Change Your Life by Journaling

By Andrew Calabrese

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For most of my life, it seems like I have heard or read about great people of influence practice this discipline of journaling. I always thought it would be something I would get to as I travelled further down life’s road, but the more I have travelled, the more I have realized this was something that would benefit me greatly right now.

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy said, “Journaling is a powerful therapeutic and healing tool.” From my experience, that statement is a fact. Here are some ways consistently journaling has helped me, and if you choose to make it a part of your life, these are also ways it could be a help to you too:

1. Journaling provides greater self-awareness.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, has proposed a popular definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.” Thus self-awareness is the ability one possesses to monitor their inner world, as well as their thoughts and emotions as they arise. 

Self-awareness has been labeled as the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are, and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

I’m not really sure how to articulate this, but the more I journal the more self-aware I become. It helps me monitor the condition of my heart like nothing else. Solomon instructs us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” It’s hard to guard your heart when you lose touch with it. 

Writing would help anyone disentangle their thoughts, but journaling takes it to a whole new level. It allows you to really wrestle through issues you are facing, feelings you are experiencing, and thoughts you are thinking.

In addition to that, journaling would help one understand the context of what is going on in their world. Life happens so quickly, and we may be tempted to think we don’t have time to stop and reflect on where we are in the bigger story. Journaling has a way of helping you discern the difference between the trees and the forest. 

2. Journaling causes you to process the past and cherish memories.

One of my mentors has said, “What happens to me is not as important as the meaning I assign to what happens to me.” Journaling will help you sort through what you have experienced and intentionally interpret it the way you would like to.

When I journal, I like to record things about my wife and children that I will cherish forever. I can reflect on those happy memories for years to come. Oftentimes, when I have had a “bad day,” I find myself scrolling through my journal entries, reflecting on happy memories, and it lifts my spirit. Having a journal as a resource is invaluable to me. It can shift my mood from negative to positive in a matter of moments.

3. Journaling fills the heart with gratitude.

Part of my journaling exercise is listing three things I am grateful for as well as three things I am thankful for specifically regarding my spouse. This has helped me in astronomical ways! If you write down a list of three things you are grateful for, your brain will be forced to scan the past 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought laughs, feelings of accomplishment, a strengthened connection, or a glimmer of hope for the future. The more opportunities for positivity we recognize, the more grateful we will become. Journaling in this way will unequivocally fill your heart with gratitude, and as a result you will be happier and healthier.

4. Journaling allows you to record significant lessons.

In general, humans are pretty unskilled at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.

Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged as opposed to when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important information you want to remember.

Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.

Journaling is one of the most important things to do in your life. If done effectively and consistently, it will change your life for the better. You’ll become the person you want to be. You’ll design the life you want to live. Your relationships will be healthier and happier. You’ll be more productive and powerful. I hope you choose to make this important, powerful practice a part of your daily routine.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

By Joe Monds

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Early in geometry we learned, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” But sometimes, as we look at what God is doing in our lives, we wonder if He doesn’t think that the shortest distance between two points is a zigzag. God sometimes takes us on a zigzag path to the good plans He has for us. We may see these situations as an unnecessary detour, but they are necessary diversions for your good and God’s purposes. 

In Exodus 13, God purposefully takes Israel from Goshen to Canaan by an indirect route. The reason for the zigzag path is because of some obstacle on the straight-line path would keep them from reaching their goal. The straight path that would have lead the Israelites to the promised land geographically, would have also led them to a war between the Philistine and Egyptians that they were underwhelmingly unequipped for at the time. God had to first take them to the desert to convince them of His faithfulness and commitment before taking them into Canaan. 

The reason for the zigzag path that we are on in life is because of some obstacle on the straight-line path would prevent us from reaching our goal. Our career advancement might be delayed until a difficult person is removed, or a necessary skill is learned. Ministry opportunities might wait until pride is less of a danger. The list could go on. God in His goodness leads us on an alternate path to get to a promised destination. Along the way He gives us reminders of His good intentions and a tangible sense of His presence. Follow Him without fear down the zigzag path called life.

 

Making the Best Decision

by Pastor Troy Dorrell

Making the Best Decision

According to the data provided by a Harvard study on dietary habits to stave off type 2 diabetes, sometimes people may choose to live greatly diminished lives rather than change. That last statement is probably overstated and doesn’t consider a number of variables. However, it is true that Harvard researchers found that many people chose to suffer the consequences of refusing to make dietary changes in the face of serious health consequences. The point is that ingrained behavior is hard to change even when we have incentive to do so.   

