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photo 12 e1398696234821 298x300 How NOT to Pray Part 10: Dont Change

How NOT to Pray Part 10: Don’t Change

I’ve been writing my first book for about 150 years now.

This is Part 10 of 10. Now I’m going to go back through all 10 parts, rewriting and developing the content. When I’m done, I hope to have something that’s helpful. I hope it’s at least worth putting together into an eBook format.

Part 1 of “How NOT to Pray” is right here.


How NOT to Pray Part 10: Don’t Change

You know what happens when you don’t change?

Not much.

Eventually, if you dig in your heels for long enough, you’ll calcify. You’ll rust tight. You’ll stop moving forward and you’ll rust tight.

By now it’s safe to assume you’re reading this because you want your relationship with God to go somewhere. At least I hope that’s why you’re still reading, and it’s not just because, like me, you have this weird thing about finishing every series you start, no matter how terrible it is.

I promise not to tank this last chapter. But I’m going to need some participation from you too. It’s time to put hands and feet to your prayer life. It’s time to pull all of this talk about prayer out of the theoretical realm and secure its impact in the here and now. It’s time for you to change.

Ready? Let’s go.

Let me ask you a point blank question:

Does your prayer pass the “so what” test?

What I mean is, “Is your life changing as a result of your prayer?” If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. If you learn “how to pray”, but don’t ever change as a result of connecting with God, then “So what?” It’s all for nothing.

The fact that it’s possible to pray without changing should make you sick to your stomach, at least a little bit. But it is. It’s possible to “pray” all the time and not change a bit.

Jesus actually pointed out how NOT to pray:

5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. (Matthew 6:5)

The Jews didn’t have a word to accurately describe the spiritual fakers Jesus was talking about here. So he called them “hypocrites”. It means “stage actor”. You think, “That doesn’t sound too bad. Actors are celebrities!” It wasn’t a compliment. In fact, it was a pretty harsh insult, a slap right in the face.

In Jesus’ day and culture, actors were considered professional liars. The Jews looked down on the Greeks in more ways than one. The “pretending” that actors did was despicable. So to refer to someone praying as a “hypocrite” was about as big of a slam as you could imagine.

Jesus says, essentially, “Don’t be a pretender when you pray. Don’t pray for show. Pray for go.”

So, if you don’t want to fall into that category, maybe you should take a minute and do some evaluation.

You’ve got to answer these honest questions about prayer:

  • What if I DO hear from God?
  • What if I come to Him in prayer, and He speaks to me?

I don’t mean, “speak” like an audible voice. But what if you pray and God answers? Are you prepared to change what you’re doing and how you’re doing it? Are you move-able? Or is all your prayer just your effort to act spiritual?

As we pray, God might ask you to:

  • Stop sinning
  • Leave your life as you know it and start following Him
  • Sever ties with a toxic person
  • Develop a new habit
  • Answer the call to ministry
  • Ask forgiveness from someone you hurt
  • …and a thousand other things, all requiring you to respond

God seldom says, “Stay the course.”

It’s not because that’s never the answer. But it’s usually not the answer you’re looking for. What I mean is you’re typically approaching God about things you know you need help with.

You come to Him with a problem you can’t fix. You need God to open His toolbox and do the work you can’t. You approach Him with a sin that you’re stuck in. You desperately need His mercy and grace. You call on Him to be our GPS when you’re peering down two roads that take you to very different destinations.

  • You ask God for guidance.
  • You place our problems in His lap.
  • You go to God for the power to change.

Be honest. Sometimes you hope He won’t answer.

Why? Answered prayer comes with a whole new set of consequences. And you and I, being human, would often rather stay put, mired in our misery, than risk the unknown. Even when we ask for God’s help, we’re often unwilling to change in order to step into His new reality.

Don’t think so?

  • Ever heard a teenager whine about not having any money?
  • Ever heard a Dad say, “I’ll give you a few bucks if you mow the lawn”?
  • Ever seen said teenager roll their eyes in response?

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

In spite of your most impressive spiritual gymnastics, if you’re not ready to actually move in response to God when you pray, you risk short-circuiting the whole process. Prayer requires response if it’s to foster close relationship. Remove real-life response from your prayer life, and it’s pointless. Or worse.

Prayer without response can be hazardous to your spiritual health.

Solomon put it this way:

Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

“Stiff-necked.” Not a term we throw around at the office. Stubborn. Unchanging. Un-lead-able. You get the idea.

My point? If you come to God, asking for help, you’d better dang-well be ready to be helped. And if you’re not, you’d better start moving anyway. Otherwise you’re just flapping your gums. Praying to the God of action (Creator, Healer, Comforter, Sustainer… He is a doer) often requires you to move in ways you’re not prepared for, that aren’t easy, and that cost you something.

