In last months article, I described a more passionate, heartfelt relationship with God, which will lead to a more passionate worship experience. How does one achieve a more passionate relationship with God? John Wesley believed a greater commitment to prayer, study of God's word, and acts of Christian fellowship and accountability, would lead to a deeper, more intense spiritual relationship with God. Certainly this is true. Yet how do we achieve this? A more passionate, deeper relationship with God would be wonderful. Sounds like a lofty goal, a high mark to achieve, doesn't it? More and deeper, these are the key words.
I would like to offer a very simple method to you, my Methodist brothers and sisters in Christ. I call it the "Thankfulness Method," and as this is the month of Thanksgiving, it should be easy for all to give it a try. Start by thinking of the blessings in your life for which you are thankful. I will offer some examples, but remember, only you and God know what you are thankful for. Is it a nice house, or a new car? Maybe it is the job that allows you to have these things. Think of your top three, and take a moment and say a prayer of thanks for whatever is on your list.
Now we need more, and to go deeper. Maybe you are thankful for the family that cares for you, or the friendships in your life. As all love flows from God, these are blessings we should all be thankful for as well. How about the compassion shown by someone from whom you didn't expect? When this church welcomed my family into its congregation, I felt God's love, and am still thankful. List four or five and then take a few moments to say a prayer of thanks for these blessings as well.
Ready? Lets go a bit deeper. My bible study teacher once told me that God knows the number of hairs on my head. This seems like an insignificant thing to know, but if God knows that, He also knows of all of my sins and transgressions. Yet despite this, He loves me. Now there's something to be thankful for! All the times I let my temper, my selfishness, my sinfulness get in the way of my Christian love for my fellow man, yet God loves me anyway. I am not alone. There are so many people with so many sins, that God sent a savior to die for them so we could live forever. Are you as thankful as I am for this? Lets take another few minutes to offer our gratitude up in prayer.
Deeper you say? OK, lets talk about faith and trust. Not the faith and trust that we have in God, but the faith and trust that God has in us. Let me explain. Despite my human weaknesses, God loves me. Despite my transgressions, God has forgiven me. Despite all of these, God has given me, given us, the greatest gift of all, opportunity. As silly as it sounds, God has appointed us sinners to be his representatives here on earth. He gives us the opportunity to serve Him everyday, and has faith that we will do His will, and trusts us to show His love to all those we encounter. When I think of all my sins, and all the times I have been less than a shining example of God's love, it amazes me that He would allow me to have an opportunity to represent Him. Yet He doesn't just allow me, He calls me to do it! He calls all of us to serve. How do you serve God? Are you thankful for the opportunity? Take as much time as you need to offer a prayer of thanks for the opportunities God has given you, and for the ability to hear His call in your life. Ask God to lead your heart to serve Him in any way He calls you.
This "Thankfulness Method" is a bit like cleaning off a cluttered desk for a new lamp. Each thing you offer a prayer of thanks for is like putting away an item from that desk. With each prayer, you open a little more space for that lamp. It is the same with your heart. With each prayer, you make more room in your heart for Gods Holy Spirit. When you have a lamp on your desk, you can see all your important papers better. With the Holy Spirit in your heart, you can see all of God's blessings and intentions better.
Practice this "Thankfulness Method" often, especially this month. You might be surprised how honest and heartfelt your prayers will become. On Thanksgiving Day, before you offer thanks for the meal, remember the things you have prayed for first. You may find that you forget to mention the turkey in that prayer!
Heavenly Father, Thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon me. Because you are a God of love, when I sin, You forgive me. When I fail You, You allow me to serve. When I am a selfish flawed human, You call me to feed Your hungry, teach Your children, inspire Your people with the message that You give me. Thank you for calling me, a sinner, to serve You and have a noble purpose in my life. Thank you for guiding my heart to hear Your call and to respond, and in Jesus' name I pray that I may one day be considered Your faithful servant. Amen.
by Gerald DeMarco - November, 2015read more …
In my article in September, I discussed the subject of apathy. For those who missed it, here is a quick review:
Apathy: (ap·a·thy (noun))
1 : lack of feeling or emotion: impassiveness
2 : lack of interest or concern: indifference
There are a few causes of apathy; disinterest, pre-occupation, depression, despair, and classic conditioning. While the causes are important in helping us recognize apathy, the real point is the damage it can do to the many different relationships in our lives! Who wants a pet the doesn't care when we leave or arrive, or a friend that doesn't notice that we have a problem or need to talk? Who ever heard of a sibling that doesn't know when it's your birthday, or a parent that doesn't care if you do well in school? All of these are examples of the effects of apathy on a relationship.
Fear Not! There are things we can do to improve this situation. If you wish to eliminate the cold, you must have heat. If you wish to dispel the darkness, you must have light. Likewise, if you wish to remove apathy, you must have passion. They are mutually exclusive. Passion : [pash-uhn] noun
1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
According to Dictionary.com, the antonym (opposite) of passion, is apathy. Look at the key words in the definition. Powerful, compelling, emotion, feeling, and love (and hate); these are very strong, descriptive words. These words leave no room for ambiguity or apathy! Now think of the relationships in your life. The best relationships can be defined by these very words; the rest could be improved by adding these characteristics to them. If I were to describe my marriage to you, I could use any of these descriptive words in certain examples (except hate). Yet if I were to describe my relationship with God, I would have to use all of them (except hate).
When apathy is replaced with passion in our lives, some amazing things happen in our relationships. The really interesting thing is that cause and effect become blurred. Let me give an example. When you treat your spouse more passionately, your love deepens. When your love deepens, you treat your spouse with more passion. Which is the cause, and which is the outcome? To understand this paradox, you must understand that passion feeds on passion; just as hate leads to hate, (also a form of passion) love leads to love!
The same is true with your relationship with God. When you worship more passionately, your relationship with God becomes more profound, more intense. Likewise, when you have a deeper more meaningful relationship with God, your prayers and worship become more passionate and more emotional. Of course, the emotion I am describing is love; it could be nothing else as all love comes from God.
I have a vision, one I believe God has given to me. It is a vision of this congregation having a deeper, more intense and loving relationship with God. It is a vision of this congregation having a more passionate relationship with God, and therefore a more passionate worship experience each Sunday. I have experienced such before, and I wish to share it with all of you, my new church family at St. Paul.
When prayer is not just words, but a heartfelt plea, when worship is not just habit, but an intense emotional experience, where the congregation is opening their hearts and souls to the love of God, the atmosphere in the sanctuary becomes denser, thicker, palpable. Simply put, the room becomes filled with love; Gods love! It is then that you can feel His presence, His Holy Spirit among us. The Spirit leads, and the congregation filled with God's love, can not help but follow.
It is only proper that I warn you however, that the emotion that God's love, God's Holy Spirit can, and often does invoke in you, can be quite intense. It's not a bad thing; quite the opposite! It is an emotional experience like no other, and it can only come from God.
So, that's my vision. What is your vision? Does the idea of a more passionate spiritual relationship with God stir your soul? How would it affect every other relationship in your life? If every other relationship in your life was more passionate, more loving, how would it affect your relationship with God? Which is cause, and which is effect? What is your vision? Do you see what I see?
by Gerard DeMarco - October, 2015
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Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. (New Testament Lesson)