How To Pray Effectively

“Can you to point to some recent incident in which you know that your prayers were effective?” James 5:16b reads: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

I don’t know about you, but that is my desire for my prayer life – to be powerful and effective!  In order to be effective in our praying I believe Scripture shares with us several things we need to do:

1. Pray Biblically.

We must pray in accordance with the “will of God” and with the “doctrines of God.”  There is one major principle we must understand about our praying, and it is this, “God will never lead you, give you, or answer any of your prayers that are contrary to His written Word.”  Therefore, our praying must be biblical.

2. Pray Specifically.

As you study the prayers of the Apostle Paul you will notice that he prayed specifically.  There were prayers for courage, loneliness, finances, purity, health, colleagues, converts, wisdom, discouragement, pressures, opportunities, love, direction, spiritual growth, and faithfulness.  The point is, he prayed specifically! Continue reading

Defining Your Mission Statement

Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)

Effective leaders see beyond the traditional way of doing things and look for better ways.  They do this, however, realizing that some things are so sacred they are untouchable, and they always keep the ultimate goal in mind.

This is why it is so important to have a well-thought out, closely defined, easily understood mission statement.  Without this, even the most compelling and charismatic leaders get off track and go astray.  A mission statement is essential to quality leadership.  Otherwise, personality, pride, and the demands of the moment will be diverting.

For Jesus, “the command of God,” doing His Father’s will, constituted His mission statement. And the “tradition of men” was never going to sidetrack Him from His goal.  He was not to be diverted.

Again, the point to notice in Mark 7:8 is not that the Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of men.  We all do that to some extent becasue tradition helps to take the best of the past as a guide while we walk into the future.  Jesus might be wrongly seen here as attacking all tradition.  Instead, He criticized the Pharisees for having let go of the commands of God. When you place your own traditions underneath God’s will, they will serve as a positive guide, but, when the order is reversed, you will end up exactly like the Pharisees – abandoning God’s will for your own personal agenda.

Note the specific example Jesus gave in the following passage, verses 9-13. Continue reading

Formula for Faithfulness

In his book Be All You Can Be, John Maxwell shares the formula for fruitfulness taught by Jesus.

Jesus gives us a three-word formula for fruitfulness in John 15. These three words are the ones I want you to remember, because they are the key to fruitful living.

1. REMAIN – The first word is remain. Throughout John 15 Jesus tells us to remain. In fact, the word abide in the original language can be translated “remain.” “Remain in Me,” Jesus says. He’s talking about our willingness to take time with Him in prayer and in study of the Word. We need to let Him begin to be part of our lives and work on our lives.

2. RECEIVE – The second word in the formula is receive. Jesus says in John 15 that if we remain in Him, we will begin to receive certain things. What we’ll receive is good, fruitful living.

3. REPRODUCE – The third word is reproduce. If we remain in Him, we’re going to receive what He has for us, then and only then will we begin to reproduce in our lives.

Spend some time reading John chapter 15 from God’s Word, and then I encourage you to apply these principles to you life.  Decide today you are going to be fruitful!

Expected Lifestyle of a Christ Follower

I have spent the last several mornings in Matthew 5:33-48. Wow! There is so much to unpack here, so here goes!

This is the ultimate of “easier said than done”. In fact, it doesn’t even make that much sense. The last person I would want to be a servant to is the guy next door who constantly takes advantage of me. What is Jesus talking about here?

My first reaction is, ok, so obviously Jesus was willing to practice what he preached, but why? Why ask us to do this? Part of the answer lingers deep in my gut. My actions toward this kind of person may just be enough to be the tipping point of a conversion experience.

Alright, so what if a fellow believer takes advantage of me? Well, I suppose I would need to talk to them about that and express my concern that they are not themselves demonstrating Christ-likeness. But, I should look at the text. What does the text tell me? Continue reading

Worship – My Primary Purpose In Life

Revelation 4:11b (NLT) “You (God) created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”

Matthew 22:36-39 (HCSB) Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?  He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Below is a brief sermon outline on the subject of worship. Enjoy!

1. WORSHIP IS MY RESPONSE TO GOD’S LOVE

Romans 12:1 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

2. WORSHIP IS GIVING BACK TO GOD.

Mark 12:30 (HCSB) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

3. WORSHIP IS FOCUSING MY ATTENTION ON GOD.

Psalm 139:1-3 (HCSB) LORD, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. 3 You observe my travels and my rest: You are aware of all my ways.

4. WORSHIP IS EXPRESSING MY AFFECTION TO GOD.

I John 4:19 (HCSB) We love because He first loved us.

Hosea 6:6 (NLT)  God says, I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.

5. WORSHIP IS USING MY ABILITIES FOR GOD.

Colossians 3:23 (HCSB) Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.

Romans 12:1 (The Msg) Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.

Are You Showing Mercy?

You know what I’m talking about.  You’ve been hurt, wronged and mistreated.  Our first reaction is to retaliate. But wait, that’s the flesh speaking!  The spiritual man will be merciful! Listen to this passage of Scripture:

“‘Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’”—Matthew 18:33

Mercy is a gift. It is undeserved. Punishment and consequences are sin’s just reward, but the merciful person does not demand justice for the guilty person.

  • If not for God’s mercy, we all would have faced His terrible judgment long ago.
  • If not for God’s mercy, He would have condemned us after our first offense.
  • If not for God’s mercy, He would punish us each time we sin.

