How to Pray Scripture

Although it seems like it should be easy, prayer can feel confusing. Sometimes we don’t know what to say or feel like we’re not saying the “right” words. When you find yourself looking for direction when talking to God, try using the Bible to guide your prayers.

Why should you use scripture to guide your prayer?

1. We know God’s Word is true and is God’s will. When we pray scripture, we can know that what we are asking for is pursing the right direction. Scripture teaches us more about God. As we pray scripture, we learn His ways and become more like Him.

This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

2. Praying scripture helps us be more thorough in our prayers. We tend to pray the same things over and over and go back to the ideas that are familiar to us. When we pray using scripture, it expands our thinking to include new concepts that might not come naturally to us. This grows our faith and teaches us to learn God’s ways and what is important to Him.

How do you pray scripture?

While You Read

Reading your Bible and praying don’t have to be separate experiences. In fact, they shouldn’t be! While you are reading God’s word, talk to Him about it. If you’re confused about what a verse means, ask Him to help you understand it. You have 24/7 access to the author! Think about the concepts or the stories you are reading and pray that God would show you how they can be used in your life.

The Holy Spirit

1 John 2:27 tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us. Even if we never had access to preachers, teachers or Bible study resources, the Holy Spirit helps us understand scripture, AND there’s more… If you believe in God, the Holy Spirit lives in you and knows you. He can help you to use that scripture and apply it to your specific situation. This is one way God’s word is described as “alive and active”. It means something different to us depending on what is happening in our life. The words of the Bible written 2000 years ago are still relevant to us today.

Prayer activates this understanding, so before you begin reading God’s word, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the words you are reading and know what they mean to you today.

Use Prayers from the Bible

The Bible is full of prayers already written for you. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) gives us a structure of how to pray. Paul often wrote prayers for the people in the churches when he wrote his letters. The Psalms of David are full of prayers. Jesus even prayed for those who believe in Him. We can also use these prayers to talk to God. Here are a few prayers from the Bible to get you started.

David – A Prayer of Thanksgiving – Psalm 30

Paul – Prayers of Power and Strength – Ephesians 1:15-20; Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul – Prayer to Know God’s Will – Colossians 1:9-14

Hannah’s Prayer – 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Jesus’ Prayer for Believers – John 17:20-23

Choose a Verse to Pray

If you are looking for direction in a specific situation, if there is an area that you need to grow spiritually or if there is something that God is teaching you, you can choose a verse to focus on. Spend a day, a week, a month or more using that verse to dwell on and pray about as you go through your day.

The Bible is also full of verses that tell us the promises God has for us. Praying the promises of God gives you confidence in who you are in Christ, what he has planned for your life and His power to complete it. Here are a few verses of promises from God.

The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.

James 1:5

Using a Journal Can Lead to Deeper Prayer

It doesn’t have be fancy, a simple spiral notebook will do. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. Write down the verse you’re praying. If you would like, journal or list a few things you learn while praying or answers God has given. Using more of your senses by writing helps you to understand more deeply, to remember what you’ve prayed and to see patterns God is working to teach you. Looking back through your prayers, reminds you of God’s faithfulness. Praising God and thanking Him for what He’s done changes your perspective and transforms your life!

Remember that methods of praying and ideas are meant to be helpful, but don’t get caught up the logistics. Above all, JUST PRAY! Hopefully you often find quality quiet time to talk to God, but if you’re waiting for that to happen to pray, it won’t! Pray where you are, when you think about it, when you feel worried, challenged, confused, thankful or in awe. Just talk to God about everything that is going on. Bring Him into your every day and every moment.

Advertisement

The Best Zentangle Tools

One of the best things about the art of Zentangle is that it doesn’t take very many tools to start creating. All you really need is something to draw with and something to draw on. Here’s a list of my favorite Zentangle tools that can help bring your doodles to the next level.

Pens

My favorite pen for practicing is the Sharpie felt tip pen. It is affordable, so you can doodle all you want without feeling like you’re going to have to keep buying expensive pens. The line it makes is a light/medium weight and can still do some details. It also works pretty well for filling in shapes without too much time or energy.

If you’re looking to fine tune your designs, micron pens are great. They come in all sizes so you can add clean lines and edges to your designs. The numbers on the side of the pen clue you in on the thickness of the tip. Smaller numbers are very thin and increase in thickness with higher numbers. You will need more pens to get the job done, but they offer more variety, smoother lines and the ability to create fine detail.

Last, but certainly not least is the Paper mate Flair in Medium. This pen is GREAT for practice. It has a thicker line than the sharpie pen which covers ups shaky hand movements for a beginner. It also flows nicely allowing you to practice your pen strokes and develop smoother motion to your drawing. This is not the pen for fine detail work, but it is very affordable and comes in a variety of colors.