Consider Jesus’ prayer life.

Jesus was in constant communication with His Father. And I don’t think anybody could make a case for his life being a cake-walk. But the intensity of His life and ministry necessitated constant communication with God Almighty. The mission He was on required Him to be constantly responding to the leading of the Lord.

It it’s true that Jesus prayed to and responded to His Father in Heaven, then it’s all that much more applicable to us.

You were not designed to just float through this life.

God has in mind for you a life that is filled to the brim with adventure. Hang with me. I’m not suggesting everybody is destined to be Indiana Jones. But I do know this: Developing a responsive relationship with God is the most invigorating thing you can ever do.

Your joining God in this adventure has little to do with your outward circumstances. It has everything to do with your inner response to Him.

Whether you’re a sky-dive instructor or a desk jockey, the one thing that is guaranteed to fill your life with a sense of purpose is an authentic, responsive relationship with Almighty God. Only He can bring a Universe worth of purpose to what might otherwise be a very vanilla life.

If you’re in constant communication with the God who holds your days in His hand, you enter into a whole new realm of possibilities. Suddenly, the sky is the limit for your life. No matter what your outward circumstances, your relationship with God gives you the opportunity to soar!

Do you know what this means?

Your limitations do not limit your life nearly as much as you thought they did!

Maybe you’re __________. (Insert disability / limitation here.)

You’re fat. Skinny. Hurt. Sick. Poor. Dyslexic. ADHD. You were born at the wrong time… in the wrong place… to the wrong people… to really live a life of significance.

Or maybe your life, full of bright promise, took a terrible turn. You were sideswiped somewhere along the way, and things will never be quite the same. The hope of the perfect life has been snatched away. You’re forever on plan B.

Stop it.

Do not define yourself by your limitations.

This is not a pep talk. I’m not going to promise you that God will magically whisk away all your hardship. Instead, I’ll point you to the fact that a full-contact prayer life is vital for a life full of challenges. Take a quick look at the numerous examples in Scripture, and you quickly realize you’ve got no reason to count your obstacles as larger than God’s grace and mercy.

Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul… take a look at their lives and it gets squirrelly quick. They were some messed up guys whose one redeeming quality is that they learned how to live out an authentic walk with God. In-between outrageous obstacles and personal failures they learned how to God to God honestly, and respond as He spoke.

You can do the same. In fact, you can do better because you have some advantages over those guys.

Did you ever stop to think that Abraham didn’t have a Bible? Or a church. Or a pastor. He worshiped God, served Him, moved when He said to move, all by discerning God’s will through prayer.

So, what’s your excuse?

If these guys managed to live a life connected with God, through prayer, you can too. And you can do it with the advantage of a Bible that God wrote down and packaged together for you. You can do it in the context of a body of believers that’s as messed up and in need of Him as you are. So do not act like just because we have challenging lives you cannot hear from God in prayer. You can.

And as if that’s not enough, consider your Savior.

You serve the God who was dead. Yep, dead. Jesus died. Talk about a show-stopper. The God of our salvation, the Messiah that came to save the world from sin, experienced death. But he also experienced resurrection. Don’t lose sight of this fact. This is the game-changer for you.

The fact that Jesus, God in flesh, died on the cross, means that your stupid sin habits are not only forgiven (1 John 1:9), but their power is broken! I don’t know if you’ve realized it yet, but you’re free (Galatians 5:1)! You just need to start stepping into the freedom that was purchased for you with Christ’s blood.

So since you’re free, you no longer have any obligation to sin (Romans 8:12-13). There is literally nothing holding you back from accessing God directly (Hebrews 4:16).

So start praying like you can step right into God’s throne room. Because you can. If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you have been granted access to the Father. You are His child. You have been adopted into the family.

So pray. Pray like you’re asking your Dad for advice, for what you need. And then do what He tells you to do.

Each “Yes” leads to the next “Yes”

Prayer, coupled with response, opens up the next opportunity for you to respond to your Father’s will.

God’s revealed will is clear. It’s found explicitly in the pages of Scripture. This incredible gift is under-utilized by many Christians. We have exponentially more access to God’s Word than any previous generation. It’s all laid out in black in white, just waiting for you to open the book, or the site, or the app.

God’s Word is clear on so many things. You certainly do not have to guess who God is, what He is like, and what He desires for you. You can open up the Bible and see, page after page, what He’s all about. Exposure to God’s Word, over time, will reveal to you an accurate picture of Who He is. Then you’ll know better how to interact with Him.

God’s discovered will is different. There’s no app for that. It’s unearthed one conversation at a time, in the context of a life that’s continually responding to God’s revealed will. How do you find out what God’s discovered will is? Through prayer.