But rather than letting us bear the full punishment for our sin, God demonstrated His mercy when He paid the penalty for our sin Himself.

Do you find it hard to show mercy? It may be that you do not comprehend the mercy that God has shown to you. Jesus commanded His disciples to extend the same mercy to others that they had received from God. When they considered the incredible, undeserved mercy they had been granted, how could they refuse to extend the same unconditional mercy to others?

  • Could anyone sin against us to the same degree that we have sinned against God?
  • Could any offense committed against us be as undeserved as the abuse hurled against the sinless Son of God?
  • How quickly we forget the mercy that God graciously bestowed on us, only to focus on the injustices we endure from others!

If you find it difficult to forgive others, you may need to meditate on the mercy of God that prevents you from experiencing God’s justifiable wrath.  Scripture describes God as “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness” (Neh. 9:17b).

Action item for today: SHOW MERCY!

Does God Seem Far Away?

 

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!—James 4:8

There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him.

God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20).

Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions:

  1. You must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right.
  2. You are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him.

If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.

God Is Teaching You

Read this verse slowly and allow it to settle in your spirit.

Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I did not make My name Yahweh known to them.”—Exodus 6:2–3

As God has walked with His people through the generations, He has progressively revealed His nature according to His purposes and the needs of His people.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Him as God Almighty, because they needed His mighty power to protect them from their enemies. Moses and the Israelites learned that God was Lord, Master over every nation and every thing. God not only delivered them from the most powerful ruler in the world, but also brought them into the Promised Land. They came to experience Him as Lord, preeminently powerful over the pagan gods of their day.

God will continue to reveal His character to you according to your needs and according to His purposes. You will come to know more and more about Him as you obey Him.

* When you grieve, He will come to you as the Comforter.
* When you are in need, He will demonstrate that He is the Provider.
* When you face a serious challenge, He will reveal that He is God Almighty.

Your understanding of God’s character ought to be greater now than when you first became a Christian. You ought to know Him today better than you did five years ago. Sadly, some Christians continue to live year after year with the same basic knowledge of God that they had when they first began walking with him.

Personally, I believe God loves us too much to leave us as we are!

Therefore, whatever your present situation, view it in the light of what God is teaching you, through circumstances, about Himself and you will come to know God in dimensions you have never known Him before.

Keep the Project Alive with Action Steps!

I just read a great article on “Action Steps” at www.the99percent.com website. As pastors, we need to bring this management tool into the DNA of our churches.

Action Steps are the most important components of any project.  It’s the oxygen for keeping projects alive.

No Action Steps = No Action = No Results!

The actual outcome of any idea is dependent on the Actions Steps that are captured and then completed by you or delegated to someone else. Action Steps are to be revered and treated as sacred in any project.

The more clear and concrete an Action Step is, the less friction you will encounter trying to do it. If an Action Step is vague or complicated, you will probably skip over it to others on your list that are more straightforward.

To avoid this, start each Action Step with a verb. For example:

  • Call programmer to discuss . . .
  • Install new software for . . .
  • Research the possibility of . . .
  • Mock up a sample of the . . .
  • Update XYZ document for . . .

Verbs help pull us into our Action Steps at first glance, efficiently indicating what type of action is required. For similar reasons, Action Steps should be kept short.

The more clear and concrete an Action Step is, the less friction you will encounter trying to do it!

To read the entire article on “Action Steps” visit www.the99percent.com.

Biblical Lessons On Giving

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Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. – I Corinthians 16:1-3 (NIV)

I have done some figuring. If I had in my pocket what I have given to the Lord’s work over the years I could pay cash for a nice piece of property. I could buy myself a new car, truck, boat, or even that Honda Gold Wing motorcycle I’ve had my eye on for some time! I could pay cash for both of my children’s college and buy them a new car to drive off to school.

But, I don’t do those things. Why? Because over the years my wife Debbie and I have learned that we can live much better on 90% than we can on 100%! What we really learned was the joy of making an eternal investment by giving to the Lord’s work!

There is one Biblical principle that is often overlooked in our materialistic world today: we, as Christians, are “stewards!”

That’s a Biblical word that means “caretaker.” A steward does not own a thing; he simply manages the possessions of another. In our case as Christians, we simply understand that God owns it all and we are simply caring for His possessions! All we have: our possessions, our abilities, our energy, our time and our talents belong to the Lord! Therefore, we should not be offended when He directs us on how to use what is His.

God’s Word has a lot to say about money. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke one out of every six verses deals with money. Of the twenty-nine parables told by Christ, sixteen of them deal with a person and his money. The Bible has a lot to say about generous giving as well.

Allow me to share with you six biblical lessons about giving:

1. Giving is a universal practice.

Paul said this was not just for the believers in Corinth, but for the churches of Galatia also! Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Because every believer has received so much from the Lord, every believer should give back to the work of the Lord.

2. Giving is to be a weekly practice
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Paul said that we are to give on the “first day of the week.” Early Jewish believers moved their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord. Therefore, Paul said to give on that day of the week. We are not to give spasmodically, or when we feel that we can afford to give. The bible indicates that giving is to be a part of our weekly worship!

3. Giving is to be a personal act.

I Corinthians 16:2 says, “Let each one of you…” Giving is not just for the comfortable and the wealthy—everyone should give—even kids! Why? Because giving is part of our worship to God. Continue reading