Clear Ruler

A clear ruler is a must have. Zentangle is usually drawn inside of contained shapes. A ruler or straight edge allows you draw to clean boxes and shapes to contain your art. It is also helpful in drawing patterns with a clean line style. With a clear ruler, you are able to see through to the doodles underneath to help you connect lines and see distances better. Another great addition is a circular ruler. This helps you measure angles or draw curves. I recommend a lightweight 6″ ruler like the one pictured below, because it is very lightweight and easy to bring along with your sketchbook.

Shape Templates

To add some more variety to your designs, you can try shape templates. They come in all variety of shapes, sizes, curves and angles. You can buy just one or buy them in sets. Mix it up by using partial shapes in your design or combining multiple shapes together. These templates are typically clear and have straight edges, so they can also be used in place of a clear ruler if needed.

Zentangle Tiles

Zentangle tiles are a thick cardstock paper that are pre-cut into 4×4 squares for you to create more finished design artwork.

The Zentangle Sketchbook

The Zentangle Sketchbook is pages of grids, shapes, and designs that are created for you to practice your zentanlge doodles and designs. Whether you are serious about perfecting your drawing skills or just looking for a way to increase your creativity and discover new ideas, this book is a great creativity starter. The designs on each page are open to allow you to create your own design without having to spend time creating pages of shapes and designs to fill. Having the framework already in place, lets you get straight to the fun.

Your Imagaination

This is the MOST important tool in your kit. Remember not to get too caught up in the templates, rulers, straight lines and measurements. These are great tools that can support your imagination, make sure to spend some time drawing free hand. This allows you to try things you would not have thought of otherwise. Have fun, take chances and make some messes. You’ll discover new ideas and grow your skill!

Could-of, Should-of, Would-of: Find Freedom in How You Spend Your Time

There’s a 90’s country song that often runs through my head that confesses:

“I’m in a hurry to get things done.

Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.

All I really gotta do is live and die,

But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

These lyrics sum up many days spent jumping from one thing to the next. Sometimes at the end of day, we wonder if we really got anything done or if the efforts spent were worth the time.

There’s always a battle between the things we have to do, the things we should do, wondering what we could do and occasionally fitting in something we want to do! Too few options make us feel useless. Too many options overwhelm us and lead to not pursuing any of them well.

All of this “rush and rush” leaves us feeling ambitiously exhausted yet too guilty to stop and rest. We desire fun or fulfillment from our activities but can’t imagine how to squeeze it into our schedule.

So how do we make practical decisions on where to devote the hours in our day? I believe changing our mindset will transform our thinking in way that will transform our schedule. Here’s a good place to start.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

At first, this is going to seem like “one more thing” to fit into the schedule, but it is the thing that will clarify your day and purpose!

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be provided for you.”

Matthew 6:33

Start your day by talking to God. Read His word. (That’s how He talks to You!)

Get out your “To-Do List” and invite God to be part of your day from the start. Pray that He will give you the power, peace, confidence and wisdom to accomplish what you have planned for the day, the grace and flexibility to handle the unexpected and the wisdom and discernment to change the “To-Do List” if necessary.

Whatever you do, do it for God’s Glory.

We tend to separate our “everyday” life from our “Christian” life. We try to fit in church, Bible study, prayer and worship in between the other “real world” things we do. We check them off our list and move on to other things. When we become a Christian, our life is transformed. We don’t add Christian things to our life, it is now our way of life.

“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

We pray as we go about the tasks of our day. We turn to the Bible for truth in our decisions and to guide our direction. We worship God by acknowledging His power to help us in everything we do. We praise and thank Him for knowing what is best for us and leading us in the right direction.

I work in ministry, so much of my day is spent on things that have an eternal purpose. It’s easy to look for direction from God and ask Him to bless those things. But when I’m folding laundry, paying bills or working on a creative project that’s not specifically about God, I don’t always think about God blessing that time.

Sometimes I even feel these activities are taking me away from something that has more eternal purpose. That simply isn’t true. God knows we must spend time living and He wants to be a part of ALL of our life. Making sure that our activities are not hurting our relationship with God or our testimony is important. But God desires to join us in our daily tasks and endeavors and even surprises us with joyful moments when we least expect us.

Go in confidence.

We can’t do it all. Knowing God is working in our every day life, giving us His discernment in what to do and His power to accomplish it brings freedom! Worry, fear and confusion weigh us down. They steal our time and our peace. This freedom allows us to know we’re in God’s will and move forward in confidence. When it’s time to work, give it all you’ve got. When it’s time to rest, don’t feel guilty – recharge. When it’s time to play, have fun. Enjoy where you are and what you’re doing because you know God has given it to you.

“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established”

Proverbs 16:3

You are still going to find yourself “in a hurry to get things done”, but hopefully you’ll find rest between the “rush and rush” because life was meant to include fun! Most importantly when you do find yourself “in a hurry” you’ll know why. God has a purpose for your time that transforms your perspective.

Practical Tips for Time

Spread out your work. It’s better to accomplish a little bit every day than to get overwhelmed or give up.

