What Notifications Do To A Prayer Life

When we grow accustomed to instant feedback and notifications, made possible by technology, we struggle to wait to hear from God.  We want instant feedback and answers. We want immediate approval and results. That’s not the way God works. As we get used to the immediacy technology affords, we begin to listen to and look for the constant input into our lives, and those voices begin to crowd out God’s.

We’d rather have something quick and inaccurate than use our patience to hear truth.

God has His own notifications, and they’re not usually instant. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they seem like a blinking light or alarming sound, but most of the time, God is quietly consistent and patient to respond to us. He wants us to be patient as we seek Him.

Praying isn’t about what we get from God; it’s about our relationship with Him. Are we willing to listen, pursue, seek, and wait? Or do we want God to fit into our timetables and schedules? What we see as urgent often isn’t, because what we learn through the process of waiting for and pursuing God is much more important to Him. He sees all of time and knows right now is important but is one moment that adds into many. It all matters, including how we respond to Him, demand of Him, and wait on Him.

Pray well.

Listen well.

Wait well.

 

Quit Asking Questions?

ask-questionsI recently heard someone say, “I don’t like all these questions.” I wondered, “Why?”

I don’t like all these questions, because they make me uncomfortable.

I don’t like all these questions, because I don’t know the answers.

I don’t like all these questions, because the uncertainty threatens me.

I don’t like all these questions, because I already know the answers.

None of these reasons are sufficient reason to cease asking questions. Questions invite conversation. Questions spur searching. Questions demand an active response and engagement in a…well, a quest!

Jesus asked questions.

Jesus doesn’t just focus on the “what” we’re supposed to do. The “what” of faith is throughout Scripture. Jesus fulfilled and expanded the “what” to the “how” and “why.” Knowing Jesus asked questions doesn’t spur us to ask questions. Knowing how Jesus asked questions teaches us how to ask questions.

Asking questions doesn’t have to be disrespectful (although it can be) or threatening (although it can be). Asking questions can be faith-building and God-revealing. Ask questions today. You might not get the answer you want in the timing you prefer. You might have to wrestle with God toward the answer, and you will likely wrestle with others. Honor God through the process. Seek him, and you’ll know him better because of the quest.

Living Humility Out Loud

Today’s post is excerpted from the Pure Purpose Bible study. Get a more extended sample or order a copy for yourself, a gift, or small group.

Pure_Purpose_Cover_for_KindleWhat does humility look like in daily practice? Let’s explore four verses for application.

The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. Matthew 18:4

Consider what you think of when you consider how children approach or handle the following situations or attitudes. Let’s mainly consider young children, perhaps just prior to school age.

  • Dependence
  • Anger
  • Friendships
  • Forgiveness
  • Acceptance
  • Judgment
  • Hypocrisy

Children’s responses are typically pure. They pursue life whole-heartedly. Their extreme emotions and reactions are typically short-lived.

Some people brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them, but his followers told them to stop. When Jesus saw this, he was upset and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children. I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a little child, or you will never enter it.” Mark 10:13-15

Look at these verses along with Matthew 18:4. What do these verses tell us about humility?

(I find it amusing that the parents are the ones who brought the children to Jesus, and the disciples scolded the parents. And yet, Jesus doesn’t address the parents at all that we know of; he’s simply concerned with the children.)

God doesn’t tell us to become children. Of course, that’s not possible anyway. He uses words such as like and as, which are indications of a part of speech known as a simile, which compares and finds similarities between two unlike objects. In this case, children and adults.

We don’t become children. God doesn’t want us to be childish. We don’t act like children. We create a balance between our maturity as adults and our fresh, pure faith of childhood. The next verse sheds further light.

Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom. James 3:13

Our humility comes from wisdom. So we need our experiences to understand our relationship with God and the importance of humility, but our humility is childlike. It reminds me of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”! God also tells us “those who are last now will someday be first, and those who are first now will someday be last” in Matthew 20:16. Easy for him to say since he is “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13

Seriously, when we take a look at the meaning of the word humility in James 3:13, we begin to understand the qualities of children Jesus referred to in his instruction for us to be like children. The Greek word for humility in this verse is found only a few times in the New Testament. While most other uses of the word humility in the New Testament closely relate to our English word for humility, this one differs.

According to the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible[1], humility (prautes) in James 3:13 refers to “Meekness, but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his disposition, but an inwrought grace of the soul expressed primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. Prautes is not readily expressed in English since the term ‘meekness’ suggests  weakness, but it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness but in power. It is a balance born in strength and character.”

Rewrite the portions of this definition that surprise or challenge you the most. Put it in your own words to the best of your understanding.

How does this shed light on your understanding of humility and, specifically, what Jesus means when he instructs us to be like children?

… all of you should be very humble with each other. God is against the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

What are some reasons for clothing yourself in something?

When God instructs us to clothe ourselves, what might he be referring to? Consider the following verses.

