SHHHHH: Finding Substance in Silence

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SHHHHH: Finding Substance in Silence

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Speaking to groups of people often requires asking that they be silent. It doesn’t mean that what they are doing or discussing when the speaker talks is not important, but listening is harder when we’re preoccupied with what we’re saying or doing. Listening happens better when undivided attention is given to the speaker. This natural reality leads me to consider the spiritual question: Are we too busy to listen to the voice of God?

God often speaks in stillness and smallness. If we’re not careful, we can miss what God wants to say to us because we expect God to speak extravagantly in the present like God might have in the past.

Sensitivity has to be cultivated in the fast-paced society that we live in that is often too fast to sense the still, and too saturated to sense the small. When we take the time to center ourselves through silence and stillness, we give God the space to speak to us on God’s terms. Even Jesus took time away to be with God. I can’t help but to notice how in Matthew 15:29, Jesus went up to the mountain and He “sat down there”. If we will learn to get into the presence of God and “sit down there”, by pausing, reflecting, and being in resting, we can provide the platform of silence that God's voice can be best heard through.  

In his book Meditations of the Heart, theologian Howard Thurman says that “The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic”, and this reality is what sometimes prevents us from hearing what God wants to say to us. I understand first-hand how busyness can get in the way of taking the time to be silent. We can become so busy doing work for God that we neglect our walk with God, but work for God evolves into God working through us when we prioritize our walk with God.

It’s easy to sacrifice necessary time to be silent in the name of “serving”. Though this is common, we cannot pour out quality to others without giving God the space to fill us, otherwise we will run out of substance to pour.

The spiritual substance from God that we need to live well and serve well can be received through stillness and silence with God.

In our jet-setting, itinerary-based culture that can entice Christian leaders to take on a messiah complex where we feel we have to solve everybody’s problems, we need the “blessed quietness” that they hymn writer says when “He speaks peace to me, the billows cease to roll”. This suggests that a word from God can provide the peace that we seek in our lives when times get tough.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah was running for his life since Jezebel threatened to kill him as a consequence for proving that the God of Israel is the true God. The series of events that led up to Elijah experiencing God are interesting, because when God passed by Elijah, a great and strong wind happened, and after the wind, an earthquake happened, and after the earthquake, a fire happened, but God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire.

But Vs. 12 says after the fire, “a still small voice”. The help that Elijah needed to continue the work of his life did not come through some significantly sensational experience, but it came through God’s still small voice. This same Elijah, who was depressed because of how his ministry resulted in his life being threatened, heard from God, got new instructions, and continued doing the work of his life.

Sometimes, it’s not that we need to change what we’re doing, or give up on our current efforts. Elijah needed a personal encounter with God, and so do we. We need to hear God’s voice. We need to feel God’s peace. We need to be reminded that the work we do for God is not of our own choosing, but it is God’s sending.

I encourage you to take the time to invite God’s voice to speak to your spirit by being silent in God’s presence, and receiving the instruction, the encouragement, the correction, and the lessons that God wants to share with you. Here’s a takeaway truth: God has something to say, and it’s worth hearing. What’s left for us to do is examine ourselves to ensure that there are silent spaces in our lives that allow us to hear what God says. You cannot do well what you have not heard well, and you cannot hear well if you have not been silent.

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Enhancing the Essentials: STOP FAKING!

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As many of you know, I recently relocated from Rochester, NY to serve as Youth Pastor in Columbia, MD. Thankfully my moving process has been seamless, but during my apartment search, I noticed a recurring experience. Leasing agents would show me impressive amenities that were upgraded with modern architecture and technology to spark my interest, then in many cases, once we got around to seeing the apartment units, I was underwhelmed because they paled in comparison to the dynamic shared public spaces.

After having several of these experiences, I began to request that we skip the amenities showcase because it was clear to me that there was a culture of over-communicating nonessentials in an effort to validate their worth. They showed me flat screens, pool tables, bbq grills, community gyms and spa spaces, and much more, but I was apartment hunting for a personal living space, not those things. I quickly noticed that, in many places, while the nonessentials where upgraded, the essentials were antiquated and less attended to.

My apartment hunting experience caused me to search my soul. Consider this: Am I enhancing the non-essentials in my life in an effort to make myself appear more valuable?

Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes”? He was encouraging them to give attention to what really matters in life, and I encourage you to do the same. Jesus went on to tell them to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness...”, and just like the disciples, we have to keep the main the the main thing. God first, of course, then our own wellness and wholeness because I’m no good to others when I’m not good to myself.

