Tag Archives: Prayer

Wednesday Picks ~ 7-5-2017

It’s the day after Independence Day, (aka the 5th of July). I suppose this is the reason I came across several well-written and challenging articles on the subject of Christianity and patriotism…

Let’s begin with this prayer by Scotty Smith…

No Matter the Political Temperature, Living as Servants, not CynicsScotty Smith
http://trinitynews.ie/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/praying-hands.jpgHelp us, as well, to live and love to your glory–no matter our passport, the political atmosphere, or how pleased or disgusted we are with the government. Instead of being cynics, may we be servants and intercessors; instead of withdrawing out of disgust, may we be engaged with hope and kindness; instead of seeking judgment on our government, may we seek its peace and prosperity; instead of throwing political grenades, may we seek love mercy and work for justice in our communities.

Can Patriotism Become Idolatry?Zack Hunt
https://storage.googleapis.com/relevant-magazine/2017/07/patriot.jpgI’m not sure there is a clearly defined moment when patriotism becomes idolatry because it happens in such subtle ways, but you definitely know it’s occurred when you stand in the front of your sanctuary and contemplate where to move the stars and stripes so as not to offend anyone during worship.

Unfortunately, that struggle is not unique. I can’t count how many pastors have told me they leave the American flag in their sanctuaries simply because they’re afraid of the vitriol that would be unleashed by some of their parishioners if the flag moved. I’m left dumbfounded every time I hear that story from yet another pastor somewhere in America.

How far have we fallen as a Church, how lost are we in patriotic idolatry that we’re worried about offending people if we remove a symbol from our sacred space that demands our allegiance to something other than the God we’ve come there to worship?

God bless America?

How about God save the Church?

I Love You, America, But Not Like ThatBrian Zahnd
Flickr_-_USCapitol_-_Apotheosis_of_Washington,_War (1)Yes, America, I love you…but not like that. Not in the way of supreme allegiance and unquestioned devotion. You see, my heart belongs to another. I’m a Christian and I confess that Jesus is Lord. The Savior of the world is the crucified and risen Son of God, not “We the People.” The gospel is the story of Jesus, not the American story. I know your 16th President claimed that America was “the last best hope of earth,” but it’s simply not true. The last best hope of earth is Jesus, not you…

…America, I’m one of your citizens. And I love you like a sister. I’ll seek the common good. I’ll gladly pay my share to help provide for education, infrastructure, healthcare, emergency services, and everything else it takes to live in a civilized society. (I’d like for you to spend a lot less on bombs and killing machines, but I understand that’s not up to me.) Yes, America, I love you like a sister. But not like I love my Lord. Not like I love God. I cannot love you like that. I cannot pledge unconditional allegiance to you. But I can promise to be a good citizen by attempting to love my neighbor as myself.

Thank God for the Idea of AmericaKevin DeYoung
It has often been said that America was founded upon an idea. The country was not formed mainly for power or privilege but in adherence to a set of principles. Granted, these ideals have been, at various times in our history, less than ideally maintained. But the ideals remain. The idea persists.

If one sentence captures the quintessential idea of America, surely it the famous assertion contained in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Almost every word of this remarkable sentence, 236 years old today, is pregnant with meaning and strikingly relevant…

There’s a reason the Founding Fathers did not wax eloquent about safety and security. It’s because they believed freedom and liberty to be better ideals, loftier goals, and more conducive to the common good.

Caps lock…

Tuesday Picks ~ 6-20-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Don’t Take for Granted the Fragile Blessing of Civility
Trevin Wax
LightstockA civilized society uses persuasion and argument to make a case and will not tolerate those who engage in violence toward opponents on the other side of the political aisle.

But what if we are at the precipice of losing this hallmark of civility?

Recent developments should trouble the heart of anyone who loves liberty…

I would be the last to compare our recent political violence with Nazi fascism or Communist tyranny.

But I mention these examples because they took place in advanced, civilized nations where such violence would have, at one time, been considered unthinkable. Citizens overlooked the small but growing number of signs that led to these disasters. For this reason, we must recognize the seriousness of this present moment.

