Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TTRF Pieces 10 and 11: Looking Back and Going Forward

(This TTRF series starts with the post "Through the Refining Fire (TTRF): Intro 1.")

Piece Ten:  Looking Back on the Journey

            There are no guaranteed results from this trip through the furnace.  (In case you missed it, the first post of this “workbook” is “Through the Refining Fire: Intro 1.”)  It all has to do with your willingness to be honest, transparent, and obedient, and with how much you invested in self-introspection, prayer, Bible reading, and learning to listen to the Spirit. 

            And once again, there is no real end to this journey.  I would love to be able to say, “Congratulations on working your way through the Graduate School of Faith.  Here is your diploma.”  But that can’t happen.  Because we will never graduate until eternity comes for us. 

            But as you climb higher and dig deeper with the Lord - as you shift your focus from the temporary to God’s kingdom and His righteousness. - your life will become more vibrant, alive, and fulfilling.  It might still be painful, but it will be a bittersweet pain, knowing that God is with you through it all.

            And most likely, we will end up in the furnace again from time to time.  We will slip.  We will at times get tired of digging and climbing.  (Oh, don’t I know it!)  But we will be drawn back to God, because we know the blandness of life apart from Him and the exhaustion of trying to do it on our own.            

            Before we get into some ideas for future challenges, I would like to pose a few more questions for reflecting back on the whole journey that you have been on up to this point.  (Some of these will overlap, but that’s okay.) 


1.  How has this journey changed me and my relationship with the Lord?


2.  What stood out to me the most from all that I’ve learned? 


3.  How do I define humility?  Do I live in humility?  What in my life confirms it or contradicts it?


4.  If I’m not living in humility … then what?  What else am I relying on, trusting in, serving, reaching for?  What is taking His place? 


5.  Can I honestly say that I find my identity, my deepest fulfillment, and my security in the Lord?  If not, why?  What else am I trying to find identity, security, or fulfillment in?  What does God want me to do about it?  (Pray about it.)


6.  What am I still fearing or struggling with?  In what ways am I still hurting or broken or weak inside?  Are there any negative self-thoughts that still plague me?  Is there anything else I am still striving for?  (A good relationship with the Lord doesn’t mean we won’t still hurt or have broken pieces or longings.  It just means we can run to Him for comfort and help in living with those hurting, broken pieces and the unmet longings.) 


7.  What does He want to do with those hurts and the broken pieces and the fears and struggles and longings?  What does He want me to do about them?  (Ask Him about each one!) 


8.  If I never get what I ask for and never have my expectations met, will I be okay with that?  Do I trust Him enough to still cling to Him, to trust Him even when times are dark and my heart aches?  Have I gotten to the point where I know how much I truly need Him … not just needing what He can give me or do for me, but simply needing Him?  


9.  If not, what am I “needing,” instead of Him?  What fears and doubts and wayward desires are still lingering?  What expectations am I holding onto?  What am I still trying to control?  Why is it hard for me to let those things go?  And what will it take for me to finally let go of those things, to place them fully in the Lord’s hands?  (Ask Him!)


10.  Do I have a sense of His presence?  His faithfulness, goodness, and love for me?  If not, what can I do to tune into them more, into Him and His Truths?  (Ask Him in prayer.)


11.  Have I allowed His unconditional, unearned love to enter all areas of my past, my life, and my heart - to fill me, heal me, and make me whole?  If not, what is blocking it or what areas are still closed off to Him?


12.  Am I living in an awareness of His holiness?  What in my life might show that I am not?  (Disobedience, lack of seeking after Him, no sense of conviction, etc.)  But if I am, what does His holiness mean to me and how does it affect my life and faith?


13.  Do I work at the jobs He gave me (even the little ones) with all my heart, for His glory?  Do I seek to glorify Him in what I do?  Do I focus on His kingdom and on eternity?  Or am I living for myself and focused on my life and on what is temporary?  In what ways might I need to change?


14.  In my own words, what does it mean to be “humble like a child”?  How can I live it?


15.  Where and how do I go forth from here?


16.  Is there anything that is missing in my life right now or any big regrets?  Is there anything I can do about that?  (If you can’t do anything about past regrets, forgive yourself and look ahead to wherever God is leading you next.  Living in the past only sucks the life from your future.)


