Cultivating a lifestyle of prayer takes intentionality and an awareness that God is always with you. Jesus promised that He would be with those who would choose to follow Him.
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
He also promised that if we pray in secret to guard against hypocrisy and insincere desires to be seen by others (pride) that He would reward us openly.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
Growing up under the influence of my mom taught me how to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. In our large family it was hard to have a secret place to pray but I eventually noticed that she routinely rose early in the morning when the house was quiet or found a corner in the house very late in the night.
Her prayers were sometimes quiet and at times fervent and passionate, often with tears and always on her knees. It was as if the more she prayed the more she realized her need to pray. She came to know that God was with her.
As I began my young faith walk and would face difficulties of my own she began saying to me; “honey, pray about everything.” She knew that cultivating a prayer life was the greatest assurance of knowing God for myself and mom was right.
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Decision making can be one of the toughest aspects of life and relationships because of the long-term ramifications that lay in the balance. With all the careful reasoning, resolution of doubts and inner conflicts leading to a final decision we still lack the eternal perspective that is needed when making wise decisions. We must at some point acknowledge out need to the One who does know the future and who tells us that He is eager to respond to those who seek His perspective.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
Because we’ve all been given a free will to make our own life choices, the bible speaks to the way of the wise and the way of the foolish. We have a choice to either listen to God and heed His voice of wisdom or to do what seems right in our own eyes. Those who choose not to listen to God move through life doing what seems right in their own, limited perspective. Real progress in life is hindered and the long term outcomes don’t end well.
“But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” (Jeremiah 7:24)
To know wisdom is to know the God of wisdom.
“For My people are foolish; they know Me not;” (Jeremiah 4:22)
God’s wisdom opens the door to the eternal perspective we lack when making major life decisions. Seeking His input sets the wise apart from the foolish. The fool in time will suffer harm while the seekers of wisdom become wiser.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
God has a good plan for all His children and is eager to grant us the eternal perspective we need when making decisions. Ask in faith (James 1:6) and it will be given to you.
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool; but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26)
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Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)
His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.
Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)
In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)
When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)
Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.
Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)
How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.
When Jesus rose from the dead He sealed forever the triumphant life for all who would believe in Him.
“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.” (2Corinthians 2:14) The Message
I’ve heard it said that “life is hard, but God is good.” So true. I also believe that no matter what you face in life, whatever hardships you are called to endure, whatever testing of your faith allowed in Christ, that you remain in a position of perpetual victory by keeping your trust in Him.
When placed in the loving hands of Jesus your trial will result in great gain in being used to transform not only your life but much more valuable is being transformed into the image of Christ your Savior.
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good…He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son.” (Romans 8:28,29) The Message
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5,6) ESV
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Ignoring God can become a way of life if we are not intentional about not allowing our daily responsibilities, desires to achieve success and seasons of hardships to blind us toward His desires and plan for our lives.
In the Book of Hosea, the people of Israel had slowly gravitated towards a lifestyle of ignoring God’s commandments. They had been repeatedly warned by God’s prophets to return to Him with all their heart in love and obedience to ensure a continuance of God’s blessing on their nation. They had begun to live as if they were the source of blessing and not God.
“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built…Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.” (Hosea 10:1-2)
What altars or pillars has God been warning you about? Have you allowed other things or people to be placed higher in your life than God? Are you pursuing anything more than you are pursuing knowing the God who is the source of all blessings in your life?
“…but when they grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot Me.” (Hosea 13:6)
Because God continued to bless them for a long time during this warning season, they presumed upon His grace and continued in a life of sin, they were prideful and unrepentant. They did not understand the consequences of willful disobedience that hardens the heart toward God and His commandments. Like most of us who outwardly continue to practice christianity, God knows that inwardly we have turned from our devotion to Him when we begin to rely on our works to stay in His favor. Abusing His grace over a long period of time actually sets us up to move from enjoying the mercy of God to entering His judgement for our sin.
“…Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt. For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.” (Hosea 8:13-14)
We are the beloved children of God and His desire is that we would love Him and desire to know Him intimately from the heart. But if we choose to ignore His warnings, know that He loves us too much to leave us in a state of unrepentance. He will judge our sin in order to heal us and raise us up again to His glory and honor.
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up…He will revive us…He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” (Hosea 6:1-2)
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)
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Love is such a multi-dimensional emotion so often expressed simply in acts of kindness and tenderness yet on so many levels it invites a complex nature. On any given day love has the potential of being displayed tenderly or roughly, with deep loving affection and at other times in painful distress or cutting anguish. By the time we reach young adulthood most of us have been exposed to a full range of love actions from good to bad.
Love was originated by God. I call His love blessed. It is straightforward and uncomplicated, simple in its application to mankind. He presented it to us through the most generous act of all time by sending His Son Jesus to rescue us from a life void of His love. This blessed love is as pure as refined gold because it came through the fire of deep adversity that brought sin to its knees, crushing the power of it forever. Without accepting this blessed love we can’t come close to loving others as we should.
This God love is as pure as love can be. It is as giving as it can be, never running out and is always there when you need it. This blessed love is committed to your future, it believes for the best and greatest potential imparted into you. This blessed love is pure joy and equips you to live above your circumstances while trusting God to work out His best for your life. God is true love.
Loving others well hinges on how well we allow God to love us through Jesus His Son. May you choose His blessed love.
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1John 4:16)