The Bible isn’t going to tell you who to marry, where to apply for a job, or how to respond to a nasty email. But your Father in Heaven cares about all those things. So, after you run your day-to-day decisions through the filter of God’s Word, then you take them to prayer. As you repeat this process, you will discover His guidance is ready and waiting.

You will grow to daily pray within the boundaries of God’s Word as a constant discipline. Then, all you have to do is respond as you hear His voice.

  • So, are you prepared to move when God answers your prayers?
  • Your answer to this question will either inhibit or accelerate your growth in Christ.

 

My final advice to you? Pray. Respond. Repeat.

Step into the adventure one prayer at a time.

 

“How NOT to Pray” is my first awkward attempt at writing a book. It’s taking me forever and I’m not sure it’s any good. With any luck, it will be available by mid-2050. Thanks for reading so far.

 

Logos 3 Final 2 Logos Part 3   Come and see.

Logos 3: “Come and See”

Jesus calls followers.

He doesn’t call observers, critics or competitors. Jesus calls followers.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

No, I didn’t ask you if you go to church. Lots of people go to church. What I want to know is this:  Have you responded, are you responding, to Jesus’ call?

Jesus, referred to by the Apostle John as the “Logos” (the Word) is the self-expression of God Almighty!

So, God the Father’s heart, His mind, His character and purposes were clearly defined through the life of His Son.

Jesus began his public ministry by being baptized and tempted, identifying with us. Then He called his first followers. John records it this way:

35 The next day John [the Baptizer] was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Jesus calls followers. Have you responded to His call?

Maybe you’ve never responded to Jesus’ call because you know He’s asking too much. You’re right. And you’re wise to hesitate. Jesus doesn’t call us to just nod in acceptance, recognizing He is God. No, His call is all-encompassing. This One who came to earth, completely identified with sinful man, lived a perfect life, then died to make us right with the Father, is the One who calls us to a no-holds-barred commitment to Himself.

That kind of commitment should cause you to pause. You know that Jesus isn’t asking you to just check a box. He wants all of you. And if you commit to Him, He’ll expect you to follow Him. And if you follow Him, you’re going to have to leave behind a lot. Everything.

Jesus calls us to love Him so much that our allegiance to anything in the world pales in comparison. We all know love is risky. It’s not a neat investment. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Jesus calls us to leave behind what’s dead. The old life. The old habits. The old toxins that once consumed us must now be left once we set out on this new course, walking in our Master’s footsteps. This means we separate ourselves both in heart, and physically, from the things we once found familiar, if not debilitating.

That’s hard. It’s a process. But it’s for our best. The more we let go of, the more free we become in Christ. And the more freely we grow.

Jesus invites us into a bright new future. Once we commit to follow Him, inviting Him to reside in our hearts, washing us clean, we experience new life, new power, and new purpose. What was once dead now comes to life! Where darkness once ruled, there is now light radiating from a new Source! The God we could never reach is now accessible for us who are re-born by the power of His Son, our Savior. And if you can wrap your brain around it, you understand that the very Holy Spirit of God now inhabits us.

But for those who set out to become Jesus followers, the immediate future is also full of uncertainty.

  • How will He lead you?
  • Where will you go?
  • What will you do?

This new direction, this path, this commitment to your Savior, is not for the faint of heart.

Surrendering complete control of your life to Jesus is at once the most safe and most risky decision you can ever make.

This decision secures your eternal destiny. If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you are heaven-bound. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. (See Romans 8)

However, once you become a Jesus follower, your life is now not your own. (See 1 Corinthians 6)

This radical commitment to Christ…

What’s Holding You Back?

Jesus is calling you. He is inviting you into an adventure that will radically shape the course of your life. Don’t believe me? Just look at the lives of His disciples. Ordinary men, living ordinary lives, were called by Him. Within a matter of years they were turning the world upside down.

Jesus is calling you into this same level of commitment. He would like to walk with you in relationship. But you’ve got to go. You’ve got to step out. You’ve got to say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you with all I am, all I have, all my ways and all my days.”

What will happen if you follow Christ?

I won’t make you any guarantees for your safety or your comfort. His first disciples didn’t get any.

But I will tell you that whatever happens as a result of you following Christ, it’s worth it.

What will happen if you follow Jesus? I offer you His words to the disciples He first called:

 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Take the step. See the new future He has in store for you.

 

Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…”

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

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This post also appeared on the Blog of New Vine Media.

 

Logos 2 Final Logos Part 2   Unworthy?

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

John the Baptist was the greatest man that ever lived.

You’re thinking, “WHAT??”

Yep. Jesus said so.

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist… (Matthew 11:11a)

Let that one sink in for just a moment.

Can you think of a higher compliment?

