Be JOYFUL Always!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Be joyful always.

Maybe your heart is saying, “Really?  Joyful?  My parents fight; someone is always mad at me.  My dad never acts like I matter.  I can’t do the work I’m expected to do.  I never do anything right.”

Or maybe your head voices sound like, “Nothing I do is every enough.  The bills never end.  Something always needs—or at least wants—something more than the money allows.  The house is a disaster.  I don’t remember what joy feels like.”

Yet the words stand.  Be joyful always.  It is part of our Christian identity.   Joy is a character trait that should be found in every Christian!  Like many aspects of faith, joy is the result of deliberate action.

The actions that lead to joy are found in the next two verses.

  • Pray continually.
  • Give thanks.

Pray continually.  Put those mountains that block your joy into the hands of Jesus and walk into the presence of God!  Trust that Jesus will move them aside and clear the way to the life God desires for you.  Joy comes from the presence of God.  When we allow the stuff of life to keep us from the beautiful presence of God, we fall short of His desire—fall short of the joy of the glory of God.

Give thanks.  Thankfulness is as natural as breathing when we rest in the presence of God.  Do you remember when you have been in His presence…really seeing Him and feeling Him as the Word describes Him?  All powerful.  Supreme Authority.  God of Love.  God of Comfort.  Holy.  Just.  Righteous.

Thanks flows from a heart that sees and rests in Him.  And THAT is the essence of the last verse:  the will of God for you in Christ Jesus!  Jesus came that we would have abundant life.  JOY is the flavor of that life.

God’s desire is for you to have joy in Christ Jesus.  If your life does not taste like joy, talk with one who spends time in the presence of the GREAT GOOD GOD of Scripture.

Crafting Prayers

I stumbled across a phrase in a book I am reading that set my mind and heart on fire, and I want to share it with you.  “Crafted prayers.” Does that stir your heart like it does mine?  The moment I read it, I recognized a concept that I wanted to invest in more deeply.  Crafted praying is a phrase that expresses how I desire to live.  It gave me ‘vocabulary’ for the passion of my heart–that is learning I believe in and love to share!

Terry Tykel, a self-described ‘emissary for prayer’ uses it in his book, divine strongholds.  It is a beautiful term depicting the prayers of Scriptures and the timeless prayers recorded in Christian books through the ages.  It is a tool we can employ individually and corporately in seeking the vision of God.

Crafted praying is the essence of communion with God.  It flows from worship of who He is and from understanding His desire to commune with us.  Teykl offers some key questions to help readers develop their own crafted prayers for situations they are facing—or situations God has placed upon their hearts.

  • What do you want to teach me through this situation?
  • How should I pray about this?
  • What do you want to do in and through this situation?1122171304e
  • How do you want us to change and grow?

To help me grasp the depths, I added these:

  • What do I not see or understand in this situation?
  • What more can I know (do I need to know) about God’s glory in the context of this situation?
  • How do I personally play into this situation (or a mirror of it in my own life)?

A vital component of ‘crafted prayers’ is the Word of God.  There is nothing that weighs upon our heart that God has not addressed in His Word.  Crafted prayers weave the Word of God into prayer—because both flow from His heart.  Seeking God’s heart in worship and prayer combined with seeking His heart in His Word provides the content for crafting words into prayers.

As Teykl says, this praying is ‘praying the answer’ from the beginning.  It is exciting; it is grounding…it is powerful.  God spoke the world into being with Words…we have the privilege of using words as we live out our lives.  Let’s use them well…for the good of others and the glory of God!

In this day and age where constant crises abound, deep prayers are so needed.   The immigration horrors, the political biting and devouring, this culture of shaming and disrespect that destroys people, the devaluing of life…the list is nearly endless.  Prayer IS participation.

Should God lead you to craft a prayer, won’t it you share it for others to join with you in storming the gates of heaven? Post it as a comment here, email it to me or post in on the Heartsong Facebook page!

Parents as Builders

Integrity is the key to building a solid life that will last for eternity.  The foundation upon which the builder’s life is established is critical.  We can not transfer our foundation to the life of another, but we can live in such a way that our foundation is revealed as trustworthy, valuable and worth imitation.

For parents, living with integrity offers great hope for our children’s future.  The beauty of a life built upon God is revealed only when life is lived fully on the foundation.  We can’t pick and choose when we will live for the glory of God–and expect our children will live wholly for Him.  Nor can we expect our children will make the same choices we make.  Our children are entrusted to us by God–but they are HIS kids.  He loves them more than we do, but He desires for us to live in a way that they will see Him in us.

