Tag Archives: prayer

My Sparkling Personality

18 Dec

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

The Requisition List

23 Oct

Read: John 16:23-27

 “And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us.”

1 John 5:14

One of my minor duties as the Senator’s Staff Assistant was to help with the requisitioning of supplies.  Keeping a close eye on our consumption of paper clips and printer paper, I would carefully assemble a list of our needs.  Then, when a sufficient number of items had made their way onto that list or we were nearly out of something with which our office simply could not function (like the aforementioned paperclips) our Regional Director would make the requisition.  Before placing each call, she would turn to me from her office and enquire, “Is there anything else you need?”

While the question was intended to stimulate my memory of any last-minute additions, it instead opened to the door to a wide range of less-than-relevant responses.  My smart replies covered a variety of “necessities” ranging from a disco ball (for all of our wild dance parties) to gigantic blow up elephant to step on staffers who got out of hand.  I was quick to point out that the quality of our work would be vastly improved should each of us have access to a vibrating, heated lazy boy and didn’t hesitate to suggest that the addition of a video arcade might improve hand-eye coordination for those tasked with answering the phones.

My suggestions, of course, were not entirely limited to the impractical or downright fantastical.  A combination coffee maker/fax machine that gave a personal voice greeting every morning also made it onto my list, as did haz-mat suits for those opening the Senator’s mail.  I never got what I asked for, but this didn’t stop me from trying, and I was delighted when our Regional Director finally did concede to at least one of my requests and added a box of colored paperclips to our order.

Sadly, many of us approach God with a list of wants and desires which are not that far removed from my own bizarre additions to the requisitions list.  Seeking what we have deemed to be the “perfect” life, we ask for things that fulfill neither our needs nor God’s plan.

Scripture, however, portrays a different approach.  Instead of assembling a jumbled list of everything we want, Christians are instructed to draw close to God, learning His ways and walking according to His commands.  When we do, the things which we pray for begin to take on the form of His desires rather than our own.  According to the Bible, these requests will always be granted.

Challenge:  Are you praying in God’s will or are you asking Him to fulfill your own?  This week, take some time to carefully consider your prayer life.  Then commit to drawing close to Him!

The Future Governor

2 Oct

Read: Luke 12:4-7

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Hebrews 4:16 NLT

 

It had been a long morning on the State Affairs committee and, wrapping up my work somewhat later than anticipated, I decided to head out for some food.  As I exited the House chambers, I noticed that instead of grabbing lunch, the majority of the other pages had hung back and were now leaning over the railing of the rotunda, mouths agape.  Curious, about what had attracted such a crowd of admirers (and, more importantly, distracted them from their meal) I too, leaned over the rail.

There, beneath us was the Governor.  I had been collecting the signatures of each elected official in a special volume I’d obtained prior to the session and, seeing the opportunity to add another to the collection, took off at top speed.  Rushing down the curved, marble stairs, I made a b-line across the slick floor and came to a stop just in front of where he stood.  “You don’t know me, Sir,” I began, “but I’m the future governor of Idaho.  May I have your autograph?”

The approach worked better than I expected.  A week later, all of the pages were formally introduced to the Governor.  As I entered the office, he pointed and, shaking his finger announced, “I remember you!”

While most of the pages were horrified by my initial boldness, the result was that I was able to acquire the thing which I was after: the Governor’s signature.  And Scripture promises similar results when we exhibit boldness in approaching God.  Bought with the blood of His Son, we too now have the right to approach Him with both confidence and candor – anytime, anywhere, and for any reason.  What a blessing to know that we always have His ear!

Challenge:  Do you talk with God about everything or do you save your prayers for the “big” issues?  Scripture tells us that God is intimately concerned with the details of our lives… even those details that seem unimportant to anyone other than us.  This week, make a concerted effort to share all that takes place in your life with the One who loved you enough to send His son!

The Kitchen

11 Sep

Read: Hebrews 4:14-5:10

“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?  Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?  If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Luke 11:11-13 NASB

 

It was taboo and we all knew it.  The House kitchen, emitting the seductive aromas of fresh-brewed coffee, orange juice, and doughnuts, was for the Representatives only.  All non-elected State employees were expected to keep their distance.  It was a rule that our dedicated doorman (at least, according to rumor) was willing to enforce with violence.

Not surprisingly, a few of my fellow pages took the threat as a challenge and spent their early morning hours searching for ways to slip unnoticed past the vigilant warden.  Waiting until he turned his back, they’d glide unnoticed into the forbidden sanctuary and partake of the pleasures that lay within.

While this method was not lacking in intrigue, the rest of us had a better plan.  Having gained favor with the Representatives, we would stand well outside the eight-foot perimeter which the doorman had set, and put on our best puppy dog faces.  Seeing our languid forms, the Reps would take pity on us and, after having acquired their own morning “nosh” would reappear with a little something for the rest of us.

What about the door warden?  When he asked us about our orange juice and doughnuts, we simply replied that Representatives had brought them to us.  We had effectively gone over his head… and he knew it!

