Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learning to Be Vulnerable - by Doug Hunt

Exposed. At risk. Vulnerable. 

No one likes to be that way. But being vulnerable with people you disciple will make you and them more like Jesus. 

I remember the first time I experienced being truly vulnerable with someone I was discipling. I don’t know exactly why I chose to approach this situation in my life this way but I knew I needed a trusted friend to enter into a real battle in my life. I was struggling with a real pride issue. I was living in fear that people would not view me to be as good a leader as the man who discipled me. My self-centeredness was affecting my prayers for him, my friendship with him, and my ability to trust him. It was all my own sin and it was eating me up.

So I sat there and told the person I was discipling about this issue. I told him everything. It was HARD! There I was the “stronger, older, wiser, more holy discipler” throwing my real weakness and sin on the table. 

I did not know what the person I was discipling would think or how he would react. It was a real risk for me. Would I lose his respect? His trust? Would he tell other people? Would he just turn around and run! The amazing thing was that he embraced my struggle with understanding, respect, deeper friendship, accountability and prayer. That person walked with me all the way through that specific struggle. I, the discipler, grew spiritually because the one I was discipling walked with me.  

Jesus was an amazing model of vulnerability with His disciples. It was much later in His relationship with them that He opened up the deepest things of his personal life to them. It was not day one of their relationship. It was 3 years in. In Matthew 26 He made known to them around the dinner table that He was going to be betrayed and handed over to be crucified. It must have been really hard for the 12 or should I say 11 to hear this truth. Jesus betrayed! By one of them! No way! What was also amazing about this moment was that in the end of that conversation Jesus led them to sing a song of worship (Mat. 26:30). He pointed them to God in His own hard moment. Then Jesus took them further into His soul by allowing them to come into the garden with Him. He did not have to do this.

“Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” (Mat. 26:37-38)

It was important for Jesus, the creator and sustainer of the universe, to allow those He was discipling to see the depths of his own pain. Jesus asked them to stay with him in His sorrow. The Son of God exposed. This was truly a moment of vulnerability. Wow.

Jesus’ example has helped me see the great value of this principle:

• Inviting those we disciple to see and walk with us in our deep struggles in life leads us both to become more like Christ.

What I have learned by being vulnerable with people I am discipling:

1. It is hard and scary – You never really know how someone will respond when you reveal deep things about yourself to them.

2. Once I take the step of faith to be vulnerable I find freedom to let go of many of my fears – I find freedom.
3. It is still hard – The enemy does not want me to become like Jesus.
4. It leads me to be more gracious and experience grace on a deeper level.

Practical Handles

1. Be completely honest with God about yourself
2. Pray for a commitment to genuine humility
3. Identify a person or people in your community that you trust the most.
4. Invite them to look at and listen to what is going on in your life.
5. Allow them to enter into the real battle for your walk with God by telling them the real “struggles” of your life.

6. Keep the focus on the glory of God in your life and not the struggle.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to have a not so boring prayer life... Really! (Part 2)

(By Alfred Turley)
This is Part 2 in a series.

I am really passionate about prayer.  I think it's a really big deal!

I detailed a few things about prayer in the first post on this subject, but I think one of the main reasons that people find it boring and uninteresting to pray is that they don't understand a few critical things:

  • God does indeed answer prayer.
  • A lot of bad in our lives is because we aren't praying.
  • God does almost nothing apart from someone praying.

James the Apostle wrote this very famous passage as a rebuke to some followers of Christ:
What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. - (James 4:1-3)

Jesus also said over and over in the Gospels to ASK.  The famous passage is Matthew 7:7 which states: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you."

There are too many passages in the Bible about prayer to pull out here, but the main point is, we are clearly told to pray.

God answers prayer
I don't know of a single follower of Christ who has started on a prayer journey that wouldn't agree with this.  Sometimes the answer is not what we want as it could be a "NO" or a "Wait" or silence.  But anyone with a prayer life knows that there are constant answers and responses when we pray.  We have seen lives changed, people healed, relationships restored, and miracles of provision and supply.  God loves us, and loves to answer our prayers.

A lot of bad in our lives is because we aren't praying
That may be a shocking statement, but we have to think about things with God like this: when He commands us to DO something, there are negative consequences when we DON'T.  God loves us so much He gives us the ability to choose to obey or disobey, and respond to Him in love and trust.  And He rewards that trust by moving on our behalf.
If I choose NOT to obey Him by coming to Him and asking, the fact of the matter is that I am missing out on grace and power in my life to overcome and address issues that could have been prevented.

God does almost nothing apart from someone praying
This may be another controversial statement, but with rare exceptions, it seems throughout history that before God does anything, He calls someone to pray and ASK first.
Why is this?
God has determined to rule through us, and in partnership with us.  This is why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God comes within us, one heart at a time.  He has chosen to work with us in relationship.  So He has ordained that we ASK, and call in His power and help for our needs and for our world!

How should I respond to this?

As I said in the first post, prayer is an incredible privilege of love and relationship!  We should rejoice that God desires to use us and allows us to be His instruments!  So PRAY and watch God move in your world!

