WEEK 24 | TOUCH THE HEART OF GOD

“Make a difference with your existence.” This is a thought rolling through my mind often these days. How can we make a difference for the Lord and for good? We all want our lives to count. We all want to be change agents and make a difference in the lives of others for the glory of God.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was reading Matthew 25:31-46. It’s a scripture that is well known to many. Jesus says “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, was sick and you took care of me…” and he goes on. The people asked, “When were you hungry and we fed you? When were you thirsty…?” You remember the story; Jesus says – and here is the clincher – “When you did this for the least of these, you did it to me.”

Did you know that you can literally TOUCH THE HEART OF GOD by showing God’s love in a practical way to someone in need? This is something we all need to pray about today. “God, help me see a need and meet it. Let me find a hurt and help heal it.” When we reach out to help someone in need — providing food, water, clothing, helping folks with the essentials of life, we are touching the heart of God. Jesus said specifically, “When you do this for others you are doing it to me.”

You might feel insignificant. Maybe you don’t feel like you matter or are making much of a difference. Let me encourage you today, you can touch the heart of the God of the universe by showing compassion to someone in need. (If you missed it, take a few moments to listen to my teaching on this from our Compassion First weekends).

Let’s all pray today that God will give us eyes to see and a heart to love precious people who need food, water, clothing, shelter, encouragement, etc. Pray – and then look for ways to help in a specific practical way.

WEEK 23 | THE BIG THREE

The “Sermon on the Mount”, as it is commonly referred to, is found in Matthew chapters 5-7 and is considered one of the greatest sermons ever preached. [As a side note, I believe it’s worth a regular read from every Christ-follower.] In the very center of this sermon (in chapter six), Jesus mentions three assumed practices of every Christ-follower. He refers to them as “religious acts” and says they are things every devoted Christ-follower does regularly: 

  • Pray
  • Fast
  • Give to the Poor 

It is interesting to me that of all the things Jesus could have included along with prayer and fasting (like the regular study of the Bible, the sharing of your faith story, walking humbly, etc.), He says “Give to the Poor.” Obviously, this is something very important to the heart of Jesus. Scripture is packed with admonition to care for the poor, needy, disenfranchised, forgotten, and hurting (Leviticus 19:9-10, Proverbs 31:8,9, Luke 4:17-19, to name a few). Jesus’ call to us is to “act” on behalf of the needy. One of the constant “religious acts” we, as Christ-followers, need to be engaged in is giving to the poor and needy.

Let me encourage us all to pray for obedience in “walking out our faith” in action (righteous acts) by giving regularly to the poor. Would you also pray for the Bethany Compassion Center? Our church just purchased a new building downtown to house our growing compassion ministries. Pray that the 22 ongoing compassion ministries — and soon to be 30 — will make a growing difference in the lives of precious people who feel down and out. Pray that all of us as individuals and collectively as a church can offer more people a hand up (and not just a hand out). Pray for the poor. Pray for people in need. Pray for those needing help and encouragement. And pray that your heart conforms to God’s— a heart that cares for and gives to the poor.

WEEK 22 | FIGHTING FAIR

Conflict is as old as humanity itself. And, like it or not, it’s a part of every marriage, family, and relationship in our lives. But conflict does not have to be destructive; it can actually be constructive. If done biblically, it can lead to a better place, to mutual understanding, and, ultimately, to growth.

Here are 10 rules for “fighting fair” from Ephesians chapters 4 & 5:

  1.  Be a peacemaker | CH 4, VS 1
  2. Understand their point of view | CH 4, VS 2
  3. Find common ground | CH 4, VS 3
  4. Be caring and constructive throughout the process | CH 4, VS 23-24
  5. Be truthful, don’t exaggerate | CH 4, VS 25
  6. Address conflict quickly | CH 4, VS 26-27
  7. No name calling or put downs; put others first | CH 4, VS 29
  8. Guard your heart and mind | CH 4, VS 31
  9. Be kind, compassionate and forgiving | CH 4, VS 32
  10. Emulate Christ’s love | CH 5, VS 1-2

Let’s pray that the Lord directs us and helps us to handle conflict His way – and not our own.

WEEK 21 | ATTITUDES FOR HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Loving God and loving people are our two greatest callings in life. Doing relationships well is not always easy. We need to pray for these 4 attitudes to be guiding principles on how we do relationships and life. Paul describes these 4 to us in Col 3:1-17:

1.  Set Anchor (vss. 1,2) — He says to set our hearts and minds on things above. Anchoring our hearts and minds in Jesus and praying that we live like Him and love like Him is vital. Pray for His love to flow in you and through you toward others.

2.  Remove Toxins (vss. 5,8) — Getting rid of things that poison our hearts and relationships like anger, rage, and hurtful language is a must. Pray for God to purify your heart and mind of these things.