Every aspect of life-building which we endeavor to establish in the lives of our children must exist in our own lives.  As we pray for our children and seek to direct them, we must bare our hearts before God and ask that He reveal any ways in which we may not be living with integrity.

 Perpetual prayer patterns are a large part of my devotional time; they keep me centered on God’s design.  In the coming weeks we will delve into various prayer patterns we can utilize as we seek to build the lives of our children.

Our children are our heritage; individually we are all God’s heritage.  Living lives of lasting love builds an eternal legacy…and eternal heritage.  As you implement these day-by-day prayer focuses, ask the Lord to reveal your own heart and the specific ways in which these principles can be applied to show your child the value God–and you–place upon them as individuals.  Ask Him, too, to reveal if these are the foundations of your life.

  • Monday – Love for God’s Word; an understanding that the Bible is a guide book not a devotional.
  • Tuesday – Passion for a pure heart centered on God
  • Wednesday – Health and safety in body, soul and spirit
  • Thursday – Value system founded on God’s purposes
  • Friday – Thankful living
  • Saturday – Godly friends
  • Sunday – Growing faith

For a fuller look at these prayer areas, visit Growing Up in Christ.  Contact me if you would like to receive a ‘perpetual prayer list’ on Christian Character traits!

Growing Up in Christ

God parents each of us perfectly!  Growing in grace and knowledge as Jesus did is an individual responsibility.  But we all–whether we have children or not–have opportunities to disciple (or spiritually parent) others.  This prayer guide is a tool ifor the growing up process–for ourselves and others.

Parenting is a privilege and responsibility that allows us co-laborer closely with the Lord in the soul-building process. He has provided powerful tools to utilize in our work.
The Word of God is our primary tool; it is indeed a living and active tool. It is critical for our lives and our children’s lives. Love for God’s Word…for its necessity and tremendous value in each life…is the key to unlocking and utilizing this vital building block.

This ‘perpetual’ prayer guide has seven focus areas—one for each day of the week. Our prayers matter and keep us in tune with the Lord—for the reality is that all we pray for others must be sought for ourselves as well. May this prayer guide draw you and yours ever closer to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith!

Prayer Focus: Love of God’s Word 

Father in heaven, we praise you for the gift of Your Word. We praise you for the Living Word, Jesus Christ. And we praise you for our privilege of using words to communicate with others. Only humanity was allowed this precious gift. Lord we ask that You help us use words well with our children. Instill in our children a love for Your Word. Help them to understand and help us to live with the scriptures as our guide and not simply a pleasant source of encouragement. Help our children understand that every aspect of life is blessed by wisdom from the Word. Help us model for our children a desire to read, study, remember and apply Your Word moment by moment. We desire your plans and purposes for our children; we long for them to live lives of blessing. May Your Word be a light unto their path for their good and for your glory. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Scripture supports:

Psalm 119:9, 72, 72, 140; Jeremiah 15:16; Ephesians 6:17; 1 Peter 1:22

Prayer Focus: Growing Faith 

Father, knowing you is the most important thing our children will ever experience. We ask that you meet with them in personal and transforming ways. Grow their spirits into ever greater likeness to Christ. Give us wisdom to point them to you. Grant us a depth of faith in your love for them that we do not interfere with your work. Reveal yourself to our children and draw them to your irresistible glory. Strengthen them in their inner being with your Spirit and be glorified in the lives of our children. In Jesus name, Amen

Scripture supports:

2 Corinthians 9:10; Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 1:5,6; 3:18; 3 John 1:4

Prayer Focus: Godly Friends 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your passion for relationships. We lift our children up to you asking that you will orchestrate their lives that Godly friends will bring beauty and sweetness to their days. We ask for friends that will encourage them to walk closely with you; friends that will look at Your glory with them; friends who will stand in the gap when they are unable to seek You. We praise you for your gift of love that we can love others. Work in our children’s lives and in each of their relationships that they will know You more day by day. In Jesus precious name, Amen

Scripture supports:

Malachi 3:16; Acts 2:42; Philippians 1:3: James 2:23

Prayer Focus: Thankfulness 

Father in Heaven, we rejoice that the key to entering Your presence is PRAISE! Help us guide our children to the joy of thankfulness. Teach us, Lord, to fix our eyes on that which is praiseworthy and life-building…and fill our hearts with joy and awe. We thank you, Lord, that You created all things for us to enjoy and we only have to remember they are from You. We thank you, Lord, that even hard things can become blessings when You are sought. Help us instill that in our children that they will live every day with thanksgiving and rejoicing for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Scripture Supports:

Deuteronomy 8:10; Psalm 100:4; Colossians 1:12; 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Prayer Focus: Values 