Pages aren’t alone when it comes to finding shrewd ways to get what they want.  Many of us spend our entire lifetimes sneaking around trying to acquire those things which we believe will bring us love, wealth, or success.  Unable to simple take what we desire, we spend our days evading the door wardens who would prevent us from achieving these goals and meeting our needs.

Fortunately, Scripture give us a better way.  As Christians, we have been assured that we need only present our requests to our Heavenly Father who knows our needs and has already made provision for each of them.  Like the Representatives, He has the power and authority to go over the “warden’s” head and none who know Him need ever go without!

Challenge:  Are you facing difficulties in life?  If so, how are you handling them?  Are you trying to navigate the labyrinth of red-tape or find a way to skirt around the system?  Instead of dealing with repeated frustration, take your trials before the throne of God.  You’ll be glad you did!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Rest and Relationship

23 Aug

Last week, in “What the Sabbath Rest Is”, we discussed the value of the Sabbath as a celebration of deliverance: both Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and our deliverance from sin.  But that’s not where Sabbath observance ends.  God didn’t rescue either the Hebrews or us from something just to leave us wandering in a desert.  Freedom isn’t just about delivering people from slavery: it’s about delivering them to something else.  And in this case, that “something else” is a relationship.

In Titus 3:4-7 we read that, “when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Romans 8:14-17 declares that, “all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” This word, “heir” is used throughout the New Testament (Galatians 3:26-29, 4:1-7, Hebrews 6:17 and 11:9, to name a few) and indicates a relationship far more intimate than that of mere acquaintances… it is a relationship of sons and daughters.

It is this relationship which we celebrate as we observe the Sabbath.  Not merely a day of rest, but one of focused rest, this single day each week is to be centered upon our Heavenly Father and dedicated to those things which will draw us closer to Him.  But what exactly are those things?  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Read the Bible.  Can you imagine getting a letter from a friend and just ignoring it?  Probably not.  To do so, would show your disinterest in the relationship… yet all too often, that’s what we do to God.  If you’re looking for a good way to celebrate your relationship with Him, start with His letter to you: the Bible.
  2. Prayer.  Jesus teaches His disciples to pray beginning with the phrase “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2) Unlike the prayers of the heathens (Matthew 6:7), this one isn’t the mere repetition of words.  It’s a conversation between intimate friends and, as with any dialogue, it has the power to deepen and expand our relationship with the One addressed.  Perhaps you can even take the opportunity to share your thoughts about what you just read!
  3. Enjoy each other’s company.  This may seem obvious, but one of the best parts about a friendship is the ability to simply “be” together.  Instead of making your time with God all about study, why not simply sit and listen?  You may be surprised at some of the things He has to say to you!
  4. Fellowship.  One of the best ways to celebrate relationship is in the company of others.  While attending a Church service, Bible study, or Sunday school isn’t compulsory for believers, doing so can play an important role in deepening our relationship with God… and the rest of His family.

These are just a handful of “celebratory” ideas to get you started.  There are plenty of ways to cultivate any relationship – including our relationship with God.  The more time you spend “resting” in His presence, the deeper that relationship will become.  A side benefit?  The closer that connection grows, the easier it will be to act in obedience to God’s command to share His love with others!

Next week, we’ll be looking at a less relationally-centered form of rest as we explore the importance of setting boundaries between our time at work and our time off.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own thoughts on the Sabbath in the comment box below!

A Brief Introduction to the Aerobic Benefits of Political Rallies

31 Jul

Read: Matthew 6:1-13

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

Matthew 6:7 NASB

 

I learned early on that political rallies are governed by certain unspoken rules of conduct which, if observed, serve as an adequate substitute for a gym membership.  Among these, are the following:

  1. Applause is to be rendered for every speaker.  This rule must be observed regardless of who he is, what he says (though it is considered good form to find something about which to applaud even if it is merely the grace with which he introduces the man who will be introducing the key-note speaker), or whether you have ever even heard his name.  A ten minute ovation at the end of his introduction is customary.
  2. Regardless of your personal feelings towards a given speaker, any effort on his part to “share the vision” must be greeted with a standing ovation.  The length of this sporadic applause varies based upon the rank or status of the speaker, however the conclusion of any speech is usually met with applause appropriate to the man who may be the next U.S. President (even if he is merely a City Councilman).
  3. It is vital to maintain a reasonable (but not excessive) interval between bouts of applause.  If five minutes pass without the speaker having said anything of note, it is incumbent upon all listeners to find something vaguely worthy of recognition and lead off an ovation.  (Everyone else in the room will usually follow, even if they have lost track of the speaker’s main point, since it is considered worse form to refrain from applause than to applaud for whatever irrelevant point has just been made.)

In practice, observance of these rules (and the accompanying aerobic program) looks something like this:

Climbing onto the stage, a relatively low ranking official (though higher ranking than most of the audience) calls the room to order.  Since he is introducing the speaker who will introduce the key-note speaker, he only speaks for five minutes and shares a few brief remarks concerning the quality of family life observed by the speaker who will follow.  After concluding his introduction, everyone in the room rises from their seats and offers the mandatory ten minutes of applause.

