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)
The ability to hear causes us to take notice, to observe or pay attention to what we are being informed of. Hearing is listening.
Are you a good listener? Whether you believe you are a good listener or not, God has plenty to say about the art of being a good listener. The word is used so often in the Bible God must have known we would be challenged in this area.
“Listen diligently to Me…incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:2,3)
The livelihood of our souls depends on how great a listener we are to not only what God speaks into our lives but how well we apply it. God tells us that it was because the Israelites refused to hear His words they turned back to the sin of their forefathers.
“They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear My words.” (Jeremiah 11:10)
Listening and believing go hand in hand with God. He promises to bless those who believe what He speaks.
“And blessed is she who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Listening and obedience go hand in hand with God who entrusted an entire nation under the leadership of Moses to bring them into the promised land.
“…He is faithful in all My house.” (Numbers 12:7)
Hearing God can’t be done well in a noisy and hectic lifestyle. We must learn to guard our hearts for the quiet times that are needed to hear and grow in our knowledge of God and the daily fellowship and blessings that knowing Him offer.
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
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)
What are the pressing issues in your life right now and how are they impacting your long-term goals? For most, these challenges have the capability of knocking us off path towards our ultimate life fulfilling goals and discouraging us from pressing on.
Paul, the apostle obviously struggled with his past failures to the point that he referred to himself as a ‘foremost sinner’, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God had bestowed on his life.
“…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1Timothy 1:15)
Paul goes on to say that this mercy that he received was a display of Jesus’ perfect patience that would serve as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us to not make futile the gift of grace that has been poured into our lives by accepting our imperfections and inconsistent attempts towards fulfilling our goals and purpose. Instead, by faith, believe “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Our daily, pressing life issues have been sovereignly and compassionately placed in our lives by a loving Heavenly Father who knows its value and necessity in shaping our destiny while impacting those around us in their faith walk.
The point is that when we respond correctly to trials and sufferings, as Jesus did, we come through having gained more of Him than when we entered into the trial. (Philippians 3:8-9)
So let’s keep our life goals at the forefront of our life issues and follow the example of Apostle Paul who lived with the conviction of not wanting the grace that had been poured into his life to have been in vain. This, we are told, is how the mature respond to the call of God on their lives with all its imperfections:
“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Keep pressing on!
Image: The Light of Morning, brl.press
Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.
So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.
Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.
Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.
God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.
The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)
Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!
“…give us this day our daily bread…”
Growing up I learned that love had to be earned based on how well I performed. The giving of love was by works and not by grace. This way of receiving love was instilled in my father by his father and he naturally brought it into his parenting relationship with his own kids.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
Performance based love is rooted in fear and not in the freedom of grace love initiated by God. My earthly father inflicted a ton of rules that I had to adhere to. Eventually I figured out that I would never be able to consistently meet his standards. God accepts us as we are, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. He not only loves us first but wins our heart with His kindness towards us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us…but according to His own mercy…” (Titus 3:4,5)
God is love and He delights in pouring out His love on us. So much so that He sent His Son Jesus to remove the barrier of ‘works based love’ which could never satisfy our longing to be loved and accepted.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…In order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)
There is no fear in the perfect love of our Heavenly Father, there is peace of soul knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are. His love brings freedom to soar into fulfilling our God-given purpose on this earth.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1John 4:18)
Nothing can separate you from the love of God! (Romans 8:38, 39)
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)
Image: Nature’s Love, J. Shauk
From the moment we gasp for our first breath at birth we announce our need for a Savior. With the second breath our struggle begins with embracing it. Instead of embracing this need we strive toward building a self-sufficient lifestyle that conveniently obscures our view of the One who has known us since before we were born, who saw our unformed substance. (Psalm 139:13-16)
The crazy belief around building a life of self-sufficiency is the false belief that independent living is possible, that creating enough resources to get along without help is obtainable. And yet we find that in the last chapter of our lives we suffer regret over relationships that have been sacrificed for gain in life.
We were created for relationship and dependence upon God from the beginning.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
God also provided the resources that we would need during our life on earth and the abilities, gifts and talents to bear fruit, to live a prosperous life balanced in spirit, soul and body.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1)
In our pursuit of self-sufficiency we presume that our resources have come about from our own hard work, gifts or talents. God warns us that when we trust in our own ways all that we build for ourselves will be destroyed. (Hosea 10:13) He encourages us to turn from pursuing a self-sufficient lifestyle to one of dependence upon the One who owns it all.
“For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)
At the age of 14 God showed me my need for a Savior and the futility of trying to build a self-sufficient lifestyle. I believed falsely that it would protect me from being betrayed by others and the world in general. God was inviting me to journey through life with Him as my provider and One in whom I could depend on for provision that would result in works that would not be destroyed. His invitation was simple;
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Everyone needs a Savior and His name is Jesus.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)