Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TTF Intro 2

(This series starts with the post "Through the Furnace (TTF): Intro 1.")

Starting the Journey 


            Psalm 14:2:  “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”   


            Maybe you’re thinking, Okay, so I am ready to start this challenge.  I want to become diligent in my relationship with the Lord.  I want to draw ever nearer to Him and to live a life that is glorifying to Him.  I want to be humbled at His feet.  I want Him to prune away anything that may be hindering my relationship with Him, so that I can have a deeper, more genuine, more vibrant relationship with Him.  How can I do this?  How can I become Sweetly Broken?       

            I’ll be honest, when I first thought about writing this guidebook, I was thinking about making it a kind of checklist to follow.  A formula that, if followed, would lead to brokenness.  But as I really examined and thought about my own journey through the furnace, I realized that I did not get to that point by my efforts.  I could not have gotten there apart from the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is about the Holy Spirit working through us, as we humbly submit to Him and seek to know the truth about ourselves and follow in obedience.  And there is no guaranteed “formula.”

            This journey cannot be taken without being intimately connected to God through His Word and through prayer, and with a sensitive heart.  There is no effort on our part - no formula or exercise - that can produce the kind of change in our hearts that will lead us to brokenness and humility.  It is all about our heart’s softness to God’s Truth (as found in His Word) and to His leading in prayer.  We cannot force Him to work in us, but we need to be willing and receptive to follow Him and to let Him work in us through the Holy Spirit. 

            At the heart of this journey is a desire for Him, not just for what He can give us and do for us, but a burning desire for more of Him in our every day.  It is about being tired of complacency, tired of being comfortable parked on the side of the road in our spiritual growth.  It is a hunger for personal holiness that is so strong that we are willing to be refined - and willing to invite and face the trials that will produce it.  (Be forewarned, though, that the trials that have the potential for the greatest growth and that lead to the greatest blessings are also usually the most painful and slow-moving to go through.) 

            It is wanting, above and beyond all, to be close to Him and to glorify Him in all we say and do.  And this means being willing to be pruned - pruned of things that are not glorifying to Him and that hinder our relationship with Him and that keep us from shining for Him as brightly as we can.  If these are things that you desire (although I admit that it is scary to enter this kind of territory), I challenge you to be willing to tackle it deliberately, seriously, and earnestly.  And this is the Through the Furnace Challenge! 

            [And please, please, please, let me add something here.  Just because I have been through my own furnace-time doesn’t mean that I “have it all together.”  I am no holier-than-thou, super-righteous person.  I am human.  I am so, so human.  And I fall back into old ways, old habits, and old sins.  I fall back into fear, discouragement, faithlessness, despair, and disobedience way too often.  I definitely struggle with pride and being judgmental and controlling my tongue more than I wish I did.  And I never seem to be able to learn a lesson just once.  So I will end up in the furnace again and again, in one way or another, as life goes on.  Because I certainly have not learned all that there is to learn.  Nor will I ever on this side of eternity. 

            I say all this up front so that no one ever - ever! - puts me up on a pedestal of any kind.  (And I say this because I know of my tendency to think of authors as “special” or more holy, living the charmed life.  Their coffee somehow tastes richer.  Their chicken never burns.  Their shingles don’t ever blow off of their roofs.  And their laundry amazingly washes and folds itself, as soft instrumental music plays in the background.  Certainly, they don’t have piles of laundry that they actually have to wash themselves, do they?  They can’t be that normal, right?)  My fear is that someone would think that I am more than I am.  And then, when I say or do something very human or very wrong - which I will most likely do at some point, you know, being human and all - they would feel let down by me, and it would affect their view of the God that I am following and trying to be like.  

            Don’t hold Him accountable for my – for anyone’s - mistakes.  Any truth that I share is from Him and He deserves the glory for it - because all truth is from Him and all glory is His.  But I take full responsibility for anything I say or do that is ungodly or off-base.  I am human, and I will sin and stumble and misspeak.  Please, do not think more of me than you should.  I am simply sharing what I’ve learned from my journey - from the mistakes that I have made and the pain that I have gone through - in case someone else can learn from it, too.]   

            It is my hope that there are those out there who desire a challenge like this.  Who are willing to face the pain and the trials that will come, knowing that they are meant to refine and teach and drive them closer to the Lord and make their lives more vibrant, significant, and complete.  And it is to you that I issue this challenge and ask you to join me in the pursuit of righteousness.  Of healing.  Of brokenness.  So that you may experience the Love you were made for, the healing you so desire, and the vibrant life that brings you the joy you desire and brings Him the glory He deserves. 

