Slow Down and Enjoy Life!

June 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Prayer | 1 Comment

I’ve often said that as Americans we are way too busy.  It only seems to get worse as time goes on.  Each time saving device we add to our collection only serves to make us busier, as we try to accomplish more and more.  I read the following today, and thought it was worth the time to share.  It’s  from an interview with Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

I think most of us are running on this treadmill that we don’t even realize is happening, we don’t even realize it’s turned on.

We’re just running every day.  I think we notice it most when we’re still, but the problem is even when we’re still, we have a phone pinging us or even just distracting us and causing us to check out rather than self-diagnose or self analyze what’s happening.

.  .  .  even when I was alone with God or just alone, I was performing and executing things that I needed to get done.  So because my job is largely talking about God and teaching and writing, whenever I was alone with God I was getting the next thing ready that I was going to deliver rather than actually just enjoying his presence.

So I think what’s happened is everything has become a performance or something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.  .  .  .  I feel like as Americans and as young people today that we’re all trying to prove ourselves and we’re exhausted and we’re actually not enjoying the best parts of life.

The entire article can be read here.

Slow down!  Take some time to enjoy God and family.  It’s healthy physically, mentally and spiritually!

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Prayer Is Not a Monologue

April 17, 2017 at 11:12 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Prayer | Leave a comment
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When The Circle Maker book by Mark Batterson was popular, I thought, from descriptions I saw, that it came from the “Name It and Claim It” camp.  But when a service I have that sends out reviews of books, included it recently, I found out that my assumption was completely wrong.

I have often passed on thoughts about praying the Bible.  As many of you know, that discipline has transformed my prayer life completely.  So I had to show you this quote.

What I’m about to share has the power to revolutionize the way you pray and the way you read the Bible.  We often view prayer and Scripture reading as two distinct spiritual disciplines without much overlap, but what if they were meant to be hyperlinked?  What if reading became a form of praying and praying became a form of reading?

One of the primary reasons we don’t pray through is because we run out of things to say.  Our lack of persistence is really a lack of conversation pieces.  Like an awkward conversation, we don’t know what to say.  Or like a conversation on its last leg, we run out of things to talk about.  That’s when our prayers turn into a bunch of overused and misapplied clichés.  So instead of praying hard about a big dream, we’re left with small talk.  Our prayers are meaningless as a conversation about the weather.

The solution?  Pray through the Bible.

Prayer was never meant to be a monologue; it was meant to be a dialogue.  Think of Scripture as God’s part of the script; prayer is our part.  Scripture is God’s way of initiating a conversation; prayer is our response.  The paradigm shift happens when you realize that the Bible wasn’t meant to be read through; the Bible was meant to be prayed through.  And if you pray through it, you’ll never run out of things to talk about.

From Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

Spurgeon on the Preacher’s Prayer

June 14, 2016 at 9:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

Some words, from Charles Spurgeon, I need reminded of often.  I frequently feel the need for “much more grace than common men.”  I’m sure others in ministry feel the same way.

If there be any man under heaven, who is compelled to carry out the precept “Pray without ceasing,” surely it is the Christian minister. He has peculiar temptations, special trials, singular difficulties, and remarkable duties; he therefore needs much more grace than common men, and as he knows this, he is led constantly to cry to the strong for strength, and say, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

The minister who does not earnestly pray over his work must surely be a vain and conceited man. He acts as if he thought himself sufficient of himself, and therefore needed not to appeal to God.

Both of these came from Charles Spurgeon’s book Lectures to My Students.  I found them on the Focus on the Family website Thriving Pastor.  If interested, you can read the entire lengthy but excellent article here.

Quiet Time

December 15, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

We used to call devotions or time alone with God “quiet time,” and rightly so.  I’ve been thinking about quiet recently.  I am trying to memorize Zephaniah 3:17, a great blessing that includes the words “he will quiet you by his love,” so I got to thinking about how often God reminds us of quiet.  I came up with the following without using any search tools, so I am sure there are more we could find if we looked.  If you have other favorites, put them in the comments.

Psalm 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God

Psalm 131  “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”

Habakkuk 2:20  “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth be silent before him.”

Isaiah 30:15-15  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”

Luke 10:38-42  Martha was “anxious and troubled about many things,” but Mary chose the better part, which was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2  “Guard your steps when you go near to the house of God; go near to listen . . .  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

The message is pretty clear.  Turn off the all the sounds and get some quiet time with God in the near future.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Learn to Pray the Bible

August 12, 2015 at 9:19 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Prayer | Leave a comment
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In recent years, I have used my devotions to pray from the Bible, or I should say, to let the Bible guide my prayers; and, as our congregation knows, I have tried to make all my public praying utilize prayers and passages straight from the Bible.  Not only do I believe this is a better way to pray according to God’s will, but I believe it will help others learn to pray as well.

