Friday, February 27, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Honor (3 of 3)

After having posted on both time and money regarding the Discipline of Stewardship, today's post will provide a few thoughts toward application.

On our JOURNEY this week, the letter is R for Revere. We show God we trust Him, respect Him, revere Him, and worship Him by being good stewards of what He has given. As we use our time and money wisely, we show God how important He is to us and that we realize what we have is truly His.

So what is the next step as it related to stewardship? First, let me tweak our question for this series to make it about stewardship:

If your growth in godliness were measured by how you spend your time or how you give you money, what would be the result?

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God? INVEST – in Kingdom work – with your time and your treasure.

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. People invested in the stock market always want to know the latest hot stock, or tip for good returns. Well, if we are to be like God, then we should invest where He invests. Our investments should be in and for the Kingdom. God invites us to join Him. He modeled what it means to give – by giving His Son for us. And now He asks for our lives in return. So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to stewardship? Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, consider where you are in your stewardship RIGHT NOW. And let the Spirit lead you to what you might next do.

  • Time:  Record for one week how you spend your time. This is similar to the Learn from Worship – try to determine your areas of focus.
  • Money: Record for one month how you spend your money. There is no right or wrong at this point – just recording it.
  • Time: Invest in Kingdom work at least once each day. Help someone, call to encourage, pray for someone, etc.
  • Money: Invest in Kingdom work little by little. If you can't give 10%, start with 1% and increase every 3 months until you are at 10% and then see where to go from there. Don't worry about the Gross/Net debate either (start with Net and move from there). Remember God wants you, but you can show Him you trust Him by what you do with your money.
  • Time:  Make a plan to study and to serve Him daily. Perhaps your service for each day might stem from what you study.
  • Money: Give joyfully. Smile, even laugh while writing your check or preparing your cash and while passing the offering plate. Let others see Jesus in your giving!
  • Time: Commit to spending time with others helping them to make investments in Kingdom work.
  • Money: Share the effects of your reaping with others. Help them to understand how God has blessed you as an encouragement for them to begin giving of their money as well.
*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Honor (2 of 3)

This week's first post on stewardship discussed the importance of being disciplined with our time. Many of the same issues regarding time also relate to money. In addition to those considerations, today, we will consider what it means to be disciplined with our money.

1) God Owns Everything You Own.  1 Corinthians 10.26 reminds us that God is the owner of everything. The book of Genesis gives a perfect example in Joseph. Joseph was a steward in the house of Potiphar. He did not own anything, yet he was responsible for everything. The same is true for us. God entrusts us with His possessions, and expects us to care for them accordingly.

2) Giving Is an Act of Worship.  Deuteronomy 16.16 says when we come before the Lord we are not to come with empty hands. But we should also give with open hearts. Such an offering is acceptable to the Lord. Paul describes the offering he received from the Philippians as a fragrant offering (4.8), reminiscent of the offerings God received in the Old Testament. Like others before us, we need to come openly and with a mindset of giving as we come before the Lord.

3) Giving Reflects Faith in God's Provision.  Mark 12.41-44 tells a familiar story of a widow who gave everything. While it was less in quantity than what the others gave, it was more in quality – it was all she had. We may not give everything, but we will typically only give what we believe God will provide.

4) Giving Should Be Sacrificial and Generous.  2 Corinthians 8.1-5 reveals the heart of a church that was truly sacrificial. They gave beyond their means in order to help others. While we are not promised a direct return on such an investment, what we have to give is the equivalent of a spoon, compared to the shovel that God has to give. More importantly, our sacrificial giving truly represents becoming like God and it emulates what God has done in the giving of His Son.

5) Giving Reflects Spiritual Trustworthiness.  Luke 16.10-13 is God's way of easing us in – He wants us to know (He already does) how we will manage His assets, before giving us more. Consider when you ask someone to help you do a project or some other work (something they've never done before), you typically give them a little piece of it, make sure it gets done, then add to their responsibility. Likewise, God does the same with His resources.

6) Giving From Love, Not Legalism.  2 Corinthians 8.7 says God wants us to give, and to give well, because of the grace we have received. Grace empowers us to live our lives in many ways, why not giving too?

7) Give Willingly, Thankfully, and Cheerfully.  2 Corinthians 9.7 tells us God wants us to give because we want to give, not because we are forced to do so. Someone once said that there are three types of giving:
  • Grudge Giving – This is giving to God because they have to – like most feel about paying taxes.
  • Duty Giving – This is giving to God because we ought to – this is like paying a water bill so you continue to have water. You ought to pay your water bill, if you want water – so pay God, so He loves me. The problem is He loves us regardless.
  • Thanksgiving – Giving because we want to – this is like giving someone a gift because you care about them. An example could be giving an engagement ring to someone out of love.

8) Giving – an Appropriate Response to Real Needs.  The book of Acts provides several examples. Categorically, here are three reasons:
  • Giving to One Another (Acts 2.43-45). The sharing of what God has given for the benefit of the fellowship.
  • Giving to New Believers (Acts 4.32-35). The new believers in the first part of Acts were from out of town. They had come to Jerusalem for the festival and, having been saved, needed food and shelter as they learned about their new salvation.
  • The Church in Need (Acts 11.27-30). The church in Jerusalem was affected by a famine. The church at Antioch rallied together to send resources to Jerusalem to aide them in their time of need.

9) Giving Should be Planned and Systematic.  1 Corinthians 16.2 has Paul encouraging each believer to give, each week, as they have prospered. Unlike Paul's day, wages are rarely paid daily, though some receive payment weekly. However, whenever we are paid, we are to give back, and the more we prosper, the more we are to give.