3 Ways to Get Excited About Your Salvation

By Jesse Becker

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What excites you? Ask any child that question and they’ll often reply with my birthday or Christmas. Those are exciting times for them for a couple reasons. First, they will most likely receive gifts. Who doesn’t get excited about a gift! Second, these days come only once a year, so they are more special than other days.

As Christians there is an exciting day in our life where we received God’s gift of eternal life and forgiveness from our sins. No gift could ever compare to that. If that day was more recent for you, you may still be able to recall that feeling when you knew that your sins were taken away. For many, that day was years ago and those feelings have been overshadowed by countless days of worry, stress, and fatigue. That’s OK. Life happens. But the neat thing is that we can restore the excitement of God’s miraculous gift in our heart with these three steps:

  1. Sanctify – Read Psalm 51 and see what this looks like. David sincerely asked God to cleanse his heart and restore the joy of Thy salvation.
  2. Sing – When participating in corporate worship, make a conscience effort to earnestly think about the words of the songs you are singing. These good songs hold awesome truths that can excite your heart about what God has done.
  3. Share – Just imagine having been cured from cancer and excitedly telling others how they can be cured. That’s what sharing the gospel is like.

Sanctifying, singing, and sharing. Reignite your heart today!

 

3 Steps to Kicking a Habit

By Jesse Becker

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Samson’s first recorded action in Judges 14 was seeing and desiring to marry a woman in Timnah among the Philistines. In his parents futile protest they asked Samson, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (emphasis mine)

The word “never” jumped out to me as I read this. It seems from that word that Samson’s desire for companionship with people outside his own countrymen was not something new. It must have been a reoccurring issue. For whatever reason, Samson wasn’t attracted to the ladies among his own people. If we allow ourselves to speculate, Samson may not have found them exciting or a challenge, or perhaps he simply wanted to rebel against his parents and God. At any rate, we can be sure that this was not the first Philistine girl he desired, nor would it be his last. Samson apparently had a habitual attraction for the forbidden.

We all struggle with sins of habit—those things we know are wrong, but over which we never get lasting victory. What are the things in your life that you habitually do or think or say that are against God’s will? Are there harmful attitudes that you harbor? Do you have the same reaction to certain situations?

Chances are that you have dealt with these sins before. We know we are to confess and forsake and ask God for help. But many times these sins find their way back into our lives. After identifying and confessing a sin, there are some practical things we can do to beat them.

  1. Identify the trigger that usually occurs right before you give in. Once you know what triggers that attitude, that sharp tongue, or that wrong act, then you can get one step ahead of it. Make that trigger your cue to pray for help, recite a verse, or take another action. Along with identifying the trigger, try to avoid it if at all possible.
  2. Replace your habit with something good. Once that trigger occurs, you must already have another action, thought, or reaction ready to use in place of the bad one. This will take forethought and practice. Write down your trigger and your best response.
  3. Don’t give up on yourself. As with practicing anything, nothing is perfect the first time or stays perfect. But as a wise preacher once said, “Stick and stay, and make it pay.” We are all growing in certain areas of life. Give yourself grace and time to get better at defeating your habit.

God wants us to have victory. We must believe this and remind ourselves of this, then put a plan into action to kick that habit.

Two Are Better Than One

By Pastor Dorrell

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Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

As travelers through life, God never intended that we make our journey alone. There are simply too many obstacles and challenges to navigate without the help and assistance of others. Plus, life is simply too grand not to have someone to share the joy and wonder of it all with!

The Blessing of God’s Presence

By John Mardirosian

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Have you had a question and you didn’t know where to turn for answers? Have you ever been lost, and experienced the sinking feeling in your gut that goes with it? Have you ever been unsafe, felt vulnerable, and didn’t know where to find protection?

God doesn’t want his children to feel helpless, without answers to life’s biggest questions; He doesn’t want them to feel lost, without direction, and He doesn’t want them to feel vulnerable and unprotected. He tells us in Psalms 16:11 “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” The Lord will provide us with security, direction, and protection. We see this clearly with the children of Israel as they set out to cross the desert to the Promised Land. In Numbers 9:15-23 we see God enacting a plan to communicate with his people as they made this long journey.

1. God’s presence as a source of security.

God chose to reveal himself to his children with a cloud above the tabernacle by day and a pillar of fire above the tabernacle at night. This served as a constant visible reminder that He was with them throughout their journey. I remember as a kid how comforting it was for me to know that my dad was home from work, or that he was in the room next door when I went to bed at night. God was providing his children with this same sense of security. For us as Christians today, He has given us his Holy Spirit to indwell each believer, and our understanding of this gift should give us an overwhelming sense of security.

