bad” things are, as well as in our own personal and insatiable desire for more, thinking that what we have and how things are in our own lives is never quite good enough. However, regardless of the specific circumstances of our lives, even and especially when they’re difficult, if we stop, pay attention, and look for it, there are always so many things we can be grateful for—if we choose to be. Gratitude is a practice, not a concept. And, like any other practice, the more genuine and consistent we are with it, the more valuable and beneficial it is.

Most of us, especially those of us on a path of personal growth and discovery, know that gratitude is important. We’ve heard about it, read about it, and been taught about it for years. In the mid 1990s a wonderful book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach came out. Sarah was a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah talked about how Sarah’s suggestion to keep a daily gratitude journal—to write down five things each day that you’re grateful for—had a profound impact on her life. Oprah became a passionate advocate for the power of gratitude and since that time has continued to encourage millions of people around the world to keep their own gratitude journals.

Create A Gratitude Journal
Like so many other people, I took Oprah’s advice and started my own journal many years ago. I found it to be fun, inspiring, and empowering to look for, find, and write down things I was grateful for. When I started speaking, coaching, and writing, much of my work focused on gratitude and appreciation. The technique of the gratitude journal was something I often suggested to people. However, over time it became one of the many things that I “know” and even “teach,” but had stopped practicing consistently in my own life.

A few years back, as a New Year’s resolution, I recommitted myself to the practice of my gratitude journal. I bought a new, beautiful journal and decided I was going to start using it. It took me a little while to get back into the practice of writing in it consistently, but once I was in the swing of it, it was pretty easy. Later that year I had a few months where things were going really well in many important areas of my life. As I sat down to write in my gratitude journal one morning, I decided to look back at some of the things I’d written over the past few months.

As I turned the pages, I realized that I hadn’t missed a day of writing in over three months. I was amazed. It was less about the consistency of my writing, and more about the consistency of my excitement to do this exercise and the benefits I got from it. Things were going so well in my life, and the positive turns seemed to be directly connected to my use of the gratitude journal. I said to my wife, Michelle, “I’m not sure if things are going so well because I’m writing in my gratitude journal every day, or I’m excited to write in my gratitude journal every day because things are going so well. I bet it’s a combination of both. At some level, I don’t really care—I’m just grateful for how things are going and for my journaling practice.”

The way gratitude works is that the more we focus on feeling grateful, the more we have to feel grateful for. And while many of us have experienced this personally, recent scientific studies have concluded that gratitude can have significantly positive effects on our health, our moods, our productivity, and our relationships.

In one specific study, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, they kept a short journal. One group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another was asked to record five hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they weren’t told whether to focus on something positive or negative specifically.

Ten weeks later, the people in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole, plus they reported fewer health complaints, and exercised more.

Like many other things in life that we know are good for us (exercise, eating healthy, sleeping enough, drinking lots of water, telling the truth, and so on), it’s not the knowledge that will benefit us; it’s the practice. The amazing thing about gratitude is that there’s no “right” way to practice being grateful. Whether you choose to keep a journal, thank the people around you, use positive affirmations, ask other people what they’re grateful for (one of my favorites), focus on gratitude in your quiet time of prayer or meditation, or simply remind yourself to slow down and breathe—taking time to focus on what we’re grateful for is one of the easiest and most effective ways to empower ourselves, calm ourselves down, and remember what matters most in life.

Today’s article was written by Mike Robbins and is shared from the following website: https://www.healyourlife.com/how-to-use-the-power-of-gratitude

 

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