This Love Won’t Let You Down

This is the final post in the series “God’s Love is the Greatest Love.” To read the previous post, click here.

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For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.

~ Psalm 55.12-14, ESV

Next to grief, betrayal is the most lingering pain.

Some betrayals—like adultery—stagger us in their severity. Others are “microbetrayals,” slowly poisoning a relationship until it is beyond healing.

We are a faithless society. The sense of duty has been drummed out of our collective conscious in favor of passion. Passion is fickle by nature. If we love only when we feel like loving, or act only when we feel like acting, then our relationships will never have any staying power. This is why divorce is rampant, patriotism is passé, and “organized religion” is repugnant. If we tie ourselves down too deeply, we will feel the pain too profoundly.

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The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

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We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

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How do I Achieve Peace AND Be Holy?

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Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12.14, ESV

Peace is an elusive, hard-won, state of affairs.

One party may feel at peace while another is ramping up efforts to overturn it. World leaders made flowery overtures about how they longed for lasting peace after World War I. Unfortunately, their desire to humiliate the Germans via reparations payments simply set the stage for another world war.

These past several years have been anything but peaceful, and the past few weeks have been downright nuts. I don’t care where you stand politically—both sides are behaving like sugar-hyped, bickering siblings. Continue reading

Do people see Jesus in your life?

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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The next three posts in this series are going to address the second in ‘E’ in Raising Gen-Next Christians: Exemplify: Demonstrating how a Christian ought to live. Before launching into the mechanics of how to be an example to our children, new Christians and other believers, we need to address who our example ought to be.

Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV in which a young boy was following his father everywhere and attempting to imitate him in every way. Continue reading

Do not lose heart (Day 2 of #encourage marathon)

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So we do not lose heart.

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 2 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is losing heart. (It might even be you!)

The expression “lose heart” describes a state of failing desire or expectation. When a person no longer desires to put forth the effort and/or does not expect their effort to be profitable they will give up. Their “heart” just isn’t in it anymore. This can happen from fatigue, persistent challenges, or illness.

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30 Days of Giving Thanks

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The commercialization of the holidays grates on me at times. In September, the stores roll out the Halloween costumes and gory decor. As soon as October 31st arrives, the fall things are whisked away to be replaced with the glitz and color of Christmas. As someone who has always loved the fall season, I’m just not ready for “Jingle Bells” before Thanksgiving. Worse still, the Thanksgiving holiday is practically overlooked between Halloween and Black Friday. Even the name “Thanksgiving” has been downgraded to “Turkey Day” because Americans traditionally gorge on the bird (unless you’re a vegan… then you gorge on tofurkey).

What it thanksgiving? The definition is in the word: giving thanks.

It’s a time to focus on gratitude and thankfulness. What could be a better way to celebrate this holiday than to offer thanks for the blessings we have? For the past couple years, I’ve tried to help my children focus on giving thanks throughout the month of November.

Two years ago, we did a thankfulness tree. Each day, each of us would write—in one or two words–someone or something we were thankful for. Then, at the end of the month, the kids made a little book of their leaves. This year, as I don’t really want to make a tree, we are going to make a small book. My 4-year old will just do leaves and pictures, the older kids will say why they are thankful for that particular thing.

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The above picture is not Pinterest-worthy, but it served our purpose well!

I’d love to do this here as well! Each day this month, I will post about something we ought to be thankful for. Some will be obvious and some unconventional. If you have a post related to thanksgiving shoot me an email and I will review it and post it in a small round up at the end of each week starting on the 7th and ending on the 28th.

Get ready to give thanks!

The Lord, He is God [Prayer part 2]

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Good afternoon!

How was your week? Were you able to fall into a consistent praying pattern this week? Keep it up! If not, keep working on praying at meal times or setting aside time morning or evening for prayer. Start with a ten-minute, uninterrupted window of time in a quiet place and spend time in prayer with God.

You can read about the importance of regular communication with God here.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is in the middle of what we refer to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” He is teaching the people how to establish their lives in such a way as to be pleasing to God. At the end of the sermon on the mount, he concludes “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” In the midst of his lesson [chapter 6.5-15], he instructs the people how to pray. This would imply that prayer is part of what Jesus expects us to do in order to build our lives on the rock.

