Prayer Helps!

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.” Philippians 1:19 (NLT)

Prayer helps! John Wesley once said, “God does nothing except in answer to prayer.” Following a litany of trials that the Apostle Paul endured in which he despaired even of life itself, he said to the Christ followers in Corinth, “… you helped us by praying for us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10 NLT) Later, while imprisoned in Rome and awaiting trial, not knowing whether he would be released or executed, he wrote to the church in Philippi, “… I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.” As it turned out, Paul was released from this imprisonment. Prayer helps! James 4:2 says, “… you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you ….” (Matthew 7:7a) Does this mean we will get whatever we ask for? It means God hears. God answers. I can’t always predict the way in which He answers or what the answer will be, but He promises to answer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.” One of the great joys in my life as I read my Bible daily and review the personal notes I’ve made in the margins of the prayers I’ve prayed is to see the recorded dates of how and when God answered my prayers! If you want your prayer life to become dynamic, it must first be specific. General prayers get general answers. Specific prayers get specific answers. Answered prayer is undeniable evidence for the existence of God, a God who cares and is personally involved in our lives! I’ll say it again. Prayer helps! If you or someone you know and love needs help – pray.

Targeting Relationships Part 3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

The most important word in the English language apart from proper nouns is relationship. You might think that it would be the word, love, but where is love going without a relationship? Relationships are the tracks on which love travels. The Great Commandment involves relationships – loving God and loving others. The writer of Hebrews offers clear insights for targeting our relationships so that we hit the bullseye of all that God intended for our relationships. We’ve talked about the first three insights: focusing on Christ to meet our deepest need, getting rid of distracting targets, and eliminating poison arrows. Here are the final two:

  • Connect with a community of Christ’s followers. I’ve often thought about this great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us according to Hebrews 12:1. Who are they? I envision them like spotters in a race looking down to cheer runners on to finish the race just as they finished theirs. I can almost hear them sometimes when I’m tired or discouraged and tempted to quit. They are shouting from heaven saying, “Don’t quit!” “Never give up!” “You can make it!” “You can do it with God’s power!” Now, I can’t prove that this is the case, but but this I can prove, and that’s the benefit of being connected to a community of Christ’s followers here! There is no substitute for the local church! Every one of us needs to surround ourselves with Christ-filled encouragers, people just like you who come alongside you to hold you up in prayer with an encouraging word. If you haven’t done so already, I challenge you to join a local church and worship with other Christ followers. Then, join a small group to study God’s Word together. Connect with a community of Christ followers and take your relationships to another level!
  • Look past the current pain and see a future hope. There is no greater example of this than Jesus. Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross …. What was the joy set before Him that gave Him the strength to endure the cross with all of its suffering? The joy set before Him was you! Jesus looked beyond the pain of the cross to see the joy ahead – the joy of a people that would be forgiven and reconciled to God through His death! When you look to Jesus, He fills you with hope! Hope has a name! His name is Jesus! The weeping prophet, Jeremiah, once said, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: the Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunshine. The Lord is all I have, and so in Him I put my hope.” (Lamentations 3:21-24 TEV)

Rules for Wise Fighting

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3:17-18 (NLT)

Hitting the bull’s eye for deep, personal and meaningful relationships doesn’t exempt you from conflict. In fact, it’s more likely that you will face conflict if your relationship is to go to the depth God designs. None of us are perfect, and we are all in the school of relationships. How can our relationships weather the storms of conflict that are sure to come? How do we stay connected when our feelings are hurt? The New Testament writer, James, offers us seven rules for wise fighting when we experience conflict in our relationships that will enable us to work through the conflict instead of walking away from the relationship. It’s really amazing how these seven rules unfold in this passage.