If you want to learn more about praying the scriptures, here is a link that has an article from Don Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.  Dr. Whitney is a professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  There is also on that page a way to sign up for five video lessons on how to pray the Psalms.  I haven’t read the book yet, but the video lessons are short and insightful.  I think you will find them helpful.

Here is the article.    Here is the book.    Here is the video lesson sign up.

Cell Phones and Fast Horses

April 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

I wrote this story over ten years ago and ran across it while looking for another old file in my archives.  The lesson is just as timely today as it was then.

Cathy and I attended a Pastor’s Getaway at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.  We were refreshed, albeit suffering from input overload, the feeling one friend of mine called “getting a sip of water from a fire hydrant.”  We were then to have a few days vacation before returning home.  Earlier that day, I had been thinking about what one lesson God wanted me to take from the conference, or at least what one lesson, of numerous ones written down, he would have me ponder while on vacation..

Driving north to Denver, we were to have Sunday dinner with some seminary friends.  It was heavy traffic — the kind where driving the speed limit is almost impossible, because there are only two lanes — the right lane traveling below the posted speed and the left lane moving significantly faster.  A person in the right lane, who wanted to pass the vehicle in front, had a hard time moving left to do so.

There was a slow-moving, big truck in front of me.  When I finally managed to get into the left lane to pass, I noticed there was another slow truck about a quarter mile ahead.  I didn’t want to get trapped between them, so I increased my speed and stayed in the left lane.

That’s when I first saw him in my rearview mirror; he jumped into the right lane to pass the cars behind me.  I just knew he intended on passing me and cutting me off before I caught up with the truck on the right.  Instead, he cut off the car behind me and rode my bumper, until I passed the second truck and moved over, then he sped passed me on my left.  As he passed, I noticed one of his hands on the steering wheel, the other pressed a cell phone to his ear, and he seemed to be reading something on the passenger seat.  Immediately I thought, “Now, there’s an accident waiting to happen.”

It occurred to me that the cell-phone driver typified so many people in our society, always moving full speed ahead, juggling more responsibilities, tasks and adventures than one can safely manage.  Most of our lives rush on so full of activities that we are accidents just waiting to happen.  We are caught in a busyness trap, and someday it will come crashing down.  One of the breakout sessions from the conference came clearly to mind.  We had discussed Isaiah 30:15-18 and the necessity to slow down in rest and quietness rather than flee on swift horses in so many different directions.  The cell-phone driver is the perfect picture of a man on his fast horses.  I laughed at myself, because I saw my life portrayed in his driving.

I could see we were going to arrive at our destination with plenty of time to spare, so I decided to relax my pace and stay in the right lane.

A few miles later, traffic slowed to a crawl.  I could see the vehicles on the left merging into my lane, and I wondered if the cell-phone driver had an accident.  Sure enough, there was an accident ahead, but as I got closer, I saw it wasn’t the man with the cell phone.  However, I recognized one of the vehicles: a pick-up pulling a four-wheeler on a trailer that had passed me right about the moment I decided to slow down and stay in the right lane.  Had I not been reminded to slow down, I may have been the one in the accident.

God’s protection on our trip and the lessons for driving are obvious, but I hope I can also learn a lesson for life.  God reminds us that our strength is in repentance, rest, quietness and trust.  It is not found in fast driving, cell-phones and busyness; these are the things Isaiah would call “fast horses.”  It’s not from driving in the fast lane that God calls us; it is from living in the fast lane that he invites us to quietness and rest.  I have to ask if I am living life in the fast lane, if I am an accident waiting to happen.  Am I getting the necessary quiet time with the Lord which offers strength in and salvation from the rat race?  I hope memories of the cell-phone driver will remind me to slow down in quietness and rest.

Grocery List Prayer

June 30, 2014 at 9:29 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Prayer | Leave a comment
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I have always believed in praying the scriptures, and have tried to learn more about that practice in recent days.  I have been using scripture-based prayer in all of our church prayer sessions since I took over that area of ministry a few months ago.  Daniel Henderson, prayer pastor at Mission Hills Church here in Colorado, has had a positive impact on my thinking in this regard.  Here is a great quote from an article he wrote n the “Prayer First” Newsletter from Converge Worldwide (June 2014).  It talks about “grocery list” prayer, coming to God only with a list of my requests.

Grocery list prayer, while very common, is an approach to God that stems from our persuasion that prayer exists for us to inform Him about our problems, hoping He will order the universe according to our expectations.  These expectations are usually rooted in our desire to avoid suffering or difficulty.  God is reduced to a heavenly vending machine that exists for our temporal satisfaction.