I’d like to focus specifically on the beginning of His prayer:

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” [verse 9]

Hallowed? That’s not a term that is often used in our vernacular. It means “to honor as holy” or “venerated, sacred.” So when Jesus says, “hallowed be your name” He is reminding us that God, and His very name, are to be held in honor and treated as sacred.

Each portion of this prayer in Matthew 6 shows us an important aspect of prayer. God wants us to acknowledge that He is God and to honor Him as such. He isn’t just another man; he doesn’t want to be treated in a casual, common way. He wants us to honor and adore Him.

I have found that many people are not comfortable with this idea of reverence and honor. There is a tendency to think that if we get too formal, it will diminish our relationship with God the Father. One way of looking at this is through a parent-child relationship. A parent typically expects their child to call them “mother/mom/mommy/ma” or “father/dad/daddy/papa.” Most parents do not want their children to call them by their first names. The title of mother or father (and its variations) is an acknowledgement of authority. The child is in essence saying, “You are the father/mother. You are in charge of me.” In some places, children are expected to respond with “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” to their parents. Does that mean that they love their parents less because they use formality? Does it mean that their parents are domineering, overbearing, unapproachable people? On occasion, perhaps. More often than not, there is a lot of love in families where the parents and children perform their roles appropriately. There is comfort and certainty in having a solid authority. God is a solid authority and deserves respect; he concurrently wants us to love Him.

Take some time before you pray this week and write down attributes of God.

For example:

  • holy
  • creator
  • loving father
  • omniscient (all-knowing)
  • omnipresent (always everywhere)
  • omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • just
  • wise

When you pray, praise God for being one or two of those attributes; tell Him in your prayer how much you love Him and respect Him. This isn’t about getting verbose in your prayers–God doesn’t want us to pile on the words–it is about honoring God with the praise He is due. It will enhance our relationship with Him and increase the effectiveness of our prayers. People appreciate genuine praise from their friends; how much more does God appreciate the honor we show Him?

In our next post, we will look at praying according God’s will.

Be diligent in prayer and God be with you!

Prayer: Our Communication to God

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Communication is an essential factor in any relationship.

In our modern society we communicate with people via text message, phone, face time, Skype, Facebook posts, Twitter and even the old-fashioned form of face-to-face. It is impossible to have a solid relationship without some form of communication from time to time.

Imagine having a friend that you don’t see regularly. They don’t live next door, they don’t work with you ,and day-to-day encounters are infrequent. You make a regular effort to stay in touch with a call/text/email and invite them to your house or out to coffee or dinner so you can spend time with them. How long would that relationship last if they never returned a text or call, never came over and basically never said a word back?

Consider also the value of a friendship or relationship in which the only time you contacted your friend or loved one was when you had a need? Do you think that friend would feel valued? Respected? Or would they simply feel used?

God communicates with us through His Word. We communicate with God through prayer. It’s a two way street. If you cut off either line of communication, you won’t have much to work with in your relationship with God. How many movies show people about die or lose a loved one and the first words are, “I know I haven’t prayed in a while…” Followed by, “do this for me…” How do you think God looks on such requests?

The Bible records that Jesus would go off alone and pray for hours at a time (Mark 1:35). There were even times recorded when He would pray all night (Luke 6:12). I have prayed intermittently through a difficult night when sleep has been elusive or troubled, but I don’t think I have ever spent an entire night praying. Can you think of the last time you spent an hour praying? I never keep track of time, but I can’t think of too many times I’ve spent more than one dedicated hour in prayer at a time.

[Now, before I go further, I want to emphasize that the things I write here are for your consideration. These are things I am working to improve in my own relationship with God. In other words, I am not pointing fingers in criticism or condescension; these are things I observe in the Word that I need to consider in my walk and I hope that they will help you on your journey with the Lord.]