            Oh, the impact we could have for Christ on this world and the depth of His love that we would experience if a generation of Christians sought to be broken before Him! 

            [I want to stress something here: When I say we need to be seeking “righteousness” or living righteously, I am not referring to performing righteous acts out of a sense of legalism, or to make ourselves look better or feel better, or to attain some level of favor with God.  For God is not pleased with these filthy, righteous acts - these attempts to earn favor, mercy, or grace.  And I am not referring to our righteous standing in God’s eyes because of His sacrifice for us, for that is always secure for all believers.  We are not “righteous” in God’s eyes by anything we do. 

            But we do have a responsibility to do our best to live righteously.  To submit all areas of our lives to Him as the Holy Spirit calls us.  To strive to be holy, as He is holy.  We need to abide in Him more and more, getting rid of the things that do not glorify Him and adding the things that do, so that our lives reflect Him more and more and bring Him the most glory possible.  And this comes from humbling yourself before God, being broken before Him.  This is what I am talking about when I say “pursue righteousness.”]  


The Details

            Okay, so, now onto the details.  This journey to brokenness is not a straightforward process, nor a guaranteed process.  And it’s not even really a “process.”  It is not a linear thing where you follow steps A, B, and C to get results X, Y, and Z.  God does not work according to our methods and timetables.  This challenge - this guidebook - is just a tool, a tool to encourage you, guide you, help you, and inspire you.

            You and God do the real work.  You, in your desire to be broken and your willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit and to obey.  And God does the healing, revealing, and rebuilding through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It all lies with the softness of your heart, your willingness to be refined and pruned, and your ability to listen to what God is telling you and to obey.   (I know that I keep saying this, but it’s because I’m really trying to emphasize our complete reliance and dependence on God and His wisdom, mercy, and grace.)   

            I think that this is what makes all the difference between those who grow through trials and those who don’t - you have to be conscientious about it.  You have to say, “Lord, show me and teach me what You are doing here.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear and the strength to obey.  I trust You.”  The person who faces trials and just becomes bitter or hard-hearted, instead of being humbled or taught, misses out on enormousness opportunities for growth.  A wasted trial!  Seek to be deliberate and conscientious.

            The steps and questions in this guidebook are just starting points to open up your heart and mind to the Spirit, to help you dig deeper to see where there may be hidden fears, misconceptions, self-protective walls, hidden sins, or lazy disciplines.  They are to get you thinking more deeply and seriously about your life and your relationship with the Lord.  Most likely, a majority of them won’t reveal anything new to you.  But some will.  Listen to what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach you when your heart or mind is touched by something.

            I believe that these are the crucial pieces of this journey to brokenness: 

            - the desire to be humbled/broken,

            - absolute honesty with yourself and absolute transparency before God,

            - a habit of being still before God and learning to listen,

            - a commitment to obedience,

            - a commitment to the Bible,

            - a commitment to prayer,

            - uncovering the misconceptions that we have about ourselves and replacing them with the truth,

            - and uncovering the misconceptions we have about God and replacing those with biblical truth. 

            There may also be a need to go through a time of waiting - of God’s silence - and a need to clean up other areas of your life, striving for godliness.  


            Now, let me tell you a secret about brokenness . . . you don’t really even need this guidebook.  Seriously!  If you have those things listed above, and you will dig deep into your heart and the Word and prayer, and you will listen to God and learn from Him and submit yourself to Him, He will lead you on the journey to brokenness.  In fact, if you don’t want to do all the questions and work in this guidebook but you do want to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to be more God-glorifying, then simply skip all of the following chapters and pray something like this instead: 


            “Dear God, please change me to be more like You.  Help me to learn to need You and Your Word and prayer.  Help me learn to hear You, and give me the wisdom and strength to respond, to be obedient, and to seek righteousness.  For Your glory!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”


            I do think that there is great value in the questions and challenges that I have presented in this guidebook.  But I also know that God doesn’t need these in order to work in your life.  He has His own mysterious ways of leading us to brokenness and to healing.  Maybe you start this journey using this book, but very quickly feel that God is saying to put it down and follow Him in a different direction.  Go with Him wherever He takes you. 

            This guidebook, once again, is not a guaranteed, magical book.  It is simply a jumpstart, a tool for inspiration and illumination.  But the Bible is fully adequate to be your only source of inspiration and illumination.  It is THE source for Truth, and the Bible is what I will base all of this guidebook on.  That’s where the real journey takes place and how real change happens.  Commit yourself to daily Bible reading and prayer and see what happens. 

