Changing my Prayer Life in 2017

15107323_10207710166489078_3643624586075291204_nAs little ones, my sister and I didn’t always get along very well. We were often at each other’s throats or trying to get the other one in trouble with our parents to avoid our own punishment. There were a few times, however, that we attempted to save the other from impending punishment.

I remember sitting at our bedroom door one day. I stuck my finger under the door telling my dad over and over again that she “didn’t do” what ever it was. I knew she was guilty, but that I didn’t want her to face punishment. I wanted her to be shown the grace I might want in that moment.

While my sister and I are beyond the years of parental punishment–well almost for her–my memories of our childhood reminds me of the way we are called to intercede for our brothers and sisters in Christ. You see, I understood that my sister and I shared a bond no one else in this world could hold. At that point, I stopped having a selfish desire to see her ‘get what she deserved’ and began desiring that both of us would not only be shown grace in punishment but that we would learn from that grace. The more I mature, not in age but in Christ, the more I realize that these are feelings I should hold not only for my sister by blood but my siblings by the blood.

My greatest weakness in my prayer life is neglecting to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I tend to get distracted by my own needs or desires, I grow lazy in remembering what people ask for prayer for, and when I’m feeling really sinful, I purposefully neglect to pray for a brother or sister who has hurt me.

This year, I want to use 1 Thessalonians 3 to get me out of these habits.

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Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 ESV

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Pray we might be together.

As believers, our first desire should be to be with one another. Think about it. If the Holy Spirit lives within a child of God, spending time around them is one way we can draw close to Him. Had He only intended for our relationship with him to be vertical, the New Testament would be completely different. Each book commands us to love one another, to admonish one another in times of weakness, and to encourage one another in times of plenty.

Pray that wherever we go, The Lord provides us with another person who 15780787_10210184407759670_7988233942918268169_nearnestly loves Him. My very favorite thing about being married is just that: having someone around all the time who loves Jesus even more than I do. I want that everywhere. I want not to neglect to surround myself with unbelievers I can share with, but rather, to have someone whom I can partner with in my sharing.

Pray for increased love for one another.

Intentionally loving believers can be hard. I will be the first to admit that I struggle with it. It’s like I get in my head that when a believer’s sin affects, I should take it personally. They should be better than that, right?

While I am absolutely called to hold brother and sisters in Christ accountable, harboring resentment cannot be an option. Ever. Daily, we need to pray that our love for one another is increasing. We must remember that the battles between humans are not battles of the flesh, but rather, they are battles of the spirit, seeking to tear down the Kingdom of God.

Pray for grace.

fullsizerender-8When Jesus hung upon the cross, He pleaded with His Father to forgive the people who were hurting Him, spitting in His face, making a mockery out of His ministry. Although He–as God Himself–had every right to ensure they would be cursed for eternity, He chose to pray for grace.

If Jesus prayed this for enemies of God, should we not pray it all the more for His Children? If I see a brother or sister falling, my first response should not be to go submit it as a (gossip) prayer request. It should be to fall on my knees and pray that God will show the grace of displaying their sin to them that they and myself might be able to advance to the next degree of glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Is that not how we would want someone to respond to our shortcomings?

Pray for Jesus’ coming.

Right now I am listening to the words, “We sing hallelujah, we sing hallelujah, we sing hallelujah, The Lamb has overcome” play over and over again. My friends, if Jesus lives within you, if you have submitted your life to Him and Him alone, we will FOREVER sing hallelujah at His feet by one another’s side. Tears are welling up in my eyes at the thought that my Papa is up there right now singing. My friend Clay has His hands raised toward my sweet Jesus. My Nana has been rid of her mental illness and is worshiping her creator. My best friend’s dad, Jeff, and my family friend Ben are both cured of the cancer that ripped them away from their families and they singing to their Father. I could go on and on and on of the joy that is going on right now at the feet of Jesus. We get to be part of that one day brothers and sisters.

Above everything, let us desire for the day when every one of His children spend eternity in worship. This year, let’s pray earnestly for His coming. Here is the coolest part of that prayer. We know that He will not come back until every nation and tongue has heard His name; therefore, an earnest desire for His return is synonymous with the eager sharing of His name.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-1-36-01-pmHe could come back this year. He could wait fifty or one-hundred years. Our desire has to be the same either way.

This year, let’s join in praying for one another earnestly. Let’s not only pray for our own needs, but the spiritual needs of the friends and family who will spend eternity by our sides. Let’s pray for those who don’t know Him yet, that they may soon be our brothers and sisters. Let’s reframe the way we look at and pray for one another. We are not just people who happen to hold the same beliefs. We are held by the same Father.

