Lead Me

Lead Me

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

As Jesus closed out the prayer, He ends with this request, “And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:4).

Temptation represents a real challenge to the life Jesus wants to build in our hearts. Here are a few observations from this verse that should impact how we pray:

#1 – It’s OK to talk to God about your temptations.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes I feel ashamed to admit to God what’s actually going on in my heart. I don’t want to tell him that I’ve been greedy or coveted my neighbor’s new car or haven’t been content with my own giftedness. It feels shameful to admit such things.

But shame does something devastating to a relationship:
It shuts down intimacy.

If we’re not willing to talk to God about the temptations that exist in our hearts, then we’ll have a hard time being intimate with Him.

This process of confession and acknowledgment is a healthy part of a life-giving relationship with Jesus!

#2 – The leadership of the Holy Spirit is pivotal and worth pleading for.  

We’re all following someone and something.

Who and what you choose to follow may be the most significant decision you make in life because whatever you follow is leading you into the next step and season of life.

This is why it’s so important to be anchored in the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

If you’re like me, you’ve had friends that complain about their bosses. That’s a fairly common conversation. “My boss is the worst, because he __________.” You know how it goes.

Have you ever stopped to think that if you prayed about taking the job, then Jesus is your real boss? He led you there. He knew what you needed, the blessings and challenges you need (because we DO need challenges from time to time, don’t we?).

In this confession, Jesus acknowledges that He’s made the decision to follow the Father, and pleads with Him to make the path clear and free of temptation.

In confusing times, it’s necessary to lean into praying for God’s direction, because He desires to lead you.

His ways are better. Let’s follow Him.

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What is a temptation that you need God to lead you out of?


 

A Gift To Regift

A Gift To Regift

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

Over the past few blogs, I’ve offered perspectives on this prayer, and what Jesus is teaching us today through it.

Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4).

I think this one of the most difficult verses in all the Scriptures.

Let me make two simple observations from this verse for our prayer life today:

#1 – We will have to forgive.

We live in a broken and fallen world. Sin abounds. We have a common and crafty enemy that seeks to destroy the work of God in our lives. That’s encouraging, huh?

If that it is true (and it is), then we’ll have to deal with hurts.

During this moment in His prayer, Jesus shows that for us to keep a healthy relationship with God, we’ll need to keep healthy relationships with others. It’s quite odd to say it this way (but, true): Your earthly relationships have an eternal impact.

Since we’ll experience hurt, there’s no way to have a healthy prayer life without being a forgiving person.

#2 – Our capacity to give grace is connected to our capacity to receive it.

This is frightening, to be blunt. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Father, if they withhold forgiveness, please withhold it from them as well.”

Are you holding on to any unforgiveness? I know that if I ask myself that, honestly, I’m consistently reminded of something or someone that I need to forgive.

I think sometimes we think of God’s forgiveness as a statement of our worth, and it is that in some ways. God loves you and values you, so He sacrificed His Son to provide the means for a relationship with Himself. That’s valuable.

But… more than that…

Forgiveness is a GIFT that is meant to be REGIFTED.

I think this statement embedded in the model prayer reminds us of this simple truth: Jesus lived for and with others graciously, and so should we.

As you pray, let it be an active time of forgiveness, and let the emotional cost of that forgiveness compel you to see the real value in the forgiveness that Jesus leveraged eternally for you.

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Who do you need to forgive?

He Wants To

He Wants To

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4).

There’s two things that we need to assume before we can pray with that perspective.

#1 – We are not perfect.

While this may come as a shock to some of you, most of us know that we are not perfect. We have our issues, our own brand of crazy, and our own personal brokenness.

Can we drop our guard a little? We can act like we’re perfect a lot of the times, can’t we?

We argue about who being right, often assuming our rightness over others. We hate to admit our mistakes. For many of us, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be that someone knows your weaknesses and flaws.

We may not “think” we’re perfect, but we sure do act like we are sometimes.

#2 – God is willing to and wants to forgive us.

It’s remarkable to me that so many people do not believe that God should or would want to forgive them. They know the depth of their failure and have put themselves outside the compassion of God.

That is not true of any of us.

Perhaps the worst crime in history was the execution of Jesus, the Son of God himself. And as Jesus looked upon the men murdering Him, he pled with the Father to “forgive them.” (reference Luke 23:34)

If we realize that we are not perfect and that God is the kind of God who is willing to and wants to forgive us, what happens?

We seek His forgiveness in prayer.

