8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

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How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

Why we need to pray for GenNext (Part 2)

This is the final article in the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.

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Yesterday, we looked at why prayer is so critical in the effort to raise GenNext. Remember, GenNext is not just children; GenNext also includes new converts and current Christians. Like Jesus, we long for the growth of those who will follow in our footsteps. The effort to train “replacements” begins today, for today is all we have. As with any endeavor for the Lord, we need to be praying throughout the process.

What specific requests should be included in our prayers?

Continue reading

Why we need to pray for GenNext (Part 1).

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

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What do you believe about prayer?

Do you think praying is a rote activity?

Is prayer an active or passive endeavor?

Does it have value?

Is it helpful?

Does it actually work?

Continue reading

Never go into a fight without these 5 things… (Day 21 of the #encourage marathon)

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In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 21 of our #encourage marathon! If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.

Someone out there is defenseless. It might even be you.

Do you ever yell at people in movies, even if it’s just in your head? “Don’t leave your weapon on the ground!” Or “What are you thinking going into that place alone? You need backup!” It’s almost like the person in the movie has lost common sense. Anybody with two eyes can spot the danger. These scenes are suspense winders, designed to heighten your sense of anticipation so that you will jump at the right moment.

(Honestly though, why would you drop your weapon when you know that the likelihood of attack is high?)

As Christians, we have 5 things we absolutely need to use everyday. Unfortunately, there are times we cast one aside or simply forget them—to our peril. Continue reading

Why are you sleeping?

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Taken by Schuyler Shepherd (Unununium272).

And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

~ Luke‬ ‭22:40-46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There are so many reasons we need to engage in regular prayer with the Lord. Throughout the gospels, we repeatedly see Jesus taking time to pray alone. What does He pray about? Some prayers are recorded, some are not, but He sets an example for us to go to the Father and lay our hearts before Him.

Here, in the gospel according to Luke, Jesus gives His disciples an immediate command, and He does it twice: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” After the initial command, Jesus also gets down and prays. He leads by example.

He gets up from His prayer and walks over to His disciples. They are so overcome with sadness that they had fallen asleep. It’s possible they fell asleep while they were praying (has that ever happened to you?). I can’t imagine how embarrassing that would be to have Jesus catch you sleeping when you were supposed to be praying. Peter—of all people—should have been praying (and sweating) because Jesus told Him earlier that Satan had asked to “sift him like wheat.”

“I can’t believe they fell asleep!”

The disciples never seem to fully grasp the perilousness of their position.

We, too, often fail to consider the precariousness of our situation until we are waist-deep in it. We fire off brief “arrow prayers,” but fail to get on our knees each and every day for some solid time with the Lord. Arrow prayers have their place, but they should not replace quiet, dedicated time alone with God.

Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Just last week, I wrote a post on the importance of committing the Word to our heart so we can fight temptation (click here to read it). Study and prayer go together like bones and marrow—only when the two work together can we have life.

We, like Peter, have too much confidence in our own strength and conviction. Strength and conviction will not be enough when Satan decides to tempt us, and He pursues us every minute of every day. He wants us to fail desperately because we do not belong to Him!

Peter might have had this experience in mind when he wrote:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

~ ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peter knew the consequences of sleeping when He should’ve been praying. After this account, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. He never thought He would deny Jesus, but when the rubber met the road He wasn’t ready.

Being asleep isn’t just a literal problem. We do need sleep and rest. However, we can be slumbering in the sense that we do not possess any situational awareness of pending danger. The devil wants us to think that we are safe from temptation. He wants us to be over-confident and, rather than keep watch, sleep the slumber of the care-free. It’s much easier to attack and kill your prey while they are sleeping. It’s much harder when they are on guard and possibly even fleeing.

Are you sleeping?

The lion is at the door! Pray hard, pray often, pray to the one who can strengthen you for the fight or flight.

3 Steps to Daily Prayer in 2016

image taken from warroommovie.com
image taken from warroommovie.com

One of my goals for 2016 is to develop regular, quality prayer time alone with God.

How do we get in the habit of praying daily like Jesus?

Step 1: Set up a regular time.