Finally, though this is not a reason to give, it is a promise of God. 2 Corinthians 9.6 says that we reap what is sown. He who gives will receive. Now, I am not one who believes in a gospel of prosperity. But I do believe God has more to give us than we realize. Yet, we must show ourselves to be good stewards before He will "open the windows of heaven" (Malachi 3.10). While the majority of what we may receive will come on the other side of eternity (where I would rather have it anyway – no moths, rust, or thieves there – Matthew 6.19), the Bible does make promises like we the one in 2 Corinthians 9.6. Yet most will not give, or give little of their time or their treasure. (For a list of concerns about how an attitude of not giving affects the church, see Thom Rainer's blog from 2/4/15.)

Personally, as I have told the congregation where I serve, I could care less if people give a dime to the church. I say that because I don't think God does either. God wants you to give yourself to Him. He wants you to be intimate with Him – connected with Him in a way that you can't fathom. If we become intimate with God, we will give to His work – and that includes in and through this church. So, my concern is more about your relationship with God than how much you put in the offering plate. The more we know and love Him, the more we will want to give. That is what I want for myself, and that is what I want for those where I serve. And, though I may not know you personally, I wish it for you, the reader, as well.

But, if you are like me, sometimes you just feel distant. It is in those times, that we must rely on our discipline. That is why Stewardship is a Discipline. The Spirit can and will empower us, even when we may not want to give. Therefore, to further help us apply this discipline to our lives, the third post this week will give a few options for our next step(s).

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Honor (1 of 3)

This week's discipline is the Discipline of Stewardship. Now when most people hear the word stewardship, they think of money. And that is an area of stewardship. But we are stewards of our lives in general. Thus, our time, our talents, and our treasure belong to God. So last week - about Service - was like a Part 1 and this is Part 2.

Many claim that pastors always talk about money. That may be true, but the Bible says more about money than heaven and hell combined. It says more about money than most subjects. Why? Because people need to be constantly reminded. So maybe preachers talk about money a lot, but if they do, I hope it is because they are relaying God's message as found in the Bible. But this week's posts include both time (first) and money (second). We must be disciplined in both. At the end of the week, I will post some potential applications related to both.

The Disciplined Use of Time
Read John 17.4.

God has a purpose for each of us. The question then is, Are we fulfilling it? Let me give you ten thoughts on being disciplined with your time. These reasons are actually derived from a sermon given some 250 years ago by Jonathon Edwards entitled: “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.”

We must use time wisely...

1) “Because the Days are Evil”.  Ephesians 5.15-16 provides this insight. Of course, a "day" itself isn't evil but what happens during it, certainly can be. How can we overcome? Colossians 3.2 instructs us to “set your minds on things above.” This will help us discipline our thoughts even as evil is all around us.

2) To Prepare for Eternity.  2 Corinthians 6.2 says today is the day of salvation. The reality is that you don't  get a second chance to live your life once you die. And you also don't get a second chance to settle your eternal destination. Once you die, the time to choose is past. Choose now. And choose wisely.

3) Time is Short.  James 4.14 reminds us that despite our plans, we are not promised tomorrow. Even for the young, one day, the time will run out. As we age, we value time more, because like the basic economic principles of supply and demand, those who are older recognize that, generally, less time remains. The young, who are wise, will remember that time is short, and plans their lives accordingly.

4) Time is Passing.  1 John 2.17 promised the world will pass away, and with it the principle of time. But practically the passage of time, like the sand in an hourglass, rushed on day after day. We truly can't "save time", "buy time", or even "make up time"? Rather, as Steve Miller once sang, time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.

5) Remaining Time is Uncertain.  Proverbs 27.1, like James 4.14, should make us realize that ur time is in his hands, not ours. Most people who die have no idea there time is coming to an end. And yet, based on current death estimate, for 1.78 people/second, 107/minute, 6420/hour; and 154,080 each day, there will be no tomorrow.

6) Time Lost Cannot Be Regained.  John 9.4 is Jesus statement not to waste time. We have all wasted countless time, and unfortunately no one sells "time insurance". We may not be able to recover the past, but as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14, we must forget what is behind (though we must learn from it), and strive towards a better future.

7) Accountable to God for our Time.  Romans 14.12 says we will all give an account of our lives to God. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-9), but 1 Corinthians 3.13-15 reveals that our works will be weighed in eternity.

8) Time is Easily Lost.  Proverbs 26.13-14 is a great piece of Scripture revealing the absurdity of never ending excuses. Proverbs 24.33-34 shows that like most things in life, we don't choose to lose in big ways, but rather just little by little. Yet over time, all of the "littles" add up to a lot.

9) Time is Valued at Death.  Rather than waiting until death, we must learn to value it now. This idea is continued in number 10.

10) Time's Value in Eternity.  Luke 16.22-25 is Jesus' story of a man who wished for a little more time to go back and make things right, if not for him, at least for his family and friends. But his time was up. The value of time was not learned until time, for him, was no more. See again, #2, above.

Having looked at these ten principles encouraging us to consider using our time wisely, in the second post this week, we will review what it means to be disciplined with our money.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Name (3 of 3)

In the previous post, it was explained that Christians are expected to serve and gifted to serve. This week's concluding post, I will provide a few options for learning and preparing to serve. But first, let me provide a reminder of what service is not.

Service does not bring about salvation. 1 Corinthians 15.3-4 reveal that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised again – according to the Scriptures. These two verses are the gospel in a nutshell. And our sins are mentioned, but the only name is, and the only service done (death in this case) is done by, Jesus. It was Jesus who died. Jesus who was buried, and Jesus who was raised. Our names are not mentioned in the gospel.

Why is this important? Well, in a post (or series of posts) about service, some may interpret that serving is a way of salvation. But it isn't. Serving the Lord is important. As mentioned above, God does expect it. He does gift us for service. But Ephesians 2.8-9 says, that grace and faith are not given on merit, in order that no one, no one that is, apart from Jesus, has any right to boast. Yet, we cannot look past verse 10 – which says we were created – your very birth was meant – for serving the Lord.

And worship is very related to service. Our worship should lead us to serve, and our service expresses our worship.

Whitney gives the following as a potential want ad for a Kingdom Servant:
Wanted: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or no visible results and possibly no recognition – except from God in all eternity.

