Tag Archives: christian living

Becoming People Of Prayer

How much time do you spend in prayer each day? I once read that D.L. Moody spent up to 8 hours a day in prayer. That has always challenged me. I’ve been on church trips where the men would take a two day trip to spend them in fasting and prayer. There would be times when you would see people nod off. When they woke up, they would snap their head back up and say, “Amen!” On those trips I learned how hard it was to spend a lot of time in prayer, even with prayer a focus each hour. It’s also where I learned that prayer was a conversation with God. Can you imagine an 8 hour one way conversation? It was then that I learned to tune into God’s voice by giving Him time to speak in my prayer time.

You can’t read the Gospels without seeing how much time Jesus devoted to prayer. Sometimes He would spend an entire night in prayer, alone with God. The disciples were intrigued by how much time He prayed and even asked Him to teach them how to pray. They saw that prayer was important to Jesus and were challenged to pray more. Prayer became a cornerstone of the Early Church. It actually was birthed from a ten day prayer meeting. Can you imagine praying for ten days straight? I’m convinced that that kind of prayer is the missing element in today’s Church. We must return to being people of prayer. We have to make spending time with God a priority bot privately and corporately if we want to become effective in this world.

Colossians 4:2 says, “Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving” (AMP). Have we lost our persistence in prayer? Have we made prayer a priority? It’s not too late to return to this foundational principle of our faith. I don’t know if God is asking you to give Him 8 hours, but you can start with at least 8 minutes. We need to have time set aside each day where we spend it in prayer without being interrupted. We need a place to meet with God where we won’t fall asleep or have distractions that will cause our mind to wander. I believe God is calling you and I back to being people of prayer. Not just rote prayers over meals and bedtime, but real conversations with God. He’s waiting for us. Will we make spending time with Him a priority? Only you can answer that.

Photo by Junior REIS on Unsplash

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Going Through The Valley

I’ll never forget the first time I climbed up the side of a mountain. I was somewhere in Washington State a month or two after my mom passed away. I remember the climb up was more difficult than I imagined. When I got halfway up, I sat down to take break. As I looked down on the valley, I was struck by its beauty and lush vegetation. I remember thinking that while I couldn’t stay in the valley, I could at least grow while I was in it. What had seemed dark and dry from below, now looked like fertile soil from higher up. God used that climb to speak to me and to bring healing. I wasn’t meant to stay in the valley, but just because I was walking through one, it didn’t mean God couldn’t grow me through it. What seemed like a dry time in my life was really God planting seeds in fertile soil.

When we go through some of the darkest times in our life, we refer to it as going through a valley. David famously wrote in the 23rd Psalm, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). God doesn’t leave us when we go through the valleys of life. He’s close to you even when you can’t feel Him, and He’s given you tools for protection and comfort. He then prepares a table for you there representing that you will be taken care of and that you can thrive even in the darkest times of your life.

I like the promise given in Psalm 84:6-7. It says, “As they pass through the dry valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the autumn rain fills it with pools. They grow stronger as they go; they will see the God of gods on Zion” (GNT). Your dry, dark times will become a place of life that you will look back on the rest of your life to draw strength from. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when you get more perspective as you move forward up the mountains in your life, you will see that God never left you and He uses these times to make us stronger. Keep pushing forward through what seems like a dark and dry time, trust the promises in God’s Word and know that what you’re walking through is preparing you to make a difference in the lives of others. What seems like an end is truly a new beginning.

Thanks to Sohaib Ghyasi @sohaibghyasi for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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Perfectly Peaceful

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Failing God

Growing up, when I heard the verse, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I interpreted that as, “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” It didn’t take long for me to realize perfection was impossible. I would fail, beat myself up for not being holy, feel shame, repent and repeat. I stayed in that cycle for a while because I didn’t understand that verse, I didn’t understand grace and I didn’t understand know how to trust what had been done for me on the cross. I’m not saying I understand them fully now, but I do have a better grasp of them. I haven’t even figured out how not fail, but I have figured out how to trust God more when I do. I’ve learned He’s not up there waiting for me to fail so He can banish me to Hell forever. Instead, like a father, He’s cheering me on, picking me up when I fall, dusting me off and encouraging me to try again.

One of the things that helped me break the cycle was having a teacher break down Romans 7 and 8 for me. He had me circle all the I’s, me’s, myself’s and my’s in Romans 7. When I did, the page was covered in circles. Then he had me read verse 24. It said, “What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death?” (TPT) He then had me do the same thing in chapter 8, except I circled all the spirit’s, God’s, Christ’s and Jesus’. Again, the page was covered in circles. He then had me read verse 4. It said, “So now every righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled through the Anointed One living his life in us. And we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!” He then said, “It’s not up to you. Quit trying to live this life on your own. Trust God’s grace and let His Spirit lead you.”