Rotate things you want to add to your schedule. If you’ve got an hour of free time every afternoon, try a different thing every day like exercise, learning a new task or taking a nap!

Make a list. Physical. Digital. Whatever works, but something real. Putting a task in a list frees your mind to accomplish other things.

Just get started. How many times have you put off a task for hours, days, weeks or years?! Only to discover it wasn’t as hard as you thought or really only took a few minutes to accomplish. The amount of time it took up just being on your list was way more consuming than getting it done. If it takes longer than you thought, at least you’ve began and that makes it much easier to keep going.

Focus. Give your attention to the task you’re on. Rely on that list or schedule to tell you what’s next and enjoy the moment you’re in. Don’t waste it on what you should-of, could-of, would-of be doing!

Evaluate. Near the end of the day, quickly evaluate your time. Don’t beat yourself up or worry too much about tomorrow. Celebrate what you got done and adjust what needs to be changed the next day.

https://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Score-Gameplayers-Scoresheets-Journal/dp/1696476879/ref=sr_1_1?crid=223PCRU83FHIP&keywords=keeping+score+Jennifer+Burrell&qid=1650055908&s=books&sprefix=keeping+score+jennifer+burrell%2Cstripbooks%2C53&sr=1-1

Crafting with Friends: Fall Wreath

Two of my favorite things to do are making things and hanging out with friends, so why not combine the two and make some things with my friends! I recently had a girl’s weekend with two of my friends. They live in another city, so occasionally they come to visit and we hang out, play games, go shopping and eat out! This weekend we decided to focus on making fall wreaths, but did not neglect shopping and eating out. Our shopping trips did focus on our crafting project. Who knew it could be so much fun searching for inspiration at Hobby Lobby and seeking out bargain supplies at a crazy art thrift store and SIX Dollar Trees?

We decided to make wreaths from ribbon and each of our creations used a different method and style. A delightful discovery about crafting with friends is you get to see each person’s personality emerge from their choices of ribbon, color and accessories. As we gathered around my craft table, we all found our unique creating rhythm. Distracted by conversation, fun music and lots of laughter, some of the tasks that I would typically find tedious when working on my own, were not as noticeable. There were moments of quiet where we would get absorbed in what we were making and there were moments filled with so much fun that we forgot we were supposed to be working on something. Everyone left with something different. Two of us finished our wreaths and one decided to finish hers at home and that’s OK. She is starting a new business selling her craft items and she discovered the business name she wants to use as we worked.

We all left with something creative that didn’t exist before we got there. We all left encouraged by fun and friendship. We all left a few pounds heavier from eating out. We all left asking “When do we get to do this again?”.

See the Fall Wreaths We Made and How To Make Them Yourself

Here are some photos of the wreaths from our crafting weekend. The wreath method I chose didn’t have complicated instructions, but I will let you in on the thought process.

Choose Your Ribbon.

For my wreath I chose a few different styles and textures of ribbon. To give the feeling of fall, I chose black and cream checkered burlap for texture and thickness, a second burlap that has an open weave, a thin orange ribbon with white polka-dots, a teal blue soft fabric cut into strips and a sparkle of gold mesh ribbon that was bendy.

Start Crafting.

I cut the ribbon and fabric into strips around 5 inches long.

I used an 18” wire wreath frame. You can get these frames at any crafting store, but if you’re lucky, you can find them for $1 at Dollar Tree in various shapes and sizes.

I began tying the ribbon onto the frame with two simple knots, nothing fancy. I started with the middle wire and rotated through all the colors except gold until the middle wire on the wreath frame was full. After the middle wire was full, I added a few ribbon strips to the inner and outer wire rings of the wreath frame, but didn’t fill it up. This added a little more fullness. Finally I scattered a few strips of the sparkly gold mesh ribbon throughout. The ribbon had a lightweight wire edge that allowed me to shape the gold ribbon to give it fullness.

Here’s the final product hanging on my front door! Every time I come home it greets me with memories of fun times with friends. I love that no one else has one like it and it’s made with my choice of color and style. It feels natural, relaxed and fun.

And here are the wreaths my friends made….

This wreath used an orange burlap mixed with mesh ribbon in fall colors and a golden solid ribbon. Notice the detail on the golden ribbon of the ends being cut into triangle shapes giving a finished look. The ribbon is cut, rolled and secured in bunches with a chenille stem. Then the bunches are attached to the wire wreath frame. A wooden pumpkin sign was added to the center and adds extra personality! An added bonus is this cute pumpkin was found on our “Dollar Tree” adventures. This wreath is full and fabulous. The abundant ribbon style fits the word “grateful” giving us the feeling that there is SO much to be grateful for.