…There is no room for partisanship on this question; it is every American’s patriotic duty to oppose any justification for violence against one’s political opponent.

Why Refusing to Resolve Conflict Hinders Prayer

In case you’ve heard something from someone who wasn’t in the room where in happened…

Southern Baptists and the Alt-Right: On Being in the Room Where it HappenedNathan Finn
Because I was there, I’ve been disappointed at some of the musings, pontifications, and even insinuations of those who weren’t there, including both secular media and armchair quarterbacks who were offering misinformed assessments. At no point and in no way was the resolutions committee being “soft” on the Alt-Right or other forms of white supremacy. At no point were Southern Baptists debating whether or not we ought to denounce these demonic impulses. At no point did Steve Gaines or anyone else force Southern Baptists to do something they didn’t want to do. At no point were Southern Baptists wringing their hands over how we would look in the media if we didn’t do something. At no point were we trying not to offend Trump voters—or any other voters, for that matter. None of that happened, and folks who suggest it did are either speaking out of ignorance or out of malicious intent, period.

Ripple Effect…

Luke 22:39-46

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 22:39-46
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.[g] 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
“Father, if you are willing…”?
Jesus had to know I wasn’t willing, right?
“Not my will…”?
But he and I are One, right?
So, we have the same will, right?
Are you confused yet?
Twice he told them to “pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Do you think they ever did?
Do you ever pray that?
Would you mean it if you did?
“Father, if you are willing…”
How would you finish that prayer right now?
“Not my will…”
Can you also pray that part of the prayer…and mean it?

Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Weekend Picks ~ 5-12-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Three great soundbites that make terrible theology
Matt Fuller
Punchy sound bites are great—they’re memorable and help us get some things clear in our head. Jesus often used punchy sentences without any nuance: “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Yet most of us recognize that if we turned that sentence of great preaching into an absolute statement, then there would be a lot of Christians stumbling around without any eyes.

There are other very helpful sound bites that often get used in church. They are good preaching and make a helpful impression upon us. But, again, we don’t want to turn them into absolute statements or our faith will similarly stumble. Let me mention three common ones related to sin…

Ever wonder what your worship team sees?

My View from the Worship TeamRyan Higginbottom
worshipI’m on the worship team at church, so when it’s time to sing, I’m looking out at the congregation. I see it all—the joy, the struggles, and the boredom. I’m reminded how Jesus welcomes all of us, that his body is made up of all sorts of different people…

Set aside a little time for this one. It is worth every second…

A Necessary Pairing: The Theology of Marriage and of Compassion Wesley Hill
wes-hill-horizontal.jpgI tell you friends, when I read that – when I encountered that way of thinking about things … that my calling was to see how God might want to take … this thing in my life that feels so central and so confusing, that God might want to take that and use it as the thing that would lead me to give myself away in love to my community – that was a paradigm shift for me. It caused me to begin to ask the question: What could a future look like as an intentionally celibate Christian, who wasn’t just living in an apartment off by himself eating frozen pizzas on Friday night, but who was devoting himself to a community, devoting himself to friendship, forming thick bonds of kinship with fellow Christians?

That was a revolution in my thinking – that my calling might not be to spend the next 20 years of my life in therapy trying to find the childhood moment where things went wrong. But my calling was instead to find that certain social role that only I can play…

… this is the challenge for you, to cast a vision – and it doesn’t have to be one vision; I think there are 100 different models that this could take for your students – but to cast a vision [for your students]: “This is what a hopeful future looks like for you. If you’re same-sex attracted, and you’ve tried everything, and you haven’t experienced one iota of change in your same-sex attraction, and you’re wanting to give your life to God in celibacy, that does not have to equal loneliness. That does not have to equal isolation. … There’s a life for you. There’s a future for you that doesn’t simply look like alienation from your fellow believers in the church who seem to be so fixated on the nuclear family.”