All my favorite people in the Bible failed miserably, and sometimes often. The psalmist wrote, “Lord, so many times I fail; I fall into disgrace. But when I trust in you, I have a strong and glorious presence protecting and anointing me. Forever you’re all I need! (Psalms 73:26)” Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. It’s about learning to trust God’s grace and being Spirit led. He’s given us the tools we need to follow where He leads, we just need to use them. When we fail and fall into disgrace, know that He’s not angry with you. He’s there ready to help you up, to forgive you and to surround you with His presence. Keep trusting in Him, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and quit listening to the voice of condemnation. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s a reminder for you as a Christian when you fail. This life isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about learning to trust a perfect and holy God.

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

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Fixing Our Brokenness

My son is very interested in bells. He loves learning about them and watching them ring. When we went on vacation, he found a porcelain bell and wanted to get it. I tried to talk him into one of the metallic bells, but they weren’t as pretty. When we got home, my fears were confirmed as I unwrapped the porcelain bell. It was broken. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened and I hoped he wouldn’t ask for it.

I went to the store and bought some gorilla glue. Before we left for school, I ran back into my room and glued it back together. When I got home, I went to check on it. The glue left a white streak all the way around it. When I tried to make it ring, it didn’t sound like it had. I was disappointed in my ability to try to put it back together. In my effort to fix it, I was hoping to make it as good as new, but I couldn’t.

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, you and I are born broken. We spend a lifetime trying to compensate for our brokenness, and we do everything that we can to fix or cover up our brokenness. The problem with fixing things like brokenness is that we never return to our initial potential. We think we need to be fixed, but the truth is that we need to be healed. We need to be made whole, and only God can do that.

Isaiah 9:6 contains one of the most famous prophesies of Jesus. It says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings” (MSG). I love that God’s desire wasn’t to fix us. It was to make us whole. He knows that each of us are broken, and He sent His Son to bring the healing that we desperately need.

Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Inviting God To Fight

Each day at recess, my son’s fourth grade class heads to the playground. There’s a group of boys in the class who head straight for the basketball court. All these boys are under five feet tall, and most dribble the basketball while looking at it. They’re in the beginning stages of learning the game. Imagine if one day my son asked me to play on his team. I’m a foot taller than all the kids and my skills are better than all of theirs combined. It wouldn’t be fair. It would look like that Geico commercial where they had Jerome Bettis playing flag football. It’s a funny to watch, and fun if you were the team who had him. Each play they just handed him the ball while he dragged the other team down the field.

You and I fight battles all the time, but we keep our star player on the sidelines trying to fight them ourselves. Many times we’re overcome and even overtaken in our battles. We go back to God in tears asking why would He allow us to be defeated. Sometimes we even blame Him for the things going on in our lives, but the thing we fail to do in a lot of those situations is to call on Him to come fight our battles for us. We’ve got the, “I can do this” mentality, which is what God tried to move Israel away from in the Old Testament. God whittled down Gideon’s army down to 300 men to fight against over 100,000. He was showing that the battle is the Lord’s, not ours, and when we invite Him to fight on our behalf, it doesn’t matter what the odds are, we will win.

Psalm 56:9 says, “The very moment I call to you for a father’s help the tide of battle turns and my enemies flee. This one thing I know: God is on my side!” (TPT) The tide of your battle will turn when you call for God’s help. He will fight for you, and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31)? Yes, inviting God into your battle creates an unfair advantage, but it’s something we are offered as His children. Don’t wait until the battle is over, call on Him today to come and fight on your behalf. Victory may not look like you think it should, but we are assured of victory when God is on our side. Don’t give up in your battle. Keep fighting the good fight, and invite God to come fight for you. Don’t keep Him on the sidelines.

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Forgiven To Forgive

There was a guy that I knew in my teens that I didn’t like much. He did things at other people’s expense, was cocky and rude. Then, about ten years ago, I got a friend request from him. I accepted it skeptically. He started posting ministry photos and such. In my heart I thought, “What’s his angle? Who is he trying to fool?” I questioned his motives every time I saw him talk about Jesus or a photo of the work He was doing for the Kingdom. I even showed my wife the photos and told her about him. As I was scoffing one night, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and asked, “Do I hold your past against you? How can you hold someone else’s past against them when I’ve forgiven them?” I had to let it go and forgive him. I even called him to discuss it with him and ask his forgiveness.

When I think of stories of someone forgiving a serious wrong, I think of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 32. Jacob stole his brothers blessing and took advantage of him in a desperate situation to get his birthright. Esau was so angry that he wanted to kill his brother. Jacob left town and disappeared for years. When it was time to come home, there was fear in the back of his mind about what Esau would do to him. Instead of being angry, Esau ran to embrace him. He had forgiven him long before, but never had the opportunity to express it. Jacob was still unsure and didn’t trust his brother, but ultimately accepted his forgiveness. I’m not sure when Esau decided to forgive Jacob, but when he did, a huge burden had to have been lifted.

Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love” (TPT). One of the hardest things we have to do as Christians is to forgive someone who wronged us. We’re not God so we can’t see their heart to see if they’ve changed, but even still we’re told to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Forgiveness is truly a key that opens the door and releases us more than them. It may not restore the relationship (some don’t need to be reconciled), but it will open us up to allow God to repair the emotional scars that were left behind. It doesn’t happen right away, but the healing can’t begin in our own life until we forgive. If you’re struggling to forgive someone, ask God to help you with that. Forgiveness is His specialty.