What Not to Fall for in 2017

*Sigh* It’s all over. The Christmas lights, the carols, the loads of fattening, sugary food baking in the oven.

So this week, we prepare to clean it all up, and do it again. For some 2016 has been a year

15056426_10207710310132669_6021725445859371_n
This photo classifies my year. A clear photo of my new husband with my grandfather fading in the background. I love both of these men so dearly. 

of great shock. For many, it has been a year of celebration. We have celebrated new little lives entering our world, we have celebrated unions of marriage, we have celebrated love, engagement, new jobs, and so much more. Simultaneously many have lost loved ones, marriages have crumbled, financial situations have torn relationships apart. We scratched and clawed at one another in light of the election. We watched many burn and die as a result of terrorism–terrorism by those that look like us and those that don’t alike. My 2016 was classified by the loss of my grandfather and my union of marriage. It has been a year of roller coasters with high highs and low lows.

 

No matter what 2016 held for any of us, we are all looking for the same thing in 2017: hope.

As we dive back in to 1 Thessalonians, let us remember that our search for hope can begin and end in one place. Paul and Timothy brought that hope to the people of Thessalonica, but not without specifying the type of Gospel that is truth.

In turn, we find out the type of gospel we should avoid. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:3-8 with me.

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For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-8 ESV

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Let’s start my classifying different kinds of “gospels.” You see, there is The Gospel, and there is the word gospel. The word gospel in its origins means good news or story. It can also be defined as “something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine” according to Webster’s. The Gospel refers to the truth of Jesus Christ’s coming to save the world. (You can read more about that in last week’s blog post!)

But my good news that is the guiding principle of my life could really be anything if you think about it. I could base my life upon social justice along. I could base my life on my relationship with Austin. I could even base my life on fulfilling my own happiness. But what is the end result of those things? Are they really infallible truths? Or are they based on certain situations and scenarios?

My challenge for us in 2017 is to leave our earthly ‘gospels’ in 2016. Paul is clear. If our gospels fall under the following categories, they are not The Gospel.

  • There is an attempt to deceive
  • It is pleasing to human beings
  • It is brought with words of flattery
  • It harbors a pretext of greed
  • It seeks glory from people
  • It is not gentle

Friends, if our gospel or even your view of Jesus is that He might only make us happy, we have got it all wrong. Please avoid these false gospels. They promise us that if we do screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-10-52-27-amcertain things, we can have all our hearts’ desires. They affirm our sinful nature. They tell us that we are good enough the way we are and we don’t need any kind of ‘saving’. They seek to be the biggest and best thing. They declare that if you give your life to them, you will have power, prosperity, and pleasure. They fight for you. They are brought by the enemy.

Let us leave our desire to “have our best life now” in 2016. Rather, let us desire to give God glory now no matter our earthly situation. Let us remember that He is so affectionately desirous of us that He would send us His Son to live a lowly life free of glamor and ease. Let us remember that we are in no way promised comfort. In fact, we are promised that it will be hard to live for Him. But it will be the most fulfilling thing we could possibly imagine. He will give us all that we need. He will take away our constant desire for the next thing.

In some cases, he may give us that next thing. But it will be so that we can use it for His glory alonefullsizerender-4

This year I plan to leave my desire to be well known in 2016. I plan to leave any resentment I harbor toward people here. I plan to dwell on the fact that even if I don’t get my dream job post-college, God is good. He has something better even if I can’t see that better right now. I plan to lean on Him and only Him to move forward in Hope.

Will you lean into Him with me this year? Will you share the love you have been granted with others boldly and lovingly? In 2017 I plan to recognize that without Him, planning is as far as we will get. He is the one who will help us do.

Running a Race of Affliction

One of my favorite stress relievers is running.

It started because I didn’t want my parents to out-do me in their athleticism (although the very quickly did) and now is just something I love to do to release endorphins and forget the worries of the world.

I often do my running on a treadmill, but let me tell you. There is nothing like running in a race. It is often unpredictable. It is sometimes windy, sometiems cold. I never win, but I love trying to keep up with those around me.

I love looking ahead at someone who is better at this than I am and running to keep up with them. They are ahead because they have trained and eaten well and taken care ofScreen Shot 2016-11-21 at 12.13.43 PM.png their bodies. They have disciplined themselves. It is also very likely that they have imitated someone else in doing so. Whether they knew someone to imitate or read an autobiography. They may even follow someone on instagram who can be imitated. Whatever way, humans love to do as others do and walk as others walk. In sport, in habit, in life.