How does the church move the world?Mindy Belz
How does the church move the world?Dawlat Abouna is a deacon in St. George’s Church [in Baghdad, Iraq]. He had a library in his home where he kept documents tracing his Christian ancestry in Iraq to A.D. 1117. … I asked: How is your family? With so much turmoil, are worship services continuing?

Dawlat answered: “Oh yes! We have started two new groups here at the church—one to pray for our persecuted brothers in the north, and one to pray for our enemies.”

At St. George’s over the years, Islamic militants aimed crippling bomb attacks. The church built blast walls, planted hedges over them, and continues to hold services and to serve the community. Hundreds of mostly Muslim women line up to collect food parcels every month as part of one program.

In the United States we live in a time of political upheaval, social fracturing, and racial strife. Calling out one’s enemies has become high art. Checking into social media requires dodging a barrage of insults and ire. How many of us pause to pray before we post? How many of us pray for those who make our lives hard, whether they live nearby or far away? …

Over and over in the book of Acts we see the early church praying boldly, suffering mightily, thanking its persecutors for scattering its people, and doing it all over again. It may look as if the church is being pushed around, but in reality it’s how the church moves the world.

I’ve often wondered about this guy…

Why Doesn’t Anyone Preach on the Proverbs 31 Husband for Mother’s Day?Tim Fall

…here’s what yesterday was like for me.

9:00 – Got out of bed. I woke up earlier but my wife told me to sleep in because she had everything covered. I have so much confidence in her I just had to roll over and go back to sleep…

Tick, tock…

Thursday Picks ~ 4-20-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Christian, You Don’t Have to Qualify Your Prayers
Michael Kelley
“…there’s something in me that tells me that this is not the kind of bold approach to the throne of grace that Jesus died for. This is not the intimate kind of communication that Jesus told me to cultivate by starting my prayer with, “Our Father…”

It’s respectful, sure – but it sounds a bit like one who is not sure of the character of the person he’s talking to.

So what is the alternative? Perhaps another way to pray is through exercising faith before, during, and after we pray…”

I appreciate this article a lot…

How I Found My Place (And My People) at a Megachurch
Sarah Short
I used to wonder why people would attend a megachurch.

I mean, THOUSANDS on THOUSANDS of people streaming into a building on any given weekend? Is that ANYONE’S idea of a good time? I actually wondered what people were thinking in CHOOSING a church so large as their place of worship when they could attend a smaller church down the street with easy parking, good ol’ fashioned potlucks, and a small community of people who all know each other…

Well, here’s how it went down for us: My family moved into the area and went searching for a church where the gospel was preached EVERY week and the people loved Jesus and had hearts for the lost people he came to save – not just each other. And, when we found that in a church TWENTY times the size of what we might’ve considered ideal, we stayed.

We’ve been at our church, a church of over 10,000 people, for six years. We have grown in our relationship with Jesus and in our passion to love people well in ways we never could’ve imagined. And as I sat down to think about WHY we’ve stayed and WHAT we love about our church, I wanted to share with you how we found our place and our people here…

Important for church leaders to remember…

The Hottest Thing at Church Is Not Your Pastor or Worship LeaderKate Shellnutt
The Hottest Thing at Church Is Not Your Pastor or Worship LeaderDespite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible.

“Sermons that teach about Scripture” are the No. 1 reason Americans go to church, according to a new Gallup poll

A practical application of new technology…
Off the Mark

Weekend Picks ~ 4-7-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

This seems like an appropriate prayer for today…

Perfect Peace in a Perfectly Peace-less WorldScotty Smith
Image result for peaceMost kind and trustworthy Father, you haven’t promised us a storm-less, hassle-free, conflict-empty life. You offer us no formulas for decreasing the probability of upsetting things happening around us or disillusioning things happening to us. But you have promised something that transcends chaos and fear, wars in our world and wars in our hearts.

You’ve promised to give us your peace, no matter what’s going on…

Lay Aside the Weight of PassivityJon Bloom
So, the Holy Spirit speaking in 2 Timothy 2:3–7 wants us to have a soldier’s mind-set, which is very different from a civilian’s. A soldier expects to suffer the rigors and dangers of war; a civilian does not.