Prayer is so much more than our list.  Praying through the Psalms has been a huge help to me.  Don’t just read the Bible, pray it back to God as you read.  It might just transform your thinking about prayer, about yourself, about life, about God.

If you are interested in a conference on scripture-based prayer, check out the 64 Fellowship website.  Cathy and I are attending the conference in Denver on July 30-31.

In Your Time, But Hurry!

October 19, 2013 at 7:41 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love, Prayer | Leave a comment

Today I read two Psalms, both prayers written by David, that have a fascinating contrast.

In Psalm 69, David feels like he is buried in his troubles.  “The waters have come up to my neck;” he complains, “I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold.” (v1 ESV)  But, as is so often the case in Psalms, he turns to God in the midst of his troubles.  “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” (v13)  I love the way he recalls God’s steadfast love and saving faithfulness.  Like David, we often need to remind ourselves of those two attributes of God.  In Psalm 70, once again David prays to God about his troubles.   His enemies seek his life and delight in his hurt.  But, he prays, “You are my help and my deliverer.  O LORD, do no delay!” (v5)

The similarities between these two prayers are instructive, but what caught my attention today is the contrast between them.  In the first, he prays that God would work at an acceptable time, and in the second that God would act now — do not delay!  I can relate.  There are times I say “God, when it seems right to you, will you take care of this situation.”  And there are times when I say, “God, hurry up and deal with this!”  I guess, in that regard, I am not in bad company.  God is sovereign, and he will act in his time.  But it’s alright to pour out our hearts to him, even on those occasions we think his timing is too slow.  However, in doing so, we must never let go of his steadfast love and his saving faithfulness.

On Finishing Well: Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah

August 20, 2013 at 8:19 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Personal Testimony, Wisdom | Leave a comment

Today I read the stories of three different kings in Judah, all who began well but didn’t finish well.

Joash began to reign when he was only seven years old.  He followed the reign of his evil grandmother Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel, and was a great turn for the better.  Joash was raised by his aunt and his uncle Jehoiada, who was a godly priest.  They raised him and counseled him so that he began as a godly king.  “Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem.  . . .  Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”  (2 Chron 24:1-2 ESV)  Notice however, it was only during the days of Jehoiada.  In fact, “After the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king.  Then the king listened to them.   And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols.  And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.”  (vv17-18)  Joash lost his godly counselor, replaced him with spoiled royal counselors instead, and they persuaded him to abandon the LORD.

Joash’s son Amaziah became the king, and like Joash, he too began a godly reign.  “Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.   . . .  He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.” (25:1-2)  It seems Amaziah had an interest in other gods, and that’s why he was never wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD.  “After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them.  Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, ‘Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?'” (vv14-15)

Then Amaziah’s son Uzziah followed the same footsteps.  “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem.   . . .  He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.”  (26:3-4)  However there was a pride that became his downfall.  “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.  For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God.” (v16)

One man lost godly counsel, one followed a curiostiy about other gods, one became proud of his successes; none finished well.  Here I am at middle age (a euphimism for getting old but not wanting to admit it!), and I want to finish life strong.  I must let these negative examples instruct me how to do that.  Lord, help me to finish well; may I keep godly counselors around me, may I follow you alone, may I give you glory for any successes that come my way.

Confidence in Him Who Sees the End from the Beginning

June 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love | Leave a comment

It has been a tough few months for me and a particularly tough week.  But God has reminded me over and over of his sovereign control, of his faithfulness, and of his steadfast love for his people.

Two things in particular have ministered to me this past week.  The first is the verse I decided  to have our congregation memorize as I teach a series of messages called “Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness.”  Though I thought it was for the congregation, God has already used it’s truths to encourage me.

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.   –Romans 15:13 (ESV)

The second thing that has touched me numerous times this week is a quote I came across in preparing my Sunday School lesson.  We are watching a PBS television series called “God in America.”  Though a secular-made film, there is so much to discuss from a biblical perspective; it has been a very interesting class.  This week we looked at Abraham Lincoln’s spiritual journey during the civil war and loss of his son Willie.  The pastor who gave the eulogy for Willie had a huge impact on President Lincoln, especially this section about trusting a sovereign God.  It has had a positive impact on me as well.

What we need in the hour of trial, and what we should seek by earnest prayer, is confidence in Him who sees the end from the beginning and doeth all things well.  Only let us bow in His presence with a humble and teachable spirit; only let us be still and know that He is God; only let us acknowledge His hand, and hear His voice, and inquire after His will, and seek His Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide.  And all, in the end will be well.     — Phineas Gurley

We need confidence in him who sees the end from the beginning and does all things well.  That is certainly what we need.  May God grant it!

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