Dangerous Praying

Some prayers are more dangerous than others. One type of prayer that has far-reaching consequences is to ask the Lord to search your heart for hidden sin, or for wrong patterns of thought. This happened to me during meditation on Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” The problem with praying this verse is that God will answer you! For weeks after praying I became increasingly conscious of a tendency to stretch the truth; of lustful thoughts that I’d rationalized as being “par for the course” for men; of attitudes that kept me from greater intimacy with people close to me. It was as if all hell broke loose in my heart. But God was merely shining His Spirit’s light on sins that I had been tolerating all along. I was more sensitive to them–and I didn’t like what I saw! Yet their exposure led to heartfelt bouts of confession, and a state that was just a little closer to that elusive goal called purity. I just didn’t know that things would get worse before they’d get …

5 LESSER KNOWN WAYS THAT PRIDE SHOWS

Repeatedly in His Word, God warns about the encroachment of pride. That’s because, as John Wesley put it, “All pride is idolatry.” When we’re proud, how does it show? More obvious answers include boasting about accomplishments (even when we’re subtle about it during conversations); an unwillingness to accept unsolicited counsel or reproof; or an air of superiority that results in having to win every argument or promoting our own ideas without consideration of others’ input. But here are less obvious attitudes and behaviors that stem from pride.  To my chagrin, I’ve exhibited each of these five symptoms.  1.   ImpatienceWhether I’m muttering under my breath in a traffic jam, agitated over a delay in a doctor’s office, or I’m eager for the other person to stop talking so I can say what’s on my mind, a pattern of impatience reveals that my time and words are ultimately more important. To what extent does impatience describe you? 2.   AnxietyIn Humility:  True Greatness, C. J. Mahaney explains that pride births worry: “When I’m experiencing anxiety, I’m trying to be self-sufficient.  I’m acting independently of God.” He’s on to something.  Peter also linked anxiety with pride: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace …

7 THINGS TO DO WHILE WAITING ON GOD

Puzzling. Frustrating. Gut-wrenching. When we’re waiting on God to act, those words describe us.  We may be waiting for provision of a new job; for God to woo a grown child back to faith; for Him to open the womb for a baby desperately wanted, or to bless us with a wife or husband.  From my experiences and from God’s Word, here’s what I’ve learned to do while waiting. 1.  Keep on praying. Yes, it’s easier said than done when God has repeatedly answered with silence.  But I keep praying because Jesus commanded us to do it. In a text where Jesus taught His followers how to pray, He emphasized persistence (Luke 11:1-13). He employed a verb tense calling for continuous action: “Everyone who keeps asking, receives; and he who keeps seeking, finds; and to him who keeps knocking, it shall be opened” (verse 10, translation mine). 2.  Study the lives of Bible characters who waited on God for a long time. Abraham (Genesis 12—21) waited twenty-five years for God to give the promised heir through Sarah. Joseph (Genesis 39—41) unjustly languished in jail for more than two years before God catapulted him to prominence and his administrative destiny was fulfilled. Twenty five years …

1 APPLICATION OF JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION

​So what? According to Johnny Miller, former pastor and past President of Columbia International University, that’s the most important question to ask when we study the Bible. The text says this (observation).  So what? The text means this (interpretation).  So what?   This second “So what?” should lead us to implications of the truth for our lives (application). For those of us who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, so what?  The events of the first Easter spawn numerous implications, but here’s one that inspires me today.  I can pray “in Jesus’ name,” not in my own name. Allow me to unpack this obvious statement. Ever had such a bad day spiritually that you doubted God wanted to spend any personal time with you?  Ever feel unacceptable to Him, hesitant to pray, because you’re doubting your acceptability to Him based on the day’s substandard performance? The demands of work or family responsibilities crowded out your usual morning devotions. You spoke too harshly to your spouse. You dropped the ball over lunch and didn’t take advantage of the opening an unchurched friend gave you to share your personal testimony. A traffic jam generated irritation and spawned a barrage of negative …

8 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU DETERMINE IF YOU’VE REALLY FORGIVEN SOMEONE

We can fool ourselves into thinking we’ve forgiven another person, when resentment still simmers beneath the surface of our hearts.  I know this from painful experience.    Warning:  asking ourselves these questions may spur repentance toward God for our bitterness, and confession to the person who’s the object of resentment. To glean the most from the questions, peruse the Bible reference(s) before moving to the next question.  1. Have I done my part to seek reconciliation with this person?  Romans 12:18 Forgiving someone doesn’t always lead to reconciliation or renewed trust.  We can’t control the other person’s response to us, no matter how humble or winsome our attitude is when we approach him.  2. Have thoughts of revenge or payback stopped surfacing in my mind?  Romans 12:19-21  3. Do I pray for this person and honestly wish him or her well?  Matthew 5:44  4. Can I talk about this person without a hard edge to my tone of voice, and without mean-spirited nonverbal communication?   Proverbs 15:1; Ephesians 4:31  5. Have I stopped telling others what this person did to me?  Ephesians 4:29  6. Am I willing to bless or to assist this person in a time of need?  Exodus 23:4  7. Do I have more deep-seated joy than I …