The Spirit wants us to have an athlete’s mind-set, which is very different from a spectator’s. “Every athlete [expects to exercise] self-control in all things” in order to win the prize; a spectator does not (1 Corinthians 9:25).

And the Spirit wants us to have a farmer’s mind-set, which is very different from an average customer’s. A farmer expects to work hard for long hours, over long months, in all kinds of weather, to realize a harvest; a customer does not.

Civilians are passive during war; spectators are passive during competition; an average customer is passive during the growing season. As Christians, we are not called to easy passivity, but to rigorous activity.

There’s an important balance to be maintained here…

Being Professional in MinistryNicholas T. Batzig
John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is one of the books that pastors in the Western world would do well to read annually. In that work, Piper puts his finger on the gaping wound of a corporate mindset that has plagued the church in North America for far too long…

Nevertheless, I have often thought that a complementary volume–bearing the title, Brothers, We Could Be a Little More Professional–might be in order for some. After all, there is proper use of the word professional (i.e. “to exercise mature competency and skillfulness in one’s vocation”) that should characterize the lives, preaching and pastoral care of ministers. All ministers should seek to be as professional as possible in those things in which God has called them. Here are a few areas that I have in mind…

This is a crucial insight for church leaders…

The Danger of RestlessnessDan Reiland
Leaders in very large churches tend to be driven and get restless when the church isn’t growing as fast as experienced in recent years or even just months…

This restlessness causes high capacity driven leaders to divert their primary and creative energies from core activities to launch new endeavors within their churches…

The irony is that this investment of leadership energy is often the very thing that slows or prevents the primary mission, to reach more people for Christ and help them mature in their faith.

The better investment of leadership energy is to dig deep into the basics and stay focused there.

Speaking of being professional, would you want this job? Mike Rowe should feature this one on his show

It Was Once Someone’s Job to Chat With the King While He Used the ToiletNatalie Zarrelli
King William III and his mid-17th century "close stool," which is on display at Hampton Court.In the 1500s, the King of England’s toilet was luxurious: a velvet-cushioned, portable seat called a close-stool, below which sat a pewter chamber pot enclosed in a wooden box. Even the king had one duty that needed attending to every day, of course, but you can bet he wasn’t going to do it on his own. From the 1500s into the 1700s, British kings appointed lucky nobles the strangely prestigious chance to perform the king’s most private task of the day, as the Groom of the Stool.

Moms know best…
Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Tuesday Picks ~ 3-28-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

There is something important here for Christian leaders in all fields to remember…

The Pagans Who Will Save Christian Publishing
Samuel James
http://blogs.mereorthodoxy.com/samuel/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/01/book-809887_640.jpgWe asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.

And I will never forget his reply.

“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”

“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”

Several typos in this article (which I always find annoying and distracting), but this is still a good point to remember…

God Does Not Answer “Selfie” Prayers!H.B. Charles
It is not wrong to bring your personal needs and wants to God in prayer. It is our privilege in Christ to come with confidence to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus commands his disciples to ask, seek, and knock in believing prayer. But remember that the priority of prayer is God and is glory, not you and your desires.

Google and Facebook Can’t Just Make Fake News DisappearDanah Boyd
Fake news is too big and messy to solve with algorithms or editors — because the problem is….us.

…I understand why folks want to do something now — there’s a lot of energy in this space, and the underlying issues at play have significant consequences for democracy and society. Yet what’s happening at this present moment is not actually new. It’s part of a long and complicated history, and it sheds light on a variety of social, economic, cultural, technological, and political dynamics that will not be addressed through simplistic solutions. Racing to implement Band-Aids may feel good, but I worry that such an approach creates a distraction while enabling the underlying issues to flourish.

