HOW TO PRAY IN YOUR LIFE

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NIV)

All you have to do to pray, is start an honest conversation with God.  None of us are hiding anything, God knows all. You don’t have to pretend with Him, you can be completely honest.  Some of my conversations with God have started with these words, “I know You already know, but I (fill in the sin), please forgive me.”  There is freedom when you’re completely honest about what you have done, to whom you have done it, and why you did it. Confession is freeing and God is all forgiving.  Prayer is starting a conversation with God.

Prayer is starting a conversation with God.

Jesus gives the disciples an example of prayer to answer their request in today’s verse:

“Father,

Reveal who you are.

Set the world right.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”

Luke 11:2-4 MSG

The Message translation gives a different perspective on the traditional Lord’s prayer.  The wording is more straightforward and a little easier to understand. First we acknowledge and honor who God is and ask Him to reveal Himself to us.  Then we pray for His will to be done and His provision in our lives. And we ask Him to forgive and protect us, from ourselves and the devil. If having a formula for prayer will help you start your conversation with God, this is the model to use for it.

I’m a prayer because I’m a worrier.  Worry is actually sin, it’s not trusting in God.  Worry, in my life, is my cue I need to pray:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7 NIV).

We’re living in a time of worry and fear, use it as your cue to pray.  Lift up your worries to God. Thank Him for what He has done in your life.  Give Him whatever is weighing down your heart, then ask Him for His peace. Let His peace guard your heart and mind.  Don’t allow the devil to steal your joy today, no matter what the focus is. Keep the Son in your eyes by giving Him your cares and worries.

Prayer is starting a conversation with God.  If you want a place to start, try this: “Hey God, it’s me.” Then go from there.  Pour your heart out to the One who loves you more than anyone. The One who created you, the One who calls you His.

Question of the Day:

What’s stopping you from saying, “Hey God, it’s me”?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26 NIV, Luke 10:38-11:13 NIV, Psalm 76:1-12 NIV, Proverbs 12:15-17 NIV

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WANT TO JUSTIFY OURSELVES

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NIV)

When we want to justify ourselves, we get put in our place.  The gentleman speaking is a lawyer trying to justify himself.  He’s using his legal expertise to interrogate Jesus. He wants to know who he has to love and who he doesn’t.  He’s looking for a loophole in the greatest commandment:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

If we try to justify our actions, we get put in our place.

The lawyer doesn’t want  to love everyone. He wants to love those he wants to love. He wants Jesus to define clearly who his neighbor is so he knows who he has to love and who he doesn’t.  Jesus’ reply to him is the tale of the good Samaritan. Here’s a short video that is worth the 1:39 it takes to watch, a beautiful depiction of the story.  The Samaritan, who is despised in this culture at this time, is the only one who helps an injured man along the road.  Two other religious men had walked past and not offered to help. The Samaritan not only helped him on the road, but he took him to lodging and made sure he had everything needed.  He paid his bill with his own money. Jesus used this story to define, not only for the lawyer, but us, who our neighbor is: everyone.

This lawyer was looking for a pass on having to love everyone, Jesus didn’t give it to him.  He was trying to justify why he could treat some people differently than others, Jesus put him in his place.  There is no loophole when it comes to loving people. The fact that the lawyer was looking for justification indicates he knew he was wrong.  When we’re trying to justify our actions, it’s often an indication that we’re wrong.

Justification is trying to prove you’re right.  But life isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about loving God and loving people.  Jesus wants us to find a way to love everyone, no matter what the situation. Sometimes the best way to love people is from afar.  Sometimes the best way to love them is tough love. Sometimes the best way to love people is by saying nothing at all. But without a doubt, no matter who they are, the best way we can love them is praying for them.  We can pray they know Jesus.  

Question of the Day:

Who can you pray for today that needs Jesus?

