5 Reasons You Should Journal

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I don?t think everyone needs to journal. But I have a hard time thinking of any legitimate reason why someone wouldn?t. Some might think it?s girly. Some might think it?s time consuming. Some might just hate to write. Well, here are my five best reasons you should take up or, keep up, journaling.

1) It is not log book or a daily diary.

I think one of the biggest obstacles to journaling is the perception that it has to be done daily and you have to record everything. That?s not journaling. That?s a waste of time. A journal might be a place to record memories, but really it?s more of a place to process thoughts or experiences. You can journal weekly, daily, every couple weeks, whatever. Try to to do it regularly, but don?t be burdened by it. It should unburden you.

2) Journaling is a dumping ground for all the stuff you aren?t sure you should say or write elsewhere.

Anger, pain, venting, fears ? they?re all scary and/or hurtful to offer publicly. So start in a journal. As you write you might see that yes, you really ought to keep that to yourself; it?s that bad. But you might find an idea developing that is beneficial to share with others. Journaling is what got me started as a writer. As I worked through different ideas some of them coalesced into something worth sharing (or at least I thought so). Regardless, you will find yourself free of some of the burden of those confusing, scary, hurtful thoughts because you dumped them in a journal

3) It?s the easiest way to pray.

You know what?s really doggone stinking hard? Sitting down, closing your eyes, and praying in any sort of focused coherent way for longer than about 18 seconds. You forget what you were going to pray for. You get distracted by everything including the mere thought of being distracted. You slip into ?prayer language? and don?t quite feel free to really say what you?re really thinking and feeling. You know what fixes all that? Writing it down. It automatically takes focus. It slows you down. It is easier to write sensitive things than speak them. And it is between you and God, almost like a letter.

4) It connects you to your past and points your way forward.

Your journal is a photo album of your state of mind. As you look back you?ll see where you?ve been, how you?ve progressed or matured. Or maybe you?ll be reminded of a better place, a time when you were on more solid ground and can find some encouragement in it. In either instance it gives you a means to look ahead. So does using the journal for prayer. They show trajectory and correctives. They offer hope. They remind you of obstacles to avoid and paths to retread.

5) Writing begets writing.

Not everyone will care about this, but for those who want to make writing a habit or who want to develop as writers journaling is a wonderful way to do so. At the simplest it is regular practice and makes a habit of composing. On the creative side it allows you to explore ideas all the way past their limits, jot down all your crazy, push the limits of what works. In the process you figure out what you should write and gain new ideas you would have never thought of otherwise. Journaling will make your writing richer, more honest, more refined, and more creative.

8 Questions To Help Guard Your Heart

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When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us he changes our hearts and minds. He gives us the mind of Christ (Php 2:5). And we are to cooperate with him by actively transforming our minds and thinking by the word of God:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…RO 12:2

As we take in God?s word, the Spirit of God renews our minds, causing us to think Christ?s thoughts, to see life as Christ sees it, and to know God more and more. Yet it?s important that we guard our hearts diligently:

Keep your heart with all vigilance,for from it flow the springs of life. PR 4.23

In other words, we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we?re thinking. This doesn?t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are seven questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts:

What am I believing about God?

Do I believe what his Word says about him? Do I believe he is faithful? Do I believe he is sovereign, good and loving? Am I trusting his promises? Or do I believe he has forsaken me or doesn?t care about me?

Am I constantly giving thanks?

Gratefulness produces joy. Noting and recalling our blessings turns us to God. Do I regularly thank Jesus for saving me? Do I have ?the joy of my salvation?? Am I thanking God in everything? If we believe that God works all things for good, then we can thank him in any and every situation. If grumbling and complaining is coming out of our hearts, something is amiss with our view of God.

Am I giving into any condemnation?

Am I consistently living in the good of the gospel? Am I forgetting the good news that Jesus paid for all my sins, failures, mistakes, omissions? Do I fall into self-pity at my failures or weaknesses? Am I constantly dwelling on my regrets? Am I living in the good of the gospel? Am I pressing ahead in faith?

Am I casting my cares on God?

Do I believe God answers prayer? Do I believe he has the power to help me and change any situation? Am I asking for his help or am I trying to solve all my problems on my own? A lack of prayer reveals a lack of humility and a lack of faith.