            I can hear it now . . . Daily Bible reading?  Daily prayer?  I just don’t have that kind of time! 

            Oh, well then, let me add to your misery:  One more thing that I think is extremely important and beneficial is . . . journaling!  Yes, that’s right, getting out a pen and paper (or some tech gadget) and writing down what God is doing in your life and what challenges or insights He is giving you. 

            A journal?  Ugh!  You’re going to make me write!   No, I am not.  You’re going to write only if you want to.  But I highly recommend it.  It’s just a fact that we are out-of-sight, out-of-mind people.  We are like water; we take the path of least resistance and flow to the laziest, lowest level that we can get away with.  So of course, journaling goes against those lazy, comfortable instincts because it requires diligence and effort.  And we don’t like that.  But I believe that journaling will greatly strengthen, hasten, and increase the effect that this journey will have on you.  

            We remember things better when we go through the process of writing them down.  And when we write down the things that we are struggling with or thinking, oftentimes other insights come to the surface.  And we can come back to these things later when life interrupts and thoughts need to be put aside.  Journaling will make the whole process much smoother and more effective. 

            Journal what God tells you along the way.  This helps slow us down and makes us more conscientious, it helps us see truths and problem areas, and to evaluate how the journey is going.  It also helps us to be honest.  We can oftentimes run from the truth when we keep ourselves busy, too busy to think.  But slowing down and putting them on paper makes it harder to ignore them. 

            1 Kings 19:12 says that God whispers.  “ . . . And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

            God whispers.  Which is why He always says, “He who has ears, let him hear.”  He doesn’t force us to listen.  But He’s always speaking to those who want to hear.   

            I know that there are those who would rather eat fire than journal.  And for you I would recommend that you look at “journaling” as just “jotting down.”  Jot down current struggles, answers to prayer, and what God reveals to you each day.  You don’t need a lot of words, just a few sentences to keep track of your journey.  Or maybe journaling for you means writing out your prayers and the answers to them.  Maybe it’s full pages of thoughts and feelings.  Whatever it is, write it down.  It’s not for anyone else; it’s for you. 

            And if you are trying to come up with some excuse for why you can’t journal - I don’t even have ten extra minutes to jot things down (or read my Bible or pray) - I would suggest that maybe you explore why you are so busy and can’t make time.  For many of us, these are excuses to absolve ourselves of any sense of responsibility or guilt in not pursuing God whole-heartedly. 

            We make time for what matters to us.  And so if you are looking for excuses, the first thing you might want to explore with the Holy Spirit is why you are looking for excuses, why this isn’t that important to you.  You will only get out of this journey (out of your Christian walk) what you put into it.  The more thought, effort, conscientiousness, and willingness that you bring into this journey, the greater the benefits.  It really comes down to how much you search for God and His Truth with your mind, soul, heart, and strength.   


Alone or With a Partner

            Now, here’s another point to consider:  This journey can be taken on your own or with a partner.  And you can decide how it should be for you and what it will look like.  Maybe you decide to work through the steps and the questions on your own, just between you and God.  Keep a journal of what God is showing you and how He is asking you to change or grow.   

            Or maybe you want to take this journey with a like-minded partner (or a few of them).  In that case, I recommend finding a trusted friend (or your spouse) to work through the questions and challenges at about the same time as you.  (I recommend a same-gender friend, if you are not partnering with your spouse.  Friends of the same gender often understand each other better than those of different genders.  Just my opinion.)  Then you can meet regularly for sharing what God is teaching you and for prayer support. 

            We are not made as islands in this life.  God made us to be a community of people that lift each other up: to support, encourage, pray for, and challenge each other.  Don’t let this valuable resource go unused if you feel that God has brought a “furnace partner” to mind. 

            And speaking of working with other people, if you are someone who has been severely hurt or abused in the past, please have the phone number of a church leader, Christian counselor, close friend, or family member available, or take this journey with a partner.  So that if sometime during this challenge you find yourself deep in grief and despair, you have someone to lean on to help you through.  Some people have pasts that are so hurtful that they shouldn’t attempt to go back and face them without the loving, wise care of a fellow Christian or mental-health professional.  I wouldn’t want anyone to end up in severe depression or suicidal because they couldn’t face the pain that came up. 

            God made us to be a community of believers, a family that looks out for each other, lifts each other up in prayer, and builds each other up in love.  I think we all need this kind of support throughout our life.  But it’s up to you if you’d like a partner on this journey or not. 

