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 66-70 of 286
September 21, 2017, 5:00 AM

Prayer is about creating an atmosphere where constant communion with God can exist.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8


Persistence, boldness and diligence. Are these words that define your prayer life? Or are terms like weary, disillusioned, and disenchanted more apt descriptions? What keeps you from approaching God’s throne with boldness? What has caused you to lose heart? Prayer can be summed up in one simple word: communion. It goes beyond communication to communion. Unfortunately, many of us find it very difficult to land at this place of refuge. Before we even start, inadequacy paralyzes our prayers. Weariness in prayer stems from a distorted view of God’s character. This is fueled by the assumption that God has better things to do with His time (bringing peace during wartime, ending poverty, curing cancer, etc.) then listen to our silly requests concerning our insignificant lives and the decisions we face.


Through the telling of the Parable of the Persistent Widow, Jesus is nudging us to see the heart of God from a different perspective. Jesus contrasts the vast differences between an unjust judge and a gracious God who cares about the condition of our soul. God longs for us to participate in His story by lifting up our requests to Him confident that a loving Creator cares about our wants, needs and desires. He is interested in the situations we face. Today’s parable echoes Paul’s message of persistent prayer found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is a simple message of two words: pray continually. With our busy schedules and all the demands that come with living life, keeping this command seems nearly impossible.


How can one pray without ceasing and not grow weary? What Paul is saying is that prayer is a “heart-set” that keeps the lines of communication with God perpetually open. Prayer is about creating an atmosphere where constant communion with God can exist. How would you describe your prayer life? What would it look like in your life to pray continually?


This is my Prayer: Father God, forgive me for doubting that my concerns are important to You. Lord I desire to trust You with all my hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. May I be persistent in pursuing Your heart and aligning myself with Your story that is unfolding before me. Jesus allow me to have the humility to come to You in faith with all that I am. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 20, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where do you need to stop striving for control and trust God is in control?

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:9-13


Rest always feels like a place that lies just beyond our reach. We think that as soon as we get things under our control then we will experience those precious moments of rest. Unfortunately, it never comes because as soon as we get things under control the other shoe drops and things become out of control again.  Yet, we foolishly try to arrange our lives to control everything. We don’t want to be dependent on others. We think having everything under our control will lead to peace and rest. However, it leads to anxiety, stress, and will eventually lead to pure insanity. Many of our lives are defined by endless worrying and constant striving. The reality is we live in a crazy world going at an insane pace. If we keep this up, we will end up in the funny farm.


But, there is something more devastating that takes place when we seek security on our own terms and at our own pace. We stop short of what God intended for our lives. This internal sense of security is impossible to find from a human perspective. So, we grab a hold of everything we can to make us think we are at rest when in reality we are clinging, tense, and tight. Instead of resting in the security God provides, we rest in the place we were able to get ourselves through our own effort. We settle for productivity. However, the more productive we become doesn’t cause us to slow down, but rather accelerate even more. The greatest danger is settling for good when God has designed us for some level of greatness and Kingdom impact.


Sadly, we miss out in arriving in the place God intended. This isn’t new. The Israelites suffered the same problems. God had taken them out of slavery and was bringing them to a place of milk and honey. But, they had become indifferent. They stopped short. Every man was doing what he thought was right in his own eyes, looking out to secure their own wants and desires. We all tend to reason that when we get everything secure then we will find rest. But God says: when you rest in me, then I will give you the security you seek. He gives you rest so that you can live with security. Rest isn’t about efficiency. Neither is it about performance. Rest is about a relationship.


In Hebrews, the author urges us to be diligent to “enter His rest.” There is a place of rest that exists for each one of us. We must be diligent to enter His rest and be fearful that somehow we will miss what He wants to do in us, with us and through us. A lot is at stake. To make sure we enter His rest, we must carve out time to remember and opportunities to submit. We have to observe some tangible point in time where intimacy with God is on the agenda. Rest reminds us that we are not in control and, more importantly, we don’t have to be. To enter His rest is to enter His presence, trust His provision and submit to His authority.  Where do you need to stop striving for control and trust God is in control?