How am I interpreting my life?

Am I interpreting it from a Biblical framework? Is God in the equation? Or am I thinking in wordly ways? Again, do I believe God is in control and working for my good? Or do I believe that life is out of control or that God is distant and uninterested?

Am I being attracted to any sin or the world?

Am I thinking like the world thinks? Am I craving the things of the world – success, possessions, personal fulfillment? Am I flirting with any sin? Am I thinking thoughts like ?A little bit won?t hurt? or ?I?ll just do this one time then I?ll quit? or ?No one will know if I do this?? Am I envious of what others have? Am I jealous of others? success or gifts or possessions? Am I depressed about not having certain things?

Do I fear God?

Do I believe he knows my every thought word and deed? Do I believe I?ll have to answer for everything I do in life? Do I want to do everything for the glory of God? Do I believe God sees everything I do and nothing is hidden from his eyes?

Am I humble?

Am I doing anything from selfish ambition? ?When I correct someone do I look for the log in my own eye first? ?Do I listen to others? ?Am I easy to correct? ?Am I able to admit I’m wrong? ?Do I think I’m something great? ?Do I remember that all I have is a gift?from God and anything good I’ve accomplished has really been the Lord?

I?m sure there are many other good questions we can ask ourselves to guard our hearts with all vigilance. ?May the constant outflow from our hearts be thankfulness, praise, faith, encouragement to others, mercy and kindness.

We Should Do Away With “Should”

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?Should? is a word which needs to be relegated to the second string, a backup word which is used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. When we overuse ?should? we build paper mache reality full of guilt, regret and unfulfilled hopes.

I should exercise more.

You should show up at work earlier.

I should have studied more in college.

He should have done his part of the project.

I should be able to get that to you this week.

She should be here soon.

We should be ok.

It should work.

Should, should, should. It?s a word of unfulfilled expectations, an indication that things are not as they ought to be but without certainty that they will be repaired. It leaves residues of guilt and pours on the obligations. It blame-shifts and hands out false hope. And it grasps at straws. When we allow ?should? to be our circumstance we are left with the dissatisfaction of something incomplete.

Instead of ?should,? as much as it is up to us, we ought to be people who are and who do. Let ?am? and ?is? describe our being and ?must? and ?will? describe our future. Such words are active and full of hope. Instead of passive and questioning they are present and urgent. ?Should? allows us to shirk responsibility. Instead of committing and completing we vaguely allude to and never follow through. When we avoid should we leave less room for vacancies and voids whether it be in work, relationships, or personal growth.

In all, ?should? is often more than just a word. It indicates a mindset or an unfulfilled reality. Only by an intentional choice can we move past it. It?s worth it. We should really try. But will we?

Kevin DeYoung and Dave Harvey on Cultivating Godly Habits

Kevin DeYoung is a pastor, author, and Michigan State fan. Dave Harvey is an author and is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries. Today they both answer the question, ?What is a godly habit that has significantly affected your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?? This is part four of the ?Godly Habits? series.

You can read part 1 and part 2 and part 3.

Kevin answers:

Good question. When I was in college I developed the habit of going on prayer walks. Sometimes this involves praying for the people and places I walk by, but usually it simply means I have my prayer time while walking. I don’t walk fast. In fact, I’m sure I sort of meander around. The goal is not exercise, but simply to keep my body active. It helps me focus, stay awake, and pray longer. I frequently will go out walking to pray with others too. It makes prayer easier and more enjoyable for me.

Dave took a slightly different approach to the question and answered:

Since habits are so addictive, I?ve tried to move more outside-the-box in my application.? For instance, I like to practice ?self-encouragement? ? a merger of the biblical command to encourage with my hearts demand for approval.? Each day I make a conscious effort to encourage myself in some new and creative manner.? It could be a fragrance choice, (?That cologne is exquisite Dave.?), or perhaps an incisive comment I just made (?That insight was stupendous, I mean really Solomon-like.?), or maybe a much needed back-slapping on marriage or parenting (?Kimm & the kids will be writing books about you one day slugger!?).? Self-encouragement fills the void left by others who overlook my qualities.? It never fully satisfies, but I think it qualifies as a habit.? I?ve seen others, like for instance your father Mark, use it to great advantage.

