Stay on course

2021-07-07
Psalm 119:11 NIV

Senator Bill Nelson trained for and flew on a six-day space shuttle mission on board the Columbia. In his book Mission, he explained how difficult it is to maintain a proper orbit in space. There’s no resistance in space, so an astronaut can literally turn over the huge shuttle on their own. To maintain the correct orbit, the onboard computers constantly make course and altitude corrections by firing small rockets which make tiny adjustments, while larger jets burn fuel to make major adjustments. These rockets are critical – if they don’t consistently fire at the right time, the shuttle can drift from its orbit and go tumbling into outer space or crashing into Earth’s atmosphere.

There’s an important lesson here for us. Left to ourselves, we tend to drift out of our spiritual orbit into lukewarmness and indifference. Or worse, we end up in sin and rebellion. That’s when the rockets of prayer and Bible study, ‘fired’ on a continuous and consistent basis, help us to keep our course correct, and prevent our lives from spinning out of spiritual control.

Bible study and prayer go together. We should pray before we read the Bible, asking God to help us understand what we’re about to read. And we should also pray after we read it, asking God to help us apply what He’s told us through His Word. ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). Getting into a habit of a daily prayer and Bible study time is so important – it’ll help us stay close to God and quickly become aware if we’re drifting off His path so we can make whatever adjustments are necessary to get back to Him.

Jer 49-50; Luke 5:27-39; Ps 122; Prov 15:10-14

Prayer: make it simple and frequent

2021-06-15
Matthew 6:7 NAS

Knowing our tendency to complicate things, Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (vv. 7-8). By using the words “meaningless repetition,” He’s teaching us that prayer doesn’t have to be long, loud, or labored. And because He said “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him,” He’s inviting you to find a scriptural promise that corresponds to your need and stand on it.

Charles Swindoll, who uses his driving time to pray, writes this: “Often I speak to God out loud. Sometimes I sing to Him. Occasionally the entire prayer will be in my mind. Each time I commit myself to prayer, I notice that God becomes my focus rather than some personal struggle. I’m relieved of worry. I’m able to release anything concerning me so that I can become altogether lost in the majesty of His presence and the joy of ministry. When I arrive, I’m excited to do as God pleases. I find myself refreshed, relieved, and ready. My mind is focused. My heart is prepared. My emotions are clear, and whatever was troubling me when I began that drive no longer concerns me. Prayer has made that possible. Now I wish I could say I use every commute every day for time in prayer. But like many people, I often forget. My mind will be spinning from one problem to the next and rather than pray, I churn. At times I’ll be so anxious it doesn’t occur to me that I should quit worrying and commence praying.”

Prayer: make it simple, and frequent.

Soul food: 2 Ki 21-23; Luke 1:1-10; Ps 73:1-16; Prov 13:17-19

Keep it simple

2021-05-25
Matthew 6:7 NASB

When it comes to prayer, Jesus knew that we tend to complicate things, so He gave us this advice: ‘When you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him’ (vv. 7-8). By using the words ‘thoughtless repetition’, He’s teaching us that prayer doesn’t have to be long, loud, or laboured. And because He said ‘your Father knows what you need before you ask Him,’ He’s inviting you to find a scriptural promise that corresponds to your need.

Author Charles Swindoll, who uses his driving time to pray, wrote this: ‘Often I speak to God out loud. Sometimes I sing to Him. Occasionally the entire prayer will be in my mind. Each time I commit myself to prayer, I notice that God becomes my focus rather than some personal struggle. I’m relieved of worry. I’m able to release anything concerning me so that I can become altogether lost in the majesty of His presence and the joy of ministry. When I arrive, I’m excited to do as God pleases. I find myself refreshed, relieved, and ready. My mind is focused. My heart is prepared. My emotions are clear, and whatever was troubling me when I began that drive no longer concerns me. Prayer has made that possible. Now I wish I could say I use every commute every day for time in prayer. But like many people, I often forget. My mind will be spinning from one problem to the next and rather than pray, I churn. At times I’ll be so anxious it doesn’t occur to me that I should quit worrying and commence praying.’

When we’re praying, let’s keep it simple and frequent.

1 Ki 10-11; Mark 11:12-26; Ps 45; Prov 12:7-9

Keeping good company

2020-10-21
Proverbs 2:6 NKJV

Proverbs 2:6 tells us that ‘The LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.’ (NKJV). However, other people can bring the opposite, questioning our motives, God’s power, or generally bringing negativity. We can find ourselves surrounded by people who shake our belief in ourselves, and sometimes, even in God. Jesus warned us about that negativity.

The Message version of the Bible paraphrases His words to His disciples like this: ‘Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation’ (Matthew 10:17 MSG). Because of the imperfect world we have created, opposition from others is unfortunately an unavoidable part of living for God. It’s important for us to use the Godly wisdom that Proverbs mentions, and discern which of the people around us increase our self-doubt, and who helps strengthen our faith in God. Whenever we can, we should look to distance ourselves from anyone who regularly speaks negatively into our lives. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says: ‘Do not be fooled. “Bad companions ruin good character”‘ (GNT). That’s an urgent statement.

Allowing our minds and hearts to be filled with ideas that go against God, no matter how much we intend to fight them, really can get to us. The best thing to do is to walk away. And when it’s impossible to separate ourselves completely from those bringing doubt and negativity to our lives, then the best solution is to cling to God.

We have to be active in this, because left unchallenged, words from others can take root quickly. If we can anchor ourselves in Scripture, and listen for God’s voice in prayer, we’ll find it so much easier to stand strong against the naysayers, and press on in Jesus’ footsteps.

2 Sam 22:31-24:25; John 5:16-30; Ps 5; Prov 24:8-9

Work hard, pray hard

2020-10-20
Colossians 3:23 NASB

We can so often separate out the ideas of our own hard work, and God working in us, through us, or for us. The truth is, with the right mindset and prayer life, they should be the same thing. When you pray just as hard as you work, and vice versa, the game changes. Colossians 3:23 tells us ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord’ (NIV). That focus is only possible with time dedicated to finding equilibrium in God. The balance between work, rest, and a relationship with God is so easy to miss nowadays.

Saint Benedict wrote a book of instructions for monks, and his message of ‘pray and work’ still stands in so many monasteries today. Benedictine tradition often follows a rule of ‘thirds’, with monks spending eight hours sleeping, eight hours working, and eight hours praying.

Our relationship with God must lead to action, but action has to be completely anchored in our relationship with God. One without the other won’t make the kind of difference to the world that God is calling us to. We have to make sure that our work gets done in a Godly way, because our tasks here on earth bring God’s heavenly glory into the world.

One of the last prayers that Jesus prayed was, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:4 NIV). We can follow His example in prayerfully chasing God’s tasks for us and completing them for His glory.

From the biggest calling on our life right through to the simplest every day task, our to-do lists can bring praise to God when we root them in prayer and worship.

2 Sam 20:1-22:30; John 5:1-15; Ps 15; Prov 24:7