Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58   Entries 26-30 of 286
November 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

What would a significant step forward in the spiritual discipline of prayer look like in your life?

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray . . . ” Luke 11:1–2

Roughly 60 percent of Americans claim they pray daily. Another nearly 20 percent claim to pray weekly. Those stats suggest a significant amount of praying is going on. Yet there is also evidence that what we call “prayer” doesn’t fit God’s definition or expectations. Dig a little deeper and we find that many are going through the motions, and feel frustrated about prayer even as they try to practice it. Some people “pray” without actually addressing God. Many who do voice their prayers are talking to someone they don’t even know. To them, God is a complete stranger they might turn to for help if things get bad enough. How sad and empty prayer must feel for so many, including many of us.


As we develop the core disciplines of a sincere faith, we must include work on prayer. Even those of us who have grown up around praying people need instruction. And who better to learn from than Jesus Christ . The twelve disciples spent three years hanging out with Jesus. They watched Him, traveled with Him, listened to Him. Even though He was a Master Teacher, there is no record they ever asked Him, “Lord, teach us to teach.” And not once did they say, “Lord, teach us how to do miracles,” though we know He worked awesome wonders. As far as we know, the disciples’ only request for instruction was, “Lord, teach us to pray.” With a front-row seat to the life of Christ, what truly captured the disciples’ attention was the way He prayed.


Jesus had a habit of retreating from the demanding crowds and spending time alone in conversation with His Father, as seen in Mark 1:35. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Exposed to the Lord 24/7, the disciples concluded, “The thing we’ve got to figure out is prayer. Jesus has that going on!” It's not surprising that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, eternally in perfect communion with the Father, made prayer a priority. Jesus responded to the disciples by introducing what we now call The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4, Matthew 6:9–13).


Let’s camp today on the disciples’ request. They not only went to the right instructor, they also went with the right intent. This was more than a “how-to” request; it was a “give-us-the-desire-to-pray” petition. After noticing the pattern of prayer in Jesus’ life, they longed to see it replicated in their own lives. They saw Him slip out of the house to pray in the early morning, while they rolled over for a little more sleep. They watched Him pause to thank His Father at various times and draw attention to the bigger picture (John 11:41–42).  Before He even gave them the pattern of The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus graciously encouraged them with the words, “When you pray.” Not “if you pray” but “when you pray”—Jesus expected the disciples to pray. Driven by circumstances or as a spiritual discipline, He knew His own would turn to the Father in prayer.


They needed that expectation as much as we do. Our failure to pray rarely rises from lack of technique or subject matter. Often we fail at prayer simply because we don’t keep at it. We try to pray and quickly give up—yet prayer is the breathing of our spiritual life. Just as we can’t afford to stop pulling air into our lungs, so we also can’t survive spiritually without the healthy respirations of prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” that simple request was in and of itself praying. Make it your persistent prayer for a few days. Ask Him out loud. If a specific direction or thought doesn’t come to mind, read and reflect on The Lord’s Prayer. Spin off from certain verses of Jesus’ prayer, and expound with your own words.


By giving us a model, Jesus wasn’t inviting rote repetition; He was offering a healthy pattern. Just as He taught His disciples, so He is willing to teach us all things (John 14:26)—including how to pray. Give your prayer life a realistic check-up (or autopsy). What’s the status?  What would a significant step forward in the spiritual discipline of prayer look like in your life?


This is my Prayer: Father God, teach me to pray. Lord when I open my eyes in the morning, teach me to pray, when my head rests on the pillow at night, teach me to pray. When troubles, successes, sadness, and joy come my way, or when I fear, teach me to pray. Jesus when I am calm and resolved, when I plan and when I fail, and when I consider how very little time I have left on this earth, O Lord, teach me to pray. In Jesus’ name always, amen.

November 9, 2017, 5:00 AM

What lights are flashing on the dashboard of your heart?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23:1-6


I’ve heard it said that there are two types of people in this world. There are those individuals who see the “E” illuminated on their car’s dashboard and think, “I got this…I can drive 15 more miles easily.” They push their car to the limit and laugh in the face of danger. They are so bold that they have been known to pass a gas station in spite of the flashing light demanding their attention. And on occasion (sometimes even more than once), their luck runs out and they find themselves broken down on the side of the road. Then you have those who are the complete opposite. They see the gas gauge not even at the half-way point and think, “Oh my gosh…I need to fill-up…NOW!” As soon as they spot a gas station, they dart in, avoiding “disaster.”


When it comes to my wife and I and our routine “discussions” on this matter (especially when we have an important event we need to go to), I’m the daredevil and she is Mrs. Conservative. I’m so focused on getting from Point A to Point B that stopping to get gas slips my mind. I love to be in control, and hate to alter my plans.  She on the other hand, is the more sensible one who is willing to flex a little so that we don’t end up sitting on the side of the road.  In the grand scheme of things, forgetting to fill up your gas tank and staying in control is not that big of a deal. Neither is being flexible in your plans and always making sure the tank is topped off. Yet, when it comes to caring for our heart and leading our families, both approaches are dangerous.