Jesus was called the “logos“, the “word” or “self-expression” of God (John 1:1). This Son of God, one with the Father, perfect in every way, says, essentially, that John is the best person to ever be born. Not David? Not Solomon? Not even Moses? That’s quite a statement. What could make Jesus say such a thing?

Today we’re told that the path to greatness is found by making yourself the center of the universe. Go out and grab fame, fortune and everything that comes with it. If nothing else, our culture values the star. Go on a show, sing a song, and you’re an instant success. Your life is made. What more could you want?

Jesus’ attachment of great value to John should cause us to do a double-take, questioning our worldly assumptions.

  • How do we determine the value of people?
  • How much do position, possessions and popularity really matter?
  • Am I seeking God’s approval, or the world’s?
  • Is it possible for us to live a life that God values highly?

Let’s pause for a moment and see why Jesus regarded John so highly. Then we’ll be able to see our lives more clearly.

John’s greatness wasn’t derived from his position.

John’s birth was miraculous, his mother and father being very old when they had him. But his upbringing was simple.

“he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” (Luke 1:80)

If Israel had a “Podunk”, this was it. John grew up far removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the Jewish people. He would not have run in the same circles as the “movers and shakers” of Jesus’ day. Growing up in the wild, away from the public eye, is not how people typically achieve notoriety.

God called John to a prophetic ministry. He was to call people to repent of their sins and prepare themselves for the coming of the long-promised Messiah.

When John’s ministry became popular, he didn’t exactly let it go to his head.

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

John wasn’t in this to make his own name great. He never changed his message in order to broaden its appeal. He was not interested in advancing himself.

John’s greatness wasn’t attached to his possessions.

Even as an adult, John lived a simple life in the wilderness of Judea. People came out to see him, and noted,

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

This was the dress and diet of a man who rejected the world’s view of success. My study Bible notes say, “John’s simple food, clothing and life-style were a visual protest against self-indulgence.”

John didn’t get into ministry to get comfortable.

John’s greatness wasn’t measured by his popularity.

He spent his time denying that he was someone great. He was so charismatic, and drew such a following, that people were puzzled. “Who could this guy be?” When the spiritual leaders of the day finally came to investigate, they had this interesting exchange:

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:19-23)

How could someone who had such a powerful personal ministry not jump at the chance to make his own name great?

That’s not what John was all about.

John’s greatness was rooted in his recognition that Jesus was the Christ.

It really is that simple.

John accepted and responded to what God had asked of him. He was one of the few unique figures in history that truly kept his focus on the task at hand. When faced with success, he did not sell out. He kept his eyes clearly focused on the mission God had put him on, to make a way for the coming Messiah.

John had this to say about the coming Messiah:

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26,27)

In Jesus’ day, a host would cater to the needs of their honored guest. But even the best host would not untie the sandals of his guest. This was a job for a house servant, a slave. John says that he is not worthy to complete even this menial task for this coming Savior of the world!

“unworthy”

  • unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals
  • unworthy to be mistaken as The One
  • unworthy to be called “The Man”

What humility. What focus. What a heart.

John’s entire attitude was summed up by this statement:

30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Are you now beginning to see why Jesus’ opinion of John was so high?

John did not consider himself unworthy because Jesus’ opinion of him was low. He counted himself unworthy because his opinion of Jesus was so high. I wonder what would happen in my life if I lived with the same kind of abandon of self that John did.

Are you willing to give up your position, possessions and popularity?

I’ve got to be honest with you. I wouldn’t mind an increase of any of those.

But is that where my heart is set? I think that’s the real question.

  • Are you ready to live your life for the glory of Jesus’ name?
  • Are you prepared to trade your position, your possessions, even your own popularity, so that Jesus’ name can be made great through you?

Let’s take one last look at Matthew 11:11. Jesus continues speaking about greatness:

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

That’s right. If you are in the Kingdom of God, if you have been re-born into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then you are considered greater than even John the Baptist. You are worthy of Jesus’ blood. You are worthy of a new status. You are now called a child of God, and the bride of Christ.

Jesus says you are greater than John because you have received Christ into your heart. This Savior is alive inside of you, and you are called to live a life that makes His name great. Are you ready to live as one who has been made worthy?

 

Want Part 1 of this Series? Check out Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…” 

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This post also appeared on The Blog of New Vine Media.

Voice Part 4: Broadcast

February 28, 2014 — Leave a comment
Voice Part 4 Voice Part 4: Broadcast

Voice Part 4: Broadcast by Joe Wickman

Christians everywhere are called and commissioned to broadcast the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s design to get the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection out to the masses includes you.

Yes, you.

You don’t have to run a media company to broadcast the Good News. You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to tell people the best news in the history of the world, that a loving God covered the expanse between Heaven and Earth.

In fact, the person who is best-positioned to broadcast this message to the skeptics and scoffers in your life is, you.

