Archives For Prayer & Fasting

spiritual growthLet’s face it. We all get busy. Too busy. It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. Life has been a little hectic as Carol and I are building our fourth house. And I have finally moved my study into the basement even though it is unfinished. The house is nowhere near complete. But I needed to use my extra time to get the house under roof.

At any rate, I have been busy just like you. Which means that just like you I would like to be able to find simpler ways to do things.

My guess is most believers could not readily identify their spiritual growth plan. While the 7 steps I am offering are not a complete list, this is like Personal Spiritual Growth 101.

But let’s move on to the 7 steps.

  1. Bible reading. With so many plans and ideas available, you should be able to find one you like. What I like may be vastly different from what you like. However, you could simply start by reading two chapters a day from the New Testament.
  2. Prayer. I suggest you start with just 15 minutes a day. Yes, that sounds like a lot. But a very helpful way to pray is use the acrostic, ACTS. A is for adoration, C is for confession, T is for thanksgiving, and S is for supplications or specific requests.
  3. Journal. You may not want to write down your thoughts or prayers every day, but you could journal once a week. Trust me, years later you will enjoy reading what you wrote.
  4. Exercise. Yes, this needs to be a part of your spiritual growth. Your physical fitness will impact your spiritual growth.
  5. Study. This goes beyond reading to observation, interpretation, and ultimately application because we want to DO what the Bible teaches. Perhaps you can study with someone else over a cup of coffee or in a small group. If that’s not possible right now you can also study alone with some good Bible study books. Some authors to check out may be John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, or Kay Arthur.
  6. Fast. Most have never tried fasting. I assure you it will make a difference in your life. You could simply make it a habit to fast at the beginning of every year. The point is you make this a part of your spiritual growth plan.
  7. Read good books. Start with shorter books as most never finish books that are longer than 250 pages. Plus you will feel a sense of accomplishment after you finish your first book. There are many to chose from. Start with a topic or book of the Bible that interests you.

That’s it. Not complicated. But you do have to start.

Why not start today?

others-pixabayLet’s be honest. We all need someone in our lives who believes in us. Actually it could make all the difference.

John Lynch is a former NFL football player. But let’s start at the beginning of his story.  Lynch went to Stanford University to play football as a quarterback. However, he never made it onto the field for the first two years.

After his sophomore year the coach suggested that he move to free safety, a position on the defense. But still he rarely played. He got on the field only about thirty percent of the time.

Since he was also gifted at baseball, Lynch decided to go pro and signed a contract with a professional baseball team, the Florida Marlins.

This happened at the same time Stanford got a new football coach, Bill Walsh.

Coach Walsh got wind of his decision to leave and called him into the office. Walsh had just spent hours reviewing the team’s game films and was convinced that Lynch was the best defensive player Stanford had.  That day Walsh persuaded Lynch to stick with football.

As they say, “the rest is history.” Lynch went on to play in the NFL and become a star player for many years. Of course, that doesn’t mean his path to stardom was easy.

In his second year in the pros he did not even know if he would make the team.

Once again, a new coach arrived in town and saw his potential.

John Lynch repeatedly discovered the power of others.  His rise to fame may never have happened without the influence of others, particularly those 2 coaches.

In the Bible it’s rather amazing that one day Jesus looked at a fisherman named Peter and saw incredible potential. And then He invited Peter to join His team. He became one of the 12 disciples, wrote 1 & 2 Peter, and became one of the pillars of the early church.

Later the apostle Paul met a young man, Timothy, and invited him along to participate in the ministry.  Timothy became Paul’s ministry assistant and the pastor of the church at Ephesus.

Sometimes we simply need the right people around us.  People who see potential in us and believe in us.

You can’t always control who is in your life, but you can pray that God would send the right people into your life.

So that you too can experience the power of others!

 

You can have results or excuses. Not bothExcuses. We use them all the time. Sometimes we quite frankly just don’t want to do something.
Maybe some are legit, but could we be hurting ourselves, could we be holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential?
We have to ask, don’t we?

In the church world several scenarios tend to come up regularly.

1. We may be encouraged to schedule some time for Bible study.

Excuse: I don’t have the time.

2. Could you serve in this area perhaps greeting or children’s ministry?

Excuse: That’s not my area of giftedness.

3. This week would be a great time to start tithing.

Excuse: I can’t afford to give that much.

4. Would you like to join us this week in small group?

Excuse: The time frame doesn’t work for me.