Have you ever apologized to someone, received their forgiveness, and had a relationship restored? I have. It’s an amazing thing.

You know what’s unexpected? You’re closer after. Grace and forgiveness facilitates intimacy.

God knows that. He wants to be close to us. That’s exactly why He wants us to seek His forgiveness!

*     *     *     *     *

What do you need God to forgive you of today?

What You Think You Need

What You Think You Need

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

In response to that question, Jesus taught his disciples using a model prayer. That prayer has been referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. During this prayer, Jesus models a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

In verse 3, after Jesus has instructed His disciples to start with focusing on God as their source and laying down their will, He prays, “Give us our daily bread.”

Isn’t it good to know that God has invited us to ask for what we need?

Later, as Jesus continues to teach, He parallels God’s response to us to that of a father responding to his kids. If my kids ask for food, I typically try to find them something to eat. If my kids ask for a hug, I don’t withhold it. If my kids want to pray with me, I never say, “No.”

What have you refused to pray for because you already said no for God?

Maybe you’re the mom who sees a need in the character of your child, but you’ve resisted asking God to give it because it’s always been a part of your family. Maybe you’re the business owner who needs to his business to grow so that you can hire someone to help you so that you can spend more time with your family, but you’ve felt selfish in praying for further financial success.

Maybe God wants to say, “Yes.”

Isn’t it amazing to know that God invites us to ask for the things we think we need? Because, let’s be honest about this, we don’t always know what we need. Some of us think we need things that are simply wants. Even though we miss it, He still wants to talk to us about it!

So… “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Here’s one simple caution: Don’t assume that God is obligated to do what you ask simply because you’ve prayed about it.

God can never answer a prayer that is outside of His will, both as it’s revealed in the Scriptures for you and as the Holy Spirit desires to lead you.

He’s not under your authority, you are under His.

Sometimes my kids will ask RIGHT AFTER dinner for MORE FOOD!!! I know that they do not need it, it’s just a want, and if I fulfilled their request it would be unhealthy for them.

In that same way, God will lovingly say “No” when a “Yes” would hurt.

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What’s something you’ve said “No” to God for that you need to start seeking God to do in your life?

Shift Your Focus

Shift Your Focus

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

In this moment, Jesus taught his disciples to pray by praying a model prayer. That prayer has been referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and is commonly recited among Christians worldwide.

During this prayer, Jesus models a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray!

During the first blog in this series I shared how Jesus invites us to focus on Him as we begin to pray. What a powerful invitation! We can choose to look into the heart of the one that can change everything and talk to Him as a friend!

In the very next statement Jesus says, “Your kingdom come (your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven).” (see Luke 11:2 and Matthew 6:10)

The second perspective Jesus directs us to in prayer is a broader perspective.

This broader perspective is not self-centered. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to act like the world revolves around ourselves? When we act this way, we make EVERY THING about us, get offended easily, use people, manipulate relationships, and sabotage our lives.

This perspective is not self-serving. Do you find that in yourself you often want things to go well for YOU? In this way, we think: If it’s not good for me, then it can’t be good. This keeps us from embracing the gifts God gives us in difficult moments, from journeying through brokenness to find His beauty.

This perspective is not self-focused. Isn’t that how we often think of the world? Through a lens that sees ourselves and our interests first. If we allow ourselves to view the world this way, we’ll spend much of our lives only focused on ourselves and that kind of life is futile and empty.

Jesus invites us to shift into a perspective that see’s the interests of God first, to value the movement of hope and restoration that is spreading around the world through the Gospel of Jesus more than our own lives.

That perspective changes everything.

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What needs to change for you to be more concerned about what God is doing rather than what you want?

Start With Jesus

Start With Jesus

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

“The Lord’s Prayer” (or the “Our Father”) wasn’t invented on the ball field or in the halls of a cathedral. It was a simple, model prayer that Jesus shared with His disciples.

In response to the question, Jesus wasn’t giving a poem to memorize. He was, instead, teaching them how to pray. This teaching walks His disciples through a simple progression that frees us to pray more effectively.

In the first line of this model prayer, Jesus says, “Father, hallowed be your name… (Luke 11:2).”

Let me simplify this, because to me this line has always been confusing.

The word Jesus uses in the original Greek when He says “Father” is a word that would have described “the originator and creator of all things.” This word is used often in the Scriptures and is always translated “Father”. Just as my kids wouldn’t be here with me, so all of this life wouldn’t be here without our God.

Then Jesus follows with “hallowed be your name”.

