One Thing I’m Excited about this Week

book

Last week, I challenged our church to pray for 30 minutes each day this week for Revolution Church, the city of Tucson, those who will be our guests this Sunday and for other churches.

Each day, I am sending out a short email with a verse on prayer, some specific things to pray for, a list of names (we collected the names of people who don’t know Jesus who will be invited this week and are praying for openness to an invitation and the gospel), along with 2-4 prayer requests from other churches that I contacted and asked “how can we pray for you this week.”

Here are some things I learned:

  1. I don’t personally pray enough. 30 minutes a day is a long time, but I spend time in the car, working out, reading Facebook, staring off into space. I have all kinds of time to pray, I just don’t. The same is true for most Christians. We don’t pray enough, we feel guilty about it, but we aren’t sure what to do. One of our hopes with this prayer challenge is that people will begin to see how prayer changes things, how they can make prayer a bigger part of their day and have their faith expanded.
  2. Christians need to pray more specifically than they do. It is almost like we are afraid to ask God for things. We don’t pray big, audacious, impossible, specific prayers. We pray in general terms, hoping God will answer a vague prayer request and when he doesn’t, we get frustrated. We do this to protect our heart and our faith, but we sell God short.
  3. Your church will pray if you give them something to pray about. Many pastors lament that their church doesn’t pray or people don’t step up. Most of that is on the pastor and not challenging his church. We have almost 100 people praying this week, that is incredible.
  4. Pray is how God moves. If you are a pastor, you know this. Prayer is how God moves. God wants us to pray, He wants us to ask. There are verses all over the Bible, calling us to ask and ask big.

If you want to be a part of it, send an email to Ciara Hull and we’ll add you to the list.

[Image]

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Not be Bitter When Your Prayer Isn’t Answered How You Like

book

On a regular basis, either in my life or in a conversation with someone the idea of prayers come up, specifically prayers not being answered in the time we set forth or the way that we want.

This is a crossroads everyone gets to. Maybe you pray for something to happen in your spouse, to get a spouse and nothing. It might be a child and you see no movement. A pastor prays for his church to grow and it is shrinks.

These are difficult moments.

They remind we aren’t in control.

They also lead us to a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

There is an interesting verse in the story of Samson in chapter 14:4, it happens so quickly that you can easily read right past it:

His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Samson was sinning and doing the exact opposite of what his parents wanted him to and he was breaking God’s law. This is so heart wrenching to watch when a loved one wrecks their life. You feel helpless.

There is a crucial phrase that we can miss, that Samson, his father and mother were unaware of what God was doing and how God would work in this, in spite of Samson’s sin.

One author said, “What we don’t know may prove to be our deepest comfort.”

Maybe the prayer you are praying is not ready to be answered the way you want. Maybe it will never be answered the way you want. That doesn’t mean God is not listening or God does not care. Often, I find that when prayers are not answered how I want, it causes me to grow in ways I would not have chosen.

At that crossroads, we still have a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

[Image]

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

bookI have had Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (kindle version) on my iPad for a couple of years. I heard about how great it was from other pastors. Katie read it and it changed how she prayed and connected with God dramatically. Yet, I never got around to reading it. I felt like my prayer life wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible, so I put it off.

Then, as I was preaching through the book of John at Revolution Church, I got to John 17 and decided that as I was preparing those sermons and looking at how Jesus prayed, I needed to up my game in a big way. So, I finally read A Praying Life. 

I’m really sad I waited this long to read it.

What I appreciated most about this book was how easy to read it was and how helpful it was. Most books on prayer simply make you feel bad because you don’t pray enough or correctly. I don’t need to be reminded of that. That’s why I’m reading a book on prayer. I never got that feeling from Miller in this book.

A big part of this book is understanding what it means to ask God for things as a child would a parent. That a child asks relentlessly, they have no filter, anything is possible and they ask til they see movement. As adults, we don’t ask God in prayer for things like this. This is one reason we miss the relationship with God we were created to have.

Miller says:

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.

Almost every book on prayer is based on some kind of “system” or way of praying. This book is no different.

Miller challenges the reader to use prayer cards instead of a list.

