THE BIG PICTURE
I backed the car out of the driveway as I do every morning at
5:45. I switched the radio from a program on ethics to the
Tokyo stock closing, and drove through the neighboring subdivision,
mentally critiquing architectural designs. I bought
coffee at the twenty-four-hour coffee shop and successfully
avoided the talkative cashier. As I turned onto the church
campus, I formulated a convincing defense for a ministry plan
that I hoped the staff would adopt. I climbed to my third-floor
office, wondering about the productivity of the nighttime
maintenance crew. I shuffled through the mountain of mail on
my desk and wished someone else could answer it.
I spun my chair around and looked out the window at the
church lake steaming in the crispness of the morning. In that
quiet moment I saw the previous quarter hour for what it had
been-time tainted by purely human perspective. Not once
during that time had I seen the world through godly eyes. I
had been more interested in international finances than in the
moral demise of our nation. I had thought more about houses
than the people inside them. I had considered the tasks awaiting
me more important than the woman who served my coffee. I
had been more intent on logically supporting my plans than
sincerely seeking God's. I'd thought more about staff members'
productivity than their walk with the Lord or their family life.
I'd viewed correspondence as drudgery rather than a way to
offer encouragement, counsel, or help.
It was 6:00 A.M., and I needed a renewed heart and mind.
Like a compass out of adjustment, my thoughts and feelings
were pointing in the wrong direction. They needed to be
recalibrated-to be realigned with God's accurate, perfect
You see, in the space of a day, your relationship with Jesus
Christ can fall from the heights to the depths, from vitality to
superficiality, from life-changing interaction to meaningless
ritual. That's a humbling admission, but it's true. In a mere
twenty-four hours, you can slide from spiritual authenticity
into spiritual inauthenticity.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 How have you seen yourself slide into patterns of
What factors contribute to this slide?
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Psalm 46
2 This psalm clearly addresses the stress and strain of living
in this world. In eleven short verses we read about
troubles, cosmic chaos, earthquakes, conflict among
the nations, kingdoms falling, and the reality of war.
After this list of life's turmoil, the psalmist writes: "Be
still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among
the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (v. 10). How
is it possible to "be still" in the middle of a life filled
with busyness and stress?
Tell about a time you found a quiet place in God even when
the world around you was like a raging storm.
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "Put It in Writing"
PUT IT IN WRITING
Over the years, as I've traveled and spoken at churches and conferences, I've occasionally met leaders
who somehow seemed to avoid the daily slide into artificial Christianity. Whenever I could, I
asked what their secret was. In almost every case they said "journaling"-the daily process of examining
and evaluating their lives in written form.
Now, if you think I heard that and ran right out to buy a journal, you're dead wrong; I thought the idea
was ridiculous. People who had time for journaling were not like me. They didn't have my schedule or live
with my kind of pressure. Still, I had to admit that too often I repeated the same mistakes again and again. Too often
I went to bed with regrets about my actions. Too often I made decisions inconsistent with my professed values. In a
rare moment of honesty, I faced the fact that I was living under the tyranny of an unexamined life.
At that time I was chaplain for the Chicago Bears. Occasionally before the Monday morning Bible study, I'd
join them while they watched films and did postgame analysis. They would go over every play of the previous day's
game so they could learn from their mistakes and not repeat them in the next game.
Finally, I understood. The journalers were simply telling me to do a postgame analysis! How could I expect
to be conformed to the image of Christ without evaluating my mistakes and progress? How could I grow without
examining my character, decision-making, ministry, marriage, and child-rearing? Maybe journaling was for me.
3 What is your first response to my suggestion to journal
as a means of examining and evaluating your life?
Read Snapshot "Yesterday"
After I was convinced of the value of journaling, I was still worried about facing a blank sheet of paper,
until a well-known author offered a simple suggestion: Buy a spiral notebook and restrict yourself toone page a day. Every day, start with the word "Yesterday." Write a brief description of people you met
with, decisions you made, thoughts or feelings you had, high points, low points, frustrations, Biblereading
-anything about the previous day. Then analyze it. Did you make good decisions or bad
ones? Did you use your time wisely or waste it? Should you have done anything differently? Were you
authentic in how you lived your life or inauthentic? Journaling can become a chance for daily honesty and learning.
