How to Spend Time with God

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By Brian Sharpe

The way my brain works, I need peace and quiet in a room that I am going to study in. There can be no mess. I need a solid block of uninterrupted time for me to get good study time in. The problem is that, up until this last month, I didn’t really have that at my house. I could finagle it, but my brain for some reason knows I am finagling it and just gets distracted.

Well, we are at the tail end of a remodel at our house. We have taken some walls out and put some walls in. One of the areas we created by putting some walls in was an office. I could not wait for my office. I was excited to have a place where I could go, have some peace and quiet, pray, and spend time with God. The problem was that when we finished the office, my parents were still in town and my dad took over the office as his office. He needs a space to work, so I was glad to have it for him, but I was waiting for my turn in the office so I could get my peace and quiet.

Well, once my parents left, I took some time in my office. It was so nice to get some peace and quiet time. I just listened to music and read my Bible. I prayer-journaled, and it was heavenly. As I prayer-journaled, I realized something. I realized that I had a faulty view of spending time with God. I thought spending time with God meant that I set aside 10 minutes or more time a day just to read my Bible and pray. You remember the song that says, “Read your Bible and pray every day and you will grow, grow, grow”? That is what I thought it meant to spend time with God. I needed my office where I could get away and read and pray.

However, while that may be important, it is not what is needed to spend time with God. God is always with us. He is always with us. He will never leave us. When we wake, He is there. When we sleep, He is there.

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!   I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!   If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139:1-10

Spending time with God is not something we have to work at; it is something we have to acknowledge we are always doing. See, I believed the lie that knowledge equals intimacy with God. Knowledge is good, but it doesn’t always equal intimacy. Intimacy comes from spending time together. It comes from me recognizing that God is always with me as well as entering into the journey with Him. It is me talking with God throughout my day, remembering that He is there. It is sitting and listening to Him as we process what is going on in life. It is inviting Him to teach me about Himself when I read my Bible. It is me recognizing He is always with me, no matter where I am and what I am doing. It is a change in perspective. It goes from needing to spend time with God to me always spending time with God and realizing it.

I want to encourage you today to acknowledge God’s ever-present presence in your life and to talk through all that you are doing today with Him. We need to live understanding He is with us, not hoping we will get time with Him.

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“Three Hands, Three Strands”

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By Larry Short

Associate Pastor Brian Sharpe has created a booklet called “Three Hands,” with the help of others on our communications team. The artwork on the cover is a bit goofy, and I’ve made fun of it a lot (insert comment about living too close to Hanford Nuclear Reservation here), but the foundational idea, while simple, is incredibly important.

The booklet looks at the lives of some of those who were called, in the first century A.D., to “lean into” the task of taking the life-changing gospel (“good news”) of Jesus outward from their home villages and spreading it so that the world might be changed. This obviously took an incredible amount of passion, and conviction, and selflessness, and courage—all gifts brought from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who fell upon Christ’s disciples in Acts 2. Specifically, the booklet looks at the Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas, three men who made an incredible contribution to the spread of the Gospel. And, more specifically, it looks at the relationships between them and draws some simple ideas from what we see there.

Paul’s mentoring of Timothy was obviously incredibly important. It was far more than the relationship between student and teacher; it was discipleship. Paul frequently said, even as Jesus did, “Those things you see me do, go and do those things.” He modeled what New Testament life was supposed to be about, then encouraged others to follow his model.

And how does Barnabas fit in? One of the key things you see in Acts and beyond is that men such as Paul rarely went out “on their own.” They partnered with someone who could provide strength and encouragement. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

The truth is, we are too often alone … and too often, inevitably, overpowered! The Christian life wasn’t designed to be lived alone. It was designed to be lived in partnership with brothers and sisters. Too many Christians in this “cowboy” culture we live in here in the U.S. simply blow off “church.” They don’t need anybody, they can go it alone. But truth be told, our need for others is far more significant than we know. We need that brother and sister who can tell us the truth when we need to hear it or can give words of encouragement when that is what we need. We need others to “stir us up to love and good works,” as Hebrews 10:24 says.

A two-stranded cord is far better than one.

But wait, that’s not what Ecclesiastes says, is it? Oh, of course not! Duh. The third strand represents He who enters into our fellowship and interweaves His life with ours. The Third Strand alone is unbreakable, so any rope with it woven firmly into place is a rope that should surely hold under even the greatest pressure!

So, back to the three hands. On that goofy cover I told you about, one hand is reaching downward, one reaching upward, and one to the side. The hand reaching up reminds us that we all need to have a mentor who can disciple us and prepare us for what God has assigned. Even Paul spent something like three years learning from others and getting prepared for his public ministry.

And we should all be willing to pour what we have learned into others, for our faith is just one generation away from extinction and we must not be the ones who fail to pass it down! The hand reaching down reminds us that we should all have “Timothys” in our lives whom we are pouring ourselves into. We should be showing (with our lives, not just saying with our lips), and we should be working toward a specific goal (as Paul did), to release those we mentor into ministry once they are ready.

And finally, we all need Barnabases. (Barnabi?) I have a close friend in California named John whom I met my first year of college. Our friendship has continued to grow since then, and there has been many a time when we have needed and depended on each other. Often he is a Paul, and I a Timothy; and sometimes it may be the other way around. But always, we are Barnabases, to whatever extent we can be, separated by 1,200 miles!