3.  Choose Virtue (vss. 12,13) — Choosing to live and relate in a virtuous way is being like Christ. Praying for compassion and kindness and gentleness to be seen in us and felt by those around us is a primary prayer to pray if we want strong relationships.

4.  Practice Peace (vs. 15) — Pray that you become a peacemaker and a bridge builder. It is not always natural, but it is what we have been called to be and do.

These four attitudes and corresponding prayers will build strong relationships with those around you, and that’s something we can all benefit from!

WEEK 20 | C.A.R.E.

When I study the relational engagements of Christ I find a reoccurring pattern. Whether it is the woman at the well in John 4, Peter in Mark 16:7, Zacchaeus in Luke 19, or the woman in John 8, Jesus consistently relates to others using what I would call his C.A.R.E. plan. If you look closely, He is always showing that He cares by reaching out to others with Compassion, Awareness, Respect, and Encouragement. I wonder what would happen to the quality of our relationships if we would do the same. Marriages would strengthen, parent/child relationships would deepen, relationships at work and school and in our community would get better.

Pray each day that God will help you relate to others with greater care and compassion, increased awareness of where they are and what they are going through, deeper respect for every person as someone who has been created in the image of God and deserves to be treated with utmost value and dignity, and sincere encouragement as we seek to build others up.

WEEK 19 | COMPASSION

This past Sunday our church family voted overwhelmingly to purchase a new building downtown to expand our work of compassion in our city and county. Jesus has called us to be people of compassion. He said, “They will know you are my disciples if you love.” Jesus himself saw people in need and “had compassion” on them.

To be like Jesus, we need to be people of compassion. And this is a prayer we need to pray everyday. “God help me be more compassionate. May your love flow through me to those around me and to those in need.” May we grow in heartfelt compassion and find practical ways to truly care for others. We’ve heard it said over and over but it’s true, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Amen.

WEEK 18 | PRIORITY

To every loving parent and grandparent, there is nothing more important in this world than our kids. It was true in Bible days, too. God challenged the Israelites to take the parenting and training of their children seriously. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 He says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” In other words, raise your children and train them to know the ways of God and the Word of God.

As you pray for your kids every day, pray also for yourself. Pray that God will allow your influence, mentorship, and training to be deliberate and effective. Ask God to help you do this vital work well. Ask Him to help your words and actions bring clarity to God’s Word and the behavior He desires from all of His children. To a large extent, children will be what they see. And before they can be, they need to see. Let’s all pray that our children will hear from us and see in us what God intends for all of us. Amen.

WEEK 17 | NEVER FORGET

As we come off an epic Easter weekend, there is one prayer that I remind myself I want to continuously pray. It is inspired by the words in I Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” May we always remember and never forget what Christ has done for us. Jesus, the Righteous One, died for us, the unrighteous. He didn’t have to but did so out of love. Jesus demonstrated His amazing love and devotion by sacrificing His life for you and for me.

May we always remember and never forget to thank Him for what He has done for us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus we have forgiveness of sins in this life and the promise of everlasting life in Heaven. “Lord, thank you for enduring the Cross and paying for our sins. You did not sin, we did. Yet You took our place. And because You did we can be forgiven and one day live forever in Heaven with You. Thank You, Jesus. We owe You our everything. Amen.”

WEEK 16 | VICTORY THROUGH CHRIST

In I Corinthians 15:53-56, Paul states:  “…Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage is deeply meaningful always – but especially at Easter. It’s a tremendous scripture to inspire and help guide our prayers. Not only do we pray this as a prayer of thanksgiving, expressing gratitude for Christ’s love, sacrificial death, and resurrection, but it’s also a powerful prayer of affirmation. Praying this prayer allows us to say to God, “Because You rose from the dead and live, I will one day rise and live with You forever!” I’m not sure there is a more powerful prayer that builds our faith, praising Christ for His resurrection power while at the same time praising Him for offering us eternal life.

This Easter, take some time to memorize these verses…and also pray them. Offer prayers of praise and allow your faith to grow as you reaffirm that because Jesus rose from the grave, we one day will also rise. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Amen!

WEEK 15 | GOD WILL MEET MY NEEDS

Paul’s tremendous encouragement in Philippians 4:19 is also the basis of a great prayer to pray. Most of us probably pray this prayer on a regular basis. Paul affirmed confidently: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Throughout Scripture, the Lord encourages us to:

·       Tell Him our needs.

·       Trust Him with our concerns.

·       Turn to Him with our problems.

What challenges do you face today? Tell Him. What burdens are you carrying? Trust Him with them. What problems are weighing you down? Turn to Him and ask Him to help you. He will.

There are many times in life when our own will power falls short. Those are the times we can’t rely on our power or will power…but need to trust in His power. Tell Him. Trust Him. Turn to Him. Do it today. Do it now. He cares and has the power to strengthen you and provide for you.