Pray from your heart

Pray from your heart

Matthew 6:5 TM

Jesus said the Pharisees turned prayer into “a theatrical production,” and that God wasn’t moved by it. Author John Ortberg points out five things about them: “(1) Their prayers had become a shallow exercise rather than a deep relationship-building one. (2) They were rituals, rather than authentic expressions of a loving heart. (3) They were long and wordy, designed to impress others. (4) They were filled with meaningless clichés. (5) They became a cause for pride rather than an opportunity to express humble reliance on God.” Can you imagine your child approa ching you with a whole bunch of religious “thee’s” and “thou’s”? How would it make you feel? When it comes to prayer, Jesus said: “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply” (vv. 6-8 NIV). You can pray anywhere, at any time: in your car, in the bathroom, lying in bed, while you’re exercising, or at work. All God asks is that you be spontaneous, personal, and honest. In other words, pray from your heart.

Soul food: Jer 18-21Matt 1:1-25Ps 59:1-8Prov 14:21-22

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Check your attitude

Check your attitude

Philippians 2:5 NLT

A flying instructor will tell you that periodically your plane needs to be “trimmed” or “balanced in flight.” After flying through storms, it gets knocked out of alignment and needs to be adjusted. And the same thing happens on your spiritual journey. The storms of life can “knock you out of alignment.” Unexpected “weather conditions” like sickness, depression, unemployment, divorce, disappointment, and death can force you to change direction and strategy. That’s why your attitude needs to be regularly checked and adjusted. So what are you dealing with that calls for an attitude check? Paul writes, “You must have the same attitude…Jesus had.” Is such a lifestyle possible? Yes, but you must make it a priority and pursue it each day. Joshua wanted to turn an army of complainers into an army that could conquer the Promised Land. So God gave him this formula for success: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night…be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8 NLT). Try the “three-by-five technique.” Each week identify a Scripture that relates to an area in which you want to grow, write it down on a three-by-five card, and memorize it. In one year you’ll have fifty-two Scriptures you can recall and stand on. Think how that will impact your life! Not only will wrong attitudes become right attitudes, but your life will begin to move in the right direction.

Soul food: Jer 10-13Mark 15:33-47Ps 17Prov 14:13-16

 

 

Pray for “wisdom from above”

Pray for “wisdom from above”

James 3:17 NLT

Some people seem to thrive on conflict. They are always picking on others, arguing, disagreeing, or trying to get something started. They fight just for the sport of it, not because they passionately believe in a particular cause. They are quick to jump in and expend their energy fighting other people’s battles in which they have no stake. These people seem confident but they make poor decisions, so others learn to ignore them and not take them seriously. They need to “always win” in order to feel good about themselves. When it comes to your relationships with others, you need “wisdom from above.” When you have it, you won’t need to put everyone else on the mat just to show how strong or smart you are. True self-confidence, including confidence in your ability to make good decisions, comes from within. “The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (vv. 17-18 NLT). When you operate according to these scriptural principles, you’ll know whether or not a battle is worthy of your attention. If you keep your eyes on the prize that God has set before you, you’ll realize that some things simply aren’t worth your time and attention. As a result you’ll make better decisions about your life as well as your relationships.

Soul food: 2 Kings 21-23Mark 14:1-11Ps 73:1-16Prov 13:17-19

 

You’ll get through this storm

You’ll get through this storm

Acts 27:20 NIV

There are times in life when God seems distant. We pray but feel abandoned, at the mercy of our circumstances, afraid and hopeless. Paul was no different. He’d longed for an opportunity to preach in Rome and was on his way there when a hurricane struck his ship, plunging everyone into despair. Paul had not only foreseen the loss of the vessel, its crew and cargo, but his “own [life] also” (See v. 10 NIV). And his warning was disregarded by the captain, the pilot, and the centurion in charge of him. Consequently Paul and 276 fellow passengers were place d in a life-threatening crisis, and there was nothing he could do about it. Terrified, he and his companions declared, “We finally gave up all hope of being saved!” After fourteen days at sea without sun or stars to guide them, and just when the hurricane was fiercest, God sent an angel to Paul. “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (v. 24 NIV). They were cold, soaked, and hungry when their ship finally ran aground on an island south of Italy. Every circumstance pointed to tragedy and the demise of Paul’s dream of preaching in Rome. However, when the sun rose on the island of Malta next morning, it became clear that God had piloted them through the storm to the exact destination He had planned for them. And Paul ended up declaring God’s Word before Caesar in Rome. So take courage – you’ll get through this storm!

