Categories
prayer

Diving Deeper into Prayer

Have you ever longed to pray more effectively and deeply for your friends and family? I pray regularly for my loved ones. I’ve noticed my prayers for them are often centered more around physical, earthly concerns than spiritual, heavenly issues. I long to pray deeper prayers for those I love, but I could sure use some help figuring out how to do it.

Not surprisingly, the Bible offers inspiring examples of prayer. One of them is Paul’s prayer for his friends at the church in Ephesus.

Paul prayed often for the Christians at Ephesus. He prayed earnestly for them, diving deeply into prayer by asking God to give his friends wisdom, revelation, knowledge, and vision. His prayer explodes with power, like fireworks in a summer sky, providing us with a roadmap to pray more effectively for ourselves and those we love.

Paul didn’t pray the Ephesians would receive physical health or a promotion at work. He didn’t pray for their marriages or parenting. Those things are important and it’s certainly appropriate to pray about them, but Paul is most concerned that the Ephesians know God. He prays God will give them, “…the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Paul prays his friends will not only know about God but will personally know Him through their own experiences.

Paul also prayed that the churches in Phillipi, Colossae, and Philemon’s home would know God better. Jesus prayed for His followers to know God: “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).

With so many Biblical prayers imploring God to enable his people to know Him better, shouldn’t we consider adding this request to prayers for our loved ones and our friends? Shouldn’t we pray this for ourselves?

When we pray to know God better, we are seeking Him first—before our health, jobs, or other earthly concerns. The Bible promises that if we seek God first, all other aspects of our lives fall into place.

Praying for a deeper knowledge of God invites His blessing not only our spiritual life, but our day-to-day life as well.

Will I continue to pray for the health, safety, and prosperity of my friends and family? Of course. God cares about every aspect of our lives. He is attentive to every prayer. But I will also dive deeper in prayer by asking God for a more important blessing—the blessing of knowing Him more each day.

Heavenly Father, it’s so easy for me to fall into a routine prayer for finances, health, or safety rather than praying for deeper spiritual needs. While I may not have prayed about it in the past, I truly want to know You better each day. Give me a deeper knowledge of You. Give my friends and family wisdom and revelation so their knowledge of You increases each day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Categories
Handling Life's Problems

How Are Your Roots?

In 2020, 60% of Americans struggle with anxiety…

In my back yard, I have a peace lily I planted almost a year ago. Throughout the winter and spring, it thrived. But when the hot Florida summer blasted on us, the lily wilted. The blooms disappeared. The leaves turned yellow. I had to bring water out to keep it alive.

I also have a big old tree in my back yard. I don’t know what kind it is, but I know it isn’t bothered by changes in the weather. Spring or fall, winter or summer, rain or shine, it flourishes. It continuously provides a habitat for birds, squirrels, and lizards, it shades my back porch, and I never have to water it.

What’s the difference between the lily and the tree? The difference is in the roots.

Are we the peace lily, wilted and distressed when we face difficult circumstances? Or are we the tree, confidently thriving regardless of our circumstances? It depends on our roots.

The Bible compares a person who trusts God to a tree planted by a river.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

A tree planted by a river always has access to water because its root runs deep and far. In the hot summer, its leaves stay green. Even in a dry spell, it still bears fruit. Regardless of circumstances, it is fearless because it has roots in the life-giving river.

This is how God wants his people to live—rooted deeply in him. When our roots run deep, we aren’t afraid, anxious, or stressed out when life get bumpy and unpredictable. We’re at peace because we’re rooted in a God of peace. We experience joy during trials because we’re rooted in the source of joy.

It’s sad and a little shocking that in April, 2020, a Gallup poll found 60% of Americans plagued by stress and anxiety. This isn’t God’s plan for his people.

The antidote for anxiety isn’t yoga or valium. It isn’t even a change in our circumstances. The antidote for anxiety is trust in God. When we feel anxious about the future, we can choose to focus on God’s sovereignty. We can dare to accept that those who trust God really are blessed. We can be audacious enough to believe that God’s promise to work all things for good applies to us.

Anxiety passes as trust in God increases.

– Max Lucado

We weren’t meant to live in a constant state of anxiety. We are meant to live calmly and confidently because our roots of trust to grow so deeply our anxiety evaporates.

