“Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)
That's a request that only the brave of heart will make. To ask God to reveal any area that's not pleasing to Him can certainly be uncomfortable. Nevertheless that's the call of Psalm 139. Our move into 2021 comes with questions:
While it’s sometimes not fun to take an honest look at ourselves, it’s necessary and important for our spiritual health to do so on a regular basis. Here's the big idea, “Stop it! It’s not easy but it is simple.”
Following Jesus is simple, it’s simply about patterning our lives after His teaching, looking to Him for guidance and direction. It's simply about seeking Him for the forgiveness of our sins. It's simply about studying His Word for how we should and should not be living our lives, being honest about the stuff in our lives that isn’t honoring to Him and then making moves to get rid of that stuff. Simple right? Yes, but it’s not always easy to do.
Allow me to quickly suggest two areas that God is calling us to flee from. The first one is an obvious one but it’s one that we can quickly get pulled into especially in the times we’re living it - drama! Here's a snippet of what God's Word says about this topic.
2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB) says, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
1 Timothy 6:20 (NASB) says, “Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly, empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”.
This politically charged, social media driven culture that we find ourselves in provides ample opportunity for us to get caught up in these "foolish and ignorant speculations". Scroll social media for one minute and you'll be barraged by "empty chatter" being passed off as "knowledge". At best this serves as a distraction to what really matters and at worst we end up damaging our credibility as believers.
God’s Word is clear, we are not to get caught up in this and it's not beneficial for us or the unbelieving world around us. Steer clear.
If you spend time praying Psalm 139:23-24 and God reveals to you that this is an area of struggle in your life the solution isn't easy, but it is simple: You’ve got to cut whatever the source of that is out of your life.
Maybe it’s a friend group or a particular friend. Maybe it's a particular social media platform. Maybe it’s you feeling like if you don’t have empty chatter and drama in your life then no one pays attention to you. Your value isn't in the pot you stir or the cause you champion. Maybe for you it's the realization that if all of your focus is on the drama and the empty chatter then you don’t have to deal with what God really wants to deal with in your life. Regardless, drama, empty chatter, arguing, strife, contention - not what God wants in our lives. Get rid of it!
The second area that comes to mind is much more specific and likely more difficult to deal with - temptation. Before we move any further it's important to say, we'll never rid our lives of all temptation but we can make moves to make it less aggressive and active in our lives.
Here's what I mean by that: If we're honest, much of the temptation that we struggle with is a result of our own choices. We refuse to place ourselves in accountable relationships so we never have to deal with the hard questions of:
Here’s what God’s Word says about putting ourselves in these types of situations:
“Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NASB)
"Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NASB)
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB) says “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The Bible is clear that God is with us in the midst of temptation but it's also clear that we have a responsibility to flee from temptation, to not continue to subject ourselves to unnecessary temptation and to place ourselves in situations that better allow us to be held accountable.
Of course temptation by itself isn’t a sin, it’s only when we give in to that temptation that we enter into sin. But it's as if our goal has become to knowingly flirt with the line in an effort to see how close we can get without sinning. Friends, this approach is not glorifying to God. It's not easy but it is simple, flee from temptation. Place yourself in accountable relationships.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Preparation is important. You have to be prepared for what's to come. This is a lesson we teach our children as we encourage them to look ahead at school assignments or lay clothes out the night before a big day. We practice these same principles as we think through our own days, weeks and months. We work ahead, we think through meal prep and groceries we have on hand, we plan out calendars and appointments related to work, social life and our kid's extra-circulars. I've always considered myself a planner. I prefer to think things through well in advance and to consider what's needed whether I'm planning a trip, a project or something larger.
This morning I was reading from the book of Exodus and the account that's recorded about the passover. For those who aren't familiar with this account allow me to provide a little context. The people of Israel are in slavery in the land of Egypt. God had already challenged Moses to bring an ultimatum to pharaoh (release the people or else) and various plagues had already begun sweeping through Egypt as a result of pharaoh's unwillingness to release the Israelites. It's in Exodus 12 that we see God introduce the final and what many would consider the most severe plague of all, the plague of the first born. God was preparing to strike down the first born of both man and livestock throughout all of Egypt. This would be the straw that broke the camel's back (pun intended).
In preparation for this plague, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb and paint the door frame of their houses with the blood of that lamb. As God passed over all of Egypt striking down the first born from every household He would skip over those who had the blood of the lamb on outside of their door frames.