I got some three-by-five cards, and on each one wrote the name of a family member, along with a Scripture that I could use to shape my prayers for that person. I began developing a stack of prayer cards that allowed me to pray through my life—for loved ones and friends, for non-Christians I’m building relationships with, for my church and its leaders, for missionaries, for my work and my co-workers, for character change in my own life, and for my dreams. Here are the overall guidelines I use when creating a prayer card.

  1. The card functions like a prayer snapshot of a person’s life, so I use short phrases to describe what I want.
  2. When praying, I usually don’t linger over a card for more than a few seconds. I just pick out one or two key areas and pray for them.
  3. I put the Word to work by writing a Scripture verse on the card that expresses my desire for that particular person or situation.
  4. The card doesn’t change much. Maybe once a year I will add another line. These are just the ongoing areas in a person’s life that I am praying for.
  5. I usually don’t write down answers. They are obvious to me since I see the card almost every day.
  6. I will sometimes date a prayer request by putting the month/ year as in 8/07.

Why use a card over a list? Miller answers:

A prayer card has several advantages over a list. A list is often a series of scattered prayer requests, while a prayer card focuses on one person or area of your life. It allows you to look at the person or situation from multiple perspectives. Over time, it helps you reflect on what God does in response to your prayers. You begin to see patterns, and slowly a story unfolds that you find yourself drawn into. A list tends to be more mechanical. We can get overwhelmed with the number of things to pray for. Because items on a list are so disconnected, it is hard to maintain the discipline to pray. When I pray, I have only one card in front of me at a time, which helps me concentrate on that person or need.

This may not work for everyone, but it has been working in our family and life and I found this book to be extremely helpful and winsome when it comes to prayer and connecting with God.

What Prayer Changes

Made for Glory

Have you ever prayed and wondered if it did any good?

It will go something like this: Something happens. Nothing horrible or maybe something earth shattering and you pray. A child walks away from God and makes poor choices, a friend is sick, a spouse is unresponsive, your longing to get married or have a child, school isn’t going your way, there is an addiction or negative emotion that you can’t stop doing or feeling. So, you pray about it. You pray some more and some more.

And then…

Nothing happens. 

In moments like these, it is easy to be cynical, to give up and wonder if prayer really works. We wonder if we did something wrong or if we prayed incorrectly. We wonder if we should pray and feel guilty for our lack of prayer or faith.

What if in those moments, pray is doing exactly what it is supposed to do?

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 17:6 – 26 and we will see that prayer always changes someone and prayer always does something. 

Don’t forget as well that we are started our Christmas offering last Sunday. Click here to get more information as to how we will be blessing others and moving the gospel forward here in Tucson.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

How to Pray for your Wife

book

Here is some helpful advice for husbands from Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life:

When men do pray, they often simply want their own lives to be pain free. Men will work at making money, keeping the yard neat, or helping the kids in sports, but many don’t work or think about things that last.

A husband will rarely ask God for his wife to become more like Jesus. Let’s say she is critical of him. When he tries to talk to her about it, she says, “I wouldn’t be so critical of you if you didn’t have so many problems.” By raising the issue, he just got more criticism, so his heart quietly shuts down. He just doesn’t care anymore. She is who she is. So he moves on with life and flips on the television.

Without realizing it, he has become cynical about the possibility of real change in his wife. A childlike spirit seems naïve, like a distant memory. He is wise as a serpent, but he’s not harmless as a dove. He is surrounded by idiots, and his only choice, like the Greek stoics, is to tough it out. Low-level evil has worn him down.

To engage God in prayer about his wife’s attitude feels like opening up an old wound. Just telling this to God is frustrating because it feels so hopeless, the spiritual version of banging your head against the wall. It is simply easier not even to think about it. Mixed in with his frustration is guilt. Some of what she says is true. He isn’t sure where her sin ends and his begins.

The husband also hesitates to pray because he’s been told that he shouldn’t try to control his wife. But the point of prayer is shifting control from you to God. Moreover, doesn’t the Father want all of us to become more like his Son?

Where should the husband begin? Like a little child, he should ask God for what he wants. It might help to write down in a prayer notebook or on a card what he wants changed in his wife and to find a scripture that describes Christ in her. Then he could start praying that scripture for her every day and also invite God to work in his own heart.