God wants to heal that part of us that struggles with anxiety. For some, that healing may come with the help of a counselor or a doctor—and that’s OK. For all of us, our nights don’t have to be restless and fearful, and our morning doesn’t have to bring anxiety and stress. On the contrary, God wants us to sleep in peace and greet each morning with confidence in his fresh mercy, unending grace, and complete sovereignty.

Sovereign God, help me trust you more completely. Help me truly believe you are in control and good things are in store for my life. Give me roots embedded so deeply in you that anxiety has no power over me. Guide my steps and guard my heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Christian living

The Super Power of Asking and Listening

It sounds easy, but it’s rare…

There are a lot of ways to show we care about someone. We can tell them. We can buy them a present. We can give them a hug. We can do something nice for them.

One of the best—and most neglected—ways to show we care about someone is to ask them questions and then to intentionally, carefully listen to the answers.

“What’s going on in your life?” This simple question opens a dialogue. It says you’re interested in that person. Everyone wants to share their story with someone. An interested person who asks a question could be the best thing that happened to that person that day.

Jesus asked questions all the time. “Why are you afraid?” “What do you want me to do for you?” “Where is your husband?” “Who do you say I am?” He cared about people and asked questions to show his compassion and also to lead them toward spiritual revelation.

“How are you doing?” Technically, it’s a question, but how often do we ask it, receive the stock answer, “I’m good,” and then move on without learning anything about what’s going on in that person’s life? How often are we more interested in what we will say to them than what they are saying to us?

Philippians 2:3 cautions us to, “…put others first and view others as more important than ourselves.” In verse four, we are advised to have, “…a greater concern for what matters to others instead of our own interests.”

If we want to share Jesus with others, it starts with being genuinely interested in their lives. That interest often shows itself in the form of a question.

Be on guard—the question loses its impact if it isn’t followed up with sincere, active listening. James 1:19 says, “…Be quick to listen, but slow to speak…” So often, we’re exactly the opposite. We’re quick to speak. We love the sound of our own voices. We are compelled by the importance of the happenings in our own lives. But we aren’t so good at listening to the circumstances in the lives of others.

Most people don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply.

Stephen Covey

People want to tell someone about their job, their children, what they had for dinner, and much more. They may be dealing with a sickness in the family, financial problems, or wondering about the purpose of life. Everyone needs someone to listen and to care, and we can be that someone.

Listening does more than just allow someone to vent. It creates a relationship. And a relationship may lead to an opportunity to share Jesus.

So, ask the question. Commit to listen more than you talk and to be more concerned about the other person’s concerns than your own. Asking questions and genuinely listening to the answer could be the start of change and healing in someone’s life.

 Be brave and be interested. Be compassionate. Be like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, make me a better listener. Give me a genuine interest in others. Help me ask wise questions and give me the ability to listen with empathy and compassion. Use my interactions with others to show your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
End Times

Tent Life

Hard wood floors, maybe?

I don’t know if people still go camping in tents. And I don’t know if tents have improved since my parents took me camping back a million years ago. But, from my experience, tents have no HVAC and no indoor plumbing. They leak and tear. Tents may or may not keep out the bugs. And if a bear wants to eat you, it’s like opening the refrigerator door—one swipe of a paw and dinner is served.

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed camping. But never, ever did I confuse a tent with a house. We never put hardwood floors in our tent. We didn’t hang works of art in our tent. We didn’t put a sectional and a TV in our tent. Why not? Because a tent is temporary. We don’t plan on living in a tent forever.

In 2 Corinthians, chapter five, Paul compares our earthly bodies to tents. Just like a tent, these human bodies are temporary. Our tent bodies are subject to aches, pains, viruses, wrinkles, gray hair, disease, injuries, wrinkles, and death.

“We inwardly sigh as we live in these physical “tents,” longing to put on a new body for our life in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2). We instinctively know our earthly bodies are temporary and come with limitations and problems. From scraped knees to heart disease, our “tent bodies” show their temporary nature.

That’s the bad news. The good news is these tent bodies will one day be replaced.

