Whenever I speak to a group of women, I urge them to start a journal as a safe place to wrestle with questions about life as well as deepen their intimacy with our God. I also urge them to accept God's invitation to regularly come into His presence and soak in His Word. Many women want to do just that but don't know how to start.
In Twenty-Seven Treasured Promises, the companion devotional notebook that we created for our congregation in response to Chuck's series, The Year of Our Lord, we included some tips for starting a journal as well as tips for Scripture memorization. I hope these tips (reprinted below) will help you trace the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Tracing the Fire of the Holy Spirit - Tips for Journaling
Many people find keeping a journal is a tool God uses to draw them into deeper intimacy with Him. A written journal is a record of your spiritual journey. It is a means to "trace the fire of the Holy Spirit" in your life and the life of your church. Following are some suggestions to help you get started.
Keep it with your Bible and a notebook/journal. Read the noted Scriptures in their context. Using the written prayer as a guide, write out the desires of your heart for your church, your family, yourself. (If you do not have a copy of the Treasured Promises Devotional, start by personalizing Psalm 23 or Colossians 1:9. Replace personal pronouns with the name of the person for whom you are praying.) Write as though you are writing a letter to God. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. If you are not sure how to pray, use Scripture as your foundation - just as the leadership team of our church has done in this booklet.
There are no rules for journal keeping. Your initial efforts may be effortless or strained. You may write a few lines or pages. You may use a computer or hand write. Your journal is private correspondence between you and your Lord. The goal is not to fill pages but to keep a record of your deepening relationship to Christ.
When a good friend did not know how to help me sort through what seemed to be conflicting doctrines and strong emotions, she suggested I work through my questions by writing them out in my journal until God cleared up the foggy thinking. A journal is a safe place to work through out-of-control emotions and confusion. Your journal never tires of repetitive questions! Honesty and vulnerability make journal keeping an adventure. Anticipate a deeper awareness of God's presence as you record His actions in your life.
Your church will only be as strong and spiritually vibrant as the people who attend. When you worship God through the week, coming to church on Sunday to worship with fellow believers becomes a celebration. When we come to church beaten up by the events of the previous week, we depend on our fellow believers to have spent time with our Lord and to share with us their strength and energy.
Our intimacy with Jesus strengthens us so that we can help hold up the arms of those who are weary. As more and more of your congregation experiences deepening intimacy with our Lord during the week, your worship services will reflect that corporate intimacy. Using your journal will help deepen that intimacy and make you more sensitive to the needs of those around you.
Helping Children Trace The Fire of the Holy Spirit
These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your heads and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. - Deuteronomy 6:6
Encourage your children to take this journey with you. One family bought dollar store calendar notebooks for each child. The parents instructed the children to write the assigned verse at the top of the appropriate week. During the day, the parents hope the children will intentionally think about how that Scripture can shape their actions or responses to circumstances.
Before going to bed, the child will describe (in the blank space for each day) how God used the Scripture to guide them through their activities. The parents plan to regularly discuss with their children how God is revealing Himself to them through these Scriptures.
Another family is making these Scriptures a part of their dinner time discussion. The family repeats the Scripture together and talks about how the truths of that particular verse apply to their daily lives.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. - Psalms 19:7
God's Word is living. Planting it in our hearts through memorization is like planting tiny kegs of spiritual dynamite that will be ready to explode just when we need God's encouraging words. God will use His Word to direct us in our every day lives. Don't sell yourself short and conclude you can't memorize. Set a goal that is both realistic and stretching. Remember that others in your church are struggling to memorize God's Word as well!
Let's encourage one another to hide God's Word in our hearts so that we will not sin against Him. Let's believe that "the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple". Following are some memory work helps. In the back of this booklet are the 27 treasured promises of Scripture. They are formatted to cut into cards that you can tape onto a 3 x 5 card.
1. Carry this card with you. Use waiting minutes (in a grocery line, doctors office, red light etc.) to read it over and over again.
2. Involve the whole family. Read the Scripture several times together at dinner time or before leaving for work.
3. Write out the verse every day.
4. Memorize one part of the verse at a time. See each phrase as a building block and memorize one block at a time. Some of the assigned passages are long. Don't give up! Memorize at least one part of that passage.
5. Outline the progression of thought in the passage or list key words in order of appearance.
6. Make yourself accountable to another person. Ask him or her to listen and correct you as you quote the verse. Our worship leaders or pastor will regularly remind us of the passages of the month.
Reprinted from "Abundant Riches" newsletter, copyright MARK INC Ministries. Excerpts reprinted from Treasures of Encouragement Leader's Guide, by Sharon W. Betters, Used by permission of P & R Publishing Company, copyright by Chuck and Sharon Betters. All rights reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without express permission of P & R Publishing Company. For more information on starting a ministry of encouragement in your church, read Treasures of Encouragement by Sharon Betters, available through MARK INC Ministries (www.markinc.org).