Here’s what I’m trying to say:

The value that you possess is not in what you have, or in what you do, but your value is in who you are! I encourage you to seek to BE, and not to GET. Be whole. Be well. Be kind. Be authentic. Be sane. Be intelligent. Be Spirit-filled.

When you choose to BE, you will naturally GET. Education doesn't make you. More money won’t make you. More friends won’t make you. More likes, shares, and follows won’t make you.

Life can be much less stressful when you take your confidence out of what you possess, and put your confidence in God. Allow God to develop the essentials of your life so that you won’t feel the need to use nonessentials to make yourself appear to be valuable.

You have value, and it’s within! It’s God given.

While popular culture may temp us to value what’s on us as indicators of our worth, I invite you to give attention to what’s within you, which for believers is what Paul calls in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “treasure”, which is the power of God. We have this treasure! Let’s act like it!

 

P.S. Today is the 1 Year Anniversary of Junior’s Journal Blog. Thanks for reading!

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THAT JUNK IS KILLING YOU: Consecrate Yourself!

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THAT JUNK IS KILLING YOU: Consecrate Yourself!

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I’ve recently given increased attention to my personal fitness, which has included 5AM workouts and meal preps with plenty of veggies & lean meats, and it has taught me a valuable lesson!

After several consecutive weeks on this routine, last Monday I sent a friend of mine a picture of my lunch. It was baked chicken breast over a mixture of chickpeas, spinach, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and cranberries (in a lemon sauce). It was delicious, and filling. I brought more fruit and a salad to work in case I got hungry after that meal, but surprisingly, I didn’t get hungry again, and that healthy meal that seemed small filled me up for the duration of my time at work.

Then on Tuesday, I broke my regular routine since I did an airport pickup on my lunch break. Instead of eating the lunch that I brought to work (probably 500 calories), I stopped at Wendy’s and grabbed a meal (around 1200 calories). After eating it (didn’t even really enjoy it like I used to), I felt full. This time there was a difference though. I got hungry about two hours later, and was looking for snacks to get me through the rest of the work day, not to mention the itis and the 2:00PM slump it gave me.

I got full off of the Wendy’s fast food lunch, but the healthy food gave me a different kind of filling. It was a guilt-free, lasting, profitable filling that I didn’t have to worry would set me back from the progress that I’ve made in my fitness journey.

You may or may not be working towards fitness goals, but all of us fill our lives and our space with people, relationships, behaviors, choices, and habits. God has specific guidelines for what we consume and engage in, and our ability to accomplish what God has assigned to us depends on us giving careful attention to what we’re filling ourselves with!

In 1 Chronicles 15:12, David tells the heads of the Levitical families to consecrate themselves and bring up the ark of the Lord. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence for the Israelites, and though the Levites were assigned to handle it, they needed specific instructions on how do it because when they attempted to before, they did not do it in the prescribed way.

For the Levites, consecration was a cleaning ritual, and for us, consecration is the intentional effort we make to remove the empty, ungodly fillers in our lives that are taking up the space that God desires to fill. Anybody or anything that God does not approve of is polluting your life and delaying your purpose! Consecrating yourself before the Lord proves to God that you are serious about your purpose and makes room in your life for God to give you what you’re asking for. We are sometimes too busy doing what we do and being who we are to realize that the ungodly things we do in the name of fun or boredom aren't just causal behaviors. That junk is killing you! It's stifling your capacity to hear God and obey God's word, and limiting the space in your life for God to occupy.

Too often in our lives, we settle for options that are as unhealthy spiritually, mentally, financially, socially, and relationally as fast food is physically. I encourage you to do what David instructed the Levites to do: CONSECRATE YOURSELF! Identify those things in your life that pollute your life and exchange them with the things of God.

You have the option to have a different kind of filling! God wants to fill our lives with a guilt-free, lasting, profitable filling that is so much better than the cheap substitutes that we think we are enjoying. God’s filling is God’s presence, God’s word, the fruit of God’s Spirit, godly relationships, and godly success. 

Consecrate yourself! Clean your spiritual diet! Clean your mental diet! Clean your physical diet! Real success is not only accomplishing a God-given assignment, but it is doing that assignment, God’s way!

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What's On Your Mind?

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What's On Your Mind?

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A man who played a pivotal role in my upbringing would randomly and periodically (annoyingly) ask me, “What’s on your mind?” I’d often respond “nothing”, either because I literally wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, or I didn’t care to share what I was thinking about. He would firmly reply “Get something on your mind”, and as a boy, those words shook me, but as a man, I cherish them. That man, Burrell Jones, recently passed away. God bless his memory.  