  1. Always check my motives. James begins by saying, “… the wisdom from above is first of all pure.” When you address the conflict in your relationship, check your motives. Are they pure or selfish? Do you want the relationship to go deeper or just tear down the other person?
  1. Never attack the person; attack the issue. James adds, “… the wisdom from above is also peace loving ….” The goal in wise fighting is to seek a deeper peace in the relationship. Don’t start the conversation with “you” statements. “You make me so mad!” “You always …!” “You never …!” Start with “I” statements. “I feel insecure when you do ….” “I felt hurt when you said …” Stick with the issue, and don’t attack one another.
  1. Never raise my voice. “… the wisdom from above is gentle at all times.” James says all times not sometimes. The truth is when you yell, you fail. Raising your voice doesn’t strengthen your argument.
  1. Never interrupt. “… the wisdom from above is willing to yield to others.” Learn the art of listening. Too often I’ve found that when I’m engaged in a conflict, rather than really listening to the other person I’m too busy thinking of my rebuttal. Years ago we gave out small pieces of tile flooring to our church as a reminder to listen when someone else had the floor. If they are holding the tile the other person yields the floor to them without interrupting and focuses on listening to what they are saying and how they are feeling.
  1. Never keep score. “… the wisdom from above is full of mercy.” In 1 Corinthians 13: 5 the Bible says that love keeps no record of wrongs. Real forgiveness means to release the offense and the offender, to let it go. It will set you free as well as your partner. You’ll never get to a deeper level in your relationships if you hold on to the hurt and continue to bring up the past offense. If you want to win, quit keeping score.
  1. Always follow talk with action. “… the wisdom from above is full of good deeds.” Image may communicate a brand but your actions tell the real story. Be careful not to over promise and under deliver. Make whatever changes in your behavior that are needed to rebuild the relationship. Be radical with those changes. Surgeons operate to remove cancer cells to save the patient.
  1. Always speak from the heart. “… the wisdom from above is always sincere.” The first step to healing is revealing your feeling. Drop the guard around your heart and risk rejection to reveal your heart.

Targeting Relationships

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

We’ve looked at targeting time but what about relationships? How do you target relationships so that you can hit the bullseye when it comes to personal and meaningful relationships? Distracted relationships become disconnected relationships, and disconnected relationships derail and fall off the tracks. The writer of Hebrews gives us the secret to targeting relationships in this passage.

First, focus on Christ to meet your deepest needs. The Bible says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….” (Vs. 2a) The Everyday Version puts it like this, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” In other words, don’t look to another human being to make you happy. Focus on Jesus. When you focus on Jesus to meet your deepest needs, it takes the pressure off of the relationship with your spouse or others. Only Christ can meet your deepest needs. Your focus will determine what you follow after. It will become a magnet that will attract you to it. You get to choose your focus; but once you choose, it will draw you to it. If you focus on Jesus, He will draw you to Himself and enrich your relationships.

Second, get rid of distracting targets. Hebrews goes on to say, “So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way.” (Vs. 1b TEV) When we allow distracting targets to cloud our focus, we begin to aim at the wrong ones. Psalm 4:2b asks, “How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?” There are only two targets worth aiming at – loving God and loving others. That means our primary target is relationships. Are you focusing on your relationship with God and your relationships with others? Have you allowed distracting targets to deceive you into thinking that they are more important than God and others? At the end of your life all that will matter to you and me are faith, family and friends.

Third, eliminate poison arrows. Look again at the counsel of Hebrews. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Vs. 1b NIV) Destructive and hurtful words are like poison arrows. They hit the target but leave bitterness and pain that can be lethal. James 3:8 says, “… no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” If we are to hit the bullseye God designed for our relationships, we must eliminate poison verbal arrows. So, how do we handle conflict? We’ll look at seven rules for wise fighting in tomorrow’s blog.

Targeting Time, Part 3

“Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God.”   

Ephesians 5:20 (Ph)

Two more questions to ask, if we are to target our time more effectively, are:

1. Does it make me come alive or cause me to die a little each day? This is the principle of alignment. If I align what I do with my passions and gifts, I can live a more focused life and experience the fulfillment God designed for me. It’s why today’s verse follows the previous verses we’ve been examining. When you put them all together, it makes sense.

“Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God…. Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God!” (Ephesians 5:15-17; 20 Ph)

Targeting my time, like this verse expresses, results in joy – not stress. The word for hearts in the Bible refers to your internal motivations, passion, and desires. In other words, when I target my time with what I’m passionate about, it makes my heart sing! It makes me come alive!

2. Will it bring me closer to Christ or take me further from Christ? This question takes us back to the main thing. It’s the principle of THE ONE THING – A Growing Relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Is it a growing relationship, or has it become distant and stagnant? Are you just content to hear about God, or do you desire in your heart to hear from God? God designed you and me to live a life of adventure and to experience Him in our daily lives. If you’ve never experienced Christ, do it today. He offers His life to you. The Bible says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV) The miracle is in the now. Wise people know that now is not only a good time; now is the only time.