  • He has great glory because you gave him victories; you gave him honor and praise. You always gave him blessings; you made him glad because you were with him. Psalm 21:5-6
  • You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. I will sing to you and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12
  • She is strong and is respected by the people. She looks forward to the future with joy. She speaks wise words and teaches others to be kind. Proverbs 31:25-26

When we’re clothed in humility, we’re covered. It’s what people see, and it’s how we’re identified. I want to be clothed in humility. What about you?

Remind the believers to yield to the authority of rulers and government leaders, to obey them, to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people. Titus 3:1-2

What’s the difference between showing and telling?

Did you have Show-and-Tell when you were in school? It was always an exciting day for me. And I think it was even more exciting to watch my daughters experience it. In kindergarten, each week focused on a letter of the alphabet, and on one day of each week, students could bring in items beginning with the designated letter. Such excitement! I imagine a circle of eager faces, pulling that surprise item out of a paper sack, holding it up with an eagerness to share the story behind it. Can you hear the reactions?

“Wow!”

“That’s AWESOME!”

“Where did you get it?”

“Can I hold it?”

Imagine if it wasn’t Show-and-Tell…only Tell. Imagine the same circle of children. I’m certain they’d still tell their stories enthusiastically, but the anticipation of seeing what’s inside the bag is gone. The excitement spreading like wildfire around the circle is gone. The experience of seeing, touching, smelling…gone.

Telling is important, but showing is more complete. And more authentic. When we only tell about our humility, is it really humility? Titus 3:2 instructs us to show our humility.

Humility is an action.

God is active.


[1] Zodhiates, Spiros. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. Chattanooga TN: AMG, 2009.

I Want What’s Fair

boundaryThe older son was in the field, and as he came closer to the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. So he called to one of the servants and asked what all this meant. The servant said, “Your brother has come back, and your father killed the fat calf, because your brother came home safely.” The older son was angry and would not go in to the feast. So his father went out and begged him to come in. But the older son said to his father, “I have served you like a slave for many years and have always obeyed your commands. But you never gave me even a young goat to have at a feast with my friends. But your other son, who wasted all your money on prostitutes, comes home, and you kill the fat calf for him!” The father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. We had to celebrate and be happy because your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but now he is found.” (Luke 15:25-32)

His younger brother wanted his share of the inheritance. After his father gave it to him, he left home and squandered it, while the older son stayed home and fulfilled the expected role of a son. But when the younger brother came home, the father treated him with much love, celebrating his return. And the older brother wasn’t happy about it.

We can cry “no fair” when we feel we’ve done the right thing then see someone else being treated abundantly well, because we think everyone should get what they deserve. We think it’s tied into behavior and that we have a right in response to what we’ve done or haven’t done, but that’s not how inheritance works. We don’t earn it. It’s given because of the person giving it not because of ourselves.

God gives you an inheritance.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psalm 16:6)

What happens when we try to live by our own boundaries and expectations instead of God’s?

  • We build ourselves a small space within the large space we’ve inherited and we never step on every inch intended for us.
  • We pay more attention to what we don’t have than what we do. We think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • We become territorial, believing where we go and what we have is more about ourselves than about our responsibility to the one who gave us the inheritance.

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

So what’s keeping you where you are, holding you back, or making you frantically run toward and for something else?

Don’t define your inheritance on your own. God gives it to you. He knows it best. And he’ll guide you every step throughout it and every moment you live within it. You need to simply ask, trust, and respond in obedience.

Settling Into Anticipation

settlinganticipationI find rest in God; only he gives me hope. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my defender; I will not be defeated. My honor and salvation come from God. He is my mighty rock and my protection. People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection. (Psalm 62:5-8)

When we trust God, we sit back and settle into his peace and presence at the same time we lean forward in anticipation of his leading. It seems as if we’d have to choose between leaning back and leaning forward, but the two go hand in hand.

The problem is we often want to respond in what’s most natural or comfortable to us. We want to lean back in order to be comfortable and safe. We want to lean forward in how we plan, what we think is best, and how we can control a situation. God really isn’t invested in any of those responses. His way isn’t comfortable. Sure, we can get comfortable with the uncertainty of seeking and following God’s will, but it’s not comfort as we would define it. And God’s will is certainly not safe. We can be secure in who he is and who he says we are, but security and safety aren’t synonymous. And as far as leaning forward in how we plan, what we think is best, and how we can control a situation…well, our planning, thinking, and controlling doesn’t even begin to compare with God’s. The best we can plan is to intentionally seek and follow God. The best we can think is on the things of God. The best we can control is our focus on God.

Consider how you need to sit back and settle into God’s peace and presence.

Consider how you need to lean forward in anticipation of God’s leading.

You don’t have to choose. God intends for you to experience both. It’s time to settle into anticipation!

Big Girl Panties

Guess who’s tired of her big girl panties? She wants her diaper back!

One of my Facebook friends posted what so many of us have thought at some point. “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it” sounds like a mature way to deal with the frustrations of life, but it’s more difficult to put into practice.

Another Facebook friend posted a photo of her young daughter collapsed in a fit with a “Put your big girl panties” sign hanging around her neck. I thought the mom had strategically placed the sign as a photo op. No, she gave the sign to her fit-throwing daughter and told her to read it aloud. After pausing the fit long enough to spit out the words, the daughter placed the sign around her own neck and collapsed in a continued fit.