Interesting insight…

Moral Relativism Is DeadTed Olsen
Moral Relativism Is DeadIt isn’t that conservatives and liberals have shrugged off transcendent ideas of right and wrong. Rather, they each appeal to a different transcendent moral foundation. We are not in an era of moral relativism but moral pluralism.

That’s not necessarily good news: It’s hard to build a unified society when we hold radically different moral visions. It’s even hard to have a conversation when we view each other as immoral.

But it does offer evangelistic opportunities. Our Great Commission was never to convince liberals that there are objective moral truths. Our neighbors already have a deep sense that something has gone terribly wrong in our world, that “all have sinned.” In our conversations with unbelievers, we owe them the respect to try to understand their moral commitments and frustrations. They very well may be motivated to look for answers, especially as they find their best moral efforts frustrated. The fields are ripe for the harvest.

Honesty is not always the best policy…
Dilbert – Click image for a larger view.

Let’s Go for a Drive

Has God ever spoken to you?

Would you recognize His voice if He did?

Some say that God no longer speaks.

Don’t you think it would be terribly difficult to have a living relationship with a God who won’t talk to you?

I believe God does speak. He speaks through scripture. He speaks through the counsel of other brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe He speaks through circumstances – opportunities and closed doors. He speaks through His Spirit working on our consciences, convicting or correcting or comforting. I also believe that what He has to say will always be consistent with scripture. He would never violate or contradict His written word.

A.W. Tozer said: “God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. He is, by His nature, continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice.”

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well, God has never spoken to me.” But here’s the question: What have you been trying to hear? For whose benefit have you been listening? Let me suggest that hearing from God begins with a desire to hear for God.

I find that I often go to God with pretty specific expectations. Maybe I want to hear from Him about a particular subject. I’ll be looking through the Bible for a verse somewhere that supports what I already think. Or maybe I’ll go to one person after another asking for advice until someone tells me what I want to hear. I go to God way too often with my own agenda. When I talk to God it’s all about me!

Have you ever stopped to consider the possibility that God may have something specific on His mind that He would like to talk about? Too often I don’t give Him the opportunity because I’m too busy talking about what I want to talk about.

We don’t have a silent God. He is always speaking. We just need to learn how to listen.

I think maybe we need to begin with a different understanding about what prayer and Bible reading is all about.

I know many people who have done some type of reading through the Bible in a year program. I’ve attempted it myself – but I confess I’ve never succeeded. I think this type of Bible reading has its place. It’s like flying across the country in an airliner. You get to your destination in good time – you can look out your window and see some beautiful things even though there are parts of it that are completely clouded over – but you can end up with a general overview and a real appreciation for the vastness of the land.

However, if you’re really interested in what this land is all about, I would suggest something a little slower. Take the time to drive it sometime. Stop and spend the night in a few small towns. Get out and walk around at some particularly interesting spots.

Or, how about prayer? Suppose, for a moment, that you talked to your spouse or a close friend the same way you talk to God. Maybe you start the day by saying something nice to them. You mention how great and awesome this person is and what a privilege it is to know them. Then you start asking them to do things for you. You ask nicely. Maybe it even sounds like a plea. “Dear beloved Spouse, please, if you could find it in your heart to vacuum the floor…if it’s your will.”

What if you then write down a list of all the things you’ve asked your spouse to do, and then checked them off as they are accomplished? Do you think that’s a healthy relationship?

I heard David Roadcup say something once that has stuck with me for many years. He said, “The purpose of prayer is not to get your prayer list accomplished. The purpose of prayer is to get to know God.”

So what I’m suggesting is that we begin to think of Bible reading and prayer as a conversation.

It’s a 2-way conversation between you and God. And as in every conversation, it’s extremely helpful if both parties are talking about the same thing. Sadly, I confess, that most of the time God & I talk only about what I want to discuss. Then I wonder why He seems so distant. Maybe I ought to let Him begin the conversation.

Perhaps prayer should begin with listening instead of talking.

Consider this: reading the Bible is reading God’s mind. It’s not just a book of history, of how God did things in the past. It also tells us how God does things in the present. The scriptures are the primary means we have of hearing God’s voice and discovering His will. The scriptures are the starting points of our conversations with God.