17.  Is there any prayer that I should pray, but I am hesitating to do so for some reason?    (Sometimes we know what we should do, but we procrastinate and hesitate until the “knowing” goes away.  And examining the prayers that are hard for us to pray may give us a clue as to when we are refusing to do things God’s way.  Here are some examples of prayers that are hard to pray.  If any ring a bell with you, ask God to help you figure out why.

            a.  “Lord, help me forgive so-and-so for . . .”

            b.  “Lord, I fully give You this concern.  May Your Will be done in it.”

            c.  “Lord, forgive me for . . .”   

            d.  “Lord, make me an instrument for You.  Use me as You Will.”

            e.  “Grant me wisdom about . . .”

            f.  “Give me the strength to . . .”

            g.  “Lord, how am I responsible for this problem and what should I do about it?”

            h.  “How do I need to change to be more like You?”

            i.  “Lord, have I done anything to grieve the Spirit?”

            j.  “Lord, open my eyes to what I can do or to needs around me.” 

            k.  “Lord, I need to admit/be honest about/confess fill in the blank to You.”

            l.  “Lord, fill in the blank with the prayer you know you need to pray but haven’t yet.


18.  In what ways would I like to be different by this time next year?  What needs to change to accomplish that?


19.  Looking back over this journey and my life, I want to thank the Lord for fill in the blank as many times as needed!  (Then pray it out loud to Him.)


Piece Eleven:  Additional Challenges and Verses for Reflection
            I would like to include some extra challenges and ideas to continue your journey and to continue drawing nearer to our heavenly Father.  If any interest you, give them a try.  No matter what you do, anytime you choose to read the Bible more, pray more, or be more diligent in your walk with God, you will grow.  So here are some ideas for further growth: 


Challenge #1:  This one comes from the Lemon Tree Challenge that Jen and I started.  Basically, what you do is think about specific things in your life that you want to change (the Lemons).  These should be things that you want God’s help in changing.  Maybe it’s controlling your tongue, being more generous, speaking the truth in love, etc.  (You may want to do this with a partner.  Each of you would come up with your own “lemon list.”  Then you would meet for support and prayer and accountability as you seek to think, act, and behave in a more godly way.)   

            Then set a goal for yourself about how you want to change it.  Make your goals concrete and specific, so that you can know if you are accomplishing them or not.  For example, instead of saying “I want to control my tongue better,” you could say, “I want to stop saying negative things about people and let only positive, constructive things escape my mouth.”

            Find a Bible verse or verses to go with your goal.  These will be your biblical guides for how you want to change or what you want to become.  And choose a time frame for how long you will conscientiously work on this “lemon.”  (When Jen and I started this, we chose a year to work on several “lemons.”  I’ll show you below.)   

            Pray, pray, pray over what areas He wants you to tackle, and pray for His help to do it.  And then, seek to apply these verses to your life.  Write them down and look at them often as you seek to change bad habits and characteristics into positive, godly ones.  Lemons into lemonade!

            To give you an idea of what this challenge looks like, here is the original Lemon-to-Lemonade List that I wrote when Jen and I started our challenge. 


My Lemons:

Lemon #1:  I don’t like it that I say things that I shouldn’t, and that I don’t say things that I feel I should.  Sometimes I say negative things in the name of making conversation, and sometimes it’s just gossip.  Lately, it seems to be easier to make negative comments than positive ones.  And sometimes there are things that I feel God wants me to say, but I get timid and don’t say them.

            Goal:  I’d like to be sensitive to God’s leading about what I should/shouldn’t say, and to have the courage to follow through, and to maintain gracious speech and a gentle spirit. 

            Guiding verses:  Ephesians 4:29:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”

            1 Peter 3:4:  “Instead, [your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”


Lemon #2:  I also have a tendency to get all hermit-y and focus solely on me and my family, instead of reaching out to others.  I tend to stay away from boring small talk with strangers and to see others as an intrusion or nuisance.  

            Goal:  I want to be more approachable and gentle and gracious.  I need to remember that people are God’s highest priority and that I need to put them and their needs over myself.  I want to see them as God’s children, as a mission field that I can reach by my kind words, thoughtful actions, and godly behavior and attitude.  I want to be available to God and sensitive enough to hear when He says “Do X, Y or Z for that person right over there.  And be sure to give the glory to Me and to point the way to Me, that he/she may know Me through your actions or words.” 