This week's letter for the JOURNEY is N, for Nurture. I mentioned in a previous post that we don't remember a lot of the ways we are served unless one or two things are true – a sacrifice or problem. Think of a time when you were out to eat and received exceptional service from a waiter or waitress. Do you remember their name? What they were wearing? Specifically, what they did that was impressive? Even where you were? Now, think of a time when you were out to eat and received poor service. I bet you can remember a lot more details. I know I can.

So, if our letter is N, let's change that – especially in the church and for God's Kingdom. Let's nurture one another to grow in our various areas of service. And when someone fails, let's be the brother or sister that picks the other up – serving that person to help them recover, rather than making fun of them or chastising them – especially with others outside of the church!

So, related to service, what is our next step? Well, again, before I answer this, let me tweak our question for this series to make it about service:

If your growth in godliness were measured by the faithfulness of your service to God, what would be the result?

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God? Challenge yourself.

If we are to be a people Becoming Like God, then just as God has served us through the giving of His Son, we need to be giving of ourselves to others through service. So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to service? Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, consider where you are in your service RIGHT NOW. And let the Spirit lead you to what you might next do.

What is your Spiritual Gift? If you know it, how can it be used to serve Him and serve others?  If you don't know it, there are many tools online to help guide you.

Find a way to use your giftedness in the context of ministry. How can you serve others in the church? How can you serve others beyond the church? What needs exist in your community? Keep your eyes and ears open, someone is always in need.

As you begin serving, consider who you may truly be serving. (Matthew 25.40) So do it with the right fuel – love!

Share moments of service with others. Invite them with you. Teach them to serve. And remind them to serve.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Becoming Like His Name (2 of 3)

In yesterday's post, three organizations known to many were mentioned – The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and The Pony Express. Amazingly, the Pony Express is still known despite only operating for 19 months. But it was an organization committed to service, as the church should be. Today, we look at two marks of Christians related to the Discipline of Service.

First, Christians are expected to serve. The word “expected” is becoming common in our disciplines. Prayer, evangelism, and now serving are all expected of Christians. The week after next we will see that Fasting is expected as well. The reality of serving is that, just like worship, we will serve something or someone. It might be ourselves, it might be others, it might be stuff, or it might be God. But the act of service – or works – will not last; they are dead, unless it is for the living God. See Hebrews 9.14.

Now, I know a lot of people may think serving God sounds boring. They equate it with preaching, or being a missionary. Yet, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Brother Lawrence – a monk from a few centuries ago who made his service a time of worship. His reflections are recorded in a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. Just like worship, we can go through various actions and do them for God or not. We can prepare a meal for someone as an act of service to the living God, or just because we think someone might need it. This includes work in the church. For instance, when the church is cleaned or the trash is removed, it can be because someone is being paid or an act of serving the living God. When I preach, or make a hospital visit, or pick up the mail at the post office, I can do it because it is my duty, or because I am serving the living God. One can be paid for their service and still serve God, but as Jesus said, we cannot serve both God and money – we will serve one or the other.

So, service is expected. But how are we to serve? With gladness! Sometimes service can be challenging so let me give you five motives for faithful service.

1) Obedience (Read Deuteronomy 13.4, a verse about obedience to God). John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, said it this way, “If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth's grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of the ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of angels lies only in obedience to God's will.”

I am rather convicted by that statement! Certainly there are some things I prefer to do over others, but am I (or will I be) obedient regardless of the task? I have much room for growth. Perhaps you do as well.

2) Gratitude/Gladness (Read 1 Samuel 12.24, what has God done for you through salvation is plenty). We should serve with gladness (Psalm 100:2). In Nehemiah 2.2, Nehemiah comes before the king with a sad face, which was not a wise thing. If you are a Christian, you are redeemed of (and by) God. Should we come before our King with a somber face. Absolutely not. Psalm 84.10 says that one day in His courts are better than a thousand elsewhere. So be grateful as you serve.

3) Forgiveness, not Guilt (Read Isaiah 6.6-8). We serve not to be forgiven, but because of forgiven (See Philippians 2.12-13). Charles Spurgeon said, “The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose; he desires to lay out himself entirely to His Master's service....O you who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, what a miserable life your must be...for, ‘by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.’...The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.”

4) Humility (John 13.12-16). If we serve because of what we can (or might) get, it is not humility, it is hypocrisy. Jesus said that we shouldn't let the left hand and right hand know what the other is doing (Matthew 6). Philippians 2:3 says we should consider others before we consider ourselves. These are hard teaching, but serving can be difficult!

5) Love (Galatians 5.13) Love is the fuel that motivates us. If we don't love others, we will not serve them. If we love others, we want to serve them. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:15; Mark 12:28-31). And a part of our serving others expresses our service to God (Matthew 25:40). In the late 1980s or early 1990s, Quik Trip had a problem (at least a perception problem) regarding their gasoline.  Ultimately, the solution was to guarantee the quality of their gasoline. If we don't serve out of love, our service is like putting bad gasoline in our cars, eventually damage may be caused. Like QT, we need to provide a guarantee for our service – and that guarantee is love.

The second truth about service is that Christians are gifted for serve. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit lives within you. That truth is the entire premise of a series on Spiritual Disciplines – disciplines empowered by the Spirit for God. If you are a Christian then you have at least one Spiritual Gift. This happens from the moment of salvation, when the Spirit begins to dwell in you. Several passages talk about these gifts (See Romans 12.4-8; 1 Corinthians 12.5-11, 27-31; 1 Corinthians 14; Ephesians 4.7-13; 1 Peter 4.10-11). We will have another class on this beginning in April.