You get the point. Granted many of our excuses are genuine. Moses certainly seemed to have some legitimate reasons for not wanting to do what God asked of him. In Exodus 3-4 Moses has the incredible burning bush experience with God. Following that God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt and be the leader and main spokesman for Israel.

To be honest public speaking always seems to rated at the top of our fears, so Moses reluctancy is reasonable. Or is it?

Now Moses appears to have good excuses for not responding to God’s call. But then all excuses seem plausible or we would not give them. Moses seems to be lacking self-confidence in his speaking abilities, but then who hasn’t felt linguistically challenged at some point.

Is that a good reason not to go?

God didn’t think so. In fact, God eventually got angry.

And thankfully Moses did ultimately go.

So what was the outcome? Moses became the greatest leader in the Old Testament, and perhaps in the entire Bible, next to Jesus.

The bottom line: Moses’ excuses were keeping him from his full potential. I’ll bet he was glad that God kept on him. What if God had given up and said,”Fine, don’t go, I’ll find someone else.”

How sad that would have been. Not only for Moses but for the nation of Israel and ultimately even us.

So the next time someone asks or challenges you, before you give an excuse ask yourself: Is my excuse holding me back from my full potential?

 

 

iStock_000000084365XSmallIf it’s true that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, then we are getting close to a critical point…that is if a new habit was formed on January 1.

Even if the new habit was formed earlier there will still be a critical point in the life of the habit.

That was the case for Daniel. About 400 years earlier King Solomon had suggested that if anyone was living in exile that they might pray facing Jerusalem. Daniel liked the idea and adopted the habit. So three times a day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem.

So far so good…

Until a conspiracy was formed. Some of his colleagues simply wanted Daniel out of office. Who knows exactly why.

You’ll need to read the entire story in Daniel 6.

The point is Daniel had to decide if he was going to continue the habit. He could have prayed with the windows closed. But no doubt Daniel felt that to not pray as he always had would have been a betrayal against God.

How many of us consider our spiritual habits in a similar light?

Think about some of the basic habits we have:

  • read our Bibles
  • pray
  • attend church
  • give generously

You can add a few more perhaps. But how seriously do we take those habits? Yes, I realize that none of these bring instant gratification. Which can make it easier to let one slide.

But should we abandon those habits, would we consider it an act of betrayal towards God?

Daniel certainly did.

That’s why we read in Daniel 6:10, But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (NLT)

Your spiritual habits matter.

But those same habits which strengthen you in the tough times, also cause you to betray God if you choose to abandon them.

Are there any spiritual habits you need to reclaim?

iStockRabbitfootWe have all done it. Somewhere in the back of our minds we start thinking that if we do such and such God is then obligated to answer our prayer or come through for us.

In short, if we do our part, then God cannot let us down. Otherwise He will not look so good.

Over the years I have prayed and I have seen unanswered prayers and answered prayers. But some of the most remarkable answers to prayer have occurred when I also fasted.

In fact, I have written in my journal consecutive answers to consecutive fastings. Also, once I prayed and fasted for three days and had three incredible answers to prayer.

So guess what enters my mind if I am not careful?

If I desperately need an answer to prayer all I need to do is fast. In other words, fasting becomes my rabbit foot. Now I am slipping into magic and superstition rather than faith.

And let’s understand. God knows our hearts.

In 1 Samuel there is a story about Rabbit-Foot Theology. It’s found in chapter 4. Israel is at war with the Philistines. Israel was defeated in a battle and lost four thousand men.

Why the defeat? Great question, but they came up with the wrong answer. They went back and got the Ark of the Covenant. That became their rabbit’s foot. After all, if they lost now God would not look so good. And all the press reports that evening would focus on God’s defeat.

But God wants a genuine relationship with us, not a manipulative one.

To be quite honest whenever I fast now I am confronted with this reality. Am I fasting out of a genuine relationship with God or I am thinking that my fasting will force Him to grant my request?

What drives my devotion to God? Do I see Him as a ticket to the better life, whatever that might be?

If I get up at 5am to read my Bible is God obligated to bless me the rest of the day?

If I give up a Sunday morning on the golf course in order to go to church (just an illustration since I teach every Sunday morning), knowing that I can play later, am I expecting God to help me pick up a few extra birdies later on? After all, I sort of earned a little extra favor didn’t I?

Isn’t amazing how easy it is to fall for Rabbit-Foot Theology? None of us are immune to it.

Let’s focus on our heart, and not our rabbit’s foot.