Father, help us as parents teach your values and live Your values that our children will see Your glory and choose the same values for their lives. Grant our children a vision of the value You place on every individual and the treasure of time. May every choice made–in career, in recreation, in friendships, in money and even thoughts be founded upon Your value system. We ask this for the glory of God and the good of these precious children You have entrusted to us! In Christ’s name, Amen

Scripture supports:

Joshua 24:15; John 4:34; 17:4; Acts 20:24; Philippians 3:13

Prayer Focus: Health and Safety for Body, Mind and Soul 

Heavenly Father, lover of our children’s souls, we ask Your protection of their bodies, minds and spirit. Total well-being is a by-product of a God-ward focus so we ask you to orchestrate their lives so that a desire for Your will and Your glory will be their greatest passion. May our example as parents not derail them in any way; hold us close to You and convict us of disparities in our own walk. Strengthen the children, Lord, to exercise discipline in their physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual pursuits and to submit all to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May our children’s lives–and our own–have a depth of integrity, an alignment with Your Word of thoughts, words and actions, which will reveal Your glory to all those we come in contact with. We praise You for the gift of the life of Christ which lives within Your children and we ask all this in His name, Amen.

Scripture supports:

Psalm 26:3; Psalm 86:11; 2 John 4; Isaiah 32:18

Prayer Focus: Passion for a Pure Heart 

Father in Heaven, we long to see You and to have our children see You. Your glory is our source of hope and confidence in a world of challenges. Lord, work in our children’s hearts and open their eyes to see You…to see Your amazing love, Your righteousness and Your open arms. Instill in the hearts of our children–and in our hearts–an ever-increasing desire to walk in Your presence and behold Your glory. Might the greatest desire of our hearts be to please You with every choice we make in thought, word and deed and might that same desire be in the hearts of our children. We praise You for who You are and how You work and for the purifying, perfect work of Jesus Christ. In His name, we ask this…Amen.

Scripture Supports:

Malachi 3:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 1:7

Prayer Tools

The last few weeks have offered numerous opportunities to share information on developing a prayer habit–especially through the use of a prayer journal.  One of the tools that helped me prayer fervently and effectively was ‘perpetual lists.’  The link below provides a document with three of those key lists:

31 Days of Prayer focused on Christian Character

31 Days of Prayer for our leaders

31 Days of Prayer based on God’s purposes for the Church

For more information on deepening your prayer-life, the Fit Faith Prayer Workshop PDF may be of use–or contact me to schedule a workshop for your group.

Difficulties Guaranteed. Choose Outcome: Weariness or Worship.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Difficulties and disappointments are guaranteed to come to every life.  The outcome of every situation is our choice.  We can follow the path of the Overcomer, or we can choose to blaze our own way.  Following Jesus will lead us to worship and the fulfilling presence of God.  Going our own way will lead to greater devastation and paralyzing weariness.

The choice seems easy; who doesn’t want victory?!  The reality is the path to victory demands stepping out in faith.  That path demands knowing the Promises and ways of God…and walking in them even when they seem impossible.  On the other hand, the weary path seems wise at first.  We trust the knowledge we’ve accumulated; we rely on our natural abilities and intellect.  It feels safer.  It is a deception.

The passages that precede Jesus’ words above lead us toward the desire of God–intimate fellowship with Himself.  Jesus explains the necessity of abiding in the vine–living in His love.  We love the concept and in quiet times, our mental agreement feels adequate.  But the power of the passage comes when we live it out in the dusty days of life.  Living in the love of God gives strength when the people around us are unreasonable and unkind.  Staying in the vine gives us nourishment when life is draining us with failures and insurmountable problems.

As Christians, we are on a mission to take the glory of God to the hurts of the world.  We can’t idolize the quiet spots; they are to be enjoyed but we have work to do!

So, what do we do with those heartaches that come into our lives?  First, we must remember that what we see is incomplete and in part, an illusion.  We are to live the G Morel flickr.comWord in the midst of the difficulties and enjoy the presence of God through intercessory prayer.

Intercession is so much more than taking God a to do list.  He knows the burdens that weigh upon us.  What He asks of us is to bring those burdens to Him and seek His view.  God has a good purpose and plan in all things; He has the power to produce what He desires.

From the earthly perspective,3241925633_310c42121a_z our problems loom large and feel impossible.  We often beg God to take them away.  In those times, we are carrying loads here that He wants us to bring into His presence.

Intercessory prayer becomes worship as we see inside the Father’s heart and feel His powerful presence reassuring us.  From the eternal perspective, problems relate to aweseom purposes we rejoice in when we seek His understanding.

