How to pray

Recently I’ve been reading a version of the Bible called “The Message.” I like to read through this version of the Scriptures every couple of years because of the fresh way it presents classic ideas.

Today I read something about prayer that made me stop, pull out my pen, do some underlining, and make some notes!

Here’s what I read:

“…when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

I LOVE this!

As a public speaker in general, and preacher in particular, it is easy to turn prayer into a demonstration of oratorical ability.

Jesus said, “Don’t.”

God doesn’t care how eloquent I am. Besides that, even if I were a master orator… I’d be competing against every other prayer He hears… and I’m pretty sure there are lots of people with bigger vocabularies and more engaging presentations than me! In other words, if prayer is a performance… I’d get lost in the shuffle of great performers.

Fortunately, Jesus set me free from that way of thinking when He said, “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

I can do that!

Be alone and genuine before God!

Say what you feel, think, believe, hope, dream, etc. THAT’S WHAT GOD WANTS TO HEAR!

He’s not impressed with your big words and fake passion any more than He is impressed with artificial tears and trumped up faith. He wants you to be real… honest… just you!

I can do that!

Alone… honest… just me and God.

I can do that… and you can too!

And the good news is… that is what God is looking for! Someone who will be alone and honest with Him! He can and will help that person… that’s what Jesus implied when He said, “you will begin to sense his grace.”

Evolution of a dream

Starting this weekend at Church180 we are going to learn how dreams go from beginning to end… and what happens in between!

main_blankI’d bet that at some point in your life you had a dream… a vision of what you wanted to be or do.

But somewhere along the line your dream met reality.

Then you made a decision… to stop dreaming or to start moving.

We are going to learn some lessons from the life of a man named Joseph (sometimes referred to as “The Prince of Egypt”) that will help all of us as we move towards making the dream a reality!

If you can’t be at Church180 at 10 a.m. on Sunday, then make some time next week to go online and follow this conversation at our website – right here. (If you have some time before then you might want to catch up on our conversation called, “Elbow Room”.)

Words

This coming weekend at Church180 we are starting a four week conversation about words.

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This series of conversations is going to revolve around this key idea…

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

The next four weeks we are drilling into these four areas:

  • God’s words to you.
  • Your words to God.
  • Other people’s words to you.
  • Your words to other people.

If you have been impacted by the power of words or want to impact with your words… this will be a helpful teaching series for you!

See you Sunday at 10 a.m. OR you can catch up on the teachings online at our website – www.church180.tv.

Why you should stop

This weekend I stopped.

I stopped all work related activities. I completely disengaged from work and fully engaged in Nerf gun wars, Uno, sled races, reading books, taking naps, cuddling with my favorite people, and I even had the chance to slide down a snow covered hill on a saucer with Mrs. Peterson on my lap!

This weekend we spent time making memories, nurturing friendships, and doing things that “normal” life doesn’t have space for.

Many people think a “stop” is a waste of time. I used to think that. I don’t anymore.

A large part of my change in thinking has to do with a book I read a couple of years ago and am now currently re-reading… The Power of Full Engagement.

The authors of this must-read book say: “Our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.”

Oh man are they ever right!

I find that when I don’t disengage I become less and less engaged in the work at hand. BUT…

When I intentionally disengage I am more engaged than ever when I re-engage!

Let me give you some examples of how this works:

  • If you’re a parent and you’ve had the chance to take a night away or a weekend away from your kids… you can’t wait to get back to them! It’s like the time away (i.e. the period of disengagement) has reinvigorated you!
  • When you miss the gym for a few days… you CAN’T WAIT to get back! Smart lifters actually build down time into their training schedule. They call it “de-load week“.
  • “Amazingly” distance from your spouse for a short period of time often serves to rekindle the passion in your romance!
  • Studies consistently show that people most often get their best and most creative ideas in the shower, while driving, on the golf course, etc. in other words, our best ideas of come to us in places in which we are most disengaged!

I really can’t wait to get back into the swing of life this week! I ready to re-engage because I have disengaged!