The word translated “hallowed be” literally references the action of separating the things that please God from those things that do not please God. The word is more often translated “sanctify”.

Then the word translated “name” isn’t a very specific word. Jesus doesn’t use a proper name of God. He, instead, uses a word that’s very broad. The word He uses describes “all that is associated to a name.”

Let me put this all together for you, so that we can START our prayer the way Jesus taught us…

Jesus is described as the “creator of all things” (Colossians 1:16). We wouldn’t be right with God without Him. He is the origin of our connection with God, and the author of our story through God.

Jesus describes himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” in John 14:6. If it’s the wrong way, a lie, or death, then it cannot be found in Jesus.

As we begin our prayers, Jesus is showing us that we should always start with focusing our hearts on Him.

Start your prayers by acknowledging that He alone is your source. Confess that you’ve tried to find your way, your truth, and your life in others. Allow Him to separate those things in your perspective, and lean into Him.

If we start with Jesus, our prayers will always be directed to the One who wants to be our greatest Friend, the One who has already paid the price to overcome whatever we’re facing!

*     *     *     *     *

How can you create a great focus on Jesus as you pray?

Its All About Saying “Yes”

Its All About Saying “Yes”

For the past few weeks we’ve challenged our church to fast for 21 days as we take an intentional season to seek God in prayer.

In life, there is a time to feast and there is a time to fast. Feasting in the scriptures happens in celebration and remembrance. Fasting is spiritual discipline, like prayer and meditation, that draws us closer to God.

When we think of fasting, we often thing of saying “No.”

In it’s most basic form, that’s what defines a fast. We say “no” to something. For the past few weeks I’ve said no to cheeseburgers, coffee, and cookies. Some of my friends have given up caffeine, some have given up Facebook, and some others things that drain their time.

For first three days as I started this Daniel Fast I had a headache. If you’re a coffee drinker and have done a Daniel Fast, you know that’s not any fun. The pain that I was feeling was deeply connected to what I was saying “no” to.

It’s easy to focus on the “no”, because it’s normally so easy to say “yes”.

The reason I had a headache for days is because I typically say “yes” to caffeine every day in the form of at least three cups of coffee. Fasting is all about identifying the things we typically say “yes” to and disciplining ourselves to say “no”.

If you only say “yes” to something, you’re not living in freedom. For me, I typically only say “yes” to coffee, and my body reminded me that I haven’t lived in freedom with it.

During a fast we’re reminded that every “no” is a “yes” to something else.

Fasting is opportunity to say “yes” to God, because we all too often say “no” to Him. This may come as you say “no” to something that sucks all your free time, and you have greater margin in your life to say “yes” to Jesus. It may happen as you discipline yourself to say “no” to certain foods, opening yourself up to see how often you say “yes” mindlessly to thing
s that have kept you in bondage.

My son Klayton asked me the other day, “Dad, are you on the fast or on the slow today?” I think Klay gets it. Fasting is the quickest way to align my desires to that of God’s. Fasting is all about experiencing the discipline and freedom of saying “yes” to God.

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What are you saying “yes” to as you say “no” in your fast?

Don’t Let It Stay In Your Head

Don’t Let It Stay In Your Head

It’s THANKSGIVING!

That means turkey and family time.

It’s also means that we, collectively as a culture, take a day to pause and be thankful.

If you’re like me, you probably have so much to be thankful for.

I catch myself often thinking of these things.

Can I give you one simple piece of advice when it comes to being thankful?

DON’T LET IT STAY IN YOUR HEAD!

You’re probably like me. You have these quick thoughts that creep into your mind that reflect something you’re thankful for…

“I’m so glad I have wife that always smiles at me when I come in the door at the end of the day.”

“I’m so thankful my husband puts the toilet seat down.”

“I’m grateful for kids that love Jesus and are doing well on their own.”

“I’m thankful for a boss that gives me time to go see my kid’s plays at school.”

You have those thoughts, right?

SHARE THEM!

Take the time, right now, and send FIVE DIFFERENT TEXT MESSAGES to someone that you’re thankful for and tell them SPECIFICALLY what you’re thankful for.

Thankfulness changes things when it’s SHARED!!!!

*     *     *     *     *

Here’s the challenge: Text or Call FIVE PEOPLE and express your gratitude for them. BE SPECIFIC!

The Power Of A Grateful Heart

The Power Of A Grateful Heart

It sort of amazes me that “Black Friday”, the day America loses it’s mind over cheap stuff we don’t really need, falls on the day that immediately follows Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a profound day.