4 Using the space provided, take no more than five
minutes to try journaling. Use the guidelines given in
the above Snapshot "Yesterday." Don't try to be overly
deep or profound; simply write about what you did
yesterday and allow yourself to examine your day.
What did you learn about yourself through this brief experience
Read Snapshot "Now What?"
The only problem with slowing down and meeting with God was that I realized I didn't have much to
say. The second part of my path to spiritual authenticity-my prayer life-was amazingly weak, and
had been for years. Then a friend suggested I begin writing out my prayers using a simple outline
that would help me stay focused. I try to use this simple outline, called A.C.T.S., each day in my
Adoration-Each morning, after filling your "Yesterday" page, write a big "A" on the next page. Then spend a
few minutes writing a paragraph of praise to the Lord. Paraphrase a psalm or attempt to write a poem. Or focus on the
attributes of God, sometimes listing many, sometimes meditating on just one.
Confession-One way to make confession genuine and effective is to write out specific sins. Do you know
what it's like to see your sins in print? Try writing something like this: "Last night I told Todd I would play ball
with him, but I didn't keep my word. I lied to my son." It's so easy to justify our behavior by saying, "I intended to
play ball. It just didn't work out." Instead, we need to see our sins for what they are.
Thanksgiving-In this section of your journal, thank God for answered prayers and for specific spiritual,
relational, and material blessings. Almost everything in life fits under one of those categories. By the time you
finish your list, you'll be ready to go back to adoration.
Supplication-Break your requests into four categories: ministry, people, family, and personal. Or make up
your own categories of prayer. Keep a list of what you've prayed about. After a few weeks, look back over it. You'll be
amazed at what God has done.
5 Use the space provided below to write out your
prayer using the A.C.T.S. outline explained above.
What is one characteristic of God you wrote down in the adoration
section of your prayer, and why did you choose this
How does it make you feel to see your sins in writing?
What are you thanking God for today?
What have you listed under the supplication section that you
would like your small group members to be aware of and
pray for you?
Read Snapshot "Listening"
Journaling and writing out my prayers slow me down enough to hear God's still, small voice. The
third step in my daily discipline is to listen and ask God to speak to me.
Scripture says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). It's these quiet moments after prayer
that really matter. They nourish authentic Christianity. Power flows out of stillness, strength out of
solitude. Decisions that change the course of lives come out of these quiet times.
Begin with these words: "Lord, You talked to Your children all through history, and You said You're an
Unchangeable God. Talk to me now. I'm listening. I'm open."
Then I ask four questions. I never hear an audible voice, but I often get impressions that are so strong and
real I write
them down. In these quiet moments I ask:
What is my next step in my relationship with you?
What's the next step in the development of my character?
What's the next step in my family life?
What's the next step in my ministry?
You might ask other questions: What's the next step in my vocation? In my dating relationship? In my
education? Over time, you'll become more adept at sensing God's answers to these questions. You'll receive Scripture
verses, ideas, or insights that are just what you need. Those moments of inspiration will become precious memories
you carry with you all day.
6 As you take time for silence and listening, use the space
below to write any impressions or direction you feel
God is giving you.
What was your experience during this time of listening?
7 We have experimented with journaling, focused prayer
(A.C.T.S.), and listening. What kind of commitment do
you want to make to develop one, two, or all of these
prayer disciplines in your life in the coming month?
What can your small group members do to encourage you and
keep you accountable?
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Buying a Journal and Using It
Take time in the next day or two to buy a journal. A simple
spiral or three-ring binder will do. On the first page, write down
your commitment to how often you will be making time to be
with God. Will you be journaling, using the A.C.T.S. prayer,
listening and writing down God's answers, keeping notes on
your personal Bible study? Be specific with your goals. Now,
start doing it! Look back once a week to evaluate what you
have been learning and how God has been shaping you into
an authentic follower of Jesus.
Teaching What You Have Learned
Through this session, you have learned three different ways to
grow in your faith and become a more fully devoted follower
of Christ. Take time in the coming week to sit down with
another Christian and tell them what you have learned so
they can also grow in spiritual authenticity. Once you have
communicated what you have learned, ask them to help keep
you accountable and let them know if they want to make a
similar commitment, you will pray for them and help keep
them accountable also.