As hard as it is for me to admit this, my heart tank often hits E, it putters on the fumes of the fumes. At this stage of life I find myself, with work and family responsibilities, running on empty alot.  I’m always going and going non-stop. There has indeed been no rest for the weary.  On top of this, worry keeps me up at night as I think through every possible scenario with the issues facing my family. Some of these issues seem earth shattering and yet I know we are blessed in ways I can’t comprehend. But, this still doesn’t stop me from trying to fix everything, control everything, and just get from point A to point B. If I’m not careful I can find myself trying to be everything for everyone, and that can lead to me thinking the world is all about me. My needs. My desires. My plans. But, it’s not.


In order to truly love and be present for my family, I need to rest. I show value to them by valuing time to care for myself. Scripture speaks about the importance of staying connected to Christ (John 15:1-17). It goes as far as saying that apart from Him I can accomplish a whole lot of nothing. But, by relying on Him, and looking to Him to guide my steps, I can be the type of husband and father my family deserves. I know this to be true, but like any good control freak, loosening that grip and relaxing doesn’t come naturally. This is why slowing down, resting and refueling provides me with an opportunity to grow and mature. My need to be in control, or at least foolishly thinking I am, doesn’t require any faith. Yet, God has different plans for my life and they always involve pushing me to deeper faith and dependence. So, today, I will stop and rest, how about you. What lights are flashing on the dashboard of your heart? Are you running on empty? Where are you pushing yourself too much in an effort to control your situation?


This is my Prayer: Father God, open my eyes to see that You are in control and I am not. Lord remind me that I show how much I care for others by first caring for my own soul. Jesus refuel me with Your love, grace, and mercy. Help me to simply be still.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

November 6, 2017, 5:00 AM

How have you experienced leanness of soul?

And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul. Psalm 106:15


Sometimes, if we complain and covet enough, God will give us exactly what we want—to our own ruin. Back in Numbers 11, God’s people launched a Complain Campaign. Their charge? “God, we don’t like this fresh manna you’re feeding us every day. We want meat. We must have meat!” On and on they complained and wept . . . until God gave them just what they asked for. Moses announced, “Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” Numbers 11:18b–20a.


Should the people celebrate or shudder? God was so ticked at their arrogant rejection of His adequate provision and goodness, He gave them what they wanted. Because they thought meat could satisfy them in a way God could not, He gave them so much they choked on it.  So significant was God’s action that several hundred years later it was still the talk of Israel. It was mentioned in Psalm 106:15, as well as the consequence: “And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” God gave them what they “had” to have but withdrew Himself.  With God, we can be satisfied and fulfilled with very little, but without Him, all that we have will be dry and deeply disappointing. With as much meat as they could eat, the Israelites could get physically fat if they wanted, but spiritually, they were starving.


What parallels can we see in our own lives? Do we covet or crave something, put our lives on hold, and continually beg God for it? Nothing is essential for us but Him. Things were never designed to take God’s place. When we covet something and consider it essential, then beg Him to give it to us, we are asking God to replace Himself with something we consider more important. When we do this, He may allow us to experience firsthand the consequences of substituting anything for Him, a relationship, a financial goal, a specific material dream, etc. Covetousness is such a cruel enemy. It promises prosperity but brings only painful poverty of spirit. Indeed, in time we may hate what we thought we had to have like the loathsome meat coming out of the Israelites’ nostrils.


In many Third World countries, people live in staggering poverty, but they can also demonstrate stunning peace and joy with very little. In contrast, many “rich” Christians are also the most miserable. We lament the spiritual poverty of the church but fail to make the connection: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” If you can relate to the Israelites’ insatiable cravings, be warned! Covetousness will take you to the place in life where you hate the very thing you had to have. God will essentially say, “Do you think that’s better than Me? Fine. Have it.” Beware of begging God for any non-essentials your heart craves. In time you may hate what you had to have. What’s your meat, the thing you covet and crave, put your life on hold for, and continually beg God to give you? How have you experienced leanness of soul?


This is my Prayer: Father God, I need You and nothing more. Lord I want You and nothing more. Please forgive me for my craving, complaining, and begging for things I think will fill my heart. How foolish that I thought anything but You would fulfill me. God, I don’t want a lean soul, I want to be one of “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for You promise, “they shall be satisfied”.  Jesus may I be satisfied in You. In your name Jesus, I pray, amen.

November 5, 2017, 5:00 AM

What evidences are in your life indicate you have embraced Jesus as Lord?

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you”.  Psalm 16:1–2


Christians casually, sometimes even flippantly, refer to Jesus as Lord. It’s not without precedent—in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is referred to as Lord 740 times. But what does it really mean to call Him “Lord”? It means Jesus is our ruler, sovereign, owner, master, and sole authority. He is Lord. Without Jesus as your Lord, you have no good thing. As David expressed in Psalm 16, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Don’t be deceived by what you think you have, youth is fleeting, wealth is empty, gifts and abilities are ultimately worthless. Without Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, you have no good thing. Surrendering to His lordship is the starting point and purpose for true life.