10 questions your accountability partner should ask you

For Patrick Morley, “Accountability is to be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.” According to Charles Swindoll, “Accountability is giving one or more trusted persons the permission to ask you the hard questions.” Seeking someone to hold you accountable for growth and holiness requires humility and transparency.  And it indicates that you see the danger in too much privacy.  Here are questions I gave to my accountability partner, who poses them a couple times a month.   Did you maintain a regular “quiet time” with the Lord during which you cultivated intimacy through prayer and Bible reading? Did you say or do anything since we last talked that constituted a breach of integrity? Did you spend adequate time investing in key relationships: spouse, children, close friends? Has your use of time recently been characterized by diligence and loyalty to work or ministry responsibilities? Did you take care of yourself physically through sound eating habits, exercise, and rest? Did you say, write, or do anything in relation to a member of the opposite sex that you wouldn’t want your spouse to know? Have you made yourself more vulnerable to sexual temptation by what you’ve …

20 QUESTIONS TO ASk A MENTOR

Whether you’re a homemaker, a businessman, or a vocational Christian leader, I hope you regularly pick the brains of older, mature people whose walk with the Lord you respect. Tapping into their wisdom and experience is a hinge on which your growth and effectiveness will turn. Select a few of the questions that follow to ask your mentor. The more transparent he or she is, the more valuable the input. If the replies are succinct or too general, pose follow-up probes that seek specificity, clarification, elaboration, or examples. Why do this? The person who learns only from himself has a fool for a teacher.  If you were 21 again, what would you do differently? Why? If you were 21 again, what would you do the same? Why? What book on personal spiritual growth has ministered most to you? Explain. What book on leadership or church ministry do you consider a “must read”? Why? In following Christ or in ministry, what keeps folks from finishing well? What suggestions can you offer that will increase the likelihood of finishing well? What have you learned about preventing or managing interpersonal conflict? What is the #1 thing you’ve learned about maintaining a strong marriage? …

10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FOR SURE

After 67 years, some things life and God’s Word have taught me are lodged in my mind and regularly demand my attention and application. I’m convinced that the following ten statements pass the test of truth.If you want this post to make a difference in your life, read the Bible verses that accompany each point. Then ponder the implications for your walk with Christ, ministry, relationships, and choices. 1.God will exist after I die. (1 Timothy 1:17) I know what you’re thinking: “You earned a Ph.D. to discover this!?” But if you often push down too hard on the ministry accelerator, mull over its implications. 2.Cemeteries are filled with indispensable people. (Psalm 39:4-6, 49:8-12, 90:9-12) As John Wesley put it, “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.” Have an extended prayer time in a cemetery and a realistic perspective will soak in. 3.No matter what you hear on so-called “Christian” television, God does not exist for your sake; you exist for His sake. (Isaiah 43:7) How should this maxim change the way you pray? Your reaction to affliction? 4.“Spiritual experience begins in the mind.” (Romans 12:2) This remark from Stuart Briscoe reminds me that you can have theology …

6 WAYS TO INSTILL GRATITUDE FOR GOD’S FAITHFULNESS  (A Step-by-Step Group Worship Experience You Can Use)

How can you tap into your group or family members’ positive memories of God’s interventions? How can you spark a celebration of His past deeds, leading to a corporate time of praise? 1.Use a Hymn. Go online and find a high-quality choir rendition of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” 2.Distribute the Lyrics and Play the Song. Ask group members to follow along on the sheet as you show the choir singing. I’m told by music professionals that it’s legal to make copies of the sheet music and lyrics for group distribution when there’s no profit-making involved or if the group is associated with a church or school which purchases the music for choir or class usage. 3.Discuss the Song Lyrics. Ask: Which words or phrases in the song mean most to you right now? Why? Words special to me include “Thy compassions they fail not,” “Morning by morning new mercies I see,” “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” and “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.” 4.Devotional. Give a 10-12 minute devotional from God’s Word on the theme of God’s faithfulness, and the Bible’s call to remember His past deeds. The following Bible texts provide fuel for your thinking:*Lamentations 3:22-25  Words …

3 THINGS THE BIBLE DOESN’T TEACH

The late pastor Ron Dunn quipped, “Many people believe the Bible because they do not know what it says.” He referred to misconceptions some folks have about what it does and does not teach. What they think the Bible teaches, it doesn’t, or if they knew what it really taught, they’d be less inclined to acknowledge it and commit to it.Here are a few things some Christians believe that don’t stem from God’s Word. 1. “My day will go better if I start with prayer and Bible reading.” Obviously, we need the soul-food ingested during time alone with God. What God’s Spirit teaches us during a quiet time may sustain us throughout the day and inform decisions we make. But it’s a mistake to think that circumstances and relationships and ministry efforts will automatically flow smoothly because we had our devotions. The Lord’s promise of nearness to the broken-hearted and those crushed in spirit implies that our hearts will break and life will sometimes crush us, no matter how we start our day (Ps. 34:18). The next verse adds, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” Personally, some of my worst bouts with depression or most disturbing relational conflicts came on the …