This prayer request will become a twenty-year adventure. The adventure begins with asking God, Do I have a critical spirit too? Do I respond to my wife’s critical spirit with my own critical spirit? Usually, what bugs us the most about other people is true of us as well. By first taking the beam out of his own eye (see Matthew 7:1-5), the husband releases in his wife’s life the unseen energy of the Spirit. The kingdom is beginning to come.

The husband can let God use his wife’s criticism to make him more like Jesus. Instead of fighting what she says, if at all possible he can do it. We can’t do battle with evil without letting God destroy the evil in us as well. The world is far too intertwined.

Deep down, we instinctively know that God works this way, and we pull back from prayer. Like Jonah outside the city of Nineveh complaining about God’s mercy, we say, “God, I knew you would do that. As soon as I started praying for her, you started working on me.”

By taking his wife’s criticism seriously, the husband might feel he is losing his identity, becoming a Christian codependent, mindlessly trying to be good. He is not. He is simply following his Master, who “rose from supper . . . laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5). Jesus’ love is so physical. Our love must be as physical as his.

The husband is not “under his wife’s thumb”; he is entering into Jesus’ life. The husband can’t believe the gospel unless he is also becoming the gospel. In other words, once you’ve learned that God loves you, you need to extend his love to others. Otherwise, the love of God sours. By extending grace to his wife, the husband is being drawn into the life of the Son. He will become Christlike.

The husband can’t leave a vacuum in his heart either. He must replace his critical spirit with a thankful spirit. One of the best ways of doing that is writing out on a card or in a prayer notebook short phrases of how he is thankful for her. By thanking God daily for specific things about his wife, he will begin to see her for who she is—a gift.

At first glance this feels like the husband is whitewashing reality. Life feels uneven, unfair. After all, the wife is the one with the critical spirit; not only is he putting energy into reflecting on his tendency to be critical (which isn’t half as bad as hers), but he’s also working at being thankful for her. The only thing he has going for him is his pitiful little prayer.

A thankful heart is constantly extending grace because it has received grace. Love and grace are uneven. God poured out on his own Son the criticism I deserve. Now he invites me to pour out undeserving grace on someone who has hurt me. Grace begets grace. This husband is taking a journey into the heart of God.

Welcome to the life of God! That’s what a life of grace feels like, especially in the beginning. That pitiful little prayer is tapping into the power center of the universe. If the husband hangs in there, he will be amazed at the creative energy of God. Grace will win the day.

Praying steadily for his wife will help him to become more aware of her as a person. Peter challenges husbands to treat their wives with “honor . . . since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). You can’t separate prayer from love.

Watch what happens over time. By getting his ego out of the way, the husband makes room for the Spirit to work in his wife’s life. God will start doing things far more effectively than the husband ever could. No one teaches like God.

Over time the husband might discover that his courage and wisdom are growing. He’ll find the best phrasing, the best timing to be gently honest with his wife. He’ll move from trying to win a battle to loving a friend. The kingdom is coming!

[Image]

Take Time to be Holy

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children; help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy guide;
And run not before Him whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow still follow thy Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

-William D. Longstaff

When You Shouldn’t Pray

You might read that title and think I’ve lost my mind. Why would I tell you not to pray? Aren’t pastors always telling people they should pray and pray more? Yes. There is a good chance you don’t pray enough in your life. As there’s a good chance I don’t pray enough in my life.

That’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is when you shouldn’t pray.

What I mean is that we often pray about things that Scripture is very clear on. Then, when we feel like God hasn’t given us an answer to our prayer (because He’s already given us an answer in Scripture), we decide to do something. Usually, not always, but usually this leads to us sinning in some way.

Here’s a few examples from recent conversations:

I talked to a guy who is a Christian, he’s dating a girl who is not a Christian. When I asked him why, he told me, “I prayed about it and I didn’t feel like God told me not to, so I’m moving forward with it.” The reason God didn’t tell him, is because he has already made it clear in Scripture that Christians shouldn’t date or marry a non-Christian.

Another:

A guy told me that he was praying about God using him more at his job to be a witness and serve his co-workers. The problem was that God didn’t seem to do anything. He told me, “God just isn’t speaking to me about how to do that.” One of the reasons might be I told him is that God simply wants him to just start serving people, start loving his co-workers. Nothing big, just small ways of loving people.

