Think less and pray more. Pt. 3

prayer7

The last two posts I’ve been processing this passage out of Philippians 4. It is a command from scripture that I’m really trying to apply in my life. I genuinely believe that it is the key to us living in peace.

One of the challenges that I have in seeking to obey God in this way is not knowing what to ask him. Do you ever feel like that? To be honest, a lot of times I don’t feel like my requests are very spiritual. They don’t really seem to be all that worthy of prayer. I know that God cares about how we feel and what we think, but it’s hard for me to pray sometimes for the silly stuff that I’m thinking about.

Another challenge I have in applying this passage is feeling like some things are worth being anxious about. I know this is stupid, but sometimes I feel like I should be anxious. I find myself trying to rationalize anxiety in certain situations. As miserable of a feeling as it is, I find myself strangely addicted to it. There is a feeling of control that goes along with it and sometimes I like that feeling. It feels safe and manageable.

I read a book a while back where the author describes a certain practice of Eskimos when it comes to killing wolves. An Eskimo will kill an animal and then dip a knife in the animal’s blood. He will then freeze the knife, creating a blood popsicle. He’ll then put the blood popsicle outside and wait for the wolf. The wolf will start licking this thing because of the irresistible taste and smell. The wolf will gradually start to cut his tongue on the knife, but he’ll just keep licking away because of the taste. Eventually, the wolf’s tongue is shredded and he will bleed to death because of this.

This is how it works when it comes to anxiety. We choose to worry and fret because of the feelings of safety and control. Our physical and emotional well-being suffers more and more, but we just keep licking away. We must learn how to live in peace and this passage gives us that open door.

Think less and pray more. Pt. 2

prayer7

As I referenced in my last post, Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

As I’ve sought to obey this passage, I want to be transparent about the roadblocks I’ve been hitting for the sake of creating conversation. One challenge I’ve had with applying this text is related to trusting God. I would rather think about my issues than pray about them because I still struggle to believe, at times, that God has my best interest at heart.

I know in my head that he does, but my heart doesn’t always believe it. When I begin to pray about an issue, it exercises a trust muscle that is still quite out of shape. By the simple act of praying, my spirit is saying to God that I trust him more than I trust myself. I would like to say that this is a no-brainer, but this is a battle for me.

Do we legitimately believe that God has our best interest at heart? Do we believe that he knows what is best for us even more than we do? If we actually believe this stuff, prayer  ought to be relatively easy for us. I mean, why wouldn’t we take all our cares and concerns to an all-powerful and all-knowing God who loves us dearly? It doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t, unless we have some underlying trust issues that are stuffing our would-be prayers back in our faces.

I have found over the years, that the first step to recovery is usually recognition. What kind of barriers do you hit when you pray? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Think less and pray more

prayer7

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

At first glance, this passage seems ridiculously hard to me. Don’t be anxious about anything? Clearly Paul didn’t live in a society like ours. Clearly Paul never had caffeine. Sure, this sounds like a nice way to live, but is it realistic?

When it comes to reading and applying the Bible, I felt like I had to grapple with some underlying presuppositions. If I really believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then I have to believe that the commands in it are there for a reason. What kind of parent would ask their kids to obey certain rules that they physically couldn’t achieve? On the other hand, if the Bible is just some overly idealistic book with some cool quotes, then we’re all off the hook.

I personally believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God which means that I have to take even a passage like this seriously. In this passage the Holy Spirit is saying, through Paul, that there is a way to live without any anxiety. If we will diligently cultivate a relationship with God where prayer is an ongoing and growing discipline, God is saying that he will guard our hearts and minds with his peace.

I’ve been trying to apply this recently and it has been challenging. I think about my problems way more than I pray about them. This shows me that I still obviously believe that I’m more capable of handling my life than God is. I’m slowing trying to tip the scales in the other direction. I want my life to match what I believe.

What about you? Do you think about your problems more than you pray about them? What would it look like for you to take this scripture seriously?

“A rolling stone gathers no moss”

rolling stone

I’m sure you guys have heard the expression before, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” I have found this principle to have some great truth to it. Many people suffer from the paralysis that comes from over-analysis. They analyze decisions and ideas to death and in so doing, they talk themselves out of doing things that would bring life to them and to others.

I could probably stand to analyze a little more, but I’m definitely of the opinion that it’s best to just dive in. If I have an idea that sounds like it could benefit me or others, I love embarking on new journeys into uncharted territory. I don’t mind being bad at something when I start because I know that I’ll get better as I go. I’ve heard it said before that “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” I love hanging around people that are better than me and smarter than me. It just challenges me to step up my game.

