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Bullet Blog: Why Can’t I Hear God?

If God seems silent, nowhere to be found, there could be legitimate reasons. God is never silent without a purpose. Even in His silence, He speaks. Why would God be silent, distant and practically non-existent in your life – especially when you need Him? There...

Is God Always Listening to Us?

There’s something inside each of us that assumes God is always listening – but is that assumption correct?Hearing and listening, while related, are not the same thing. We need to grasp this, because every area of life is directly affected by whether or not...

Life of Christ #84: How Did Jesus Do It?

What am I? “I’m loved and appreciated by some, hated and resisted by others – yet I’m necessary for the establishment and expansion of God’s Kingdom.” You’ll learn the answer to this riddle, and so much more, in this message from Luke 20:1-8. Jesus did many things...

9 Ways to Know You’re Too Busy

We’re thankful for Joshua Reich and Innovate for Jesus or making today’s great guest blog possible. Just in time for your weekend, this blog will help you pace yourself. Remember, we’re not called to run sprints, but a marathon for Jesus Christ. Joshua’s insights will help you do precisely that. Enjoy – and share it with you friends who need to sloooooow down and get focused.
My book Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living Morecomes out next month, and I’ve been asked by some people how to know if they should read the book. How do you know if you are too busy or getting tired in life? My response often is, “Well, if you are asking if you are too busy, you are probably too busy.”

But just in case, here are a few ways to know you’re too busy and need some Breathing Room:

1. WHAT IS NORMALLY EASY IS NOW HARD. This is one of the first things that happens. For me it centers on preaching, sermon prep, reading leadership books. Whenever I find myself not feeling motivated in one or all of these areas, I know I am past the point of running too fast in life. To combat this, I take periodic breaks from preaching (I try to not preach more than 10 weeks in a row), and I work in books that have nothing to do with sermon prep or church ministry to give my brain a break.

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2. SLEEP IS HARD TO COME BY. For many Americans, sleep is hard as it is. We go to bed too late, we don’t take enough naps, we spend too much time on technology and get worked up. I try to get to bed by 10:30. I try to not look at social media or texts after 8pm so that my brain is able to take a break. If you have to take sleeping pills, watch TV to fall asleep or find yourself going to bed at midnight or staring at the clock at midnight, you need to work on your sleep.

This is counterintuitive to us because we think if we’re tired we should be able to fall asleep quickly, but that is often not the case. We have pushed ourselves so hard, our brains are not used to shutting off. We have pushed ourselves past 10pm on a regular basis, getting our “second wind,” that our body is accustomed to it. Getting back to a normal sleep pattern will take some time.

3. IT IS HARD TO GET GOING IN THE MORNING. Some people are morning people and can’t wait to get going; others are not. I’m not a morning person. But when I find myself having a hard time getting going in the morning, needing multiple cups of coffee to stay awake or to focus, that’s a warning sign. Think about this morning: how hard was it to get out of bed? The harder it was, the closer you are to burning out.

 4. YOU GET ANGRY FAST. When you are tired, you tend to get angry fast. Your fuse is shorter with those closest to you: family, friends, and coworkers. Your reaction to situations does not match the situation. You get angry at small things or cry without knowing why.

5. YOU STRUGGLE TO MAKE SIMPLE DECISIONS AND FIND YOURSELF PARALYZED AT MAKING A CHOICE. It is amazing how when we are tired and too busy, normal everyday decisions can become agonizing mountains that appear like we can’t get over them. Decisions become tiring and life altering. The mood swings we have when we make a decision we regret become huge mood swings. An example for me is I’ll struggle to know what to watch on TV, what I want to eat. As silly as that may sound, it is a sign I have not taken care of myself.

6. MOTIVATION IS HARD TO COME BY. It is true that you are more motivated and alert at certain parts of the day. For me it is first thing in the morning, which is why I reserve that for sermon prep and not meetings. It is when I am most creative, and I need to give that mental time to the most important part of my job: preaching. When I find that motivation not there, I know I have a problem.

7. YOU HAVE IMPULSES TO EAT AND DRINK, AND YOU STRUGGLE TO CONTROL THEM. You may also use things to calm down. This might be food, sex, porn, exercise, drugs, smoking, alcohol. While these things calm you down, and all of these are not necessarily sins, when used to calm us down or help us relax or sleep or “take the edge off,” we have a problem. If you think, “I just need ____ to calm down or feel better,” you have a problem.