            My personal choice would be to work with a close friend.  I love the “iron sharpens iron” aspect.  I love in-depth, spiritual conversations.  I love encouraging each other on our walks with Christ.  And I highly value the prayer support. 


            [But things don’t always work out as planned. 

            It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give credit to my friend, Jen, right now.  She and I started a challenge similar to this one together.  Actually, we developed the fore-runner to this challenge when we decided to start a year-long challenge as partners.  We called it the Lemon Tree Challenge.   

            We were going to take verses from the Bible that we believed God was challenging us on, and we were going to diligently seek to apply them to our lives for a year and see what God did through them.  We wanted to root out the “lemons” in our lives - the sinful patterns and lazy disciplines - and to let God turn them into “lemonade.”  We would encourage each other, phone weekly to discuss progress, and seek prayer support from each other.  We would have gotten together for coffee once a week if we could have, but since she’s an hour away, we had to settle for phone calls.

            We were both committed to diligently seeking after God and trying to live more godly lives.  So we started the challenge as partners.  At the beginning of this challenge, we met for dinner and had a prayer “kickoff” to start the year.  We acknowledged that trials would come.  We knew that we were inviting retaliation from the enemy.  And so we sought to cover this project in prayer and to stick with it and with each other. 

            But, as I said, things don’t always go as planned.  And, literally, just a day or two after we met for the kickoff, Jen’s husband lost his job.  And within a few months, due to compounding stressors, she was plunged into a furnace of her own.  And our plans to partner in this challenge came to an abrupt halt.    

            For months, she kept apologizing to me for letting me down.  But I told her that we are all on our own journey with God.  He calls us down our own paths, and sometimes it’s a path where no one else can walk with us but God.  And so I had to accept that our journey together as partners was over before it even started. 

            I decided instead to continue on alone.  Well, with God, of course.  And I realized that God had His plans.  We may not have gone forward in the journey as I had hoped and planned, but God had helped me to come out of my own furnace just a few months before Jen went into hers.  And so I was able to be the kind of support for Jen that she needed as she walked through her painful time.  (At least, I hope I was good support, Jen.)  I had been there in the silence and the pain before, and so I had some real encouragement that I could give.  I knew about hanging in there during the pain.  And I was able to help her stand when she couldn’t stand on her own.  And that’s what Christian friends are for.  

            Yes, I am still rather lonely for a prayer partner, another woman that I could meet with regularly for coffee or dessert.  But God has not provided that right now.  And I know that He has His reasons.  In fact, as time goes on, I realize that if God had allowed me to have a partner to talk things over with, I would have been less likely to have written this guidebook and many parts of Child of Mine (my life story, over at 

            These things came out, in part, of the frustration of not having a partner to talk with.  Because then I spent more time talking things over with God and writing them down.  And so I give God glory for that.  He had something better in mind.  (And I know that God has greater plans for Jen than even she knows, and He will someday use her journey through the furnace for His glory and His kingdom.)    

            The reason I bring all this up is because life throws us curveballs and we have to be willing to adjust.  If you decide to do this with a partner, but they drop out or go in a different direction, commit to sticking to the path that God has called you down, even if it means going alone.  Your commitment is not so much to another person as it is to yourself and God.  Don’t let a disappointment or a change-of-plans be an excuse to give up.  Follow God where He leads, even when it’s not the path you intended on taking.  You will find many twists and turns on a journey through the furnace.]


            If you are fortunate to find a like-minded partner, make sure that it is a trusted, honest friend who will commit to loving honesty and to keeping things private.  And make sure that you both respect the way God is working in the other person’s life.  Your partner will not be going through this challenge in the same way as you, and God will not be working in their heart and life the same way He works in yours.   We need to respect this and resist the urge to think that we are more godly/advanced/wise than our partner just because they are not at the same point we are or haven’t discovered the same “truths” that we have on our journey.  Because there are things that they have learned that we haven’t.   

            We need to be able to lovingly challenge and encourage each other, and yet to accept where they are and what God is doing in their lives.  This challenge is ultimately between ourselves and the Lord.  Our partner is there for prayer support, encouragement, insight, clarity, to lean on, for accountability, to keep us going and on track, and to help us when we fall.  And because it’s exciting to share what God is doing in our lives with other people who want to know. 