Yes, you.

God has uniquely positioned you to broadcast the Good News of Jesus to your own little corner of the world, one conversation at a time. Your family, friends, classmates and co-workers are familiar with the testimony of your life.

But maybe that’s the problem. You don’t want to be an example. You’re intimately familiar with all of your failures and flops. Relax. You’re not called to be perfect. You’re called to be fully engaged in a head-over-heels love relationship with Jesus. If you are, you’ll be transformed and you’ll be transforming. And that will add up to a testimony worth sharing.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you are a representative of God on this earth.

Like it or not, the eyes of a world separated from our loving Father are looking to you to determine whether this whole “God thing” is really real. More than looking, they’re listening. Their ears are finely tuned to your words, but also to the attitudes that inform your actions.

Jesus put every believer on a clearly-defined mission to broadcast His message.

This is a limited-time offer, expiring on the day you check out or Jesus comes back. So let’s take a look at exactly what He told us we should be doing:

(18) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

It’s a clear and simple command. GO. Make disciples. Immerse them into the fullness of life that Jesus came to redeem. Teach them to follow Him with their whole lives, not just their lips. And He promises to be with us every step of the way.

The mission we’re on provides a fantastic filter for our speech. The “what” we broadcast is followed closely by the “how”. If our lives don’t line up with our lips, the world won’t buy what we’re saying. So let’s take a quick look at how we can broadcast a pure message out of the overflow of our lives.

Paul was a man on a mission to broadcast the message of Christ to a lost and dying world.

This highly-trained man was once propelled by religious zeal to hunt down and persecute Christians. Then he met jesus. Paul turned his life into a living sacrifice for his Savior. His own personal transformation, stemming from his encounter with the risen Christ, was total. He became the first missionary, broadcasting this message far and wide. His testimony has survived these 2000 years.

Paul once asked the church in Colossae to pray that he would broadcast the message of Jesus effectively:

(4) Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:4)

That’s a great prayer to pray for a missionary like Paul. Of course it’s HIS job to proclaim the message of Jesus.

But then Paul included his friends in this mission:

(5) Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (6) Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)

“Be wise…” These ordinary Christians, just like you and me, were told to pay attention to their interactions with “outsiders”, those who do not yet know Christ. Paul paints each interaction with amplified importance.

Then Paul instructs us about the content of our broadcast. He says our conversations should, “always be full of grace, seasoned with salt”. This is only possible if we are in a full-contact relationship with the God of our salvation. We must constantly keep our hearts engaged with Him so that we can broadcast the pure, untainted message of Jesus Christ with both our lips and our lives.

So what about you?

What are you broadcasting?

Are you treating your interactions with non-believers as opportunities to “tee-off”, showing how smart you are, or how right you are? The only people Jesus was harsh with were religious people. Don’t be that guy.

Are you treating each and every interaction as though it’s a special privilege, an opportunity to display the love, grace and mercy of Christ, as well as His truth?

The world is listening to what you’re broadcasting with your life, your lips, and your attitude.

 

See how this series began:

Voice Part 1: Watch Your Mouth

 

Microphone Final Voice Part 1:  Watch Your Mouth

Voice Part 1 – Watch Your Mouth

I’m often surprised by what comes out of my mouth.

I speak for a living. So if you count the number of words I say in public, add the fatigue that comes from raising four daughters, and multiply that by my goofy sense of humor, it’s just a matter of time before I say something really embarrassing.

For example:  Session 5 of a 6 week Marriage Workshop left me scrambling to get enough words out of my mouth in order to squeeze in all the content that these couples needed. Pressed for time, with much content to spew, I greeted the attendees, saying, (I am not kidding) “Good morning folks! We’ve got a lot to cover today, so I’m going to talk fast. We have 6 pages of material to get through, so let’s knock ‘em up and set ‘em down!”

If you missed it, go back and read it again.

There was a 3 second pause as 20 stunned couples sat, processing what they just heard. And a moment later we were all gasping for air, laughing uncontrollably at my gaffe. I’ve got a dozen stories like that.

Sometimes the wrong words come out of our mouths.

Sometimes it’s just an innocent mistake, a slip of the tongue. But other times it’s not. Sometimes the words we say represent what’s really going on in our heart. And if we’re honest, sometimes that’s not pretty.

We live in a day and age where everybody’s got something to say. But is everything worth saying?

If social media is any judge of what’s actually happening in people’s lives, (God, help us if it is) then a popular New Year’s Resolution was, “I’m going to be true to myself and say what I really want to this year!”

Really? Oh good. That’s just what the world needs.

What I know about being “true to myself” is that sometimes words spill out of my mouth that are not helpful. In fact, they’re hurtful. Ugly. Disrespectful. Damaging. Why is it that gossip and jealousy and spite roll out of the same mouth that speaks words of love and affirmation to the most important people in our lives?