Brian asks, Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy? Who is your Barnabas? There are no hard-and-fast rules, and this may be a season when all three relationships are not operating in our lives right now. But we should always be on the lookout for whom God might bring our way. And we must never neglect “the assembling of ourselves together” and simply putting ourselves “out there” in places where we can impact (and be impacted by) the lives of others! Are you allowing God to weave that three-stranded cord in your life?

P.S.: I’m excited about the men’s retreat this weekend! It’s always a wonderful opportunity for men to come together and form dearly needed accountability and discipleship relationships. Please be praying for the men of this church, that we would be transparent, open, vulnerable, and willing to be used of God in whatever ways He sees fit to further our capacity as His Church to bring Him honor and glory and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to South Hill and beyond!

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Living a Life of Significance

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By Jeff Foerster

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I had some unencumbered time the other day, and I got to thinking. I see people leaving us for Heaven, in my family and in our congregation. I notice that plans and strategies formulated are often difficult to execute with any degree of smoothness. I hear preaching that announces God has desires transcending the doing and the going and the surface-level results in this life. That’s when I realize these thoughts are all connected.

I felt a longing well up within me. This desire called itself by name with little hesitation and no sense of bashfulness. “Significance!” it cried out. Questions were asked, and answers were demanded: “Will I be remembered?” “Will I achieve greatness?” “Will my days here matter beyond my own life?”

Many are the moments of “maintenance” in this life. Everything seems to get dirty, from cars, to houses — inside and out — to our own bodies. Everything seems to break down with the ravages of time. Everything seems to need repair. Everything seems to need to be done again … and again. Grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, sleeping, and brushing teeth all require nearly constant attention.

All this time, all this effort doesn’t generally propel one forward, but rather it keeps one from sliding backward. An owner of a car will never awake one morning, enter the garage, and find additional features on the car not there the night before, nor will this happen gradually. In fact, in our society, we acknowledge this decline from the start with a premium paid at the outset. We call this the “sticker price,” and it is well known that once the car is driven off the dealer’s lot it loses value immediately. We are willing to pay to host this little “party” for the fleeting moment when the car is at its best. A very expensive gathering of yourself, maybe one or two others, and the car salesman. Smiles are had, especially by the salesman, papers are signed, currency is exchanged, keys are handed over, and that ends the ritual celebration.

From there the law of entropy (involving increasing disorder) takes over. Everything in our known universe is engaged in decay, or a “winding down” of order, as can be measured in its effectiveness, usefulness, or consistency. This curse upon the natural world is something that must be fought against to stay “even.” If you’re not engaged in the battle, you’re losing the battle. Like attempting to block the flow of a river, it will find a way around and keep on moving, carving another pathway of least resistance. If you do manage to stem the flow, to secure a dam before it, time will wear away at the blockade, causing breeches in the wall, or the long backed-up water will finally surge over the top.

This can all sound a bit depressing. It can definitely seem overwhelming if this is where your focus is fixed. I am propelled by my desire for significance to look and see if significance can be found in the “doings” of this life. I recall the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes, who declared:

All things are wearisome;

Man is not able to tell it.

The eye is not satisfied with seeing,

Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

That which has been is that which will be,

And that which has been done is that which will be done.

So there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one might say,

“See this, it is new”?

Already it has existed for ages

Which were before us.

(Ecclesiastes 1:8–10)

I do not think a desire for significance is sinful. It, like anything else, can be misplaced and misused, but it is a desire which can build pressure and that has energy that can be harnessed to act as a catapult toward deepening a rich relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Once again I am turned back from seeing myself as a human “doing” to a human “being.” I now see the issue of significance as one that can only find its fulfillment by the marriage of the will of man and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is in the “heart” and not in “doings” that focus is rightly placed. For it is neither cars, nor houses, nor career, nor wealth, nor any other thing that will be carried forward into eternity, save for the heart that God is making new.

I think all the routine maintenance of life has great value — but it is not in “doing it well” that matters. All the maintenance, all the hours, all the labor, serve to remind us of our dependency upon God. Each breath we take is granted by Him who loves us. Each time we slumber, each time we take nourishment, let these be reminders from our Creator, loving whispers to say, “I’ve got you. I know what you need, because I created you to need. Turn to Me in all things, and rest in Me, because I AM enough!”

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Desires

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By Jim DeAngelo

This week, Sandra and I have the chance to sit in the sun in Tucson as I think about a topic for the Last Word. Who doesn’t desire to receive more kindness or encouragement? Something about people being more patient and thoughtful with us sure would be nice. With this line of thinking, how about being better off financially? I know that we have all thought about these things.

What does the Bible say about this? Galatians 6:7-9 says,

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I can guess this is not where you hoped I would go, but this is what God says about it. If we want mercy, we need to sow mercy; if patience, we need to sow patience. Are we regularly encouraging others? Are we being financially generous? The part at the end about not giving up is important. Sowing and reaping happens over time. If we grow tired of doing right to others, we ruin our own harvest. Now, if we don’t do this through the Spirit of God in us, we do it to the flesh; in other words, it is out of our relationship with Jesus Christ and our willingness to surrender to Him and let the Holy Spirit have control that we are able to do this.

Ask yourself, what seeds did you plant today? If you find yourself angry, frustrated, inpatient, and dejected, it might be time to have a conversation with God on letting Him have control and to look at what is causing you to not have the right spirit. We all will eventually reap the harvest we have planted. This is a spiritual law that has been in place since creation.

As you reflect, take a look at the following Scriptures.

As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. (Job 4:8)

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

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