If you do not pray regularly at all and are trying to get into the habit, I suggest that you start by praying at meal times because meals are regular. If you are already doing that, it’s time to advance to the next level.

Pray in the morning before going about your daily routine and in the evening before you sleep. This level is particularly challenging because we don’t always hop out of bed. Sometimes we fall back asleep and hit the snooze button a few times. Set your alarm ahead by 15-20 minutes and get out of bed. I know it’s hard, especially when it’s so cold this time of year, but get on your knees and pray next to your bed. If you think you’ll be undisturbed, make yourself a cup of coffee first, have a few sips and then pray. In the evening, try to pray before you lay down so that you don’t fall asleep mid-prayer. Again, this might be challenging. Find a routine that works for you.

Step 2: Setup a prayer minder

The scriptures say nothing about Jesus carrying around a scroll of prayer requests, but we are not Jesus. He had divine insight and power. We are far weaker and constantly inundated with distractions. We need reminders.

When I took Speech 101, the class was encouraged to write the highlights of our speech on a notecard and then give our speech from memory using the note card as a reference. Certain specificities—like statistics—that would be difficult to remember were also written on this card. While prayer isn’t exactly a speech, it is a time when we approach the throne of grace to lay our petitions before the Lord. Imagine if you were to stand before the Queen of England or the President of the United States and bring them a request. You wouldn’t just wing it, would you? You might, depending on the circumstance, but if you had a formal audience with them, I’d bet you’d take time to write it down.

Bring your 3×5 or 4×6 card or prayer journal with your specific requests so you don’t forget to talk to God about them. Sometimes you might be reading your prayer from the cards, but I prefer to think of these lists as the critical points I need to address so I don’t leave them out. I’m going to pour forth what’s in my heart with or without it, but I don’t want to forget that person or two relying on me and other brethren to make petition on their behalf.

Here are 3 types of Prayer minders:

A Prayer Box. My good friend Sheena shared this with me several months ago. This is a regular old index card box with a prayer request on each card and two dividers: Requests and Answered. As the cards pile up behind the answered tab, you’ll see more and more what the Lord has done.

A Prayer Journal. This is similar to the prayer box. Writing down requests, the date you began your requests and writing the date those requests were answered.

A War Room. I absolutely loved the concept laid out in the movie War Room of having a small, quiet space to pray with specific prayer requests pinned to the wall. I, unfortunately, do not have a closet that large, so I will be using one of the other two options this year.

No matter which method you prefer, get one that fits your personality and run with it. The idea is to help you be more effective in your prayers to God.

Step 3: Fight

You may have noticed that this is a step I referred to in my post on Setting Goals that Last. There is a reason I use such a violent word. When we start taking steps to draw closer to God, Satan is going to do whatever he can to stop us. He might bring random distractions, tempt us to sleep, tantalize us with entertainment or, worse still, tickle our pride and cause us to start thinking that we are oh-so-righteous because we pray regularly.

Fight. Fight with all your might.

Fight your weakness, fight your sleepiness, fight the inertia and fight Satan. Prayer is so critical to drawing close to God. Don’t neglect it.

In your Bible study, take time to notice how important it was to God for people to ask Him about things. When the Gibeonites tried to deceive the Israelites, they succeeded not because of their cleverness, but because the Israelities failed to consult with God! In my reading this year in Chronicles this passage jumped off the page: “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10.13-14, ESV He had ample opportunity to turn back to God, but instead he consulted a phony—a spiritualist! Why didn’t he ask God??

 Prayer is not to be taken lightly. Take your decisions to the Lord and ask for his guidance.

Jesus—God’s own Son—prayed regularly and for hours at a time. Take note of that also. God’s own son spent hours in prayer. Do you think there is a reason that such a thing is recorded for us? It tells me that making time for prayer is vital.

Do you think prayer is important? If something is important, make time for it.

How do you plan to make time for prayer in  2016? I’d love to hear your suggestions about what works for you in the comments below. Let’s help each other grow closer to God.

For more guidance on how to pray, here are some older posts for reference:

Reader question: Would you be interested in an e-book on prayer? I was thinking about putting one together in 2016 that used material from the above posts as well as 52 weeks of printable prayer focus sheets (like my effective prayer posts in 2015). Thanks for the feedback!