            Guiding Verses:  Mark 12:30-31:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’. . . and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”    

            Romans 12:13 “. . . Practice hospitality.”


Lemon #3:  My house is a disaster. 

            Goal:  Make it reflect God’s glory and peace and order.  Do the best job I can (or at least do my best to do my best, because sometimes that is all that’s possible), for God’s glory.

            Guiding Verse:  1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”   


Lemon #4:  I tend to go right to worrying about things, obsessing over them.  And sometimes I only inquire of Him when I’m at a loss of what to do, instead of inquiring of Him first.   

            Goal:  I want to make it a habit to come to Him first for help, guidance and answers, even in the small things.  I want to make it a habit to ask Him what He would have me do and to pray before I go about my way.  And I want to remember to pray with thankfulness, to commit my concerns into His capable hands, and to leave the results up to Him, developing trust and faith in Him.

            Guiding verse:  Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 


            This was my lemon list.  This is what I kept working on even after Jen had to take a detour from our plans.  And if you’d like to, make your own.  Let God’s Word be your guide, and deliberately seek to apply His Word to your life.  You will see wonderful changes.  (Sometimes, after some pain first.) 



Challenge #2:  Spend time in the Word and in prayer seeking out a set number of “Life Verses.”  Write these verses down and also write down what they mean to you and why.

            I am working on finding five verses that sum up my faith journey.  This is hard to do, whittling down all of Scripture to a few verses.  But it’s a fun challenge.  And it will be such a neat thing to be able to memorize and recall the verses that mean the most to me personally.  For me, so far, this is what I have come up with.  (But I’m still evaluating other ones.) 

            Verse 1:  Psalm 46:10:  “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  To me, this is the ultimate test of humility and trusting God’s love.  Can I be still and rest in Him, no matter what?  And the only reason that I can be still is because He is God, not me.  And additionally, everything comes down to His glory. 

            Verse 2:  Joshua 24:15:  “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Oh, I love this verse!  It sends chills down my spine.  To be able to stand before a world that rejects Him and that lives for themselves and say, “We!  Choose!  God!”  is awesome!

            Verse 3:  1 Corinthians 10:31:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  Once again, it’s about God’s glory.  This should be the test of all things we do.  It should be the reason why we do the daily, monotonous things to the best of our ability.  And it should be why we do the big things, the things that get attention and praise.  All of that glory should be given back to God.  And it’s the reason why there are no small things in God’s eyes.  Even just feeding your family dinner has the potential to be worship, to honor God - if you do it in the right spirit, conscientiously, and for His glory. 

            Verse 4:  Micah 6:8:  “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Enough said!

            Verse 5:  Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well.”  This is an old favorite of mine.  This should be how we prioritize our . . . well . . . our priorities.  Our job is to focus on His kingdom (on winning people to Christ, being living examples of Christ to them) and His righteousness (on seeking to reflect this in our lives) … and His job is to be concerned about us and our needs.  But how much heartache we make for ourselves when we get this backwards, and how much the kingdom of God suffers because of that! 



Challenge #3:  Pray over how God wants to use you and your future.  And pray that the Holy Spirit reveals a Bible verse to be your mission statement.  Write your “mission statement” somewhere, and remember that this is God’s call for your life. 

            For me, I inadvertently found mine while I was doing my regular Bible reading.  I was in Isaiah when I stumbled across this verse, and it hit me like a lightning bolt.  I wasn’t looking for a mission statement, but when I saw this, I knew that God was saying, “This verse is for you.”

            Isaiah 61:1:  “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

            Now, I am not saying that I have been anointed or anything, but I am praying and hoping that God uses the things I write to bring healing to the brokenhearted and to help people get free from the walls that keep them prisoner, that keep God out of their hearts.  I am hoping and praying that it helps them find freedom in Him and in His love.

            (Now, I have to say here that when I picked this verse, I didn’t realize that Jesus applied it to Himself in Luke 4.  In no way am I trying to set myself up anywhere near Jesus, but I do think that it is a great call, honor, and challenge to seek to model Him and to be passionate for the things and the people that He was – is – passionate about.)    



