We heard 4 messages, 9 presentations, and 2 life testimonies, shared our key verse reflections, sang, and ate plenty of good foods. The theme was "spiritual training." Here are some of the things I learned:
-Take time for what is important.
(In fact, we do take time for what is important to us... But are those things truly important...)
-In healthy service, self-examination, celebration, and solitude, a "me-centered" focus will only result in regret, loneliness, and hopelessness. Instead, in all of these activities, we need to focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. "The joy of the LORD is your strength."
-The goal of prayer should not be to fill our shelves using God's credit card! It should be to share our hearts and seek God's will until it becomes our own.
-God waits eagerly for His people to seek Him. We can do this through reading and meditating on Scripture and prayer. There's no magical formula and we don't need a pastor or priest to do it for us.
-Simplicity is not only a Zen art, but a Christian value: Ecclesiastes 7:29.
-How can we have "hope" without a "promise"? The promises are here, so let's hold fast to them!
And here is some more on the key verse reflection and study.
As far as I understand, this is the way to attack a key verse. I may be wrong, but it's what I could figure out:
1. Choose a verse that has been nagging at your mind or one you feel really stirs your heart.
2. Write a "Key verse Reflection" about why you chose this, what you hope to learn, and how you desire to grow through study of it.
3. Check for cross-referencing with that verse. What related passages are there? What is the connection?
4. If it is an Old Testament verse, can the message be found in the New Testament (and vice versa)? Where?
5. Look for people in the Bible who exemplify this key verse, either in a positive or negative way. What did they do right, what did they do wrong? What can we learn from their lives?
6. Apply this key verse to ordinary daily living. If you chose one of encouragement, meditate on this in times of stress. If you chose one of warning, meditate on this before making decisions and afterward.
7. Compare different translations. Are there subtle differences that give you a clearer view of the message?
8. Talk to other people and see what insights they may have.
9. Write about all of these things. In writing, you may think of other things to explore...
10. Come up with more^^
And, here is my key verse reflection for this year. Some water, some fear and underestimation, some promises.
Key Verse: Jeremiah 2:13
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken Me,
The spring of living water,
And have dug their own cisterns,
Broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Not all that long ago I was in a “state of emergency.” Outwardly, there were no major issues. I was a senior in college preparing for graduation in May and the beginning of graduate school in September. All seemed to be going ok. Yet, at this same time I was spiritually starving.
For one, I had a bad relationship with my Bible. I rarely read it. I both feared and underestimated it. There was a lot that I hadn’t read. This meant that when I did study a passage, my vague sense of Biblical history caused me a great deal of frustration. It came down to simple avoidance of that which left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed. On the other hand, I thought I had a good grasp on the fundamentals of Scripture, which led me to take for granted just what the Bible really was or what it contained. I didn’t acknowledge Hebrews 4:12: “The word of God is living and powerful…”
Moreover, my understanding of God was incorrect. I had a one-sided view. I knew that I could give my thanks and concerns to God, but lacked an appreciation for what He could do in return, or, for that matter, who He is.
So, as you can see, it was a critical time for my spiritual health. I was dying for lack of living food and water.
At some point, I remember running across Jesus’ warning to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:16: “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The words stung and prodded my conscience because I had indeed become lukewarm. I wasn’t committing the traditional “deadly sins,” but I had lost sight of God.
While it hurt, my misconceptions blinded me from finding the solution. Later, another verse hit me: “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Hebrews 5:12.
I knew, I deeply sensed, that on the most basic level, I was definitely not satisfied with just milk. But still, I needed to figure out my underlying problem in order to make a move in the right direction and to figure out where to begin. The Scriptures are long, deep, and rich, after all.
At that time, spring of 2006, I was reminded (through an Indiana Jones movie, of all things!) of King Solomon. I had always had a strong interest in the character and history of Solomon, as well as his writings. His books – Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in particular – were always those that I kept close. I decided to go back to King Solomon and analyze his failures, as I felt it might reflect something of my own problems. This is what I found:
According to I Kings 11:
“The LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded.”
And according to Deuteronomy 6:5, God commands His people: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
When it was clearly put to me, I saw that, like Solomon, I had given my heart to other things. I had given my time to other things. I had given my thoughts over to things other than God. While no one else would say that I sinned, I was lost in the darkness of my own self-centered world. God wanted to show me that this attitude is sin. “I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken Me.” Jeremiah 1:16.
I needed to be confronted with the seriousness of this. What I thought was tolerable was really a lax attitude that kept me apart from God. That way, I could not experience His grace or light. I came to see Solomon’s error as my own; and in coming to realize it, wanted to correct it.
Through actively seeking God in Bible study, worship, prayer, and quiet meditation on His words, I hope to find Him. I know I will, because He promised it to me. Not only once, but many times:
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
And within myself, I want to find a true yearning for God alone. I want to be able to quote the Psalmist when he describes his longing for God as a thirsty land (Ps. 143:6) or a panting deer (Ps. 42:1). I share the prayer of Solomon:
“May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers.” I Kings 8:57-58.
May I focus on God with my heart, my soul, and my strength. Through His Holy Spirit, may I be transformed so I can do this. I want my strength to be found in the joy of the LORD and no other. God keep my feet on the path and protect me from temptation. May He convict me of my sins so I may confess them and be forgiven through the blood of Christ so I can one say stand in His presence and worship that which alone is good.