I am reminded of that metaphor as I read the following passage from 1 Thessalonians:

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For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, , so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 ESV

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As I run this spirtiual race I am living our here, I find it easy to become an imitator here too. Sometimes I imitate Jesus and sometimes I imitate those who are on the side of the road taking a break. Sometimes I see someone who is doing it right and through their witness fall back into the race He has set before me. I know this for certain: He has made it possible for me to finish strong by giving me himself and others. So. Let’s do this four things together.

  1. Let’s not take the credit
  2. Let’s imitate the one who can take the credit.
  3. Let’s become the imitated.
  4. Let’s embrace afliction.

We will face wind and rain on this journey, but He is the one who beckons us further. He knows that those storms make us stronger runners and better witnesses for His Kingdom.

Let’s not take the credit.

I love how Paul makes it very clear who deserves the credit for salvation. We so often like to gloss over this when we speak of salvific experiences we encounter to make ourselves seem more “holy”. Whether we are telling a story about how we shared the Gospel and forget to mention how the Holy Spirit moved or even tell someone about how hard we have worked to avoid sin and sanctify ourselves, no part of salvation is possible without the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

Paul could have begun this passage by praising himself for the Thessalonians’ salvation to ensure them that he knows what he is talking about. Yet he immediately reminds all of us that the gospel comes by spirit–with the help of human word–but not by human word.

Did Paul play a part in the gospel getting to the Thessalonians? Absolutely. His obedience was used by Jesus as a vehicle for his word. But that is only made possible by the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for us? It means that as we tell stories of our own obedience–which we should–we remember that every amount of obedience we bestow is not by our own power, but the power of the Holy Spirit. We remember that He is the beginning and end of our decisions, our obedience, our strength. The Holy Spirit is the one God has given us to convict our hearts and steer our lives toward His being.

Let’s imitate the one who can take the credit.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-15-32-pm
1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul then makes a statement that, if read without context, might come across as arrogant. He explains, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” When we are taught humility, we sometimes conceptualize it as never speaking a positive word about ourselves.

But does that ideology not belittle God’s ability to transform our lives for the good of His Kingdom?

We are not perfect by any means. We are broken and afflicted and dirty. Yet if we have indeed been bought by the blood of Jesus, we have also been made into children and our sins have been washed white.

Paul is demonstrating this beautiful ripple effect that was created by the coming of Jesus. You see, he was an imitator of Christ. He was not a perfect picture of Christ, but he did what he could to exemplify Jesus’s being while he witnessed here on earth. Because of His witness, people were then able to imitate him in order to imitate Jesus. And we can do the same.

Let’s become the imitated.

Finally, friends, We are given the ability to imitate Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When we do that, God can use us to be examples to others. That means, although he does not need us to fulfill his plans, we get to be a part of it. We get to chase after him in the race we are running on this earth. Although we are hundreds of generations behind His foot steps on earth’s dirt, we still get to linger in Him and love on people in His name. We get to live a life that enhances His Kingdom.

Will we fall? Yes. Will be be perfect imitators? Not even close. But He is in control of that. He has the ability and the power to erase our wrongs and build a solid witness out of the brokenness in which we approach Him. All we can do is fall on our faces before Him and give Him our lives to do what He pleases.

Let’s embrace affliction.

This one is hard for me to write today, but easier than it would have been last week. Myimg_7098 month has been filled with watching a man I love so much suffer, holding his hand as he breathed his last breath, remembering the hardships he endured his last years on this earth, standing with my family as they mourned their own loss, and putting one foot in front of another from day-to-day.

It would be easy for me to be mad at God. In fact, I am sometimes. It would be almost comforting to blame Him for the fact that my Grandfather was basically at the mercy of those around him for the last three years of his life due to blindness. It would seemingly give my lack of understanding  some kind of value.

It would also fail to provide me the peace that I know my Papa had in his time of suffering.

Paul affirms the Thessalonians in their affliction because that is part of being a follower of Christ. If you have ever been told that everything is going to be sunshine and daisies if you accept Jesus as your Savior, put that thought out! We are not promised continual bliss. We are promised hardship. We are promised that the world will look down upon us. We are promised that we will endure suffering and pain for the furthering of His Kingdom. And when we are dealt that hand, praise Him for it. Praise him that my Grandfather got to build His kingdom in the last three years of his life even if he could not see what that kingdom looked like. Praise Him that He uses believers who are will ing to risk their lives to bring the Gospel to places ridden with persecution and suffering. Praise Him that we are given a taste of eternity through our endurances.

I do not like enduring things that hurt. But I do know that there is hope within and beyond those hardships. Let us give Him the credit for the glory that will come. Let us imitate Him in His perfect sacrifice. Let us become a follower of Jesus that can be imitated for HIS glory. Let us embrace the race set before us though it may include toils and snares for we know that in His perfect power, He has already written the end of the story.

Let us join. Let us be part of it.