Some days are just rough. The anticipation of “when I grow up” meets the reality of “I’m a big kid now” and living as a grown-up doesn’t match our imaginative childhood play as a grown-up.

Growing up comes with a lot of benefits – alongside responsibilities and pressure. But God never intended for us to remain childish. While he loves the wonder and trust of childlike faith, he wants us to feast on solid spiritual food. In order to fulfill our calling, we must grow, which means we have to work through the tough stuff. We have to seek God and let him convict us of the stuff in which we have wrongly placed our trust. We have to invite him to reveal himself to us, which means we have to pay attention. As we do, we must look with his perspective, taking off our own tainted glasses, no matter how “right” we think we are. We have to set ourselves aside and trust who God says we are instead of who we want to be. He created us, and he knows us better than we know ourselves. We have to get into, stay in, and live out God’s Word. We can’t simply search Scripture for what we want to find, what will confirm what we already believe. We have to ask God to reveal his character and truth to us as we search even if it means dispelling incorrect assumptions and misguided beliefs. We then have to live it out. It’s tough. Living out God’s Word often feels like walking barefoot on hot pavement. God knows our discomfort, but he’s more concerned about our growth.

What are you doing to mature spiritually right now?

What are you doing to remain spiritually immature?

You’re expending energy to do one or the other (or both at the same time). Consider which will be a better investment for you in the long run, not what’s easiest today.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are so slow to understand. By now you should be teachers, but you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s message. You still need the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still a baby and knows nothing about right teaching.  But solid food is for those who are grown up. They are mature enough to know the difference between good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14)

One more thing. Putting your big girl panties on isn’t just about you. Your spiritual maturity impacts those around you. There are plenty of people who are willing to serve in the nursery, rocking spiritual infants, because (1) helping others grow is hard work, and (2) maintaining a community of spiritual infants makes it easier to avoid personal spiritual maturity.

There will always be spiritual infants, because it’s an unavoidable stage of faith, but it’s not a permanent stage of faith. Get out of the nursery and help those in it to graduate into a more advanced class. It’s time to put your big girl panties on and do the life God intends for you.

We’re All In This Together!

There’s a group of people I only see a couple times a year. We typically work together at a couple large conferences, and the schedule is exhausting. We all fly in one evening. We know we need to be up early the next morning to set up, but we typically stay up late, catching up with each other. With Facebook and Twitter, you’d think we’d already have all the details we need, but face-to-face is different. We get to have conversations in real time, and we take full advantage of the opportunity.

After three days of connecting with people passionate about ministry, scurrying out for meals together, and trying to discuss and fix all the issues of the world, we’re exhausted. We usually have morning flights, so we typically flop into our beds the last night and try to get any amount of sleep that will help us return to our regular routines of families, ministries and all the things that don’t pause even when we’re away from them.

During our last trip, we set aside sleep the final night and went to Ghiradelli’s in Downtown Disney for late night ice cream and hot cocoa. Despite our exhaustion (or perhaps because of it), we got a renewed burst of energy once we squeezed around a small table and consumed our overloaded sugary treats. We laughed over goofy videos a few people on the team had made during a quick trip for supplies. We discovered the packed table next to us had similar ministry interests, and we shared stories and needs and took a photo right in the middle of the bustling restaurant. (Yes, we were those annoying people in the restaurant. A nearby table of teenagers gave us a couple eye-rolls and looks of disgust.) We shared a common cup of hot fudge despite most of us either being health-conscious or germaphobes.

And we sang. Yes, we sang. Who cares if the only line we could remember from the High School Musical song was “We’re all in this together…”! If you sing it over and over, it resembles a complete verse! (We committed to at least learn a couple more lines before we’re together again.)

We sealed the experience of being together for a common purpose (serving in ministry together) with an experience of being together for a common purpose (building relationships). We set aside sleep and made memories instead. We set aside everything going on in our personal lives and our preferences for answering emails, working out, taking a warm shower, or whatever else we wanted to do in order to share a brief window of time together.

When have you sacrificed yourself for a group experience?

What benefits are there to individuals coming together for a common purpose?

When you get together with others, do you usually only do so for “work,” or do you fit in some fun as well? Or perhaps fun always supercedes work for you. Do you need to focus a bit more on the benefits of having a group of people together and the possibilities of progress a group can accomplish?

I’ll be the first to admit my default setting is not to jump into the middle of a group of people just for fun. I enjoy people. I love the relationships of my life…but I also like my alone time. I need some retreat time to think, recharge, and to be productive with the responsibilities I have. But one of the responsibilities I have is to build relationships with others.

I need to seek relationships.

I need to maintain relationships.

I need to keep relationships healthy.

I need to invest in relationships.

I need to celebrate relationships.

I need to appreciate relationships.

Take a look at your relationships. Are they balanced? Are you seeking relationships with new people or simply investing in those you already know? Are you actually investing or just maintaining? Are you appreciating relationships or taking them for granted? Are you keeping relationships healthy or keeping status quo?

You’re in this life with someone…a whole group of someones. Do relationships intentionally.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)