Spend FOCUSED Time with God
Take time to just be. Slow down from your busy pace. Hike. This may take an hour or two. (If you have a long drive to your destination, that may be your slow-down time.) Let go of business and pressures. Make yourself available to God. Be still and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10).
Sometimes the last to receive our thanksgiving is God. Vocalize the unspoken lists of things that He has done for you lately. Celebrate what He's presently doing in your life. Note the times over the past year that God has provided for you, blessed you, and encouraged you. You will find that in thanking Him, He will gently lift your thoughts to Him higher and still higher.
Spend time praising God for who He is. Tell Him what you love about His character. Voice to Him what makes you in awe of Him as your God and King.
Make things right with God. Surrender your attitude, desires, and heart to Him. You may need to make a call to someone you have wronged. Go into the rest of the retreat feeling at peace and restful in spirit.
Ask God to break open your heart to Him. Sometimes ministry can make our hearts hard toward people—and God. Give God your cynicism, criticism, lust, pride, and fears. Ask Him to give you a new heart by His Spirit.
5. Feed your mind
After confession, ask your heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to bring powerfully the Written Word of God to your heart. Spend time with the Bible. This is God's Word to you personally. Read His promises to you. Reflect on stories of Bible characters of great faith. Here are a few suggestions for promises and stories to study and reflect on in God's Word:
• Noah—fearless antediluvian prophet who took God at His word;
• Joseph—fierce loyalty to God in the midst of darkness and injustice;
• Job—faith during adversity and loss;
• Ruth—devotion, invested in relationships, love story;
• Nehemiah—building what others said could not be built;
• Esther—one who seized the day for God;
• Daniel—integrity, strategic influence for God's purposes;
• Elijah—faced a showdown with God's strength;
• Paul—bold pioneer for the good news of Christ;
• Philip—followed the Holy Spirit to "barren" places.
List your life roles (for example, a disciple of Christ, spouse, parent, son, daughter, grandparent, neighbor, friend, pastor, administrator, leader, coach, etc.).
Concentrate on your top four to eight roles.
Review your roles with God and what is happening in these roles right now.
Ask God what you can celebrate i n w h a t y o u are currently doing in each role.
Write down the good things that God helped you to accomplish in each role over the past year.
Ask God what He thinks needs to change in each of your roles.
Ask God which one or two things you need to do in each role to be faithful to what He has entrusted to you.
God has vision for the roles He has entrusted to you, so ask Him.
7. Listen, plan, and reflect
Take breaks to hike, listen, and pray.
Jot down reflections on what God brings to your mind.
Sleep on them.
Spread out your reflections and convictions before God.
Ask God, "This is what I am seeing—am I understanding what You want me to see?"
Review and add to what you have.
Let God's wisdom on your life roles impact the way you accept or reject the opportunities before you.
Will your life decisions help you be more or less faithful to the roles He has entrusted to you?
Always test the insights you receive with the Written Word of God.
8. Claim God's promises to accomplish His will
Find one of the prayer partners who prayed for you while you were on your retreat. Share how God blessed you. Share what God is asking of you in your life roles for the coming year. Invite honest feedback. Ask him or her to pray that you will follow through with God's leading in your life.
If you are in doubt about any of the impressions you received during the retreat, invite your prayer partner to join you in testing your impressions with the Written Word of God.
Taking these extended retreats with God over the years has led me to a few conclusions: God is eager to meet with us in unrushed time. God is ready to refresh us. God longs to give us vision for our relationships with Him, our marriage, our relationships with our children, and the ministry that He has entrusted to us.
As we near the second coming of Christ, I find that God calls me to increase my retreats with Him. Let this annual 24-hour retreat whet your appetite for mini retreats of several hours, a half day, or an eight-hour day. Explore multiple day retreats as well. You may find that the Holy Spirit may impress you to spend this retreat in other ways than you have planned. Please take this article's process and outline as simply a place to begin.
Author: Don MacLafferty, MDiv, serves as pastor of the Clovis Seventh-day Adventist Church, Clovis, California, United States, and president of In Discipleship, a ministry uniting children, youth, and adults as disciples of Jesus Christ.
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