This “bubble” wreath is simple to make. No need to cut your ribbon, just tie the end of the roll of ribbon onto the wire wreath frame, then begin pulling the ribbon through the wreath frame to create a bubble shape sticking out of the front. Twist the back of the ribbon to help hold it in place and keep creating bubbles. The amount of ribbon in the wire frame will hold it in place. You can leave the wreath simple or add an embellishment like this metal pumpkin. Other ideas could be to hot glue an accessory like a wooden sign or artificial flowers on top of the ribbon. I love the contrast of the metal sign with the full casual bubbles of the burlap. It feels friendly, welcoming and playful.

What’s your style? Grab a wire wreath, pick out some ribbon, find some friends to join you and make a unique wreath for your home.

Seeing Through – 2020 Vision

When we started this crazy year that has been 2020, we had BIG aspirations of a year of seeing clearly – 2020 VISION. It felt like we were stepping into “The Future”. Now halfway through this first year of the future, most of us would like to go back or maybe just skip ahead. I love the “Back to the Future” Meme that is going around with Doc Brown and Marty by the Delorean. It says “Listen carefully, Marty…whatever you do, don’t set it to 2020”.

But for those of us without the luxury of a time machine, we’re here, right in the middle of 2020. We are hoping the last half will be a vast improvement over the first. We may not have the ability to just “get outta here”, but as Christians, we do have access to power that the world does not. Yet, we often watch the world, copy their behavior and act like we are in the same position as they are. Soon…fear, worry, anger and arguments are defining our behavior too.

But we have the ability to “see through”. During “this present age” (the time between when Christ has gone back to heaven and the time He will return to Earth), God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. Although, we can’t see what is going to come next, He can. The Bible tells us that through the Spirit, God reveals to us what to do.

Isaiah 30:21 says “and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” 

And in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5, we are told that we are not “in the dark”. We are children of light. It goes on to tells us that we need to live like who we are. The world is focused on what they see right in front of them, which leads to wasting time and resources without hope and living for pleasure instead of purpose.

Our hope and salvation allows us to hear the voice of God and KNOW that although it seems dark, God is still in control. A lot of voices are screaming at us, luring us, and taunting us. It doesn’t mean we have to listen. WE have a choice of which voices get our attention. Listening to the voice of TRUTH is what gives us the ability to “see through”. It illuminates the darkness and gives us the perspective to see 2020 as part of God’s plan. A season where God is allowing suffering, fear, uncertainty to move people towards the opportunity to follow Him.

So, as much as we want to “get outta here…”, get dressed up in costumes & collect some candy, carve the turkey, put up the tree and bring on 2021. Let’s not waste what we’ve been given. Let’s join God in whatever He is doing, knowing that He has a perfect eternal plan and make the most of 2020. WORRY…it steals our time. God has got this, live in that freedom and move into being productive. ARGUING and ANGER…it steals our testimony. Let God love people through you instead. FEAR…it steals our faith. It leaves you stuck or moving backwards. Know who you are and who your God is. Then you will be able to “see through” and help others do the same.

If you are looking for practical steps in how to make this happen…here is where to get started learning to hear God’s voice and knowing His plan.

  1. Read, know and meditate on God’s Word. — He has already given us the “instruction book” we just have to use it.
  2. Put away pride and selfish ambition. — Everything I have is from God and is intended to use for His glory, not my gain.
  3. Ask and be persistent. (Prayer) – Talk to God. He says we should ask for what we need. Ask Him for understanding, wisdom, faith and provisions. Yes, God already knows what you need. But he wants you to come to Him, to discover His will and to get to know Him through prayer.
  4. Have faith – God says we should approach Him with boldness. When we pray…

– it arms us with what we need to face what is coming. (God’s Armor – Eph 6)

– it is spiritual warfare. Things are happening that we can’t see and our prayers effect the spiritual
realm. It restrains the forces of evil and darkness.

-helps you to hear God’s voice

5.  Listen & be obedient – Know that God is sovereign and His plan is perfect. It may not be what       we thought, but His ways are higher than our ways.

6. Walk in belief – When you hear God’s Word, take it, believe what He said and walk in it. Take that truth to your daily life, to your job, your grocery shopping and your social media scrolling (ouch!) It means not just saying you believe and then trying to “do” or “say” the right things to earn God’s favor. It means just believing it is true because God said it and living in it.

7.  Be thankful – When you hear his voice, when you get a direction or an answer, give him the GLORY! Acknowledge the way he provided the next step or the full need.

If you could have any super power what would it be?

We’ve heard this question a lot… at parties, job interviews, first dates. We’ve probably all come up with our answer. An answer that reveals our true desires or perhaps the one we think will make us look the best to the people asking the question.

So what’s your answer? Do you want to be able to teleport? Fly? Super human strength? My answer is usually that I want to be able to remember everything I read. A search for wisdom, I guess. You know I’m not sure some of these so-called “super powers” would be everything they’re advertised to be. Do you really want to be able to teleport? Sure it would be cool to zap on over to Hawaii for a swim or to be a part of a historic event you see taking place on the news. But more than likely your binge watching will be interrupted by your mom who needs you to zap over and show her how to work her new cell phone or your boss who needs you to finish up that project right now.