Has this ever bothered you? Have you ever had an insult leap out of your mouth, only to think, “Where did that come from?” You’re not alone.

This problem is not unique to today. But today we seem to have lost touch with the reality of the impact of our words. We live in a culture that tells us, “Let it fly! Don’t hold back. Just say whatever comes out!” Never mind whether or not it hurts someone.

To make matters worse, today everyone has a platform. Thanks to the proliferation of technology, our voices can reach farther than ever. Facebook, Twitter, even this blog, provide an opportunity for connection across countries, cultures and contexts. It’s a beautiful time to have something to say.

It’s also a tragedy to have the means to say something, and have nothing worth saying.

Maybe it’s time for our generation, whose voices are amplified than any other time in history, to pause and look at the content of what we’re saying.

  • How can we be sure that what we have to say is worth saying?

Jesus had a way of saying things in a way no one else could. After hearing him speak, his hearers would often fall silent. His words cut through the clutter and hit home, opening up new understanding.

When Jesus spoke of the mouth, he connected it directly to the heart. He put it this way:

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:43-45)

What’s coming out of our mouths is coming from our hearts. They are as connected as a tree and its fruit. So if we don’t like the words that are spilling out of our mouths, it’s time to look at what’s “stored up” in our hearts.

So what about you?

  • Do you have something to say? Is it worth saying?
  • Are your relationships helped or hurt by your words?
  • Are you connecting the dots between your heart and your mouth?
  • Judging by what comes out of your mouth, does your heart need some work?

Maybe it’s time to take a look at at the words coming out of your mouth as an indicator of what’s in your heart.

Do you want to be heard? Do you want to make an impact in this world? Then slow down. Take a minute to examine what’s below the surface. Because what’s inside of you cannot be contained. It will be revealed, often when you least expect it.

This month on the blog we’ll be taking a look at the voice God has given us, and how to make the most of it.

Want to be heard?

Watch your mouth. It’s attached to your heart.

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

New Vine Media spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the development of effective media, music, and communications.

IMG 1613 e1383164903327 225x300 3 Steps to Stop Drifting and Start Moving

Don’t Drift. Start Moving.

I’ve never gotten anywhere I wanted to go by drifting.

Going with the flow is lazy. It’s passive. It’s the best way to land in some swirling eddy of life.

Nobody I admire or aspire to be like just sits back and lets life do whatever.

I get it. Life is exhausting. It’s tempting to just clutch out and coast. But that just leads to us landing in a place we don’t want to be.

  • Relationships don’t just get better. You’ve got to actively pursue improvement with dogged determination.
  • Finances don’t handle themselves. You tell your money where to go, or it will just go where it wants.
  • Spiritual health doesn’t “just happen”. God will always do His part (the majority part) but you have to show up too.
  • Professional development isn’t automatic. You’ve got do more than want it. You’ve got to work for it.

So if you’ve been stuck, today is the day to stop drifting and start moving.

Thomas Jefferson once said,

In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

But what does he know? All Jefferson did was:

  • Author the Declaration of Independence (secretly, as he could have been killed)
  • Excelled as a naturalist, founded the University of Virginia, sent Lewis and Clark on a little expedition, and oh yeah…
  • Became the 3rd President of the United States!

So what would he know about moving your life in an intentional direction? A LOT!

So what about you?

  • Have you just been “going with the flow” in life?
  • Are you ready to “stand like a rock”?
  • Are you ready to swim against the current?

Here’s 3 Steps to Stop Drifting and Start Moving

1) Reject Apathy.

You are not helpless. You are not a victim. Even if you were, you don’t have to stay one.

Life will undoubtedly knock you down. Obstacles are made to be overcome. Whether you’re dealing with a personal limitation, a discouraging defeat, or an utter failure, you have to make sure you don’t give up! Believe me, I’ve had more than my share of crash-and-burn scenarios.

Do not stay down. Reject the idea that you’re a loser. Losers give up, and that’s not you.

You’ve only got one life to live. So get off the sidelines and live it. Decide that you’re letting the clutch out, hitting the gas pedal, and moving forward starting NOW!

Who cares what someone else says? Just get up off your couch and punch apathy in the face.

2) Stand Your Ground.

Motivation gets you moving. Character steers you.

Activity for activity’s sake is just as pointless as apathy. Now you’ve got to decide what’s important.

Do you have your priorities in order? This post details how I’m organizing my life to win at what’s most important.

In a battle, soldiers aim their guns down range at a specific target. They don’t just sling lead all over the place, popping off shots into the air. They concentrate fire. That’s what you and I need to do. Focus effort.

  • Do you know what you stand for?
  • Are you living for what you’d die for?
  • Do your goals line up with your values?