Serving with your gift may be in or out of the spotlight, but it shouldn't matter because we are ultimately serving God, who sees all. But it can be, and often is, hard. In Ephesians 4.12, Paul calls service the “work” of service. The word work here is the Greek word “ergon”, which also means labor. In Colossians 1.29, Paul says he “toils.” That sounds easy! It means to be worn out or be weary. The next word is struggling. The Greek word used here is agonizomai – from which we get the term agony. But notice despite Paul's weary condition, to the point of exhaustion and agony – he can still serve because he does so with all God's energy. That's amazing, despite having God's power working within Him, it is still a struggle.

It shows the truth of the maxim – “Service that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”

For Paul, the labor was agonizing and exhausting, yet it was certainly fulfilling and rewarding. Most importantly, if done for God, it is also enduring. God's work always has value, yet we often see few if any results. But God knows (See Hebrews 6.10).

You are expected to serve, and gifted to serve, but are you willing to serve? If you are, remember we must count the cost. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” For some this might be on a grand scale. For others one foot at a time.

If you are willing to serve, or even just interested in seeing where this post will lead, I will put the third, and final post regarding the Discipline of Service online tomorrow (Friday).

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Name (1 of 3)

This week's discipline – our 6th in the series is about serving God. But the title of this message is in His Name. What does it mean to serve in His Name? Let me ask it this way, is there a reason that an organization is called the Red Cross? The emblem itself was chosen, in the 1860s in honor of the man who appealed for such an organization. The man was from Switzerland and the emblem of the Red Cross is the opposite of the Swiss flag. However, the notion of a cross obviously carries a religious connotation and within fifteen years, in the mid/late 1870s, the Red Crescent was also adopted. The Ottoman Empire respected the Red Cross, but many Muslim soldiers were offended by the Cross, so the Crescent was adopted. Then in 2005, a Red Diamond was adopted for any nation (such as Israel) that might not identify with either the Cross or the Crescent. (Source) But again, though its origins were not completely dependent on what a Christian might consider the nature of the Cross, the Cross as an emblem has a distinctive meaning, and if the organization did not wish to have that idea portrayed, it could just as easily been the Red Square – which, of course, has an entirely different meaning today.

Or how about the Salvation Army? William Booth was a pastor in England in the 1850s. In the early 1860s, he decided rather than speak from a pulpit, he would preach in the streets. Many of his converts were people of the streets and he became their source for spiritual guidance. He encouraged them to go make other converts like themselves. This group, formally named “The Christian Mission” became known as the “Hallelujah Army” and he, as the general superintendent of this group, was affectionately known as the “General.” In 1878, while reading some campaign literature the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” He simply changed it to the “Salvation Army”, and along with his wife Catherine, founded this army of people dedicated to seeking the salvation of others. (Source)

So the Salvation Army was definitely started with the notion of serving in God's Name. The Red Cross, not so much, but the link between the cross and God is undeniable, so, at the least, they were drawing on the symbol's nature. Both of these organizations obviously still exist, but let me briefly mention one other that lasted just a short time, but is still remembered, at least by name, today.

The Pony Express. This organization, just barely preceded the first two I mentioned. All three organizations began in the early 1860s, but the Express began first on April 3, 1860. The purpose – deliver messages from St Joseph to as far as Sacramento – some 2000 miles, within 8 to 10 days. The work was tough. To try to gain the most speed, the riders wore as little as possible – even in the winter (and it is cold at this latitude). The riders carried a revolver and a knife, riding 75 to 100 miles each day, changing horses every 15 miles. Who would dare sign up for such a job? Especially with the following serving as the job posting (per a San Francisco newspaper):

“Wanted – young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Yet, plenty of these “fellows” signed up to carry these messages. You might be interested in this – the cost of sending a ½ ounce letter - $25-$125 in today's money). So how long did this service last? 19 ½ months, until a line for the telegraph could be completed. (Source

Why do we remember it today? It represents service with sacrifice. Typically, we don't remember a lot of the ways we are served unless one or two things are true. One, there is sacrifice. Two, there is a problem. Unfortunately, in our society today we are more focused on remembering problems than with successes. But, for Christians, serving should come from within, but when it doesn't we must be disciplined anyway. So, in the next post (tomorrow), I will provide some thought on two primary points regarding serving – Christians are expected and gifted to serve. On Friday, the third post this week, I will share some thoughts on how serving fits with salvation and provides some thoughts on applying this week's posts.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Mission (2 of 2)

In the previous post, it was noted that evangelism is expected and empowered. But four common reasons were given for why we do not do it. This is why evangelism must be considered a Discipline as well. It is a Discipline because it takes discipline. But as a Spiritual Discipline, we are reminded again that this discipline is enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says that we should be light wherever we go (Matthew 5.16). But beyond being light, we are to speak about the light. But this takes time. In reality, a lack of time could be our fifth reason – we don't take the time. We do live in a society that is busy. But I wonder if that will be a good excuse before Jesus. Furthermore, if we don't have time, it is not God's fault. His command to witness long preceded whatever plans you and I have made/are making.

This is a big reason we don't evangelize – we don't take the time...we don't make the time. Ephesians 5.16 says to “Redeem the time.” Why? Because the days are evil. The days don't care what you do with your time, but the evil in the world doesn't want you to make the most of your time. (I am convinced this is why we have junk mail in our mailboxes and spam in our in boxes!) The command to redeem the time is only 15 verses removed from Paul's statement that we are dearly beloved children of God, and THAT is why we should seek to imitate Him. God doesn't waste time, and he doesn't want us to either.

But most any attempt at evangelism takes discipline – we usually don't have a lot of opportunities for spontaneous evangelism. Yet, we proclaim our hope and thoughts about a lot of things whenever we can. I am a KC Royals fan and wear a certain jacket all the time. People stop me often to talk about the Royals. It was crazy last Fall, as the Royals made their great post-season run. I have worn the jacket for years, but now everyone wants to talk about the upcoming season – and the hope that they have for the season.

But I am here to say that while I hope (wish) the Royals do well, my real HOPE (assurance) comes from God. 1 Peter 3.15 says that we should always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have. The reality is that whatever we pursue – worship – that is what we will want to proclaim.  I watch the Royals with passionate interest, but I worship God. “The more we pursue Christ, the more we want to proclaim Christ.”