Further Reading:  Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19 NIV, Luke 10:13-37 NIV, Psalm 75:1-10 NIV, Proverbs 12:12-14 NIV

HOW TO BE RESOLUTE IN YOUR LIFE

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 NIV)

If you want to be resolute in your life, follow Jesus.  Resolute means to be admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.  Jesus is admirably purposeful, determined and unwavering as He walks to His death.  Stop for a moment and think about what He is doing, really think about walking to your death.  Not only do you know you’re going to die, but that it’s going to be a torturous death. You are going to hang on a cross, with nails through your hands and feet, your head bleeding from the thorny crown.  How would you be walking? I’m not ashamed to say, I wouldn’t be walking. I’d be doing everything possible to not have to do that. Not Jesus, He’s walking towards His fate. He is doing what none of us would ever want to do, and He’s doing it resolutely.  If you want to be resolute, follow Jesus.

If you want to be resolute, follow Jesus.

Age, for me, in many ways is a blessing.  I don’t worry as much as I used too, I see my past mistakes much clearer.  I have the advantage of hindsight and it’s illuminating to me. One thing has never changed, I hate doing what I don’t want to do.  And I have a very strong will. I have fought this fight my entire life, I’m still fighting it. I want to do what I want to do, and I get frustrated when I can’t.  But that isn’t Jesus, it’s not who He is. In order for me to be more like Jesus, I have to learn to do what I don’t want to do. And I have to do it resolutely, but how?

We don’t do it on our own.  Jesus may have had to walk to the cross alone, but He did it so we would never have too.  He did it so that He could always walk with us. Jesus walked resolutely because He knew the end game.  He knew He would rise again, overcoming death and creating a bridge to God no one could destroy. He did once and for all what is impossible for us to do alone.   The beauty of our walk with Christ, we’re never alone, no matter what we’re doing.

You can walk resolutely today, no matter what you’re facing, because Jesus is with you.  You are not alone. You are never alone. He is always with you. Just because you can’t “feel it” all of the time doesn’t make it any less true.  He promises He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5 NIV).  Therefore, you can walk resolute knowing Jesus is with you.

Question of the Day:

What is Jesus walking with you through today?

Further Reading:  Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30 NIV, Luke 9:51-10:12 NIV, Psalm 74:1-23 NIV, Proverbs 12:11 NIV

HOW TO HAVE A MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE IN YOUR LIFE

“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Luke 9:29 NIV) 

If you want to have a mountain top experience, you have to pray.  Jesus’s mountain top experience began with prayer. He begins praying and his appearance changes.  He is with Peter, James and John on top of the mountain. When Jesus prays, He has an encounter with Moses and Elijah while the disciples are sleeping.  They wake up to this scene, Jesus in His glory standing with two men. This is where the term “mountain top experience” comes from in church language. People use it to express when they’ve had a moment with God that is all encompassing and hard to explain. If you want to have a mountain top experience, you have to pray.

If you want to have a mountain top experience, you have to pray.

One of my most memorable mountain top experiences happened at a women’s conference.  The conference was held at a large church, women gathered from all around for two days.  We prayed, we worshipped, we listened to teachings on how to grow closer to God. We all came away from that weekend filled with God’s spirit, ready to take on the world.  I will never forget the speaker’s words as she closed us in prayer. She told us that we were on the mountain top because of our weekend of prayer and worship together. When we leave, we’ll go back to our individual lives.  We can’t stay on top of the mountain, we have to go back down into the valley. But the time we had on the mountain top can help us when we’re in our deepest valleys.

We need mountaintop moments to sustain us in the valleys of life.  They are moments so filled with God’s presence, they carry us through when we can’t feel it.  The disciples wanted to build a shelter so they could stay on top of the mountain, but they couldn’t.  They spent the night, then headed down the mountain the next morning. Jesus’s ministry wasn’t finished, He still had work to do.  The first thing He does is heal a demon possessed boy. The entire story can be found in the Further Reading section below.

If Jesus had stayed on the mountain top, the boy would never have been healed.  If we stay on our mountaintops, who will we miss helping? Who will we miss pointing to Jesus in time of need?  As I write, we’re in week one of social isolation. People need encouragement in today’s world. They need hope, they need light, they need direction.  What people need is Jesus. We have to leave our mountain top experiences so we can lead people to Jesus. And all of it starts with prayer. If you want to have a mountain top experience, you have to pray.

Question of the Day:

When was your last mountain top experience?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20 NIV, Luke 9:28-50 NIV, Psalm 73:1-28 NIV

Proverbs 12:10 NIV

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ASK GOD TO BLESS YOUR EFFORTS?

