Teach us to pray


Someone shared this cartoon with me recently. After the initial chuckle I began to think about our strange prayer habits – our tendency to think that more words are better and that ‘holy terminology’ is necessary.

 

Even the disciples struggled with prayer:

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

Luke 11v1
 

We don’t need to wow God with our eloquence. Jesus downplayed the importance of words.

“…do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Matthew 6v7

 

Simple worlds like ‘just’ can also be damaging to our prayer life. We need to ensure that our language does not limit what God can do. Andrew Murray* put it so well when he said this: “Beware in your prayers above everything else of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but of fancying that you know what He can do.”

 

“Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.””

Mark 10.27

 

The disciples needed prayer guidance and were not afraid to ask for it. Jesus did not give them a lecture on prayer but instead gave them a simple and portable example. Don’t be afraid to ask for help too. Let our prayers become heartfelt conversations with God that punctuate our day.

 

*the South African writer and pastor, not the tennis player!

Consistent ‘Christ-like’ Character

One of the greatest challenges for a Christian is to live consistently… to show the kind of character God’s Word exhorts us to adopt as we place our trust in him. When we are acutely aware of others watching we can often rise to the challenge of demonstrating the kind of character that is encouraged of Christ followers. But what about when no one is watching, or when we are no longer under the spotlight, or when we face pressure? It is said:

True character is revealed by what we do when no when no one is watching.

 In Genesis 24:12-27, the story of Rebekah provides a wonderful example of what consistent character looks like. Abraham’s servant is sent back to his native land to find a wife for Isaac. The servant, trusting in the Lord’s leading, commences his search by a spring where he soon encounters Rebekah. Unaware of the servant’s keen observation and intentions, she approaches him with humility, servant-heartedness and kindness. It is only later that Rebekah understands who the servant is and the mission he has undertaken. Without agenda or the knowledge that she was under the spotlight, Rebekah demonstrates real character.

When Gladys Staines’ husband and two sons were brutally killed in North India outside their church where they served as missionaries, many expected her to leave and put the place and the people behind her. However, she quietly continued to serve intent on living as Christ had taught. Many from Hindu communities came to witness a consistent character modelled on Christ and were drawn to Him.

If we are called to be a light that shines brightly before others then we need to acknowledge the importance of living consistently, not just when we feel the spotlight is upon us or when the way ahead is free from tribulations. A consistent character modelled on Christ can have a huge impact on the silent observers we pass by in life’s journey… it can ultimately be God’s chosen tool for bringing others unto himself.

Words of Affirmation

At a conference recently I was reminded of the ‘5 Love Languages’ principle. The one that always stands out to me is “words of affirmation” – speaking positive, encouraging words to others. The reason this one seems to pop out at me is probably because I am not very good at it, in fact I find it pretty difficult!

“He who brings an offering of praise and thanksgiving honours and glorifies me…”

Psalm 50:23

The Psalms contain numerous reminders to use our lips to glorify God by offering praise and worship to him but we can also glorify God by speaking positive, encouraging words to one another.

This has been a challenge to me to daily dedicate my lips to God so that my words will be pleasing to him, offering praise and worship and also bringing joy to others. Let’s intentionally use words of affirmation, strengthening our relationships and pointing people to God.

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise

Psalm 52:15

* 5 Love Languages is a great book by Gary Chapman, I encourage you all to read it or at least check out the website www.5lovelanguages.com

Carried to Completion

There is a building I pass each week that stands half finished. The site is empty and fast becoming derelict. One can only wonder… have the resources run dry, has interest waned or has desire departed to see the project through to completion?

Life so often reflects the building site: Resources are redirected, relationships run their course, possessions lose their usefulness, and projects are subject to whim. We live in a disposable society. So where is our certainty?

Paul, in writing to the Church in Philippi, reminds them that in Jesus, the work that was started in them will be carried through to completion. God does not lose interest, his resources are limitless, we are as children to Him and His desire is for us to know him as Father. In a life filled with uncertainty, scripture gives us our assurance:

A faithfulness that will never be removed
A life that will never end
A spring of water that will never run dry
A gift that will never be lost
A hand from which we will never be snatched A chain that will never be broken
A love from which we can never be separated A calling that will never be revoked
A foundation that will never be destroyed An inheritance that will never fade out

God is our certainty.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Faithfulness Endures

As I write this, I find myself sitting in my room at Moorlands College having completed another full day of lectures, my first full day looking at the history and formation of the church. Our lecturer for the week seemed all too aware that, for many, the prospect of eight hours worth lectures each day on the subject of history may be a somewhat off-putting proposition.