But we must know Christ to properly proclaim Him. We do not need to know every detail, but we must know the gospel to share it. The simplest expression of the gospel that the Bible offers is found in 1 Corinthians 15.3-4. Paul's statement is full, yet concise. And verse 3 begins with Paul reminding his readers – that this was the most important message he could give – the very message he had received.

Take a moment to read and reflect on these two verses. The essence is Jesus died for our sins (as was foretold in Scripture), He was buried, and He was raised (as foretold in Scripture). That's it. The rest of the Bible is as important, but these two verses give us the necessary facts to embrace by faith. And once we have embraced them, we must share them – just as Paul did.

Our letter for JOURNEY for this week is E – Evoke. Peoples hearts need to be stirred by the gospel. Again, God is the one who supplies the final ingredients, but we get to help in the preparation. And one of best ways is to ask how you can pray for them – most people won't turn down prayer! Prayer often opens a window for them to know that God is there, and until they know He is there, they have no reason to respond.


So what is our next step? For someone reading this, your next step could be your first step in faith. Perhaps you feel Jesus drawing you right now. You may not know what that really means, or what to do, but if that is the case, just give in. I assure you He will direct you. This moment could be THE defining moment of your eternal destiny.

For the rest of us, let me tweak our question for this series to make it about evangelism:

If your growth in godliness were measured by whether or not you tell others about Jesus, what would be the result?

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God related to evangelism? SPEAK.

The previous post contained this definition of evangelism. Evangelism is “presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people in order that they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Savior, and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” – JI Packer

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. The reality is that we are all sinful people. Some sinners need to put their trust in Him receiving Jesus as Savior. Some need to re-new their trust in Him. And others need to serve Him as King. Thus, evangelism – the proclaiming of the gospel, can stir us to Him (for the first time or again) or cause a stir in us to serve.  So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to evangelism? Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, consider where you are in your worship RIGHT NOW. And let the Spirit lead you to what you might next do.

Research some of the various models of evangelism. GOSPEL, Share Jesus W/o Fear, Romans Road, FAITH, etc.

Have a conversation each week about what Jesus has done in your life.

Have a conversation with someone new each week about what Jesus has done in your life.

Help someone else learn to share their faith by modeling various ways you share yours.

*This series is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Mission (1 of 2)

The first few disciplines in this series (Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship) are largely concepts easy to digest for a Christian. Of course, digesting the thought does not mean we do them, or do them consistently. But this week begins a transition to some disciplines which most everyone might agree are necessary, but are inclined to say they apply more to someone else – perhaps because someone else might do it better. Yet, the Disciplines are not a matter of comparison or competition. Each Discipline is a matter of obedience to God. The Disciplines are about us Becoming Like God. It is about training for godliness (1 Timothy 4.7-8). We need training...we need to exercise these disciplines in our lives to become godly people. So, this week, we review the next discipline in the list – the discipline of evangelism.

First, we must understand, evangelism is expected. Jesus commands us to share the message. (See Matthew 28.19-20; Mark 16:15;  Luke 24.46-47; John 20.21; Acts 1.8). All of these have an aspect of discipleship to them, but discipleship starts with evangelism. And as God’s chosen people, it is our responsibility (cf. 1 Peter 2.9-10).  If we have received God’s mercy, shouldn’t we tell others about it?

So if evangelism is expected, let’s make sure we know what evangelism is. What is evangelism? It is simply to communicating the gospel – and the gospel simply means “good news.” JI Packer provides a more robust definition. Evangelism is “presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people in order that they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Savior, and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” (I will return to this definition in the second post.)

Secondly, evangelism is empowered. Imagine an author that asked you to tell His story without any knowledge of the story. Now certainly, a name might suggest the type, or at least some characteristic, of the story. For instance, the name Dr. Seuss brings one type of story to mind. Stephen King’s name means something quite different. But God is more than just a story writer. He is a story maker. And we are a part of His-story – History. And as if that wasn’t enough, He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us tell His story. Re-read Acts 1.8. And yet we don’t. Why? Well, let me give you four of the most common reasons with a couple of thoughts on each.

“I might be rejected.” Yes, you might. But the reality is that heaven and hell are at stake. We forget that. And we should worry about rejection, but not from the person(s) in front of us. Jesus said, in Matthew 10.28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Jesus also said, if we don’t acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge us before the Father. Who would you rather reject you? Your family? Your neighbor? Your coworker? Or Jesus?

“I might fail.”  What is success in evangelism? Sharing. The only way you truly fail is not to do it. Let me ask it this way: Do you think Jesus ever failed at sharing what people needed to do to receive eternal life? No, of course not. Read Mark 10.17-22. Jesus told the man what to do. But the man didn't do it. Did Jesus fail? No. Then if you share, you can’t fail either. Here’s another analogy. What is the single most important task of the postal service. Getting the mail delivered! The job isn’t to make sure the mail gets opened, or dealt with properly. It is simply to make sure the message gets delivered. That is our job too. The acceptance of the message is up to God. The person cannot respond without faith – Ephesians 2.8-9. But faith comes from hearing the gospel – Rom 10.17.
Other people know what I have done.” Good. Then it can show what God has done even more. If people know we sin, and yet we go to church, and follow God, etc. then the Holy Spirit can use our story for His glory. It isn’t about us, it is about Him. After all, isn’t that what happened to Paul? The early church was deathly afraid of Paul – and for good reason. But some people may not have been able to relate to people like Peter or John or others. After all, they had been with Jesus. But Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 that he was the least of the apostles. In Ephesians 3, Paul wrote he was the least of all the saints. And in 1 Timothy 1, he says he was the foremost of sinners. Paul couldn’t deny God made him an apostle or a saint. But he also couldn’t deny that he was the chief of sinners. And if Paul has the title of the chief of sinners, then all of us fall under that. We are still sinners. But we are still saved by grace. We are still imperfect people. BUT GOD, loves us anyway. And we don’t come to church because we are perfect, we come because we are still learning to be what He wants us to be.