We desire these super powers, because it feels like we never have enough or that we never measure up. What we need to do is to change our mindset and tell ourselves the truth. If we are Christians, we are already exactly who we need to be and we already have access to THE super power.

Our desire to know more, do more, is usually us trying to measure up or to be better than someone else. We want to appear smarter, richer, or more beautiful. The truth is we’re not them. God did not make us to be them. God may have a plan for their life and guess what?! It’s not the same plan that He has for you.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Before you were born. God knew what you were created for. He gave you the gifts, talents, personality and resources to get it done and He has been continuing to teach you and equip you for what is next throughout your life.

We just need to be willing, THIS is where the super power kicks in! When we realize who we are, what we are made for and what God is asking us to do. We offer what we have. Is it enough? Probably not. God takes what we have and SUPERNATURALLY uses it for His purpose. This reminds me of the event in the Bible in Matthew 25, where Jesus fed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. A few people had to offer their specific gift for this miracle to take place. A mom or dad probably packed that lunch, expecting it to feed their son. They were just doing an everyday task, being faithful to provide what they could. You have probably packed a lunch for your child. The best you were hoping for is that they don’t trade their carrot sticks for chocolate chip cookies in the lunch room. What if they came home and told you the lunch you packed fed the entire school today! The little boy had to listen, be aware of the need and be willing to give his lunch. The disciples had to put away their small mindset and be willing to do what Jesus asked of them.

That’s how God works. Each one playing his part and God takes care of the miraculous. We do what He made us to do and He steps in to orchestrate it for His plan and His glory. He lets us be a part of what He is doig.

There’s lots of superpowers we have access to when we follow God. We can’t begin to explain them all or even understand them. But there’s one more I don’t want to miss. We can KNOW exactly what to do next. Our God is perfect. He is everywhere. He KNOWS everything. We pray. We listen. We obey. He will show us the right way. That’s when we start to see miracles and experience the super powers of God. When we practice these habits, it results in a closer relationship with God.  It becomes increasingly easier to understand his voice and we can live knowing we are exactly where we need to be and are doing what He has planned. Nothing else matters.

Know who you are.

Know who God is.

DO NOT FEAR!

Listen and obey.

Get ready for the miraculous.

Long Awaited Still Waiting

When we hear the telling of Jesus’ birth, it typically includes words like greatly anticipated, long-awaited and hoped for. From the time God told Eve He would send a savior, we hear of generations watching and waiting for His birth. I don’t know about you, but the picture in my head of these people is focused, dedicated, intently seeking and anticipating this arrival for thousands of years. But I’m afraid this scene is fashioned from Christmas carols and story books that only tell part of the story. The real story includes people who people who forgot God and followed the wrong gods. These people wandered in deserts, were intimidated by giants and destroyed by a flood.

Sounds a lot like us…we find ourselves waiting again. Jesus came to earth as God promised. He defeated death and returned to Heaven with the promise to prepare a place for us and come again. This time we were given the Holy Spirit to guide us. This time we have the completed Word of God to teach us. We still find ourselves forgetting about God, following the patterns of this world and misdirecting our worship to the wrong things. We waste lots of time going the wrong direction and letting the giants of fear, insecurity, worry and more intimidate us. I’m not sure that the 2,000 years we’ve been waiting can be described as focused, dedicated, intently seeking or anticipating the second arrival of Jesus either.

But Hebrews 11 paints us a different picture of those who waited on Christ’s birth. Although many wandered in the desert, Moses followed God. When people who were supposed to be warriors spent 40 days intimidated by the giant Goliath, David, a shepherd, had faith that His God would fight the battle for Him. Noah listened to God and followed His instructions in seemingly ridiculous circumstances and was saved from destruction in the flood. Hebrews 11 tells us that it is their faith that makes them stand apart. They trusted God. So we have this opportunity as well. What do we do with our wait? Trust God. We don’t have to live lost, defeated, and destroyed. God’s Word tells us that He wins the battle in the end and He invites us to join Him in the victory. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus while we are still waiting for God to bring us His eternal kingdom.

What Are You Building?

We’re all building something.

We have goals that are intended to bring our family closer together, make it stronger. We are researching techniques that improve our skills and our lives so that we can live more comfortably or get a better job. We work our bodies and plan our meals to build a healthy lifestyle. We work countless hours, many times with no monetary payment to build our ministries, our causes and our churches. We carefully craft an image that will bring us more friends, followers and “likes” on social media.

The Bible tells us that we should have goals, work hard, provide for ourselves and persevere. So how do we know what we are REALLY building?  How do we know that the time and effort we are investing is going to make a difference? Will it last? Let’s ask ourselves a couple of questions….

Question #1 – Why are we building?

Is my goal to look better to other people? Is it to gain money, status or power? Is it to make my life easy or more comfortable? Maybe it’s just to have fun! What should my goal be? Let’s look at what God says.