8. YOU THINK SHORT-TERM INSTEAD OF LONG-TERM. You can’t get past today or what is right in front of you, and you feel completely overwhelmed by it. All of the decisions you make are simply focused on right now, and you talk about “getting through the day” or “if we can just make it to bedtime” or “if only we can make it til the weekend.” What happens is this becomes our new normal, and everyday is about making it to the weekend or the next break where we simply collapse from exhaustion.

9. YOU DON’T LAUGH AS MUCH OR HAVE FUN. This is connected to what we’ve already said, but if you can’t remember the last time you laughed and had fun, that’s a problem. When you are tired, the last thing you have energy for is fun or community. You are more irritable and have less courage. People are draining, and the only thing you want to do is be a bump on the log and watch TV. If you are an introvert, having fun with people, especially when you are tired, feels so taxing.

*This is an excerpt from Josh’s upcoming book, Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More. Click on the link to purchase it.

This post originally appeared on Josh’s blog.

Bullet Blog: Why Can’t I Hear God?

“BULLET BLOGS”™ ARE FAST READS WITH PENETRATING TRUTHS.

If God seems silent, nowhere to be found, there could be legitimate reasons. God is never silent without a purpose. Even in His silence, He speaks. Why would God be silent, distant and practically non-existent in your life – especially when you need Him? There can be several tremendously practical reasons.

I won’t go into all the reasons here (this is a Bullet Blog), but I do want to explore one reason why God can be silent, because it can be the most common. I’ve learned this first-hand in my own life. One reason you may not be hearing from God is because you may have been treating Him as if He were non-existent, or perhaps, at best, as a spiritual “genie” whose “lamp” you rub only when you have a wish you want to be fulfilled.

If we treat God as non-existent, there can come a time when He will begin to live up to our expectations.Zechariah 7:13 (NIV) says

“When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen.”

If we haven’t been listening to God, there can come a day when God won’t listen to us. The good news is that the very same book that has the above verse, begins with these words:

“Return to me, declares the LORD Almighty, and I will return to you,” (Zechariah 1:3). 

THOUGHTS TO PONDER: Is it time for you to return to God, or to come to Him for the very first time? Today is a great day to walk withGod, or to begin walking with Him in the first place. After all, no one who ignores God will ever come out a winner in the eternal scheme of things. In fact, those who do will probably waste a lot of time and energy in the here and now, too. Why wait to fulfill your destiny?

Is God Always Listening to Us?

There’s something inside each of us that assumes God is always listening – but is that assumption correct?Hearing and listening, while related, are not the same thing. We need to grasp this, because every area of life is directly affected by whether or not God is listening when we find ourselves in need of a little attention. If we assume, for instance, that God is always listening to us – and that assumption wrong – it can lead us down a road with all kinds of bad consequences. So, here’s the question: Is God always listening to us? Is He always listening to you? Well, it depends.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “COMMUNICATE”?
I know that I always want God to listen to my pleas. You probably do, too. It’s possible to hear another person and not be listening at all. We do this all the time. We tune things out so we can focus our attention on what we feel is most important. If you don’t believe me, try talking to someone who’s texting. They may hear you, but they aren’t really listening to you. (Yes, I just pitched you great fodder for a relationship-changing conversation with that special someone in your life who seems to be paying more attention to their smart phone than you.)

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What does the Bible say about the way God listens to us?We know, for instance, that He is “omniscient.” By definition, God knows all things: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). But knowing all things is not the same as being presently engaged in all things. The omniscience of God must be understood in light of other equally important passages of the Bible – because the Bible is the best commentary on itself. Consider Zechariah 7:13when it comes to understanding how, and when, God listens to us:

“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

If we want God to listen to us, we must start by listening to Him. Why? Because God is capable of hearing without listening. If we don’t listen to God when He calls, there can be negative consequences. It’s always beneficial to listen when God speaks. No one who listens to God will ever live to regret it. Listening to God opens up a whole depth of relationship with Him that mere hearing will never achieve. The listen is to pay attention. This is what changes us and changes everything.Do you pay attention to God? How is that reflected in your daily choices?

Yes, we all want God to listen to us. No one in their right mind wants God’s second-best when they can have His best – but are we willing to give Himour best? Are we willing to give Him our undivided attention throughout each day – to really listen to Him?Whether or not we do has a direct impact on Him – and this makes its way back to us. Merely hearing God, and knowing what He wants, is not the same as listening to Him. Remember, listening and hearing are not the same thing.

When we ignore God by merely hearing, we always miss out on life’s best, because we are missing out on the Author of life. Our lives simply go much better when we really listen. It’s what gets His attention.  Zechariah 7:13 teaches us that when we pay attention to God (listen) it impacts Him in such a way that He listens in return.