Another:

I talked to a church planter who worked only part-time while planting his church. He told me the difficulty he and his wife had when it came to finances, as she worked full-time, but he didn’t. When I asked him why, he told me, “I’ve prayed about it and God told me to wait and not look for a full-time job now.” When I pressed him on 1 Timothy 5:8 that says a man who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever, he told me, “God told me to just plant and for her to work.”

Another:

I talked with a couple who have 3 kids. One in school, two who aren’t. They were debating about whether or not the wife should go back to work. They told me they were going to have her go back to work because they prayed about it and God didn’t tell them no. When I asked them why they thought God didn’t move them in prayer, they gave me a blank stare. I explained to them how Titus 2 calls a wife to make her first priority her family at home, clearly when small kids are in the picture.

These are just a few examples of recent conversations, but my point is this: Many times we don’t need to pray about something, we simply need to apply what Scripture already says. We get so caught up in figuring out God’s specific will for something when he has already communicated clearly how we should live in Scripture.

No, your life is not the exception. You don’t get to disprove Scripture and live outside of it. When people tell me, “I know Scripture says this, but here’s why I’m _______________.” They’re simply telling my why it’s okay for them to sin.

Do you agree? Do we need to pray about things that God has clearly written in Scripture?

Enhanced by Zemanta

4 Things I’ve Learned One Week into Lent

book

At Revolution, we challenged our church to give something up for Lent. While most people give up caffeine or chocolate and then spend 40 days complaining about how much they are suffering, we took the angle of asking, “What takes up time in your life? What could you live without and replace that time with Jesus?” For me, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Here are 4 things I’ve learned one week into it:

  1. Facebook wastes a lot of moments in my day. I took Facebook off my phone and iPad and off my app of choice, Flipboard. I find that without thinking I go to check Facebook. It is amazing to me how automatic it is. As I think about it, it really is sad to me how much a part of my life social media has become. I can get lost in it without thinking about it.
  2. I care about how many likes I get on things. This is hard to admit, but I like when people like things on Facebook that I post. I want people to be impressed with things. This week has been good because I don’t know what people are thinking about what I post. I’m curious. It is teaching me that it doesn’t matter.
  3. I have no idea what people are doing, which makes me think I have some fake community in my life. While fake social media community is now the way we do community, it isn’t really community. I have over a thousand Facebook friends, many of them I’ve never met. This is cool on one hand, but it also keeps me from getting community. It makes me feel like I don’t need it. I now have to connect with people  give them a call, go out for coffee or have someone over to find out what is happening in their lives. While Facebook is a time saver in this regard, it also keeps you from actually having community.
  4. My life is connected through Facebook. People have asked me about why things are posting on Facebook if I gave it up. I have given it up, but I realized how much my life is connected through Facebook. My blog, twitter, linkedin, signing into hootsuite and a whole host of other apps have to have my Facebook login. Disconnecting from Facebook was more work than I felt like it was worth. So yes, I’m not reading it.

Question: What did you give up for Lent? What are you learning during this season?

A Prayer to Start Your Monday

Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to heal ourselves. Instead of trusting in the death of Jesus Christ, we have tried to work off our guilt. We have tried so hard to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. Instead of trusting in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have tried to change through our own efforts. We have tried to change our hearts through sheer willpower. Forgive us for trying to heal ourselves. Forgive us for neglecting your grace. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

From Journey to the Cross

I Can’t Sleep

book

Sleep is an important part of overall health. In spite of this and people knowing this, most people complain that they don’t get enough sleep. One of the things we talk about at Revolution is how to redeem all parts of our lives, sleep or lack of sleep is one of those areas.

So, what do you do if you can’t sleep?

If you are like most people, you take a pill, watch some TV, drink some tea or warm milk. Maybe you read a book.

I used to get up and watch TV a lot when I couldn’t sleep. But, a couple of nights ago I couldn’t sleep so I tried something different.

I prayed.

Now, I know that sounds really spiritual. Many people complain about lacking a connection to God and then we waste all kinds of time. I simply asked God, “Is there some reason I’m up for? Is there something or someone I need to be praying about or for?”

Every person or situation that came to mind, I started praying about it. Whatever I knew about them or that situation.

At some point, I fell asleep.

And yes, falling asleep while you are praying is okay. What better way to fall asleep than talking to your Father?

[Image Credit]

Enhanced by Zemanta