Soul food: 2 Kings 16:1-18:16Mark 13:12-23Ps 80:1-11Prov 13:11-12

 

Ways to develop resilience

Ways to develop resilience

Proverbs 24:16 NIV

Like any skill, mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience can be learned. Here’s how: (1) Redefine setbacks as the gateway to something greater. (2) Remember successful people don’t just face adversity, they embrace it. (3) Tune out the critics and focus on doing your best. (4) Wake up every day remembering that prayer and gratitude create a fertile environment for faith. (5) Increase your faith-talk when you’re afraid. (6) Learn from failure, and remember the many times you’ve succeeded. (7) Visualize victory before going into battle. (8) Refuse to dwell on the past or worry about the future; today is where you have the most influence. (9) Identify a solution instead of complaining. (10) Replace self-doubt with faith-talk. (11) When things look hopeless, remember “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). (12) When you feel alone, think of all those who have helped you and who love and support you. (13) Pray for guidance when you’re in over your head (See James 1:5). (14) Rest when you’re tired, but don’t give up. Finish strong in everything you do. (15) Remember you “can do all things through Christ” when you think you can’t (Philippians 4:13). (16) Recognize what you can’t control, focus on what you can, and surrender the rest to God. (17) Exercise physically to give yourself a sense of control and fight depression. (18) Laugh to reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, and improve arterial blood flow. (19) Be grateful. Research shows that people who sent a letter or email of thanks to somebody who helped them, s tayed in a better mood for up to a month.

Soul food: 2 Kings 10-12Mark 12:28-44Ps 132:11-18Prov 13:7-8

 

Approach God as a child

Approach God as a child

Matthew 18:3 NIV

Matthew writes: “The disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him…And he said…’Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'” (vv. 1-3 NIV). To do great things for God, you must approach Him with a childlike attitude. You can learn a lot from watching little children. Wherever they are, they find a way to enjoy whatever they’re doing. They’re qu ick to forgive an offense. One moment they’re fighting over something, the next moment they’re playing happily together. And trusting comes easily to them. Your children don’t worry about mortgage payments, meals, or making ends meet because they implicitly trust that you will provide what they need. What was Jesus teaching us? (a) To have simple faith. (b) To pray simple prayers. (c) To be quick to repent. (d) To reach regularly for God’s help. (e) To believe that your heavenly Father is good and that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). Plus, when you forgive children, they don’t run around feeling guilty and condemned. With this kind of simplicity in your relationship with God, you’ll find yourself growing spiritually and enjoying Him more than ever. And that should be your goal.

Soul food: 2 Kings 7-9Mark 12:13-27Ps 132:1-10Prov 13:4-6

 

Be creative (4)

Be creative (4)

Exodus 28:3 NKJV

God told Moses: “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments” (vv. 2-3 NKJV). Note the word “artisans.” God gives us artistic ability, and when we use it we glorify Him. Clothes “for glory and for beauty” call for creativity. Stop separating the spiritual from the secular! “Whatsoever [you] do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). How do you become creative? (1) By ackn owledging that God made you to be creative. (2) By asking Him to reveal your areas of talent and creativity. (3) By valuing creative ideas. No matter what you currently do, or how well you do it, a creative idea will enable you to do it better. Creativity is being able to see what everybody else has seen, and think what nobody else has thought, so that you can do what nobody else has done. Sometimes creative thinking lies along the lines of invention, where you break new ground. Other times it moves along the lines of innovation, which helps you to do old things in a new way. But either way, it’s seeing the world through sufficiently new eyes so that new solutions appear. “On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made” (Genesis 2:2). Notice that creativity involves work, which is why many people tend to avoid it. But if you’re willing to work at being creative, God will use you to do great things.