“For we will discard our mortal “clothes” and slip into a body that is imperishable. What is mortal now will be exchanged for immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). When Jesus returns, every believer receives a shiny-new, indestructible body. What now is susceptible to bee stings and frost bite will be impervious to both. The diseases that now wreck our tent bodies will no longer affect us.

Nothing can hurt Superman, right? That’s the kind of bodies we will have, except better, because even kryptonite won’t be able to weaken them.

When Jesus returns, death is defeated forever. Death will have no power over our supernatural bodies.

And when that which is mortal puts on immortality, and what now decays is exchanged for what will never decay, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says: “Death is swallowed up by triumphant victory!”

1 Corinthians 15:54

I hate death. I believe God hates it, too. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan for us. Death entered earth because of sin. The power of sin has already been broken. And one day, the Lord Jesus will return to earth and the power of death will be defeated forever. Our bodies will be transformed. What is now subject to injury and illness will be free from that tyranny.

Let’s not miss out on this. Let’s place our faith fully in Jesus so we are ready for his return and ready to have our earthly, fragile bodies transformed into immortality. What a day that’s going to be!

Dear God, place a picture of heaven in my heart. Let me bring you glory while I am serving you on earth but help me remember my eternal destiny. Thank you for the transformed body I will receive when you return. Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and saving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
End Times

Where Is the Promise of His Coming?

Never forget the promise…

The Bible is filled with promises—over 8,000 of them. There are promises for healing, blessing, forgiveness, peace, and provision. In different seasons of our lives, we cling to different promises.

But one of these promises is different. It is a promise that changes everything. This promise reminds us we aren’t home. It points us to the day when Jesus returns for his church and takes us to our forever home in heaven:

 “…I go to prepare a place for you to rest. And when everything is ready, I will come back and take you to myself so that you will be where I am” (John 14:2-3). The promise is sure. He WILL come back. It’s not a maybe or a hopefully—it’s a definitely!

When the time is right, Jesus WILL return for us.

Peter gives us some valuable insights about Jesus’s return in 2 Peter, chapter three.

  • In the last days, many will not believe in the promise of his return. Mockers will question the promise, pointing out that time has been marching on and Jesus hasn’t returned. (See 2 Peter 3:3-4.) Don’t be swayed by those who don’t believe Jesus is coming back. They are acting out of their own evil desires.
  • Jesus will return unexpectedly. Jesus will return like a thief sneaking into a house when the owner isn’t looking for him. He will command the dead in Christ to rise from their graves and the living Christians to join him in the air. He will take us to heaven to be with him for eternity. (See 2 Peter 3:10.)
  • The promise isn’t to scare us, but to comfort us. Regardless of what craziness is happening in the world, we know our future is secure. Though the world may be shaken, the people of God are unshakeable as they await his return. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.)
  • We live in readiness. Every new day could be the day Jesus returns. Do we really believe in the promise of his coming? If not, we are probably living more loosely than we should be. But if we believe, we will be living godly lives, filled with the love of God, and sharing the message of Jesus with those who do not know him. We will be ready. (See 2 Peter 3:14.)

We live each day knowing this could be the day our Lord returns for us. The secret of living well is a deep belief in the return of Jesus. When everyone around us is worried, we’re at peace. When others doubt, we trust. We are faithful and fearless.

We don’t obsess about our past, because it’s been forgiven. We don’t worry about the present, because God is always with us. And we don’t fear the future because our Lord is preparing a home for us. One glorious day, he will return and take all of us home. That is our promise and our hope. Let’s be ready.

Dear Jesus, I am comforted by the promise of your coming. I know you will return for me. Help me to be ready and help me point others to you so they will also be ready when you return. Keep heaven in my heart and let the promise of your return shape the way I live. I ask this in your name, amen.

Categories
Handling Life's Problems

A Change of Seasons

Seasons come and go…

I like to laugh. Who doesn’t? I like it when everything in my life is smooth and easy. Who doesn’t? Personally, I would prefer not to ever have any sadness, problems, or even challenges in my life. How about you?

Life’s not that way. Life has seasons. There are times of laughter, but also seasons of tears. There’s a season to plant and a time to harvest. Just as we see spring turn to summer, and summer turn to autumn, we see seasons come and go in our lives.