Can I suggest:
  • Start a prayer list and a prayer journal.  Write down some things you are asking God for (remember to try and ask according to His will) and watch and see what happens! Use sticky notes and have them on the dash of your car or in your Bible.  Pray, and keep things before God!
  • Let fear and worry remind you to pray.  Don't be afraid, pray.  Worry is not intercession!  Take things to God, and: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Choose to believe that you are LOVED.  Choose to believe in His nature as a good father, and that He promises to act on our behalf for our good!  Believe, and watch Him move!

Let's take up our places in the Kingdom as partners with God to bring His will to the earth!
Let's pray!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Change My Heart

Lord, change my heart, make Your desires my desires.

Over the years, I've come to believe that this prayer is the most productive prayer, the most life transforming prayer we will ever pray in our lives.

I first prayed this prayer during a season in my life when I was starting over.  I had spent a decade running away from the Lord and, as I like to say, had become a pro at "turning the volume down" on the Lord.  

When that prayer came out of my mouth, I was done running. I was done with trying to navigate life on my own. I was in the process of putting the pieces of my life back together and reacquainting myself with the One I had ignored for years.  I looked forward to spending time with Him, asking Him for advice, listening for His answers and His direction. I wanted to, now, live a life that honored Him. The problem?  As they say, old habits sometimes die (excruciatingly) hard.  I could so relate to Paul and the tug of war match with our flesh that he describes for us in Romans 7.

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.   Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me.  So I discover this principle; When I want to do what is good, evil is with me.  For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.” (vs 15-25)

Lord, change my heart, make Your desires my desires.

This prayer wasn’t a once said and once done prayer. This prayer became a battle cry. I prayed it through tears. I prayed it through anger. I prayed it through all the “why, Lord?!?” questions. I prayed it after those times when, like Paul, “I wanted to do good but my flesh won…AGAIN”.  In many ways, I felt like I could relate to the persistent widow we read about in scripture who kept coming back to the judge with the same request.


And then, one morning…I prayed…and it happened. 

My heart was filled with a peace and a calm that, even today, I have a hard time putting into words that can accurately describe what took place. 

The battle was won. There was still hard road ahead…but my heart and His heart were on the same page!  It was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life. 

A song comes to mind right now…

“That’s why I praise Him. That’s why I sing. That’s why I offer Him my everything.”

God answers our prayers.  His way.  His timing.  His perfect will. 

Keep running back to Him. Keep clinging to Him.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

How to have a not so boring prayer life... Really! (Part 1)

Why do I have to PRAY Lord?  I mean WHY?

Prayer can be one of the most challenging "disciplines" we are ever asked to do as a follower of Christ.  But why is that?  Why can it be so tough and so hard to be excited about?  Over the next few posts, I'd like to cover some key things about prayer that have made it something that I look forward to, and you can too!

Prayer is tremendously misunderstood because people don't understand what it is.  Some people think it's more magic words, or rubbing a bottle to get the genie to come out, but those are incredibly harmful views.

So what is prayer?  Over the next few posts I'd like to go into that!

Prayer is part of a RELATIONSHIP.  

Prayer is communication.  Prayer is talking.  Prayer is intimate language between ourselves and our Heavenly Father who sees us as "dearly loved children."  (Ephesians 5:1).  Prayer is a vital link to build FRIENDSHIP with God and ourselves.  Once I began to realize that God wanted friendship with me, and wanted me to share my heart with Him and "confess" my feelings and thoughts to Him, I began to get what prayer was really about.

Prayer is about AGREEMENT.  

God knows what is best for us.  He is the Creator and author of all things, and wants us to have "Abundant life."  But that comes from doing things His way and obeying His commands and seeing their value.  So many people want to do things their way, instead of seeking what He wants, learning to AGREE that it is best, and then asking for His will to come into play.

Just think about that for a second....  

You see we don't mind it when people disagree with us... to an extent.  But when it comes to our spouses, our closest friends, don't we prefer to be on the same page?  Don't we prefer to AGREE with them and stand united in purpose, direction, etc?  And how do you feel when you really do know you are right, and your children or other people stubbornly refuse to see the truth and agree with you?  (And it's not about being right, it's about doing what is right.)

When I do this, when I seek out what God thinks and learn to agree with it, I will fulfill what Jesus says in the book of John:
"If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples."  (John 15:7-8)

Seeing God's will and God's plan as the best path (His words remaining in us) makes my prayers about releasing His authority and power into my life.  When I know it's what He wants, my prayers just invite Him in to do His will!

Prayer is an astonishing privilege!

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:
"Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time." (Heb. 4:16)
God our Father has given us access to the THRONE ROOM.  He is seated where "thousands upon thousands of angels stand in joyful assembly" (Heb. 12:22) and we get to go there!  He loves us and treasures us and cares about our hearts.   What a privilege and honor, and how dearly we are loved!

Let's believe today that we are loved...
Let's believe that He wants to bring His power and will into our lives...
Let's believe that He desires friendship and communion with us....

Let's pray!