Funny title: How are we supposed to pray? As if there’s a right/wrong way…

God’s heart is for us to be engaged in the honest pursuit of relationship with Him for Who He is, not what He does. This is the goal of all true prayer.

Jesus instructed us to keep it simple, honest, humble, natural, and ask for nothing less than heaven to come to earth!

God is not impressed by vanity prayers or spiritual-pride-filled theatrics. He is not impressed by people’s puffed-up notions of spiritual maturity. None of these impress Him. In the history of the human race it has not impressed Him. It never will.

…because unlike people, God sees through everything. He knows everything. Our secret thoughts are not secret to Him. The attitudes and meditations of our heart are on full display before Him. He knows what we are thinking before we say a word. He hears our every conversation. He sees who we are behind closed doors. He knows and sees absolutely everything and He still loves us with an irrepressible, unstoppable love.

When we come before God we can place all the pieces of our life before Him, Psalm 5:3MSG, and confidently know that He does not stand accusing us, He stands waiting longing to embrace us. He wants us to come before Him giving thanks and being open and ready for whatever He wants to do.

Jesus’ instructions on prayer: 

Remember, the world is not our stage…
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it, It might be good theater, (it might impress a whole lot of people) but the God who made you won’t be applauding… Don’t call attention to yourself… When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Matthew 6:1,2,5MSG.

Pray with Simplicity. Get alone with God… (put aside the iPhone)
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace, Matthew 6:6MSG.

Enjoy God for Who He is, not what He does, then relationship with Him will flow naturally…
The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and He knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply… Matthew 6:7,8MSG.

Affectionately call Him Father, and give Him all glory and honor, for He alone is great and worthy…
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name (Your name be kept holy) Matthew 6:9NIV.

Exchange our will for His. This is essentially what true prayer does: exchange our will for His. Our lives will come into complete conformity to His will, very naturally and easily…
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:10NIV. This is no small prayer. This is asking that heaven’s realities become ours, here on the earth. God’s will is to extend heaven into the earth through us. I pray this daily.

Like any good father, God is our Perfect Father, we can ask Him to meet every need, He provides generously…
Give us our daily bread, Matthew 6:11.

We can love all people, not holding anything against anyone, but allowing God’s love to flow through us…
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (fully letting go of resentments, peoples insults or offenses) Matthew 6:12NIV… When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves, Matthew 5:44MSG.

Trust God to keep us on a firm foundation…
Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil one,Matthew 6:13NIV, and keep us safe from ourselves, Matthew 6:13MSG.

A Modern Parable

June 17, 2016

A party was organized for a graduating class from a university. Hundreds of students, their families, and friends were invited. It was to be a huge celebration.

On the night of the party, as people started to fill the banquet hall, you could feel the excitement in the air. People came dressed in their very best clothes. The atmosphere had been carefully planned with excellent lighting and decor, and a popular band provided the music. People enjoyed great food as they met with friends and family and caught up on the latest news. Every detail of the party from beginning to end was presided over with great care.

There was one guest who knew every person at the party, Livy. Livy was the dependable friend they called when they needed something, anything. She would turn up ready to help anyone, at any time. Livy had been instrumental in organizing the party. She generously gave her time and attention to the party like it was her very own baby.

As the hours passed, everyone was having a great time, many people said it was the best party they had ever attended. The party’s organizer’s were especially pleased with their ability to pull off such a successful party. With their chests puffed out, they proudly walked around the party soaking up every minute. Except Livy…

Strangely, Livy was largely ignored. When she looked for somewhere to sit she was repeatedly told, “These seats are saved.” No one welcomed her to their table to eat. No one invited Livy into their conversations as they stood around in their cliquey huddles. When the dance floor filled up, no one asked Livy to dance. But Livy loved to dance, so she started to dance without a partner –very carefree. Livy noticed some disapproving looks from people who thought it unacceptable to dance alone. They didn’t like the way Livy danced. Livy quietly made her way off the dance floor to a table in a corner of the vast room, and there she stayed, alone. She felt unwelcome and unloved at her own party.

As Livy faded further into the background, seemingly unknown and unseen, there was a growing assumption among the party organizer’s, “Maybe Livy was an unnecessary guest.” After all, “We really didn’t need her help organizing the party.”

Livy overheard the comment. It hurt deeply. Livy had helped that person pass exams, move in and out of campus apartments, and so many other things over the years. Livy left the party and went home. No one noticed her absence. They just kept partying into the early hours of the morning. The party organizers were sure this party would go down in the record books as one of the greatest. They were so proud of what they had accomplished.

Some readers may have guessed the meaning of the parable: Livy is the Holy Spirit, and the party is the Church.

The Heart of a Leader

June 14, 2016

King David is one of the most famous and most loved people in the bible. He undoubtedly is one of the greatest leaders in all of Israel’s history. Yet David never wrote a book on leadership. David wrote worship.

David wrote poetry, prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and worship.

Of all the things this successful warrior king could write about: his military campaigns, conquests, the building of a great army, the cities and towns he fortified, the stability and leadership he brought to the nation, David writes worship songs. And we are still singing them today!

David knew where his strength came from and he wrote from the overflow of a heart filled with affectionate praise and gratitude to God. 

Someone might say, “Ahh, but there is so much leadership in the Psalms!” Yes. True. But it all came through worship. Everything David learned was through worship. His life and ministry began and ended with worship, including everything in the middle.

David wrote profoundly and prolifically about His affection for God, his own brokenness and vulnerability, his utter dependence on God, and how God forgives, heals, restores, delivers, strengthens, gives victory…

David did not pen his own success, he penned God’s.

I am for leadership. I have many books and many favorite author’s. But I wonder, Do we make far too much of leadership and far too little of worship? Leadership books abound in the church world. Worship books are few. One telling reason for this is, leadership books tend to be people-centric, while worship books, the good ones, are God-centric.