A popular but terribly misguided notion is that Jesus can be your Savior without being Lord. Perhaps you’ve even thought this way: I’m trusting in Jesus to forgive my sins; later in life I’ll make Him Lord. That thinking is false—nobody makes Jesus Lord. He is Lord. The question is whether you will bow your knee to Him willingly in this life or under compulsion in the next (Philippians 2:10–11). He doesn’t just want to forgive you and escort you to heaven. He wants to live through you and change you on the way. So what does it mean to experience Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? It means you are yielding to His rule over every area of your life.


He is . . . Lord of your conduct. Jesus wants His desires and His will to rule over your actions, your words and feelings—your very character.  Lord of your relationships. Jesus wants to preside over your dating relationship or how you treat your spouse. He wants to rule over the way you parent. Jesus wants to be Lord over every interaction with business associates. All your relationships should yield to His rule. Lord of your time. What should you do with your available time? How should you invest your life? If you want to live a life of purpose, you need to be about more than just flipping pages on the calendar. Jesus wants His priorities to be yours. Lord of your talents. When you become a Christian, you are given some unique gifts; they are supernatural abilities intended to build God’s kingdom. Jesus wants to be Lord of the talents He gave you, whether those are gifts of music, teaching, mercy, helping, etc. Jesus wants to rule over how you invest those gifts in His kingdom. Lord of your treasure. According to Christ, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus doesn’t care about the cash that’s burning a hole in your wallet. He cares about your money because He knows that until He has what you have, He doesn’t have you. When you surrender all you have to the lordship of Jesus, He gives it back so you can use it for Him. And He wants you to experience the joy in that.


Have you embraced Jesus as Lord? Nothing in your life will ever make sense until this does. If you ever wonder, What is life really about? How shall I invest my life? Here is your answer. Everything flows from this: Jesus Christ as Lord. What evidences are in your life indicate you have embraced Jesus as Lord? He wants to be Lord of every area of your life. What areas do you still need to surrender to His control?


Father Pray:  Father God, I echo the psalmist and say, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Without You I have no good thing. Lord with You I have everything I need. Reveal the fullness of the Lordship of Christ to me. I embrace Him as my Master and submit to the Holy Spirit’s control. Jesus help me see the areas of my life where I am resisting. I give them to You. In your name Jesus I pray, amen.

November 4, 2017, 5:00 AM

Do you openly admit you need God?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Isaiah 40:28–29


It’s hard enough to admit we need God; what’s even harder is to live like we need Him. Successes in life can cripple us spiritually when we begin to view ourselves as self-sufficient. When we rely on our money, talent, family, or hard work to fix our problems, we don’t feel like we need God.  Ask the people of Israel about this brand of pride. They had just received news that they were going to suffer incredible consequences as a discipline from God. Their crime? They forgot who He was. They lost all sense of how great God is and how much they needed Him. His presence demanded awe and they yawned. For multiple generations, they had rebelliously, willfully, happily done their own thing—and God said, in essence, “Enough!”


In the context of facing doom, Isaiah’s audience cried out for the Lord. Isaiah answered with a moving description of God’s awesome, unchanging nature. “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” (40:28) (Translation: Didn’t you get the memo?) “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary” (40:28). God is not like us. He’s everlasting; we have short, finite life spans. He never gets tired; we range from drowsy to sleep deprived. He never feels overwhelmed; we are drowning in demands. “His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28); our thought processes are transparent and predictable. God is so beyond us, and we need Him. The good news is He delivers exactly what we’re desperate for in our weakest moments. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (40:29). When your battery runs low, God offers power. When you are weak, He dispenses His strength.


Yet some claim they don’t need the Lord—they have their own program. “I have my act together. With a career plan and solid education, I’m heading in a good direction. My future’s bright.” They may not say they don’t need God, but they live like it. If that’s you, surrender your pride before He brings you low. You will not deny His purposes. Bow willingly before God now. Don’t wait for Him to force you to your knees. Like Isaiah’s original audience, you live in decadent days among people who disdain and dilute God’s awesome character. Followers of Christ face a similar choice: flirt with your perceived self-sufficiency until disaster comes, or admit your desperation without Him. When trouble comes, do you rely on yourself or depend on God? Do you take matters into your own hands or wait for God’s provision in His timing? Everyone needs the Lord. The sooner you learn this, the more you experience His power and strength. Self-sufficiency is sneaky. What are you temped to rely on to fix a problem you are facing right now (i.e., your money, your charm, your skills, etc.)? Do you openly admit you need God? How do you live like it?


This is my Prayer: Father God, I need You. Sometimes I pretend I can manage on my own and try to hold my life together with my own energy and talents. Lord please forgive me for the sin of self-sufficiency. Help me to replace that ugly self-sufficiency with utter dependence on You. Jesus when I face problems today, help me to turn first to You, and remind me to wait on Your timing. I won’t manipulate or force my own agenda; I choose to wait on Yours’ in the strength You provide. In Your name Jesus I pray, amen.

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