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Luke 9:16-17 NIV) 

When you ask God to bless your efforts, you get leftovers.  Jesus asked God to bless what they had, five loaves and two fish. Luke tells us there were about 5,000 men there (Luke 9:14 NIV).  Culturally, during that time, the men wouldn’t have been alone, their wives and children would have been with them.  Scholars have argued that Jesus fed 15,000 – 20,000 people if you include them. Either way, it’s still a miracle. Once everyone was done eating, there were 12 basketfuls of leftovers.  When you ask God to bless your efforts, you get leftovers.

When you ask God to bless your efforts, you get leftovers.

I ask God to bless my efforts as I follow Him.  Following Jesus can be hard for me. For one thing, being a Christ follower requires that I love everyone (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).  Quite frankly, there are a lot of people I just don’t like.  People are rude, self absorbed and obnoxious. I am sure there are people on this earth who would say I fit that description as well.  People, including me, are hard enough to like, much less love. I need Jesus’ help if I’m going to love them. I need Him if I’m going to love people with something leftover.

Jesus loved people well.  For one thing, He died for us (John 3:16 NIV).  He loves us perfectly, His perfect love driving out all fear (1 John 4:18 NIV).  His love protects, trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:7 NIV). To love people as Jesus loves us is difficult.  We can’t do it without His help, without His strength.  

And remember, Jesus was persecuted.  Jesus’s life was not a bowl of cherries.  He was persecuted from the minute His ministry started until the moment He died on the cross.  The more He was persecuted the less followers He had:

“Jesus fed 5000, but only 500 followed Him after lunch. He had 12 disciples but only 3 went further in garden, and only one stood with Him at the foot of the cross.  The closer you get to the cross, the smaller the crowd becomes.” T.F. Tenant

If anyone had a reason to complain about people, it was Jesus.  And He loved us anyway. And He wants us to do what He did. The only way I can do that is if I ask Him to bless my efforts. When He does, I have leftovers.

Question of the Day:

How do you need Jesus to bless your efforts?

Further Reading:  Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20 NIV, Luke 9:7-27 NIV, Psalm 72:1-20 NIV, Proverbs 12:8-9 NIV

WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HARM YOU?

“My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.” (Psalm 71:24 NIV)

When people want to harm you, they will be shamed and confused.  My mother had a saying, “The truth always comes out.” She was right, it does.  When the truth comes out, those who were trying to harm you with their lies will be shamed and confused.  

When we’re in conflict with someone, we don’t always think rationally.  The truth can be hard to find amidst a sea of lies, but it is there. Jesus came to reveal the truth:

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37 NIV)

To find the truth, seek Jesus.

I didn’t get married until I was 42 years old.  In my late 20’s I had thought I’d met the man of my dreams, but instead he shattered my heart.  I spent most of my 30’s recovering from that heartbreak. When I met my husband and we started dating, Jesus used him to illuminate the hurt I was projecting onto others.  Because I had been hurt so deeply, I viewed life from within that hurt. Jesus had to help me see the truth of the situation. He used my husband’s tender love to help. I can remember the first time my husband said to me, in the midst of an argument, “Don’t project what someone else did to you onto me.”  No one had ever loved me enough to say that to me before. My husband did. And as a result, I began to see truths in my life I had never seen. I began to heal as the truth was revealed to me.

When people try to harm us with lies, they will be shamed and confused.  The truth always comes out. One truth that is hard to accept, we have all harmed people.  All of us except Jesus. Jesus never hurt anyone, He loved everyone. When we seek Him, He’ll lead us in the way of truth.  He’ll reveal to us the areas of our lives where we are hurting. He’ll lovingly show us how we’re hurting others because of the hurt we’ve felt.  He’ll lead us on the path of truth, which helps us to heal. He’ll turn the shame and confusion of hurt into His loving grace and mercy. When we project our hurts onto Jesus, He doesn’t retaliate.  He absorbs them, then with love, shows us the truth.