Let me suggest that we start reading scripture for depth, not distance. I believe that if we do this we’ll experience the “transforming of our minds” that Paul refers to – and we’ll better be able to “test and approve what God’s will is”. (Romans 12:1,2)

So let me give you a word picture that will help explain how to do what I’m talking about…

I really enjoy driving. It’s not just the control thing. It’s more the desire to see what’s around the next bend or over the next rise. I love seeking out roads that I’ve never driven before.

Three of my all-time favorite drives have been:

For our 25th wedding anniversary we went to Bar Harbor Maine. We drove a northern route through Lake Placid, New York and crossed Lake Camplain on the ferry at sunset. Then we drove through Vermont & New Hampshire, all on 2-lane roads.

Another was driving the coastal highway along the Pacific. Route 1 – between San Francisco through Monterrey to Big Sur.

One more: driving the “million dollar highway” – Rt. 550 – from Durango to Montrose CO – passing through the mining towns of Silverton and Ouray.

The purpose of those drives had very little to do with arriving at the destination. It was all about what we might encounter along the way.

There are 6 steps to taking this kind of drive…

1. Fill your tank.

You can’t go anywhere if you’re out of gas.

2. Choose your road.

Maybe it’s a road you’ve enjoyed before or a new road you’ve never noticed before.

3. Slow down.

Take in the beauty of your surroundings. Look at the colors, notice the plants and wildlife, feel the breeze, notice the scent in the air. Listen.

4. Pull off the road at a scenic view point.

Stop the car, get out and step into the scene. Look around you.

5. Take a selfie.

How do you look in this setting?

6. Send home a postcard.

Tell the family where you went today. Tell them about the things you saw there.

So, when it comes to reading scripture we should:

1. Fill your tank.

Take a few moments to settle yourself. Ask God’s Spirit to help you hear what God wants you to hear. 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 says: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

2. Choose your road.

Select a passage of scripture. It could be one you’ve read many times, or maybe one you’ve never noticed before. Either way, I’m not suggesting that you just randomly flip through the Bible. Give it a little more thought and prayer than that. Work your way through a specific book or maybe you re-read a passage that was the subject of a sermon or lesson.

3. Slow down.

Take your time. Remember this is not for distance, it’s for depth. If you go too fast you miss too much. What else is going on in the surrounding verses? What does this passage teach you about God? Are you seeing anything you hadn’t seen before? You might even want to turn around and go back to get a closer look at something you read earlier.

Try reading aloud, as if you were trying to communicate the truth of this passage to someone.

Martin Luther said: “I study my Bible as I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf.”

4. Pull off the road at a scenic view point.

For an example let’s consider what there is to see in Col. 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

Let those words sort of sink in for a moment. What happens when you read them aloud and emphasize different words?

Let – you have a choice

Dwell – not just stop by for a visit or a quick hello, let it take up residence.

After you’ve re-read it several times maybe you could try to re-write the passage in your own words. That is a very helpful technique to use in conversations with people when you want to make sure you really understand what they are trying to communicate. You just say something like, “If I heard you right, I think I heard you say…” Try doing the same thing with scripture. Take the thoughts of the passage and put them in your own words and say back to God, I think this is what I heard you say…

5. Take a selfie.

How do you look in this setting? Reading scripture is often like looking in a mirror. What do you see when you look at yourself in view of this passage of scripture? Is God pointing out some things that maybe He’d like to do some work on, if you’ll allow it?

6. Send home a postcard.

This is your prayer. This is where you tell your Father where you’ve been today; what you’ve seen, and what you’ve learned. This is where you respond to God. He has started the conversation, now you respond. Maybe it’s a confession. Maybe it’s a prayer of thanks. Maybe this passage has caused you to think of another person that you bring up to God in prayer. Or maybe you just respond in a song of praise.

The point of the whole thing is that God is the one leading in prayer. He is directing the conversation. Some days you might not get very far. Other days you may cover a few chapters.