The Truth of the Word is to be transformational–not tiresome.  Just as intercessory prayer is not a ‘to do list’ for God, neither is obedience to God.  Obedience is doing the will of God with a heart that trusts in His goodness in every situation.  A heart that trusts in Him enjoys His presence so much, lists of sin are unnecessary–because sin separates from Him.  Living Truth in the dust and difficulties of our days is not about getting everything right.  It is about being transformed by the Truth of Love so we can rise victorious over every circumstance.

Weariness comes when our list of ‘do and do nots’ consumes us more than His beauty.  “Love your enemy” is a burden until I see my enemy from God’s view.  “Do not covet” is impossible unless I see the generosity of God who meets my every need.  External measures of life tire us out; a heart resting in Him exceeds any ‘list’ and fills us with energizing life.

When we are growing weary, we are to take that as a reminder to WORSHIP!

Why won’t he listen to me?

Jump, Scooby, Jump!

She’s four.  She’s been on a horse for about four hours in her life.  She knew what he could do.  She knew what she wanted to do.  She spoke clearly and told him so.

Scooby, who loves jumping, ignored her.   17579988_1435669199829684_1360804793_n

Her voice became more insistent until the words were a plaintive plea:  “Jump, Scooby,
Jump.”

Scooby walked on, unperturbed.

Finally, frustration flooding and tears spilling, she cried out, “Why doesn’t he listen to me?”

Kendal spoke the words every child of God has cried at some point or other.  We know what God can do.  We know what we want and we ask clearly, repeatedly…and nothing changes.  Hearts broken, frustration overflowing, we lash out at being ignored.

Like Kendal, we fail to realize God won’t do what we are not ready for.  It is not that He disagrees with our request; He just knows the time is not right.  God recognizes our weaknesses even when we don’t.  He feels that our faith muscles need strengthening to keep us balanced in the grand actions we request.

God never withholds what is best and He never gives what will harm.

Next time your heart cries out, remember Kendal and whisper a thank you!

Hearing God in Horrors of Hurt

On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, looking to Jesus–our INTERCESSOR–is a blessed endeavor!  May you enjoy this excerpt from my devotional, Fixing our Eyes on God.

There are some wonderful, awe-inspiring revelations of Jesus that begin with “I.”  He is the I am, the Image of the invisible God, immortal, immutable, and Immanuel, God with us!  The One who is all of those things is also our Intercessor.  Scriptures tells us He lives that He can make intercession for us!  Now that is an incredible view of our Savior!

Intercessory prayer weaves its way throughout scripture.  In the Old Testament, we see God’s people, His prophets and His priests offering prayers on behalf of others.  Isaiah prophesied that the coming Deliverer would pray for sinners.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12

The truth of that prophesy shines forth in the New Testament as we observe Jesus praying for His disciples, His enemies and us!

Intercession is a costly endeavor that God expects from each of us.  Yet God never asks us to do anything He won’t join us in doing.  Intercession is a joint endeavor…it fulfills the prayer of Jesus in John 17 which asks the Father to bring us to unity.  Intercession unites our hearts with others, with the Spirit, with Christ and with the Father.  The fact that Jesus is our Intercessor reveals the incredible privilege we have to intercede.

Our human passions and concerns often cloud our minds.   We do not always know what to ask of the Father; we would miss countless blessings without our Intercessor!  The Spirit searches our hearts for the needs we cannot express—and sometimes do not know.  The Spirit’s unity with Christ—and His with the Father—brings the very will of God into the center of our being.

Our Intercessor’s prayers are pure and perfect, aligned with God’s purposes for our lives.  Jesus asks for exactly what we would ask—if only we understood as He does.    Our minds can only glimpse the fringes of the great mystery of unity with God through Christ.  Our intercessory prayers for others allow us to join in the very work of our Savior.  May we rejoice in His work and our privilege as intercessors!

What Good is Praying?

The coming elections evoke much heated discussion.  Every hot button topic of society flares up as the issues boil down to the choice of one candidate.  This won’t be a piece on whom you should vote for or what you should consider.  It is a glimpse of how God works individually in the midst of our lost world.  That is the hope we must bring to the world because every political issue is a storm that obscures our view of souls precious to God.

Look for individual needs and seek the face of God.  Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father….to pray!  What greater work can we undertake than imitating Him.  This is a call to prayer for we who wear the name Christian.  Prayer for one person at a time…prayer that God’s will be done in each and every life beginning with our own… Prayer is the key choice we must make no matter whom our nation elects.