Finally, and perhaps the most common expression is:

“I don’t know enough.” Simply put, we are not confident in our knowledge of God and His Word. The reality is that most Christians know far more than they believe they know, we just don’t do what we know to do. Yet, we use an excuse of not knowing enough, we are giving too much credit to people that have never read the Bible. Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t be asked hard questions – including questions we don’t know the answer to. But, any reasonable person will give you an opportunity to get back to them. We must just make sure we follow through as planned.

Remember, point 2 is about being empowered. By the Holy Spirit. The four excuses above have one thing in common - a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit. Yet Scripture provides one example of a man who didn’t even know of the Spirit and could have used any of these excuses much more legitimately than you and I...but shared Jesus anyway. The story is found in John 9. The story is about a man who had been blind from birth and waited daily for charity. But one day, as Jesus passed by, this man was healed after Jesus sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

What happened next? Everyone started talking about him. Isn’t this the guy who used to beg (a half-hour ago!)? So they took him before the Pharisees – the people who knew more about God than anyone, or so they thought. And the Pharisees questioned him, in part, because the healing was on the Sabbath. But the guy didn’t know anything. He told the pharisees that the man must be a prophet. He didn’t know anything else. He said in 9.25, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” When they kept questioning the man, the man asked the pharisees, “Do you want to be His disciples?”

Think about this: Everyone talked about the man’s past. They were rejecting him and even put him on trial as a possible fraud. The man did not have any real knowledge – certainly not anywhere near the knowledge of the Pharisees. And he didn’t even know who had helped him. Yet, he proclaimed the name of Jesus. Oh, and it was only after this, that the man truly learned who Jesus was.

The man simply told others what Jesus had done for him. That’s the least that we can do. We may not know who will be affected or when, but God’s Word, and God’s work will impact others. Evangelism is like if everyone hearing the message was carrying around a lightning rod. We may not know who or when, but someone will eventually be struck.

In the next post, I will review evangelism as a discipline and provide options for applying this discipline to our lives.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Presence (2 of 2)

In the most recent post, worship was described as our focusing on and responding to God, and being done in Spirit and truth. In this post, worship is revealed as expected, which means I will provide a few options for application to help each of us meet that expectation.

The final set of points regarding worship is expected both privately and publicly. Let us look at publicly first. Read Hebrews 10.24-25. This verse does not say to “worship” together, but it does say to meet together regularly. And v. 22 says we should draw near (to God because of the blood of Jesus), so this is in the context of worship. In Acts 2.42-47, the description of the early church, it says “they” were praising God (see v. 45). In addition, the Bible always talks about Community. The Israelites were a community. The New Testament church is a COMMUNITY. Consider some of the metaphors for church – flock (Acts 20.28), body (1 Corinthians 12.12), structure (Ephesians 2.21), household (Ephesians 2.19) – all of these words have the aspect of a singular unit made up of multiple parts. That is what the church is – a bunch of individuals who together make up one larger unit.

So, our worship is to be OUR WORSHIP. Interestingly, the Bible says much less about individuals worshiping. Individuals certainly encounter God (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, etc.), yet little is said about a person going off by themselves to worship God in private. One example is one mentioned in the previous post – of John on Patmos.

So, let us ask ourselves, should we worship in private? Well, let me equate this to a team. Of course, given that pro football is usually played on Sunday, I will use that analogy, but this metaphor could apply to any team. So, what if a football team practices all week, preparing for the game, or at least some of the players are. They all know the game is on Sunday, but the offense decides that since it did well last Sunday, there is no need to practice this week thinking, “everything will be good again this week.” Or instead of the entire offense, maybe it is just a couple of players. Maybe the quarterback and wide receivers decide not to show up for practice all week. Thus, they don't know the game plan and they are a little rusty. No big deal to them. But it impacts the overall performance of the team.

The previous example could prompt each of us to ask one simple question each week? Am I doing what I need to do each day so that my performance on Sunday will not be a detriment to the rest of my team (your congregation)? Personally, sometimes, I would say the answer is yes...sometimes not. But what if we all asked that question? What if Sunday was not the day to worship, but was the day where we fully expressed ourselves in worship TOGETHER as a continuance of our experiences during the week?

This is the crux of worship! Many in churches today are concerned that they were not fed, or were not inspired, or whatever during the worship service. If the worship service were all about you and me, that would be a problem. But the question we must ask ourselves each time we worship (as individuals and collectively) – was God honored? If He was, He still deserves the praise, not us. If He was not, what part might I have played in that? Was I prepared for worship? Was I expecting God to be present? Was I seeking Him?

Just like there may be days when you don't feel like reading your Bible, or struggle to find intimacy in prayer, you may not feel like worship or your worship may be stale. That isn't an excuse not to do it. Again, worship is not about us, or how we feel, it is about God and who He is. Just think, if you don't worship, He might not show up, and if He doesn't show up, what might you miss? If you are not willing to come into His presence, how can He help you through whatever you might be facing? What blessing of His might you miss? Fight through it. Persevere. Keep your focus on Him and then respond to where His Spirit, in His truth, will lead.

This past Sunday, thousands of people gathered at a stadium in Arizona to watch the Super Bowl. Millions more gathered around their televisions or other electronic devices to watch. Some watched to be entertained. Others watched because they worship the sport of football, or one of the two participating teams, or even certain players. After all worship is – “worth”ship – and wherever we place worth, we will worship, at some level. So many people worship all kinds of stuff. Why? Because they don't worship God! Eduard Schweizer said it this way:

When man has lost God, he is at the mercy of all things, because his own covetousness takes the place of God."

But the worship of God is a discipline that is to be cultivated. The more we allow the Spirit to control us, the better we can worship. The more of God's truth we know, the better we can worship. We worship alone, we worship with others. We worship what we value. So, what is worth your worship? More importantly, Who is worthy of your worship?