In this plague we see some needed action on the part of the Israelites. First, they were required to sacrifice a lamb and then paint the blood on the doorframes of their dwellings. This in itself would have been an act of faith as it's likely that there wasn't an abundance of food for those that found themselves in slavery and beyond that why in the world would anyone paint the blood of that slaughtered lamb on their doorposts? It seemed a crazy request.
Secondly, as it's recorded in Exodus 12:11, God instructed them to eat that lamb in a very specific fashion, "This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover." Why would God instruct them to eat the lamb with those specific instructions. The answer is simple, God was getting ready to move and thus they too needed to be ready to move. While God had not yet answered their prayers of freedom from slavery He was preparing to do so and He wanted them dressed and ready. Cloak tucked in, sandals on, staff in hand. Their preparedness was a sign of faith that they believed God was getting ready to move.
As I read that this morning on this final day of the year and thought through what God might be calling me to in the New Year I wondered how prepared I was for what lie ahead. If God was calling the Israelites to tuck in their cloaks, put on their sandals and take hold of their staff could He also be calling me to, in a greater way dig into His Word, spend more time seeking His will in prayer, allow Him to push me towards a greater witness to those around me? How might He be calling you to prepare for what lies ahead...getting your finances in order, mending fractured relationships? So I ask myself that simple question today, "Am I preparing for what God has for me in the New Year?" Are you? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Often those who don't regularly read the Bible and perhaps many who do regularly read the Bible, assume that much of what's written in it is not applicable to the modern life. After all it was written so long ago, how could it possible add value to my life today? If you've ever asked yourself that question and struggled to apply God's Word to the modern life allow me to suggest the Psalms to you.
The Psalms are an honest record of the emotional and spiritual ups and downs that many of us face each day. Take Psalm 13 for instance, in it David says,
"How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long am I to feel anxious in my soul,
With grief in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your faithfulness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has looked after me."
David's honest questions to God sound familiar to many given the year we've had. In our darkest moments we start to feel as though God is hiding His face. As we watch the news or listen to the experts we feel as though our anxiousness will never end. We come across a positive report that boosts our spirits only to have our hopes dashed as we read another article that seems to contradict the first. What will 2021 look like? Will things go back to normal?
These are not modern problems. Yes the names and faces have changed but anxiety, loss and grief are not new. David experienced all of these emotions and more.
Here's the part I want to be sure you don't miss. David's response to these age old feelings and struggles:
"But I have trusted in Your faithfulness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has looked after me."
David gives us a powerful example of what a response could be to the anxiety and grief that many are dealing with today. David trusted the Lord's faithfulness. He chose to continue rejoicing in the Lord and giving praise to God because he knew that even in the midst of his anxiety and grief, God had looked after him.
What a powerful response and perfect model for us to follow. Push through. Continue to trust. Continue to praise God. Reflect on how God has continued to look after you. Don't allow what's happening around you to cause you to forget what's happened in you. God is with you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
That's a phrase we hear every four years, "There's still a path to victory." We hear this phrase countless times on the evening of presidential election nights and in this year's case, the week of election night. "There's still a path to victory." It's often used in the context of the small, seemingly impossible, against all odds chance that a particular candidate could still win the highest office in the land.
This morning I've been finishing up a book by Jim Burns entitled, "Doing Life with your Adult Children" and I came across this phrase, "Our children need to know that no matter what road they travel, there's a path that leads home, and there will always be a welcome mat out for them." As I read that phrase my heart skipped a beat and my mind suddenly became aware of the power of that statement for every man, woman and child on the face of the planet. There is a path to victory for your life.
You are not alone.
Deuteronomy 20:4 (NASB) says, "For the Lord your God is the One who is going with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."
Choose to walk with Him.
1 John 5:4 (NASB) says, "For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith."
You can have victory.
John 16:33 (NASB) says, "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Do not count yourself out. Count yourself as one of God's chosen ones and believe that what He tells us in His Word can and will come to pass in your life. Regardless of your current state, regardless of how behind you feel like you are in the race of life, regardless of the odds you feel are stacked against you, YOU CAN HAVE VICTORY IN CHRIST JESUS.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
You've heard the phrase, "Going through the motions" before right? It's when we're present in body but not in spirit. If you're anything like me you've gone through the motions at work, with your kids, with your spouse, with friends, in your daily time with God, with church. It's the thought of, "I know I have to do this but I'm not feeling it at all."
Our reasons for just going through the motions range from tiredness and emotion to being overwhelmed and uncertain of how to proceed. Sometimes we don't have the mental energy to really engage in what we're doing so we just put our heads down and plow through. Sometimes we're uncertain or fearful on how to proceed so we just keep doing what we've always done. Sometimes it feels easier to not even think about what we're doing but to just blindly do it....kind of like auto pilot.