Worship of the One True God must eclipse everything else in our lives if we want to lead God’s people the way He wants us to lead.

True spiritual leadership is primarily about turning people into passionate worshippers and lovers of God. God’s original intention for our lives: live in close intimate relationship with Him, and that the greatest affections of our heart would belong to Him. This happens as we worship.

We should never trust a leader who does not worship. God doesn’t. God seeks worshippers, John 4:13. 

Worship was the theme of David’s life and all he wrote about. Everything else was secondary. It is why God said, “I have found David… a man after my own heart, He will do everything I want him to do.” Acts 13:22.

God trusted David with leadership of an earthly throne because God was the Sovereign King ruling on the throne of David’s heart…

The Son is the exact likeness of the unseen God (the visible representation of the visible God), Colossians 1:15AMP.

Jesus’ life fully represents the Father. Jesus’ life fully discloses the Father’s heart toward humanity. And just as Jesus is the exact likeness of the Father, God’s purpose in our lives is that we would be being transformed into the exact likeness of Jesus; to have Jesus fully formed in us.

Jesus is the perfect human. Perfect emotion. Perfect love. Perfect wisdom. Perfect in relationship. Perfect in unity. Perfect servant. Perfect shepherd. Perfect theology. Perfect in so much more.

God intended that His own heart for humanity would be revealed through Jesus, and that we would see in Jesus the life we were originally created to live–Adam before the Fall. Jesus is the model for us. It is the Father’s desire that our lives would be so transformed that we would look like Jesus.

God today wants a visible representation of Himself on the earth, through His own people.

The apostle Paul had a singleminded purpose in His ministry:

We proclaim Him (Jesus), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man complete in Christ, Colossians 1:28.

My children, with whom I am in great labor until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19.

The purpose of all true ministry is that Jesus would be fully formed in each of us. His nature and character being formed in us, and that we would do the things He did: His works, preaching the gospel, announcing the Kingdom, miracles, signs, wonders…

God desires for us to look and taste and feel like Jesus, and to be doing the things that Jesus did in the world, and even greater things, John 14:12.

When we live our lives this way we extend heaven’s borders into the earth. God wants more of heaven on earth. Jesus said, Your (God) Kingdom come, Matthew 6:10.

How? At the moment of salvation we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. This is a mark of ownership. We belong to God. It tells the enemy very definitely, “child of God!” But this is only the beginning; we need so much more.

Jesus instructs us to wait for the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:4, receive (His) power, Acts 1:8, and continually walk in relationship with Him so He can continually fill us, Ephesians 5:18.

When Jesus walked the earth as a man, God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), Colossians 1:15. The Holy Spirit dwells in us in fullness also, Colossians 2:9,10.

It is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God which transforms us and makes us more like Jesus. ONLY! We cannot transform ourselves. No other person can do it. No great message or sermon preached can do it. There is no book, or ten steps to follow. No bible college degree. Only the hand of God in our lives can produce the life of Jesus in us, our job then: place our life in the hand of God so He can transform us, yield to His work in us.

Today, the Father is looking for His Son Jesus, in us. God is looking for Jesus’ very nature and character in us. When Jesus appeared as a man on the earth the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, John 1:14a. God is looking for the Word again to become flesh–the very real, authentic life of Jesus lived–through us. So people will see His glory, John 1:14b… This is God’s ultimate purpose in our lives. 

God wants to dwell with His people in us and through us. He wants to make His permanent home among us, Ephesians 2:22. And He wants to touch the lives of the people around us, our neighborhoods, cities, and the nations. He wants to come with all His glory, Haggai 2:9.

God desires our highest good, which is His ongoing presence and His nature and character to be in us. This is what we were originally created for. It’s not lofty thinking. It’s God’s thoughts and dreams and His ultimate purpose for our lives.

In this world we are like Jesus, 1John 4:17b.

Jesus said, “love your neighbor,” Mark 12:31, yet we pick and chose who will get our respect, who we will honor, and who we love. We chose the rich, the popular, the seemingly successful. They get our attention. They get our listening ears. They get our respect. They influence our lives. They may even get our wallets.

We pick and chose and we get it wrong. But we are not meant to pick and chose at all. God does not show favor to the rich over the poor, Job 34:19. He shows no favoritism at all, Acts 10:34. God is not partial, Galatians 2:6. James 2:9 says, if we show favoritism, we sin! 

We are supposed to love everyone, no matter who they are. We are all the work of God’s hands. God places immeasurable worth on every person. There is not one person who escapes His all-seeing, all-loving eyes. 

A glaring truth about our own spiritual maturity: How, and to who, we show respect, honor, and love is the measure of our spiritual maturity. Period. Only our unrestrained, unlimited, unprejudiced love is the mark of our maturity. And this cannot be faked.

Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with our giftings, titles, or our great ability to communicate. It’s not in the hundreds of miracles performed, or our ability to prophesy. All these can be done with a heart attitude that dishonors, disrespects, and even withholds love. Believe it or not, but God’s gives (these) gifts to people and doesn’t take them back, Romans 11:29. Operating these gifts and spiritual maturity are independent of each other. I wish it wasn’t so, because we are all too easily impressed by gifts, and often miss the much weighter thing, love.

If we disrespect, dishonor, withhold love from people, based upon our personal choice, we will turn people away from the Gospel and make people think relationships in church are broken and dysfunctional; in this case they are.

But, show respect, give honor, love people, especially to those who have no way of giving back, and we open people up to the gospel like never before. Why? Because it is so rare.

When our own hearts have been radical transformed by God’s love, we will in turn love every person around us.

Love is what changes hearts. God is love, 1John 4:8.