This is my Prayer: Father God, teach me to pause so you can do Your work within me. Lord rather than trying to control my world, I lay it at Your feet knowing You are the one directs my steps. Jesus help me to trust that Your provision is enough. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 19, 2017, 5:00 AM

What has the potential to cause our words of Christ’s love to become bankrupt and hollow to those in need?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17


When we see the difficult issues of the world, the solutions to the problems seem obvious. People who are hungry need food. Families without a home need a roof over their head. Racism could be solved by all of us becoming color blind. If only the “have’s” would be more compassionate to the “have nots,” then all that is wrong with the world would be instantly fixed. Yet, sometimes the obvious solution to a problem can cause more harm than good. Sometimes in our attempt to create a quick fix we perpetuate the problem and make it worse. We give something that addresses the symptoms but ignores the deeper issue.


We throw our money, time or resources at a problem without getting our hands dirty and being curious and compassionate. We fail to lean in and understand how things got to be the way they are. All our efforts, as well intended as they might be, keep the cycle of poverty spinning. What we have to understand is that poverty goes much deeper than material inequality. Poverty is a “serious lack of means for a proper existence.” There are individuals who have their physical needs met in abundance, yet aren’t truly living. They are stuck in poverty. Just because one has food, water and shelter doesn’t mean they aren’t bankrupt. There is poverty of identity where people have a broken relationship with purpose. There is poverty of stewardship where individuals have a broken relationship with stuff. And, then there is poverty of community where relationships with others are broken.


The truth is apart from Christ we all find ourselves in poverty. We are a broken people who are only put back together by the life-changing power of the Gospel. Understanding our own poverty causes humility to spring forth in our actions and words. It reframes our perspective on the people behind the issues. We recognize they are no different than us and that they are valuable in God’s eyes. It is this hope and message we carry with us as ambassadors for Christ. We don’t want to just solve problems or deal with issues, but help everyone we come in contact with encounter a message that empowers them and speaks to the core of their identity. Does this mean all we do is talk and share the Gospel? By no means, because talk is cheap. Our words become bankrupt and hollow when we fail to meet the physical needs of those who are hurting.


Yet, instead of just stopping at the physical need we also speak into the spiritual needs that remain below the surface. We recognize that God orchestrates everyone’s story and as a result we should “lean in” and listen to the tale God is telling with that individual’s life. While addressing the issues we work to empower people by involving them in the solution. What has the potential to cause our words of Christ’s love to become bankrupt and hollow to those in need?


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I always be reminded that Your grace is what makes me rich. Without You, I am bankrupt. Lord the hope I have experienced needs to be shared with those around me. Let my words of Your love match up with my actions. Jesus help me to live out my faith by serving and empowering others to know You.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

How do you let your circumstances dictate your faith and perspective of God?

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13


A routine doctor checkup leads to a grim prognosis.  A once happy marriage crumbles beyond the point of repair. A lost daughter continues to disengage and spiral out of control. A rejection letter from the college of your dreams arrives in the mailbox.  A terrible storm wrecks havoc on your home. A call into your boss’s office leads to a pink slip. A pile of unpaid bills clutters your desk. A wedding invite from a friend reminds you of the unanswered prayers for a spouse. A person’s hurtful words or actions hurt you and led you to shame. These are just a few of life’s interruptions. Maybe your painful experience isn’t on the list above.


But, each one of us will encounter a time when our once perfect world shatters and we’re left picking up the jagged pieces. This is one of the few certainties that come with living in the brokenness of humanity. And when life’s interruptions do make an appearance on our doorstep, what comes flooding into our hearts? Pain. Hurt. Disappointment. Grief. Discomfort. Sadness. Sorrow. Confusion. Agony. We wonder if God is there. And if God is a reality, does He even care about what is taking place in our lives?  But, the more challenging questions we wrestle with are these: “Okay, so let’s say God exists, and even cares, then why doesn’t He do anything to change it? Why doesn’t He rescue me from my pit? Why doesn’t He fight on my behalf? If He is all powerful, why doesn’t He display His power and fix my situation?”


In the midst of the pain, it is a challenge to feel His presence. Confusion overcomes clarity and comfort. When you hurt, you question if healing is possible. Sorrow overpowers sanity. Sometimes the pain makes us forget about the unshakable truths regarding the character and heart of God. Instead we let our circumstances dictate our beliefs. Exodus 34:6 says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God.” Compassion is at the center of who God is. We forget that at one time God was a man who walked this earth. Jesus experienced the same hurt, pain, ridicule and suffering we do. It isn’t just lip service to say that God knows exactly how we feel. Everywhere He went people were clamoring for His attention.