This is a dangerous approach to life in lots of areas but perhaps none more so than in our pursuit of Jesus.
Thankfully God's Word has something to say on this relevant topic. The prophet Isaiah says it like this in Isaiah 29:13a (NASB), "Then the Lord said, “Because this people approaches Me with their words and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me..."
Allow me to remind you of a few things today:
1. You're not unique. Yes, you are unique in God's eyes, there's no one else on the planet like you, you're special, etc. etc. But you're habit of just going through the motions isn't unique. God is more than aware of our struggle. It's not new. He's been dealing with humanity for thousands of years and He's seen it all before. Sometimes we allow the devil to convince us that what we're dealing with is unique and never been conquered by anyone else on the planet at any point in the history of the world.
2. Because God has seen it in the past, we know that He is more than capable of loving you through it in the present. Notice that I said "through it" and not "in spite of it". God certainly understands those moments of our lives where we're physically exhausted, mentally overwhelmed, emotionally drained, weary and in need of just going through the motions for a few beats but that's not where we were created to live. Our hearts were created to be completely engaged in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our brains are wired to critically think through our faith and how to walk it out in everyday life. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become convinced that God loves us "in spite of us". God does love us and meets us where we're at and at the same time desires that we increase in intimacy with Him. God is more than capable of seeing you through this dry season.
Sometimes the feeling isn't there. Sometimes we're wiped out. We're tired. We're spent spiritually. God gets it. He's seen it before. He's capable. He's got this. He's got you. Push through and refuse to settle for a life of going through motions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Romans 12:18 (NASB)
I've been thinking about this verse lately and the call that it places on our lives as it relates to prayer. Unfortunately you and I can't control every other person on the planet, it's a bummer I know, it's something I lament at least weekly.
As a result, sometimes people say and do really hurtful things to us that cause our hearts to enter into a state of unforgiveness. We hold grudges, we bake, we stew, we plot over the perceived wrong and then we arrive at what we think is health when we say things like, "I'm over it, it is what it is." or my favorite statement, "It doesn't bother me, I'm done with it."
My challenge for you today is to really think through whether or not you're truly "done with it". You see no matter how "done with it" we say we are, we're not really "done with it" while we still harbor unforgiveness in our hearts. Jesus Himself said it like this when teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:15 (NASB), "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."
Let's commit to really being "done with it" by not just moving on and shoving it to the back our hearts and minds. Let's forgive. Let's spend some time in prayer asking God to bring peace to that fractured space of our lives. The relationship may never be the same but our hearts and minds will find peace. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
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I was reading through 1 Timothy this morning and came across this passage written by Paul to his young protege Timothy. In it he reminds Timothy of a few things that perhaps had slipped his mind. Listen to what Paul reminds Timothy of and take heed in your own life as the Spirit moves.
1 Timothy 1:12-16 says, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."
Reminder #1 - God is choosing to use you despite how badly you may have screwed up in the past. His work in your life has 0% to do with what you've done or how you've acted. It's 100% grace and power supplied by Him alone. Paul uses himself as the consummate example of this as one who used to not only reject the way of the Lord but actively sought ways to stop the Movement. Regardless of your past, God can still use you.
Reminder #2 - Jesus came to save sinners. Any reading of the Scripture makes this obvious. Few would disagree with the mission of Jesus but where we pull up short is the next step, that as believers it should also become our mission to do the same. What have you allowed to become your mission? Getting married? Having kids? Providing for your family? Advancing your career? Preparing for retirement? Promoting some other agenda? These are all things that are perhaps permissible but not the forefront mission of the believer. We are called to also seek and save those that are lost. Again Paul uses himself as the example, he wanted others to see him as an example of what God could offer them. Patience. Forgiveness. Mercy.
Scripture is packed full of gentle and sometimes not so gentle reminders of what the believer is called to be about. Make it a priority to subject yourself to the TRUTH of GOD'S WORD on a regular basis. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone but there are some really crazy things transpiring not just in our country but in the world right now. It feels as though we are in an unparalleled times right now. We’ve just come through and are perhaps still in a global health pandemic, we are witnessing extreme accounts of injustice happening at home and abroad. We’ve got riots and looting, cities burning. As if all of that was not enough we now hear reports of something known as a “murder hornet”. I mean can there be a more menacing sounding name and could it come on to the scene at a worse time? And then on top of that I saw an article that cicadas were coming back to the eastern region of the states. We are literally experiencing plagues. All of this reminds me of the meme I saw the other day with the woman squinting off into the distance and the caption that read, “What chapter of Revelation are we living out today?”