Challenge #4:  This is another one that I am in the process of working on.  I got sidetracked for a long time, but I really want to get back to it.  Here’s the idea:  Read a Psalm a day, and choose one verse or so out of each Psalm that really speaks to you.  Write it down, and add another verse from the next Psalm the next day.  Basically, you are compiling your own personal Psalm, making a running list of the most meaning verses from each one.

            I never really cared for the Psalms before (I know, I know. . . gasp!), despite the fact that everyone waxed poetically about them.  But for some reason, my eyes have been opened to them lately.  And I have moved from seeing them as “poetic” and whiney and redundant to being so deeply personal and moving.  There is something in each one that speaks to the very core of humanity.  And it’s been neat to work on digging for the most personally meaningful part of each one.  (And if you’d like to, you could write down why each one is so important to you or what it means for you.) 

            As an example, here are my favorite verses from the first five Psalms.

My Personal Psalm:

1:1-2:   “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

2:11-12:  “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. . . Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

3:3-6:   “But You are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers me from His holy hill.  I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.”

4:4:  “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your heart and be still.”

5:3:  “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.”



Challenge #5:  Forty days is a common theme in the Bible.  Here is a 40-day challenge:  Every morning for forty days, spend some time asking God to reveal a new verse that He wants you to take to heart or something that He wants to tell you that day.  Compile these verses and truths, and spend some time in prayer and contemplation about each one.  Find out what God wants to teach you or tell you and how you can apply them to your life.    



Challenge #6:  Pick one topic from the Bible that you want to learn more about or apply to your life more conscientiously.  Study all references that you can find about it in the Bible or in other writings from godly authors. 

            It seems that, for me, a lot of growth happens when I find myself contemplating an issue that I want to know more about.  At different times in my life, I have wondered what it meant to really live gracefully, to be broken, to walk in the spirit, to be humble, to fear the Lord, etc.  It seems that God often brought them to mind just before He would challenge my growth in that area.  And as I dug deep into these issues and took them seriously, my life and my walk with God were changed.  For the better!  (Once again, sometimes after a lot of pain first.)

            It’s easy to read the Bible while glossing over the issues and topics and commands that we find.  Don’t gloss.  Be deliberate about digging deeper, learning more, and finding out how you can apply them to your life.



Challenge #7:  Put aside the phone, the computer, the gadgets, etc., and get out into nature for a walk with God.  Spend some time daily talking to Him and listening.  Or set aside a time each day when you shut off all the gadgets and become unreachable (within reason, of course, especially when you have a family and need to be able to be reached in case of emergency).  Let this be your quiet time between you and the Lord or time to just enjoy Him and His creation and recharge your batteries.



Challenge #8:  Seek to do a couple acts of kindness a week.  It changes you when you begin to really look at people and find ways to brighten their day, even if it’s just by holding the door open for someone to walk through.  If you like, write down what happens.  Start a blog about it.  Share it in the comments section.  I love hearing about people reaching out to others in kindness.  We need to hear about these kinds of things because there is so much negativity in the headlines nowadays that it’s easy to get discouraged and lose hope in people. 



Challenge #9:  Try to say whatever compliments come to mind.  There are not nearly enough positive things being said to people nowadays.  And I think we are all hurting for some encouragement. 

            Oftentimes, we think things like, “What a beautiful hair color” or “Neat glasses” or “What a brave thing they did or said.”  But we don’t say them.  Venture out of your comfort zone and spread the kind words.  People love it.  People need it.  They just smile from deep within. 

            And you never know who might really have needed to hear that.  Some people never get any encouragement from anywhere.  Try to be a constant source of life-giving, encouraging words.  This not only encourages them, but it helps you to see the humanity in people around you.  And it opens doors into their hearts and lives. 

            And take a moment to tell those who are closest to you what you appreciate about them.  If you have children at home, start a tradition such as “the special plate.”  When someone needs a word of encouragement, has done something special, or needs to hear gracious, merciful words because they were having a bad day, put the plate at their dinner spot.  And then have everyone tell that person something they appreciate about them.  We need to be proactive in building up our families in a world that runs on tearing people down.      