Question of the Day:

What truth is Jesus trying to reveal to you?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23 NIV, Luke 8:40-9:6 NIV, Psalm 71:1-24 NIV, Proverbs 12:5-7 NIV

HOW TO CALM THE STORM IN YOUR LIFE

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.”  (Luke 8:24 NIV)

If you want to calm the storm in your life, wake up Jesus.  Today’s scripture is one of the most famous Bible stories. People who have never stepped foot in a church have heard about how Jesus calmed the storm.  The scene has been portrayed in movies time and time again. The storm is raging and Jesus is sleeping. His disciples are panicking, not knowing what to do, they wake Him up.  If you want to calm the storm in your life, wake up Jesus.

If you want to calm the storm in your life, wake up Jesus.

What does waking up Jesus mean in our lives?  One reason He may be napping in our own lives is because we’re trying to do it in our own strength.  We’ve forgotten Jesus is in the boat with us. We live in a time and place where things are easily acquired.  In America, there is an abundance of everything. Very few of us are actually worrying how we’re going to get our daily bread each day.  Very few of us are wondering what we will wear. Very few of us don’t have a roof of some sort over our head. We live in a country of abundance.  When we have as much as we do, we forget who it was that provided it for us. We forget Jesus.

But now our country is in a crisis.  A pandemic is sweeping the world. I’m writing this during social isolation from the coronavirus.  The media, for me, increases my anxiety if I watch too much of it. People are panicking, our livelihoods are being threatened, I have no idea what will happen by the time this blog posts.  One thing I do see happening, people are remembering Jesus is in the boat with us. They are waking Him up to calm the storm. And Jesus, in His grace and mercy will:

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).

Jesus is waiting for us to remember He’s in the boat with us.  He’s waiting for us to humble ourselves, to pray and seek Him. When we do, He’ll calm the storm.

Question of the Day:

What storm do you need Jesus to calm for you today?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32 NIV, Luke 8:22-39 NIV, Psalm 70:1-5 NIV, Proverbs 12:4 NIV

WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO PLAN WICKED SCHEMES?

“Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.” (Proverbs 12:2 NIV)

People who plan wicked schemes will be condemned.  The phrase “give themselves enough rope to hang themselves,” means: to allow someone to accomplish his or her own downfall by his or her own foolish acts.  When you give someone room to fall, they eventually will, but it may be tortuous to watch.  We think that people get away with unjust things in life. I’ve been asked many times why people get away with wicked schemes.  Here is the truth, they don’t. They may appear to get away with their evil plans from your perspective, but God is watching. They aren’t getting away with anything in His eyes.  He knows. People who plan wicked schemes will be condemned.

People who plan wicked schemes will be condemned.

I am constantly amazed at the wicked schemes people come up with in life. Murder is a wicked scheme.  God is clear about His thoughts on murder since He put it in the 10 Commandments. Jesus confirmed the severity of murder, and takes it to a whole new level:

“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.”  (Matthew 5:21-22 MSG)

Words kill, they steal life from our relationships.  We judge and condemn people who have planned wicked schemes, not realizing, we’re doing it too. The old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words cannot hurt me,” is a lie.  Words can hurt more than sticks and stones. They leave lasting impacts that reverberate through a lifetime after the initial bruise heals. I am still traumatized from one of my friends in middle school telling me I have a big nose.  I don’t remember much from middle school, but I remember that because it made me feel ugly. His words hurt deeply, they made me ashamed of how God made me. I still have to remind myself I’m God’s masterpiece, a young boy’s thoughtless words don’t define me (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

People who plan wicked schemes will be condemned, we just may not see it.  We are all walking wounded. We all have been hurt by someone’s wicked schemes, and we’ve hurt people with our wicked schemes.  I have moments where I have said things that have hurt people, which I regret. The fact that I can’t take those words back, tortures me.  One of the ones that tortures me the most happened almost 20 years ago. I did what the scripture says, I “carelessly called a brother” a name.  He’s forgiven me, but I still haven’t completely forgiven myself. Those who plan wicked schemes will be condemned, we just may not see it.