Here’s what I think I’ve known all along but have recently been reminded of over the last several months.
I can’t always control what happens in the world.
Now right about now you may be thinking, “This guy’s a real downer.” But before you throw in the towel and go searching for something more encouraging allow me to draw a parallel to the Old Testament figure of Daniel. It was Daniel who found himself in a similarly “out of his control” type of situation. Check out BibleGateway and what Daniel 1:1-7 (NASB) says.
If there was ever a situation that was out of Daniel’s control, this was it. Daniel’s city, Jerusalem in the country of Judah was through no fault of Daniel’s overrun and besieged by the people of Babylon. Daniel suddenly found himself in captivity and being whisked off to a foreign land and forced into a program and a regiment that was designed in essence to erase his heritage and “enlighten” him in the ways of his captor’s culture. Efforts were made to not only re-program Daniel and his companions but their identities, their very names were changed to reflect this new, harsh, out of their control, reality.
Much like you and I over these last months Daniel and his companions found themselves at a loss for how to handle what seemed to be completely out of their control. It’s in the midst of this hopeless feeling that we see in Daniel a ray of hope. It’s in this midst of this hopelessness that we see in Daniel a powerful example of what we can do.
Check out Daniel's powerful example in Daniel 1:8 (NASB).
When Daniel realized that what was going on around him was out of his control, when he realized that he had to buckle up for what was sure to be a bumpy ride he made the decision to take hold of the only thing he could control - HIMSELF. Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself.
I don’t want us to miss this morning that even when everything around us is spinning wildly out of control, when we can do nothing but stare in disbelief at the lack of value for human life, when everyone else seems to clearly be cashing in the chips on God’s plan, we as believers not only can but should commit ourselves afresh and anew to living lives of holiness. We should as Daniel and his companions did, commit ourselves to not defiling the Lord.
Now, before you are quick to say, “Not I”, I think each of us runs the risk of defiling the Lord in times like these.
In the midst of a completely out of control situation, Daniel made a hard and fast commitment to not allow his commitment to the Lord to waiver.
How many of you know that the devil’s greatest desire is to convince you that your story has been written? His greatest desire is to convince you that your responses have already been scripted. His greatest desire is to convince you that you are merely a player in a grand narrative that you can neither control nor respond to of your own free will. That’s the devil’s modus operandi. You are a victim of your circumstances.
We’ve allowed our culture to dictate for us what our responses must be. What we see in the life of Daniel though is a different way. Daniel refused to allow his response to be dictated to him. His backstory had been written, the antagonist of the script had been introduced in Nebuchadnezzar as the conquering king, the gauntlet had been thrown down, Daniel was going to be forced to defile his relationship with the Lord. It was as if everyone around Daniel were working together to force him into a situation where he felt like his only option was to give up on his commitment to the Lord.
It was in that moment that Daniel made the decision to snatch the pen back from the devil. He made the conscious choice to not allow his script to be written by anyone but God Himself. He was not going to throw away his commitment to holiness because of his circumstances. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Sometimes it feels like we are just exchanging one thing for another. Take for example our current state of affairs. Most things are cancelled. Kids are out of school. Practices are off. Plays are on hold. The extra things that we have filled or lives with for years are not happening and yet...we've simply traded one form of exhaustion for another. We've traded in our physical exhaustion for an emotional exhaustion. You're emotionally exhausted because you now have to answer endless questions from your kids...all day long. You are emotionally exhausted because you are now responsible to homeschool on topics you forgot even existed. You find yourself emotionally exhausted because every news channel & social media feed is full of bad news. There seems to be no escape from exhaustion. We've been forced to hand in our physical exhaustion due to social distancing but we've picked up emotional exhaustion by choice.
In the book of Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB) Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus makes clear an offer for you and I as ones who are weary and burdened, physically or emotionally. He says, "Come to me". Usually when we read a passage like this our eyes quickly focus in on the parts that most benefit us. We quickly hone in on the parts that say we will find rest and the burden is light. What we tend to skip over though is the first part, our part, what must happen in order for us to find that rest and to receive that lighter burden. Jesus says, "COME TO ME."
