Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

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Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time  Read more

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Four

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

Another way to develop confidence is to put a few wins under your belt. Start with building on small successes and little by little you will tackle bigger and bigger challenges. 

A few successful victories under your belt gives you the impetus to keep starching your abilities. If you keep winning, you may see yourself as a no-limits person. Repeated failures produce the opposite effect. You begin to see yourself as a hopeless loser. The best way to develop rational, well-balanced confidence is to go after a few victories immediately following a failure. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity.

A great confidence booster is a personal victory list of past successes and achievements. This is a biblical concept. There are two Bible characters who practiced this: Samson, who became a total failure, and David, who became a great success.

In Judges 16:20 we see Samson’s victory list:  “And she [Delilah] said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Now let’s read David’s victory list in 1 Samuel 17:37: “And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you!’”

There are two strong similarities between these two men. They were both chosen, ordained, and anointed by God, and they were both leaders of Israel at a time when Israel was battling agains the Philistines. But this is where it stops; Samson and David also had three distinct differences. These differences made one a winner (and confident) and the other a loser.

The first thing we notice about Samson is that he wanted to please himself. He lived life in the flesh, depending on his own strength and felt no need to rely on God, even when going into battle. He chose the road that always leads to ultimate defeat. Unlike Samson, David desired to please God. He knew that, left to his own resources, he was already defeated. So he called upon the Lord and went to battle with divine help. His weakness became God’s strength and he was assured victory.

Samson’s alienation from God not only led to his defeat, it ended his leadership. For David, however, this episode with Goliath was the beginning of his leadership. It was the incident that brought him into a position where God could greatly use him. Victory lists should give us confidence, not cockiness.

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

Another way to increase your confidence is to quit comparing yourself with others. Comparisons always leaves you found wanting. If you are better than the person you are comparing yourself to, this makes you proud — not more confident. If you are not as good as the person you are comparing yourself to then you become depressed and, again, not more confident. 

The following little story illustrates the point. A milk truck passes two cows grazing in a pasture. On the side of the truck are the words, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin A added.” Noticing this, one cow says to the other, “Makes you kind of feel inadequate, doesn’t it?” I think we have all known that feeling of inadequacy when we compare what we can offer with what someone else offers.

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Three

To be comfortable with others and thus build great relationships that have depth and substance we need to be confident in who we are and what it is God has called us to accomplish for Him. So, how can we become confident and thus able to be transparent and vulnerable when building relationships with others?

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

God demonstrated our importance to Him in two great acts. First, He created us in His own image, and second He — through Jesus Christ — died for our sins. God thought so much of you, believed in you, and saw you as a person of such worth, that He allowed His Son to die so that you could live. When we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s actions on our behalf, then we immediately begin to have more confidence. There is nothing more humbling than the realization that if you were the only person on this earth, Jesus would have died for you. That makes you priceless. 

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

Focusing on God — what He has done, is doing, and will be doing — brings you personal confidence in life. Try living according to Psalm 27:1-3…

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.”

We can make three observations from these brief verses.

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

It is very clear that the psalmist encountered many problems and difficulties. He mentions his enemies, evildoers who want to devour his flesh, adversaries, and a host encamping around him.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

In the midst of his difficulties, the psalmist kept focusing on God and not on his difficult situation. “The Lord is the defence of my life.”

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

In verse two the psalmist speaks in the past tense. “When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” He’s talking about yesterday. In verse three, he talks about today: “Though an host encamp against me, my heart will not fear.” Confidence today is a result of victories yesterday.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

The old cliché is true: Birds of a feather do flock together. A big man is one who makes us feel bigger when we are with him.

Many people are doomed to suffer the “Charlie Brown complex.” It seems that Charlie Brown just can’t do anything right. But notice that one of his problems is the fact that Lucy is always around him. Lucy does not make it any better for Charlie Brown because she is always quick to point out the error of his ways.

On one occasion Lucy puts her hands on her hips and says, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You’re in the shadow of your own goal posts! You are a miscue! You are three putts on the eighteenth green! You are a seven-ten split in the tenth frame! You are a dropped rod and reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free throw, a shanked nine iron, and a called third trike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?”