If you have trouble disengaging, take a minute to read this journal entry from a man who was more busy than you or I will ever be, David. He had hundreds of wives, multiple children, a nation to lead, wars to fight, literature to write, and on and on and on. Read this, and note all of the references to “disengaging” that he makes…

The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23 NLT)

Well, I’ve got to get going… the kids are waking up, but I hope that you can find a chance to disengage/stop soon so that you can re-engage later with increased passion and focus!

 

Determine your future with this action…

ninja“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

So says Solomon, purportedly the wisest man to ever live and the author of 3,000+ proverbs (this one is found in the Bible book of Proverbs – 4:23).

I read this and wondered several things:

 

  • What is the “heart”?
  • How does one “guard” it?
  • How does this action determine your/my future.

I spent some time in further reading and reflection and needed to write out some of what came to mind.

The heart…

Literally it is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. If/when it stops working we stop living.

Metaphorically it is the essence of who you are. If your heart is not working you are not breathing. No heart = no life.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this about the term “heart”:

…in its abstract meanings, “heart” became the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature. In biblical literature it is the most frequently used term for man’s immaterial personality functions as well as the most inclusive term for them since, in the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the “heart.”

You get the point… the heart, in it’s metaphorical sense, is who you REALLY are.

How does one “guard” the heart?

As you read through the Scriptures you see the heart affected by anger, grief, depression, and disappointment. You also see hearts that overflow with joy, anticipation, love, and gratitude.

The heart, the inner-self, is capable of many emotions… many times all in one day! You know as well as I do that some feelings can make you dangerous while others can make you desirable company.

The question is, how do I guard my heart?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do know a few things that will help to guard the heart:

  • Forgiveness reduces the chance of bitterness and anger.
  • Smiling increases the chance of joy and likability.
  • Gossip reduces the chance of genuine, healthy friendships.
  • Encouragement increases the likelihood of meaningful interactions.
  • Dishonesty, greed, anger, laziness, selfishness, pride, etc. all of these will take you to a place of loneliness and disappointment. While on the other hand…
  • Honesty, mercy, hard work, humility, self-control, etc. will take you to a desirable future.

It really comes down to this… I guard or abandon my heart with the decisions I make every day. 

When I choose to post gossip, tweet anger, lie, lust, or refuse to share… I make the decision to become a gossip, angry man, liar, lustful jerk, selfish man.

Likewise, when I choose to smile, work hard, think, and tell the truth… I make the decision to become a happy, prosperous, thoughtful, and honest man.

In other words… I become on the outside what I decide to do on the inside!

How does this action determine my future?

An angry man today makes a reputation for himself… as an angry man.

An honest man today makes a reputation for himself… as an honest man.

See, what you do today shapes what you believe about yourself and what you believe about yourself becomes your reality!

You are what your heart says you are, and that’s why it’s so important to guard your heart!

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

How to improve all your relationships

I know that’s a pretty presumptive title for a blog post… but I happen to believe it’s true because of the source from which I get it AND the fact that when I’ve tried it, it’s worked!

Here’s the magic:

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:3-6 NLT)

When it comes to human relationships… the key words are loyalty and kindness!

When it comes to your relationship with God… the key word is trust!

These characteristics, when put into practice, have the power to develop and nurture healthy relationships with the people around you and the God above you!

Make an analysis of your relationships, both human and divine. How are things? By the way, if you need some ideas about how to “do” loyalty and kindness I taught on this subject a while back in a series called “Climate Change.” You can hear that particular lesson here.

Seven lessons I’ve learned about prayer

Admittedly I’m not the greatest prayer you might know. Having said that, I do pray and have been praying for about 17 years. During that time I’ve stumbled onto some key lessons regarding this spiritual discipline. I shared them last Saturday with the “Band of Brothers” at Church180 and thought you might find them helpful too.

So with no further ado let me share seven lessons I’ve learned about prayer…

There are 3 attitudes that block my prayers

#1 I don’t give a rip

God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. (Proverbs 28:9 NLT)

I find that when I don’t care about what God has said… He doesn’t say much more.