A senior worker teaching his junior the operation of a fork lift vehicle in a factoryFor me my dad was my role model when it comes to work. Granted, he could be called a workaholic with total justification. And he did go overboard. Perhaps it had something to do with his childhood. He never finished the 8th grade, and his family was very poor with little indoor plumbing, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that if you had to go to the bathroom in the winter time you made it quick!

However, he taught me some things that will always be a part of me.

Another person who I have admired from a distance is Jack Welch, the well known former CEO of GE. Once he was asked about the secret to success.

Without hesitating he unequivocally said, “Find out what your boss wants and then over-deliver.”

My dad personified that.

Here were a few of his work rules. I use the word rules because in my dad’s way of thinking this is simply the way it is. Any other approach was simply unacceptable.

1. Show up ten minutes early. Hit the ground running. Walk around and make sure everyone has what they need to start the day. We all know how easy it is to waste the first ten minutes of a work day.

2. Stay late. Walk around the job site and start planning for the next day. Even today successful business people suggest that one of their secrets to success is planning the next day the day before.

3. Know what your boss wants done. For those of us working for dad this was easy. He was more than very clear as to what he expected.

4. Then exceed those expectations. Here is how it played out for my dad. He was a crane operator in the steel erection business. While the guys were eating lunch my dad would wipe down the crane and keep it spotless. Put an emphasis on “spotless” and you get an idea of what I am talking about. That would exceed anyone’s expectations. And no one would ever expect you to do it during lunch!

5. Never lower the bar. My dad never did.

And one day someone noticed. Outside the company. When this particular person was looking for a business partner for his company, he thought of my dad. And my dad was offered an opportunity that changed his life.

My dad never set out to run and own his own business. It was the furthest thing from his mind. He didn’t set out to be different. He never set out to WOW others.

He just did those five things and he stood out at work. And it paid off in a big way.  Anyone can do these five things. This week you can stand out at work.

Will you? It’s your choice.

 

 

Praying hands on an open bibleLet’s be honest right from the start.  Prayer meetings tend to have the lowest attendance of any kind of meeting.  There is something about prayer that is mystical. Plus in a crowd  many get uncomfortable to say the least.

However, what about in the privacy of your home.

Let me share four quick thoughts about prayer that will encourage you, and I dare say drive you to pray.

The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NLT) is encouraging the church to participate in what God is doing.  And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

1. Prayer Helps others. Paul said the prayers of others were very helpful to him. There will be times when there is nothing else you can do for someone but pray.  Let this verse encourage you.  Prayers are helpful.

2. Paul Urged believers to pray for him. Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:30 (NLT) That’s how huge prayer is.

3. People will Give thanks for the working of God in their lives and the lives of others. “…many people will give thanks.”

4. Who doesn’t want the favor of God in their life?  No one!  How Encouraging is it to know that your prayers play a role in someone experiencing the favor of God.

Once again, let’s be honest.  Wouldn’t you want someone to be praying for God’s favor in your life? Then why not pray for others?

Spend some time and meditate on these verses.  You will be glad you did.

Why?

Because Prayer is H.U.G.E.

 

IMG_1404After 29 years of marriage there are many things to be thankful for.  Carol became my best friend just over thirty years ago, so I married her.  That’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give to any couple.  Marry your best friend!

As I look back there have been long walks, cross country vacations, hikes, eating out, lots of conversation, skiing, kids, five kids (which have been an absolute blast), house building projects, and more.

Of course, anytime you make a list off the top of your head you will undoubtedly leave something special out.

However, let me add one that often gets overlooked.

Prayer.

Not mine, but Carol’s.

We have five kids, but I always wanted just four.  So after Savannah, our fourth child, I was done. Carol was not. She really wanted a fifth, but she recalls me being adamant about not having another one.

So what did she do?  She could have nagged, badgered, and pestered me, but she didn’t.  She prayed.

Gabe has quite a heritage.  I am not saying we did not pray for our kids prior to their coming into this world. But Gabe was different. In fact, it brings to mind the story of Samuel in the Old Testament.

Hannah was a Jewish woman who desperately wanted to have a child but was unable.  She was barren for years, but during that time she continued to pray and ask God for a child.  She prevailed in prayer, God heard, and she had a boy named Samuel. (It’s a great story in 1 Samuel chapter 1).

I’m thankful that I have a wife who prevailed in prayer. I often wonder how many times Hannah thanked God for her boy Samuel. I even wonder how often Hannah’s husband thanked God for a praying wife.

Yes, there have been many incredible memories and great times over the years.  Yet Gabe is a constant reminder that I have a praying wife.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.  29 years of marriage and counting.  In fact, we have already planned our 30th wedding anniversary.  Can’t wait!!