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Casual Christianity

When I was a teen, we used to sing a Degarmo and Key song called, “Casual Christian”. The chorus went, “I don’t want to be a casual Christian. I don’t want to live, I don’t want to live a lukewarm life. ‘Cause I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light. I don’t want to live a casual Christian life.” Those words always resonated with me. As we would sing it, I would make it my prayer to give God my all. I didn’t want to be someone who went to church on Sunday, and lived like I wanted Monday through Saturday. I understood that it wasn’t by works that I was saved, but I didn’t want to live a life full of sin so that grace would abound. I wasn’t always sure what a casual Christian was, but that’s what I pictured in my head.

As I was reading the book of Ruth, I began to look at both Ruth and her sister in law Orpah. Naomi, who had been living in Moab because of a famine, decided to return to Israel after her husband and two sons had died. She and her two daughters in law were packed up when Naomi decided to tell them to stay. They all cried and both women decided to go with Naomi, but Naomi made one more plea. Orpah agreed to go back to her family, but Ruth insisted on going to Israel. In Ruth 1:16 she famously replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (NLT). As I read that, I started to wonder if these two daughters in law represented a sold out Christian and a casual Christian.

Both wanted to go with Naomi, but one was enticed to stay where she was comfortable and felt at home. The other was willing to change everything about her life with an uncertain future. We don’t hear anymore out of Orpah, and we learn later that Ruth’s great grandson is King David. I believe God is calling us to live out our faith like Ruth. It’s time for us to make Him the number one priority in our life to the point we forsake all other things. We must learn to take up our cross daily, nail our own way of living to it and follow wherever He leads. If we’re going to turn this world upside down with the Gospel the way the apostles did, we’re going to have to quit being casual Christians. To make an impact, we must be totally and completely sold out to Him in how we live, love and act seven days a week. Jesus can’t just be our priority on Sunday.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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Applying God’s Word

Every once in a while, I’ll see an equation pop up that looks something like 6-1(20+2)÷2=? for people to solve. I like to read the comments to see the heated exchanges of what people think the answer is. You can’t simply work this from left to right. You have to use the acronym PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition then subtraction) to do it. You can try any number of methods and come up with a lot of different answers, but only one answer is right. The only way to get it is to remember the acronym, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” and apply it.

Every one of us have problems that show up in our lives. Whether they are complicated or easy, we must approach them through the lens of Scripture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made things worse by trying to do it my way instead of God’s. The Bible gives us principles on how to live, how to handle your finances, how to treat others, how to act in a relationship and so much more. If we would apply those principles, we would be more successful in each of them.

2 Timothy 3:14 says, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught” (NLT). Paul was reminding Timothy that it’s not enough to know the right way to do things. You must faithfully apply them. If you’re struggling in an area today, or going through a problem, I want to encourage you to see what God’s Word says about it. Take His Word and faithfully apply it to your situation. You’ll find that it is good for teaching us what is true, showing us what needs to be corrected in our lives and for training us in righteousness (verse 16).

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Seasoning With Salt

There’s a saying that says, “Always leave them wanting more.” When teaching people this principle, I like to tell the story of something that happened a couple of years ago. I was riding with my friend in his truck on a rainy day. As we were going down the road, we saw a guy carrying a duffle bag walking on the shoulder. He was getting soaked and we thought the Christian thing to do was to pick him up. He put the duffle bag in the bed of the truck where it was still getting rained on, and climbed in the back seat. My buddy told him he could bring it inside, but he declined. As we we driving, he asked him what was in the bag. The man said sternly, “It’s none of your business!” Shocked, I said, “You don’t have to be rude about it. We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to get messed up.” He repeated himself with even more attitude. My buddy pulled the truck over and told him to get out. Before he could grab the bag, we sped off!

On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled on by others” (Matthew 5:13 TPT). Salt brings out incredible flavors in food, and it also makes you thirsty. If there’s too much, it makes the food inedible. If there’s too little, or you can’t taste it, what’s the point. The question my wife and I ask all the time is, “Did you leave them thirsting for more?” As people explore faith or are around us as Christians, that’s the question we have to ask. Did our conversation, and the way we acted, make them want to know more about God?

Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (NLT). The word “attractive” means seasoned with salt. We need to make sure we’re interacting with people who don’t know Jesus so we can be salt and light. There’s little point to salt or light unless you’re around unseasoned people in the dark. Jesus didn’t spend all His time in the Temple or only with believers. He made a point to be among people who didn’t believe in God, taught them in ways they could understand and left them wanting more. We need to ask God daily for wisdom in how to live, speak and act in front of non-believers so that we make them thirsty to know more about Him. We will know it’s the right amount when they ask for more.

Photo by Jason Tuinstra on Unsplash

P.S. I know you’re dying to know what was in the bag, and it’s none of your business. 😉😂

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