As a parent I totally understand that! When my kids don’t listen to what I tell them… I feel the need to repeat what I’ve already said until they get it! I’m not going to share new information until they start doing what I’ve already told them!

#2 I’m not sure

Rob Polenik, owner of Brutal Iron Gym, has a sign hanging on his door that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, then maybe you should do it the way I told you to in the beginning.”

In other words… trust the expert! Don’t come to him for advice then doubt what he says or choose not to do it like he says… do it!

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7 NLT)

This third one is a biggie, and one that I didn’t fully understand until I had daughters.

#3 She’s just a woman

You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

As a dad I know this… any boy that mistreats my girls will not only not receive my ear, but he may receive my foot!

Men, the way we treat our wives directly impacts the effectiveness of our prayers! Essentially God is saying, Don’t talk mean to hear then talk nice to me… I’m not listening to you until you fix things up with her!

Some of the best advice here comes from St. Paul, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26 NLT)

So there are three attitudes that can block my prayers.

But there are three ways I’ve found to know it’s God telling me something…

3 ways I know it’s God:

#1 The Bible says it.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post titled, “Why I have to read the Bible”, that goes into greater detail about this subject. You can read it here.

#2 I can’t quit thinking about it.

I find that often if a thought comes and goes… it’s my idea, BUT if a thought comes and lingers, almost haunts me… then it’s probably God! His ideas don’t seem to go away quickly.

Of course this isn’t ALWAYS true. There are some things that regularly come to mind which would not make God happy if I carried them out. I always seek to confirm the “rightness” or “wrongness” of what I’m thinking about by checking out what the Bible says. For instance, carrying out a lustful desire = not good. Asking forgiveness for hurting my wife’s feelings = good. Pretty basic… but you get the point.

#3 My mentors and my wife say it.

I’ve found that when I listen to her, God often speaks to me through my wife! There are multiple Scriptures that teach us that there is wisdom found in the voices of wise counselors, friends, family, etc.

Now the order is important here! Don’t get it mixed up! Sometimes we make that error and listen to people and thoughts first! Run them through the grid as you are determining whether or not it is God you are hearing!

And now the seventh lesson I’ve learned about prayer…

For years I’ve wrestled with HOW to pray!

Before I went to college I was a high school dropout, pothead, and spiritually dead moron. When I made the decision to follow the leadership of Jesus and began nurturing my friendship with God prayer became an important part of my daily routine.

At college I would literally pray 1-2 hours a day! No exaggeration! Keep in mind that I was at a Bible College, surrounded by all things spiritual and good so praying that much was not as difficult as it might sound.

Then I got married, got a job, had one girl… then six, and my prayer life started looking different. Real different!

For years I’ve compared my prayer life now to my prayer life then! BIG MISTAKE! Why? I’m not in the same situation today as I was back then… and I’m not the same person today I was back then! I’ve grown up, added responsibility, and matured in my relationship with God. Still though… I’ve made the mistake of comparing then to now… and often felt guilty about how “now” looks.

Then I found this nugget of wisdom from St. Paul, and this is the seventh lesson I’ve learned about prayer…

1 way to pray

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG)

That’s it! Pray every way you know how for everyone you know! That means sometimes I pray in the car for our president. Sometimes I pray in my office for you. Sometimes I pray in the gym for people I know. Sometimes I pray in bed for myself. Sometimes I pray while I walk around the church and other times I pray while I’m in the shower.

It’s kind of like this… I talk to God… and listen to God and that happens in a variety of times and places! That’s what St. Paul said to Timothy… and it works!

Certainly there are times when I need to just “get away” to quietly think about and talk to God, but prayer… prayer is something that can happen anywhere, for anything or anyone.

I ended my conversation with the men of Church180 like this:

So I want to challenge you men to carve out some time every day to talk to and listen to God! It’s as important as going to the gym, balancing your checkbook, going on a date with your wife, and changing the oil in your car!

I suppose that’s a good way to end this conversation as well… I challenge you to take time to talk to and listen to God every day… I think you’ll be happy you did!