I find myself reminding myself of his words every now and then, and I now understand the importance of his instruction. I now strive to be conscious of the thoughts that I think, and the fact that I’m thinking. While there may be times when we give our minds a break from the tiresome and burdensome realities of our existence, the truth is that we should practice the instructions that Mr. Burrell was trying to teach me, to get and keep something on our minds.

Since we live in the information age, and there is so much to think about, it’s important to wisely choose what we think about. I encourage you to think about God’s Word and both its implications and ramifications on your life. Find scripture that you can rehearse within the corridors of your mind and soul. Let God’s Word minister to your fears, uncertainties, pains, worries, and frustrations. Give God’s Word space in your soul to encourage your dreams and enliven your faith. I’m certain that you will be pleasantly surprised by the positive effect that thinking about God’s Word has on you. Consider this: God’s word caused worlds to be created from nothing. Imagine the untapped potential in your life for the creative force of God to cause you to become what God created you to be, and how often we forfeit this potential because we concentrate on so many other things, all of which God’s Word has the power to control and change.

The act of contemplating and rehearsing God’s Word is meditation. In his book “Celebration of Discipline”, Richard Foster defines Christian meditation as “the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.” Simply put, when we think about scripture, it tunes our ears and our hearts to what God’s voice is so that we can differentiate between God’s voice, the voice of others, and our own voice. Naturally, the more you’re around an individual, the more familiar you are with their voice, to the point where you don’t even have to see them to recognize their voice, and so it goes spiritually. The more you meditate on God’s word, the more you will recognize God’s voice.

Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the one….whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” You see that? The ones who consistently meditate on God’s Word prosper in WHATEVER THEY DO! In other words, meditation is the prerequisite for godly success. I invite you to ask for God’s help in changing what you think about by praying this short prayer: “Lord, plant me in the fruitful place where my leaves won’t wither, and all that I do prospers because I mediate on your Word day and night. Show me what you want me to think about”.

So I ask, in the midst of your daily responsibilities and routines, “What’s On Your Mind”? I encourage you to create space for God in your soul by thinking about God’s Word. Think about God’s Word more. It’s going to change your life.

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Your Wholeness Is In Your Hands!

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Your Wholeness Is In Your Hands!

We spend so much time and give so much interest to learning about other people, whether it’s distant people we consider celebrities or our next door neighbor’s personal business. Modern culture seems to be obsessed with gaining knowledge about and reflecting on the reality that others live in, but I’m concerned that personal awareness has taken a backseat and our capacity to tend to our own wellbeing has decreased as a result.  Simply put, we know too much about other people, and not enough about ourselves.

  • What makes you happy?
  • What brings a sense of fulfillment to your life?
  • Is your relationship with God healthy?
  • Are pains from your past contaminating your present?
  • Why do you continue to make choices that you know are a detriment to you, or those you love?
  • What are you doing with your life?
  • Who are you honestly trying to satisfy with the decisions you make?
  • How are you really doing?

Playing the movie and soundtrack of your life in your mind will help you to learn from your successes, your failures, your tendencies, your pit-falls, your preferences, and your habits! While you certainly can learn from other’s experiences, your growth depends on you giving attention to yourself and your needs!

YOU ARE WORTH YOUR ATTENTION! Your health, spiritual well-being, financial wellness, mental stability, emotional maturity, and every aspect of who you are deserves (and requires) your attention if you’re going to be WHOLE! Jesus asked the man in John 5 at the pool of Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?”, and I like the NLT that says “Would you like to get well?” The man had been sick for 38 years and he told Jesus that he can’t get well because there were always people ahead of him. Instead of entertaining his response, Jesus told the man to get up, take up his mat, and walk. In other words, Jesus gave the man the option for wholeness, all he had to do was get up and do something!

Like the man at the pool, you have the option for wholeness! Wholeness is available to you! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GET UP AND DO SOMETHING!!!! Your wholeness is in your hands!

When you take the time to learn yourself, you can measure who you are today against who you were yesterday, versus comparing yourself to other people, who have their own journey of growth and development. It’s a problem if you can only feel good about yourself because you feel like you’re doing better than someone else. It’s also a problem when someone else doing well causes you to feel bad about who you are! Learn to feel good about yourself because you’re giving yourself the attention you require. In the word's of William Shakespeare, "to thine own self be true."

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