prayer

Receive God’s Peace

There are two words that cause many problems for life.  “What if” If we would be able to eliminate those words, our level of stress would decrease. I mean consider all of the ways this comes up: “What if I get sick and my family needs me?  What if my car breaks down and I miss my important meeting?  What if I get robbed while walking downtown?” There are so many possibilities out there that our mind, if allowed to run free with all the possibilities, will run us ragged.  What does the Bible tells us about this?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

The cure for anxiety is prayer.  God wants us to bring everything to Him in prayer and then leave it in His hands.  He is the one who can actually do something about it anyway! God is so gracious to us in this because not only will He take our anxiety from us, but He will then replace it with His peace.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7

Are you feeling anxious today?   Take it to the Lord in prayer and receive His perfect peace.

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Take it to the Lord and receive peace 

Prayer to Keep God’s Will in View

 

Tis the season

Tis the season

You may have noticed by the amount of crazy, frivolous spending, that Christmas is coming.  Materialism has run crazy and taken lives in its wake again.  Getting deals does not make people evil.  The sinful heart does a great job of bringing it out of people.  But why?  How is it that rational people can get so short-sighted over an electronic device that will be obsolete in a matter of months?  It is a lot like getting caught in the undercurrent.  If you don’t prepare for how you might guard yourself from it, you will end up underwater.

It is no different for any other area of our life.  I know my family is currently in the midst of a transition from one ministry to the next.  That lends itself to a lot of opportunities for unguarded emotions.  What helps is to back up and look at the big picture – eternity.  We are serving the God of all the Universe.  We are obeying Him and not getting taken in by the comfort of settling somewhere where God is telling us to leave from.  That is a hard place to be at times because our ability to try to control everything gets in the way.  But there is such joy in the trust that comes from a relationship with God.   It means we need to keep our eyes on Him and not on other things.

I don’t know what that means for anyone reading this, but I do want to share how I have been praying in order to keep focused on where I need to be now.  And when I say that I don’t just mean as a pastor, but as a parent, husband and member of a community.

“He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” – Colossians 4:12 (part of it)

I have been taking time to wrestle in prayer for my family.  We want to not just sort of settle in God’s will but we want to stand firm in it.  We want to have our feet firmly planted on the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.  So, I pray that my children, my wife and those I serve in ministry with will know the will of God and stand on it with confidence.  I also have been praying for progress and growth in our relationship with God. (maturity)  As we get closer, we become more like Him.  And lastly I have been praying that we are fully assured of that will.  As we walk each day in step with the Spirit of God, we want to know that we are right where we need to be!

This type of prayer involves taking a longer range view.  It means understanding that sometimes what is right in front of you is not what you might have chosen, but you know the God who has chosen it can be trusted.

Praying Like Children

Pray continually

Pray continually

Prayer is a vital part of life; It has to be or else we lose connection with God.  It is true that people who don’t believe in God will sometimes pray because there is something in us that desires to see something powerful happen around us.   Prayer is also a place that gets neglected in lives because it is perceived as something that needs to be done in a liturgical manner.    I have heard often the longings of someone who says they want to pray more but just don’t have the time.  My question to them is always: “How much time do you actually need to pray?”

The Bible tells us to “pray continually” and to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions”.  When people read that they get even more discouraged because that sounds like something nobody can ever accomplish.  That leads to discouragement and a lack of connection with God.  We tend to complicate things a bit with our ideas. I think it is helpful to look at the prayer lives of children in order to get a better sense of what it should look like.  Yes, you heard me right – children.

We have taught our children to pray as they go about life and to be sensitive to when that needs to happen.  No, it has not happened as much as it should, but it has happened more than it ever would have without our direction.  For example, if one of them wakes up during the night because they had a scary dream, we will always remind them that God is bigger and pray with them.  This has helped them to have the confidence to do this on their own when they have felt some fear.  At other times there might be people who are hurting or need something and we will pray for them.  This past summer my son and I came upon a scene of someone we know getting air lifted to a hospital after he fell while doing some roof work.    I was pacing the house and my son looked at me and said, “dad, I prayed for him.”  I was pacing continually and he was praying continually!