What was Jesus’ response to the brokenness of humanity? Compassion. In Matthew 9, Jesus is healing the sick and the hurting. For a moment He pauses and gazes at the crowd and compassion overtakes Him. Jesus sees they are harassed and helpless. Doesn’t that also describe how many of us feel in the midst of life’s many interruptions? Isn’t that how we feel when we encounter the reality that no matter how much we fight to control our circumstances it is a losing battle? God isn’t unaffected by our pain. When we suffer, He not only notices, but also has compassion. He feels our pain at His core. Isaiah 49:13 reassures us that God comforts us in our pain. It is these truths we must rely on when we are hurting, lost and in pain. You are not alone. God is present in our pain. How do you let your circumstances dictate your faith and perspective of God?


This is my Prayer: Father God, in the midst of suffering, I often question whether You care. Lord when I’m confused and hurt, it feels like I’m trying to walk through the darkness alone. Jesus remind me that You have not left me. Instead You are right by my side. Knowing You are concerned with my desperation makes the dark times less gray. Thank you that Your presence provides me comfort. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

Who are you struggling to forgive?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32


It amazes me how inserting a simple word into a sentence can drastically alter its impact. Oh, how we wish the author, the Apostle Paul, put an out clause when it comes to our anger. If we were the writer of this passage, we’d rewrite it completely. Our version would read something like this: “Get rid of some of the bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander. Love those who are lovable, but cling to the malice you have for those that caused you pain. Be kind and compassionate to those who deserve it, forgiving others on your own terms, because, after all, the forgiveness Christ extended to you was less than those individuals who caused you scars.”


Unfortunately, God didn’t give us a red pen to make corrections. Instead, Paul charges us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger. There are no exceptions, fine print or loopholes. Every single emotion that divides and damages our relationships we are told to tackle head on. The Greek term Paul uses for ‘get rid of’ can be translated to mean to ‘remove, separate yourself from.’ In this passage, Paul draws a line in the sand when it comes to those emotions that destroy relationships. He is speaking of those places and situations that have remained off limits for far too long.  Now, I know what you are thinking, because I’m wondering the same thing. Is this charge by Paul even possible? Can you truly get rid of all anger? And even if it is truly possible, shouldn’t there be some exceptions to the rule?


Just like you, I have a few stories I can rattle off about past hurts and letdowns. I can point to wounds and scars that still sting to this day. And, chances are good, if you listened to my tale and I listened to yours, we’d feel completely justified in our anger and bitter responses to situations we had no control over. We’d pat each other on the back and say, “you are right, you are owed something.” Very few of us possess the strength and courage to instead challenge our perspective and suggest forgiving those who have caused us pain. And, we would never dare suggest that we are viewing life as a victim.  But, the reality is that’s exactly what I’m doing.  When I take on the victim role, I lead the conversation with justifications and excuses. My story becomes my crutch that prevents me from truly walking in freedom. It’s what I use to rationalize and excuse not only my behavior, but my heart set as well.


Since I can explain everything away, I don’t need to change or take responsibility for my response, or lack thereof. I can just sit back and continue to stew over my rage. The only action that is required on my part is making sure the other person pays for the deeds done against me. I think by playing the victim I’m punishing the other individual when in actuality, I’m the one trapped in my own prison. The key to unlocking my cell is visible and at my disposal. But, when I look at the word inscribed on it I cringe. It’s the last thing I want to do. Every part of me resists this response. I don’t want to submit to God’s authority in this area. Yet, the key sits there every moment of every day. Forgiveness is the key to letting go of my anger. It’s the only cure for the freedom I so desperately desire. My story may explain my behavior, but it never excuses my actions.


I’ve got to write a better story. One where my story collides with God’s forgiveness and it shapes my response to the world. I don’t want to tell a story of a victim who is trapped in their past. There is nothing courageous about that tale. True courage is found in my ability to forgive. By giving God access to your heart, He can form and shape your heart and lead you to the path of forgiveness. Who are you struggling to forgive? How is this influencing your anger and your approach to this relationship?


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I not use my past to justify my anger. Lord may I not attempt to justify my behavior or excuse my bitterness. Jesus remind me of the forgiveness You’ve extended to me and give me the courage to write a different story founded on forgiveness. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

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 66-70 of 286