Allow me to encourage you to come to Jesus. Coming to Jesus is as simple as inviting Him into your day. It's as simple as spending a few minutes in prayer before the kids get up (if that's even possible) asking God to fill you with His presence. It's as simple as shutting off the news feeds and television and instead choosing to fill your mind with the things of God as you read His Word for a few minutes. It's choosing to meditate on the things of God and not the things of the world. Jesus longs for us to trade in our exhaustion for His rest and all we have to do is ask. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I have recently taken to the idea of gardening. The thought of growing something from seed to table sounds appealing. The problem is I'm not a gardener. I have countless times proven that I do not have a green thumb. Nevertheless, I'm taking another crack at it.
When I first got the bug to garden, I began reading, watching videos, chatting with folks who've done it before all in an effort to figure out where to begin. With so much ground to cover I was unsure where to begin. Where I landed as a starting point may surprise you...I began by purchasing three 65 gallon barrels in an effort to collect rain water to eventually water my yet to be created garden. That project alone took up the better part of a weekend, building elevated platforms for their barrels to sit on, cutting into the downspouts of my house, fitting the barrels with spigots and overflow holes, making sure nothing leaked, etc. At the end of that first weekend I honestly didn't feel much closer to actually gardening but I knew deep inside that I was laying a foundation and that I had made progress.
My next weekend was spent building a 3-bin compost pile. A simple system built from metal stakes, two types of garden fencing and about 50 zip ties took up several hours a few Saturdays ago. At the end of the day I felt satisfied with my creation but had still yet to actually do any real gardening.
As I continued to survey my backyard I realized that to have success I would need to level the playing field...literally. The preferred spot for my future garden is in a slightly depressed area of my yard that quickly fills with water during any moderate rainfall. After a little research I'm in the process of having 2 yards of topsoil and 2 yards of playground mulch delivered to my driveway to use as a foundation for my "yet to be built" raised garden beds.
Speaking of those raised garden beds, I have to even purchase the first board to build them. The topsoil is on back order because of our recent rains and currently the seeds I have purchased have only been planted in tiny cardboard pots and currently reside on a table in my family room.
If you were to swing my house today and took a look around you would see little evidence of actual gardening. I you stood in my backyard you wouldn't see a garden. But I see it. I can clearly see a well maintained, flourishing garden right there in my backyard. I can almost taste the peppers, zucchini, broccoli, banana peppers, strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes that will come from that yet to be created garden.
Friends, allow me to draw some parallels from my "almost garden" experience to our spiritual lives. Water and soil are vital to my success, without them all my efforts will be in vain, they are the foundation on which to build a successful garden. Long before I planted my first seedling in a tiny pot I was installing rain barrels and building a compost pile. The right groundwork has be laid down before the first harvest ever takes place.
In the same way it's vital that we lay down a foundation for our spiritual development. The Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ Himself is the Cornerstone (Psalm 118 & Acts 4). We are in need of no one and nothing else to enter into right relationship with God. When I speak of "foundation" I'm referring to those areas of life that we often forget to tackle in an effort to just get to "right living". Right living is so difficult if we don't first have right thinking and we develop right thinking as we immerse ourselves in the truth of God's Word, develop and practice a prayer life and stay connected to other believers. Too often we fail to set ourselves up for success when we try to go it alone without the right foundation.
I think that's why people so often struggle to develop deep study habits, an intentional prayer life and fail to foster deeper relationships with other believers. We just don't see the results we were hoping to see. We read but we don't fully comprehend so we throw in the towel. We pray but we feel like the answers we wanted didn't come, so we stop praying. We try to reach out and make friends with other believers but we soon discover that our feelings have been hurt or we feel left out so we quickly give up and think "What's the point?" Rest assured that if you've felt that way, you're not alone. Countless Christians struggle to lay a strong foundation of spiritual development.
The good news is that it's never too late to start laying the right foundation that will lead to your spiritual success. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) says, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
Make a plan to carve out time each day to dig into God's Word. Read a devotional, use your favorite Bible app, pick a book of the Bible and just immerse yourself in it. Read it, re-read it and then read it again. Talk to others about what you're reading, ask questions, seek wisdom from those whom you trust in the things of God.
Write out your prayer concerns, record how God responds even if you don't like the answer. Map out a prayer strategy like: A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication). Talk to others about their prayer concerns, pray with them.
Get connected to other believers. Join a small group (via Facetime or Skype for the next few weeks). Subject yourself to the truth of God's Word through preaching, teaching, podcast, etc. Dwell on the things of God.
Right living comes naturally when right thinking comes first. Make a commitment to lay a strong foundation for your own spiritual development. My garden will come, I will eat what I've grown but for now I'm busy collecting water and creating quality soil. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.