Are there ideas in you that you need to implement? Is there an organization you need to start or a book you need to write? It may be cliche to say, but I truly believe that it will be the risks that we didn’t take that we’ll regret at the end of our lives. I want to be able to look back and say that I gave it everything I had.

That’s why I like the idea that a rolling stone gathers no moss. I try to keep moving. I like to try different ideas. They may not all be brilliant and they may not all work, but some of them will. I don’t allow failure or discouragement to slow me down. I keep rolling. Where do you need to stop standing on the ledge and just jump in? The water may be cold, but I bet it’ll be exhilarating. Each of our lives will be a story that we’ll tell someday. The question is…what kind of story will it be? We get to decide.

My Savior

savior

I remember a quote I heard by Mark Batterson that said, “Everyone wants a miracle, but nobody wants to be  in a place to receive one.” So true. Some of the greatest miracles I’ve ever heard of happened to people who were in some of the worst situations.

Because of a lot of reasons, the idea of being “saved” by God has become extremely diluted if not irrelevant. I still however, see Jesus as my Savior. You never know how much you trust a knot until it’s the only thing that keeps you from plummeting to the ground.

I don’t like being saved in general. Not by people or by God. I want to be the self-sufficient guy. I want to be the guy that can pull himself up by his bootstraps and doesn’t need anybody. What a lie. That’s not me at all and if you’re honest, that’s not you either.

There have been a ton of situations where I was drowning on the inside. Times I just could not get it together and wasn’t able to get my feet on solid ground. In those times, it didn’t matter what degrees I had. It didn’t matter what books I’ve read and what success I’ve achieved. I was just a man who needed a Savior.

Jesus has come through for me every time. I try to act a lot of times like I don’t desperately need him, but I do. I need him every single moment of every day. I need him to be the husband I’m called to be and the dad I need to be for my kids. I need him to fulfill my call to ministry and everything in between. I would be absolutely nothing without him.

I don’t know if I’ve made that clear on this blog before, but you need to know that about me. This isn’t about some fake humility…it’s just the truth. Anything good you see in me is a gift from my Savior. He’s my strength….my peace….my power….my reason for living. He’ll be that for you also, if you let him. 

Christianity without Christ

I’ve noticed a trend in my own faith journey that some of you may be able to relate to. We can fill our schedules with all kinds of religious activity. Prayer, Bible study, devotionals, small group meetings and the list goes on and on. We can check these items off the list and for a while, it feels like we’re doing a really good job at being a Christian.

But then somehow we’re reminded that this whole deal is supposed to be about a relationship with Christ, and that throws a wrench into our operation. We have to admit that in the midst of all our dutiful “Christian” activity, we can’t honestly say we have a relationship with Christ. Not to be cliche, but this is pretty much what it means to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Jesus’ words to some of the religious leaders of his day strike a little too close to home….

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

So how do we respond? It may be time to set aside some of the complexities and mechanisms behind our religion and get back to basics. When was the last time you had some solid one on one time with God? No agenda….no formula….no template for your prayers. Just you and him and the time to actually go deep. The thing about relationships is that they’re messy. It’s not easy to quantify how well we’re doing through that lens.  The performance oriented side of us can’t stand this messiness. But how sad it would be to get to the end of our lives and realize that we had a Christianity without Christ.

It’s not a truth to be understood…

So this morning I woke up and I didn’t feel great. I felt a heightened level of anxiety and no really clear reason as to why. My team and I are in the mountains on a staff retreat so I decided to take advantage of the time margin.

There is a river just down the road so….I decided to go down to the river to pray (-; (O brother, where art thou reference). I started throwing my problems, as I perceived them, out to God. I was hoping for a brilliant stroke of insight or a scripture reminder that would explain everything. I didn’t get anything like that.

What I did get however, was a profound sense of peace that just washed over me. I didn’t seem to have any questions after that. Not one. I just felt ready to go back to the cabin. What I realized is that Jesus is not a truth to be understood, he is a reality to be experienced.

I have some bad news for you….your questions may never get answered. The burning questions on your mind may never get resolved this side of heaven. To be honest though, I don’t know that it would matter if they did. There will always be another question.

The only way to find peace is to take your questions to God. To throw yourself into his presence and wait. Wait for him to do what only he can do. Wait for him to show up. If you’re like me, you start to wonder how it would feel if he didn’t. The fear….the depression….the sense of being alone. But then….what if he does show up? Only one way to find out.

 

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