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells the Christians to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). What does that mean? How can one pray ceaselessly? We should pray as often as we have opportunity and with regularity. We eat 3 times a day. I would say that’s eating regularly, wouldn’t you? I see prayer as having a similar regularity and then some. It should be daily and not just when a desperate need arises. Pray at any moment you are sorrowful, joyful, thankful, thoughtful, frightened. When I am facing conflict throughout the day, I fire off short prayers throughout the day for help with attitude, self-control and thankfulness when things go smoothly. Prayer does not always have to be a prostrate affair; indeed, there are many times when it is not possible. If you are flat on your back in a hospital bed connected to a bunch of tubes and needles, you’ll have an interesting time getting out of bed and kneeling without causing yourself and your nurses significant troubles. So pray–whenever you can and wherever you are.

Each week, I will be encouraging you to pray for specific things or to work on a specific aspect of praying. This will grow our relationship with God, and in some cases, hopefully, strengthen our interpersonal relationships.

Making a new habit often requires a target or goal. Prayer should be as habitual to us as eating or even breathing. James 5.17 says, “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” so why don’t we start praying with focus and consistency to enhance the effectiveness of our prayers?

Here are our three goals:

1) to learn how to pray ceaselessly and do it

2) to have “effective, fervent prayers”

3) most importantly–to grow our relationship with God.

This week, let us draw attention to making time to pray. If you are only praying on rare occasion, I want to encourage you start with one simple goal: pray before each meal. Most people eat regularly (or else they would die of starvation), so it’s safe to say everybody eats! Use this regular activity to build regular communication with the Lord. Give thanks for your food and ask that it will nourish you and strengthen you for the day. Then, consider one acquaintance and ask the Lord to bless them; if they are not a follower of Christ, ask God to lead them to the truth. You may find your prayers growing longer as you have more to bring to God. At that point, it’s time to find another point in the day to have focused time in prayer in addition to praying before you eat.

If you are already praying at meal times, I would encourage you to pray before going about the activities of your day. Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier, climb out of bed so you don’t fall back asleep, and pray.

Are you unsure of what to pray for or how to pray? We’ll dive into more specifics in future posts, but for the present, consider a few points:

1) Reverence. Keep in mind that you are talking to Almighty, All-Powerful God. He isn’t your buddy from down the street. We are so informal with everybody these days. While informality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has caused us treat serious things more lightly than we ought to at times. God is a loving Father and He wants us to have a close relationship with Him, but we need to remember to treat Him with respect for who and what He is.

2) Thanksgiving. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of complaining about all the things going wrong. In your prayers, take time to thank Him for what is good. Do you have a home of some kind–an apartment, trailer, or house? Be thankful to have some protection from extreme heat or cold, hail, rain, snow, or blistering sunshine. Do you have a Bible? Offer thanks that God has revealed so much to us. Many of the righteous longed to have what we have now. Do you have a job that allows you to provide for yourself or others? It might be a lousy job, but if it helps provide for your needs, it’s a blessing. The Bible encourages thanksgiving:

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Besides the Biblical references to thanksgiving, it’s plain common horse sense. How would you feel if you gave somebody a gift and they looked at it, rolled their eyes and said, “Ugh! I never have anything nice! Can’t you do something for me?” You’d be thinking, “Are you blind?! I just gave you a gift and you didn’t even thank me for it!” Gratitude goes a long way. It’s a show of respect and appreciation. (More on this to come!!)

3) Remember ACTS. This acronym has been floating around for years. It’s not my own invention, but if you are struggling about what to pray for, try keeping this in mind:

A – Adoration (praise God)

C – Confession (confess your faults and sins)

T – Thanksgiving (see above)

S – Supplication (asking for your needs or the needs of others).

4) Chart Your Progress. A year and a half ago, I started walking for exercise. I had a pedometer and I checked my weight and inches once a week. Slowly, I stared seeing the changes. It was great to see how many hundreds of miles I had walked after just a few months. The positive side effects were great too. If it helps, put a little “P” on your calendar for everyday you pray. When teaching children new habits, it can be helpful to chart their progress so they “see” that they’ve accomplished something. We as adults aren’t all that different. The results of regular prayer can take years to become readily apparent to us, and, like a growing child, the changes are subtle and difficult to recognize. Another idea for tracking progress is to start a prayer journal. Write your requests in a prayer journal so they can go back and see at a later time how many of their prayers were answered.

In my next post, I will address a critical aspect of prayer—reverence for the Lord.

May the Lord bless you this week as you endeavor to grow closer to Him!