2. God’s presence as a source of direction.

God clearly and repeatedly tells his people in these verses that they are to rely daily on him for direction and leadership. Psalms 107:7 says, “And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” We see that God was willing to provide direction to his people if they were willing to follow. God gives each of us daily direction through his word, through prayer, and through fellowship with the Holy Spirit. We need to take time in the course of the day to receive that daily direction.

3. God’s presence as a source of protection

In the next chapter of Scripture, Numbers 10:9 God assures his people of his continued protection. For each of us that dwell in the presence of God, we are assured of his protection. If we choose to live apart from his presence we are open to the attack of Satan, the temptations of this world, and the weakness of our own flesh.

It is important for each of us to take advantage of the security, direction, protection that is granted to us if we walk daily in God’s presence.

Can Music Be Right or Wrong?

By Jesse Becker

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I was recently asked about the morality of music. In other words, is there good music and is there bad music? This question has been asked a lot and answered in many different ways. This short discussion is not going to address the lyrics, but just the music underneath.

For anything to have a position on a morality scale there must be a standard by which to measure. We know that God’s Word is the only valid ruler we can use with confidence. It is the only place where we can find truths and principles that remain intact through all societies, trends, and fads. They can be applied and they can guide no matter which direction the shifting winds blow. These principles remarkably work in many areas of our lives as well.

I use two primary principles to guide the music I listen to personally and use for corporate worship.

1. The battle of the flesh and spirit

Throughout the bible we see a battle between our flesh and our spirit. When we are saved we become God’s possession, both body and spirit. To please God we must submit to the Holy Spirit and deny the flesh daily. Those that are not saved can only submit to the flesh because, as the Bible puts it, their spirit is dead.

The world, who can only submit to the flesh, has an overriding sound to the music they create and consume. It contains the sounds that feed and bring attention to the flesh. In a nutshell, it is heavy with rhythm. Across all the genres the overriding characteristic is lots and lots of rhythm. Rhythm is scientifically shown to bypass the thinking mind and speak directly to the body.

So, does that mean all rhythm is bad? Let’s look a second principle to help us figure that out.

2. Balance or excess

Ephesians 5:18 tells us of this principle in reference to not being drunk with wine wherein is excess. When someone has excess in their life there is an imbalance, and imbalance can cause all sorts of problems. The apparent excess of rhythm in the world’s music is out of balance with melody and harmony. And knowing that rhythm speaks to the flesh, we can see where this imbalance leads. Another area of imbalance in popular music is the repetition of harmony. A typical song with this imbalance uses about 4 chords over and over and over again. It becomes hypnotic and the mind ceases to be challenged to think.

Verse 17 of Ephesians 5 tells us to not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is. And then verse 19 talks about making music to the Lord! If you desire to strengthen your walk with God you can apply these principles to determine what music is good for you. Music that feeds the heart and spirit and the flesh in reasonable proportions is a good place to start. We strive to keep the music in our church services balanced so that they can be lively, yet appropriately reverent and engaging.

Character Matters

By Pastor Troy Dorrell

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In a recent conversation with someone I was reminded of a principle that we would all do well to remember.  We were talking about some of today’s great college athletes who never fulfilled their potential.  Though exceptionally talented; they failed to succeed in both sport and life.  The reason was because “their talent took them to a place where their character could not sustain them”.  Think about that principle for a moment; talent is not enough.  Undergirding all we do is our character and if it is deficient in time it will be exposed and we will come tumbling down.  Every year we hear about athletic stars who get themselves into trouble and lose a scholarship or millions of dollars in the pro’s because of poor character.  We too can lose much when placed in positions of leadership or responsibility and then because of undeveloped character we break a trust, or talk poorly of someone, or fail to do right.  The place we held could not be sustained because we lacked what was most important…character.  Be careful not to let your talents, abilities, intelligence, or even relationships take you where your character cannot sustain you.  The friendship we have, the talents God gives, and the abilities we develop are all wonderful gifts, but all must be supported by character.   It matters!

How to Develop an Effective Summer Routine

By Daniel Fleet

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Determine your priorities. What do you care about? How can you develop in those areas? Have goals for personal health and productivity. Think about ways to spend time with family.

Develop your schedule. After determining what is important, work those goals into your schedule. If it’s not scheduled, it probably won’t get done. Break down your areas of responsibility and make sure there is balance.

Discipline your schedule. The top priority is your relationship with Jesus. Next, aggressively tackle your tasks for the day. Have a planning system if it helps to stay on task, but all planning systems boil down to one simple principle: writing some things down, and getting them done.

Deal with interruptions. After carefully determining your priorities and developing your schedule, God will interrupt your plans. This is okay. God will bring up needs which we were not aware of. Ask Him for wisdom on how to best handle the situation and step back into your schedule.