Psalm 126 describes seasons of laughter as well as seasons of mourning. See if you can identify with the season of laughter:

It was like a dream come true when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion! We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness. All the nations saw it and joined in, saying, “The Lord has done great miracles for them!” Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!

I hope you’ve had many times of joy. Perhaps a wedding, the birth of a child, deliverance from illness, a new job, or a long-awaited vacation. I hope you’re in a season of laughter right now.

But, if not, check out Psalm 126:4:

Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory! May streams of your refreshing flow over us until our dry hearts are drenched again.

Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, tells us there is a season for every activity under heaven. It says there is a season for crying and grieving, but thank God there is also a season for laughter and dancing. Seasons come and go. They aren’t forever—they’re for a certain time. As one season ends, a new one begins. Psalm 126:5-6 says:

Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing.

Friend, if you’re in a difficult season now, lift up your head and look to your Father. This season will pass. Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). A season of tears gives way to a season of laughter. A season of grief turns to a season of dancing. God has an overflowing harvest of blessing planned for your life. Be confident—God hasn’t forsaken you. He will walk with you through this season and bring you triumphantly into the next.

Dear God, strengthen my faith. Help me believe you are in control, both in seasons of laughter and seasons of tears. You are God in the storm as well as the calm. Remind me that I’m in a season and that seasons change. I lean on you for strength, guidance, and peace. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
love

Your Place in the Family Is Secure

God doesn’t love like people love…

My parents loved me. I knew they loved me. But on a few occasions, I would be disobedient. Or do something I knew would displease my parents. Sometimes, I would wonder if they would stop loving me.

Anytime I questioned their love—even in the slightest way—their response was always the same: “You don’t have to worry, little girl. Your place is secure.” Deep down I knew it. Still, the reassurance didn’t hurt. My place in the family was secure.

Our parents may or may not be good at making us feel secure in their love. Our spouses, our children, our friends may or may not be good at making us feel secure in their love. People are sometimes fickle and sometimes love temporarily or conditionally.

Thankfully, God doesn’t love like people love. God will never…NEVER…stop loving us. Through our failures, through our mistakes, through our sin, in spite of our bad decisions, our heavenly Father will ALWAYS love us.

Let’s slow-read Romans 8:35:

“Who could ever separate us from the endless love of God’s Anointed One? Absolutely no one! For nothing in the universe has the power to diminish his love toward us. Troubles, pressures, and problems are unable to come between us and heaven’s love. What about persecutions, deprivations, dangers, and death threats? No, for they are all impotent to hinder omnipotent love.”

Do you hear the words used to describe God’s love for you? Endless love. Undiminished love. Omnipotent love. Nothing can separate us from God’s eternal, steadfast, powerful, outrageous love.

Friend, our place is secure. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing we do, nothing we experience, nothing that comes against us can cause God to stop loving us. It’s just plain impossible.

So, relax. Take a deep breath and breathe it out slowly. We are held safely in God’s hand. We hold a place of honor in God’s heart. We are now, and always will be, deeply loved.

Dear God, thank you so much for your outrageous love. It fills me and surrounds me. Help me to love you and love other people with my whole heart. Help me live a life that brings glory to you. And when I mess up—and I will—remind me that absolutely nothing will stop your love for me. Remind me that my place is secure. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
God's presence

The Magnitude of Our Father’s Power

Our heavenly Father is invincible…

Maybe you remember the feeling of safety that came from knowing your dad was there and nothing could hurt you. Maybe you didn’t have that experience in your family here on earth, but your heavenly Father is always there to protect you. He is all mighty and all powerful, and his power is always available to his children.

On some level, we all know our heavenly Father is powerful, though we may not fully comprehend the magnitude of His power. The better we know God as our father, the more we understand how powerful He really is.

In Ephesians 1:19, Paul prays for believers to grasp, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” God’s power is unlike any power on earth. Think electricity is powerful? God invented it. The power of a hurricane? One word from God halts it in its tracks.

Here’s the shocker: Almighty God chooses to apply His immense power in the lives of ordinary humans. As unbelievable as it may sound, it’s true. Because of our faith, we are part of the family of God, and the immeasurable power of our Father constantly works in us and through us.