Pray for Law Enforcement – The Effective Prayer 5.12.15

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Each week, we turn our focus to praying for a specific person or group of people.

If you missed the original post on effective prayer, read it here.

Effective prayer is a learned habit requiring discipline and diligence. To that end, I am encouraging you to write down the people you are praying for. Part of building and maintaining habits is to have reminders and tracking tools. Making a list isn’t self-righteous or sacreligious. It is a tool. We devote time to counting calories, monitoring money, checking Facebook, making to-do lists–is prayer of lesser importance?

For other posts regarding prayer, click on “prayer” in the categories tab.


Focus for this week: Law Enforcement Officers

Over the past few weeks, we have been praying for specific people in our church, but today I’d like to focus on a group of people—law enforcement officers.

I have heard people pray for the government and “those in power,” but they are typically referring to the law makers. Most people do not pray for law enforcers. The irony is that the politicians have very little to do with the laws once they are made. They make them up and then expect someone else to carry it out. The ones who enforce justice, who carry the “sword” and strike terror into the lawless are the ones we grumble at every day. They are the sheriff deputies, highway patrol officers, local police, border patrol, and NCIS. They are entrusted with authority by the government. Do we pray for them?

The news media has been all over cops lately. They are working to turn society against the very people who are there to protect us. Are all law enforcement officers good? Are all clergy good? Are all business people good? No. In every group on earth, there’s bound to be a bad apple or three. The law enforcement officers are under greater scrutiny, because if they violate the law, then the consequences to the innocent are far more dire.

All the more reason to pray for them.

Read what Paul wrote to the Romans:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

~Romans‬ ‭13‬:‭1-7‬ ESV

I had planned to do an effective prayer post for our leaders, and I will soon, God permitting. However, in light of the events of the last 12 months, I thought that our law enforcement officers were in the greatest need of prayer. Less than a week ago, two officers were shot in the line of duty. Some officers have made poor choices, others are prosecuted simply for doing their job. Christians should have some sympathy for these people—no matter what they do, someone will say they did it wrong. People are always lying in wait for them to mess up. Sound familiar?

So, what should we ask in our prayers for them?

Pray for them to carry out justice.

“Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Without justice, a society will be overrun with evil. Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Justice isn’t always pleasant, but it is necessary to keep order in society. God tells us:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

~Micah 6:8

Pray for them to exercise mercy.

Notice that in Micah 6:8, it says “do justice, love kindness.” The New King James Version uses the word “mercy.” When a cop pulls you over for going 90 mph in a 65 mph zone and lets you off with a warning, that person is showing you mercy. You did wrong, you deserve punishment and you received mercy. Law Enforcement officers have to make those judgements daily. Pray for them to know how to balance justice and mercy.

Pray for them to have integrity.

If all law enforcement officers lacked integrity—as many seem to think—our society would be one huge disaster. We are fortunate that there are still men and women working the beats and borders that have integrity. Mixed in are some who don’t have integrity and they make the rest look bad. The odds of a dishonest person meting out justice and mercy proportionately are slim. It can happen… but do you want to take your chances?

Pray for their protection.

It is not justice to murder one man for the actions of another. Since last year, we’ve seen at least four police officers killed because someone “felt” they were executing justice for the actions of another officer. That isn’t justice, it’s murder. Pray that our law enforcement officers will be protected from mob “justice” and from the dangers that surround them so they can continue to protect the innocent.

Pray for their families.

Cops are people too. It breaks my heart when I see the pictures of weeping spouses, fatherless (or motherless) children, and bereaved parents. It’s a grim reality that the families face every time their husband/wife/father/mother puts on the uniform. They never know when or if they’ll get the call that their loved one has been killed in the line of duty. They never know if their loved one will find themselves in prison for carrying out their duty. The constant threat of death, prison and job loss hang over them and many families crumble under the strain of it. Pray that they will be supportive, loving and faithful and that the Lord will comfort them during the dark times.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2.1-4

Let us pray together to great effect for these men and women so that we may live in peace and dignity.