            Also, I would like to suggest something else about this journey.  It’s small, but it’s a great, little reminder.  Wear something or display something to remind you of your challenge.  It is far too easy for us to start a project with enthusiasm and zeal, but then to let it slip away because it’s not yet a habit or discipline for us.  But to have a concrete reminder of our journey and goal, such as a bracelet, painted finger nail, a ring, a certain necklace, something tied on our shoelace, a plaque in our house, etc., is a great encourager and good reminder.  (Which is why I think having a journal is a good idea, too.  It’s a concrete “reminder” of the journey we are on.) 

            It is not necessary, but there are those who will enjoy this part.  I myself have been wearing a simple WWJD bracelet for over a year now.  I don’t wear this so much for the goal of always asking myself “What would Jesus do?” (although that is a good practice that I should be doing anyway), but for turning my heart and mind to God and for helping me be more deliberate about it.  I don’t do it for anyone else; it’s for me.  It’s something between God and myself. 

            I find that slipping it on in the morning helps me to remember what, or I should say Whom, I want to be focusing on for the day.  Sometimes, I will be letting my mind wander when my eye catches a glimpse of it on my wrist, and then I am reminded to pray or to turn my mind to God.  Or I will be anxious about something, but then I’ll see it and suddenly relax because I am reminded that God is there with me.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that if I chose not to wear it that I am falling away or any less committed to Him.  Sometimes, I just forget to put it back on for a week or so after I have taken it off.  But for me, right now, it’s a reminder that I like to have.  (And it does help remind me to be careful about how I speak to and treat others, because they can see it on my wrist, too.  And that is a great thing to be reminded about.)

            You don’t have to do anything like this if you don’t want to.  It’s a personal choice.  But I think we could use every bit of help “remembering” that we can get.  Even God knows our ability to forget, and so He encourages visible reminders and yearly traditions to His people throughout the Bible.  (Not idols or mystical trinkets, but reminders that draw our attention back to God.)   I think that the more deliberate we are about trying to keep on this journey, the better it will go. 


Pieces of the Puzzle

            Okay, so what I have done in each section of this guide is to look at one piece of the journey.  I was going to call them “steps” (and I do sometimes) but that would make it sound like you had to approach them in a certain order and that they would lead to brokenness as long as you successfully finished each step.  But I call them “pieces” because they are more like pieces of a puzzle.  They are all important, but you might not work through them all in the order they are in.  Nor do we “finish” a step and move onto the next.  Many times, like a puzzle without a box-cover to look at, we have to contemplate each piece and mull them over and shuffle them around as the Holy Spirit digs deeper and deeper into our hearts and minds. 


            And so here again are the pieces that you will explore:   

            Piece One:  The Desire to be Broken 

            Piece Two:  Honesty with Yourself and Transparency Before the Lord

            Piece Three:  Learning to Listen and Be Still

            Piece Four:  Radical Commitment to Obedience 

            Piece Five:  The Word of God                       

            Piece Six:   The Importance of Prayer

            Piece Seven:   A Correct View of You

            Piece Eight:  A Correct View of God

            Piece Nine:  A Time of Waiting

            Piece Ten:  Additional Challenges or Verses to Help You Strive for Righteousness


            In each section, I explain why this piece is important and what it looks like.  I also try to include biblical support for it, challenges that relate to it, questions for reflection to help you dig deeper and find the Spirit’s truth, and prayer and Bible reading ideas to bring it all back to the only thing that can lead to healing - God. 

            I try to include sample prayers, but if you don’t want to use these, say what’s really on your heart.  This is what God wants from us anyway - honesty and transparency.  Either way, always go into these challenges and questions with prayer.  This, let me stress once again, is not meant to be done in our own power.  But only with the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom and strength and guidance. 

            John 16:13:  “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”  

            And, ironically, it is not even meant to be done by focusing on ourselves.  Although this challenge is about taking a good, long look at ourselves, our focus should not end at ourselves or at changing ourselves.  Our efforts won’t get it done.  It is only the Holy Spirit working through us that will bring success.  It is meant to be done with our eyes squarely on the Lord and with letting Him search us, call us, and mold us, so that we can glorify Him and He can shine the light of truth into our lives.  Look at your life and yourself through the filter of the Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit’s illumination. 

            I recommend taking time to really dig into the Word and to spend a lot of time in prayer over each piece, over the Bible passages and the questions.  The “Questions for Reflection” are ones that I believe are important to answer honestly in ourselves and before the Lord.  But we don’t often take the time to seriously reflect upon questions like these.  We take so much about ourselves and the Lord for granted that we don’t stop to reflect enough about why we do or believe or think certain things.  But part of this journey is to be more deliberate and conscientious. 

