Friday, January 25, 2013

How To Develop A Lifestyle Of Prayer

We abuse prayer frequently.  We treat God like a butler, a genie in a bottle, or our last resort.  Sometimes, we use prayer only in bad situations and treat it like a fire extinguisher.  When trouble breaks out, we rush to find, fumble around with it, and spurt out a little bit in hopes it puts out our mess.  God wants you to develop a lifestyle of prayer because prayer is talking to Him.  Talking to anyone is usually best carried out in a relationship.  I just don’t talk to my wife in bad times and I shouldn’t treat God that way either.

To learn lifestyle prayer, Luke 11:1 must be our motto, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  In order to pray, we must spend time with the Lord daily.  Jesus wants us to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1).  Paul encourages us to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  How do you develop a lifestyle of praying?  Here are a few simple, yet effective, steps.
First, you need to set a good time.  While you can pray at any time, you need period of each day set aside for nothing but prayer.  I like the mornings before my kids are out of bed and the phone starts ringing.  I like praying when driving by myself in the car.  Daniel prayed at a certain time.  Daniel 6:10 says, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
Secondly, you need a good place.  I need a place free from distraction.  My house is my best place but only before the sun comes up or just after my kids are in bed.  Mark 1:35 tells me, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Thirdly, you need a good plan.  Jesus gave us a great model when He said, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4). 
God promises us that when we are humble, pray, seek Him, and turn from our sin, great things happen.  He hears from heaven, forgives our sin, heals our homes and hearts (2 Chronicles 7:14).  There are several areas we must pray for every day.  We should pray for our nation and its leaders.  1 Timothy 2:1 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  We should also pray for our families.  Nehemiah 4:14 says, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” 
We should also pray for those who do not know the Lord.  Matthew 9:37-38 says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."  After praying for all of these, we should pray for our needs. Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The biggest key to building a lifestyle of prayer is making prayer your first response, not your last resort.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's Your Motivation?

I realize Christmas has already passed but I had Christmas song-a-thon in my car the other day all by myself. Songs like “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, “Away in a Manger”, and “The First Noel” are wonderful worship songs I think you can sing any season to praise the Lord. After singing a few like those, I began thinking about some of the songs of Christmas that have nothing to do with the worship of Jesus. One was “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. That’s a weird and scary little song if you ask me. Santa seems a little creepy spying on people when they are sleeping. Can he really declare who is “naughty or nice”? That made me think of God’s omniscience (the ability to know all things at all times). I thought of Psalm 147:5 which says, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power. His understanding has no limit.” Isaiah 55:9 tells me this about God, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God knows everything (1 John 3:20). That can either free you or bind you.

1 Corinthians 4:5 tells me Jesus “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.” You and I are accountable for our actions in light of the motives of our heart. You may do the right thing in action but if your attitude or thought life is wrong then your right action is in vain. Doing the right thing (outward action) is judged by your motives (inward action). There have been times I acted rightly but my inward motives were wrong. For the most part I can hide this from people – that is till my sinful heart begins to come out in my actions – and it will come out! Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). I used to be fearful of God knowing my true motives. But He knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we say them (Psalm 139:1-4). He knows it all and He knows us!

But don’t misunderstand God’s all-knowing ability. He not only knows about you, He wants to know you relationally. He loves you. He’s isn’t waiting to blast you when you think or do wrongly. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit works and lives inside me every day to draw me closer to the Lord. He helps me to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). The voice of the Holy Spirit is there to convict you of sin (John 16:8) and direct you into all truth (John 16:13). God will convict and uncover the motives of your heart so He can draw you closer to Himself. When He does, we must simply respond with faith and repent. God wants to do a good work in your inner man. Simply doing right things with wrong inner motives is living a fake life. God’s grace has brought you to where you are now and wants to continue to do a good work in you (Philippians 1:6).

Instead of just doing something because it’s the right thing to do or just because you have to, allow God to check your heart to make sure you have the right motives. Motivation is important. Why you do what you do is more important that what you do. Some characteristics that show a good motivated heart are love, thankfulness, sincerity, selfless ambition, obedience to Christ, not wanting credit or recognition, desire to be a blessing, etc. In Philippians 1:15-17 some preached Christ out of envy and strife. Good action but bad motivation. Others preached out of love instead of selfish ambition. Let the Holy Spirit search your heart. Before you act, pray this Scripture: “Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dads, Daughters, and Dating

The other day my eight year old daughter told my wife a boy asked her out at school. The good thing is my daughter told him she would have to ask her parents first – way to go Kylee! When my wife told me about this I was taken back. My little girl was on the verge of growing up. I quickly said no. My daughter asked me later about it and I still said no. We talked for about thirty minutes about being too young, womanhood, and a host of other things I thought were important given this situation. I asked her if this boy loves Jesus and goes to church. I asked her what kind of kid he was: was he respectful, did he have good grades, did he cuss or talk bad, etc. Still I said no boyfriend, even after her cute puppy dog eyes and a few tears. She asked me, “Why don’t you want me to grow up?” I replied, “I do, just not too fast.” That night I thought about several things concerning my girls after they went to bed – how quickly they grow up, their purity, and my role as a dad. I also got lost in the moment that night while playing the piano and singing the song “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman. Interestingly enough, that song is in the same key as the “Bridal Chorus”. That’s when I lost it. My wife heard me from the bedroom and left me to my dad moment.

What is the responsibility of a dad when it comes to his daughter? As a dad, I have to have more than the “loading my shotgun” approach when boys come calling. I just can’t tell my daughters no in any areas of their lives without giving them Biblical foundations to help them grow spiritually. Scripture is clear that I am to train my kids in the way they should go so they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6) and that I must use every means and opportunity to teach my kids God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). I believe it is the God-given responsibility of fathers to shape their children spiritually, protect their purity, see that they marry well and become Christ-like husbands and wives. This must start at a young age. Fathers must model and teach true Biblical manhood and approve, based on Christ-like character, who their children date and are close friends with.

I don’t like to think about my little girls growing up but they will – with our without my leadership and guidance. Left only up to my selfish human wisdom, I would lock my girls in a closet until they are 22 and reinstate the chastity belt. I must help them discern what relationships are appropriate and prepare them for Biblical womanhood and marriage. I will one day interview my daughter’s dates. Not to scare them (although I’m not opposed to that) but to challenge them. I’ll look into the boy’s eyes that like to look at my daughters and ask him some tough questions. Any guy who wants to spend time with my daughters must first spend time with me. I will call them to a high standard and hold them accountable. I have taken them on many dates and shown them how a man of God treats his wife (and women in general) and he must meet those standards. He must be a guy to loves and serves the Lord. Call me overprotective and old-fashioned but that’s OK by me.

I want to teach my kids to beware of dating traps like having tons of boyfriends and breaking up over trivial issues all the time and how that is a pattern for divorce. They need to see what a Godly man looks like and steer clear of any lesser loser. I plan to play an active role in the lives of my kids in all areas: sports, school, hobbies, etc. Why should I not have an active role in their social and dating lives? I pray three things for my girls every day – that they would be saved and serve Jesus, that they would be called into full-time ministry, and that they would marry men who do the same. If I don’t prepare my girls for life, dating, womanhood, marriage, and a host of many other things, who will? Answer: the evil and fallen world we live in.