By Daneen James
Can you name anything that you don't like fresh? Think about it - everything we buy, use or eat, we typically want it fresh. Our relationship with God should be no exception. Relationships thrive on flexibility and spontaneity. When we feel restless in life or disinterested in relationship with God, it's often a sign that our connection to God has become stale.
Sometimes our discontentment is a cry for deeper connection with our creator.
Fellowship with God feeds our lives, here are five ways to keep it fresh...
Music is the heart’s marinade. The melody and lyrics of a good song move us like few other things can. Although I love music, I'd never used it in my private time with God.
But once I did, I realized that instruments combined with words that profess God's love and faithfulness produce pure praise. Since God inhabits our praise, worship music literally creates an atmosphere where there's more God and less you. That's why II Chronicles 5: 13-14 says "Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: He is good! His faithful love endures forever! At that moment, the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple of God."
Try it. Incorporate music into your personal time with God. Find a way that works for you. It doesn't need to be every day. It could be before, during, after or all three. Just be spontaneous and let the Spirit lead. Choose an artist or style of worship music that speaks to you. Lie on the floor, get on your knees or just sit. Allow the lyrics to guide you and draw you into fellowship with God. Worship God differently today than you did yesterday and you will tomorrow.
Prayer had pretty much been a one-way conversation. I'd tell God my needs, concerns, confessions then move on to the next thing. I would clear my mind, but failed to engage my heart. Intimacy with God requires you to open your heart.
Talk with God, be honest about your needs, concerns, hopes and confess where you've fallen short, but when you're done, don't just rush off to the next thing. Stay and linger in God's presence. Ask, "God what do you want to share with me?" Then wait.
Romans 8: 26-27 says we don’t know what God wants us to pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. Ask God to search you and reveal your heart. You might get His conviction for sin(s) you didn’t realize you were committing. You can then ask for forgiveness and grace. You may get directed to a verse, a person or a situation that He want to use for your growth. Listen – then pay attention to God’s direction for action.
Sometimes meditation gets a bad rap. Some people believe "clearing your mind" is weird or can make you vulnerable to evil forces. So, let me create context. Godly meditation is actively inviting God to speak and reveal himself in a way that you can recognize and understand. It means taking a pause to focus on God and His word. It is a spiritual tool that makes space to hear God's direction and notice his guidance.
Joyce Hugget says it this way. "I close my eyes to shut out visual stimuli. I close my ears by dealing with distractions which threaten my ability to tune into God. I close a series of shutters on the surface level of my life, thus holding at bay hindrances to hearing the still, small voice of God, and I release a trigger that gives deeper, inner, hidden parts of myself permission to spark to life.”
Meditation is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened, start light, grow stronger. It’s your practice, there's only rule - make the effort to focus on God. Start by reading one verse and ask God to open it up to you. I Kings 3:9 and Jeremiah 33:3 can be helpful as you begin.
Yes, you'll probably get distracted and your mind will wonder. But when you notice you’ve wondered, just gently bring yourself back. You'll likely get restless, it's ok. Try making a list of all the stuff you need to do, then set the list aside and begin again. When you get frustrated, use a word or phrase to give your mind a point of focus. Sometimes I use adjectives to describe God as I understand Him. God is kind, generous, patient etc... use your own words. It might help to set a time limit - start with one minute, you can do more over time.
Just as the water washes over you when you take a bath or jump in a pool. So are you engulfed by God's presence when you meditate. You become keenly more aware of the essence of God. You can feel His power, grace and love. It’s like meeting God where it’s just the two of you – the place beyond all the doors and walls, under the layers, to find the Him that rests in you.
I have kept a journal for years, each day listing at least 5 things I’m grateful for. As of late, I have asked the question, when did I feel God most today? This challenges me to really reflect and go deeper. It's an exercise that not only fosters gratitude, but also praise and humility as I recall God’s presence and power.
The result is a rich and unique fellowship with God.
James 1: 17 says is nicely. "Whatever is good and perfect comes from God our Father." Look for the good and wonderful, big and small, divine details. Pay attention to the ways God injects himself and His grace in your life - parking spots, kindness of strangers, an unexpected gift.
Think about all that’s happened since you’ve been up today. Where have you felt God most?
As you focus on God, you move you closer to him. Colossians 2:7 says it clearly. "Let your roots grow down to Him and let your lives be built on Him, then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness." So even when unpleasant things happen, you can reflect on God’s power and His grace. Despite your situation you can be grateful, because you know God and His power always prevail.
Lamentations 3:20 says it beautifully. "Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S loving kindness indeed never ceases, for His compassion never fails."
There’s a circular property to gratitude. The more grateful you are the stronger in Christ you become, the stronger in Christ you become, the more grateful you are.
Take it outside
Get out of your daily routine. Go for a walk, get around an ocean or a river. Sit on your porch or patio and find the stars. Spend even a few moments just observing how the breeze moves through the trees. Listen for the wind. Watch the birds as they glide effortless from the sky to the ground. Find a flower or plant, appreciate its delicate beauty and detail. Feel the sun on your face or the coolness of the moon at night. Let yourself marvel at the extraordinary colors in the sky at sunset.
Nature has a way of reminding us of God's presence and affirming His power. What better way to connect to God than to get around His creations?
These practices are a recipe for fresh and deepened fellowship with God. Mix and match, personalize these practices for use in your private time with God. As you do, I pray they expand your capacity for Him and propel you closer to Him.
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Daneen James is an inspirational author, speaker and develops uplifting
products and media through her company, SPARKSAFLAME.