Our letter for JOURNEY this week is R – Revere. God alone is worthy. But the beauty of revering Him is what He will then do. John 12.32 – If we lift Him up, He will draw people to Himself. Again, Jesus was talking about His being lifted on a cross, but because of that, when we acknowledge His worth – as the lamb who was slain – especially as we do it publicly, He still is in the business of drawing people to Himself.

So what is our next step? Again, let me tweak our recurring question for this series:

If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your worship, what would be the result?

What do you expect when you worship? Do you expect to be in God's presence? If not, you need to INVEST. You must invest yourself in the process. Your focus must be on God, but you must be involved, invested in your time with Him. Seek to truly enter His presence.

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will love Him, the more we will worship Him, and the more we can become like Him – in His image. So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to worship? Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, consider where you are in your worship RIGHT NOW. And let the Spirit lead you to what you might next do.

Make a list of the areas in life that have your focus. No wrong answers here. Just make yourself aware.

Make a plan to put more focus on what God is doing/wants to do in your life? Then begin to respond – daily.

Challenge yourself to worship God in all that you do – especially the tasks you least like to do.

Share with friends and family how God has changed/is changing your heart as you respond to Him in worship.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Presence (1 of 2)

What is the most important thing we can do as Christians? Worship! In previous posts of this series, I have mentioned our need for Bible intake and prayer. So why are these before worship if worship is more important? Because Bible intake and prayer can lead us to know God better, which, in turn, should make us desire to worship Him more. And worship can be done in all things. Colossians 3.17 says to do everything as to the Lord. A centuries old book written by a monk named Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God, says that he learned that whatever he was doing – cleaning the kitchen, mopping the floors, or in his time with the Word – could be a time spent with, and for, God. This kind of lifestyle epitomizes our title today – Becoming Like His Presence. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5, we are to imitate God. How can we imitate someone if we never spend time with them or watch them personally? Thus, our worship is one way to intimately spend time with God – praising Him for what He has done, but also learning from Him what He wants us to do.

And much of what we do in a church service are elements of worship. But that doesn't mean that every one of us is worshiping at that moment. In fact, it is possible that no one is at worship in any given moment. Why? Because our focus is elsewhere – on lunch, plans for the day or week, a relationship problem, etc. So, if being at worship is not about being in worship, how can we better understand worship so that we can better engage with God in worship? Let me share three pairs of truths about worship.*

First, worship is focusing on and responding to God.

Worship is to truly be preoccupied with God. This is why we can be at a worship service and not in worship. It is why you can worship, and not be at a church building. It is about the focus of your mind and being. As many have said, “I can be with God while I am...(fishing, golfing, hunting, etc.)”. And that is very true. But to be in worship, means our focus must be on God WHILE we are doing these activities. Again, there is nothing wrong with these activities, but we can't deceive ourselves into thinking we are worshiping God when our attention is more likely elsewhere. And again, golfing, fishing, whatever, CAN be done for the glory of God. It's just that it does take intentionality. Worship does not just happen. Notice it is a response. It is a response to the God who:
  • created us. Revelation 4.8,11
  • died for us. Revelation 5.12
  • lives for us. John 20.28
  • reigns over us. Revelation 5.13

The more we realize His worth, the more we will choose to worship. Consider the scene from Revelation 4 and 5. Those that are with Him, can't stop worshiping. They can't help but worship Him. (See esp. Revelation 4.8-11, 5.12-14.)

So, consider the elements of our worship service for a minute. proclaiming His Word – bringing focus to His Word so we might respond properly.

Singing...about Him (focus) by offering praise is our declaration of His majesty (response). about expressing our gratitude to Him (focus) because of what He has given us (response).

Prayer...shows our devotion to God (focus) and reveals our dependence on God (response).

Baptism/Lord's about remembering His life (focus) by following His commands (response – do this...baptizing).

(Like most, I have little idea where announcements fit into a worship service. To me, it reveals a part of the difference between a worship service and a church service.)

Secondly, worship is done in Spirit and in truth. Read John 4.23-24.

Let me give you one very practical reality from this statement. To fully worship God, one must be a Christian. Now, at first glance, you may think that may not be true, or is an arrogant statement. But remember, we are talking about spiritual disciplines. And spiritual disciplines are made possible by the Spirit of God. And the only people to have the Spirit of God IN them are people who belong to God. Thus, to worship in Spirit, means the Spirit must be within you.

Others of you may agree in principle, but perhaps have witnessed strange proceedings which have been labeled as worship. Well, again, let me be clear, I am talking about the Worship of God. But let me also be clear that what you may understand to be perfectly acceptable as worship, and what I believe to be acceptable may be different. And what someone of a different denomination may find acceptable, may be different yet. And on and on. If, as point 1 said, worship is the focusing on and responding to God – in a positive way, I might add – then it is God who is the judge of proper worship. Romans 14 can give us some guidelines here – we should not force our understanding of faith on others, and we should not take liberties with our faith that cause others in our fellowship to stumble, but unity with diversity is how the church is to be comprised.

Now, understand, just because the Spirit is within us does not mean that we WILL worship – or that we might not go through certain actions of worship and not be worshiping. Consider this, have you sung a song and even though you still sang the words, your mind was on something else? Sure, we all have. Then, again, that is not worship. And that is why we must be IN THE SPIRIT, and not just HAVE THE SPIRIT. Read Revelation 1.9-10. John was in the Spirit. His Words. What does that mean to Him exactly? I don't know. But because He was in the Spirit the unexpected happened. When you worship, do you expect God to show up? If you don't expect God to show up when you come to worship Him, then why worship? That doesn't mean that if you don't encounter Him, or if He doesn't do something amazing that He wasn't here, but the reality is that our expectations of worship (and a worship service) is a little low sometimes.