If not, you’ve got some work to do. Do the hard work of defining who you are and what you’re about.

(Note: If you’re all about yourself, the world couldn’t care less if you win or lose. We need more people who are shaping their lives around serving others. No matter what your occupation, do the uncommon thing and put people first.)

3) Start Swinging.

You’re going to have to fight for your life. No one is going to hand you success in what matters most. Swimming against the current of laziness and apathy takes all you’ve got. But it’s worth it.

I’ve written about goal-setting and achievement hereherehere and here.

In every area of your life, you have to choose to engage, to take an active role, or suffer the consequences of being disengaged.

So what about it?

  • What do you whine about most?
  • What area of your life do you need to stop being a victim?
  • What concrete action are you going to take to stop drifting and start moving today?

Do it.

IMG 2555 225x300 If You Dont Let Go, You Cant Hold On

If You Don’t Let Go, You Can’t Hold On

There are many things I like to hold onto.

What do all of these things have in common?

  • My wife
  • My kids
  • My friends
  • My job
  • My car
  • My reputation

What’s the common denominator?

  • There was a time when I didn’t have each of them, and there will be a time when I don’t have any of them.

Some day I will have to let go of my wife, my kids, everything that makes up my life.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe.”

Keep reading.

I used to hold onto each of these things with an iron grip. But my perspective has changed. More and more, as I walk with people who have suffered loss, I realize that I myself am not strong enough to keep a tight grip on all the good things God has blessed me with. In fact, over the years I have learned that the more I worry and stress about holding onto things, the more warped and twisted I get in my efforts to control life with all its outcomes.

Does this mean that my job, even my family, aren’t important?

Does it mean God doesn’t want me to “show up” for them?

Of course not. God calls me and enables me to be a great husband, Dad, homeowner and employee. But in all of these things I am learning that He is the owner, and I am the operator. He is the One who holds my days in HIs hands. I am the one He has entrusted with these things for a time.

This means that I need hold onto the One “thing” that will enable me to approach life with a healthy perspective.

This morning I read a quote from one of the many men I consider mentors in the faith:

God does not want people who are grabbing for what they can get. God wants people who can hold everything – their profession, their wealth, their status, their family – on an open palm. The only thing we are to clutch to our hearts is God himself. God wants us to allow him to give and take away. – Dennis Kinlaw

Above all else, we must cling to God. That requires us loosening our grip on everything else.

Sound scary? It should.

Our natural inclination is to try to control every facet of our life. But we’re not God. We are limited, finite, all too human. But God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and He exists everywhere at once. He is everything we’re not. And the best part? He loves us. He loves us with the love of a father for a child. He loves you that way. He loves me.

So trust Him.

  • Let go of your ownership of your life.
  • Let go of trying to control everything.
  • Let go of living in fear of bad things happening.

Order your life around clinging to God, and He will order the rest. If you actively pursue a full-contact relationship with Him, He will teach you how to love your family. He will show you how to excel in your career. He will teach you how to handle money, maintain healthy relationships and transform into the kind of person that only He could make you.

But if you don’t loosen your grip on everything else, you can’t hold on to the One who has the capacity and will to carry you through each and every up and down life brings. And you will never truly enjoy the peace and security that everything you hold dear is truly in God’s hands.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

You might also like this post: “Winning at Relationships”

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Freedom in Christ

July 4, 2013 — 1 Comment
1309604 chain against green Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ = True Freedom

What is true freedom?

It’s more than the breaking of physical or political bonds. Men and women who throw off the chains of tyrants are to be celebrated. But those I admire most also understand and live in the true liberty that is internal.

Is your heart free? Your mind? Your soul?

They can be.

They key to that freedom is held by the One who gave His life to pay for your freedom.

How do we FIND freedom in Christ?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” (Luke 4:18)

  • Jesus’ words indicate that his mission was to come and free those who were slaves. But did he mean those who were literally bought and sold, or those who were spiritually bound?
  • Are you a slave? Or are you completely free in your heart? Are your attitudes, actions and patterns of thought and living completely free? Or do you need to be set free?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

  • And we could say that where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is not freedom.
  • So, is the Spirit of the Lord in you? Are you living in and experiencing the kind of freedom that comes only from having God live within you? You can have freedom in Christ.

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)

  • Jesus Christ gained our freedom when He laid down His life on the cross. The devil thought that by killing the son of God that he was winning the ultimate victory. The fact of the matter is that Jesus was winning by dying.
  • How? Jesus Christ, the son of God, sacrificed his perfect life in order to secure our freedom. His sinless life provided the ultimate sacrifice to end a cycle of sacrifices that had gone on for thousands of years.
  • Now all we need to approach God is faith in Christ. It really is that simple.