I Corinthians 10:31
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.”

Colossians 3:23
“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something
done for the Lord and not for people,”

These verses tell us that whatever it is we are doing, which includes the things we are striving to build in our lives, the purpose should be to glorify God. We should be building the name of Christ, not ourselves.

Question #2 – Is it yours to build?

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are created by God and that He prepared good works for us to do. The CSB version says that He planned them “ahead of time”, NIV says “in advance” and the ESV uses the word “beforehand”. That means that God already had a plan for us. Even before we were born, He had a purpose in mind for our life. When He created you, He gave you exactly the right skills, talents, life experiences and everything else you need to accomplish the job He has planned for you. When we make a decision about where to put our efforts, we first need to pray. Ask God to help you determine if this is part of His plan for your life. Think about the reasons you are involved or are considering becoming involved. Are we doing it because it needs to be done…and no one else is volunteering? Are we trying to gain something for ourselves? Perhaps we see another person succeeding in this area and we feel that following in their footsteps will mean success for us as well. We must remember that if we spend our time in missions that are not ours to take on, although good things can still come from it, we may be missing out on the BEST thing that God has for us. We may also be stealing the mission from the person who God uniquely designed to do it! This leaves us overly stressed and crazy busy from doing something we were never meant for and equipped for in the first place. In 2 Samuel, chapter 7, King David expressed his desire to build a Temple for the Lord. David saw that he was living in a great palace, but their place of worship was only a tent, a temporary dwelling. Was this task something that needed to be done? Definitely. Building a temple would glorify God AND was part of God’s plan…but God reveals to David that it was not his job to build it. That task was meant for a later time and for David’s son, Solomon.

Looking to God’s specific plan for us brings great peace and freedom. If we “Trust in the Lord with all our heart”, we can know that He is perfect and sovereign and “will make our path straight”.  So, it doesn’t matter if we’re not doing the same thing as our friend, because that’s not what God has for us. If you don’t have the same possessions, resources or you’re not going the same places that you see others enjoying. That’s OK. God has given you the tools, talents, finances, and even the time you need to accomplish the tasks He has assigned to you.

So how do we build our homes, relationships, churches, ministries, businesses, or whatever God has tasked us with building in a way that is glorifying to Him. Here are some plans that help us stay on track as we build.

BUILDING PLAN – STEP 1: Jesus must be the foundation

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus gives us an illustration of two houses. One built on a foundation of rock and the other on a foundation of sand. The house built on the rock is able to withstand rain, flood and pounding wind. While the house build on sand collapsed under the same conditions.

When we build on the rock (Jesus) we have a solid foundation, so when the storms of life come at us, we will not collapse. In fact, anything we are building, if we have already determined it is glorifying to God and has been assigned to us to build is already a part of God’s big plan. We are building upon the foundation that God has already begun since He established time. He allows us to join Him and participate in what He is building. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 tells us that the things we build on the foundation of Christ will one day be tested by fire. The things that don’t align with His plan and purpose will burn up. What is built for Christ will survive.

BUILDING PLAN – STEP 2: The Lord must be the builder.

Psalm 127:1-2

 “Unless the Lord builds a house,
its builders labor over it in vain;
unless the Lord watches over a city,
the watchman stays alert in vain.

 In vain you get up early and stay up late,
working hard to have enough food—
yes, he gives sleep to the one he loves

We often spend much of our time and effort laboring over things that won’t last. We get up early and stay up late pouring ourselves into our projects. When we take control of the building, the results don’t last. As Psalm 127 tells us, we labor in vain. When the Lord is the builder, He goes before us to prepare the way. The Holy Spirit reveals the way to us and we have access to supernatural power to help us build. Letting the Lord be the builder doesn’t mean we can only build churches and ministries. There are plenty of ministries that are more about building their own name, than the name of Christ. There are also some amazing businesses that are more concerned with God’s plans than their profits! Letting God be the builder of our health doesn’t mean we can’t be dedicated to exercise and eating right. It means that we don’t let it become more important than God. It means we should want to stay healthy in order to keep serving effectively and to treat the body God gave us with respect.

Letting God build our families, homes and relationships means that we guard ourselves from destructive habits and desires. We follow the plan of Colossians 3: 5-14 that tells us to put away earthly things like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, greed, wrath, malice, slander, filthy language and lies. We must also remember that when we remove negative or wrong habits from our life, we must replace them with positive or “right” habits to help the old ways not to creep back into our life. To do that, the Colossians passage encourages us to “put on” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness and love.

BUILDING PLAN STEP 3: We must not be divided.