Next, the speaker introducing the key-note speaker ascends the podium and delivers a few “brief remarks”.  These last for at least half an hour (partly due to the applause taking place at five minute intervals) and are concluded with the thunder of another ten minute ovation.

The keynote speaker then rises and speaks for an hour or more, during which the aerobics reach their glorious peak and older and weaker members of the audience sporadically pass out due to overexertion.

As you can see, this makes for a fine workout.  Unfortunately, for most of the attendees these repeated standing ovations are meaningless.  They are repeated simply to make the person offering the applause appear to be more truly “American”, not because individuals actually feel any connection to the points being made.

Sadly, many Christians fall into a similar habit with their prayer lives.  While prayer is meant to connect us with God, all too often, we fall into the rut of simply repeating the same words over and over.  Like those at a political rally, we must take care to pay attention to what is being said because, unlike politicians, God wants more from our conversation than endless repetitions.  He is seeking a relationship… and that can only be developed when we take the time to truly connect with His message through our prayers.

Challenge:  Do your prayers sound like dialogue or are they merely endless chatter?  The next time you sit down to pray, do so intentionally – with plans to develop a relationship.  You’ll gain far more than can ever be acquired through inattentive repetition!

Lobbyists

10 Jul

Read: Luke 16:1-9

“Many try to win the kindness of a generous person, and everyone is a friend to a person who gives gifts.”

Proverbs 19:6 (NASB)

The poet once observed that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and in few places does this prove as true as in the halls of government.  It started with the early morning doughnuts and orange juice.  A muffin made it sweeter, as did chocolate milk or a banana.  From there, we moved on to fully catered lunches of roast beef, serve-yourself salad bars, and fresh baked bread.  Tables filled with cookies and cakes followed in the afternoon and our evening munchies were satisfied by the leftovers.  The entirety of this bounty was served up daily by an assortment of political lobbyists who seemed to spend more hours on the fourth floor of the capitol rotunda than they spent at home.

It wasn’t long before the fourth floor was the first place the House pages visited when we came in each morning.  We returned each time we had a break and we (and our more powerful employers) were even willing to lend these friendly lobbyists an ear if they’d kindly pass us one more doughnut or another piece of pie.  It was heaven… and not just for us.

The lobbyists had mastered a good bit of Biblical advice: winning friends with their kindness. Offer a Senator a doughnut and you might just find yourself with a captive audience for the next minute and a half… long enough to pitch an idea for fresh legislation or begin swaying an opinion about the bill presently on the floor.  Tricky?  Maybe.  Brilliant?  Yes!

Unfortunately, many Christians tend to shy away from similar forms of kindness.  Whether it’s because we associate generosity with “wanting something” or because we simply feel that we have nothing to give, it’s guaranteed that we’re missing out!  The Bible dedicates more than a few verses to the idea that our demonstration of friendship (whether by gift-giving or just good-natured friendliness) plays a huge role in both where we go in life and how we’ll experience those places once we get there.  So the next time you feel tempted to be generous, do!  You may be surprised by the results!

Challenge:  While going out of your way to be kind to others doesn’t always “pay off” in a material sense, it does in a spiritual one.  The next time you see an opportunity to do something generous for someone else, take it.  And don’t hesitate to accept generosity from others as well.  It’s likely that their motives for giving aren’t that far removed from yours!

Pray: Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project | Unreached language groups

5 Nov

While you may not be able to trek to the far reaches of the Phillipine jungles or send money to support a missionary in Brazil, there is still plenty you can do to help bring the Gospel to people around the world – beginning with prayer.

According to James 5:16, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”  (NASB),  so this week, we’re featuring Wycliffe’s “Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project”.  At present, 7,000 languages are spoken in the world, but only 400 possess an adequate translation of God’s Word.  Wycliffe’s vision is to see that changed and is committing people and resources towards the goal of ensuring that by 2025, a translation project is in progress for every language in need.  It’s a big task and it can’t be accomplished without the prayer of people like you!

At Pray: Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project | Unreached language groups, you can commit to playing a part by adopting a people/language group for which to pray.  You will be kept up to date on the progress which is being made towards the translation goal and provided with detailed prayer requests both for the native speakers and for the missionaries who are working with them.  So what are you waiting for?  Sign up and get involved today!

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation

26 Mar

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  A spiritual battle must be fought with spiritual weapons and one of the greatest which God has given us is prayer.  That’s why, this week, we’re featuring “Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.”

Available in print, on disk, or online at http://www.operationworld.org/country-lists, OW seeks to inform Christians about the spiritual state of countries throughout the world.  Check out the daily prayer calendar at http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar and you’ll find a wealth of information including  profiles of unreached people groups and detailed prayer concerns both for the country and for the Believers who live there.  You may even want to go a step further and get involved by joining the Prayer Movement at http://www.operationworld.org/join-prayer-movement.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on the sidelines!  Hit your knees and join the battle!

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