Soul food: 2 Kings 4:18-6:33Mark 12:1-12Ps 48Prov 13:2-3

 

Be creative (3)

Be creative (3)

Genesis 1:28 NKJV

Your heavenly Father created the world – and you are made in His image. That means you are wired to think creatively. God finished His creative work in six days, then our work began. God said, in essence, “I’ve provided you with all the resources and talents you need to have an abundant life. Now do something good with it.” The sheep He made give wool, from which we create beautiful fabrics in differing colors for matching outfits. God didn’t make cheese; He made cows that give milk so that we can create cheese from it. The Bible describes the beginning of all things in these words: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.'” The word “multiply” means that God wants you to end up with more than you started out with. But to do that you must begin to think creatively! Instead of simply accepting what is, you need to take what is and make something more out of it. When you do that, you’re following in your heavenly Father’s footsteps. Sometimes churches pour cold water on any thought or activity that isn’t religious, saying it’s “worldly” and therefore God is not pleased with it. That’s like saying God only works within the four walls of a church. No, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you do in life, God wants you to put your creativity to work so that you can glorify Him and bless others.

Soul food: 2 Kings 1:1-4:17Mark 11:27-33Ps 1Prov 13:1

 

Be creative (2)

Be creative (2)

Philippians 2:13 NLT

You will only have good ideas if you value ideas. Otherwise you’ll drift through life living off other people’s ideas. Creative thinkers: (1) Explore every option. Exploring a multitude of possibilities helps to stimulate your imagination, and imagination is crucial to creativity. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Why? Because it looks for new ways to put your knowledge to work. (2) Embrace ambiguity. Creative people don’t feel the need to stamp out uncertainty. They see all kinds of inconsistencies and gaps in life, and they take delight in exploring those gaps or using their imagination to fill them in. When you find an unmet need, you can either conclude that nothing can be done about it, or pray and look for a way to meet that need (Philippians 4:19). (3) Celebrate the offbeat. Creativity explores off the beaten path. Kingman Brewster, former president of Yale University, said, “There’s a correlation between the creative and the screwball. So we must suffer the screwball gladly.” To foster creativity, you must be willing to tolerate originality and oddness. (4) Are not afraid of failure. American philosopher Charles Frankel said, “Anxiety is the essential condition of intellectual and artistic creation.” Creativity requires a willingness to look stupid. It means going out on a limb knowing that limbs often break. Creative people know these things and still keep searching for new ideas. They refuse to let the ideas that don’t work prevent them from coming up with ones that do.

Soul food: Rev 19-22Mark 11:12-26Ps 129Prov 12:27-28

 

Be creative (1)

Be creative (1)

Genesis 1:27 NLT

Why do we celebrate the birth of our children? Because like God, we helped to create something. The famous American football coach Vince Lombardi said, “The joy is in creating, not maintaining.” It’s a mistake to believe that God is only interested in “spiritual things” and not “secular” things. Yes, you must grow spiritually. But you must also use the gifts He’s given you to fulfill His purpose here on the earth, and to bless others. You don’t have to be rich or have a high IQ in order to be creative. You could be a creative hairstylist, or come up with a new recipe, or create a job opportunity for prisoners by which they rebuild their lives. That’s not just secular, that’s spiritual! You’ll notice that the cross has two posts: vertical and horizontal. The vertical post represents your relationship with God, what He wants to do for you and what He wants you to do for Him. The horizontal post represents what He’s called us to do for each other. You say, “But I’m not very creative.” Once you discover your God-given gift, it will release your creativity. Paul writes, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6 NKJV). Stop putting yourself down just because you are not as creative as you’d like to be. Creative thinking isn’t necessarily original thinking. In fact, people mythologize original thought. Most often, creative thinking is a composite of other people’s thoughts discovered along the way. So the word for you today is: Be creative.

Soul food: Exo 20:16Deut 19:15-20Rev 21:8