Challenge #10:  Get rid of a couple things in your house a week (or you pick the number and frequency) that are not glorifying to God or that are cluttering up your home and stealing your peace and joy.  Pray for God’s guidance about this.  Ask Him if there is anything that needs to go or if there are any “welcome mats for Satan” in your home: anything that celebrates evil or sin, any occultic articles, any “false religion” articles, anything that stumbles another believer, or that has become an “idol” to you.  Maybe it’s a movie or a CD or a magazine or a bad habit or a pile of papers or something you spend too much time or money on.  Get rid of them - for His glory - and see how He blesses you for it. 



Challenge #11:  Every time you think of something negative about another person, pray for that person instead.  Pray that God blesses them and that you learn to see them the way that God sees them.

            And, it’s also a great idea to train ourselves to be more concerned with the plank in our own eyes than we are with the speck in someone else’s.  So every time you start to complain about someone else, stop and turn your attention back to yourself.  As you ruminate over what they did, stop and say, “But I am guilty of . . .”   

            As an example, not too long ago, I was bothered for days because someone was sharing something about me with others that was a misrepresentation, and they were delighting in this misrepresentation.  But they would not listen to me when I tried to correct them.  Well, I was really bothered by this, but I had no recourse.  So I complained in my head about it for days.  And it was eating me up inside, making me bitter and miserable. 

            But what finally put a stop to it is when I realized that, in God’s eyes, my thoughts and critical attitude were probably “more” sinful than what this person was guilty of.  And I found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, what they did wasn’t right, but I am guilty of pride, unforgiveness, and a harsh, critical attitude.  And this is a sin against You.  Forgive me!” 

            It helps us keep a soft, forgiving, repentant heart when we look at ourselves instead of others. 

            Of course, it is a great thing when we move from saying, “Look at the wrongs they have done to me” to saying, “Lord, forgive them for they don’t know what they’ve been doing.” 

            But it is an equally great thing to move from “Lord, forgive them for they don’t know what they’ve been doing” to “Lord, forgive me for I don’t know what I have been doing.” 

            God will deal with the sins of others.  He is the one who will avenge wrongs.  We just need to be concerned with the plank in our eye and the things we do that are sins.  And all sins are really sins against God.  He alone has the right to judge and punish.  And additionally, Jesus’ death already paid for those sins.  So we have no right to condemn those whom God forgives.  They are not accountable to us, but to God.  If we keep this in mind, it will help us to put bitterness, criticalness, and indignation aside.  (These things just kill us slowly on the inside anyway.)        



Challenge #12:  Every morning when you wake up, invite God into your day first thing.  Ask Him to be with you and to help you to be sensitive to anything that He wants to tell you.  Ask Him if there is anything He wants you to know, do, or pray about today.  Invite Him to prioritize your day for you.  What does He want you to accomplish today?  In fact, try adding this prayer to your morning prayers:  “Lord, use me today as You will, to bring glory to Yourself and encouragement to others.”  And see what opportunities God brings your way.    



Challenge #13:  As already said, write a letter to God about anything you have wanted to say.  And read it out loud to Him in prayer.  And if you would like, make it a regular tradition, saving all your letters to look back on.



Challenge #14:  Every morning, start your day in prayer and specifically ask God to use you to be a blessing to someone else that day.  Ask Him if there is anyone that He wants you to reach out to, and watch for anyone that He might bring into your path that needs some encouragement or help.  Sometimes, just keeping our eyes open reveals a world that we never noticed before – a world in need of a kind word or deed or smile. 



Challenge #15:  Simplify your life.  Spend some time reflecting on what you need to get rid of in your life to make it more about quality than quantity.  And don’t look at only your possessions.  Look also at your activities, priorities, relationships, etc. 

            Do you take time to care properly for yourself and your family, or is life too busy to do it well?  Do you spend enough time with your family or take family vacations, building memories and relationships with your children?  (Your work will always be there when you come back.)  Do you rest on the Lord’s Day, spending time celebrating Him and His blessings, trusting Him to meet your needs even if you take that day off in obedience to Him?  Do you have at least one quality friend, or do you avoid depth and settle for surface relationships?  Do you buy boatloads of junk, or treat yourself to one good item that you love?  Simplify your life and make it more about quality than quantity, more about people than things, more about inner abundance than outer abundance.    