Communication is a two-way street. If you want God to listen to  you, why not start by developing the practice of listening to Him? To live your best life, study all of the Bible, not just select portions. Then, adjust your life accordingly. God wants to listen to you and me. The question is, are we listening to Him?

WHAT TO READ NEXTClick here for some other blog posts that I think will help you learn how to listen to God

Life of Christ #84: How Did Jesus Do It?

What am I? “I’m loved and appreciated by some, hated and resisted by others – yet I’m necessary for the establishment and expansion of God’s Kingdom.” You’ll learn the answer to this riddle, and so much more, in this message from Luke 20:1-8.

Jesus did many things that were not humanly possible – and so did His apostles. In fact, those who are called by Jesus to lead the Church are called to do the impossible continually. How do mere mortals do the impossible? In this message, we explore the real source of Jesus’ power – and the power behind anyone humble enough to follow Him.

One Simple, Powerful Thing That Will Take You Deeper With God

Some people leave everything up to God, as if they have no say in how high they can soar with Him. It’s simply not true. There is one simple, powerful thing you can do, each week and every week of your life, that will take you deeper with God and make every moment richer, more enjoyable, more productive – and more eternally significant. If depth with God (and success in life) is important to you, then you need to include this simple, powerful thing in your life so that you can soar.
Your spiritual growth, if you haven’t realized, affects everything in your life. Everything.The truth is, God has not removed you from the process of going deeper with Him. You and I have a direct say in our spiritual growth. What is one thing you can do to take  your walk with God to a deeper, higher place? Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 13:5:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

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The one thing you can do to deepen your walk with God and your success in life is to make time to examine yourself. Most of us have become adept at examining the lives of other people. This is proven through the unforgiveness, jealousy and bitterness we harbor. One thing, however, must be the trait of anyone truly serious about following God: the examination of self.It’s the lost art that must be revived.

Self-examination isn’t something we should only do right before taking communion (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). It’s something we can and should do throughout our lives, intentionally. Yes, you and I should be doing this throughout the course of each and every day, to keep us from drifting – but there is something significant about setting aside special time for self-examination each and every week.

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You need a distraction-free day, each week, to rest and reflect.This was true since the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). We’re busier today than ever. We need to stop the treadmill of life, rest and reflect. Take a day a week to kill your smart phone. Avoid TV and the internet. Rest. Reflect. Examine yourself.If you have a family, encourage each other to do this. Enjoy the day together, doing the same thing. It will make for wonderful conversation, accountability and growth.  

Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”(Mark 2:27). It’s the one special day of the week that was given to you and me as a day of rest as a gift from God. It’s the perfect time to think deeply about God and life – and to make adjustments so that we stay on track with God. When we do, we avoid the drift of life.

HAVE YOU SWALLOWED A CAMEL?
The funny thing is that at most, we Christians argue about which day of the week should be the sabbath. Is it Saturday or Sunday? And, what about pastors? What are we to do, since Sunday is our biggest public day of ministry? With Ben Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist, steaming toward his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, we’re sure to see a lot of people asking the question “when, exactly is the sabbath?” However, does it really matter when the “sabbath” is if we don’t actually take one? 

“We’re busier today than ever. We need to stop the treadmill of life, rest and reflect. Take a day a week to kill your smart phone. Avoid TV and the internet. Rest. Reflect. Examine yourself.”

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Jesus rebuked the pharisees for “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24). The truth is, most of us are missing the point when it comes to the sabbath. While we’re content with arguing over when may be the best day for the sabbath, most of us struggle to actually keep any sabbath. We’re so doggone busy. Paul says that “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another
esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). The best day for the sabbath is the sabbath day you actually take.

Be careful you don’t strain at camels and swallow a gnat. The point of the sabbath is that God gave it to you and me to take – each and every week – so that we can slow down, reflect on life, make adjustments, and live life to the fullest. Who are we to think we know better than God?

Make time each and every week to set aside an entire day to rest, examine yourself, and make sure you are really walking with Jesus Christ.The weeks of our lives will add up to months, the months will add up to years, and the years will become the mosaic of our lives. If you take time, each and every week, to rest and examine yourself, you’ll be glad you did.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT DAY IS YOUR SABBATH? WHEN IS YOUR DAY TO REST, EXAMINE YOURSELF, AND MAKE SURE YOU REALLY ARE PURSUING GOD DEEPLY AS A CHRIST-FOLLOWER? WHY NOT MAKE THAT A TOP PRIORITY RIGHT NOW?

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