Mark 3:25
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

God’s Word tells us that when there is division in what we’re building, it can’t last. It will not grow or be strong. We also learn in James 1:7 that someone who is double minded is unstable in all his ways. Have you ever had a decision to make? Two choices. Which one is best? Where would God want me? I remember a time when I was wondering which job to pursue. Both “good” jobs, both in ministry, still…my mind was weighing the pros and cons, focused on the details. I found myself so busy trying to figure out the future, that it stopped me from being in the present. A divided mind led to an inability to be effective or move forward. So what are we supposed to when we are in these circumstances? Try some PTO… no..not paid time off…(although that’s always nice!) Pray. Trust. Obey. Talk to God about it. Trust that He is going to show you the right direction, and when He does, follow it, Obey. This frees your mind to keep moving forward with what you are currently working on while waiting for His next step. Trying to figure it out on your own only leads to worry, fear, ineffective service and wasted time pursuing the wrong directions.

Matthew 6:24 tells us that no one can serve two masters.

Sometimes our minds are divided between right and wrong. We want to follow God’s plan, but we’re holding on to power, pride or selfish habits. We can be apathetic, not noticing we need to change or stubborn, not wanting to change. In this case our divided minds lead to further separation from God, making it more difficult to know the right direction to go.

When our homes, relationships, churches and ministries are divided, we stop progressing, even moving in reverse. Satan loves to create division among groups of people, destroying the potential God’s people have when they work together in unity. Divided, we fix our eyes on the problem. United, we fix our eyes on the solution…Jesus. Following one plan, we’re on the same side, working toward the same goal in God’s power. That’s when amazing things happen.  1 Corinthians 1:10 tells us that if we are united in the name of Jesus Christ, we will have the same convictions and beliefs which will lead to no divisions among us.

What are some practical ways we can build unity and guard against divisive behaviors?

Establish an identity. Know who you are and what you’re about. Write it down in a purpose statement that you can continue to look to as a guide. Start with the things that God says about you as a child of God. Defining this identity for your family, your church or ministry creates a sense of belonging. It gives you guidelines for making decisions and a common goal to work towards.

Don’t isolate yourself. Unity doesn’t work with one person. We need each other. On our own we are weaker. When we share our needs with each other, help each other, serve together and pray for one another, we become invested. We overcome weakness and through God’s never ending, never failing, unlimited power, we become strong. Life is difficult to navigate on your own. Even when God assigns a task to us, He may have another person that He wants to work with you. When God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, He gave Moses the job to speak to Pharoh. Moses felt inadequate for the job because of his speech. Although God could have given Moses the speaking ability, He allowed Aaron to go along with Moses and help.

BUILDING PLAN STEP 4: Fill the house with treasure

Proverbs 24:1-2 “A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.”

When God builds something, He doesn’t stop at functional. He doesn’t say that’ll do. They can get by. It will do the job. He chooses to make things flourish and grow. He adds beautiful embellishments and stunning surprises. He makes it strong, established and powerful. That is His desire for what He has you building too. It might not be easy, but it is good and worth the effort. If we follow His building plan, it will be wisely built. Because we understand God’s plan and follow Him, what we are building will be strong and established. When we build a relationship with God, talk with Him, spend time in His Word gaining more knowledge about Him, then what we are building will be filled with every precious and beautiful treasure. We will find purpose in serving our Lord as we wait for His return. We will find freedom and peace, confident in our steps, because He is directing our path.

LifeWay Encounters: Mr. Ambition – Faith Like A Child

Mr. Ambition – Faith Like A Child

I am fortunate to spend time ministering in a LifeWay Christian Store. I have found that when you follow God’s will and He places you somewhere where He is working, He allows you many opportunities to witness what He is doing, to be a part of what He is doing and to learn from each encounter. Here’s one of those stories…

An assertive little guy walked up to me and boldly asked “Where are your Bible studies?” Smiling at his adorable confidence for a kid his size, I replied “What kind of Bible study are you looking for?”  Glancing over at his mom, she added “one for his age group”. The boy quickly interjected “no… where are the adult ones? I’m growing up you know, I just turned double digits!” “Well, OK!” I answered “I admire your ambition! I’ll show where all the different options are and then you can choose what will work best for you.” I pointed out the location of the adult Bible studies, reference and commentaries. Then I showed him the “teen” section. This got his attention, sounding like something much more grown up and something that he could handle.

 Leaving him and his mom to explore their options, I quietly giggled to myself as I walked away. But that little guy made me think. That’s what the Bible means when it tells us to have faith like a child. He didn’t fear the big words or the difficult concepts. He was ready to know the BIG stuff, the DEEP stuff, the stuff WITHOUT PICTURES! He didn’t care about what others thought he could do or what society was telling him was right for him, He wanted more.

As we get older, life happens… experiences, distractions, mistakes and failures mix with worries, fear and obligations. All of sudden our confidence is shaken. We often neglect seeking the truth, wisdom and knowledge of the Bible because it’s hard to understand or we don’t really have time for that today. And guess what…we’re right! It IS hard to understand and time to read the Bible has to be made a priority or it’s NOT going to happen.