God’s power in us is a game changer. What problem could we possibly face that His power can’t handle? God’s great power raised Christ from the dead, and that same power works in us (Ephesians 1:20). At times, we may feel weak or inadequate, but God’s power remains strong and active in us—directing our steps, fighting our battles, vanquishing our enemies, and leading us to eternal life.

Heavenly Father, when I feel weak let me rest in the greatness of your power. There is nothing too difficult for you. You are omnipotent—the all-powerful Father God of the universe. I place my life and my family in your strong and loving hands, knowing there is no better place they could be. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

Categories
Christian living

Housekeeping Matters

The family keeps the house in order…

When I was a kid, my family had fun times. We went camping, roasted marshmallows in campfires, went on hayrides, and swam in almost-always-cold Lake Michigan.

But we also had a lot of work to do to keep our house in order. If everything we did was just for fun, we would end up in a mess. To make things orderly, we all had work to do. My brother cut the grass and took out the trash. I swept and did dishes. My parents worked, fixed the cars, and paid the bills.

If someone in the family was sick, we took care of them. If someone was sad, we hugged them while they cried. If someone was happy, we all celebrated.

Some people may have had maids or yard people or nannies, but not my family. If the work was going to get done, we had to do it.

The family of God is not all that different. Everyone in the family of God has a role to fill to keep the house in order. If the work is going to get done, we have to do it.

Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace...

1 Peter 4:10

Every believer has a gift to be used to serve the house. No one is exempted. God has something for each of us to do to keep the house functioning well, to help members of the house, and to reach the community with God’s grace.

Peter gives us some examples of these gifts and how to use them.

For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you…

1 Peter 4:11

There are so many grace gifts given that to make a complete list would be nearly impossible. If you are a baker, use that gift to glorify God. An artist, a carpenter, a computer programmer, a teacher, a doctor—wherever your gifting lies, be assured it can be used to bring glory to God and edification to the house.

Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves…

Galatians 6:4

It’s a blessing and an honor to be part of God’s family. It’s a privilege to be part of carrying out the work of God’s house. When we are committed to working in the house with excellence—using our own unique gifts—we are filled with joy, and the house fulfills its purpose of discipling Christians and leading the unsaved to Jesus. Everything works better when we all work together.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to be part of your family. Thank you for giving me a gift to use to serve the house. Help me work in the house with excellence. Fill me with your joy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
. God's plan

Adopted into the Family

With all the benefits that go with it…

The Bible has several stories of adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Esther was adopted by Mordecai. Jesus was treated as a son by Joseph, even though Joseph was not his biological father.

Adoption is amazing. It turns strangers into family and turns orphans into sons and daughters. But the deepest, strongest, and most amazing act of adoption is not when people adopt children, but when God adopts people.

For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One…and this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!

Ephesians 1:5-6

We are more than just God’s creation. We are more than just his servants. And God is more than just our judge. He is our father. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God’s family, with all the benefits and rights that come with being his adopted child. Our God-planned destiny from the beginning was to be adopted into his family.

It’s hard to believe, but it gives God great joy and pleasure to adopt us. We weren’t cute, cuddly, and captivating. On the contrary, we were a mess. We were all born with evil, selfish natures. Our lives expressed the depravity inside us, as we pursued any wicked thought springing from our selfish nature. We deserved God’s anger. Yet, when we were unlovable, he still loved us. God loved us so much that he adopted us. He made us his very own children.

What does that mean? When someone adopts a child, they make that child part of their family forever. They give that child their family name, invest their time in that child, bear the necessary costs to support that child, and make that child an heir of their estate. Adopting a child is a huge, weighty, life-altering decision.

God made that decision for us from the beginning. He knew how much trouble we would be and the price it would cost, but he never wavered. He adopted us and gave us the right to call him, “Daddy.” He didn’t do it out of obligation or pity. Our heavenly Father adopted us out of love. We are part of the family of God, dearly loved, forever.

If you are a Christian, you are a child of the living God, adopted into his family. Because you are his child, God loves you, protects you, and provides for you. He will never leave you. He will hear and answer your prayers. He will make a way for you. Always. That’s what a good father does…and God is a very good father.

Father, I am thankful to be adopted into your family. I’m overwhelmed that you loved me enough to adopt me and make me your child. I want to grow into your image. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and your overwhelming love. In Jesus’s name, amen.