I don’t know the global answers or the national answers, but I do know God speaks to us individually as we navigate our way through this fallen world.  The story below is one I wrote several years ago…the story of a Christian caught in a dilemma of conscience and career…a story of calling out to God.

I don’t need all the answers because I know the One who wrote the story…and its ending.  History unfolds every day; my choice is to go my own way or seek the direction of the Director.  Prayer–for myself, for others–links me up to the very heart of God.  When I don’t have a clue about the plan, I can have confidence in the Planner.

First published in The Baptist Voice, Conklin, NY, 2011

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. (Psalms 91:14)

Our victory report today is of a devoted young Christian who came face-to-face with sacrificing her dreams to make a stand for Jesus Christ. Her personal courage and convictions join with the Lord’s work to provide us with an opportunity to rejoice.

The legality of abortion in America has created a dilemma for pro-life medical professionals. In many instances, the law requires one to set aside personal moral convictions. Jane understood the situation and actually chose a medical university located in a state with what is known as a ‘conscience law.’ This is a law that protects pro-life medical staff from being required to assist with any procedure they personally find morally objectionable (e.g. abortion). Sadly, Jane learned that the law is not necessarily extended to Christian medical students.

Well into her graduate studies, Jane was assigned to work in a family planning clinic. Recognizing that the stated requirement of ‘abortion counseling’ did not mean offering a pro-life viewpoint, Jane approached the Dean. He informed her that she was the only student who had ever objected based on moral concerns, and that the requirement would not be altered to accommodate her views. She was informed that failure to perform the duties assigned would result in a failing grade. Completing her education would be impossible. Praise God, He deals with the impossible perfectly!

With great trepidation, Jane prepared to work at the clinic—and to face the spiritual battlefield. Her family engaged prayer support through their church and internet chains; prayer for her courage to stand strong and for God to orchestrate the details perfectly. As Jane began her rotation, the dean firmly told her “leave your (moral) baggage at the door when you see patients…”

Jane’s plan was to approach the supervising physician directly with her concerns; however, the busyness of the clinic prevented any such private conversation. The first week passed in a whirl with no abortion-counseling situation arising. Rather than simply hope for the best for the duration of the rotation, Jane made the difficult decision to contact her Supervisor at home. Despite his reputation as a rather irascible individual, the doctor was gracious and supportive. A former Catholic, he respected her convictions and protected her from the obligation to provide abortion counseling! God provided the requested courage for Jane, managed the caseload she was assigned and worked in the heart of the supervising physician. God is faithful!

As Americans, we know our country was founded by individuals who were willing to sacrifice for their personal beliefs. What a joy to know the same depth of conviction lives on in a young American. Might we all support one another in prayers and by living with such integrity. We do not want a world that believes moral convictions can be ‘checked at the door.’ We need courage like Jane’s—we need to be prayer warriors!

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Prayerful

The prayerful spirit of Christ offers a shining facet to our transformed character! Christ’s commitment to communing with the Father is a design we must emulate. Despite being God incarnate, Jesus Christ demonstrated a high priority on prayer fellowship with God, the Father.

Scriptural accounts show Christ seeking private prayer time throughout His earthly life. He arose before down and climbed mountains to be alone with the Father. He walked away from crowds of seekers to commune with God in heaven. He chose fellowship with His father over sleep on some nights. Private times of intimate communion with the heavenly Father under-girded the earthly walk of Christ. Such an example by the One who creates and sustains all life should impress on us our desperate need. Prayer must have a higher priority in our lives than our comfort, our service and our physical needs.

The communion of Jesus and the Father was not restricted to private times, though. Prayer was an integral part of Christ’s every day. He instructed His disciples on ‘how’ to pray. He prayed for His followers through the ages. Sometimes He prayed for the benefit of listeners. The scripture records indicate a prayer life that was as ‘real’ and natural as the human conversations in which He engaged. Indeed, Christ’s prayers are often in the midst of human dialogues. Clearly, the presence of the Father was as much a reality to Jesus as the people with whom He walked each day. This reality of continual prayer must thread throughout our own lives.

In the Garden of Gethsemane prayers, Jesus reveals communion in the deepest sense. The Son’s cries enter directly into the Father’s love. God’s love answers with angelic delivery of divine strength that enables Jesus to complete the purposes of His life. Prayer is not a divine wishing well. Prayer is entering the essence of God. Prayer is receiving the Father’s love and power to accomplish His plans and purposes for our lives.

Science and illusions of self-sufficiency often veil miraculous answers to prayer in the western world. Our unchanging God was—and is—a miracle worker. When you seek the Lord in prayer, expect Him to reveal Himself in you and through you.