But, I really believe that if you do these things as you go, you’ll find that it will stay with you longer, and that your conversations with God will be way more meaningful than just working through a list of requests.

Try it sometime. I’d love to hear about your experience.

You can use the comments section here or you can email me at Lloyd@lloydrhamilton.com.


I owe these thoughts to Buddy Owens and his little book called The Way of a Worshiper, which I heartily recommend.


Luke 11:1-4

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 11:1-4
Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Why do you think almost everyone knows these words?
Do you think everyone knows what they mean?
Do you?
Do you keep my name hallowed?
Do you really want me to reign as king in your life?
If I gave you your daily bread would that be enough?
Do you really want me to forgive you the same way you forgive others?
Seriously, do you really want me to keep you away from temptation?
Because, sometimes it doesn’t seem like you do.
Remember, this is not just some kind of magical incantation.
If you’re going to say it, think about what you’re actually praying.
Are you sure these are things that you truly want to pray for?
Because, I truly want you to pray them.
That’s why it’s here.

Is God asking you anything more, or anything different? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thursday Picks ~ 3-2-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

There is power in prayer, but it’s not ours…

Prayer Isn’t MagicJared C. Wilson
prayerPrayer isn’t magic, because we have no power in and of ourselves. Prayer is expressed helplessness. But also, prayer isn’t magic, because God isn’t helpless without our moving him or unleashing him or activating him in some way…

…God doesn’t need you to let him do anything. He isn’t restrained or controlled by you…What saps we are if we think we have the power to “let God” do anything. He’s God. We’re not. Period.

Is prayer powerful? Yes, definitely, but specifically because the One being prayed to is powerful. The one doing the praying is in fact by his praying demonstrating that he has no power in and of himself. That is functionally what prayer is—an expression of helplessness. If we were powerful, we wouldn’t need to pray...

One way to kill your prayer life is to overthink it. The best friendships you and I have are with people we feel we can be ourselves with. We feel most easily “at home” with the friends we don’t feel self-conscious around. This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t plan your prayers or schedule time for prayer. It just means that the most vibrant prayer life is found in the one who is most willing to bring his whole self to God, willing to be himself before God, for better or worse.

I have many friends in India, Christian brothers and sisters whom I think about often. It saddens me to see this. India has been moving toward Hindu nationalism. Please pray with me that it remains open to Christianity, and that the Christians there continue serving Christ boldly…

Compassion: Why We’re Leaving India, But Still Have HopeSarah Eekhoff Zylstra
http://www.christianitytoday.com/images/75807.jpg?w=940In two weeks, Compassion International will be out of India.

The child development ministry confirmed today that after 48 years, its final day of operation will be March 15.

That means shutting the doors of 589 Indian-staffed development centers caring for more than 145,000 children, more than any other of the 25 countries where it works

…Compassion has worked every angle to try to stay open in India since last February, when India’s Ministry of Home Affairs put it on a list of organizations needing prior approval before transferring funds into the country. Then the government refused to grant such approval.

The government’s move can be traced back to 2011, when it changed its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act so that it could regulate NGOs it disagrees with philosophically, Mellado said. The move was seen by many as another step toward Hindu nationalism since 2014.

Since then, attacks on Christians and Muslims have increased. India is now No. 15 on Open Doors’ list of countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian, up from No. 31 in 2013.

This is an older article that I just came across. Still filled with good and challenging insights…

How The Church Today is Getting Discipleship Wrong
Carey Nieuwhof
I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.

But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.

The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?

It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples…

Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim…

Yes. Me too!

The Older I Get, the More Compelling This Argument for the Existence of God BecomesJustin Taylor
Philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli list 20 arguments for the existence of God in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (IVP, 1994).

When I first read “The Argument from Aesthetic Experience,” I thought it was clever but not compelling.

But the more I have thought about it, the more profound and convincing I have found it to be:

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Therefore there must be a God.

They add:

You either see this one or you don’t.

Why learn cursive?