Studying God’s Word is more than we can handle when our confidence is misplaced. You must add faith. We need to put our confidence in God who will give us clarity of mind and His supernatural strength, wisdom and discernment. He will also give us the desire to know Him more.

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will help us to understand scripture.

1 John 2:27 (CSB)

27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, his anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in him.

John 14:26  (CSB)

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

So ask God to help you put away those thoughts that are keeping you from pursuing Christ. Ask God to strengthen and protect you from the enemy who is seeking to distract you and plant doubt in your mind. Trust the truth of God’s Word that tells us of the Holy Spirit’s power to teach us and to reveal the mysteries of Christ. Ask Him for the desire to pursue truth, to know Him more and to have faith like a child.

What does it mean to Shine Brightly?

Proverbs 13:9a “The light of the righteous shines brightly”

For me, “Shine Brightly” is the way I define a lifestyle. We exist in “this present age” but the Bible also speaks about “the age to come”. There is much more to life than we are experiencing in the here and now. (Praise the Lord!) Our God has a plan to redeem His creation and renew the heavens and earth to the perfection He intended “in the beginning” (Genesis 1).

For those who believe in God and receive Christ’s gift of salvation {click here to find out more about what that means} there is an eternal perfect life in the presence of God that is being prepared for us.

In fact, “this present age” and our lifespan is defined in James 4:14 as a mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Sometimes, we participate in things in life that it feels like will NEVER end.  A long day at work, a sickness or a really boring event that you have no choice, but to sit through!  Seriously…it feels like some sort of clock conspiracy that slows down time when you’re waiting for relief in some situations! In this verse, James is comparing the time we have in our life on earth to the time we will spend in eternity….and it can’t even compare. Our pastor stood on the platform one Sunday morning and squeezed the trigger on a water filled spray bottle. As a light mist of tiny water particles filled the air and quickly dissipated, he pointed to the vapor and said “that’s you!”  The Bible comparing our lives to something so fleeting and inconsequential brings a first impression of “well… then what’s the point? In the grand scheme of God’s great plan, I’m nothing.” Yet, it also teaches that the time spent here is full of purpose, a plan and YOU play an important role, if you’re willing.

God’s Word reveals many mysteries to us and one of those is instruction on how those who follow Christ should live as we wait for Him to return and take us into the next phase of His plan “the age to come” which will last for eternity! The Bible explains our purpose and empowers us to live it out.

1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.”

And then, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 tells us that “you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.”

God is light. As followers of Christ and as God’s creation, we belong to God. We are His children. Children of LIGHT. Light is intended to shine.

Proverbs 4:18 says “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.”

As we live each day, shining brightly means intentional pursuit of knowing God more and more, every minute of every day.

In Proverbs 4:18, we read that the light also shines brighter and brighter. As we learn about God and seek a relationship with Him, we become more and more like Him. Knowing Him clears the distractions, the sinful nature and allows His light to shine in us, more and more.

Think about the moon. When we gaze up into a dark night time sky, the beautiful soft glow of the moon illuminates the darkness. Does the moon have its own source of light? No…it’s just a giant, cold, hard sphere of rock. But when the sun is allowed to hit it, its true purpose is revealed. The surface is perfectly designed and perfectly placed to reflect the sun and bring light to darkness.

Just like the moon, we’re perfectly designed and perfectly placed to reflect the light of Christ. We naturally do not have light in us, but we reflect His light. It shines through us! He allows us to work with Him as messengers of His love to illuminate a dark world.

The darkness of this world can often be overwhelming, can’t it? The moon is sometimes darkened by the shadow of the earth, by storm clouds, by human air pollutions or artificial light. In the same way, the light of Christ is sometimes hidden because of shadows of the evil one, trials and storms of life and artificial claims of “light” that seem to be good. These disguises are merely results of a sinful world that seem like enough, but can never measure up to the true light. They only cause distraction and can actually prevent people from being able to see Christ.

Those who pursue evil AVOID God because the Bible tells us in John 3:20-21 that His light exposes their evil deeds. Those who do what is true move TOWARDS God, because the light reveals what God can accomplish for His glory!

The good news is, even though we can’t always see it, God is always there. The light does not go away. It does not change. The closer we grow to Christ, the clearer we are able to see Him. The shadowy things that block the light move away.

To Shine Brightly, you live life with the perspective that our current life situation is like a mist. Eternal life in the presence of God is the future hope and reality of where our time will be spent and our lives will be lived. The choices we make in “this present age” will affect how we spend that eternity. Our choices can also influence others for good and bad. So let’s take the challenge of Ephesians 5:8 and “live as children of light”.

Start by following Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” Above…where Christ has finished His work and is seated at the right hand of God. Above…where God promises to bring His children to live forever with Him. That’s where we’re going, so let’s live for that world and not this one.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will illuminate and overcome the darkness. He will focus your path and guide you in truth. He will help you do more than just survive our time in “this present age”. He’ll make you SHINE!