Question of the Day:

What wicked scheme are you still trying to forgive yourself for today?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22 NIV, Luke 8:4-21NIV, Psalm 69:19-36 NIV, Proverbs 12:2-3 NIV

HOW TO REACT WHEN A MOMENT MOVES YOU

 “As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:38 NIV)

When you are moved by the moment, cherish it.  This woman, who was living a sinful life that everyone knew about, had boldly entered into Jesus’s presence.  She wept as she anointed His feet, she knew the depth of her sin, yet she knew He loved her. She cherished her moment with the Lord, her actions showed that.  Her actions were filled with grace and humility because that is what Jesus had shown her. His grace and humility had given her new life. A life that wasn’t filled with people judging and accusing her constantly for the sinful way she had lived.  Jesus gave her a life that forgave her of those sins, that freed her of that bondage. Her joy in her new found freedom caused her to be moved by the moment. And when her joy moved her, she cherished it. When moved by the moment, cherish it.

When moved by the moment, cherish it.

I felt awkward during worship the first Sunday morning my husband and I watched church online due to social isolation in the U.S.  We were watching Northpoint Community Church with Andy Stanley. The opening song was “Stand in Your Love” by Josh Baldwin.  This happens to be one of my all time favorite songs. I love to sing loud and proud.  However, we weren’t in church, we were in our living room and my husband was watching.  He was a music major in college, I was not. Singing in front of him was very uncomfortable.  But all of a sudden, the song did to me what it always does. It led me into a place of worship, right there in my living room, that made time and place disappear.  All of a sudden I was singing with an upturned face, while tears streamed from my eyes. I lifted my arms and praised Jesus like no one was watching. I was moved by the moment, and I cherished it.  

We never know when moments like the one I described are going to happen.  I call them God moments, a term my friend Lynda taught me. When something happens that you just know is God.  A moment where we connect with God so deeply, so purely, it changes us. When we have God moments, we need to cherish them. Not only are we acknowledging His presence in our life when we do, but we’re also giving Him the praise He deserves.  Just like the sinful woman did in today’s verse.

Question of the Day:

What God moment have you had lately?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20 NIV, Luke 7:36-8:3 NIV, Psalm 69:1-18 NIV, Proverbs 12:1 NIV

WHO IS FIRST PRIORITY IN YOUR LIFE?

“You shall have no other gods before me.”  (Deuteronomy 5:7 NIV)

When asked the question, who is the first priority in your life, your answer is telling of who owns your heart.  God comes to my mind when asked that question. He comes to my mind because I’ve been seeking Him for a lifetime, sometimes harder than others.  At this point in my life, I seek Him daily, all day. I start with my quiet time, end with my study time, all entwined in Him. When I’m asked who is my first priority, God is my answer.  What is yours?

God wouldn’t have always been my answer.  For a very long time, “me” would have been the answer.  At other times it may have been a boyfriend. During the time my mother was sick, she would have come to mind.  Now that I am married, there are times that my husband has been the answer to the question. The truth is, keeping God centered as the first priority in our lives takes work.  Focus your attention on God, He will become your first priority.

Focus your attention on God, He will become your first priority.

Today, as I write, is the first Sunday of social isolation in the U.S.  My husband and I were discussing how different pastors were handling the situation.  In that conversation, my husband gave me a new term that he has coined:

Cross Vision: we think we know the nature of God in our lives but the only true revelation we have of God’s nature is the cross.  When you look at the cross, you see God’s love for everyone, no exceptions.

People during the pandemic have all different interpretations of what is going on from God’s standpoint.  The truth is, no one knows. What we do know is Jesus died on the cross for us because He loved us. He did that so we would know how to love others.  I don’t know what will have happened in the world by the time this posts. I do know, over the next days and weeks God is going to give us the opportunity to love others.

When we focus on God, He becomes our first priority.  When God becomes our first priority, we gain cross vision.  When we have cross vision, we begin to understand love. When we begin to understand love, the world becomes a better place.  

Determine who is first priority by asking yourself the difficult question.  Then decide where you need to focus. No matter what your answer was, Jesus is always waiting.  Just put on your cross vision lens and see the love He has for you. Once you do, you’ll have to share it with others.  Focus on God, He will become your first priority.

Question of the Day:

What kind of vision do you have today?

Further Reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25 NIV, Luke 7:11-35 NIV, Psalm 68:19-35 NIV, Proverbs 11:29-31