Do you have a Lucy around you? It’s safe to say that if you surround yourself with people like her, you will have a difficult time developing a sense of confidence. Every time you start out there will be someone to remind you what you aren’t, haven’t been, and never will become. If we want to be confident, we must surround ourselves with confident people, people who believe in us and will be encouragers. 

Sometimes I Feel Stuck!

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Authors call it writer’s block.

Athletes call it a slump. 

Economists call it stagnation. 

Pastors call it burnout. 

Swimmers call it treading water. 

Off-roaders call it spinning their wheels. 

Retailers call it sluggishness. 

Scientists call it inertia. 

Retirees call it the “every day is Saturday” syndrome. 

Sailors call it the doldrums.

But I have good news. This is not God’s intention for your life.  Read more

SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking! – Part Two

We are to run the race and cross the finish line. The key to running the race well, to finishing well: Don’t finish. Always be looking forward to what the Lord has for you next.

It doesn’t take a deep dive into secular history or the Bible to discover that many great things are accomplished by people past the age of retirement.

Pianist-comedian Victor Borge, “the Clown Prince of Denmark,” continued to delight huge audiences until his death at age ninety-one. Tony Bennett, singer and performer, was still singing at ninety-three and left his heart not only in San Francisco but also in many other cities where he performed.

At ninety years old master cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he kept practicing eight hours a day. He replied, “I think I’m improving.”

The apostle Paul was over sixty when he made his gruelling voyage to Rome, where he preached, wrote, and taught until his execution four years later. He had no intention of slowing down, much less retiring to rest on his laurels. At his miraculous conversion thirty years earlier, Paul had found his life’s passion. He was doing exactly what he was called to do, what he loved to do, and it absorbed him completely.

Pearl Buck, the famous writer and the daughter of missionaries to China, said, “I have reached an honourable position in life because I am old and no longer young. I am a far more useful person than I was fifty years ago, or forty years ago, or thirty, twenty, or even ten. I have learned so much since I was seventy.”

So, don’t give up on yourself too early. Don’t deprive yourself of the many blessings God wants to bestow upon you in what the world would call your post-retirement years. Change what you do if you must, but don’t stop serving the Lord. 

Nine times in the Bible (ESV) we find the words old and advanced in years. I’ve always thought this phrase was an illustration of unnecessary redundancy. If you say someone is old, you shouldn’t have to add the words advanced in years. That seems like piling on.

But every word in the Bible is important, and one day I noticed something fascinating. Many of the times when that redundant phrase appears in the Bible, it’s a description of a person who is about to experience something astonishing. For example:

      • Abraham (100 years old) and Sarah (90 years old) were “old, well advanced in age” as they  are about to become the parents of Isaac (Genesis 18:11).
      • Zacharias and Elizabeth were “old and advanced in years” before they gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1:18).
      • Joshua is also described this way before he received his marching orders to enter the land of God’s promise: “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much yet to be possessed’” (Joshua 13:1).

Here are some verses to encourage you to keep on keeping on. They were given to us by our gracious God to keep us faithful throughout our lives. These verses show us: “If you’re not dead, you’re not done!”

      • Psalm 92:12-14 (NCV) “But good people will grow like palm trees; they will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon. Like trees planted in the Temple of the LORD, they will grow strong in the courtyards of our God. When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh.”
      • Isaiah 46:4 (NKJ) “Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
      • Psalm 71:18 (NKJ) “ Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

RIP … Maybe

You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.” 

When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.

But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.

Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.

Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses. 

One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.

Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation. 

The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there. 

As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Five

“And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Because God loves us, we can love our neighbours!

I’m confident that every believer knows that we Christians are commanded to love our neighbour. And most understand that this does not mean just the family next door. Who does it include? When Jesus was asked that question, He answered by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. Your neighbour is anyone you encounter who has a need that you can fulfill.

Here Jesus greatly expands the field on which our love is to operate. Love is not limited to God, yourself, your family, or your church. It must be freely extended to everyone you encounter. No longer must you confine your love only to those who love you and can repay it; it must be given even to those who can never repay it. 

Godly love changes the rules for loving one another. We don’t worry about the results because we have no motive other than to spread the love that God has given to us. We are not manipulating or trying to earn points or even loving for our own personal gratification. We are simply treating others in the light of how God sees them. We can love from sheer bounty, just as we have been loved. We become channels of this new living water.