Challenge #16:  In an effort to explore life and all the wonderful opportunities and blessings that God provides, try to explore a new facet of life or take up a new hobby, either by yourself or as a family.  Take a class of some kind, start a garden, start taking hikes, research something fun, build a tree fort, start a small business, camp out in your own backyard.  There are so many ways to add new life to your old life.  Give some of them a try.  (But pray about any bigger moves or activities, though, such as starting a business, etc.)



Challenge #17:  The next time you sit down to watch a show or movie or read a book, pay attention to what is being glorified in it.  And remember that God and angels are watching over your shoulder.  If this fact makes you uncomfortable, maybe you shouldn’t be watching or reading it at all.  And keep in mind that the more we support those kinds of movies and books and music, etc., the more we encourage the spreading of them in our society.  Instead, read a book from your church library or The Love Dare, or watch Courageous or Fireproof or Facing the Giants or Flywheel or Do You Believe (my favorite!!!), and be inspired.  (Please watch these!  We need to support them because we need more movies like them!)



Challenge #18:  Do something you know you have been needing to do but haven’t had the courage to do yet.  Keep a vow.  Ask for forgiveness.  Forgive someone else.  Forgive yourself.  Take that step of faith.  Take your family to the park or your spouse to dinner.  Find an accountability/prayer partner and become transparent with another believer about your struggles and fears.  Ask God in prayer, “What is the next thing that You want me to do?”



Challenge #19:  Find one thing in your life that you can begin doing for God’s glory.  Maybe it’s a small, boring task that you’ve already been doing, like doing dishes or laundry or cooking.  Or maybe it’s something like how you talk to your kids or someone you don’t like or how you treat your boss/employees.  But pick one thing that you will begin doing for God’s glory from here on out.  (Ask God’s help in this.)  And see how your attitude changes as you do it. 



Challenge #20:  Verses for Further Reflection

            Examine these familiar passages from the Bible, and ask God to help you to see how you are doing with each of them and how you can apply them to your life more.  (And dig for your own passages, too.  There are so many practical, specific commands and guidelines in the Bible.)


            Matthew 5:1-12

            Galatians 5:16-26

            Exodus 20

            Psalm 119:1-16

            Psalm 15

            Psalm 37

            Colossians 3

            James 4



Challenge #21:  Consider and pray about how you are living (or not living) these verses.  Ask God how He wants you to change or what He wants you to do differently or how He wants you to live these out more:

            1 Corinthians 13:4-8:  “Love is patient, love it kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

            Galatians 5:22:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”



Challenge #22:  Take the “250 Questions to Ask God” challenge.  Some of these we have worked through in this book.  But I have also included a lot of others in the hopes that we can all learn to listen to God better and that our spiritual lives become more enriched.  Or do the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study,” preferably with a few friends.  Or the “Don’t Be Such a Chicken” challenge.



Challenge #23:  Write your own story of how God has worked in your life.  Write it for yourself.  Write it for your family or to pass down as a legacy to your children or your church.  There are so many wonderful and unique stories of how God works in our lives.  And it would be wonderful to know that these stories are not lost when someone dies.  Write them down and pass them on as an encouragement to others.  Or just for your own eyes.  It’s amazing how much you learn as you reflect back on your life and try to put it into words.   



Challenge #24:  Pray over the next step, the next challenge, that God wants you to take.  Trust Him that He will give you the strength and resources to do whatever He calls you to do.  Or start your own year-long challenge.  And journal about it.  See what happens.    



Challenge #25:  Pray for revival!!!  Our country desperately needs it when you consider the condition of our morals, values, and souls, especially when so many of us call ourselves “Christian.”  Oh, my heart is breaking!  Please, join me in praying for a revival in our families, our churches, our communities, and our country.  We need it!  Let’s do this together.  Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit moves in our own hearts and that it spreads out from there.  How about you?  Will you join me?  Let’s see what the Holy Spirit does when we humble ourselves before Him and call on Him to move mightily in our country.  To the glory of God!



            Well, that’s all I have to say.  It has been quite a journey for me, putting all of these thoughts into black and white.  But it has been a privilege.  And I pray that your journey with God keeps going and growing!  May you find the security, peace, vibrancy, love, and joy that you were made for, as you draw ever nearer to God and open up your heart more and more to Him and His healing touch!  Until we meet in eternity, God bless you and keep you.  To God be the glory!