Monday, January 29, 2018

Be careful what you pray for...

Usually I start out my blog posts with some story or funny incident that helps to drive home the topic for that particular post. Today, I have none of those stories or incidents that will hook you and make you want to read the rest of the post. Today's post is just some unfiltered, real world experience in being careful when you pray.

I have learned in my life that one of the best ways for me to discern the will of God in decisions I need to make is to rely on God to bring peace to my heart about the direction I am leaning. I generally pray asking God to put me at peace about my decision. I ask Him if I'm leaning in the wrong direction, to make me so uncomfortable and uneasy that I couldn't possibly head in that direction. When I've been faithful to constantly pray about decisions in this way, He has been faithful to encourage me and discourage me as I've asked. The unsettling part about asking for confirmation in this way is when you are eerily at peace about a decision that ought to scare you to death. When you come to God seeking peace or a restlessness about a situation, be prepared because He will answer in the way that meets His will, and sometimes it won't be what you want it to be. You have to be careful what you pray for, because you may not get the answer you want.

Another way that we must be careful about the way we pray is when a storm of life rolls in and we ask God to help us through it. When we do we may pray for God to give us strength, grace, or even His peace to weather the storm. Recently I've prayed for peace regularly as our family has begun to once again walk through a difficult time. The remarkable and downright scary part of the way God has answered this prayer is the completeness with which He has provided. When faced with earth-shattering news, we can either fall apart or we can fall on God. The longer I live the more I find that my tendency is to fall on God. I don't say this as some type of super Christian who doesn't have a care in the world and thinks everything will always be okay. I say it from the perspective of one who has, in those moments of deepest need, turned to God, sought His provision, and received more than I deserved. With each passing instance of relying on God, He proves Himself faithful time and time again. So why wouldn't I go running to Him? When you do pray for peace, grace, strength or any other need for a difficult time in your life, be sure to share the source of your provision. If God offers peace and others notice it, then give God the credit. If God gives you an abundance of grace and others see it, then make sure God is given the glory. If God provides you with unimaginable strength, then tell others where your strength is found. We sometimes pray, receive, and then forget to give credit where credit is due. Be careful what you pray for, because when God provides, you need to give Him the glory.

I hope, if nothing else, that this week's post will encourage you to pray for guidance and provision when you face decisions, uncertainties, and challenges in life. Pray about them and pray expectantly (James 1:6-7). Pray fervently (James 5:16) and pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Watch how God answers your prayers and then give Him the credit.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Wrestling with Sin

Recently my boys, who are almost 12 and 13, have been on a wrestling kick. They want to throw down any time and any place in our house. They have even been known to double team their old man (because they can't beat me individually!) or even pull a blind side attack when you aren't expecting it. This type of wrestling was much easier when they were little. It was especially easier on me!

One night when my boys were almost 3 and 4, we were wrestling in the living room floor like we did most every night. Cooper had ran off screaming, acting like I was chasing him. While he ran off I grabbed Dru and wrapped him up with my legs and arms to where he couldn’t move. I told him he couldn’t get away from me and that Cooper couldn’t help him. While I was holding him he started hollering for Cooper to help him. As we were waiting on Cooper to come back I started relaxing my grip on him and he thought he was getting free which prompted him to say “I done it myself.” Right then Cooper came out of nowhere and started pulling on my arms and legs to help Dru get free. Once Dru was loose the two of them took off running.

God uses my sons to teach me important lessons about life and our relationship with Him. This time was no different. As soon as Dru said “I done it myself” it was like God was speaking directly to me about this example He was showing me. To better explain this example look at the three characters in this story as this, Cooper is Jesus, I was Sin and Dru was a regular person. How often do we struggle, fight, and wrestle with sin in our life no matter how big or small and it seems like we just can’t shake it. The obvious size difference between my then 3 year old son and myself serves as a great example of our struggle with sin. It always seems bigger than us and the more we fight it the more tightly it seems to hold to us. Just as we seem to be winning against the sin and seem to feel the hold loosening, we get the idea that “I done it myself” and that we didn’t need anyone’s help, much less God’s. But as with any sin that we struggle against, the sin isn’t going anywhere until Jesus is asked to do His part to help rid us of that sin.

Whether we put our faith in Christ for the first time or we as a believer ask Him to help us, Jesus will step up to pull us free from the arms, hands, daggers, and hooks that sin uses to hold of us. What we have to do is step up and admit that we can’t beat the sin by ourselves and that our only hope for getting free is through Christ doing what He does best… wrestling us free from sin.

So here's a question for you…Who’s wrestling with your sin, you or Jesus?

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Are you AWOL?

I recently was listening to Dr. Charles Stanley on the radio in my truck. The topic of Dr. Stanley's message was on prayer. In the few brief minutes I had to listen to his message, I heard a perspective on prayer I had never considered before. In the message Dr. Stanley taught how we are to spend time in prayer every day. This is nothing new to most Christians, but the perspective Dr. Stanley gave was on what that time in prayer means to our spiritual life. He talked about how spending time in prayer with God each day was like a soldier reporting for duty. 

Soldiers go to their commanding officers for orders on what they are to accomplish that day. Guard a perimeter. Attack the enemy. Hold a position. If the soldier does not report for duty they cannot accomplish the task expected of them. The military term for a soldier who does not report to their post or for their duty is Absent Without Official Leave, or AWOL.

As I listened to Dr. Stanley continue to teach on prayer, I continued thinking on the idea of spending time in prayer being like a soldier reporting for duty. I could not shake the idea of all those days in my life where I did not take seriously the spiritual responsibility I had to spend time in prayer. It stuck with me that I was AWOL every day I did not take my cares and burdens to the Lord. When I did not take time to pray, I was not fulfilling what was expected of me by my God.

When a soldier goes AWOL, there are certain consequences. Soldiers may be forced to forfeit pay, be confined for up to a year, and possibly even be dishonorably discharged. These are serious consequences for a soldier going AWOL. When we go AWOL from our prayer life, we face certain circumstances as well. We miss out on what God wants to accomplish through us that day. We miss out on what God wants to do to prepare us for the good and the bad we may face that day. We can't share with Him the burdens in our hearts or seek comfort and peace for our problems. Being AWOL from our prayer life is much more serious than most of us believe it to be.

I'll leave you with this. Ask your self honestly if you have been AWOL from your prayer life. Have you been failing to report for duty? Consider the consequences you've paid because of your absentee prayer life. After honestly reflecting on these questions, realize that today is the day you can turn it all around. Today is the day you can start reporting for duty so you can get your assignments from God and share with Him those things that mean the most to you. Whether you spend time in prayer first thing in the morning, at lunch in your car, or last thing before you go to bed at night, be sure to find a time that you can consistently spend in prayer and then report for duty.

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