So, what about the truth part? Well, what does God look like? Often, we are able to put an image to what we worship. Many people worship the Cross. But while the cross is an important symbol for our faith, so is the empty tomb, and one rarely sees images of the tomb in a church or anywhere else. But even the tomb is not to be worshiped. God is! In the previous paragraph, I referenced Revelation 1.9-10 and John being in the Spirit. Now, let me ask you to read from the last chapter of Revelation (22.8-9) where John bows down before an angel. Many people today worship angels, but this is nothing new (see the book of Colossians). But the angel essentially said, “Not me, bud. Worship God.”

We know this because of God's Word. He has revealed Himself in Creation (Romans 1.20). He has revealed Him by His Incarnate Word (John 1.1, 14; Hebrews 1.1-2). John 1.18 – says He made Himself known. But even these matters we know because He made Himself known in His written Word – 2 Timothy 3.16, 2 Peter, 1.20-21. Again, that doesn't mean we are to worship the Bible, but most of what we know about God comes from the Bible. It is not all the truth of God, but it is all of the truth we need to know about God to properly worship Him.

Many will say, you need to simply, “Let the Spirit lead you.” My response: Absolutely. But we must understand the God's Spirit will not lead you apart from God's truth. In fact, the Spirit leads us to better understand God's truth (John 15.15-17). Unfortunately, many spirits lead us astray – so be careful to be balanced in spirit and truth. Remember, even John was in the Spirit, but even then, He found occasion to bow at the feet of an angel.

In part 2, I will look at the third pair of truths for worship and then reveal four options for application using the 4L Method of discipleship.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Thoughts (2 of 2)

The first post this week related the importance of prayer and revealed that it was expected. Here, two other aspects of prayer are discussed with points of application at the end. The first aspect today is that prayer is learned. By praying! If you never pray, you never will. The more you pray, the more comfortable it is to pray. So how can prayer be learned?
  1. Pray with others. Listen to their prayers, emulate but not necessarily mimic. (Proverbs 13.20)
  2. Read how others pray. This can serve as a guide, but you still have to actually pray. You can read how to ride a bike, but until you get on one, you don't know if you really can.
  3. Read about the people who prayed – not just prayer. What did God do in their life? Some examples are Muller, Murray, the Puritans, etc.
  4. Prayer is learned by meditating. Psalmist prayed that God would hear his meditations (Psalm 5.1). David wanted his meditations to be pleasing to God (Psalm 19.14).
The last major point is that prayer is answered. Read Matthew 7.7-8. One of the great pray-ers, Andrew Murray, commented on these verses as follows: “'Ask and you shall receive: everyone that asks receives.' This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer. Hold on; let the Word and Spirit teach you to pray aright,...”

Our prayers are answered when we pray:
  • in God's will.
  • that God is glorified.
  • “in Jesus' name.” Read John 14.13-14 and John 15.7.
Two things before we move toward the conclusion of this message.
  1. If we pray in God's will, that He is glorified, and in Jesus' name, our prayers may still be answered differently than we expect.
  2. “In Jesus' name is not a tag line. It is about His character.
I mentioned above that we should learn from others. But to mimic others prayers is not effective praying. It is no more effective than just praying the Lord's Prayer is not effective in, and of, itself. Prayer is more than phrases, it is principles. So look for the principles as others pray, not necessarily the words and phrases they use. Let me give you an example. Read the Lord's prayer from Luke 11.2-4. This is obviously somewhat different than the one many of us memorized from Matthew 6. But the message is the same. It is the principles of prayer, not the specific phrases that matter. Many recite the phrases week after week, and some day after day, and don't even know what they mean. This is NOT what Jesus had in mind.

Again, prayer is learned. Even the disciples had to learn, and fortunately they were not unwilling to ask. Sometimes we are afraid because we think others know how. In no way am I a great pray-er, but I have come a long ways. When I was first married, I would sit waiting for Sunday School to start and our leader would ask someone to pray. Like we all learned in school, I used the angle of being busy looking at something, avoiding eye contact, etc. I did not want to pray publicly. But maybe that was because I didn't pray privately. Again, I have as much or more to learn about prayer as anyone does, but by practicing, I have improved greatly. And by practicing each of us can gain further intimacy with God and improve our prayer life, both publicly and privately.

This week's JOURNEY letter is N for Nurture. I hope this message has encouraged you to pray and given you some ideas for how you might improve – if that is your desire. Usually, nurture has to do with the idea of equipping, and this short two-part post may have done that. But the other part of nurture here is to nurture your relationship to God. And this intimacy with Him is nourished by prayer. As Jesus said, abide in Me.

So what is our next step? Well, let me tweak our question from the past two weeks and make it about prayer.

If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your prayer life, what would be the result?

Again, that question isn't to dwell on the past, but to learn from it, or use it as a model, so we write a better future for ourselves.

So what's the next step in Becoming Like God?

Well, we can build on our previous two steps. We must Begin. And do this Every Day. Now we add the idea of Discern.

Again, this series is entitled Becoming Like God. But even as we each move closer to His image, we are different. So we must each Discern what becoming like God is for each of us. Certainly, that doesn't mean we pick and choose which commands to follow or whether we should read the Bible. No, if we are to become like God in our thoughts, then those issues become non-negotiable. But the person you become and how God uses you will be different than the person I am becoming and how God uses me. We must each Discern the direction that God has for our life, and we do that by reading/studying/meditating on His Word and praying for His guidance.

So, specifically, what can you do as it relates to praying. Well, we return to our 4L's – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead – to provide potential next steps for each of us. Again, I will let you discern which of these applies to you, but I will cover a few specifically.

Read some books about prayer or read some of the prayers in the Bible. Begin to practice praying yourself.

Set your minds on things above as you pray. Perhaps, pray the prayers of the Bible with you as the pray-er.

Read the biographies of some of the pray-ers in history. Notice how God used their prayers to sustain and grow their faith. Ask God to do the same for you.

Model prayer for others. Also offer others a chance to pray instead of praying yourself, encouraging them as they do.