The other night I was driving with my 2-year-old daughter when she said, “Thank you God” a few different times just randomly.  She was praying while we were driving back from the store.  Every night we pray with her and thank God for whatever comes to mind.  The other night she thanked God for “quack quacks” and “Jesus”.    This simple activity before bed has been integrated into more areas of her life without our forcing it to happen!

I think we can learn something from the prayer life of children.  There is no filter to their prayer; they are real.   They are not afraid to just pray out loud.  They pray with such faith and simplicity.  It is no wonder Jesus told us to have faith like children.

The lesson for me is to pray for whatever, whomever, whenever the Spirit leads.  It means to not simply go through a list of requests, but to pray as people come to mind.  It means praying with people who need to find that connection with God.  Above all it means making sure that prayer is a continual part of my life because without prayer we are powerless to accomplish God’s work!

A Prayer for the Church

This song has been on my heart today as I pray for God to build His Kingdom here!  We all know how much we need His power and work in our midst.  Let’s ask Him to work through us wherever we find ourselves today.

The Lego Jar (2/9/13) – Relentless

Over the last year the Lego Jar has chronicled many anecdotes of my boys.  There are many to share and will be many more to come.  This week I would like to highlight my daughter.  She is an active 1-year-old who has been relentless in her desire to climb things.   She especially likes climbing onto tables.

Nothing to see here 

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She plays this quite well.  I mean look at how cute she is!  How could she be up to anything?

Then you look away

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Then you try to keep her off the table

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Then she climbs on that

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Then she climbs on the table again (or a different table) 

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That is not all that happened this week.  I have three other tidbits for your reading pleasure today.

Running through the sprinkler

We were talking at lunch one day about summer and running through the sprinkler.  All of a sudden my 3-year-old was in his bathing suit with the sunscreen.  When I asked him if it was too cold he told me it was fine since he would wear his jacket.

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Then he put on new feet

Later on he came in with “new feet.”  That is what he told me.

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They drew on the washing machine

This is actually alright since it was with washable markers.  In fact, we encourage them to write on it.  This time my 5-year-old drew us doing something.  I just can’t remember what it was.

IMG_2666We also went to his curriculum night.  At the beginning they served a slice of pizza and some water.  We got our food and sat down.  The next thing out of his mouth was:” hey dad, we should pray.”  Before I could answer he bowed his head and started praying. “Dear God, thank you for this day and this food.  I pray that we have a good time here tonight.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”  I asked him if he prayed at lunch at school and he said, “no because people might think I am sleeping.”

I loved that!

Have a great weekend. 

When To Pray

IMG_2243Some of the best times with my kids is when the come over to me, on their own, and crawl up on my lap.  It is great when they want to be near me.  Sometimes these times come because they are excited, and other times they come to me because they are sad or hurting.  No matter what the circumstances, I appreciate the relationship with my children.

This becomes even more meaningful when we realize that God wants to have a relationship with us.  Not just a “here’s my list God” relationship,or a go to church on Sunday relationship, or a “thank you for this day and food, amen” relationship.  God is after an intimate relationship with us.

As we move forward from the scene of the church fire, we remember that God is over everything.  We remember that we are to pray in everything.  We seek Him in all things because He desires relationship with us and loves us.

One aspect of a relationship with someone is communication.    It is rather hard to get to know someone without talking to them.

Why do we avoid prayer?

  • What?  I can’t miss The X Factor!
  • I need to spend more time with my family…yeah, that’s it…my family.
  • I feel overweight…I need to exercise to burn off those calories I consumed today.
  • I’m too sleepy in the morning to read my Bible or pray.
  • I’m too sleepy at night to read the Bible or pray.
  • I’ve already been to church this week.  Isn’t that enough time for God?
  • This Physics textbook is so exciting.  I’ll start having quiet times more regularly after I finish it.
  • I have way too much homework.
  • I would love to, but I don’t have time.  God understands.
  • I’ve got so much to do around the house.
  • I have to go to work after school.  By the time I get home, I’m too fried to spend time with God.