The apostle Paul knew just how critical our neighbour is to the authenticity of our Christian life. He twice repeated Jesus’ command in his letters. To the Romans he wrote, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Romans 13:8-9). And to the Galatians, he stressed the overarching importance of this command: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14)

As we end the week, let’s review …

Because God loves us…

    • We can love Him
    • We can love ourselves
    • We can love one another
    • We can love our neighbours 

We still have one more to go … Because God loves us, we can love our enemies. A blog posting for Monday. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Four

Clearly Peter and John, as we saw yesterday, came away from that evening meal with Jesus with the impression that love was their lifelong assignment. They were to reach the nations with the message, and love would be the wind that carried it from God to an inattentive world. If we love, it will get people’s attention. If we don’t they  will never listen.

According to John, there is no alternative to love. It is no less than a litmus test for our faith. He who does not love his brother is simply “not of God” (1 John 3:10). Even more clearly, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Twelve verses later, unloving believers are called “liars.” Such people are walking “in darkness” (2:11) and abiding “in death” (1 John 3:14).

Loving one another, in other words, is not a discipline reserved for advanced Christian or a gift belonging to naturally tolerant people. It’s not an option or an extra or a frilly wrapping to make religion more attractive. Love is the heartbeat of our faith; and if we detect no pulse, there is no faith.

In his book, The Mark of a Christian, the late Francis Schaeffer pointed out that Jesus gives the world the right to judge believers by their love for one another:

“Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love towards all Christians.

That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, “I have something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.”

In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because  we have not shown love towards other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.

And we must not get angry. If people say, “You don’t love other Christians,” we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.

This means our number one priority in fulfilling our commission to bring the world to Christ is to love one another.

This can turn out to be a pretty tough task. We can heartily agree with one Christian writer who describes how nothing in the world is more important or more difficult than truly loving other people:

That odorous person with the nasty cough who sat next too you on the plane, shoving his newspaper into your face; those crude louts in the neighbourhood with the barking dog; that smooth liar who took you in so completely last week — by what magic are you supposed to feel towards these people anything but revulsion, distrust and resentment, and justified desire to have nothing to do with them?

Of course it’s possible to put up with people. We can manage to keep our mouths shut, perhaps, when certain folks annoy us. But Christ did not command us to “put up with one another.” He specifies love, and love is not passive or restrained. It’s a powerful, aggressive, positive force that serves, affirms, cares, persists, and gives of itself. We all agree that we should love. But given the presence of all these unlovable people who surround us, how exactly do we get there?

The answer is found in the series of blogs just before this series where we discovered that the Bible tells us:

    • We love one another by encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
    • We love one another by edifying (building up) one another (Ephesians 4:29)
    • We love one another by entertaining one another – being hospitable (1 Peter 4:9)

Take a few minutes and read through them if you have not already done so. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Two

Matthew 19:19 states, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

So, because God loves us, we can love ourselves. Sounds simple. However, for some, there is no person more difficult to love, to forgive, to tolerate than the person who appears before us in the mirror every morning. Yet when Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” the clear implication is that proper self-love is good. In fact, it is necessary. We will never love outside of ourselves as long as we’re at war within ourselves. We cannot give to others what we refuse to accept.

To have contempt for someone Christ died for (including yourself) is an insult to God. He died for you, and you are precious to Him, so you must regard yourself as highly valued — not arrogantly, but realistically. Paul instructs the believer “… not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3). We can have personal peace because God loves us. We are new creatures in Christ; the old is gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The whole notion of “self-love” has been seriously abused in the self-absorbed, narcissistic culture in which we live. And even some well-intentioned Christians have used the term “self-love” in ways that can be confusing.

But what did Christ mean by loving ourselves? He simply meant that we are to love ourselves the same way God loves us — as creatures made in His image, for His purposes, and fo His glory. To love ourselves as God loves us means to seek after His best for our lives; we conform ourselves to His expectations; we live according to His guidelines; and we learn, over time, to yield out natural, carnal impulses to the control and counsel of the Spirit of God in us. When we do that, we begin to live functional, instead of dysfunctional lives. We find peace and joy — indeed, all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit begins to characterize our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Once we have a proper self-love, based on our identity in Christ and the fact that we are being gradually remade in His image, then the good part begins. We can become distributors of the most powerful force in the universe — the love of God for His children. We can love our neighbours with the same love we love ourselves.