Not exactly because of Turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce that most of honestly detest…

Thanksgiving is important because redirects our hearts and minds.

We take this so seriously, that as we pastor our kid’s hearts we’ve made “having a grateful heart” one of the most significant points of emphasis in our home. When our kids complain, they’re immediate met with the question, “Are you having a grateful heart?”

There’s power in a grateful heart.

#1 – A grateful heart reshapes difficult moments.

You may not like it, but you’re going to face difficulty in life.

When we face difficulty, we don’t have to be dragged down in the midst of it. The Scriptures describe for us a joy that transcends difficult moments and trying times.

The secret lies in how our heart shapes our current situation.

There’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for, and in the midst of difficult situations a grateful heart elevates those things above the difficult things. This reshaping of our context allows us to view difficulty through a new perspective.

This is how cancer patients find a purpose in living their faith out in front of their family and friends. This is how grieving families find hope in a promised eternity with Jesus and our loved ones. This is how those who are hurting find purpose in the pain.

This is how Job, in the middle of great pain and loss, could say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).

A grateful heart unlocks a better perspective to live from.

#2 – A grateful heart erodes anxiety, worry, and fear.

Anxiety and worry are born out of fear. Fear looks at our circumstances and predicts the worst outcomes.

Many of us struggle with fear. It’s a significant tool the enemy uses to derail the work of God in our lives, because when we embrace fear, we begin to reject faith.

Faith always looks at the evidence in our current circumstance and responds with a resilient belief that “God can.”

Faith is described to us in the Scriptures as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

A grateful heart looks at our current circumstances, and when there is room for doubt, it instead chooses thankfulness.

Thankfulness reminds us of something that’s important: We’ve needed God before, and He showed up in a powerful way to take care of us.

That redirection erodes anxiety, worry, and fear’s capacity to grow in our hearts.

#3 – A grateful heart opens us to richer relationship with Jesus.

Imagine giving your kids amazing gifts day after day, and the imagine that they NEVER said “Thank You” or expressed any sort of gratitude.

What would that do your connection with them?

Now imagine that your kids looked for ways to say “Thank You” and express gratitude for EVERYTHING you do for them, every day, in every way possible…

Would that change things in your relationship with them?

A grateful heart reorients us to Jesus, and allows us to be more focused on what He is doing in our lives.

When that happens, everything changes!

*     *     *     *     *

What needs to change for you to live with a more grateful heart?

What You Focus On Matters

What You Focus On Matters

Have you ever found yourself in that moment where your kids were doing something absurdly cute or ridiculously funny?

What do we do? We grab our phones and try to take a picture, don’t we?

More times than not something goes wrong with the picture for me: my fingers get in the way, the camera doesn’t focus in time, or the moment passes.

I think life is a lot like that.

Life is a beautiful journey. We’re surrounded by so much good and get to encounter so much in life that is purely wonderful, it’s impossible not to be struck by the simple beauty of life itself.

It’s also easy to miss it.

Here’s the reason it’s so easy to miss the beauty of our journey: there will be difficulty, and it’s so easy to focus on the ugly in life.

When difficult times come, it’s easy to allow them to gain our greatest focus. When that happens it robs us of a greater perspective that allows us to see the real beauty of the moment we find ourselves in.

Here’s a few questions to help you regain your focus…

#1 – How big is the problem facing when you view it in the perspective of your entire life?

Often we blow things out of perspective. We make them bigger than they really are. We allow our minds to set the problem in front of the rest of our life. The problem becomes the finger in the way of the cute picture of our kids.

When you press pause on the circumstance, and back up to look at what’s really going on… How big is the problem, really? It’s probably not that big, and you’re probably both blowing it out of proportion and focusing on it.

#2 – Is your problem bigger than Jesus?

If you’re facing a big problem, it’s likely the reason the problem is so big is that Jesus is small in your life. When we have a BIG GOD, we will always have small problems.

Viewing your problem in light of our eternal, all-powerful God is an important step to gaining the right focus in life. He’s bigger than any problem we’ll ever face, and He is on your side!

#3 – What do you need to focus on?

This is the important step… If you’re going to shift your perspective from your problem, where is going to go?

This is where the truth of gratitude begins.

Gratitude is born out of a perspective of our heart, not a set of circumstances.

You probably have more than enough right now to be thankful for. You don’t need something new to happen. You just need to shift your perspective, and when you allow your focus to shift something wonderful happens.

Gratitude turns our problems into praise.

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What do you need to shift your focus from today? What do you need to focus on to be more thankful today?

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