            And so whenever you see “Questions for Reflection,” I recommend that you spend adequate time on each one, asking God to examine your heart and mind and to bring up anything that you need to face.  And adequate time may mean spending several weeks on one section or question.  If you feel any unrest or excitement or conviction in your spirit over any piece, spend as much time as it takes on that one thing.  Journal whatever insights God gives you about each one - or any questions, doubts, fears, or concerns that come up - so that you can come back to it later or work on it over a stretch of time.  And discuss them with your partner, if you have one.   

            Remember, we can’t just answer a few questions over coffee one morning, cross them off of our lists, and think that we will reach brokenness.  It is critical to have a heart that is sensitive to the Spirit and a willingness to go wherever He takes you and to obey whatever He asks you to do.  So do not rush this process.  Go at the pace God sets.  Remember, we follow - not lead - on this journey.  The point is to be constantly in communion with God through this process. 

            And always remember to practice thanksgiving as you go, for anything and everything you can find to be thankful for.  This will turn your mind to God’s goodness and it will help keep the enemy away, because he thrives on and is invited in by things like discouragement and frustration. 


            And so, as you start this journey, this is my prayer for you: 

            “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. . . .   (Ephesians 1:17-19)   


            Always pray for wisdom and revelation for yourself (and your partner) as you enter a new chapter or question or if the Holy Spirit pricks your conscience about anything.  The key to change, remember, is in your willingness to go where God leads you.  If you are willing, God can work in you and can use you.  But if you are not, He will not force you to change.  He will pursue you and He will discipline you, but if you choose to be hard-hearted, He will let you.  And He will let you reap the consequences of it.  But if you are soft of heart and are teachable and willing, He can work miracles and healing in your life.  And your relationship with Him will be vibrant, alive, fulfilling, and so glorifying to Him.                    

            The choice is yours!  Shall we continue? 


A Quick Review Before Starting:

            1.  First take some time to pray over and decide if you should go through this on your own or with a partner (or maybe a small group of friends, like a Bible study).  Make arrangements if you choose to do this with a partner(s).  (You and your partner may want to read my journey to brokenness in my book, Child of Mine, at before starting Through the Furnace.  A lot of what I put here is based on that.  Or at a minimum, you could go back and read the “Growing Down” and “Growing Faith” sections to get a foundation built for the work in this guide.  But you don’t need to, though.  Everything should still make sense even if you don’t read Child of Mine.  So don’t sweat it.)


            2.  Whenever you sit down to read, get out your journal and your Bible and find a quiet place.  Quiet your heart and be ready to listen for any truth or guidance that the Holy Spirit gives you.


            3.  Pray over every step and every question.  Pray that God gives you wisdom and insight and strength to face the truth.  And cover this whole journey in prayer, asking for protection from the enemy.  By starting this journey, you will make yourself a huge bull’s-eye for the devil.  He will want nothing more than to hinder your progress to holiness and brokenness.  Maintain your spiritual armor and pray often for God’s protection.


            4.  Walk through these sections and questions slowly because God doesn’t always work quickly, but He does work thoroughly if we are willing to wait before Him.  If you are working with a partner, you might want to work on the questions for each piece ahead of time on your own.  And then meet to discuss them after you are both finished with the same section.     


            5.  Journal whatever He reveals or things for further reflection.  And go only at the pace that God leads you.  This journey could take months or years.  If you rush it, you might miss a lot of depth. 


            6.  Notice also any resistance to any question.  That’s usually a good indication that there is something there that you should explore deeper. 


            7.  When you read any Bible verses, read them slowly and thoughtfully.  Chew slowly on each part, every word, before moving onto the next.  Oftentimes, there will be one tiny part of a verse that the Holy Spirit wants to challenge us on, but it is so easy to read right past it.  I think that many of us who know the Bible well tend to see the first few words of a passage, and then we recite the rest in our head really fast as we skim over the words on the page.  Resist the urge to let “Oh, I already know this one” cause you to miss what God wants to say to you through it TODAY!  If you read slowly and thoughtfully, you’ll see the Word come alive!



            In the next post, we move on to the first (and a really critical) piece of the journey: letting God know of your desire to be humbled. 

            (If you are not a Christian - if you have not committed your life to Christ, but you want to know how - then the first step for you would be starting a relationship with God.  I tell you how to go about doing that in the post Starting Your Own Relationship with Jesus Christ (and Why We Need Him) at  This post is also on this blog here under the title, “First Things First: Do You Know Jesus?”  Read that first.)