In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Monday, September 5, 2011

Staying Focused: The 4 D's of Devotion

First of all, I should apologize for my absence. I've certainly been letting the "back-to-school" stress get a hold on me. But, I'm sure I'm not alone in this. When realizing how long it's really been since I last posted, I figured it would be fitting to write about staying focused on our faith.

Being an education major, I know the value of memory techniques... so, even though we aren't learning our ABC's for the first time, I'm sure it will be easier to have some "take-away" if I spell it out for you.

That being said, here are my Four D's of Devotion.
1. Devote (I know it's in the title... obviously, it's important)
2. Dialogue (If it bugs you that this one is the only non-verb, then just use "discuss)
3. Decipher
4. Decide

1. Let's start at the beginning: Devote. What exactly are we supposed to devote ourselves to? Well, lots of things. Our faith is all encompassing. He created this world and everything in it. He gave us His word, His son, and His love. We devote ourselves to Him... His word, His son, and His love are all included in our devotion to Him. Our individual faith may go through periods of extreme focus, disconnect, or distraction. However, this does not ever have to mean that we pause or end our devotion to Him. Keeping a schedule is the best way to stay focused and devoted.

Tip #1: Sign up for a daily devotional. You may set a devotional book on your bedside table and overlook it day after day. Personally, I am signed up for the Purpose Driven Connection daily devotional. I know that everyday I check my email, and by no effort of my own I get an email every morning from Rick Warren. I don't have to remember to open a book or go on a website. Since devotionals are usually short and to-the-point, they don't take a ton of time. For me, the challenge is remembering to read it everyday and having it pop up in my inbox everyday makes it effortless.

Tip #2: Program one of your radio pre-sets to a Christian station. If you hear people praising Him every time you turn on the car or every time your regular station plays commercials, then you're far more likely to think about Him during your day.

Tip #3 Devote Weekly time in His service. Chances are your church needs your help in some ministry in the church. By taking the plunge and joining a bible study, Sunday school class, committee, or volunteer position, you have scheduled time that you're expected to devote to the church. All you gotta do is sign up, and then you're far more likely to go every week. By getting involved, you're integrating Him into a permanent position in your life. Bonus: you're serving Him and spreading His word and His impact.

2. Dialogue: This can mean a lot of things. Basically, there are 3 main groups to chat with: people you know, people you don't, and God. Talking with family members and friends (within or outside the church) will help you to solidify and understand your beliefs. The more you talk with the people you're comfortable with, the more you can strengthen your faith. Talking with people you don't know is certainly more challenging. If you're so bold, talk to people who haven't heard, understood, or ascribed to the Christian faith. By being able to explain and support your beliefs you will spread His impact and solidify your set of beliefs and values. The key here is respect. You are FAR less likely to positively impact others with hostile, confrontational discussion. Too many people frighten others away from His grace by HOW they choose to engage with others. It's not a matter of WHO you talk to and WHAT you say so much as HOW you say it. Lastly, you must must must talk with God. He want to talk to you and you NEED to talk to Him. Making a habit of daily, frequent prayer and dialogue will do wonders for your faith. It doesn't mean you're gonna hear a loud booming voice answer back to your every question. What it does mean is you will lean strongly on a foundation of faith. You will find comfort in confessing and conversing with Him, and He will smile on your devotion.

3. Decipher: One of the greatest gifts Christians have is the Holy Bible. God's rules, guidelines, wishes, and history are written down and completely accessible to us. To not completely absorb and indulge into this text is a terrible waste. By reading and deciphering His word, we can understand His wishes and gifts. We can learn how to live our daily lives, how to better ourselves, how to deal with others, and how to gain life eternal. By "decipher" I don't mean to imply that the Holy Bible is a big mystery written in code. But it can be challenging to read. That's why there are so many translations, so everyone can find a version that is easily understood. By decipher I rather mean, we should read the Bible and figure out why God has laid down certain rules and guidelines and HOW you can apply them to your life. The Bible is full of metaphors and symbols. It is our duty to figure out how these words apply to us individually. You may not ever consider gouging out someone's eye, but you may be faced with a choice between revenge or simply moving through strength of will. God may be saying to you that you should not seek to "get even." Read the Bible. Decipher it's teachings. Apply them to your daily life. Slowly you will become a stronger Christian. You'll end up practicing what you preach (or read).

4. Decide: none of this works if you don't make the effort. You must make a conscious choice to put your faith at the forefront of your life. Decide to lead with the right foot. Decide to follow the straight and narrow path. Decide to make a habit of prayer, of reading your Bible, of discussing and strengthening your faith. Decide to get involved in your church (and therefore the Christian community). Decide to take the opportunity to make an impact with His teachings. All of these choices are given to you everyday. Decide to make the right (and often challenging) choice and your life path will begin to mirror His wishes and His ideal.

I pray that all of you are successfully getting back in the groove of school (or work). I pray that you can find a way to apply these suggestions to your life and that your lives begin to become a stronger reflection of your faith. Don't let the challenges and distractions of your day-to-day take you off your foundation of faith. I pray that we all can stay focused and faithful to Him, so that our lives and choices are pleasing to Him.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

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