What do we DO with freedom in Christ?

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

  • Once you are free, you will be tempted to go back to the old, familiar ways of slavery to self, to sin and to the ways you once knew. Don’t do it! Christ has set you free by sacrificing His life. Don’t ignore that high price that was paid for you. Embrace the supernatural gift of liberty that you have been given. Make freedom in Christ your new normal. Don’t look back.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)

  • Now we’re getting ridiculous. Paul had freedom in Christ. His life had been a train wreck, but now he was living free. The chains that once made his heart hard and his life a mess had been been broken. He was a new man. What did he do next?
  • Paul took Christ’s example of laying down his life for others and decided to live out that life. Finding true freedom in Christ, he chose to make his life a living sacrifice. Instead of living for his own comfort or glory, he decided to live out the rest of his days as God’s servant.
  • Now that you have discovered freedom in Christ, what will you do with it? Will you turn around and make your life a sacrifice for others? Will you dedicate yourself to sharing the freedom you have found? Your answer to this question will determine whether or not you will embark on the most amazing adventure you could ever imagine.

How do we KEEP our freedom in Christ?

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)

  • Freedom in Christ is found by faith. Freedom in Christ grows and flourishes as we seek God’s ways, not our own. Now that we are free, we get to pursue this relationship with Him further. We enter into a constant process of growth. This lifelong journey will transform us with each step we take.
  • Seek His teaching daily. Make His Word your spiritual food, and you’ll find new levels of freedom in Christ you never thought possible.

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)

  • Keep looking to God. Keep responding to God. He will lead you daily.

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 Goals are Dreams with Deadlines

Dreams are Goals with Deadlines – Joe Wickman

I’m fat.

Well, I’m fatter than I want to be. I have been for some time.

Saturday I’m running a 5K. It might kill me.

I hate running. I have never run a competitive race. But I finally decided that I hate being fat worse than I hate running.

I also knew that if I didn’t make a concrete deadline, injecting motivation into my workouts, I would quit as soon as it got tough. The terrible idea of running 5,000 meters was enough to get my sorry butt out on the road. I downloaded the free Couch to 5K app on my iPhone, and off I went.

The first day of running brought a violent snowstorm. I thought, “Really?” If I hadn’t committed to a terrifying goal, I would have packed it in right then and there. But the deadline looming just weeks ahead forced me to put one fat foot in front of the other. Off I went for my first run.

You know what’s funny though? I’ve been out of shape for along time, hating every minute of it, but I haven’t done anything about it until recently. I hate being chubby, out of breath and tired. I love feeling fit and having energy to spare at the end of a day.

So why did it take me years of feeling like crud before I did something about it?

I have a bunch of excuses:

Well, maybe that last one is just a matter of self control. But isn’t it always?

Here’s what I realized: I am the only one responsible for my own health. I have to determine that it’s important enough to improve.

But wanting to change isn’t enough.

I’ve always had the desire to be healthy. I’ve dreamed about it. But I haven’t followed through on that desire.

Do you know why?

I never set a deadline.

Deadlines are wonderful things. They force our brains to work backwards. They start at the end goal and reach back to where we currently are. From there, we can divide up our big goal into tiny, single-step increments. As we execute on each step, we eventually begin gaining ground.

Once we get under way, moving in the direction of our goals, hope begins to build. Even though we’ve only taken a step or two, we know we’re making progress.

Bottom Line: Goals are Dreams with Deadlines.

Without a deadline, a goal is just a fantasy.

I’ve been running 6 weeks now. I’ve also been doing push-ups since New Year’s Day. I haven’t lost a single pound yet. But my body is changing. My energy level is changing. I’m not sitting still.

I’m working toward a goal. After I achieve this one I’ll pick another.

  • What do you dream about accomplishing?

  • What has bothered you for a long time?

  • Have you done anything about it?

  • Maybe it’s time to make that dream a goal.

Pick a deadline and get to work.

Is Church necessary for Christians, or is it just an optional exercise?

  • A runner can run on the road. They don’t have to go to a gym.
  • A student can complete a college degree online. They don’t have to sit in a classroom.

So in this day and age, do we really need to go to church?

 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)

  • Do you think it’s necessary for believers to go to church?
  • Do you think it’s necessary for your head to be attached to your neck?
  • Who misses out more when you aren’t part of the body? Answer = EVERYONE

When you’re distant from the body of Christ, you are missed. You are valued. You are formed for function.

This week, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to live out the role God has carved out for you in His body, the church.

 

Need more encouragement?

  1. 3 Reasons to Go to Church this Weekend

  2. “Why I Go to Church – Part 1″

  3. “Why I Go to Church – Part 2″

  4. “Why I Go to Church – Part 3″

  5. “Why I Go to Church – Part 4″