Tim Challies On Cultivating Godly Habits

Tim Challies is an author, prolific blogger, and actually invented the Internet. Today Tim answers the question, “What is a godly habit that has significantly affected your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?” This is part three of the “Godly Habits” series. You can read part 1 and part 2.

Tim answers:

Thanks for asking, Stephen. If I may be so bold, I want to change the question just a little bit, substituting the word discipline in place of habit. Let me talk about one discipline I’ve learned that has seriously benefited my walk with the Lord.

The discipline I want to point to is that of inviting people to probe deep into my life. This is something I do now largely with my fellow elders at Grace Fellowship Church (gfcto.com). Together we ask tough questions, we answer honestly, and we invite input, even (and perhaps especially) if it is input that can be difficult to hear. We all feel that we need to be more committed to godliness than to comfort and so we invite encouragement, sharpening and rebuke from one another.

This is not an opportunity for us to complain about all that is wrong about one another. Instead, it is a time in which we seek to ensure that we are living lives that match the high office God has called us to. We know we cannot do this without the assistance of other men who are also committed to godliness. And so we spend time every week simply getting into one another’s lives.

Having such relationships has already been invaluable in helping me identify, battle and overcome certain sins that have afflicted me. It has also helped me become a better elder as these men have helped me identify weaknesses and blind spots. And I know that God will continue to use this as one of his means of grace toward me.

Matt Perman on Cultivating Godly Habits (Part Two)

This is part two of the “Godly Habits” series. Today Matt Perman answers the question, “What is a godly habit that has significantly strengthened your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?”

Matt is the director of strategy at Desiring God Ministries. He also blogs on productivity and management at What?s Best Next. You can read part one here.

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Matt answers:

One habit that has seriously benefited my walk with the Lord has been reading. When I was a kid I would look through the Bible out of curiosity and for answers to various questions. I didn’t read many books, though, because I thought it was largely a waste of time–that it was better to be outside. Towards the end of high school, though, I encountered an RC Sproul video at an FCA meeting and I thought “this is really interesting–and this guy is giving very helpful answers to the main objections to Christianity that I’m seeing people bring up.” That showed me that there were helpful resources out there.

Around this time I also started thumbing through various books on the faith when I would come across them at people’s houses or when I was near a bookstore. The first book I ever bought was actually a book on Bible prophecy. It captured my interest and led to reading becoming a formal habit–although now I would disagree with most of the teaching of that book! Reading books on Bible prophecy led to books on apologetics, which led to books on theology, and on and on. A whole new world opened up and I continue reading all that I can to this day.

Thanks Matt! Stay tuned as we talk to Tim Challies tomorrow.

The book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney is a helpful book in this regard. You can get it here.

Matt Perman on Cultivating Godly Habits (Part 1)

One issue that I’m always interested in is that of cultivating godly habits. Scripture makes it clear that growth in godliness requires discipline, and so I’m always interested in how other Christians have cultivated habits of godliness in their lives. I recently asked several people to tell me about godly habits they have cultivated and how they cultivated those habits.

Today and tomorrow we’re talking with Matt Perman. Matt is the director of strategy at Desiring God Ministries. He also blogs on productivity and management at What’s Best Next.

Me: Matt, what is one godly habit that you’ve cultivated over the years, and how have you cultivated that habit?

Matt: This is probably one of the most common answers that people give, but I’d have to say daily prayer. This habit started for me back when I was about 6 or 7. One of my brothers came in to my room one night and said “you should pray every night for 5 minutes.” That settled it for me. I started praying every night both because it was the right thing to do and because it seemed natural to communicate with God. On the nights when I didn’t feel like it, the understanding that this is what people should be doing–that it was the right thing to do–kept me doing it. And when I skipped nights–sometimes for a while–I always knew I needed to get back to it.

One of the things that has made this habit so important in my life is not simply the fact that prayer is in itself so central to the Christian life, but rather the early age at which God brought this habit in to my life–long before I knew anything about daily devotions and such. And this began because of the simple example of my older brothers and one of them deciding, for some reason, to tell me that I should do the same.

Thanks Matt! Stay tuned for part 2 of Matt’s answer tomorrow.

The book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney is a helpful book in this regard. You can get it here.