There are many “reasons” why we don’t pray, but we are to pray often, without ceasing.    I think it is amazing how we so often need a crisis to really clarify this point.  We need to pray all the time!

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. – James 5:13

We pray when we are in trouble 

It doesn’t matter what that trouble is.  I know we are all quite capable of finding trouble.    Are you in trouble?  It is time to pray.

IMG_2169We pray when we are happy 

 When you are happy, you praise God.  Sing songs, whistle, and praise God for the happiness you are experiencing as a gift from Him.  We must remember to do this!  Are you happy?  Don’t save your prayer time for sad moments!

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord – James 5:14

We pray when we are sick 

 It says to call the elders to pray for you.  This is a call to pray with other people and call on God as the source of healing .

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. – James 5:15

We pray when we sin

He wants us to confess our sins to Him and to each other.  This is to build that community and dependence on God.  This helps our relationship with Him to grow.

For a picture of how this looks, we look at people who have practiced it.  One example of someone who prayed in the Old Testament was Elijah. He prayed and it rained after a severe drought.  He prayed and a boy came back to life.  Elijah’s story is incredible, but He is no different from us.  He knew God; he relied on God; He had faith in the Almighty God.  So, he is the example of someone who understands what it means to pray in faith.

Jesus spoke about the importance of prayer and modeled it often.  If Jesus needed time in prayer, we most certainly do.  This should be a joy to you, a sweet time with your Heavenly Father.

Take some time today, no matter where you are, to crawl into the lap of your Heavenly Father.  You will be received with love no matter where you find yourself today.

Why is this taking so long? Oh, I didn’t ask for help.

There is a frustration that descends on me when I find I can’t do a job  as easily as I thought.   I don’t know how many times I have started a project with the thought “this shouldn’t take long” only to find that the job takes the entire day.  It is often hard to judge the variables a job will bring about and the process some jobs take us through.

How does this go?

Right after my 5-year-old was born, we purchased a swing set for our yard.  This came with the standard “some assembly required” statement, which didn’t bother me because I had tools.  It was only a handful of pieces after all.  Things went fine for a long time, until I needed to put two metal pieces together that didn’t want to go together.  I spent an hour trying to make these two pieces fit together.  I used larger hammers, fire, and even contemplated drilling some new holes into it.   Then, in what was a moment of “ah ha”, I decided to flip the two ends around, and instantly they fit.  I couldn’t believe it!  I felt defeated and elated at the same time.   My hands were sore, my pride was wounded, but I emerged victorious.

It would seem we realize our limitations as we step back and gain some perspective.  I find this to be true in many areas in life.  I know I can very quickly try to figure some problem with my children or with my ministry, when the solution is much more complicated than my quick fix.  Then there are people who struggle with addictions or other destructive cycles, trying anything to fix the situation.   Maybe there are insurmountable obstacles to a career goal that seek to dissuade you from that.  These leave us wondering, “why is this taking so long?”

No matter what it is, all of these come down to an understanding of who are and who God is.  Who in their right mind would struggle for hours on something when there is someone who knows and can help you right there?  Of course we wouldn’t push the help away.   Yet, how often do we do this with God?

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are put into prison.  They were beaten and fastened for their proclamation of the gospel.  The guards took tremendous care to make sure this was done properly.  God let them do this and then in an instant took it all away.

“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” – Acts 16:26

These guards could have spent years setting up a prison around these guys only to watch God tear it down in an instant.  God doesn’t struggle with these things.  He speaks and it is done.

I was watching a program recently about drug addicts and their road to recovery.  One by one I listened as they told their story of pain and struggle.  I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for them because their stories were so sad and complicated.  I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if they were to entrust their burden with God instead of trying to hide it with drugs.  God doesn’t need a recovery program.  In an instant prison doors come open and chains come off!

I got this!

It might not be addiction for you, so what is it?  We are all up against seemingly impossible things.  I know I am encouraged knowing that no matter what challenge I face, God is able to instantly handle it.  We need to take it to Him and watch what He can do.

This reminds me of the first verse of the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  It would seem like we do forfeit so much peace by not taking things to God in prayer.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

What A Friend We Have in Jesus. Words by Joseph M. Scriven (Public Domain)