In order to challenge any sense of apathy towards the subject the lecturer asked us to consider the question, ‘Why study Church History?’ The answers provided a real sense of imperative towards the coming day’s study: Beyond simply knowing where we have been, the reviewing of almost 2000 years of church history paints an incredibly vivid picture of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations.

History, much like our own lives, is demarcated with noticeable highs and lows, yet the one constant remains the evidence of a faithful God: A God who has sustained, a God who has enabled, a God who has prevailed and a God who has inspired many.

We ourselves are encouraged to look back over our lives and trace the way God has been with us. The purpose of this task is not that we remain in a state of nostalgia, but that we might ourselves be emboldened to look ahead and live lives that honour and glorify an ever faithful God. As we understand our foundation we are encouraged to keep moving forward and recognise that we, each one of us, have been invited into this unfolding story of love through the grace revealed in Jesus Christ. We each become a living stone in the history of the church. Our lives become part of a story that reveals the never ceasing faithfulness of God


Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.

Psalm 119:90

…and Breathe!

It has been a very busy few months. December for us didn’t just contain Christmas with all it’s usual festivities but a wedding anniversary and a first birthday too!

We hit the ground running in January, back to work and Moorlands for Jonathan, and things haven’t really quietened down since then. We are, however, loving our new role and all that brings with it but that didn’t mean that finding this new blog from Danielle Strickland this morning wasn’t well timed!

I particularly like this bit; “…simply pay attention to your breath. When you inhale you connect with God’s spirit and ask Him to fill you. When you exhale you release the things inside of you that don’t belong (fear, worry, self, wrongs, failures, shortcomings, pride).” We must take time to just breathe!

Take a look at the full blog entry here:

http://www.daniellestrickland.com/2015/01/18/breathe-deep/

Anticipation to Joy

Having started our role as Pastors of Rosemary Lane Chapel we find ourselves in the position of approaching Christmas with the usual sense of excitement. But there was a question hanging over my head. If we now find ourselves, as we do, with a responsibility for ministry and sharing the Gospel message, is it not about time I ditched my child-like-excitement for Christmas and approach the birth of my Saviour with a bit more decorum? Sorry, not going to happen! I’m excited because, fundamentally, the anticipation of Jesus and therefore Christmas, fills me with joy and joy should be met with a visible, uncontainable expression. Indeed, it is this expression of joy that is our greatest tool in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, with others.

My thoughts were galvanised as I wrote a short article for our church newsletter:

Anticipation To Joy

As a child I used to get really excited about Christmas: The start of holidays, the rifling through the pages of toy catalogues and the writing of wish lists. Even the Radio Times was a cause for great excitement; I used to go through the TV listings meticulously highlighting all of the films and programmes that I wanted to watch. I kept a special eye out for Home Alone and, a particular favourite, Santa Clause The Movie (the one with Dudley Moore). I would become excited at the sight of tins of Roses and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange… or two (my weight fluctuates a lot at Christmas). Finally, the excitement of Christmas Eve and the anticipation of morning time was almost too much to bear. If I’m honest, very little has changed.

Whilst we sometimes get lost in the traditions and trimmings of Christmas, it is still possible to recognise that there is something vital about anticipation, in particular, how anticipation can bring great excitement and joy!

As the wise men approach Bethlehem having followed the star, the sense of anticipation builds and finally, they can hold it back no longer. The very sense of anticipation that they feel explodes into rejoicing with great joy. Joy uncontainable spills over in anticipation of the promised, prophecy-fulfilling Son of God. The One who brings peace, hope and love to man.

As we approach Christmas may we each be filled with a sense of anticipation for the coming of the Prince of Peace. May this anticipation spill over into uncontainable joy for the one who brings hope to the nations. May anticipation give rise to joy for the One who would become the greatest expression of the Father’s love.

 

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Matthew 2:10